former swedish nyc foodie back in town for the summer (w kids): UWS lunch and dinner options on a budget?
After a few longer (and fantastic) periods in the city over the last decade and a half, during which I managed to cover quite a few of the high end and trendy restaurants in the city (some of which apparently still catches the fancy of new york foodies as they are high on NYT/zagat/chowhound/michelin lists), I have now returned for the summer with my family to hang out w/ the kids on the upper west side while my wife spends time in an office cubicle. I am looking for places to have lunch (me and the kids) or dinner (whole family) that are on the other side of food universe from ultra high end menus degustation multi star restaurants. Ethnic, sandwich places, salad bars, roast chicken grills, burger joints, you name it and we will try it! Btw, the kids eat most everything and have grown up on a diverse menu so not too much of an obstacle. The budget constraint is cheap to mid level.
Looking forward to being enlightened by your aggregate wisdom, ye chowhounders of the mannahatta tribe.
In the 70s/80s, we like: Kefi, Cotta (though not sure about w/kids), Ditch Plains, B Cafe, 5 Napkin Burger, Land Thai, Celeste. Further up in the 90s, we like Lisca, Gennaro, Malecon, Cafe Frida, Gabriela's (for brunch), Cafe Edgar, Pio Pio. And if you find yourself a little north of that, most definitely stop in at Silver Moon Bakery.
I definitely second the recs for getting picnic stuff and enjoying the park(s). We like to get stuff from Zabar's but there's Salumeria Rosi and the Boulud places as well. There are also 2 Whole Foods on the UWS if you need a quick "prepared-food" type meal.
update: have tried hummus place (thanks jaba), cafe con leche, shake shack, chirping chicken, land - around the 77-80th street columbus/amsterdam area. all good. Will try greek kitchen today (thanks john francis).
note: We used to live next to the papaya king on UES some years ago so I guess gray's papaya is similar or same owner?
Try also Grand Sichuan on 74th for traditional Sichuan (avoid the Americanized dishes).
You might also like Mermaid Inn, Fatty Crab, and Salumeria Rosi, but may be pushing it a bit budget-wise.
Since the weather is now warm but not scorching, consider a Central Park picnic with goods from Epicurie Boulud.
Your children may enjoy Jacques Torres, Levain Bakery, and Magnolia Bakery.
Some lunch places near Lincoln Center that might appeal to kids, in random order:
Indie, inside the FILM theatre, 65th west of Broadway
EuroPan, Columbus at 65th
Gray's Papaya (it's traditional), 72nd at Amsterdam
Old John's Luncheonette, 67th near Amsterdam
'Wichcraft, Broadway at 62nd in Robertson Atrium
Shun Lee Cafe, not the restaurant next door (regular menu and dim sum), 65th east of Columbus
Sapphire Indian (buffet lunch), Broadway near 60th
Bouchon Bakery, Time Warner Building, Columbus Circle
The Greek Kitchen, 10th Ave/Amsterdam at 59th
For dinner, in the area from 59th to 72nd Streets and Amsterdam to Columbus Ave., there are none that I'd advise against, and I know the area well. A couple that you might overlook, but shouldn't, are The Greek Kitchen, 10th Ave/Amsterdam at 59th, http://www.greekkitchennyc.com/, and Pasha (Turkish), 71st at Columbus, http://www.pashanewyork.com/.
While in the area, check out the Lincoln Center Festival in July and Mostly Mozart Festival in August. Also the Performing Arts Library, next to the Metropolitan Opera House, with a sensational Noël Coward exhibition and a pretty exciting exhibition, "The Great American Revue," about the Ziegfeld Follies, George White's Scandals, etc. Also a display of striking photos of rock stars along the Plaza Level corridor.