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Jul 12, 2012 06:45 AM

Chicago CH ISO Just Two Meals

I'm looking for some direction. I've been put in charge of finding places to eat.

As as a Chicago CH I know how many times I have answered (or at times ignored) requests like this one so I am really hoping for your indulgence.

My husband and I will be spending just one day in Manhattan in August. We will be with two vegetarians so that's a factor and something to be responsible for.

We will probably stop by the Moma and/or Central Park during the day and then we'll be seeing a Broadway show that evening.

We're not looking for Manhattan's top-of-the-line notable restaurants, but a couple of reasonably priced and probably relatively casual spots. Ethnic is always great and other than the vegetarians, I know of no strong dislikes or restrictions.

I was thinking of perhaps a Momofuku if that you gives some sense of it.

One lunch.
One dinner.
I hate to waste either opportunity.

What can you suggest?

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  1. Hi chicgail! Good to see you on the Manhattan board.

    You need to answer a few logistical questions before we can really help you, I think.

    Central Park is huge. Will you be on the Upper West? Upper East side? South end? 60s? 70s? 80s?

    Where is your show/what are the cross streets of the theatre? What time is the curtain? I highly recommend making a reservation somewhere, if you're dining pre-show. Also some of the shows with 7pm curtains can make planning ahead crucial.

    What's your price point per person, for food only? $20pp before tax and tip? $30pp?

    The Momofuku restaurants are NOT vegetarian friendly. Also except for Ma Peche, they are all downtown, and your itinerary implies never going below 42nd, ie you'll be in the most touristy areas. Ma Peche can get kinda pricey, fast.

    From their site:
    q: are there menu items for vegetarians (or those with other special diets)?
    a: all vegetarian items are listed as such on the menu, however, we have few. please alert your server as to any allergies or special dietary needs you may have.

    I count exactly 3 vegetarian items on their current lunch and dinner menu, for example.

    A LOT of Midtown restaurants cater to those on expense accounts. So you're not exactly in a cheap eats heaven, but with some research you can do OK. However, if you pose it in terms of "wasting an opportunity" you might be setting your sights too high (especially because of the vegetarian constraint). I would actually say that Momofuku IS one of the "only in NY" destination spots for foodies.

    A lot of the vegetarian friendly options in Midtown are also going to be close to what you can already get in Chicago.

    Some ideas:
    Cafe China
    Szechuan Gourmet - I would put this roughly on par with my meal at Lao Sze Chuan last year
    Don Antonio - not sure how this compares to Great Lake though
    PizzArte - you can try their deep fried pizza, it's Naples style, but I don't know your thoughts on non-Chicago pizza :)
    Shake Shack - if you like thin style patties with special sauce, and the vegetarians are OK with a deep fried mushroom burger
    Pam Real Thai or Wondee Siam - maybe, not sure how this would compare to the Chicago Thai restaurants which are supposed to be very good, note that Wondee has a "secret" spicier menu
    Soba Totto - a good number of vegetarian options here
    Marseille - French brasserie, not the best brasserie we have in town, but a fair amount of vegetarian options

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      I second Shake Shack as a good casual NY spot. Since you're low on time I would definitely check out before you go so you don't have to wait on too long of a line.

      Another route for classic NY would be food trucks--look for something like Rickshaw's Dumplings which has a great Vegetarian Edamame dumpling.

    2. While the Momofukus are excellent, I'd rule them out for two reasons: first, options for vegetarians are severely limited. Second, everything else you're doing (MOMA / CP, Broadway) is in Midtown... it'd be a pain to head downtown for meal, then back uptown for the show. Especially dinner, depending what curtain time is. So I'll keep my suggestions to Midtown - a less-than-excting food 'hood, but with some bright spots.

      Tulsi - fantastic modern Indian, with a full vegetarian menu in addition to the meat options. Great option for lunch or dinner. The lamb chops are spectacular, as is most everything on the menu.

      Toloache - great, creative Mexican, lots of veggie options. My only trepidation in recommending them is... well, you're from Bayless Country. By NYC Mexican standards, they're top notch. But compared to what you've got back in Chicago... they may feel like a let-down. Hard to say. But if you're craving Mexican, they're a great option for either lunch or dinner.

      Aquavit - lunch only. Dinner they're much fancier, but for lunch they're quite reasonably priced. Not sure if you have much in the way of Nordic fare out that way, so it could be something different, and most of it is very light and bright - good summer fare. Usually there are a number of veggie apps, and at least one veggie main - and I imagine they'd up-size an app into a main if asked, they're quite accomodating.

      The Bar Room at The Modern - if you're there already... Can get a bit pricey, though. Depends how much you'd want to eat. For lunch, it could be reasonable.

      Esca - seafood specialists, but usually a couple veggie options to choose from.

      Eataly - you could go halfway downtown. Il Verdure (the mini vegetarian restaurant) is great for lunch, and usually not as crowded as the other places. Also veggie options at the pizza and pasta restos.

      Bi Lokma / Sip Sak - two very solid Turkish options. The former is cheaper, the latter a little fancier - both have a number of veggie choices.

      Kefi - a little further North, but close to the park. Good Greek fare, nice space, pretty relaxing at lunch. Lots of veg choices.

      Ma Peche - unlike most David Chang restos, there are a few vegetarian options. But really... a few. Check the menu (the update the website pretty frequently) before going for sure.

      Lincoln - decent lunch prix fixe, $32 for two savory courses (desserts are extra, unfortunately, but I never have dessert with lunch, personally...) - lots of veggie antipasti, and always a pasta or two will be veg-friendly, and always one non-pasta proper veggie secondi.

      9 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        Want to add Seasonal and Nougatine at Jean Georges. Both have a <=$32 3-course lunch prix fixe iirc.

        However, I recommend Nougatine with trepidation because out of the 3 times I've been there, I've gotten MIA service 2 times. Other Chowhounds report better luck with service though.

        1. re: Cheeryvisage

          The Seasonal prix fixe lunch is $29 according to their site:

          The menu doesn't have a lot of vegetarian options, though. It looks like 1 for each course.

          1. re: Cheeryvisage

            I thought about Nougatine as well... they didn't really have much in the way of veggie options, either (not a single veggie main, even) so I left them out...

          2. re: sgordon

            Tulsi offers a prix fixe lunch for $20 but the dinner prices may be more than chicgail is willing to pay.

            I would probably skip Toloache (they have an UES one now, too) if they are from Chicago.

            The Aquavit lunch prix fixe is $35pp, BTW, again, which may be more than chicgail is willing to pay.

            For the Bar Room at the Modern, I rarely get out of there without spending $50 or so, two savories, and one sweet item. Looking at the online menu, I see 3 vegetarian items, plus olives, and pickles, from the bar menu. It's a very meat and seafood heavy menu. The pricing/menu is the same all day, so you don't get any extra bang for the buck by eating there during the day.

            1. re: kathryn

              Aquavit has the lunch prix fixe, but also (better) a la carte - the choices on the prix fixe are generally kind of middling, unfortunately... ALC is more varied.

              Dunno what the OP's price limit is, as they haven't weighed back in...

              Also we don't know the actual date they're going to be here - if it overlaps with RW, that could mean many more options at lower price points...

            2. re: sgordon

              Also, there's Don Antonio and PizzArte, both serve great Neapolitan pizza. Don Antonio has a lot more variety, but doesn't take reservations. PizzArte has a more limited selection of pizza but does take reservation.

              Don Antonio offers vegetarian pizzas too. I can't look at PizzArte's menu for some reason, but probably worth checking out too to see if they have vegetarian options.

              1. re: sgordon

                Just thought of another place. Vitae offers a $30 3-course lunch prix fixe. The selection for the prix fixe is more limited, but the dishes on the rest of their lunch menu are still reasonably priced. I enjoyed Vitae very much when I went for dinner.


                1. re: sgordon

                  Sip Sak is a good call as the Turkish options in Chicago are spare. Near Central Park, my preferences skew towards Beyoglu or Akdeniz closer to the Theatre District. Aquavit is also a good step up from Ann Sather's or Tre Kronor.

                  I might also give some consideration to a lunch at Alfama and pre-theatre at Esca or Kyotofu. My friends from Chicago are also big fans of the pasta dinners at Becco, however that's not my cup of tea.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Having read much of Chicgails posting on the Chicago board the first two places that came to mind were The Modern (Bar or Dining Room) and Lincoln.

                    Great minds and all that jazz.


                  2. The food hall at the Plaza Hotel may work for lunch and would provide good variety for your group. It's located on 59th Street (not far from MOMA and on the southern border of Central Park) and has a few good spots including the No. 7 Sub shop, Luke's Lobster, a few pastry/dessert places, etc.

                    1. Thanks to everyone. I feel welcome and at home. It's even nice to hear from "friends" like Kathryn and uhockey.

                      We will be there at the end of August.

                      The theater is the Walter Kerr in Times Square (Clybourn Park!) so I know it's touristy midtown but I thought an early pre-theater dinner would work. Hopefully we will be able to eat early somewhere outside of the worst of that and walk to the theater.

                      Regarding Central Park, I do realize it's a lot of real estate, but since we'll be at the MOMA, we're probably talking about the South End.

                      Again, thank you everyone for your suggestions. I'll check them out.