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Aug 14, 2012 02:51 PM

4th visit to NYC - feedback please on our dining itinerary

My husband and I will be visiting from San Francisco for a full week in mid-October. Staying in Chelsea, but definitely willing to travel for a memorable meal. We've been to NY annually for the past 4 years and have eaten well as a result of advice found here. Have a few favorites we'll be returning to but are also interested in checking out some of the new spots.

We'd like dinners to average less than $100/person for food only before tax and tip. Would like to do one splurge for our anniversary dinner. Far more interested in great food than a hipster scene, and strongly prefer places where we can reserve.

We tend to like bold flavors more than subtle ones, which is why Japanese isn't among our current choices. But suggestions for a good spot for ramen or soba that isn't a madhouse would be welcome. Also interested in hearing about any "recession specials" and/or lunch deals that are currently available.

Here's what's on our list so far:

Katz's (with a stop by Russ & Daughters)
Gramercy Tavern (Tavern side)
Xian Famous Foods (Love this place; two visits on our last trip!)
Zaab Elee
Shake Shack
Il Buco Vineria
Grand Central Oyster Bar

Legend (The night we arrive, which is a Saturday - pretty close to where we're staying, and we love Szechuan)
Txikito, Tertulia or Tia Pol (None take dinner reservations for 2?)
Kin Sh
Perla, Dell' Anima or l'Artusi (No reservations at the former, but menu looks great and husband is a pasta fiend)
EMP, Atera or Momofuko Ko (We've been to the former the last 3 trips and though it's a big splurge we've always felt it worth the cost. Curious about the new menu, but it's a tough reservation now and we're definitely checking out the NoMad. We did not love Saam Bar, but Ko's menus sound appealing, and Atera seems interesting, but perhaps a bit of a risk for the cost.)

Other places we've been to and liked:
Perilla, Kefi, Apizz, Apiary, Szechuan Gourmet, Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, Keste, Motorino, Degustation, Ciano (lunch), Jean Georges (lunch), Peter Luger (lunch), Aldea
Other places we've been to and were underwhelmed:
Scarpetta, Saam Bar, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Convivio, Del Posto (lunch)

Places that I hear a lot about but that don't really interest us: The Batalli restaurants - blaring music and tight seating. Corton - dining room is visually unappealing to me.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.

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  1. For ramen, you can reserve at Ippudo but only same day and in person. Drop by earlier that day, and put your name down.

    For bold Japanese cooking, look into Takashi. Get there early to avoid a wait.

    For Perla, Friday lunch might be easier in terms of crowds. They only serve lunch Friday through Sunday.

    Tertulia doesn't take reservations for two. Only big groups. Txikito used to but I'm hearing the policy may have changed. I wouldn't bother with Tia Pol, wasn't impressed with my last visit there and greatly prefer Txikito nearby.

    When you went to Momofuku Ssam Bar, was it for dinner or lunch? Did you try their duck over rice lunch?

    5 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Hi, Kathryn; thanks for the reply. You've steered us to some great spots in the past!

      Ssam Bar was for lunch a couple of years ago. Either they weren't offering the duck lunch at the time, or I wasn't in the loop about it. We tried some of the most recommended dishes, including the brussels sprouts with crispy rice (which I don't see on the current menu), pork buns, and country ham. Everything we had was fine, just not all that exciting especially given all the hype. The bo ssam looked great, but not a possibility for just two of us....

      We will nix Tia Pol and try for Txikito or Tertulia. Hopefully the wait mid-week won't be too long, and it looks like there are some places to have a drink nearby. (Can you leave a phone number and do this, or do you have to stand on the sidewalk and wait to hear your name called?)

      1. re: dolcevita_sf

        The duck lunch at Ssam is fairly new. The overall menu has changed quite a bit since your visit, if you had the Brussels sprouts, which haven't been om the menu for some time.

        For Txikito and Tertulia, I've always waited at the bar or nearby.

        1. re: dolcevita_sf

          I'd try e-mailing Txikito and telling them you are going to be there from out of town. We are visiting over Labor Day weekend and did get an e-mail back saying they'd make an exception to their "no reservations for 2" policy since we were coming from out of town. I'm looking forward to trying it since we've also done well with Kathryn's suggestions in the past. We are also making our 4th annual trip and celebrating our anniversary while we are there.

          We went to Ko for lunch a couple of years ago and have it on the list to return this year if we can get reservations--we really enjoyed it and had one of the favorite dishes of the trip there. I haven't been for dinner but I'm sure it is great too.


          1. re: dolcevita_sf

            Went to Txikito for dinner tonight. Friend called and made a reservation for five yesterday without any issues. For parties of two, it looked like no wait or a short wait. We were there from 7:30pm to 9pm. The restaurant seemed just under capacity the whole time, maybe 2-3 tables free, even during Saturday, prime time.

            1. re: kathryn

              Thanks for the updates and additional info re Txikito. Very helpful and good to know. Sounds like we can make this a definite on our list, which is great since it's a place I've really been wanting to get to.

        2. Nice list of places...

          Legend is good but last 2 times we went we were seated in a weird area and it was very claustrophobic. We enjoyed a very good meal at a newer place in Chelsea --Grand Sichuan Eastern (8th Avenue 18-19th st). Their numbing dishes were amazing! We esp. liked a diced lotus root with black bean sauce too.

          1. Your list is extensive, i'll add a few anyway , just in case you want to vary neighborhoods food etc.
            Jungsik = has bold delicious flavors
            Maharlika = something different 'modern Filipino"
            Paradou = foie gras tasting
            Mission Chinese - more exciting than Szechuan Gourmet and as bold as it gets
            Recette = just plain good
            Misoya = good ramen
            Kori - good bold modern Korean
            Osteria Morini -- good food not sure how bold, but as bold as your other Italian places
            Boqueria = tapas alternative if others are booked
            Casa Mono = tapas too
            Amorino Gelato = Cold but not Bold

            1 Reply
            1. re: foodwhisperer

              Probably no need for Mission Chinese if they're from SF.

              Recette is a good call but the seating for two tops is very tight.

              Seating for Casa Mono is also very, very cramped, and the OP expressed a preference against Batali restaurants...

            2. I like your lunch list but you're missing great ny pizza. also, doesn't san fran have better thai than zaab and, at the risk of starting a religious war, I'm not sure shake shack is better than in n out.

              not sure what the bbq scene is like in sf, but chelsea is home to some pretty good bbq. You might try the fatty brisket @ hill country for lunch one day, the chicken is also good. The bbq is uneven at blue smoke but a fun night is jazz standard, a jazz club under blue smoke, serving blue smoke bbq. I haven't been to paul kirk'sRUB ( Righteous Urban BBQ) but it gets pretty good reviews at bbq contests I judge.

              Finally, I see you like homemade noodles, not a destination restaurant, but onya, a japanese udon noodle restaurant near gct make their own noodles. the beef udon is the best I've had and lunch won't set you back more than $10-$12.

              1. I would not do Ippudo if you prefer not to wait at least an hour. I like Totto Ramen; there will be a wait but if you try to go around 3pm, just after the office rush is over, it's like 10 minute wait. If you're up for eating a lot, I'd suggest an early lunch somewhere and then treating Totto like a mid-afternoon snack.

                I'm not a fan of Shake Shack. If you want a good burger, I love Corner Bistro's or the secret burger place inside of the Parker Meridien.

                If you want really tasty food and it seems you like Szechuan, I'd suggest going to Queens. The neighborhoods Elmhurst (Elmhurst Ave. on the R/M line) or Flushing (last stop on the 7). Elmhurst has great Thai and noodle options, and Flushing is good for everything and Korean if you're up for exploring the area away from the main drag.

                I love me some Katz, but if you've been already, you can try someplace different in the area. I love Shopsins for breakfast/lunch.

                3 Replies
                1. re: morninglemon

                  Thanks for the additional thoughts. Shake Shack was my husband's idea, and since he isn't crazy about In N Out, your comments have persuaded him that it's not worth spending the time and calories on when there are so many more interesting options.

                  Totto Ramen sounds like a worthwhile stop if we can fit it in, as does Soba Toto place near Grand Central. Or Onya. We do love our noodles!

                  We are jazz fans and are looking for a good show to go to one night. Calendars for October don't seem to be up yet for Jazz Standard or Village Vanguard, so will see what's happening during our dates and then decide where to go and thus where to eat.

                  1. re: dolcevita_sf

                    We are going to finally get up to the Cloisters this time. Any suggestions for lunch either near there or close to a subway line heading back downtown?

                    1. re: dolcevita_sf

                      I used to live up there and dont think the food options by the Cloisters are very good. I would take the A train to the Time Warner center (59th St) where you can eat at Bouchon or A Voce.