Maine Hound returns to the Big Apple
I'll be in NYC for a week this October for a medical conference, but my real agenda is to take a big bite of the Big Apple. I've been to NYC many times over the years and have had some terrific dining experiences. This time I plan to focus on reliable and modestly priced establishments for lunch and dinner. I'm seeking ethnic food with big flavors and good value in any of the 5 boroughs. Some specific items include:
Authentic Mexican (no TexMex)
Old school Italian
Chinese with some heat
Quite a request I admit, but it is worth the effort.
Best gyros - Are you including shawarma? Because the neighborhood with the most Greek places is Astoria, which is in Queens. If shawarma is OK, I like Jerusalem Restaurant on Broadway near 104 St. But it doesn't seem good enough for a special trip, and their food is extremely fatty. You could search for "shawarma" on this board, if that's acceptable to you. Or you could let us know where you plan on hanging out, so we could recommend a place that's good in that/those area(s).
Authentic Mexican - I'm guessing that Jackson Heights - again in Queens - is probably going to be your best bet. If you do want to remain in Manhattan, there's always Tehuitzingo, a little Mexican market with a taqueria in the back. Good, honest food. But again, I have a feeling you'll do better in Jackson Heights, if you know where to go (and I don't).
Old school Italian - OK, this one I can help you with. I like John's of 12th St. in the East Village. They're so old-school, they're been around for more than 100 years. I don't know how they stack up compared to places in Brooklyn and Queens, but for Manhattan, they're good. Arturo's, famous for its coal-oven pizza, also serves some good Italian-American food. I had some very good eggplant parmigiana there a couple of weeks ago.
Chinese with some heat - aside from the small chain of Xian Famous Foods places that Kathryn referred to, there are quite a few Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan. Right now, my favorite is Szechuan Gourmet's 56th St. location, but you can also get very good food at Hot Kitchen and several other places.
Eastern European - Stage Restaurant (not Stage Deli), a little lunch counter on 2nd Av. between 7th and St. Mark's, will give you an inexpensive, honest meal every day but Sunday. It's nothing fancy, but their pierogies are good comfort food, and their soups are also good. If you want something fancier, ask about Polish food in Greenpoint on the Outer Boroughs board.
Thanks for the replies. I will repost in the OB board as this seems to be where most of the ethnic enclaves are located. Traveling by subway is no problem. To refine my request a bit:
Shawarma is fine; I'm trying to avoid the ubiquitous Greek meatloaf, Kronos. A blend of lamb and pork would be ideal. Tacos pastor would be a treat as would Yucatan style food. A good veal parm in red sauce with some decent pasta is on my list. I still pine for the first veal saltimboca I had at Forlini's in Chinatown many years ago ( I heard they are still there). Lastly, I would love to find a decent schniztle, some goulash, and viennese pastry mit schlag. I'll be staying at the Royalton on W44th.
Forlini's is still there. I actually went there this past May or June, and it was mediocre and not very inexpensive. Both the places I recommended are better.
You can get good Viennese pastries at Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallerie on 86 St. near 5th Av. They also serve schnitzel and goulash. It's not cheap, though; check out the prices before you go.
For gyro that combines pork with lamb, you shouldn't consider shawarma, because Muslims and Jews aren't going to be making it with pork. Definitely check Astoria recommendations on the Outer Boroughs board.
For destinations outside Manhattan, you need to post on the Outer Boroughs board. For queries that are across all five boroughs, there is The Best board. Unfortunately the Best board doesn't seem to get a lot of traffic.
For a great espresso experience, try Abraco in the East Village. Note also that there are a ton of great NYC coffee shops these days, and some transplants like Blue Bottle & Stumptown now.
For gyros, you should know that apparently most vendors in the city get theirs from the same supplier.
For Mexican, depends what food you're looking for (we have a lot of tacos places, perhaps too many). I like Hecho en Dumbo which is interior Mexican style. But I also like the creative Mexican at Empellon Cocina.
For Chinese with some heat, Mission Chinese for creative Sichuan. Szechuan Gourmet for more traditional Sichuan. Xian Famous foods can also be pretty spicy.
You might want to look into Flushing, Queens (the "Chinatown" of Queens) and many threads on the Outer Boroughs board.
For Eastern European, I think you'll be more successful on the OB board.