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Casual Restaurants NYC Manhattan For December Trip

  • c

My wife and I are travelling to Manhattan for 5 days in December of this year and we are looking for restaurant recommendations. We are looking for great casual restaurants. We are not looking for high end tasting menu type places. We are pretty open to all type of cuisine. Here are some of the places we currently have on the list…

Grimaldi's Pizza
Forlini's
Szechuan Gourmet
Katz Deli
Five Napkin Burger
Gray's Papaya

What other recommendations do you have on must try places? Thanks To All!

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  1. Bon Chon
    Cannibal
    Ippudo
    Yakitori Totto
    Barney Greengrass
    Motorino
    Zabb Elee

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

      Thank you very much. These all look great. Keep them coming :)

      1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

        Cannibal sounds like a fun place. Is it casual enough to dine alone?

        1. re: sabman

          Yes, definitely. Lots of solo diners at Cannibal. It's very casual.

      2. I wouldn't recommend Gray's Papaya, and though I haven't been to Grimaldi's for years, based on lots and lots of comments on these boards, I think there are many better places you can go for pizza.

        Some other casual places that are good:

        Great NY Noodletown for Hong Kong-style food

        Supper for good, basic Italian food and decent wine

        South Brooklyn Pizza for an Appolonian margherita slice (whatever is the special of the day is never as good and should be ignored)

        Xian Famous Foods for great, inexpensive spicy noodles and salads

        Arturo's for good coal-oven pizza (caveat: some hounds have reported a decrease in quality and I haven't tried their pizza in a while), good Italian-American food (I had some recently, and it was quite good)

        Jerusalem Restaurant for falafel/shawarma, if you are going to be on the Upper West Side

        Taim for sabich (fried eggplant), falafel

        Kefi for good, moderate-priced Greek food

        I agree with Lacrosse_Gastronomic's recommendations of Ippudo, Barney Greengrass, and Zabb Elee. I have yet to go to the other places s/he recommends.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Pan

          Le Pain Quotidien for good breads, bakery, pastries and healthy sandwiches, lunches, snacks.
          Popular with Vegans.

          1. re: arepo

            Le Pain Quotidien varies by location, but at its best, it's just OK to good.

            1. re: Pan

              Nooooooooooo to LPQ! It's a chain. Do not waste your time.

              1. re: LeahBaila

                Hey, I wasn't the one pushing it.

                1. re: Pan

                  I know...I hit "reply" to the wrong poster. Sorry Pan!!

          2. re: Pan

            My last 2 or 3 trips to Arturo's the pizza has been very good.

            I think one of the issues with consistency at Arturo's (and with other places that rely on coal and/or wood) is how busy the place is when you go (and of course who is making your pizza is important).

            That said, Arturo's is a classic NYC pizza restaurant - our standard order is usually an arugula salad and a pie or two. Avoid the baked clams.

            1. re: mitchleeny

              The trick to Arturo's pizza is to order a large pie. The crust is perfect then. When I got the smaller size last week, the crust was too thick...they use the same size ball of dough for both. It really makes a difference. The waiter said to ask for a thin crust next time, but I'll just go for the large. I love that place- it's so old school. The live jazz is cool, the folks are nice, so is the house Italian red wine and the broccoli rabe.

          3. I agree strongly with Zabb Elee.

            Others I would add are Legend, Rubirosa, Da Andrea and BLT Burger.

            6 Replies
            1. re: rrems

              It looks like I will have to put Zabb Elee on the list. What menu choices would you recommend there?

                1. re: coryd

                  You must try the Hor Mok (fish custard). Other recommended dishes are Yum Talae (mixed seafood salad), Larb Pla Krob (crispy Thai tilapia), Kai Yang (marinated grilled chicken), and Ped Paloa (duck stew).

                  1. re: rrems

                    I have to demur on the Yum Talae. I had it tonight and found the seafood less than fully fresh. Some of the shrimps were a bit fishy, there was one bay scallop that was noticeably off, and I didn't even eat the mussels after a slight taste. It wasn't bad enough for me to feel I needed to send it back, but I wouldn't order it again.

                    I recommend the larb (particularly the duck larb, as Riverman said, which is kind of crispy and crackly, but the chicken and pork larb are also fine), the som tom Thai, the salads with sausage, and the soup on the 2nd page with chicken (the spare rib soups are also fine). The kai yang ranges in quality. It was excellent the last time my girlfriend ordered it, but at times, it's been practically raw (I sent that back but was frightened to have tasted it) or overcooked.

                    1. re: Pan

                      I'm surprised about the Yum Talae. I've had it many times and have always been impressed with how fresh it is. I certainly would send it back if it were as you described.

                      1. re: rrems

                        I didn't think it was quite bad enough to send back. Always a judgment call.

              1. Skip Grimaldi's -- there's as good if not better pizza without the 1 to 2 hour waits. Try Motorino instead.

                Katz's is a must. Also go next door to il laboratorio del gelato.

                Five Napkin is not unique. Go to Shake Shack. Better burger and superb shakes.

                Add to the list Mission Chinese. They'll be a wait, but it's will be 50% shorter than however long they tell you it will be.

                8 Replies
                1. re: von_levi

                  I second the advice about five napkin burger, which looks like a good place on the outside but falls flat. Skip it and go to shake shack, which is awesome, I've always had great burgers at Shake shack which is run by Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, etc.). Stand4 burger used to be excellent, but it has gone downhill and they changed their menu around, but it's still alright and much better than your average burger joint. Their toasted marshmellow shake is amazing and worth the trip alone.

                  1. re: alkonost

                    Do you recommend a specific Shake Shack location?

                    1. re: coryd

                      There are now many of them, and you can base your decision around where you'll be. Longest lines at the outdoor original in Madison Sq Park, especially when the weather is nice.

                      My last burger at Stand was so bland and uninspired that I will never be back. With wonderful sandwiches at Num Pang across the street, there's no reason to set yourself up for such regret.

                      1. re: rose water

                        I haven't been to Stand4 in almost a year, it sounds like they've slid even farther down the hill :( It's such a shame, when they first opened they were great.

                      2. re: coryd

                        I've eaten at the upper east side and the madison square shake shacks- both were good on the occasions I stopped by for lunch.

                    2. re: von_levi

                      Shake Shack is decent, but overhyped. It's overpriced fast food. The burgers are extremely greasy and the only cheese offered is American (yuck). BLT Burger is so much better, with really high-quality meat and a choice of cheeses. Great onion rings, too, and they do shakes and all sorts of other drinks including alcoholic beverages, a much more extensive menu overall, not to mention table service. No lines to wait in, either.

                      http://www.e2hospitality.com/blt-burg...

                      1. re: rrems

                        You can get an excellent unfporgetable burger @ Elephant and Castle!!

                        1. re: Motosport

                          Yes, their burgers are pretty good, and I used to go there a lot, but I prefer BLT, partly because I think the meat is tastier, and partly because the menu overall is better, at least in terms of burgers and sides.

                    3. Gray's Papaya is a classic but I think there's better places to eat if you're looking for old-school NYC casual. Look into Stage Restaurant (note: not stage deli, that is a different place), B&H Dairy, Veselka and Eisenbergs. The best borscht is at Veselka, which tastes just like my grandmother's (she happened to work at the Veselka kitchen a long time ago and it begs the question: did she adopt their recipe or did they adopt hers? Hrmmmm).

                      I also ate at Kambi ramen house recently and loved it, it's an excellent cheaper alternative to Ippudo. You might also want to consider Village Yokocho for the Yakitori, and if you want quick small munchies I highly recommend pomme frites (fresh belgian fries with amazing dipping sauces) and Otafuku for the Takoyaki (Japanese octopus dough/cheese balls).

                      If you're looking for dessert I'd recommend Big Gay Ice cream, Veniero's and Blackhound Bakery.

                      1. Skip Grimaldi, 5 Napkin and Gray's. All good but not worth being on a "best" list.
                        Our favorites:
                        Katz's for the NYC experience and fabulous pastrami on rye. One sammich will feed two.
                        Da Ciro for excellent Italian and home made fresh pasta.
                        Motorino or John's across the street for exceptional pizza.
                        B&H dairy for breakfast. Fabulous fresh made blintzes.
                        Veselke for 24/7 dining and people watching.
                        Great NY Noodle Town for an interesting 2 AM Chinese fix and people watching.
                        Grand Central Oyster bar: share an appetizer dozen oyster and chowder at the actual oyster bar.
                        Junior's in Times Sq or better yet the original in Brooklyn for dessert.
                        Noodle Bar either location.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Motosport

                          If you gotta have a burger, and you want a NY burger, then I recommend heading to 74th St. and 3rd Ave. for a burger at J.G, Melon's (under $10), which, while not quite an institution, has been around for close to 40 years. 5 Napkin, Shake Shack (which I happen to like), Stand, BLT, etc. are all newcomers and won't give you 1/10th the experience that J. G. Melon's will. It's a neighborhood classic, sorta dive place in one of the fanciest zip codes in the country.

                          Motorino's pizza, which I happen to love, is not necessarily to everyone's taste.

                          And where, by the way, is the second Noodle Bar location?

                          1. re: mitchleeny

                            Carmine St WV and Orchard ST LES
                            Motorino is great and different from most
                            John's Bleecker St also good and a bit more mainstream
                            Artichoke Pizza @ 2 AM has good pizza. They should charge extra for the AM sidehow.

                            1. re: Motosport

                              If you're going to do Motorino, MAKE SURE to get a side of the meatballs. They're f'ing fantastic. Probably one of the best in the city, IMO.

                              1. re: LeahBaila

                                OMG! Why haven't I tried the meatballs? I am on it this weekend.

                                1. re: Motosport

                                  Seriously. They are BEYOND. Please, please report back!!

                                  1. re: LeahBaila

                                    We had a nice late lunch @ Motorino yesterday. No crowds, nice!! Excellent Margarita pizza for me and the Cremini mushroom pizza for my lovely wife.
                                    We did try the meatballs which were very good but could not compare with my Italian grandma's meatballs. Then again, what can compare with grandma's cooking.
                                    Motorino makes one of the best pizza's in Manhattan.

                                    1. re: Motosport

                                      Hey - so glad to hear you tried them! OK, but aside from Grandma's meatballs, are they not some of the best in the city? :)

                                      1. re: LeahBaila

                                        Thye were excellent!!
                                        Being spoiled by grandma I almost never order "meat a balls" as she would say!!

                                        1. re: Motosport

                                          Aw, I'm jealous! I wish I had an Italian grandma, too! : )

                              2. re: Motosport

                                You're not really serious about that noodle bar, are you?

                                1. re: mitchleeny

                                  What's not to like about Noodle Bar? Great fresh Asian food in a funky casual space. We've never had a bad meal there.
                                  The only down side is that they are "Cash Only!"

                            2. re: Motosport

                              Sorry I was thinking of Keste Pizza across the street from John's on Bleecker

                            3. After doing some Thai food research I think I would really like to try Sripraphai in Woodside. I would like to go for dinner. However after reviewing on Google street view, I am not sure about walking the 5 blocks from the subway station with my wife after dark. Can anyone offer any insight into that area after dark? Am I just being paranoid? Thanks!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: coryd

                                Woodside is a very safe neighborhood, mostly families. That being said, you might feel more comfortable taking the 7, which leaves you off on Roosevelt Ave (a very busy street full of activity) rather than the R or M, where you would have to walk a few blocks on a quieter residential street.

                                1. re: coryd

                                  You are being paranoid. This isn't the 1970's, NYC is actually fairly safe.

                                  1. re: coryd

                                    Sripraphai is great, and well worth the trip.

                                    It's a very residential neighborhood. Maybe a little bit creepier than just about everywhere in NYC because there's less foot traffic, so there isn't the comfort of the crowds you'd get elsewhere. But safe, fine, and nothing to worry about.

                                    1. re: coryd

                                      I concur, you'll be totally fine. Just don't go on a Wednesday, they're closed.