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Oct 4, 2012 01:24 PM

Advice on Oct Restaurant Itinerary


My husband and I are visiting NYC from Dublin Oct 25-28 for his 40th birthday.

I have been to NYC 4-5 times previously and he travels there regularly with work. We are keen to try some new places and preferences are for French, Italian, American, and anything really except I don't eat seafood. I would love to include somewhere inventive, potentially with a tasting menu with flexibility for non-seafood eaters. Our overall eating budget for 3 days is approx USD 1400 (for 1 brunch, 1 lunch and 3 dinners ), including drinks, gratuity etc

This is what I have initially booked through open table. But I think there be some better options? Also, on previous trips I have never been to the LES or the East Village, so would like to include something in this location. We are staying int he Setai but can travel anywhere.

Thursday - Dinner Otto
Friday - Dinner - Pre Theatre - DB Bistro Moderne
Saturday - Brunch - Cookshop
Saturday Dinner - Minetta Tavern
Sunday Lunch - ABC Kitchen

Thanks for your help

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  1. Great list though I'd try for Perla instead of Otto, Perla doesn't take reservations for 2 but there shouldn't be much of a wait befroe 7:30.

    Also check Babbo for same day or next day cancellations on Twitter.

    Also look into WD-50 for an inventive tasting menu in the Lower East Side.

    1. If you rely only on OpenTable, you're missing out on a good number of places. Such as those who take reservations and aren't on OT, and those that don't take reservations at all but are worth the wait.

      While you're looking less than 1 month in advance, which means the most popular places are likely booked up. But if you're wiling to eat early or late, or wait for at table, you can still get into a lot of restaurants.

      I also don't see any Asian restaurants on your list? How about somewhere like Momofuku Ssam Bar for dinner on Thursday, in the East Village?

      If you're only in town for a few days, and you're not on a super tight budget, Otto isn't really special or as interesting. If you really must have Italian, Perla might work, also look into Dell'anima or Scarpetta.

      If you're willing to do something different, pre-theatre, try Ma Peche, Bar Room at the Modern, or maybe Szechuan Gourmet (assuming you're OK with spicy food). A lot of this will also dependent upon where your theatre is.

      Saturday brunch, I would try somewhere maybe more interesting than Cookshop. Maybe Prune, The Breslin, Joseph Leonard, Public, Shopsin's, Spotted Pig, Locanda Verde. Of the ones I listed, only LV takes reservations.

      Saturday dinner at Minetta Tavern and ABC for Sunday brunch are good ideas.

      6 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        i wouldn't waste your time at cookshop for brunch. the places kathryn listed are a lot better choices. maybe also empellon cocina in east village for brunch.

        1. re: kathryn

          Second the un-recommendation for Cookshop. They're perfectly fine, but nothing exciting. Of what kathryn lists I'd absolutely go with Public first - the most creative brunch in town. No rez, but there's rarely a long wait, especially for two (and you can eat at the bar if you don't want to wait for a table.)

          Prune is great, too, but the lines... I can never see myself bothering. Shopsin's is fun as well, though the lines there on the weekend can be fairly long - I'd sooner go on a weekday for lunch.

          Otto is... fine, but certainly nowhere near the top of any list. There are much more exciting options. Were you not to do Public for brunch, they're fun for dinner as well. If you want to stick to something Italian - so many more choices.

          Let's do some math for a second:

          For brunches/lunches, let's assume $75 each, if you were to get two entrees and split an app, and have one drink each. So that's $150 from the total budget.

          Dinner at DB Bistro Moderne - about $175 (if you're doing the pre-theater Prix Fixe, with, say, two glasses of wine each)
          Dinner at Minetta - assuming 2 apps / entrees / desserts / drinks - is harder to figure, since the prices are so varied. It could be anywhere from $150 to $250, leaving out ultra-expensive outliers like the Cote de Boeuf. But, for the sake of argument, let's say you got the most expensive apps and entrees - so around $250.

          So thus far we've spent $575 of your budget. You have $825 left over to replace the meal at Otto with. And also get lunch on Friday, which you've left out.

          So... you can pretty much go nearly anywhere on that budget, aside from the huge-ticket places like Per Se, Masa, and EMP (though you might be able to do EMP... I think tastings + wine pairings came to around $750 total for two last we went. Though I shouldn't even tease the idea, because they're probably booked solid...)

          Heck, even if you did order the CdB at Minetta, and add another drink each at every meal above, you'd still have $600+ to play with.

          So... why go to Otto when you could go to, say, Del Posto instead? It's probably around $400 for two, depending on what kind of wine you drink. I think Babbo's better, but you'd have to call - and probably get on a waiting list. But worth calling to check, for sure.

          Other excellent options for Thursday night where I'm seeing openings on Opentable:

          Cafe Boulud

          ...any one of them are well within your budget. And all better than Otto, for sure.

          Thursday night could be a good night to do a no-rez place as well. As suggested above, Momofuku Ssam Bar could be a great choice.

          1. re: sgordon

            Thanks everyone for the great feedback.

            The universal consensus is to hold on to Minetta Tavern and ABC Kitchen, and ditch the rest.

            For Thursday I had chosen Otto as the jetlag will be kicking in - we went to Otto about 5 years ago, and there is something comforting about Pizza and wine when you are jetlagged and tired. But I would be delighted to find somewhere better. I like the look of dell annima.

            For Friday I had intentionally skipped lunch as we had planned pre-theatre. But having reviewed all your suggestions I'm now leaning towards cancelling DB Bistro for pre-theatre and instead doing a late lunch in momofuko ssam. The theatre is the gerald schoenfield theatre. Post-theatre, maybe the Bar Room at the modern - we have been there before a few years ago and enjoyed it.

            Saturday - I like the look of Public for Brunch. Our dinner reservation in Minetta Tavern isnt until 10PM, even though I booked it at 7AM 28 days ahead. It looks liek they block book out 7-10. But happy to come at 10 and probably skip the starters and head straight for the CdeB.

            So my revised itinerary looks like this:

            Thursday - TBC Not Otto - but somewhere comforting and not too heavy. With good atmosphere to keep us awake.

            Friday - Late Lunch Momfuko Ssam. Post theatre Bar Room at the Modern. Small plate & dessert.

            Saturday - Brunch at Public, Dinner at Minetta Tavern. Any suggestion for pre-dinner cocktails around 8:30 / 9?

            Sunday - ABC Kitchen

            Thanks again everyone.



            1. re: csava

              Nearish Minetta Tavern are Pegu Club & Little Branch. Pegu Club is bigger and less likely to have a wait. Both will be pretty loud on a Saturday night, I think. I also like the bar at Fatty Cue, especially if you enjoy spicy cocktails.

              1. re: kathryn

                I would recommend Gramercy Tavern tavern menu if you can get there early enough as it is walk ins only. also The Little Owl.

              2. re: csava

                If you liked Otto before I suggest you stick with it (go with your instincts). Otto is consistent and comforting. Nothing over the top; just good, fresh simple, food. Go, have a few antipasti, a couple of salumi, a pizza and a good bottle of wine. The perfect cure for jetlag! Buon appetito!

          2. Hi everyone

            Thanks for all your advice. I just wanted to provide some feedback on your recommendations.

            We ditched Otto on the first night in favour of PizzArte. It was nice, did the trick, but we weren't overly impressed. We had the traditional italian pre-pizza starter which was effectively a lot of pizza dough in various forms. This was actually the wrong thing to eat before pizza, however the crispy battered courgettes were great. Pizza was fine, nice bottle of white.

            Day 1 we went to Momofuku Sssam bar for lunch - pork buns to share and duck rice bowls. We really enjoyed this. It's true the pork buns were ridiculously tasty. Loved the duck with the side of pickles also. I thought the shared buns, followed by the duck bowl was quite a lot of food for lunch so we stayed almost 2 hours and had a couple of glasses of beer / wine. The restaurant was much smaller than I imagined. The staff were charming, and slightly eccentric. I would love to go back some day.

            Day 1 post-theatre we rushed to the Modern for a late night snack. As lunch had been so large we went for cocktails, one small plate each and dessert. I had the Jambon with the little crispbreads accompanied by some olives. My husband had the scallops. Both perfectly sized. Beignets and strudel for dessert. The Beignets are my anytime-anyplace dessert! The service was perfect.

            Day 2 We were down in the 9/11 Memorial site, so caught lunch in BLT in the W. The food was cold and the restaurant itself was awful. Had the food been hot it would have been ok. But really not that great.

            Day 2 for dinner we went to Minetta Tavern for my husbands 40th birthday. As soon as we opened the door and stepped inside, we loved it. The atmosphere was great. There were quite a few blips with service however. We ordered two glasses of the sparkling rose as an aperitif. I ordered by pointing to the item on the menu and referring to it as - the Loire Rose. The bottle was brought over and poured. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't sparkling. So I assumed I had asked for the incorrect item and didn't point out the mistake. After the waitress left the table I checked the wine list and saw indeed that the Loire Rose was sparkling and she had a made a mistake. When I subsequently pointed this out, there was a whole discussion or "Well you tasted it and didnt say anything!!", so faults on both sides. Anyway she replaced the wine with the correct drinks.
            We ordered the cote de bouef and a nice bottle of Pouilly Fume. The cote de bouef was medium rare perfection. I couldnt eat the bone marrow, I tasted it and the flavour was great but the texture triggered my gag reflex. We followed this with Grand Marnier Souffle - perfect light dessert after the cote de boeuf. The waitress was nice in ditzy sort of way (e.g. practising her Oirish accent on us), but when I am spending $400 dollars on dinner I prefer something a little more serious. The barmen looked like great fun - I would love to sit at the bar next time. Bottom line - we loved the atmosphere and the beef, and would definitely go again.

            Day 3 we went to ABC Kitchen for lunch. This was the day that the city shut down for Sandy, so the atmosphere everywhere was unusual. We were concerned about our flight leaving that night, so probably not in the best form for appreciating ABC kitchen. However, I didn't really enjoy it. Its hard to describe the staff, other than to say they were wafting about the place. I have never seen people walk so slowly in all my life. They all appeared to have the same training in wafting - is it an intentional serving style? My first choice from the lunch menu was gone, so I ordered a flattened chicken breast over a brissel sprout and broccoli salad. I found it all quite bland a disappointing. My husband enjoyed the calamari and the burger, but we weren't overwhelmed. I'm not sure we would return.

            So the star's of your trip:
            1. A perfect pre-dinner cocktail in Pegu Club (a gin based mojito)
            2. The beef and atmosphere in Minetta Tavern
            3. Momofuku Ssam bar - a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
            4. Beignets in the Modern at midnight

            I wished we had included somewhere refined, I felt our itinerary was missing that.

            Next time eh?!

            1 Reply
            1. re: csava

              "We had the traditional italian pre-pizza starter which was effectively a lot of pizza dough in various forms. This was actually the wrong thing to eat before pizza,"

              I never will understand why this is done. One of the things I absolutely LOVE about Otto is its antipasti. So many vegetables and salads to choose from before having pizza or pasta.

              Sorry you got to experience some of Sandy (I wish I hadn't!). I trust your flight got off OK?