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SF Hound Coming To NYC Jan.8th-14th - Input Needed

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Finally making this trip which has been waiting to happen for quite some time now. Last time I was in NYC was in April of 2005 and did not do much eating. So, this time I am going to do it right. This trip has only one purpose, and that is to eat and do only that. Also important, I will be making this trip solo and will be doing most of my eating solo as well.

I have been monitoring these boards as well as the Outer Borough boards daily for the past few months and have been taking notes and doing my research. I have also been reading other NYC food specific online blogs and sites so I feel pretty darn up to speed as well as very hungry. I will be staying in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn but figured I would post here because I will probably spend most of my time eating and exploring in Manhattan. But, I will go out of the way to anywhere if worthy so feel free to give me recommendations not limited to Manhattan. I will be using public transportation the whole trip.

I would like all of your help with some narrowing down of the restaurants as well as some advice on the hierarchy between some common spots.

I plan on eating every meal out, as well as some snack-age in between. Budget is very open and not restricted but I would like some variation in there so not $$$$ every meal.

First, I would like to mention that I already snagged my reservation to Eleven Madison Park on Thursday the 10th in the evening. Very excited about this one.

Here is a list of the places I am really interested in:

Breakfast:
-Shopsins
-Clinton Street Baking Company
-Russ and Daughters(Is there an overall favorite of the smoked fishes here or are they all good? Favorite bagel sandwich?)
-Barney Greengrass
-Maialino
-Balthazar
-Pies 'N' Thighs

Missing anything?

Lunches:
-Momofuku Ssam or Ko? Both?(Never been to a Chang spot and was wondering if the price for Ko at lunch is worth it or should I eat at Ssam for the first time? The food at both sound really great)
-Katz Deli
-Spotted Pig or The Breslin?( I am leaning a bit more towards Breslin)
-Xian Famous Foods
-NoMad(Still worth checking out even though I am going to EMP?)
-Defonte's
-Ippudo
-Motorino, Keste, DiFara,Co., ???(If you had to choose 2 places for pizza in NY where would it be?)
-Shake Shack(I know I know but I feel like I need to try it once)
-Minetta Tavern(Black Label Burger)
-Kin Shop
-RedFarm
-Fatty Cue
-Mile End Delicatessen
-Lukes Lobster
-Caracas Arepa

Where else?

Dinners:
-Best Italian currently?(Was looking at Babbo, Lincoln, Scarpetta, Ai Fiori, A Voce, Del Posto, Marea. Never been to Babbo or any of his places so I was thinking Babbo might be a must? What's second?)
-WD-50(Still worth it?A la carte or tasting?)
-Torrisi Italian Specialties
-Corton
-Jungsik(After reading all of the great reviews on here I feel like its a must go. Nothing like it in SF)
-Chefs Table at Brooklyn Fare(I know its in Brooklyn and that they only take parties of 2 and 4 but does anyone know a secret for a solo diner to get in there last minute? And is it really that good?)
-Blanca(Same as above^)
-Peter Luger
-Craft
-Red Rooster

What is your current cant miss/absolute favorites? Besides EMP, what would be your next top two fine dining places?

Bagels:
Is there an overall agreement on the best right now? I have heard the best may be at:
-Absolute
-Ess-a-Bagel
-Bagel Hole
-Murray's

Snacks/Sweets/Bakeries:
-Dominique Ansel
-Ceci-Cela
-City Bakery
-Petrossian
-Mille-Feuille
-Momofuku Milk Bar
-Francois Payard
-Levain
-Doughnut Plant
-Peter Pan
-Dough
-Donut Pub
-Venieros
-ChikaLicious

Favorite must stop at bakery?

I am so, so excited for this trip. Like I said, my one and only reason for the trip is to eat my way though NY so anything goes.

It's 3:15am now on the west coast so I may not have done my best listing all of the places I wish to try, so expect some more updates and questions shortly. And thank you to all who are helping me out. If anyone would like to join me for any of these outings just let me know and I would be thrilled.

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  1. Breakfast:
    -Shopsins
    Great choice, note that it is inside the Essex St Market. Go on a weekday to avoid a line. Closed Mon and Tues.

    -Clinton Street Baking Company
    Go on a weekday to avoid a line. I recommend the pancakes and the biscuit sandwich.

    -Russ and Daughters(Is there an overall favorite of the smoked fishes here or are they all good? Favorite bagel sandwich?)
    Note: takeout only, no seating inside. I'm fond of gaspe nova, red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Eat it open faced. It's also very popular on the weekends (get there on the earlier side), try a week day.

    -Barney Greengrass
    Possibly redundant if you are going to R&D. Closed Mondays.

    -Maialino
    I would replace with Locanda Verde, Breslin, Minetta Tavern (weekend brunch only), Public (weekend brunch only).

    Lunches:
    -Momofuku Ssam or Ko?
    Ssam if you've never done any of his restaurants. However, lunch is either the all duck menu on a weekday or an abbreviated dinner menu on the weekends. So I would do weekend lunch, but dinner might be better -- more variety.

    -Katz Deli
    -Spotted Pig or The Breslin?( I am leaning a bit more towards Breslin)
    -Xian Famous Foods
    All good choices.

    -NoMad(Still worth checking out even though I am going to EMP?)
    Probably not.

    -Motorino, Keste, DiFara,Co., ???(If you had to choose 2 places for pizza in NY where would it be?)
    Di Fara for a slice and Motorino for a pie. Not a fan of Keste. I find Co to be inconsistent sometimes.

    Di Fara is BYOB and cash only, note their hours as well: Wednesday - Sunday
    Lunch from Noon - 4:30 pm
    Dinner from 6:30 - 9:00 pm
    Place all orders before 8:30 pm

    -Shake Shack(I know I know but I feel like I need to try it once)
    Try the Shack Burger -- and keep in mind the style. It is like a more gourmet version of In 'n' Out. If you like thicker patties w/o sauce, this is not it.

    -Minetta Tavern(Black Label Burger)
    I like the burger there...but it is a little gimmicky. Make sure you try some of their other dishes, too. Their souffles are excellent.

    Note: the bar is a little uncomfortable. The space is small and the host stand / waiting space is basically right up against the bar. The bar was originally a standing height bar, with a rail at foot height. So the stools don't push in all of the way, and your knees might hit the bar as you sit.

    -Kin Shop
    -RedFarm
    -Fatty Cue
    Not sure if these are definitely worth going out of your way for if you live in SF.

    -Mile End Delicatessen
    Brooklyn one or Manhattan one? I assume you know they have a sandwich shop in Noho now?

    -Lukes Lobster
    -Caracas Arepa
    I like both of these.

    -Best Italian currently?(Was looking at Babbo, Lincoln, Scarpetta, Ai Fiori, A Voce, Del Posto, Marea. Never been to Babbo or any of his places so I was thinking Babbo might be a must? What's second?)
    I love Babbo, and it's a great choice. Since I'm assuming you don't have a reservation already, you want to try to grab a bar seat? There may be a wait.

    -WD-50(Still worth it?A la carte or tasting?)
    I'm assuming you don't have a reservation already, since a la carte is in play. They don't do a la carte at the tables... If you are interested in the tasting, make a reservation ASAP.

    -Torrisi Italian Specialties
    Do you have a reservation already? I'd make on ASAP.

    -Peter Luger
    I like Luger but do you have a reservation already? Was just there a few weeks ago and it was packed and I don't think they serve the full menu at the bar. Also the steaks are quite large.

    Have you considered Wolfgang's or Keen's instead?

    -Craft
    Love Craft but the "family style" portions make solo dining less fun there, I think.

    Bagels:
    You may find this interesting:
    http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/1...

    Snacks/Sweets/Bakeries:
    -Dough
    -Donut Pub
    -Venieros

    I don't think these last three are going to be worth it. I find Dough's doughnut's to be too-big, chewy, sugar bombs. Donut Pub will also be redundant if you are already doing Peter Pan and Doughnut Plant. Honestly, I don't think our doughnuts really stack up against other cities' doughnuts.

    Veniero's, it depends what you seek. If it's cannoli, try Rocco's instead, they fill them fresh.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks for your always expertise input Kathryn!

      Torrisi - About to make the reservations within the next day. Should I stick with the standard $75 7-course menu or go for the $160 tasting menu?

      Shopsins + CSBK - Heard these are a pain on the weekend so I already noted to make sure I make the trip to these for weekday breakfasts.

      Momofuku Ko vs. Ssam - a bit surprised you suggested Ssam over Ko as it seems like Ko is much raved about here on the boards and I was kinda going to go that route. Any specific reason why Ssam over Ko? Thats if I even manage to score a lunch reso. Can anyone else chime in on this one?

      Pizza - Seems like I will for sure do a slice at DiFara's and a pie at Motorino. Plan to go to Motorino for lunch to take advantage of the prix fixe deal.

      Babbo - No reservations on this one as I was planning on just grabbing a solo spot at the bar. And, I am from SF, I do not mind a good wait.

      Wd-50 - No reservations either as I was still deciding whether to go for the a la carte or tasting menu. Is there a preference to people here? Sounds like it might be fun to create my own tasting with the a la carte options. Seems like they keep the classics and popular dishes always on the a la carte menu.

      1. re: benv

        Torrisi - I've not done the tasting but have only heard good things. Much will depend upon their availability, of course. For a while I think they were booked solid for the longer tasting.

        Ko vs Ssam - Ssam is bold, riskier (I think) and more fun, and it is a better introduction to their style and philosophy. As much as I like Ko, Ssam is and will always be my favorite. To me, Ko is their take on fine dining, whereas Ssam will always be a thing of its own. Korean-Southern-Japanese with some French and Spanish thrown in, great and creative food, in a casual environment, with loud rock music playing. And some of the dishes, you could serve them at a white tablecloth place.

        Love the oysters with kombu mignonette, the seasonal pickle plate (my favorites are the fennel and mushrooms usually), thinly sliced country hams with red eye gravy, apple kimchi with pork jowl and labne, pork sausage & rice cakes (imagine if gnocchi were crispy on the outside and tossed with Asian style chili).

        Plus Booker & Dax is next door.

        WD-50 - the one complaint that I have heard is that the portion sizes do vary quite wildly on the a la carte menu, so make sure you discuss with your bartender when ordering. If you only want the classics, you can get the Vault menu.

        Though personally I've never been a fan of the foie/beet dish because I am so-so on beets. :)

      2. re: kathryn

        Just a few comments.. (from a foodie, personal chef, native New Yorker)
        #1 Katz's is a huge lunch... so you might skip breakfast that day, and it pastrami on rye (mustard is on the tables, get lottsa new pickles, don't sit at the tables with waiters..stand on one of the lines at counter and seat yourself, always making sure you slip a bill into the tip cup while carver is looking..assuring a taste and a very hefty sandwich!)...separate lines for fries.. if you feel you need them (big steakfries)
        #2 Donut Pub is good (black & white cookies are yum)... But I think it's main draw is that they are open 24 hours..(at least they always have been in the past)
        #3 There is NO way you should miss Peter Luger! Wolfgang or Keen's is NOT a sub!

        Have a safe, great trip!

      3. Best Italian - For me: Marea, Lincoln, or Perla. Babbo can be good but it won't stand out against the best Italian restaurants in SF,

        1 Reply
        1. re: peter j

          Thanks for your recommendations.

          Since its my first, I feel like I should try a Batali place out. I was thinking Babbo or the killer lunch deal at Del Posto. From my time watching these boards it seems like there is an overall agreement that the food itself is better or at least more consistent at Babbo.

        2. I would say you should do Katz on account of you probably can't get a stupendous pastrami sandwich that back home. The Breslin lamb burger is out of this world too, though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bnowell

            Those two I already know for a fact that I am going to try. Burgers and pastrami are almost my two favorite things to consume.

            Here in SF, we have a huge amount of stellar burgers(some of my favorites are Marlowe, Nopa, Spruce) but we suck in the pastrami department. I have a lot of family down in LA and make the trip often so I always stop in to Langer's for my first and last bite of the trip. That #19 is the best!

            Other burger spots on my radar after The Breslin's are(in order of preference):

            1. Minetta Tavern
            2. Shake Shack
            3. Spotted Pig
            4. J.G. Melon
            5. Peter Luger
            6. The Brindle Room

            Also, forgot to mention that since I live in California and some people thought it would be a good idea to put a ban on foie gras, I would like to know of a couple of places where I could get my fix. Seems like there are quite a few places on my list that will have it on the menu. Sure do miss the stuff.

              1. re: benv

                NY has great burgers, but if you're a fan of Marlowe, Nopa or Spruce, my suggestions would be Diner, or Henry Public, both in Brooklyn. I wouldn't waste my time with Shake Shack or JG Melon. I think the Spotted Pig is the only one on that list that might hit a home run. You might add Molly's to your list though.

                As for Pastrami, I'm of the school that Langer's is superior to any NY option, and that Miles End is the best option in the city.

                While we're at it, I'd say Doughnut Plant are the only ones worth bothering with if you're from SF. Donuts are one item transplants can't find an equivalent for in NY, kind of like burritos, only talked about less.

                I would also skip Caracas Arepas. There was a time I would have thought it was worthwhile, but they've slipped a bit, and SF now has Arepas.

            1. I feel you should include some place in Flushing or at least Elmhurst. There are few good Sichuan, Dongbei, and other non- Cantonese or Taiwanese restaurants in the Bay Area. I think you should include at lease one of a list including Fu Run, Spicy & Tasty, Hunan Kitchen, Imperial Palace, Little Pepper, etc. Almost all are very easy to reach by the No. 7 subway.

              5 Replies
              1. re: swannee

                Little Pepper in Flushing is now a hot pot only restaurant; the other Little Pepper is in College Point and you'd need to drive or take a bus to get there.

                1. re: kathryn

                  The hot pot place still has a few side dishes, but not most of what Little Pepper is known for. The bus, however, is a pretty easy option to get out to the Little Pepper in College Point. I'd keep that as an option if you don't mind a little extra travel time.

                2. re: swannee

                  Definitely planning on making a trip out to Flushing. Was going to go to the original Xian Famous Foods there in the food mall as well as do a little snacking tour of the place.

                  I have a couple of peoples food tour lists saved of Flushing. Or pretty much go with what my nose and stomach sees.

                  Its always fun to compare a city's designated "Chinatown" vs. the real "Chinatown". Pretty much the same goes here in SF. For the best different regional Chinese cuisines and bites you do not go to Chinatown, but to the Outer Sunset or Richmond District.

                    1. re: benv

                      Flushing is not a “Chinatown” but an “ethno-burb.”

                      Ethno-burbs are marked by having a much more diverse group of better educated and generally better off immigrant population. In Manhattan’s Chinatown, only 7% of the residents have college degrees while in Flushing that figure is 38%. The annual average Chinese household income in Flushing is 40% greater than those in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

                      As late as 1960, 63% of all ethnic Chinese lived in Manhattan but today the outer boroughs of NYC now house four times as many Chinese as Manhattan.

                  1. PS. Sripaphai for Thai in Elmhurst is another strong suggestion, also easily reached by subway.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: swannee

                      The last few times I went to sripapai, it was meh. Zabb Elee is better.

                      1. re: francesb

                        Different style, though. A more direct comparison would be between Zabb Elee and Chao Thai, because they're both Isaan-style. I think Chao Thai - unless they've gone downhill in a year or two - would come out ahead in that competition, though there are quite significant differences in their menus.