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

  • b

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:

-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
-Pies 'N' Thighs

Missing anything?

-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?)
-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
-Fatty Cue
-Mile End Delicatessen
-Lukes Lobster
-Caracas Arepa

Where else?

-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
-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
-Red Rooster

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

Is there an overall agreement on the best right now? I have heard the best may be at:
-Bagel Hole

-Dominique Ansel
-City Bakery
-Momofuku Milk Bar
-Francois Payard
-Doughnut Plant
-Peter Pan
-Donut Pub

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:
    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.

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

    -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
    -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?

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

    You may find this interesting:

    -Donut Pub

    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.

                    2. Russ and Daughters & Barney Greengrass

                      I agree you don't need both. BG is a restaurant, not just takeout, so that makes it preferable for your purposes. My favorite fish is the sable.

                      Babbo - Haven't been in a while. My experiences - great food, rude service, and some of the seats are bad which they should not be at a place that's this expensive.

                      Maialino - I'd move it from breakfast to lunch.

                      Peter Luger - I don't see this as a good solo spot. Plus, you probably have a great steakhouse in SF. I don't know if there's anything special in the cooking - I doubt it. They get great meat and age it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: plf515

                        R&D and BG:

                        If I really should only do one of these, then I will for sure be doing Russ and Daughters. R&D has been on my radar for years now and I was planning on possibly making it my first stop of the trip. R&D being takeout only does not bother me at all.


                        I want to try at least 2 Italian places during my trip so after I knock off Babbo, whats the next place? Marea's famous pasta? Lincoln? Peter j. already gave me his three but can anyone else give me thier top three current Italian in the city?

                      2. Try Alma near where you're staying in Brooklyn.
                        187 Columbia Street . I live in Manhattan and often come to Brooklyn to eat here --

                        1. You've gotten a lot of good responses, so I'll just home in on a few details. First, I haven't been to DiFara in years because I'm not willing to wait over an hour for pizza, and there are some excellent pizzerias in Manhattan, though none like DiFara, which is really sui generis. So yes, go if you're willing to spend the time, but know that it may take most of an afternoon. Brooklyn College is nearby and has a beautiful campus, though.

                          I also would strongly counsel you to skip Veniero's and go to Villabate in Bensonhurst. No place to sit, but their pastries are wonderful, you get good, friendly service, and their prices are much lower. Plus, it's an interesting neighborhood to visit.

                          In terms of bagels, my sense is that the best bagels at Absolute are the mini bagels, and you'd be best off getting there early in the morning when they're hot. If you feel like combining that visit with some other eating, I like Silver Moon Bakery on 105th St. and Broadway, and a block down and on the other side of the street is the very cheap Jerusalem Restaurant, which serves some of the tastiest falafel and shawarma you can get in Manhattan; if you like that kind of food, get a combo and have some of both plus any of their various sides. All the sides are good except for the baba ganouj, which I find overly smoky (and yeah, smokiness is part of the charm of good baba ganouj, but they overdo it).

                          Another thing you can consider doing, if you want to sample local Latin food you are unlikely to find in SF, is to go for Dominican, Peruvian, or Puerto Rican pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken). On the Upper West Side, Flor de Mayo is a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant that makes chicken with very nice garlicky sauce and has quite decent black beans and such. El Malecon, on Amsterdam between 97th and 98th, is another excellent spot for chicken though their beans are not as good. In the East Village, there's Casa Adela, a Puerto Rican place that also makes fine pollo a la brasa with delicious sauce and has other good dishes like their bacalao in tomato sauce. All these pollo a la brasa places are very informal, and except for Casa Adela, very cheap (not that Casa Adela is expensive, though). None of this is fine dining, but you did say you wanted some cheaper recommendations, too.

                          I'm going to suggest that you not go to Caracas, though, as you can get arepas in SF, can't you? Anyway, the place is not unbelievably fantastic, just solidly good. I live down the block from it and haven't been for years, since it became too crowded and not nearly as cheap as it used to be. If you do go, the only arepa I always found great was the jardinera, as a matter of personal taste.

                          Do go to Xian, but there's no need to go to Flushing for that purpose. Get other stuff in Flushing that you can't get here, like halal Tianjin-style food at Yi Lan.

                          I haven't been to all the high-end Italian restaurants in Manhattan by a long shot, but I love Ai Fiori, and if you go there, get the bourbon cocktail that's first on their cocktail menu (if it's still the same one I've had there before, with the big ice cube, it's one of the best I've probably had so far). I can give you other menu recommendations, too, if you choose to go, but to start with, the Vellutata and the Bouillabaisse are extraordinary.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Pan

                            Pan, thanks for your insight!

                            I feel like at this point I am definitely going to make the trek out to DiFara's for a couple of slices. There is something so mysterious and unique about the place from what I have read up on it and if I don't I will always wonder. I will for sure make a whole afternoon of it and take the time to explore around the neighborhood as well. After all, I really have nothing else planned on this trip besides seeking out the tastiest things I can consume.

                            Thanks for the rec on Villabate. Veniero's was not really a must try thing for me but it seems like a sort of fun and NY Italian classic kind of place. We do not have these kind of old school Italian bakeries in SF. Maybe a couple in North Beach which is our Little Italy but that's about it. Would be a first to try some of the more unique NY Italian pastries. What the hell is a Lobster Tail? After looking up Villabate it seems like a great option to replace Veniero's with if still looking for this type of experience.

                            Will also look into the Latin food options you have mentioned. Again, something that SF does not have to much of. And yes, I don't care if the place serves the food on Styrofoam plates or uses liquid nitrogen, if its good I will go.

                            Thanks again for everyone's help so far. All of this is making me antsy for the trip. When the time gets closer I will finely tune my mock up itinerary and give you all a day to day specific plan. In the mean time keep these awesome pointers coming!

                            Also, one of my jobs is I work at a very well known ice cream shop here in the city. So I would love to check out what frozen treats NY has to offer. Some of the places I have noted are:

                            - Ample Hills Creamery
                            - Gelato at Otto
                            - Il Laboratorio del Gelato
                            - Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
                            - L'Arte del Gelato
                            - Victory Garden
                            - Sundaes and Cones
                            - Van Leeuwen
                            - Blue Marble

                            1. re: benv

                              Big Gay has two locations now, don't forget! If you stroll around the West Village, you could potentially sample Victory Garden, Grom, L'arte, and Big Gay all at once.

                              1. re: benv

                                Just to let you know, I went to DiFara's a few weeks ago on a weekday at about 5:30-6 and the plaec was completely empty. I was able to walk right up to the counter, and there was only one other couple sitting down at a table. I guess it really depends on what time you go.

                                1. re: benv

                                  The advice on Latin food is a good call. I'll suggest Cibao as one option. I prefer the newer, cleaner, Brooklyn location.

                                  Villabate is a great, great suggestion, but I believe it's more Dyker Heights than Bensonhurst, and like Difara, it's a little remote and takes time by train. I wish I had an alternative, but the best cannoli I've had in NY came from them.

                                  For ice cream, I would say Victory Garden is unique enough to visit. Don't bother with Big Gay Ice Cream. On paper they sound like Humphrey Slocombe, but in reality, they're a Mister Softee dispenser and a few mix-ins.

                                  For Gelato, try Gelato Ti Amo in the East Village.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    Which flavors do you most like at Ti Amo? In a couple of visits, I found them variable in quality, as a matter of personal taste.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      I'm still sampling, but I really enjoyed their pistachio. It's got a clean natural taste, that's creamy without tasting like a frozen custard.

                                      The menu is kind of uninspiring at first glance though.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        I liked the pistachio gelato, too, with its surprising light brown color. I believe I liked a dark chocolate flavor, too.

                              2. So getting closer to finalizing my itinerary for the trip. I have a couple of questions that I could use some insight on.

                                1. I haven't seen much talk about Torrisi Italian Specialties here on the boards. Is there a specific reason for this or is it kinda just off most peoples radar? Is a meal here worth taking the spot of another on my 6 day trip?

                                2. Looking for one or two more high end/Michelin starred experiences during the trip so was hoping to narrow the places down asap to make any reservations that are nesseccary. Besides EMP, Blanca, and possibly Momofuku Ko(if I can get a reso) I was thinking the next 4 on my list in order are:

                                1. Jean-Georges
                                2. Jungsik
                                3. Corton
                                4. Le Bernadin(low on my totem pole as I hear its very seafood-centric and I have a preference to meats)

                                Is this a good ranking of the food between the 4? If I am leaving ANY restaurant out of that list that is a definite must, speak up now or forever hold your peace!

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: benv

                                  If you have a preference for meats you should skip Le Bernardin and go to Jean Georges or Corton instead. I have not yet been to Jungsik.

                                  Torrisi is good for creative Italian-American food. It's a nice change of pace but the small portions, inflexible menu, and cookie desserts don't really encourage repeated visits as much as other restaurants in the same price range.

                                  1. re: benv

                                    Torrsi - pain to get resi and not better than osterin morini
                                    2. No one eats there
                                    3. Packed with tourists
                                    Leaving out places with heart and soul
                                    Regular momofuko on 10th and 1st excellent
                                    Maria on 59th excellent - eat at bar
                                    Gotham bar & grill
                                    Del posto
                                    Keens steakhouse
                                    Roberta in queens

                                    1. re: nybroker

                                      Roberta's is in BROOKLYN (not Queens!) and has the same chef as Blanca, which he's already planning on visiting.

                                    2. re: benv

                                      I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to try and get a Torrisi reservation. They're very hard to get and only worth it if you have a specific interest in some experimental Italian food.

                                      1. re: benv

                                        They're all great, my personal preferences would be:

                                        luxury haute cuisine:
                                        Per Se (but you have The French Laundry…)
                                        Eleven Madison Park
                                        Bouley (lunch or dinner)

                                        Jean-Georges (dinner)
                                        mayyybe Jungsik (board loves this one)

                                        experimental haute cuisine:
                                        0. Kajitsu (vegan)

                                        1. Corton ("French")
                                        2. Atera ()

                                        3. Momofuku Ko (I actually prefer Ssam Bar.)

                                        Torrisi: Sadly I'd pass. Staff is a little cold (blame SoHo), and I was miffed that meat glue was used on one of the dishes. There's too many good Italian restaurants in NYC anyways.

                                        1. re: benv

                                          I would change the order:

                                          1) Jungsik
                                          2) Corton
                                          3) Jean Georges
                                          4) Le Bernardin

                                          BTW, I don't see Atera on your list; if you have the time on your schedule, and if there are any available reservations, you might want to consider it.

                                          1. re: benv

                                            Torrisi - I think the prix fixe is not worth a special trip if you are only here 6 days -- it varies between "fine" and "very good" dependent upon what the items are. It is a little annoying though that if that day's menu isn't your cup of tea, you have little to no flexibility to change it, as Scott_C says. And they only post it at the last minute.

                                            BUT I've heard nothing but raves for the New York-inspired tasting menu. So it depends what you're looking and booking for.

                                            1. re: benv

                                              I would rank

                                              1. Jungsik
                                              2. Jean-Georges

                                              I like Le Bernardin better than Corton, but you mentioned you don't care for seafood.

                                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                And where would you throw in Atera on the list?

                                                Honestly, kinda missed this place and after looking into it it has now got my attention.

                                                1. re: benv

                                                  I have not been to Atera, unfortunately. Though I'm sure a number of Hounds can chime in regarding Atera.

                                                  1. re: benv

                                                    Atera has been on a bunch of "best of 2012" year-end lists in the last week or so -- I'd be surprised if you can get a seat.

                                                    Right now it's showing no availability within the next 8 weeks for 2 people on OT.

                                                    I would call ASAP as I don't think they do parties of 1 on OpenTable.

                                                    Edited to add: Their Facebook Page indicates that they "are scheduled to be closed for January."

                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                      Atera does accept solo reservations via OpenTable.

                                                    2. re: benv

                                                      If you add Atera to your list, I'd still rank Jungsik first, and Atera and Corton would be tied for second-both are very creative and delicious.

                                                2. At Russ & Daughters, have the sable (smoked black cod). It's amazing and you can't really get any in the Bay Area.

                                                  A few months ago I had mind-blowing pastrami from Jablow's Meats. They are at many SF food cart events but may be opening something more permanent.

                                                  1. Getting so close!!!

                                                    So, currently I have almost all of my dinners lined up and reserved for my trip. Now, I need to start working on what exactly to do for the lunches on the trip. Again, I will have 6 full days of eating. I arrive at 6am Tuesday the 7th and leave very first thing in morning on Monday the 14th.

                                                    When I first started this thread my mind was all over the place with the possibilities but now, with all of your help, I am definitely narrowing these things down.


                                                    Eleven Madison Park - reserved
                                                    Corton - reserved
                                                    Jungsik - reserved
                                                    Atera - reserved

                                                    Two open spots for dinner which are a Saturday and Sunday. I was thinking about these:

                                                    Blanca - their books for January do not open until Jan.4th so I plan on waking up at 6am that day to try my best for snagging a spot for Saturday. This is my top choice.

                                                    WD-50 - was not going to make a reservation as I will be dining solo and I am fine with eating at the bar where they serve both menus.

                                                    Babbo - I know I could hit this up during lunch but looking at the lunch menu it seems that most of the favorites or what looks good to me on the dinner menu is not available during lunch.

                                                    Perla - between this and Babbo?

                                                    Or maybe something I have not even thought listed?

                                                    Lunches: I will list my top choices and maybe you guys can help me narrow it down to my allowed 6 spots? What are the absolute musts?

                                                    1. Katz Deli - for sure my first lunch of my trip.
                                                    2. Minetta Tavern - Black Label Burger!
                                                    3. Ippudo
                                                    4. Marea - uni + octopus and bone marrow pastas, ricci , and the lobster and burrata salad
                                                    5. Mile End Deli
                                                    6. The Breslin
                                                    7. Momofuku Ko - starting tomorrow for the next three days will be my chance to snag the fri-sun lunch reservations. If I do not get it then I will settle for Ssam.
                                                    8. Torrisi - still debating whether or not I should keep my lunch reservation for this. I did not reserve for the extended tasting but should I have? Or just go to Parm?
                                                    9. One more fancy lunch prix fixe - looking between Bouley and Jean-Georges. Which has the better food?
                                                    10. Motorino - this as my one sit down pizza meal as I already plan on getting a slice at DiFara's as a snack and maybe one other.
                                                    11. Kin Shop or Pok Pok?
                                                    12. Xian Famous Foods
                                                    13. Best lobster roll - Luke's, Red Hook, or Pearl?

                                                    Damn narrowing lunch down is going to be super hard. is there any must must musts? Sorry for not making it easy on all of you.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: benv

                                                      Just some more food opinion to throw into the mix:

                                                      I like Ko's dinner better than lunch. It's less expensive ($125 vs $175) and has the famous egg caviar dish, which lunch doesn't. I don't mind paying more, but I find the experiences to be similar, just that lunch is longer. It is a harder reservation to get though. (Ssam Bar is great too, but I really find the food to be quite different)

                                                      8. I can't comment on Torrisi since I haven't been, but I don't think Parm is revelatory/destination spot. It's certainly good, but I think it'd be a weak spot on your list (unless you are absolutely dying for a Parm sandwich).

                                                      10. If you can, make sure to try a regular slice as well as a square slice at DiFara's (also, his toppings are top notch). I normally don't go for square slices at pizza places, but DiFara's version shouldn't be missed.

                                                      11. Do you want a more Americanized (Kin Shop) or more authentic (Pok Pok) Thai experience?

                                                      13. Luke's is great for a snack. Pearl's is more of a sit-down meal. Pearl's is heavy on the mayo while Luke's is done in a much cleaner style. If you want more than just the lobster roll (appetizers, etc) I'd do Mary's Fish Camp over Pearl's. The lobster rolls are quite similar at both places though.

                                                      1. re: benv

                                                        It's really not a direct comparison, but I was more impressed recently by lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar than lunch at Marea. I thought their food was more consistently delicious, and it was also a whole lot cheaper. The octopus and bone marrow fusilli is a very tasty dish, but I wasn't as overwhelmed by the burrata as others have been (although it was good, I preferred octopus and crab appetizers and the chestnut soup, which was delicious). A lot of the quality of a very good restaurant depends on what you order, though, and whereas I've been to Ssam Bar several times, I've been to Marea only once and probably won't rush back to try other items, mainly because of the expense involved. I will say that my second-favorite item from our second course after the octopus/bone marrow fusilli was the baccala ravioli with black truffles ($14 supplement over the $45 2-course prix fixe).

                                                        To sum up, clearly, Marea is a good restaurant and we had a good meal there with a few knockouts. So I'm not panning the place at all, nor steering anyone away from there. Anyone who has the time and inclination should go there at least once. I just am unsure about the price/value equation there, because some of their dishes (such as the crab/uni spaghetti, which was really just spaghetti with good tomato sauce and some crab texture, with no noticeable uni taste whatsoever) are not great.

                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                          On reflection, I think part of what I'm really talking about is a matter not just of expense but of expense-related expectations. By any measure, both meals were very good.

                                                        2. re: benv

                                                          Blanca's website has Jan 2 as the booking day. Have you heard differently?

                                                          1. re: mulden

                                                            My bad. Tha'ts what I meant. I will be setting the alarm a bit early on the 2nd!

                                                          2. re: benv

                                                            If your Torrisi/Parm lunch is about their sandwiches, I would think that's one you can skip, or replace with a place like Defonte's. SF has great Italian delis, but something like a chicken or eggplant parm, or a sandwich with fresh mozz are East Coast specialties. I'd still think this one is expendable.

                                                            Same with Motorino. It's good, but you could fill that spot with something more worthy.

                                                            1. re: benv

                                                              Ha, I'll throw you a curve ball: have one of your lunches at a Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn. You will never ever ever see authentic mofungo con pernil in San Francisco (to my sorrow--I live in Berkeley), and it is one of life's gut-busting delights. El Gran Castillo de Agua is right off the subway and has good roasted chicken too, only chicharron de pollo is better (get it with the bones and squeeze your lemon on it). Then walk to Ample Hills afterwards for some of their Salted Caramel Crack, which pushes the burnt-caramel intensity farther than any ice cream I've ever had.

                                                            2. Breakfast:
                                                              Balthazar. Petrossian Cafe is good for smoked salmon and caviar as well as the almond croissant.

                                                              You should try to do brunch if you are here over the weekend. Generally the food tends to mediocre, but places like Penelope's and on the non-traditional side Ssam bar are great for weekend noon meals.

                                                              Lunch: Katz Deli. Also City Harvest at Le Bernadin. I personally think Luke's is slightly overrated but I spent a lot of time in New England (still better than Red Hook though). Minetta's is good as well, but Gramercy is another option for that kind of burger. I love Don Antonios for pizza but its a bit different and some are disappointed. Also would try a Soho square slice at Prince Street. Blue Smoke is also interesting, but I would skip if you are from the South or get out there relatively often, as it doesn't compare.

                                                              Good luck with Brooklyn Fare, your best bet might be to convince a Chowhound to accompany you, but that still leaves the reservation problem. Luger's is great if you have a reservation, remember cash only. Otherwise Keen's if you like scotch, Wolfgang's otherwise. If you like sushi at the high end might be worth trying Yasuda (unless you can afford Masa) just to compare. I personally have not been to Red Rooster yet because I would prefer to go in the summer when its still light out as I finish eating, so be careful of your personal safety. A Voce for Italian. I like Craft but personally prefer Craftbar for lunch.

                                                              Bakeries: If you are on the UES then Yura for seasonal pies. Best in the city in my opinion. Also try Wafels & Dinges truck (you'll probably be at Columbus Circle at some point anyway). I like Ess-a-Bagel but given how much you are eating you may not want the calories, you might want to get a mini bagel at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee (which is actually in Chelsea).

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: eastofthemississippi

                                                                Brooklyn Fare would have been one of my top choices on the trip but figured it just wouldn't happen with the 2 or 4 party reservation requirement. Thats why I am focusing on Blanca instead which I have heard is equally amazing.

                                                                Unless, one of you would like to join me if I can snag a last minute spot for 2. ANYONE?? I would love to do this.

                                                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                                    Woke up early Pacific time to make sure I started calling at 9am when they open the books for the month of January. Right at 9 when I called I got the busy signal and kept trying non-stop for about an hour with no luck. I kept trying frequently after that for the next few hours and still never got through. By the end of the day I called and heard a recording saying they were all booked for the month of January. Guess I was not the only one!

                                                                    Been calling every day this past week to try to get a hold of a reservationist but only goes right to a recording. Kinda confusing, as current the recording is saying they are booked through November and will start taking December reservation on December (X). Must be a simple error.

                                                                    Anyone know if there are usually last minute cancellations and how I find out about them? Or if anyone needs a dining partner in case theirs fall through please please let me know!

                                                                1. re: eastofthemississippi

                                                                  Safety near Red Rooster is completely not an issue, at all times of day/night. It's literally across the street from the downtown 2/3 train, in a well lit well trafficked area. It's reasonable to skip because the quality of the food and service doesn't match the quality of the cocktails, or the price, or the hype. But being afraid of Harlem is not a reason to skip.

                                                                2. Possibly last question I still need help with.

                                                                  For LUNCH, should I do:

                                                                  1. Jean-Georges
                                                                  2. Bouley
                                                                  3. Le Bernardin ( I know I previously noted that I prefer meat of fish dishes but even with that said is LB a must for an out of towner?)
                                                                  4. Tocqueville

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: benv

                                                                    I've been to all 4 restaurants, and my strong #1 pick is for Bouley, followed by Tocqueville, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin in last place. No, Le Bernardin is not a "must" for anyone.

                                                                    1. re: ellenost

                                                                      Not that it matters, but strongly disagree with "Le Bernardin is not a 'must' for anyone." To me, it's the best restaurant in New York. Just to show how reasonable minds can differ.

                                                                      1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                        Right. Le Bernardin would have been my my first choice, and Bouley would have been my last.

                                                                        1. re: Riverman500

                                                                          I prefer Bouley over Le Bernardin. If I were to rate purely on technical quality, Le Bernardin would win—it shows in the saucing, the pristine freshness of the fish and shellfish, the desserts. But the style doesn't resonate with me—it still has its roots in a particular kind of rustic French cuisine, except modernized through the use of a central protein prepared simply, then supported by refined, minimalist accompaniments. Bouley, on the other hand, is more about inventive and unpredictable dishes. There you can get a plate of potatoes that is one of the best things you've had all winter. And so on. At this level, it's like comparing styles between different authors or composers—everything is good, but it's hard to say what somebody will really like unless you know their personal preferences.

                                                                  2. On the Italian note, my husband and I used to eat at Babbo almost weekly. We don't eat out as often now, in general, and we had a couple of lukewarm experiences at Babbo, so we haven't been over a year. But their famous pasta dishes are still terrific. (And I would choose this over Del Posto, taking cost into consideration.)

                                                                    I was so underwhelmed by Torrisi brothers, I've never been back. Some of the dishes were good, and others were eh. None knocked my socks off, and given the hassle (I consider waiting a hassle) I wasn't interested in going back. Plus I didn't like the wine list - all American. I love Italian wine but have found few American producers that I really enjoy. Being from SF, perhaps your taste differs.

                                                                    I've only had the seafood (crudo) and pasta dishes at Marea, and they have always been amazingly good. And amazingly expensive! If someone else were paying, this would be my choice ;)

                                                                    Not sure why no one has mentioned Esca. I guess it's not high on the cool factor, but I've always had great food there.

                                                                    And L'Artusi (and related restaurants). Not sure if it's still true, but at one point, they had ex-babbo people on the pasta line, and it showed. Not sure if they would appreciate this comparison or not, but the style of the food reminds me of Babbo: Italian in origin with - hard to describe - an American-sized 'pop.' Not exactly fine dining, though, compared to Marea, Babbo, Esca, etc.

                                                                    Hard for me to comment on Maiolino - I haven't been in a while. I liked it, but enjoyed all the above places more.

                                                                    As for sweets, since you'll be on the lower east side, try Beurre & Sel in the Essex market for sable cookies (cookbook author who has worked with many of the most famous french pastry chefs). There's a place in there that has excellent baklava, too.

                                                                    SF has so much great Asian food, but actually not that much Korean food. Maybe you'd want to check out Ktown as well, i.e. not the hip restaurants run by chefs of Korean decent but the restaurants where you have to be careful what you wear, as it will all smell like barbecue when you leave!


                                                                    1. It's been two weeks since I have been back from my trip to NY and still thinking about it. Already planning another week trip in April.

                                                                      I will go into further detail later or if anyone has any questions on my certain dining experiences at the particular places I hit up but right now I will just give a list of the places I managed to eat at.

                                                                      - Bagels and cream cheese from Bagel Hole
                                                                      - Croissant and financier from Ceci-Cela
                                                                      - Doughnuts from Doughnut Plant
                                                                      - Lunch of pastrami on rye at Katz
                                                                      - Cookies from Levain Bakery
                                                                      - Dinner at Jungsik
                                                                      - Kouign Amann, almond croissant, madelines, and cannele at Dominique Ansel
                                                                      - Breakfast of blueberry pancakes at Clinton St. Baking Co.
                                                                      - Cookies, crack pie, and b-day cake truffles at Momofuku Milk Bar
                                                                      - Pizza Lunch: Brussel sprout pie at Motorino then regular and square slice at Di Fara's
                                                                      - Dinner at Corton
                                                                      - Breakfast bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters
                                                                      - Lunch at Eleven Madison Park
                                                                      - Dinner at Perla
                                                                      - Dessert crawl of Victory Garden, Cones, L'Arte del Gelato, Milk & Cookies Bakery, Big Gay Ice Cream, and Donut Pub.
                                                                      - Breakfast at Shopsin's
                                                                      - Cookies at Beurre & Sel
                                                                      - Bagel at Absolute Bagels
                                                                      - Lunch at Marea
                                                                      - Pretzel croissant and cookie at City Bakery
                                                                      - Dinner at Atera
                                                                      - Breakfast at The Breslin
                                                                      - Pistachio croissant at Mille-Feuille
                                                                      - Apple cardamom danish at Bien Cuit
                                                                      - Lunch at Jean-Georges
                                                                      - Mille Crepe cake at Lady M
                                                                      - Dinner of Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern
                                                                      - Ice cream at Ample Hill
                                                                      - Doughnuts at Dough and at Peter Pan
                                                                      - Bagel at Ess-A-Bagel
                                                                      - Lunch at Momofuku Ko
                                                                      - Pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds
                                                                      - Dinner at Babbo

                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                      1. re: benv

                                                                        Sounds like you had a fantastic and delicious (I hope) visit! Look forward to your detailed reports since you dined at many of my favorite restaurants.

                                                                        1. re: benv

                                                                          Wow, sounds amazing! More details would be great.

                                                                          1. re: benv

                                                                            I'm curious how you compare Peter Pan and Dough. I got a Dough donut at the Brooklyn Flea, give me Peter Pan any day of the week.

                                                                            Also wondering about Babbo. Went on Fri. and it was good but the place was loud made more annoying so by crappy music like new Red Hot Chili Peppers on the speakers. That's not what I'd expect to hear there.

                                                                            1. re: Joanie

                                                                              If you do a quick search on Babbo, you'll see lots of comments about noise and the soundtrack. I am assuming you sat downstairs, not upstairs, which is much quieter.

                                                                            2. re: benv

                                                                              Yes, I had a fantastic time.

                                                                              If I had to name my top 10 favorite things I put in my mouth during my trip they would be:

                                                                              1. Foie gras w/ lychee, pine nut brittle, and Reisling wine gelee at Momofuku Ko
                                                                              2. Ricci at Marea
                                                                              3. Mo'Betta at Shopsin's
                                                                              4. Squab at Atera
                                                                              5. Lobster at Eleven Madison Park
                                                                              6. Red Velvet doughnut at Peter Pan
                                                                              7. Kouign Amann at Dominique Ansel
                                                                              8. Square slice at Di Fara's
                                                                              9. Uni and caviar at Corton
                                                                              10. Swordfish belly at Atera

                                                                              Some quick notes and thoughts on certain places:

                                                                              - Doughnut Plant: Maybe too much hype and really looking forward to these doughnuts as I thought they were just alright. Definitely agree that the cake and filled specials are the way to go here though. Got the famous creme brulee and the tres leches and was not impressed. If I had to pick a favorite it be between the the PB&J square filled and the pistachio cake. Out of the 4 doughnut shops I visited I would rank it Peter Pan, Dough, Doughnut Plant, and then Donut Pub.
                                                                              - Russ & Daughters: They need to get better bagels. I now see why people say to just by the fish there and assemble it at home with a bagel from Ess-A-Bagel or Absolute.
                                                                              - Atera: If you haven't gone yet, GO NOW!Mind=Blown.
                                                                              - Babbo: My least favorite of the Italian spots I dined at. Perla first, then Marea, then Babbo. With so many great Italian spots here in SF, none of the three really stood out from my favorites here.
                                                                              - Minetta Tavern: Got the Black Label burger and while it was a tasty burger and the meat was perfect, I would not rush back to pay the $$$ for it. Still loved the place. The location, vibe, and scene all made me feel I was in this secret underground NY dining society. Next time I would definitely check out the rest of the menu.
                                                                              - Eleven Madison Park: Felt like royalty here. Everything about the place is spot on. Execution for every single thing was beyond perfect. Still, this was my 2nd favorite meal on my trip. Number 1 still goes to Atera.
                                                                              - Jean-Georges: While the lunch menu is a deal and the dining room and location are beautiful, I was underwhelmed by the food. Especially with it holding down 3 Michelin stars and having better meals at places with 1, 2, or even no stars.
                                                                              - Ample Hill: Favorite frozen treat I had on the trip. Maybe I am just not a gelato person?

                                                                              Feel free to ask me any questions regarding any of the places I went!

                                                                              1. re: benv

                                                                                Okay, I definitely need more details:

                                                                                How were: Corton, Jungsik, Momofuku Ko, Levain, Clinton Street pancakes?

                                                                                BTW, I agree with you about Atera (I've had dinner twice in the past 6 months--sounds like I need to schedule another visit) and EMP (loved my dinner so much 2 weeks ago at EMP, I went back again last night when I saw there was availability on OpenTable due to the bad NYC weather).

                                                                                1. re: ellenost

                                                                                  Glad you agree ellenost!

                                                                                  Atera was marvelous. Going into the place I had no idea that it was set up like Chef's Table or Blanca in how its only counter seating which gives you an excellent show during the meal, which is always a plus as a single diner. Lightner was in the kitchen and making sure everything was perfect as well. If I remember correctly, I think I was served a total of 28 items that night and I wish they would have kept on coming. The service was awesome, timing was right on, and after the meal they brought me down to the lounge downstairs to give me a tour. Definitely going to make a reservation again for my next trip. As I am going to try all new things on my next visit, this will be the one place I will make an exception for.

                                                                                  Levain: These cookies are great, and ginormous too which I am not complaining about at all. These could pretty much be mistaken for a large scone. Went to Levain twice during the trip and even though the first time was good, the second visit was even better as I seemed to get them right as they came out of the oven so the chocolate chips in the walnut chocolate chip cookies were super gooey. They for sure live up to the hype. I see that they ship them so that might be fun to try out.

                                                                                  Clinton St. Baking Co.: Another place that I thought might have been over hyped and built up for me but they were delicious. Went on a weekday and had no wait and they sat me at a two top right along the window which was a nice way to start the day. You guys should check out there schedule for the month of Feb. as they are doing pancake specials all month. All of them sound great.

                                                                                2. re: benv

                                                                                  I'm going to take this opportunity to repeat something I've said about a million times.

                                                                                  It kills me that people go to Minetta Tavern -- one of the best French restaurants in New York right now -- and feel constrained to order a burger. It's just such a waste. They're not only paying a lot for a sandwhich -- good as it may be -- but they're missing out on what really makes that place great.

                                                                                  1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                    I've never been to Minetta Tavern; what are your favorite dishes?

                                                                                    1. re: ellenost

                                                                                      Mostly stuff from the Daily Specials, which is where I really think the action is there (aside from the Cote de Boeuf).

                                                                                      Also, a shout-out to the crepinettes and oysters appetizer.

                                                                                      And, of course, the Cote de Boeuf.

                                                                                      1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                        Yes, I've read wonderful things about the cote de boeuf. I've also been interested in the famous burger, but I have a funny feeling I'd also be of the opinion that it's "just a burger--a darn good one".

                                                                                        1. re: ellenost

                                                                                          And you'd be right!

                                                                                          Go there and pay attention to the specials.

                                                                                3. re: benv

                                                                                  Momofuku Milk Bar: I actually really enjoyed all of the cookies, like really enjoyed them. Found everything else just tasted of sugar and butter, which I usually don't mind. But here, it was not so great.

                                                                                  1. re: benv

                                                                                    Katz: Loved it loved it. This was my second time here. First time was back when I was 10 when I had no idea what I was doing. Glad I went here for my first meal of the trip as it was a great way to welcome myself to NY. So, regarding the whole Langer's vs. Katz's thing. I found the pastrami itself to be better at Katz but as a whole sandwich, I prefer the #19 at Langer's. I like the bread at Langer's way better too.

                                                                                    1. re: benv

                                                                                      Looks like your first two days involved an incredible amount of travel (just to note, in case someone plans on duplicating your list)....

                                                                                    2. you may want to try prune for brunch & then head over to russ & daughters to pick up or sample some fish...you won't be able to sit at russ, and prune has an amazing brunch (and buys their fish from russ, I believe)