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Celebrity Chef obsessed kid (and his mom) visit NYC (LONG!)

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A few weeks ago I decided to take my son to NY for a couple days. The main reason for the trip was to see a play but my food network obsessed son wanted to try to hit some of the places he has seen on TV and maybe see one of his heroes. I got some great advice here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/882888 but timing was tight and reservations were hard to come by. Evens so we had a great time!

We arrived in NYC late morning, checked into our hotel and hit the streets. Now keep in mind while he may be a “foodie” and food-network obsessed he is still an 11 year old boy so our first stop was Time Square. We had 2:00 theatre tickets so didn’t have too much time. We hit a few of stores, people watched and then headed for lunch.

Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar. My son loves this guy and loves DDD and Guys Big Bite, especially when he cooks with his kids. He read the infamous review but said “Mom- it cannot be THAT bad” so I took one for the team and off we went. We got there around 11:45 and it was pretty dead. Other than a huge gift shop area right when you walk in the place had the feel of a knock off Hard Rock chain without a lot of Guy presence. We were first seated upstairs right next to kitchen entrance near the bathroom. The place is broken into a series of rooms so I asked to move to one of those. Lots of music posters on the wall and a huge screen TV surprisingly not playing any of Guys shows. Now the food- I had the Big Bite Burger. Honestly? I have had worse burgers but definitely did not come any where close to a great one. Burger was of the pressed variety-thin with crispy edges which is my least favorite variation. There was very little evidence of donkey sauce, way too much shredded lettuce; tomatoes were surprisingly good considering the time of year. Brioche bun tasted over buttered to me but since I rarely eat butter on its own it may have been fine. Fries were hot and fresh but generic. The best part of the plate was the two onion rings, which reminded of the kind I used to get as kid. My son ordered the Bacon Mac and cheese. He took a few bites and said it was horrible. I took a bite and agreed. It was a thick gelatinous lump of noodles with dried out chicken, limp bacon and there was large puddle oil floating on top. We called the waiter over who happily took it away and quickly brought over a Kids cheeseburger with fries. Burger was basically the same as mine minus the veggies and sauce. My son said it was good basic burger. The service was very good, the waiter friendly, courteous and kept my glass of club soda filled. General consensus- generic chain place. If you like Applebee’s or Red Robin you could do worse than Guys.

Dinner reservations were hard to come by since this was a last minute trip. Getting into an “Iron Chef” place on top of it (my sons primary goal) left us even more limited so our first dinner was at Morimotos and we were not disappointed. I started with a ”morotini” which was REALLY strong. I wish I could remember what was in it but it tasted like straight vodka. We shared the lamb Carpaccio and pork gyoza. Both were gorgeous presentation wise and delicious. Carpaccio is pretty straightforward but the scallion ginger dressing added a nice brightness. The gyozas were light and crispy and full of flavor. My son has sushi for his main-he ordered the avocado roll and the soft shell crab maki, which he said, were the best he ever had. I wouldn’t know since they were gone before I could even get a bite! I had the 12 oz wagyu filet and the Chinese broccoli. The steak was cooked perfectly, nice and rare, served on sizzling platter with sesame ginger sauce. We shared the warm chocolate cake with caramel popcorn, rhubarb sauce and sweet corn ice cream. What an amazing combination! The crunchiness of the popcorn against the creamy cake and ice cream accented by the tart sauce was so good.

The next morning we headed out in the freezing cold and walked to Carnegie deli. Yes, complete tourist trap but remember I am with an 11 year old who wanted to experience the NYC he sees on the food network! That said my lox platter was perfect. Great chewy bagel, flavorful tomatoes (where is NYC getting these?) and salty lox was a great way to start the day. My son had pancakes but declared mine are better (awww) and we also shared a latke with applesauce and sour cream.

We decided to skip skating as it was too cold so we headed to M&M store, the Hershey Store, MOMA and then off to my pick for lunch-Eataly! I was like a kid in a candy store and ended buying a canvas tote to get some stuff to bring home. After loading up on some good oils, a *very* old balsamic and some Italian cookies we went to La Pizza/Pasta to eat. We shared the manfredina pizza (red sauce, sweet sausage, mozz, ricotta, basil) and I had a glass of excellent Barolo. Pizza was as good as any I had in Italy and the crust was that perfect crispy/chewy. The atmosphere was lively but not too loud that we couldn’t talk. We wrapped it all up with a salted caramel gelato. What an amazing place!

A quick cab ride later and we were at Dylan’s Candy Bar. My son loaded up on some “vintage” candy-skybars, goo goo clusters, teaberry gum, wax bottles as well as some really good penuche.

Dinner that night was at Mario Batali’s Otto Enoteca with a local friend. The place was beautiful and cozy but the front of the house was pretty cold. We beat our friend there and when I checked in with the hostess she did not acknowledge us, just stared at me. I gave her my name and all she said was “are all three of you here”. When I said no she basically turned away and said there was nothing she could do until all of us were there and for us to move away from the hostess stand. Ok fine but how about offering that we wait in the bar (which was empty save for a few people at the actual bar) or maybe letting us know we could check our coats? We checked out coats and went to the bar area intending to get a soda and a drink. We stood at one of the center tables for about ten minutes, were passed by a number of staff and could not get service. I managed to catch the eye of one who kept walking as he said someone would be with us shortly. They never did. Once our friend arrived I let the hostess know we were complete who again just stared and said, “Who are you again?” in a very unfriendly tone. Now if they had been slammed I could maybe understand but in the 10 minutes we waited not a single person had entered the restaurant. Determined not to let her ruin our night we were seated in the far back room at a corner table, perfect for people watching. My son still had hopes of seeing Mario. The adults had great cocktails to start and then we all shared the spinach/ricotta salata/truffle honey salad and 2 antipasti-roasted brussel sprouts and mixed mushrooms. All were excellent but the salad was outstanding. The combination of baby spinach, salty cheese and sweet dressing was a really nice way to start the meal. For dinner my son had the ravioli brasato in marinara, my friend had the carbonara and I had the special pizza- taleggio, guanciale, shaved truffles and an egg. Every dish was wonderful save the carbonara being overly salty but the pizza was the highlight of the meal. Almost too rich and decadent but the runny yolk combined with the pork and truffles was intoxicating. The service continued to be pretty indifferent and cold until the manager (?) stopped by. He was friendly and warm and generally interested. He made a number of wine suggestions, all which matched our foods wonderfully. He was sorry Mario wasn’t there and hoped my son was still enjoying the evening. At his recommendation we shared the olive oil coppata dessert along with three different scoops of gelato-caramel, coconut and dark chocolate. His actions (and the food!) made for a very nice evening. Interesting side note- there was another table with little kids and the mom asked for the ravioli with the sauce on side and the waiter informed them the chef does not allow any changes to the menu. Really? You can’t do the sauce on the side?

Exhausted and full we said goodbye to our friend and headed back to the hotel. Our flight home was in the middle of the next day and we knew we had one more stop, a surprise for my husband. We got up early and hopped a cab to Katz’s. I had the lox platter again (Carnegies was hands down much better) and my son had pancakes with a side of pastrami, LOL. We ordered a pound each of corn beef and pastrami along with a loaf of rye and extra mustard go. My husband loves Katz and it s a pilgrimage we have been making for years every time we get to NYC.

I have to say we had a wonderful trip and it was great to share all this with my son. I hope we can do it again when he is older and when we have more time to plan. There are so many places we wanted to try but even mid week in January reservations were hard to come by!

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  1. Sounds like a memorable trip for you 2. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for getting back to us. Your son, even though he is 11 is a good judge of mac n cheese. He's right about Guy Fieri's mac n cheese being sucky. Also Otto tends to be too salty on many of their pastas. I'm surprised you didn't see any celebs at Katzs. Mario goes there often. Also Morimoto is at his new place Tribeca Canvas every night since they opened.
      Glad you have fun.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodwhisperer

        We were at Katz when it opened at 8 am so I doubt there would be too many celebs, LOL. We had the place to ourselves except for a group of young german tourists who came in right afterwards. By the time we left at 8:45 there were barely a handful tables filled.

      2. Glad to hear your experience in our city was such a success. I have noticed a trend over the past few years that the hostess at many of the more popular/trendy places are getting younger and younger with more of focus on how good they look as opposed to how they they treat their customers. The hostess is your first experience with a restaurant and should be starting off your experience on a positive note.

        1 Reply
        1. re: princeofpork3

          I thoroughly agree. The hostesses at Otto have always skewed on the young side, but they've almost always been attentive and personable. It's upsetting that the OP had this kind of initial experience with one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.