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Philly versus NYC

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I'm going to be in NYC for a couple of days in early February and, since I haven't fully explored all of Philly's dining options yet, was wondering what those of you who are familiar with both cities would consider cuisines/types of food that one should eat in NYC because they are not well represented here, either in quality or variety.

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  1. The answer partly depends on where in the City you are planning on spending time and whether you are looking for high end dining or you are looking to experience food from different cultures. If you are confining yourself to Manhattan that is one thing, If you are able to visit the outer boroughs, especially Queens, you will get a different answer.

    You might also enjoy this piece from the food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer who spent a few days in NYC with his family and wrote about it, http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-17...

    7 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      Thanks for the article--will definitely read through for ideas! I will be staying in Newark and getting to Manhattan via NJ transit. That said, I'd be willing to go anywhere that is reasonably accessible by public transport and/or cab. I don't have any activities scheduled, so the sightseeing can be planned around the dining.

      I'm open to either high end dining or food from different cultures. The only potential issues with high end dining are that I'm planning on being fairly casually dressed (ie, jeans) and I'm probably way behind the curve in terms of getting reservations.

      Some options I'm considering:

      Trip to Flushing for Taiwanese food
      Arepas (Caracas Arepa?)--haven't had those before
      Momofuku Ssam Bar--sounds unique & interesting
      Thai (Zabb Elee?)
      Pizza--not underrepresented here, but hey, it's NYC (DiFara, Motorino?)
      May try to get into Babbo, esp. if they have last-minute cancellations

      1. re: msiangal

        If you are staying in Newark, you should also try to get at least one meal in the Ironbound district, which serves up some of the best Portugese food out of Lisbon.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/877556 is a good thread to peruse on the NJ board.

        I second the Momofuki suggestion.

        I would also suggest that if you like Greek and Turkish food, there are many better restaurants in Manhattan than we have in Philadelphia. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829762 is a good discussion of this topic.

        Then there is the discussion of French style food... Daniel, Per Se and so forth may not be the atmosphere you are looking for, but you could go for Bar Boulud, or Cafe Boulud if you want some French food in a more casual atmosphere. I especially like the communal table in the back of Bar Boulud (round table, great service,) and you can get some of the best charcuterie in the US.

        1. re: cwdonald

          Portuguese in Newark and Bar Boulud/Cafe Boulud are excellent suggestions, thanks! And I definitely enjoyed the article you recommended. I may have to dedicate more time to exploring Flushing and the rest of Queens in future trips.

        2. re: msiangal

          If you don't get arepas in NYC try Sazon on Spring Garden Street (at 10th)

          1. re: Bigley9

            Caracas didn't do much for me when I tried. Haven't had Sazon.

            As for Katz's, the pastrami is amazing and that is a must. Everything else... can be had around here as good or better.

            1. re: barryg

              ya caracas isnt my favorite either- i much prefer arepas cafe in astoria

            2. re: Bigley9

              Good to know, thanks!

        3. Scandinavian?

          2 Replies
          1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

            Interesting suggestions! Have never had Scandinavian food before. Will look into it, thanks!

            1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

              This will be rectified soon... http://philly.eater.com/archives/2013...

            2. I would definitely head downtown to the Lower East Side to Katz's for deli, to Russ & Daughters for "appetizing" -- smoked fish, salads, etc., and to Kossar's for bialys.

              3 Replies
              1. re: CindyJ

                Thanks, CindyJ! Will look into those.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  I stock up on bagels from Kossars when I am in lower Manhattan and freeze them.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    i also second this suggestion- nyc has some pretty awesome delis, and you just dont find those in philly

                  2. Donuts! Go to the Doughnut Plant, it's right next to Kossar's.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Buckethead

                      Good call, Buckethead. Their doughnuts were delicious and, IMHO, totally beat out the ones from Federal Donuts.

                    2. I second (third) the Lower East Side rec's. So many fun, casual places. We love pastrami at Katz's followed by amazing gelato across the street at Il Laboratorio. The Manhattan CH board has someone who has developed a great LES walking tour. Here's a thread with that one and some others:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808573

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                        I'm going to disagree about Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Capogiro is much better.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          I like Capogiro better also, but Il Laboratorio has some different flavors, and it's a nice way to top off a meal at Katz.

                          1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                            Grom is also quite good and I have preferred some of their flavors to Il Laboratorio's. Not near Katz's though as its downtown location is in the West Village.

                        2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                          These food tours all sound great...and better than my idea of just wandering around randomly. :-)

                        3. i'd love to stick up for my city and all, but i have to admit: there are a ton of things NYC does better when it comes to food. for me, it just starts with the basics: bagels, small non-gov't, non-chain wine shops, and casual french food; and bakeries all over the place. but different people have different desires.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bob Loblaw

                            Granted, I moved here from a city with limited dining options, but FWIW, I've been incredibly pleased with Philly's restaurant scene. And living here, I can afford both having a nice living space and eating at Vetri, which seems like a good deal to me!

                          2. also dim sum- if youll be in flushing, id do that

                            1. I am a Philly girl born n' bred and have had an apartment for 7 years in the Lincoln Center area to run to for opera and theater.
                              Don't kid yourself: Philly has some really fine dining places that compare very favorably to the NY list.
                              Frankly, the only thing I can think of that perhaps NY has more of in a bigger "New Yawk" way would be the obvious, rated A++ venues such as Daniel, EMP, Le Bernardin and Per Se for example, or for "different", Momofuku Saam, Shopsin's for unique breakfasts, Bouchon Bakery that has that "New York Look" for fun lunches, Katz' deli that soars over Philly delis, and more good steak places to choose from.
                              But if you want the truth?
                              Philly Asian places IMO are better than their Gotham competition.
                              Aside of obvious ethnic restaurants, I honestly cannot think of one restaurant that is so unique that you cannot find it in Philly. It's just that NY has a bigger choice of the same thing -- some better/some not.
                              If you still want recommendations of good restaurants to consider while you are there, here are some of my favorites:
                              Marea & Le Bernardin for excellent seafood
                              Lincoln for a sophisticated and trendy place right in Lincoln Center
                              La Silhouette for a slightly Frenchie bent
                              Ed's Chowder House for celebrity watching
                              Crispo's for really good Italian without busting your purse.
                              Hope this helps and ... bon appetit.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: arepo

                                arepo, I will certainly save your writeup for my next visit to Gotham. Good Stuff, thanks.

                                1. re: arepo

                                  "Don't kid yourself: Philly has some really fine dining places that compare very favorably to the NY list"

                                  I don't believe I stated otherwise. And some of the things you listed--restaurants that are unique, Katz's, certain ethnic restaurants--are exactly the kinds of places I'd be interested in trying in NY. Thanks for the recs!

                                2. go to pok pok ny. philly's thai really is horrible.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                    Definitely on my list!

                                    1. re: PorkyBelly

                                      Most of new yorks sucks too! Pok Pok being one of only a few exceptions.

                                    2. As your posting history on Chowhound isn't very long, and I am uncertain as to how familiar you are with NYC (at least somewhat, it seems), might I recommend the following links?

                                      kathryn's profile: answers both in breadth and depth http://www.chow.com/profile/10936 She may have mentioned something recently about how to secure a Babbo table.

                                      I've also found this site to be very informative: http://www.eatingintranslation.com/

                                      This looked like a great tour of Queens with arepas that won't require you going to Caracas Arepa: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8292...

                                      And this was a nice round-up of Flushing places to eat at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826623 (disregard any mentions of M&T as it's since closed; the
                                      Flushing Mall is also missing many vendors and was not that good even in its heyday).

                                      Some Taiwanese places in Flushing:
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/833362
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857776
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840841
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/601902

                                      In my eating trips, I've always found it to be a good idea to make sure that there was at least either something interesting to see between courses/restaurants/meals or plenty of people to share multiple dishes with. I'd agree with cwdonald with starting with some locations and going from there as many neighborhoods all over the city have something great to eat nearby. Since you will be commuting from Newark, it may not be very efficient for you to travel all over the five boroughs.

                                      Many high-end dining places no longer have strict dress codes and jeans and a nice top are just fine, depending on your comfort level, of course. Also, you're correct in that this close to your travel time would mean pretty much either going to no-reservation places, eating at the bar, or paying attention to Twitter/calling the restaurant.

                                      I'd say that Philly does better mid-range priced food and high-end dining can be a better value. Philly also has great sandwiches and gastropubs and better Vietnamese and Mexican options than can be found in NYC. There's also a surprising amount of good African cuisines and decent southeast Asian food. I'd also skip old-school Italian.

                                      Where NYC shines is in its breadth of high-end dining (inc. high-end Japanese), creative (both fusion and molecular gastronomy) cooking, and sheer variety: cuisines from specific Latin American and African countries, Russian and Ukrainian and a significant Polish neighborhood (although I have yet to go to Port Richmond), Greek, Turkish, other Mediterranean, kosher restaurants, Thai, many Chinese cuisines which are not common even on the West Coast, Japanese comfort food, Korean drinking establishments, and pizza, pizza almost everywhere. I don't know if other people have found this to be true, but Manhattan and increasingly, Brooklyn, restaurants seem to try harder and reach farther with what they will serve than Philly restaurants.

                                      I'll repeat what the other posters have already mentioned about the delis and bagels being much better and also mention Carnegie's for corned beef and Barney Greengrass if you're in that area. Depending on your dim sum experience, NY dim sum (Flushing, Sunset Park) will either be great fun or disappointing, but usually still better than the Philly options. And I'd recommend the David Chang restaurants with a small conditional: it's not mind-blowing. Also, I love pizza full-stop, so I heartily recommend eating all the good pizza there!

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: mookleknuck

                                        Thanks for all the info and links! Clearly my biggest problem is going to be finding room for all the food I want to try. This will be only my second trip to NYC, but I've read some of kathryn's incredibly detailed and informative posts on the Manhattan board.

                                        I'll definitely be fiting in some of the usual tourist stuff, visiting museums, etc., in-between rounds of eating. Once I've compiled my list of places to see and places to eat, I'll be able to group them geographically and go from there.

                                        Haven't had a chance to read through all the threads you suggested in detail, but am hoping some of the Taiwanese places have breakfast items. I haven't had a decent fan tuan or dan bing in years!

                                        I've had dim sum many places, including in Asia, so I might forego it this trip in favor of foods that are generally more difficult to find in the US. And yes, there will be lots of pizza consumed! :-)

                                        1. re: msiangal

                                          Focus geographically and temporally. Pick the can't-misses! There are all right fan tuan at Heung Fa Chun here in Philly. I've not really found any dan bing worthy of mention, but maybe if you post on the Manhattan and Outer Boroughs boards for recommendations.

                                          I don't think that any of the posts I linked to are about breakfast, just dinner. And I'd guess that if you're used to the dim sum in Asia (there's crap dim sum all over, really, but it'd be less likely to stay in business there), then you should save the dim sum for another time when you're simply craving and can't get to the SGV/Toronto/Vancouver/HK. Eat the pizza!
                                          Look forward to your report!

                                          1. re: mookleknuck

                                            Thanks for the tip on fan tuan at Heung Fa Chun. Will have to go try one soon! I'll also do more searching on the Manhattan board on places in Flushing that serve Taiwanese breakfast.

                                            I had actually been wondering if it would be appropriate to post about my trip on this board, since it obviously wouldn't be for Philly restaurants. But if folks here are interested, I'll certainly report back. Really appreciate all the suggestions here!

                                            1. re: msiangal

                                              The Outer Boroughs board will best answer your Flushing queries. If you're definitely going to go out there, find a shorter transportation option than taking the 7 (although that's a nice view during the day) and consider making that your plan for the whole day. Don't forget that there are other areas for great Chinese food, but Flushing is where you'll find a lot of the Taiwanese food you're looking for. I'd also post your area-specific review on that board and just update this post with the appropriate link.

                                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                                I found a post from kathryn in which she suggested taking the LIRR to Flushing, which was what we did. Only took about 20 minutes from Penn Station and was very convenient. Thanks!

                                        2. re: mookleknuck

                                          Well put mookleknuck.

                                        3. I don't think that Cuban food is particularly well represented in Philadelphia (Alma de Cuba and Cuba Libre don't do it for me). If you get to Hoboken, try La Isla. Also, I don't believe you will find Ecuadorian restaurants in Philadelphia. You will in NYC and the boroughs.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: JanR

                                            For something closer to authentic Cuban (and Colombian) food, you need to head up to Tierra Colombiana on 5th St near Wyoming Ave.

                                            1. re: Philly Ray

                                              Yes you're right. Need to get back there.

                                          2. I used to think it was hard to get a really good falafel in Philadelphia. The Philly versions were either the rolled type (which I never think are as good) or the falafel balls are mushy and the bread stale. Salad usually consisted of ice berg lettuce. It may have changed in the last five years. But Philly simply had nothing like Azuri Cafe, Rainbow etc.

                                            On the other hand, I actually think a non-chinese person can actually get better food in Chinatown in Philly as opposed to Manhattan. Interestingly, we recommended one of the hand drawn noodle soup dishes in Philly to a chinese lady from Flushing (this was during a convention) and she thought it better than anything she had in Flushing.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: jcmods

                                              Mama's falafel and hummus is as good as Azuri, but the salads are not. However with Falafel Nazi up the street I don't think l that falafel is a must.

                                              1. re: barryg

                                                I never got to try it when I lived there because I worked outside Center City and it was closed Friday and Saturday. Of course, that is the same problem I have with Azuri.

                                              2. re: jcmods

                                                I think Manhattan's Chinatown is still far superior to Philadelphia's. It is much larger, denser and has much more to chose from. Hand-pulled noodle places are run exclusively by newer immigrants from Fuzhou province and there are at least six in Manhattan's C-town. Flushing is less well known for hand-pulled noodles but has what might be termed a deeper bench of Chinese restaurants than Manhattan's Chinatown (i.e. Cantonese, Henanese, Manchurian, Shandongese, Shanghainese, Sichuanese, Taiwanese, Wenzhou, Xian etc.)

                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                  Thanks, scoopG. msiangal, you could never go wrong reading scoopG's incredibly informative posts on Chinese food and culture with his (seemingly =D) infallible instincts for what are and aren't good dishes.

                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                    The "deeper bench" is exactly what I'm looking for! And mookleknuck, I've already had the pleasure of stumbling across some of scoopG's excellent posts!

                                                2. one other thought - though not necessarily a suggestion.
                                                  the last time we were in NYC we ate dinner at WD-50. not everyone's favorite kind of food, and not at all cheap, but as far as I know, there's nothing remotely like it in Philly.

                                                  we had a great time there and loved the food.i get that it doesn't appeal to everyone, and some people find it gimmicky. i found it playful and fun. i'd love to have someplace in philly to eat that kind of food.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                                    Aren't Marigold Kitchen and, to a lesser extent, Will doing things like this? Not suggesting they are substitutes for WD-50 but you might check them out.

                                                    1. re: barryg

                                                      never eaten at either, but will check out their menus! thanks.

                                                    2. re: Bob Loblaw

                                                      I'll keep WD-50 in mind. Thanks, Bob!

                                                    3. After just moving back to Philly after 12 years in manhattan and Brooklyn I would suggest one of my fave Haitian restaurants in Brooklyn called "kombit" or head to bed stuy for some trini roti at Ali's. Maybe Milan's in Brooklyn for Czeck/ Slovak door (bring your extra stomach) or try and snag a small table and be at the mercy of Ali in Astoria for some lamb brains or lamb testicles (called kabob cafe I think - we called it Ali's). The Greek possibilities are much better up there. As for pizza, there are just too many possibilities. Don't get stuck on the tourist heavy ones. Personally, my fave for pizza and ambiance is Arturo's on Houston. I really do miss that place.

                                                      The only thing I miss about living in NYC are the places I've talked about (plus a few more). Otherwise , Philly is where it's at! Have fun. Go off the grid!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: amysep

                                                        Thanks for the recs, amysep. These all sound like great places, and definitely different!

                                                      2. Katz's pastrami-- A must, nothing like it in Philly (or anywhere else). Patsy's pizza, on 117th and 1st ave-- (although hard to get to without a car). Zabar's, 80th and Broadway, a unique specialty store. Go on your last day with a cooler so that you can take home food.

                                                        As far as Newark Ironbound, very disappointing. Very little authentic Portuguese food, mostly featuring quantity over quality. If you want a chewy 3 pound steak for under $30 however, that's the place to go.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: lemarais

                                                          Patsy's is very convenient to mass transit - located just four blocks from the subway stop on 116th and Lex.

                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                            A very looong 4 blocks! 1st Ave bus, much better.

                                                          2. re: lemarais

                                                            I think it really depends on what you order in the Ironbound ... I have had good seafood dishes that are reminiscent of times I have spent in Lisbon...

                                                            Zabar's is ok.. but I would combine it with going to some other things on the upper west side. I am a huge fan of Barney Greengrass (the Sturgeon King... ) which would be on the way up the west side before you cross over to go to Patsys..

                                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                                              In my humble opinion, Zabar's is about 500x better than B Greengrass...BG is a dingy, old place past its prime. If you live in Philly, Zabar's will wow you with the food, starting right at the door with the olive bar like no other!

                                                              1. re: lemarais

                                                                I am originally from NY and have been to Zabar's many times. The sturgeon at BG is second to none.. and that includes Russ and Daughters. Zabar's is ok but you are paying more for the name than the quality of the products.

                                                              2. re: cwdonald

                                                                Gotta go to Katz's. Puts Philly pastrami to shame. We had a great meal at the Gotham Bar & Grill a few years back. Also, Chinatown in NYC has some fabulous buns (we like the Switzerland buns at Fay Da). And they still have a Lombardi's up there should you need a pizza fix.Finally, there's an Italian bakery, Caffe Roma, that has really good macaroons.

                                                            2. There are already a lot of responses, but as a long time New Yorker living in Philadelphia I will contribute my thoughts

                                                              Things Philadelphia does well that can be avoided in New York:
                                                              Vietnamese food
                                                              Tacos / mexican
                                                              Italian
                                                              Hoagies / Subs
                                                              Gastropub / Beer

                                                              Things Philadelphia does poorly that should be eaten in New York:
                                                              Sushi / Ramen / Japanese anything - although philly's ramen scene is developing
                                                              Thai
                                                              Chinese of any kind that isnt szechuan
                                                              Pizza
                                                              Bagels
                                                              High end French or anything really

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: vnair2

                                                                Disagree. Some fantastic Vietnamese in NY, as well as great places in the other categories you mention-- (In Ny though, they are called "heros". )

                                                                And I've had terrific Chinese and great pizza in Philly as well...

                                                                1. re: lemarais

                                                                  I didnt mean to imply that New York didnt have good versions of those foods. Since Philly does have good versions though it would be unnecessary to try them in NY.

                                                                  And to be completely honest, there are very few foods that Philly does completely objectively better then New York.

                                                                  Roast Pork, Cheesesteaks, bahn mi, and fudge from franklin fountain might be the only things I can think of :)

                                                                  1. re: vnair2

                                                                    Ok, but that wasn't the OP's question-- I reiterate rthat Zabar's is a unique NY for specialty foods, olive bar, smoked fish, and food specialties that are exotic and hard to find. Katz pastrami is like no other, the best in this US!

                                                                    1. re: lemarais

                                                                      Wait...I did answer OPs question in my first post. Now Im confused.

                                                                      Also I love Zabar's, but you were arguing that point with someone else.

                                                                      1. re: vnair2

                                                                        The smoked fish in NY is far superior to anything you can find in Philly. Russ and Daughers and Sables are excellent. In particular the whitefish/baked salmon salad at Russ and Daughter's is the best I've ever had. The lobster salad at Sables is amazing. Katz's for pastrami.

                                                                    2. re: vnair2

                                                                      The pretzels you buy from the Philly street vendors are MUCH better than anything in NY...

                                                                      1. re: lemarais

                                                                        I would suggest hey are just different... ny pretzels are at least hot.

                                                                2. Thanks, everyone, for the additional suggestions. My trip to NYC was actually last weekend, but now i have tons of options to add to my list for future trips. I ended up staying in Midtown instead of Newark, so didn't get a chance to try any of the Ironbound restaurants.

                                                                  i plan to post about my trip on the Manhattan and Outer Boroughs boards soon, and will update this thread with the links!

                                                                  1. Thanks again for all the recommendations! In the end, we were limited primarily by the amount of food we could eat and still be able to walk. So many of the places we had wanted to try will simply have to wait for future trips. If anyone's interested, I've posted about the places we did visit at the links below.

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8899...

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8899...

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: msiangal

                                                                      Nice writeups. I saw your comment about the lamb over rice trucks... where do you live? There are several in Center City and West Philly and most are pretty good. Only problem is they aren't open past lunch.

                                                                      1. re: barryg

                                                                        Thanks, barry! Unfortunately for me, I live (and work) in lower Bucks County--not exactly a food truck mecca. Which are your top 2-3 of those trucks? I can seek them out the next time I'm in Philly on a day off (assume they only operate on weekdays).

                                                                        1. re: msiangal

                                                                          I like the one at 20th & Market but I don't really think any are worth a special trip into the city. The falafel nazi at NW corner of 20th & Market is -- though I haven't tried it since he's been back from sabbatical.