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Help refine a schedule/list for a London Chowhound?

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Hey NY Chowhounds. It's time for my annual thread on the Manhattan board asking you incredibly helpful people for a bit of dining advice. Me and three others are coming over at the end of this month (31st March) and will be in NYC until 9th April.

We're staying in an apartment in the Lower East Side, on Rivington Street, and I think we're likely to stick to lower Manhattan for most of our eating.

I've got a vague idea of where we'll be eating on most days, but there are a few gaps and a couple of spots where I'm unsure what we should go for, which is where you guys come in. Our budget is pretty high and we prefer relaxed places to stuffy and formal restaurants.

Here's what we have in terms of an eating schedule so far:

SUNDAY 31st MARCH

Arrive 1905pm at the airport - we'll go to our apartment at around 9pm, from past experience

Somewhere in Lower East Side for dinner - Katz's Deli? We're big fans of the place so we thought we might as well go on our first night as it's close to where we're staying. Unless there's somewhere near our apartment that would be better for dinner (we're staying on Rivington St, between Clinton and Ridge)

MONDAY 1st APRIL

Lunch - Minetta Tavern - I know some people find the burger gimmicky but I think everyone in my group agrees it's the best burger they've ever tried. I need to have it at least once a year...

Dinner - Babbo (booked for 4 people, 8pm) - pasta tasting menu

TUESDAY 2nd APRIL

Lunch - Parm - their sandwiches look pretty good and we're fans of Torrisi Italian Specialties

Dinner - Momofuku Noodle Bar - Chicken dinner (6 people, 6pm) - this is something I wanted to get opinions on. A friend of mine recently had the chicken dinner and said it was pretty bad. He actually encouraged me to cancel the reservation and go eat somewhere else... Now I'm not sure what to do. I've been wanting to try it for a long time and I'm a massive fan of Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar, and I love fried chicken. Should we stick with it or go somewhere else as a group of six? Any recommendations?

WEDNESDAY 3rd APRIL

Lunch - Momofuku Ssam Bar - duck lunch - we had this last year and really enjoyed it. My brother wants to go there again, I'm not too fussed...

Dinner - Briskettown/Delaney Barbecue - looks really good and we all love brisket

THURSDAY 4th APRIL

Lunch -

Dinner - Empellon Cocina

FRIDAY 5th APRIL

Lunch -

Dinner -

I need a recommendation for an anniversary dinner on the Friday night. Ideally it would be somewhere quite relaxed, not too difficult to book and no more than around $150pp (after tax and tip, with drinks). Does such a place exist? Right now I'm thinking Momofuku Ko, if I can get a reservation, but is way over budget, although I wouldn't mind for a particularly great meal. Otherwise, I was thinking of Perla, Gotham Bar and Grill or Union Square Cafe... Thoughts?

SATURDAY 6th APRIL

Lunch - We'll probably head on over to Smorgasburg, it's always a pretty fun day out

Dinner -

SUNDAY 7th APRIL

Lunch -

OR

Brunch -

Dinner - we're going to the MetLife Stadium so I think we'll have to grab something there. I presume the options aren't great?

LATE NIGHT SNACK?

MONDAY 8th APRIL

Lunch -

Dinner - we're off to the Izod Center so similar to Sunday night, grabbing something in the stadium or near Penn Station

TUESDAY 9th APRIL - 2115 flight to London

Lunch -

Dinner - probably something in the airport

Minetta Tavern, Gramercy Tavern, Mile End Sandwich, Parm, Russ and Daughters, Momofuku Ssam lunch, Momofuku Noodle Bar fried chicken, Empellon Cocina, The Breslin, St Anselm, East Village crawl - (This Little Piggy, Mark sliders, South Brooklyn Pizza, Luke's Lobster, Caracas Arepa Bar, Big Gay Ice Cream), Clinton Street Baking Co, Shopsin's, Meatball Shop, JG Melon, Mighty Quinn's, Perla, Il Buco Alimentari, Mission Chinese Food

For reference, here are the threads I've started before:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/623359
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/799653
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/848279

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  1. You should think about whether you'd want to have your anniversary dinner at a counter like Ko. Perla is kind of cramped and noisy for an anniversary, I would think.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sneakeater

      That's a good point, thanks for that, Sneakeater. Just had a look at pictures of Perla and I can see what you mean. Ko's counter service would suit us fine, I reckon - we're not desperate to look into each other's eyes anymore ;)

    2. I'm a little confused by the list of restaurants at the end of your post. Is that meant to show the places you HAVE been to before?

      > SUNDAY 31st MARCH
      > Arrive 1905pm at the airport - we'll go to our apartment at around 9pm, from past experience
      > Somewhere in Lower East Side for dinner - Katz's Deli?

      Might as well, you'll be close by.

      > MONDAY 1st APRIL
      > Lunch - Minetta Tavern
      > Dinner - Babbo (booked for 4 people, 8pm) - pasta tasting menu

      Minetta doesn't serve lunch on Mondays!

      If you want something relatively nearly you could go to Pearl Oyster Bar or walk over to Spotted Pig. Kin Shop and Tertulia also serve lunch and are much less crowded for lunch than dinner. The Dutch also serves a pretty good fried chicken at lunch. Did you end up at Bobwhite last time?

      Any of these could also be your Thursday lunch or Friday lunch.

      Go a la carte at Babbo, not the pasta tasting.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777258

      > TUESDAY 2nd APRIL
      > Lunch - Parm - their sandwiches look pretty good and we're fans of Torrisi Italian Specialties
      > Dinner - Momofuku Noodle Bar

      I really like the chicken dinner there but when I've done it, my group always thinks the Korean is better than the Southern.

      I was also recently VERY impressed by the chicken large format meal at Ma Peche. They have availability for the chicken dinner on 4/2 as I write this.

      > WEDNESDAY 3rd APRIL
      > Lunch - Momofuku Ssam Bar - duck lunch - we had this last year and really enjoyed it. My brother wants to go there again, I'm not too fussed...
      > Dinner - Briskettown/Delaney Barbecue - looks really good and we all love brisket

      BTW I really like Briskettown's brisket, but the other meats are a work in progress.

      Mighty Quinn's has a sit down restaurant now in the East Village.

      > THURSDAY 4th APRIL
      > Lunch -
      > Dinner - Empellon Cocina

      Move your Minetta Tavern lunch to this date. You could also do it for brunch on the weekend.

      > FRIDAY 5th APRIL
      > Lunch -
      > I need a recommendation for an anniversary dinner on the Friday night. Ideally it would be somewhere quite relaxed, not too difficult to book and no more than around $150pp (after tax and tip, with drinks). Does such a place exist? Right now I'm thinking Momofuku Ko, if I can get a reservation, but is way over budget, although I wouldn't mind for a particularly great meal. Otherwise, I was thinking of Perla, Gotham Bar and Grill or Union Square Cafe... Thoughts?

      That's only $60 before tax and tip, for food AND drink. With 1 cocktail, that's only $45 for food.

      So it's more "moderate" than "upscale." You're not really going to get a great, upscale experience for that price.

      Maybe Louro or Public would work. Or the newly opened Montmartre (chef is ex-Momofuku Ssam/ex-Ma Peche).

      > SUNDAY 7th APRIL
      > Brunch -
      > Dinner - we're going to the MetLife Stadium so I think we'll have to grab something there. I presume the options aren't great?
      > LATE NIGHT SNACK?

      For Sunday brunch, consider Prune, Locanda Verde, Spotted Pig, Public, and Union Sq Cafe, since you have already been to Minetta Tavern, Clinton St, and Shopsin's.

      I think you need to post on another board for a MetLife rec.

      For late night, Sundays are often difficult but try:
      Spotted Pig
      Joseph Leonard
      Fedora
      Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Soho
      Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya in the LES
      The Dutch
      Balthazar
      John Dory

      > MONDAY 8th APRIL
      > Dinner - we're off to the Izod Center so similar to Sunday night, grabbing something in the stadium or near Penn Station

      Penn Station is a bit of a wasteland but if you look hard you can find some gems:
      http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2011/0...

      8 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Kathryn, thank you very much! Great help, as ever. Every year :)

        Just to clarify, the anniversary dinner would be $150pp - about $300 all in. Willing to stretch to about $400 total for the meal. Not $150 all in!

        Thanks for pointing out Minetta is closed on Mondays. Pointed that out to my brother but still had it written down for some reason. Have booked it on the Thursday lunch now, and we'll find something else for lunch on the Monday.

        Is the large format chicken meal at Ma Peche better than the Noodle Bar chicken dinner, would you say? Read up on it and its nods to the midtown halal carts intrigues me. Plus I love the halal cart at 53rd and 6th! I think it's either Ma Peche, sticking with Noodle Bar or just going to Mad For Chicken and getting 60 wings and some beers.

        BTW, do you know anything about the Kappo meal at Ma Peche? I've tried searching but couldn't really find out much about it.

        Thanks again!

        1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

          The chicken itself at Ma Peche's large format meal is delicious and but the sides really put the meal over the top. The sides for the fried chicken meal at Noodle Bar are kind of nonexistent.

          The Kappo meal just started, I think ellenost went and said it was great, only 1 dish was available on the regular menu. It's so new I can't find any dish by dish reviews either.

          1. re: kathryn

            The kappo dinner at Ma Peche was wonderful! 10+ courses, 8 guests seated around the Chef's counter with Chef Paul working his magic! Tough part is getting another reservation. Price is $95 per person with one seating at 7:30.

            1. re: ellenost

              Not to veer off-topic too much, but how did Kappo compare to recent menus at Ko? It's a little cheaper, obviously, but is it in the same / similar league? Stylistically as adventurous?

              1. re: sgordon

                Let's just say I love both of my children equally :-).

                1. re: ellenost

                  Intriguing. Unfortunately they haven't got availability on the 5th of April so that's out of the picture, but I'm gonna keep a look out to see if we should be eating there on another night (depending on availability, of course)

                  1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

                    Kappo is available on Saturday, April 6 for a party of 4. Sorry if I sounded mysterious, but both Momofuku Ko and Ma Peche are among my most favorite restaurants, and it is impossible for me to choose one over the other. If you're in midtown, I highly recommend adding Ma Peche to your itinerary even if you can't get a reservation for the kappo. If you like foie gras, the Ma Peche version is spectacular (and I'll concede that I love it a bit more than the version at Ko (of course I've had Ko's version more than 40 times over the past 5 years).

                    1. re: ellenost

                      Sounds great, cheers for the report. Going to have a read of that other thread you linked to right now. Added it to the list though :) Thank you!

      2. Whew! Quite a week ahead of you!

        SUNDAY 31st MARCH

        You're staying right around the corner from my place - welcome to the neighborhood!

        Katz's is always a great option, but it's one of the best food 'hoods in the city, so options abound. If you're looking for something not too expensive and fun, maybe give Pok Pok a try? They're right nearby, probably unlike any Pad Thai you've had before. Get one of each main dish - a Pad Thai, the seafood crepe, and the other unpronouncable wide-noodle dish with chicken and cuttlefish.

        Another cheap (but very filling) option is Cibao, right on the corner of Clinton & Rivington. Great cubanos, and a very good mofungo. One sandwich and one order of mofungo would probably fill up three people pretty handily for around $10. Eat there, or get it take out and bring to one of our local dive bars - St. Jerome's shouldn't be too busy on a Sunday evening.

        For something fancier, WD-50 is right there, but you'd want to make a reservation - not sure if you'd want to do a long tasting menu after a flight, though. You could try a walk-in at the bar for a la carte ordering and cocktails as well, but it'll probably be pretty busy.

        Also, Antibes on Suffolk Street is nice, casual, relatively inexpensive Provencal bistro food. And of course Schiller's is always a solid option.

        MONDAY 1st APRIL

        I wouldn't do the pasta tasting at Babbo, personally. For around the same price, go a la carte - assuming like all good foodies everyone is sharing, you'll get a much wider variety of dishes that way. Dish sizes can vary, but the entrees (and a number of the apps - the lamb's tongue and octopus are comping to mind) are quite generously portioned. Order an antipasti each, two or three pastas to share, and an entree each and you'll leave quite satisfied, with a much more eclectic meal. Also, all-pasta meals can get a bit one-note after awhile, even if the pastas are all great... The tastng menus at Babbo are more something I'd do as a solo diner, or perhaps with a date. For a four-top, go with the regular menu.

        TUESDAY 2nd APRIL

        The chicken dinner is good. The duck dinner at Ssam is better - and with six people, the duck would make up just one course of the meal, giving you the opportunity to order a bunch of apps and sides to round it out. And the menu at Ssam is much more exciting and adventurous than at Noodle. That way you get the duck (as you would have had for lunch on Wednesday) but with a much more interesting meal surrounding it.

        WEDNESDAY 3rd APRIL

        Lunch - See Tuesday for my recommendation re: duck lunch vs. dinner. Many other lunch options abound. Prune has a great lunch, and that's one of the few times they're not crazy busy.

        Dinner - Don't know that I'd go out of my way for BrisketTown, unless you have other things you're doing over there.

        FRIDAY 5th APRIL

        Given that you wouldn't know until a week before if Ko was an option, you should have something booked.

        So, first - $150 before tax and tip is about $116. (Kathryn - how did you get $60? Or were you calcuating it as $150 for both?)

        Important consideration is how much you drink. If you were to have, say, two glasses of wine each with dinner, or order one bottle in the $60 range, that could bring the food budget to, say, $86/pp menu price. Add a cocktail before or after dinner, call it closer to $70. Amazing how quickly the money dwindles away with alcohol - we're already at under half the pp budget.

        Keeping price in mind, check Savored.com - Of the restaurants that have openings that night, there are a few good ones, I'd say Aquavit is the standout - https://savored.com/nyc/aquavit/ - if they have the time you want, it's 30% off, simple as that. Four-plus-course meal of Michelin-starred New Nordic cuisine for around $60pp after the discount. You might even be able to do the tasting menu at the discounted rate within your budget. And they're much better than they were under their former celebrichef. The cuisine has really grown. (Not to knock Marcus Samuelsson, but his menu had gotten pretty stale by his last year there... think he was phoning it in.

        )Via opentable, I'm seeing quite a few opening that night that would be very nice and still fit your budget:

        Blue Hill (always good, if not the most creative - early tables only)
        Gramercy Tavern (a classic anniversary place if there ever was, could bust the budget a twinge, depending how much you drink.)
        David Burke Townhouse
        Cafe Boulud
        Le Cirque (also have a 30% deal on savored, I believe - LC isn't my scene, personally, but for that style of cuisine I suppose they're among the better options)
        Tocqueville
        WD-50 ("The Vault" menu might be within your price range, barely, depending if you drink much. And it's conveniently a block from where you're staying.)
        Ai Fiori (I find the room a bit corporate-feeling, but food-wise I think it's Michael White's most consistently excellent restaurant.)

        SATURDAY 6th APRIL

        Dinner: if you're starting the day in (and sticking around) Brooklyn, make it a BK day - maybe Roberta's, though they'll be mobbed. Dressler, Gwynnet St., Convivium Osteria (in Park Slope) and a few others have openings. There are currently a couple tables for 2-4 people at Aska in Williamsburg (which would make an interesting pairing were you to do Aquavit the night before - two Scandinavians, one of whom worked for the other I believe, taking radically different but still firmly "New Nordic" approaches. I think on Saturdays they give you the option of the 7-course ($65 - a steal) menu or the extended 10-course ($115) menu, but you'd probably want to check on that - it might be the extended menu only on Saturdays.

        SUNDAY 7th APRIL

        <shout> OH MY GOD YOU'RE GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!? </shout>

        Jealous! I'll look for you in the crowd on TV...

        That said, you'll be there from, what, 7:00 to midnight or so? Not much time for other options. I'd say go to Jersey city to brunch, check out Thirty Acres (Momofuku Alum) but they're closed Sundays. There are some decent cheap Latin places in North Bergen. Nothing fancy, but for a bite along the way could be fine. Don't know what's in Secaucus, really. Jersey City probably has the best food options but might be a little out of the way, depending how you're getting there. If by car, it could be doable.

        A good little lunch could be Aamanns in Tribeca - right by the Tunnel, if you're driving that way. Also Marc Forgione has a decent brunch, though it might be a bit heavy. You'll want to save room for stadium eats & beer.

        Brunch at Public in Nolita is one of the best in the city - super-creative, fun. Gets busy but if you're on the earlier end, not too long a wait usually, and there's dining at the bar.

        LATE NIGHT SNACK - on your way back if you're not too tired you could hit Coppelia in the Meatpacking District. They're open 24 hrs, very solid Pan-Latin food, good desserts as well.

        MONDAY 8th APRIL

        Back to the Meadowlands again? Wondering if you should just grab a cheap hotel in Jersey for Sunday night.

        TUESDAY 9th APRIL - 2115 flight to London

        Lunch - Katz's, Pok Pok, Meatball Shop, Prune Russ & Daughters ... something in the neighborhood, all the same recommendations as above... Maybe Noodle Bar?

        Shopsin's could be a good call - weekdays they're MUCH less busy, and why not leave NYC on a NY classic?

        Dinner - grab some Katz's or Russ & Daughter's to go, eat it on the plane, make everyone else jealous.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          Definitely agree on that final New York dinner. You don't want to be at the mercy of whatever overpriced, uninteresting food is at the airport, if you can help it.

          1. re: sgordon

            sgordon, this is absolutely brilliant. Thanks so much. Genuinely going to print this out or something, so much good stuff here. Problem is, you've made my decisions a lot harder :P Just kidding, not really a problem at all.

            I thought pasta tasting was the way to go at Babbo, for some reason, but both you and Kathryn have said a la carte is the best option so we're almost definitely going to do that.

            Pok Pok Phat Thai looks really good, that's a great option, so thanks for that. I think you're right to say that we'll probably be too tired for a huge meal after our flight, so something real close and casual like Pok Pok would probably work.

            Savored is pretty cool, gonna give that a more in-depth look tonight.

            BTW we're pretty much coming over for Wrestlemania... Been wanting to go for close to twenty years now and we'll finally be able to! Can't wait.

            Thanks again, really appreciate the reply and you taking the time to write it!

            1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

              Glad I could help! Sometimes I worry I blather on a bit too long... the thoughts start flowing, it's a slow day at work...

              Savored is something worth checking out, though I find sometimes searching by date not everything comes up (i.e. using Aquavit as an example, when I searched that date it didn't show, but looking at their page there were a number of openings.)

              The line-up at Savored leaves a bit to be desired, but there are a few good joints in there. In addition to AQ and Le Cirque, there's DB Bistro Moderne and occasionally Picholine (20% for those two) - maybe a few others. I'm a semi-regular at Aquavit so I don't use it myself for them anymore, don't want to wear out the welcome mat - but I found the time we did use it (which was a couple years back, before anyone on the staff knew us) we weren't treated any differently than any other customers. In fact, we got a surprise cheese course and a round of the namesake booze on the house during the meal - no guarantees that'd happen to everyone, but they were really good about it and didn't even mention it. Actually, that's been my experience at all the places we've tried using it (minus the cheese...)

              Email/friend me on Facebook by the way (link's on my profile page) - since you'll be staying around the corner, if you need anything / got any questions while you're in town we can keep in touch.

          2. By most accounts BrisketTown is pretty good. So good that there are lines and they run out of brisket. Go early - it's probably bet to get there a little before they open.

            Their hours (taken from their website) -

            Dinner
            Monday through Sunday
            6 to 6:30pm - Pre-Orders Only
            6:30PM to Sold Out

            7 Replies
            1. re: Bob Martinez

              Long lines do not necessarily equate to good. There's often a line outside the Kardashian store in SoHo, after all.

              We have a number of solid brisket options in town, now, though - between them, Quinn's, even that ol' standby Hill Country... we're not lacking for smoked beef.

              1. re: sgordon

                "Long lines do not necessarily equate to good. There's often a line outside the Kardashian store in SoHo, after all."

                I actually know that. I personally haven't been to BrisketTown but a friend who I trust has and liked it.

                What did you think of BrisketTown when you went?

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  I tried BrisketTown when it was still BrisketLab, so it's possible it's changed and been tinkered with in the ensuing time. It was good, no complaints, but nothing I'd go out of my way for, personally. Most of our places make pretty solid BBQ for this area - so for me, it becomes more about choosing the one with the best sides, which is where a few of them seriously lack.

                  Ibrahim - Blue Smoke might also be a good option, since they don't restrict themselves to one particular style of Q. You can experience a variety of style in one place, and they're all decent enough - could be fun.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Understood.

                    I like BBQ fine but I wouldn't wait on line for it for more than 5 minutes.

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      No, nor I. Diminishing returns, I find. Also, I think people tend to like things more the more difficult they are to attain, be it on account of lines, distance, etc - the way some insist a $1 plate of dumplings are superior if you have to travel an hour on the 7 train to get them.

                      (Not that Flushing doesn't have its charms, mind you - I go there pretty regularly. But not just for dumplings... Perfectly happy with Vanessa's to fill that craving.)

                2. re: sgordon

                  Tried to go to Mighty Quinn's this past weekend, the place was jam packed, so there's a long line there now. MQ's is better than HC and Brisket Town is also better than HC, but Hill Country takes reservations and is much larger. However, MQ's brisket is less smoky than I like and the saltiness of the meat can be unevenly distributed. BT's brisket can get too tender/soft.

                  Also Brisket Town's other meats are a work in progress and not as good as the brisket, whereas Mighty Quinn seem to have its other items at a stronger level already, like the pulled pork.

                3. re: Bob Martinez

                  Thanks, Bob! We'll probably head over there quite early. I actually bought my brother some pre-ordered brisket (3lbs worth) for his birthday. I've heard pretty good things but even if it's not the best around, it's still reasonably likely to be better than anything you can get in London...

                4. I agree with the Tocqueville suggestion above. I would also add Louro and The Marrow to your list.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rrems

                    I really like the look of Louro's menu. And they take reservations! Will show it to the rest of my party :) thank you!

                    1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

                      I'm going there tonight for the special spring lamb tasting dinner. Will let you know how it turns out. The regular menu has a lot of wonderful dishes. Read this very long thread for some tips on ordering:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883322

                      1. re: rrems

                        The spring lamb menu was delicious, though I have to say I prefer the regular menu. The tasting was a huge amount of food and a good value for the price, but I think the regular menu offers a choice of some really wonderful dishes while allowing more flexibility.

                        We had a wonderful Priorat 2009 for $51 that I would highly recommend.