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Apr 11, 2013 06:07 AM

First time visiting New York - what are the must eats?

We are coming to NYC in June and want to sample some of the good food it has to offer... we do not have unlimited funds but I'd like to know from cheap lunch/brunch to anniversary dinner what are the Must Eat's? and if we only hit up one upscale/high end place where should it be.
I keep hearing 'tasting menu" "prix fixe" etc.... what would be the best choice with reasonable portion sizes?

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  1. You should probably read this first:

    You should also think about, and specify, what you mean by "cheap" and offer further clarification of your budget. Information on where you are staying, where you want to eat, what kind of cuisine you are looking for, how you will get around, etc. will result in more and better recs. You are asking an incredibly broad and hard to answer question. NYC has thousands of restaurants...

    Also, as suggested in the link above, you should do a search on here...there are many similar posts to yours, such as:

    7 Replies
    1. re: carolinadawg

      Thanks, to be honest I don't know really how to fully specify everything but the poster above really clarified some things. We aren't picky eaters so the classic must try places rather than the hot right now is what I was looking for. Cheap to me may be impossible in NYC so I'm thinking 25/person for meals and like I said above 50-60 per person for our nicer night out. BUT if that's impossible to hit a really nice place for that much we can look further. we aren't big drinkers so pre tax/tip I'm thinking for us 2 150-180? Is that doable or do I need to adjust expectations?

      1. re: avanda19

        Have you considered visiting the outer-boroughs? Great food to be had and much less expensive <$25pp

        1. re: Pookipichu

          Yes. I think we are going all over!

          1. re: avanda19

            Great! See you there.

            But there are also good values to be had In Manhattan. My feeling is that the largest number of good-value inexpensive to moderate restaurants are in Chinatown, the Lower East Side/East Village, 9th and 10th Avs. in the 40s and 50s, and Harlem.

            I don't think you mentioned where you are going to be staying.

        2. re: avanda19

          Some fun, relatively inexpensive places that I've enjoyed as a visitor to NYC are Grimaldi's for pizza in Brooklyn (take the subway there, and walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge for an unforgettable new york experience), Porchetta, Katz's Deli, soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and Criff Dogs

          1. re: carolinadawg

            Instead of Grimaldi's, I would try Juliana's. And instead of Joe's Shanghai for soup dumplings, try 456 in Chinatown. Or Red Farm in the West Village for a chef-ified version.

            1. re: carolinadawg

              Awesome! thanks! I think Brooklyn is on our agenda and Katz for sure! I like your suggestion about walking back over the bridge! will do!

        3. How large is your group? More than 4 is usually a big group in Manhattan and it can be hard to find tables at some small places.

          Any picky eaters or special needs? Kids?

          Where are you coming from? How long are you here? We don't want to recommend food that you might do better at home, but we also may have some cuisines you can't find at home... Non-western ethnic also will help keep your budget down, though those sorts of places can have waits since they tend not to take reservations....

          Are you willing to wait for a table at a no reservations restaurant? If so, for how long?

          What is your budget, per person, per meal, BEFORE tax, tip, wine/drinks/etc for your meals? What about the one nicer meal? It is much easier for us to help you if you give a pre-tax-and-tip figure.

          Note that upscale/high end places tend to book about a month in advance. Most serve weekday lunch (but not weekend lunch), and serve dinner Monday through Saturday, and are usually closed Sundays, though there are a few exceptions to the "closed Sundays" rule (ex: Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Jean George).

          Prix fixe is usually a 3-4 course meal where you can choose your courses. Tasting menu is 5+ courses, often without any choices, though you can ask to make substitutions (for allergies, etc). Both will usually have a bite or two to start (amuse bouche) and and petit fours at the end.

          I would say that a prix fixe menu and a tasting menu should give you roughly the same amount of food, but the tasting will give you much more variety and take longer, and is also more expensive. Also some tastings are very generous with portion sizes and refilling bread, etc. Portion sizes can vary so it depends on what restaurants you are considering and how big of an eater you are. It also HIGHLY depends on your budget for your one nicer meal.

          What else are you doing while you are here? Planning around sightseeing, shopping, Broadway shows, etc?

          Check out some "Only in NY" type foods while you're here: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, pizza, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

          Russ & Daughters (takeout, busy on weekends), Katz's Deli (from When Harry Met Sally), Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic), William Greenberg's black and whites, Junior's cheesecake, egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's, Pickle Guys, the Halal Guys (53rd and 6th after sunset), are all iconic "NY" sorts of places that are worth a look.

          If you're interested in some of the places I listed above, you could do a LES food crawl.

          I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:

          Some common tourist inquiries:

          Near MoMA:

          Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and Whitney and Guggenheim, ish):

          Near the American Museum of Natural History:

          Near Macy's/Herald Square:


          5th Avenue shopping:


          Notable food trucks/carts:

          Prix fixe lunch deals:

          Best breakfast/brunch in NYC:
          It is (IMO) at the Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern.

          Best bagels in NYC:

          Summary: the freshest bagels are the best; bagels don't age well at all. Focus on the smoked salmon instead. Preferably at Russ & Daughters! Featured in shows such as No Reservations and Louie!

          I'm fond of red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one, they're surprisingly different (and lox is not the same as smoked salmon, because lox is salmon cured in salt brine, and most people actually prefer the more modern, Nova-style smoked salmon). You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters, too, if you wish. Takeout only.

          My favorite unique places in NY serve Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal food, steak, upscale rustic Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese (like kaiseki), creative desserts, molecular gastronomy, mixology/creative cocktails, and creative brunches (sometimes every day of the week).

          Some of my favorite cheap eats:
          Mission Chinese - lunch is less crowded than dinner
          Zabb Elee
          Xian Famous Foods
          Crif Dogs
          Szechuan Gourmet
          Shake Shack
          53rd and 6th Halal cart
          Momofuku Ssam duck lunch special
          Lobster rolls at Luke's
          Vietnamese - banh mi in Chinatown, do a search! Or Num Pang perhaps?
          Pretzels at Sigmund
          Sandwiches - Defonte's, Lamazou, No 7 Sub, Parm (long lines for dinner, try lunch), Faicco's
          La Churreria - Spanish sandwiches, fresh churros and dark hot chocolate (Spanish style, so no cinnamon), good lunch specials too
          Great NY Noodletown

          If you lik the idea of RGR's self-guided LES tour above, check these out, too.

          Maybe scoopG's self guided Chinatown tour:

          A West Village food crawl

          East Village:

          Cheap Eats You Want to Brag About:

          Have you checked out this site?

          6 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Only 2 adults in the party, coming from rural south Georgia where the people in town freaked out over an Olive Garden! (but we moved from Atlanta where there is much more variety and specialty) so anything is better than at home!
            We will be there Friday through Monday in June. I know NY is expensive but for our anniversary I would say 50-60 a person would be comfortable for us (I know this may limit us) And then for other meals I'm thinking 25 or less per person? Based on what I've seen. I'm sure hot dogs and pizza will be on our list of things to enjoy so we can adjust based on the lower cost meals like these!
            We do plan on attending a yankees game and one or 2 broadway shows (I know this board is all about food but any theater tips are appreciated!)
            Thanks so much! the way food and pricing is in NYC compared to STATESBORO Georgia is day and night so my knowledge of what to expect, what to think is cheap, and where to go is very limited! you've really helped a lot!

            1. re: avanda19

              Yes, I'd say that $25pp is right on higher end of "cheap eats" and $60pp for just food is a good amount for mid-range.

              For the Yankees game, do a search on the Outer Boroughs.

              1. re: kathryn

                Great thanks! I appreciate your patient and friendly tone when responding. It's hard when you haven't visited somewhere to clarify expectations and what you are looking for!

                Sorry to keep bugging you but What about Sushi places? you have a post on that somewhere?

                1. re: avanda19


                  What kind of sushi are you looking for? Nigiri with pristine fish, rice, and technique? Or fun rolls? If the former...for $60pp you might be better off doing other types of Japanese food or going to an izakaya.

                  I would look into the prix fixe weekday lunch specials at Sushi Yasuda or 15 East. Kanoyama for dinner, it's $37 for their "sushi omakase" set which includes 8 pieces of nigiri, 1 maki roll, and miso soup or salad. It's not a very large meal, though, so you'll probably need to order more food. If you order carefully, you can stay within your budget.

                  You might be interested to know that Sotohiro Kosugi of Soto in Atlanta now runs Soto in NYC. It's not an inexpensive restaurant though.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Great thanks! I'm all about rolls!

                    1. re: avanda19

                      You can get some great and fun rolls at Blue Ribbon Sushi in Soho, their second Manhattan location at Columbus Circle, and their Izakaya on the LES.

          2. Don Antonio
            American Table
            Yakitori Totto
            Ramen Misoya
            Katsu Hama
            Mad For Chicken
            Mission Chinese Food
            Szechuan Gourmet

            For your anniversary: Lincoln, Babbo, Le Philosophe

            1. What about Sushi and Jean-George locations? I've heard Perry Street is pretty reasonable for a Jean-George location

              1. Get a slice of pizza some where. Just one of those ubiquitous pizza joints that populate every corner not taken up by a Duane Reade or a Starbucks.

                Get a bagel. Probably easiest just to go to Ess-a-bagel.

                Get some grub from a Halal cart, go original and try the one @ 6th and 53rd.

                None of those will bust your budget.