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hungry trip

We've got a fun 4 days in NYC planned out, with a few good meals already in our sites, but are looking for suggestions for places that are:
not too expensive
fairly casual, bistros or even delis for yummy picnics

We like: curry, (Caribbean, Indian, or SE Asian), Mediterranean (any coast, paella to spanikopita, pasta to falaffel), Ethiopian wat, Ghanain kuntumbre, savory tastes. DS has loved Thai pad see ewe and Indian saag paneer his whole life, which doesn't mean he has to get them on this trip, just gives an indication of tastes. Neither of us likes sandwiches (including burgers) but he gets into a good hotdog. I'd love to find the peanut sauce that a friend used to serve at his Senegalese restaurant (in Berlin), but that's really a more specific request than I need to make. I think we'd like someplace like the Red Rooster or Meatball Shop, it it was close to what we want to do.

I haven't worked out the whole itinerary yet, but we do not want to go far out of our way to eat. (My travel companion is a 10-yr-old boy). We're staying close to the WTC site and hope to find a deli close by for breakfasts. Our plans thus far:

Tenement Museum tour, Katz's deli before, Economy Candy or Gelato after

National Museum of American Indian/Battery Park or WTC site

walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Mediterranean on Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Top of the Rock /Lunch in Rock Center

Tour of the Fed Reserve

Math Museum

Kids tour of UN (4:14 Thurs)

Sony Tech Wonder Lab (Sat midday workshop)

Sat night in Museum of Natural History

Sail-ny Sunday brunch cruise around Manhattan (hope the food's as good as the website promises)

Dinner in Chinatown with friends who know their way around it

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I'm a little confused by your request. Are you both vegetarian? Or are you vegetarian and your son ("DS") is not? Since you mention he enjoys hot dogs.

    I am thinking Katz's Deli won't have a whole lot worthwhile for a vegetarian, for example.

    Near the WTC site on the north side is Zucker's for bagels. The site is big though, so saying you're staying "near" isn't specific enough.

    There's a Meatball Shop on the LES. Or you could go to Pok Pok Phat Thai (they have a vegan version).

    See also:
    Where to Eat with Vegetarians and Meat Lovers in NYC: An Omnivorous Guide to 60 Restaurants

    Near Rockefeller Center, I'd look on Midtown Lunch for a food cart. Maybe the Biryani Cart?

    The MoMath is pretty close to Curry Hill, a cluster of Indian restaurants.

    1. Boubouki in the Essex Street Market sells a nice spanikopita, among other things. You could stop by in between your Katz's and your Tenement tour. I'd recommend having a quick look around the market anyway even if you don't plan on eating anything there.

      1. The knish and beans at Katz's aren't good, or do they all have meat in them?

        I'm a vegetarian, but I eat dairy, fish and eggs. My son is not vegetarian. We do not want to stick with the kind of places that most people think of when they think "vegetarian"; many restaurants serve vegetarian dishes on a regular basis, even if they don't label them as such.

        Could we pick things up at the market for later, or is most of the food served ready to eat? Do they have fresh fruit there too?

        5 Replies
        1. re: saacnmama

          They have fresh fruit at the market, and there are vendors selling bread and cheese, as well as prepared food.

          You can buy stuff take-out but given that it's probably going to be pretty hot outside, you might not want to carry it around for too long before eating it?

          1. re: saacnmama

            I've never tried a knish or beans at Katz's. That's not why anyone goes there. If you want to go to a Jewish deli that has good vegetarian items, go to 2nd Av. Deli, where your son can have matzo ball soup and a tongue or roast beef sandwich or what have you, and you can have kasha varnishkes with mushroom gravy (confirm that that's strictly vegetarian before you order it).

            1. re: saacnmama

              If you need good vegetarian dishes, but still want an "old-school deli" type place, try B&H Dairy on 2nd ave/St Mark's.
              All vegetarian, been there for over 50 years, and hearty enough that a meat eater would still be satisfied. I adore their mushroom barley soup and pierogies.

              Knishes and beans at Katz's are side dishes, not really worthwhile on their own.

              1. re: saacnmama

                The Serious Eats Guide link I posted above is an "Omnivorous Guide." Not specifically all vegetarian.

                What attracts you to a Jewish deli even though neither of you like sandwiches?

                1. re: saacnmama

                  Seriously skip katz. Its meat-r-us and overpriced not yummy sides.
                  After tenament museum you're not far from chinatown, great ny noodletown is a good cheap-quick lunch with kid and veg friendly choices

                2. I suggest that your visit list is overly ambitious. Walking across the bridge and hitting the Middle Eastern places on Atlantic works (be sure to visit Sahadi's), but it's a long way to the BBG. Alternatively consider the nearby Bkn Heights Promenade.On Sunday, you could do the cruise, the Indian Museum (note that the WTC requires timed tickets bought in advance) and Chinatown. You might add Rock Ctr. to your Saturday itinerary. For your 4th you could do Katz's, the Tenement Museum and the UN. FYI the Fed, the Indian Museum,and the WTC are near each other, and it's a 15-20 minute walk to Chinatown.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: GaryUES

                    Thanks for the comments on timing. I really want to do Chinatown with my friend, and she's not free at the time you mention. What do you think of the revised itinerary below?

                    Also, is Sahadi's likely to be a good spot to go with a (different) friend's 5-yr-old twins? She hasn't explored restaurants near where she lives with them, which makes me think it might be tough to take them there.

                  2. Well, technically, if you eat fish, you're not a vegetarian. The difference between vegetarian-friendly places and pescetarian-friendly places is enormous. Makes things much easier.

                    It's actually not terribly hard to get to the BBG from that part of Atlantic Ave - you can get the 2 or 3 train at Hoyt St. or Borough Hall, takes you right to the Brooklyn Museum / BBG.

                    I wouldn't go to Katz's for knishes or beans. Maybe consider Shopsin's in the Essex Market, right in that neighborhood - a New York classic as well, and the menu is HUGE (800 or so items?) - something for everyone, and fun things for kids too - the legendary "mac & cheese pancakes" are delicious for kids of all ages... not terribly healthy, but then neither is a Katz's pastrami sandwich.

                    Also in the neighborhood is Russ & Daughters for the best lox in town - take-out only, but you could grab a bagel & lox to at's pretty good)go and explore the 'hood.

                    I highly, highly doubt that the food on any brunch cruise is anything special. But I've never tried it, so who knows?

                    I'll second the recommendation for Pok Pok on the LES, as well as the Meatball Shop (they have a veggie-balls option)

                    For sit-down dinners closer to your hotel:
                    North End Grill (for something on the nicer end)
                    Blue Smoke (probably better for a kid)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sgordon

                      The OP says they don't like sandwiches...not sure if that would extend to bagels & smoked salmon.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        That's why I said "vegetarian" instead of labeling myself something I'm not or getting annoyingly precise with "ovo/lacto/pesco-vegetarian" ;)

                      2. Near the World Trade Center and the American Indian museum, you can check out Stone Street, which has outdoor seating and several casual restaurants. Adrienne's pizza is a good vegetarian option, and if you like seafood, Luke's Lobster is right there for great lobster rolls. There is also a swedish place and a crepe place on Stone St that I like. All casual and kid friendly. I also like the restaurant in the Andaz Hotel, Water & Wall, where they have several vegetarian options on the menu and a nice outdoor beer garden in the summer.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ErinHAbe

                          This sounds like a great idea, sort of like asking a kid if he wants blue pants or red pants instead of saying "you must wear pants". I have not trouble letting my kid pick the place we'll eat if they all sound good to me. Is Andaz Hotel also on Stone St? That's the one that sounds best to me.

                        2. Another Katz's alternative is Meatball Shop for lunch. The vegetarian balls and sides are surprisingly delicious.

                          If you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, there's Smorgasburg in DUMBO like five minutes from the Brooklyn side (though you really should go to the outer borough board for recs).

                          Downtown by the Fed check out Adrianne's Pizza Bar on Stone Street.

                          The Math Museum is near Eataly, the original Shake Shack ('shroom burger is vegetarian, though definitely not healthy), and K-town if you like Korean and are feeling more adventurous.

                          By your hotel, in addition to the North End Grill/Blue Smoke recs, there's Benares for solid Indian and Zuckers for good-but-expensive bagel sandwiches.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: downtownchica

                            The problem with Meatball Shop is that I found their veggie balls underwhelming, and at least speaking for myself, I don't think I'd be totally satisfied with a salad and some veggie sides.

                            1. re: Pan

                              I agree the salads and sides are better than the veggie balls themselves, but with the pesto option, they make for a good lunch choice.

                          2. Looks like I've gotten some great suggestions--not sure why email notification didn't work. Thanks for the comments! I'll have to go look up the places you've recommended, especially the delis-that-are-not-Katz's (I gave a long-winded explanation of the appeal of delis in another post that's called something like "Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Long Island City?") I've gotten the itinerary worked out a little better since my last post.

                            11:30 Thurs arrive JFK
                            drop luggage at hotel near WTC
                            lunch at one of the restaurants mentioned in this thread
                            4:15 kids' tour of UN
                            dinner in Rockefeller before ToR or at a rooftop bar (Do any of these have good food? http://www.fodors.com/news/best-new-r...


                            (Would it work to switch out the lunch and dinner plans so we're eating supper at one of the places closer to the hotel, and lunch up on the roof, or are the bars only open for happy hour & later?)

                            pick up breakfast and snack food at Essex Market
                            Tour at Tenement Museum, lunch at one of the places mentioned in this thread (thanks for the suggestions!)
                            Tour of the Fed
                            Indian museum if there's time
                            Chinatown with a friend who knows her way around

                            Brunch at Russ and Daughters or from Essex St. Mkt.
                            Math Museum
                            1:00 class at Sony Wonder Lab
                            hang out in Central Park
                            ***need to figure out food here***
                            5:30 Night at the Museum (AMNH)

                            9:00 am leave AMNH
                            10-12 brunch on cruise around Manhattan, from/to Chelsea Piers
                            Brooklyn Botanical Garden with friend who lives nearby, eat Mediterranean on Atlantic Ave (she isn't familiar with those places, has twin kindergarteners--any suggestions?)
                            4:20 depart JFK

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: saacnmama

                              I forget whether anyone mentioned Congee Village. They're the most logical place to eat after visiting the Tenement Museum. The Tenement Museum tried to close them - a restaurant by and for immigrants - by invoking eminent domain, and were unanimously condemned by New York State's highest court. And they are a reliably good restaurant, if you like Cantonese food.

                              1. re: saacnmama

                                In case no one has mentioned, Russ and Daughters doesn't have seating--strictly take out.

                                And your Sunday is jam-packed--a cruise and then a trip to the Botanic Garden after night at AMNH? That might be a little much, especially if you plan to eat on Atlantic Ave and then go to the airport.

                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                  I didn't know that about Russ & Daughters--thanks! Is there a park nearby?

                                  I just heard back from the friend in Brooklyn. We're swapping out the time with her in the BBG with MoMath, so now Sat morning we're in Brooklyn before the Sony thing, and Sun we stumble out of the museum to the boat, hit the math museum, and go to JFK. Does that sound do-able?

                                  1. re: saacnmama

                                    There's a little park called First Park on the east side of 1st Av. between Houston and 1st St., so down a short block and across 2 streets from Russ & Daughter. But the weather has been brutally hot lately, and there are sometimes thunderstorms in the summer time, so check the forecast for the day you plan on going.

                                    1. re: saacnmama

                                      Ok, so for Saturday, concentrate on eating in Brooklyn near the Botanic Garden so you can make it back in time for the 1pm Sony Wonder Class.

                                      Instead of Russ and daughters, try Zabar's on Sat afternoon--they are at 80th and Broadway, not to far from the AMNH. You can grab picnic food there and hang out in Central Park before going to the museum. Zabar's not only has excellent smoked fish and knishes (on par or maybe even a little better than R&D), but it's an attraction in and of itself, especially the 2nd floor cookware area. They also have a small cafe next to the main store entrance if you want to sit for a bit.

                                      1. re: iluvcookies

                                        Zabar's is definitely a good idea. For the record, they're at 81 St.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          2245 Broadway, at 80th st. It's on their website. I think Zabar's knows where they are located.

                                          1. re: iluvcookies

                                            Huh. Maybe I got confused. Nevermind.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              That's OK... I made sure to look it up myself before I posted it. I kep thinking 79th st, but that's the subway stop I get off.

                                      2. re: saacnmama

                                        In general, are you relying on the subway or a car or taxis?

                                        And are you hauling your luggage with you all day Saturday and Sunday? The "Night at the Museum" is a sleepover, right? If so, Zabar's may be tough to navigate with a bag. It's pretty popular on weekends. And double check that the MoMath will let you check a bag--not all museums do after 9/11. It can also be tough to hail a cab just off Madison Square Park where MoMath is, FYI.

                                        Subway construction generally happens on the weekend, and may delay any tight schedules you have. I'd budget plenty of time to get to the Sony Wonder Lab. The afterwards hit up Momofuku Milk Bar for a cookie or something.

                                        If taking a taxi, don't assume you'll be able to grab one if it's raining or near shift change. And a parade a anywhere in the city or a few street fairs can also cause weekend traffic jams.

                                        And of course, any planned picnics in the park could be rained out. Best to have a backup plan.

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          I had planned on using the subway, until this afternoon we rented citibikes.

                                  2. This is the brunch cruise http://www.zerve.com/SailNYC/ArManBru Menu is under FAQs. Fairly irrelevant at this point, because it's already booked.

                                    Reading through your suggestions, I just want to hang out near the hotel and eat all day!

                                    Oddly enough, we like bagels and I like lox.

                                    Would Sahadi's be good with my friend's twins?

                                    Is Andaz hotel on Stone Street?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: saacnmama

                                      Sahadi's is a grocery store, I'm sure it is fine for 5 year olds, but probably not so interesting.

                                      Andaz is not on Stone St., but is maybe a two minute walk.

                                      1. re: Alan Henderson

                                        Thanks! Someone on here mentioned it and I saw it has a deli in the back, but there is no need to go to a grocery store 1 day before getting on a flight. We'll keep looking for casual cafes there.

                                    2. uh oh! Just checked out the Essex St Mkt & Russ Daughters and realized I should've specified that we are near the World trade Center near battery park, 2 miles from those recommendations

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: saacnmama

                                        Those recs make the most sense before or after your Tenement Museum tour. Go to R&D for breakfast before the tour.

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          that's kinda far to o for breakfast, but we will check out the market when we're @ the museum.

                                          1. re: saacnmama

                                            Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish at 146 Chambers St is near the WTC.

                                      2. We had a great time! Thanks for all your suggestions

                                        I understand now why there weren't a lot of comments on places in the financial district, near our hotel--there are tons and tons of places to eat, all sorts of styles, at budget prices! I had not realized that before.

                                        The cruise was great. Brunch was as described on the website, http://www.zerve.com/SailNYC/ArManBru and my only complaint is that I was too busy taking pix to get down there for dessert. But the rest of it was very good.

                                        I don't think I uncovered any hidden gems, but we ate very well. A friend took us to Grand Sichuan where we ordered so much the turntable was overflowing, and others took us to Angelo's pizza (loved the salad I got there, with portabellos and artichokes) and Lalo's patisserie (to die for).

                                        I enjoyed the lunch from Boubouki, but the muffin from a different place in Essex St market wasn't very flavorful.

                                        The place we had breakfast wasn't directed towards foodies--WTC construction workers were gettting ready for their day--but my omelet was good hearty food.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: saacnmama

                                          Oops--link didn't work like I expected. Click on "FAQs" for the menu. I haven't done other brunch cruises, but thought this one one was really good.