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May 28, 2013 06:21 PM

Another NY trip - what to consider this time?

First, apologies that my scope of interest actually includes more than Manhattan. I saw a cryptic message in another post referring to a "best of" board but that doesn't appear in the category list; I couldn't find it; the only options that seem to be available are "Manhattan" and "Outer Boroughs". It's as if never the twain shall meet - as if almost nobody going to New York will have an interest in visiting places possibly in BOTH areas.

However for practical purposes I think I can assume most of the places of interest for me will be in Manhattan (it's where I'll be staying, and spending most of my time) - although I'm quick to point out that convenience to where I happen to be at the time is NOT! a consideration in the slightest; I'll gladly travel anywhere reachable by subway, regardless of how out-of-the-way it is. So feel free to recommend outer-borough places, as you see fit.

What I'd like particularly to find:

1) A *really good* breakfast place; NOT!!! brunch orientated, I mean breakfast.
2) A definitive New York pizza.
3) A definitive NY bagel.
4) Somewhere absolutely at the pinnacle of American fine dining; they should have a recognisably American cuisine as opposed to something definitely foreign (e.g. French, Italian, Japanese, etc) - although of course foreign *influences* are fine.
5) At least one good representative mid-range restaurant.
6) A top-notch espresso
7) A "cheap and cheerful" option - high quality, but budget pricing.

For context, here's a very brief summary of some places I tried last time:

Gotham B&G (as an example of type 4): It was very good, my type of place in many ways - but I would say borderline great as opposed to clearly world-class great.
Clinton Street Baking Company (as an example of type 1): Decent, but I really wish the meats in particular were of a higher standard. Good sausage particularly would have been nice. Baked goods I think were a bit too sweet.
Norma's (as an example of type 1): All concept and no substance. Clearly brunch-orientated. And the quality was basically standard. They focus more on serving unusual interpretations of dishes than in making the base quality of the dishes served particularly high.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar (as an example of type 5): Awesome. I must say, though, as a Brit, there was something strangely English about the whole place. It's the kind of restaurant that you'll find everywhere in London. I'll go back, but I'd like to find a different place of similar calibre.
Abraço (as an example of type 6): The coffee was good, and certainly the best I've had while there, but certainly it wasn't even in the same galaxy as many I've had in Italy (or even Seattle). I get the feeling it's possible to do better. Ideas?
Meatball Shop (as an example of type 7): Didn't really get the hype. Not bad, but I've had many meatballs as good or better than this - even for the same price.
Burger Shack (as an example of type 7): Unlike Norma's, all substance and no concept. The burgers were exceptional. Only thing to improve - could they use a better-quality bun (something hand-baked rather than industrial buns)?

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  1. I think they got rid of the "Best" board because nobody was reading it. So now if you have a query, you just post to Manhattan and Outer Boroughs, two threads.

    1. 1. I don't understand your distinction between breakfast vs brunch. We have places that DO have creative brunch dishes and do them well with high quality ingrdients. I'm not sure what you seek. Not a fan of Norma's at all though.

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

      Shopsin's won't meet your requirement for higher quality ingrdients, so I think you should definitely look at Locanda Verde, Public, Maialino, and the Breslin.

      2. Best NY Pizza:

      NY Quinntessentials:

      You say you want the best NY style but there is not JUST one NY style, so it's hard to point to only one place and say it exemplifies NY style.

      The two most popular styles are coal oven and gas oven.

      Since you seem to have lots of free time, I'd hit up Totonno's in Coney Island for coal oven and Di Fara for an idiosyncratic take on gas oven pizza in Midwood. Check the Di Fara Facebook Page before you go... Their "hours" can fluctuate.

      3. 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.

      4. Sounds like you want Per Se or Eleven Madison Prk, the highest ranking USA restaurants on this list.

      5. If you liked Momofuku Ssam, look into Louro, Recette, Montmartre, Empellon Cocina, just to name a few. This category seems fairly open.

      David Chang is a huge Ferguson Henderson fan BTW.

      6. We now have Stumptown, Intelligentsia, La Colombe, and more in NYC.

      7. Mission Chinese. Delicious, cheap, and part of your meal always goes to charity.

      Maybe you'll be interested in LA's Umami Burger when it opens here. I doubt Shake Shack will ever use an artisanal bun--it's a nostalgic tribute to roadside burger shacks of Danny Meyer's youth.

      24 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        "Best," like "fat" or "skinny" is always a relative term. The "best" you can hope for is something that you really like that someone else happens to enjoy as well. That said, I'd put a plug in for Barney Greengrass for breakfast...quintessentially NY.

        1. re: kathryn

          Indeed, the distinction between a "breakfast" and a "brunch" place isn't a hard wall - the categories, of course, shade into each other. But in terms of leaning:

          Breakfast places lean towards the classics, with minimal adornment or "twists" - bacon/sausage and eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, that sort of stuff. Brunch places tend to be more creative and their menus may be somewhat "thin" in simple, traditional breakfast foods.
          Breakfast places also tend not to have lunch-like offerings at breakfast-time, while brunch places might - soups, sandwiches, even full lunch-like meals.
          In general breakfast places are conservative and traditional, where brunch places emphasise innovation, originality and new/different things on the plate.
          Breakfast places open early - 7 or 8, in some cases even earlier. Brunch places might not be open until 10.
          Breakfast places are geared to being able to seat you, serve you, and send you on your way within an hour or so. Brunch places tend to have a more leisurely pace.

          So again, let me be clear, I'm looking for a breakfast-type place, the kind that opens early and can be reasonably expeditious, and serves the classics done skilfully and with top-notch ingredients, not creative and/or unusual dishes, or reinterpretations of classics.

          Strangely, I don't have much free time per se - I just maximise the use of the free time I do have, and schedule things with military precison so that I can achieve the most in a given trip (it's actually a work trip for me)

          Didn't know that about NY style pizza - which I've always assumed to be something of a hybrid between Roman-style (thin, crisp crust, minimal tomato sauce, in relative terms, toppings are central) and Neapolitan (puffy crust, lots of tomato sauce, toppings much less important and classically ommitted). Will schedule in a visit to the places you mention; some day when the work schedule has a fairly open "slot" for 2+ hours. Is there any rationality in killing 2 birds with one stone by trying both in the same trip (broadly, they're in the same general direction - and don't worry, I have a bottomless pit for a stomach)?

          I understand the point about bagels, in fact, in general, this could apply to any bread. BUT, my way of approaching these sorts of things NEVER focusses on the peripheral objects until the central, basic object has been maximised. *Somebody* is going to be making a better bagel. The article is interesting. Pictures help - being an experienced breadmaker I can tell a lot from them, even if a first-hand inspection would be better. The best in terms of appearance looks like Absolute Bagels. And the judgement also further hints at this - in general, the better the bread, the worse it ages, so that good bread must be relentlessly fresh (which is, for instance, the secret of most of good bakeries in France; a baguette there will rarely be more than about 30 minutes old). I think I'll try Absolute.

          World's 50 Best is to some degree marketing, like many "best-of" lists - so like anything else their judgements need to be taken with a grain of salt. All the guidebooks list 11MP as "French", which isn't encouraging. Per Se is also typically listed as French.

          However, for me, a much more serious problem is their prix-fixe format with very limited choice. That tends to backfire with me badly, partly because I do have specific food limitations, partly because in addition to definite limitations I have strong likes and dislikes, partly because my whole outlook on fine dining doesn't agree with the fixed-menu concept - because food is an intensely personal experience, that suggests a strong element of personal choice. (But please, let's not get carried away with philosophical debates about food. In the immortal words of Zaphod Beeblebrox, "we want to eat, we don't want to make a meal of the issues." If you want to discuss it *privately* with me, OK, but send me an e-mail.)

          Will look into the places you mention for 5. Yes, the St. John nearly epitomises the ideal for that category of reasonably priced, maximum-quality restaurants. I provided a list of restaurants and what I thought of them partly so that people might get a "flavour" of what I tend to like and dislike - but do you or others need more examples to get a better sense? I'm happy to oblige if necessary.

          Seems unfortunate that so few burger specialists, anywhere, place any attention to the bun, except in a nostalgic sense. I'd love to find one where the bun and the patty were both of maximum standard.

          Thanks to all on the coffee recommendations - I have enough now to canvass the candidates on successive days of my visit.

          1. re: AlexRast

            For breakfast, I find that a cheffed up sort of menu and the high quality ingredients go hand in hand now in Manhattan. I tend to lean towards the creative when I go out for breakast as I can make scrambled eggs just fine at home.

            It'll be tough to find a very basic breakfast without any frills what so ever (like a diner) and great local/organic/etc bacon, sausage, eggs, etc.

            Maybe Joseph Leonard, Buvette, or Egg in Brooklyn. Is Sarabeth's too much for your tastes? Check the menus to see if there's too many "twists" for you. Maybe more of a coffee shop, like Grey Dog?

            You could conceivably go to Di Fara, have a round slice and a square slice, as they do offer pizza by the slice (many don't) but given how slowly and methodically Dom DeMarco works, it's not a place you go to when in a hurry. He's an old guy who makes ALL the pizzas.

            Their hours:
            Open Wednesday - Sunday
            Lunch from Noon - 4:30 pm
            Dinner from 6:30 - 9:00 pm
            Place all orders before 8:30 pm

            So I'd be hesitant to send you there if you have to be back in Manhattan by a certain time. It's 40 min there and 40 min back on the Q train from Times Square. Not sure where you're starting from.

            Not sure how current your guidebooks are either -- EMP redid their menu last September. They serve a single, New York City inspired tasting menu (not a prix fixe). You can also order a la carte in the bar area. And they'll bend over backwards for dietary restrictions and preferences as customer service is huge for them.

            Per Se also has a salon where you can order a la carte and aren't restricted to their tasting menu.

            But I really don't understand why you're asking about the best of the best of upscale restaurants in NYC if your "whole outlook on fine dining doesn't agree with the fixed-menu concept." These two seem completely at odds?

            I disagree with your assessment of the Shake Shack bun as I rather like Martin's potato rolls. I've definitely had burgers where the "housemade" bun was soggy after two bites, or much too stiff and hard and everything fell out on the first bite. So an artisan burger is not necessarily better....I also have friends who have very anti-brioche burger bun feelings. And, a lot of burger aficionados prefer American processed cheese on their burgers as it melts better. So.

            What kind of burger do you like other than Shake Shack? What about a thicker patty? Other cheese? Other toppings? Best burger is relative to your preferences... Shake Shack is modeled after a fast food burger, maybe you'd like to try something new.

            See also:

            1. re: kathryn

              Yes - it's quite easy to make one's own great breakfast at home, particularly since you know what you like, but that's not really the point, is it? Nor is it even a meaningful option when travelling, of course. But you do bring up an interesting point regarding market expectations - which may make my search as you imply, difficult compared to what it might be in other cities worldwide whose inhabitants have more conservative views on breakfast.

              The problem with bar-area ordering, in many restaurants, is that the food on offer is less ambitious, drawn from fairly limited menu relative to what you'd get in a full-service a la carte dining room, and may not be executed with the same attention to detail as that in the main room. At least I've seen this in the past. I also get the impression that from a point of view of external reviews, this is not what people are citing when they consider best-of-the-best, so it may not be a fair comparison anyway. What would be relevant is a comparison of a review specifically of the bar menu against top-flight main dining room competition elsewhere.

              I'm equally baffled by your statement "if your 'whole outlook on fine dining doesn't agree with the fixed-menu concept.' These two seem completely at odds". That sounds like you're saying that truly fine dining must *necessarily* be prix-fixe. Huh? That doesn't make any sense to me. There are many restaurants, worldwide, at the pinnacle of fine dining, who offer a la carte (to give 2 examples, Il Pagliaccio in Rome, and Can Fabes in Catalonia), so maybe you mean something else? Can you explain?

              Absolutely an "artisan" burger isn't *necessarily* better - you have to have somebody who's carefully thought through the bun recipe to make sure it creates the right result for a burger. A brioche, for example, is I think completely in the wrong direction altogether. (I'm a sesame seed person, if you must know). Thicker patties generally would be well-received, particularly as I prefer burgers rare, thus the thicker, the rarer. Very flavourful meat is a huge plus - my experience is that good grass-fed beef is a LOT better than competing alternatives, although it has to be good - there are plenty of well-meaning people selling grass-fed beef that's too lean, or just not particularly flavourful. No cheese (this is one of my can't-haves). As mentioned before, toppings are rather beside the point; until the patty and the bun have been mastered from my point of view everything else is largely immaterial - except insofar as it could make things worse, if truly bad.

              1. re: AlexRast

                "The problem with bar-area ordering, in many restaurants, is that the food on offer is less ambitious, drawn from fairly limited menu relative to what you'd get in a full-service a la carte dining room, and may not be executed with the same attention to detail as that in the main room."

                That's not the case in any of the places Kathryn is talking about. They don't give you a menu of "bar food." Full menus at bars are very common at upscale restaurants in New York.

                1. re: AlexRast

                  In NYC *specifically* your quest for upscale + a la carte will eliminate a lot of restaurants.

                  The "best of the best" have been turning more and more towards tasting menus, sometimes even eliminating prix fixe menus completely. And often the only place to order a la carte is from the bar/lounge area, however the a la carte menu is pulled from the prix fixe and tasting menus.

                  Review of EMP bar menu (note this was before they eliminated the prix fixe option):

                  On the "tyranny" of tasting menus.

                  Very few restaurants of the highest calibre (let's say 3 or 4 New York Times Stars) are offering a la carte in the main dining room. I'm including the French and Italian ones for completeness in the list below.

                  EMP - tasting menu, a la carte at the bar - they eliminated their prix fixe last year
                  Per Se - tasting menu, a la carte at the salon
                  Daniel - prix fixe or tasting, both plus a la carte in the bar/lounge
                  Del Posto - will do a la carte off the menu in the dining room if you ask and your party is of a small size, but the individual dishes are offered at inflated prices, see here:
                  Jean Georges - prix fixe or tasting, as their bar area is technically inside of Nougatine, their casual restaurant
                  Le Bernardin - prix fixe or tasting, prix fixe or tasting in the bar/lounge as well as a very short a la carte menu there as well
                  The Modern - prix fixe or tasting, bar has a completely separate menu
                  Blanca - tasting menu
                  Atera - tasting menu
                  Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare - tasting menu
                  WD-50 - tasting menu, a la carte at the bar - they eliminated a la carte in the main room last year
                  Ko - tasting menu
                  Corton - tasting menu

                  Bouley, Tocqueville, Gotham Bar & Grill (as you mentioned you've eaten at), Craft, the NoMad, and Blue Hill all serve a la carte. But you were asking for "absolutely at the pinnacle of American fine dining," which lead me to believe you wanted something more like Per Se and Eleven Madison Park, a place aiming for top ranking in the world.

                  Re: burgers, look at Spotted Pig (you can order it sans cheese) and the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern.


                  1. re: kathryn

                    Again, this is interesting and very illuminating. Now I understand why my previous experiences in NY felt slightly underwhelming. My feeling is that the "top" places I'd tried were excellent but that step away from truly world-class, and what you say suggests that, by inevitably leaning away from very fixed-menu establishments, I was, without realising it, subtly biassing my choices towards establishments with fewer world-class ambitions.

                    It's easy to understand the economic reasons why many (most in this case) top-end restaurants are opting for the fixed-menu approach; it makes the whole problem of costing and of revenue calculation a far simpler proposition altogether. I'm somewhat *personally* disappointed that most of the really best establishments are choosing the "safe" option, but maybe that's the hard market realities of NY.

                    A comment that's telling here is "but the individual dishes are offered at inflated prices". Reading comments on TripAdvisor as well as Chowhound, and also from personal conversations, my impression is that typical American expectations of reasonable prices to pay for a la carte are unrealistically low, when you reach the truly world-class. The prices mentioned in the Chowhound article to me do not seem *at all* inflated - merely the going rate once you reach the pinnacle. The price of labour, not to mention top-quality ingredients, for world-class cuisine is really quite high and - what do people expect? - if you want the best, you have to pay. A lot. Apologies if I seem to be overcharacterising here - I'm not saying everyone is like this but that *as a group* American price expectations are lower.

                    In a broader context, hearkening back to your comments about breakfast, I'm getting the distinct impression that, contrary to my imagination that NY would be a place where, by virtue of population size and hence diversity of opinion, there would be a similar variation in restaurant styles, in fact, it's a city with strongly homogeneous market dynamics, with respect to the types and styles of restaurants that can survive. That suggests a fairly powerful local consensus, across a broad range of different restaurant styles, market segments, and cuisines. In turn I should probably rethink my approach.

                    Usually what I do in any city is try to "single out" establishments for excellence, authenticity, iconic status - or some other criterion of outstanding merit. I get the impression that in New York what one may instead have is a huge pool of places of approximately equal standing (at any price point) where the *fundamental* differences are relatively small and the actual distinguishing characteristics come down to fine points. So what people do is try a large number of different places, and compare notes. Am I accurate in feeling that this is a better approach?

                    With respect to the "top-end" place (price here makes more than one not a feasible proposition) I think I'm leaning towards EMP at this point. Will report on whatever I choose - for everything.

                    Minetta's burger is interesting - although of course not at that point in the "cheap-and-cheerful" type 7 place; it's more of a type 5. Might try though. I'm avoiding Spotted Pig simply because coming all the way from England to go to...a gastropub is sort of the reverse of taking coals to Newcastle.

                    1. re: AlexRast

                      I'm not sure I follow you re: markets and local consensus...

                      But we are only talking Manhattan on this board, and your current list (as I understand it) is basically breakfast/burgers/pizza/bagels and very upscale American restaurants so far?

                      A lot of time discussion here does not even encompass all of Manhattan (and I'm ashamed to say I don't spend nearly enough time in the northern part of Manhattan above, say, 96th or so).

                      And like any other place, we've got our own trends and bandwagon jumpers, etc. but maybe to a more intense degree given how many restaurants open and close each year and the excess of media attention, food blogs, what have you, on the Manhattan dining scene (and to a certain extent, also, this extends certain popular neighborhoods in Brooklyn -- Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, etc.).

                      You'd be having a very different discussion if you were focused on the diversity of food you could eat in one trip (pupusas, papaya salad, lobster rolls, brisket, smorrebrod, fried chicken, yakiniku, lamb face salad, souvlaki, porterhouse steak, halal chicken and lamb over rice, etc.), or had posted on the Outer Boroughs boards. (I also tend to think of my trips in terms of itineraries--balancing high end with low end, and types of cuisines, over a few days.)

                      Part of this is that your request for #5 is very, very open in terms of parameters. A lot of times the better way to go about this is to pull together a list of possibles or post an itinerary for people to react to.

                      Take a look at Queens, too, which is very rich in the cheap and cheerful options (your #7), and has a large number of cuisines available.

                      And there are blogs that focus on eating food from as many different countries as possible, within NYC limits:

                      I also love Dave Cook's Eating in Translation and Lau's LauHound, both who are posters here.

                      Unfortunately, the issue will be travel in the context of a visitor with limited time on their hands. My quick tip is to remind folks that the LIRR will take you from Penn Station to Woodside as well as Flushing much faster than the 7 train will.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I've been keeping to the Manhattan board, because I'll be spending most of my time there (it's where I'll be working), and my hotel's there as well. At the outset I did mention I'd be open to other-boroughs options, but this was mostly with a mind to if there was a "must-try" off the island, I'd give free rein to those who thought it should be mentioned. Realistically most of my visits will be in Manhattan (although following the recommendations I'll probably go to Brooklyn for pizza).

                        My most-recent comments weren't about diversity of *food types* or *cuisines* as such - but rather a feeling I'm getting that what's normally done in NY, *within restaurants of approximately the same cuisine and market segment* (I'll explain that below fully) is that various different places are tried and compared, without any particular expectation that the results will be vastly different or that there will be huge, noticeable differences in quality, but that it might come down to nuances and personal preference.

                        Cuisine should be self-explanatory, but by approximately I meant within categories that people recognise; i.e. by now most people recognise the difference between Northern or Southern Italian, or between Cantonese and Szechuan Chinese, but I wouldn't expect people, say, to distinguish between Emilian and Lombard, or between Chiu Chow and Hakka.
                        Market segment indicates what general class of diner the restaurant is aiming for. Price is the largest component of this (from budget through to elite high-end), but in addition there are considerations such as "alternative" vs "mainstream", "traditional" vs. "innovative", "specialist" vs. "broad menu", and even "large-party" vs. "small-party". It essentially provides a profile of the "typical" diner that frequents the restaurant.

                        Yes - the type 5 covers a really huge space, because of course the mid-range restaurant is the "bread and butter" of the industry. I'll see if I can make a list of possibilities; shouldn't be too hard. I do get the impression as you imply that in this category the outer boroughs can be more fruitful in terms of price/performance ratio, within this category. We'll see what's feasible in terms of transport. I'm certainly capable of scheduling things to the split second if required.

                        1. re: AlexRast

                          Yes and no. I don't know if there's particular EXPECTATIONS that the differences in quality among similar restaurants will be vast, but the term "vast" is relative. I doubt you'll get agreement that differences in opinion on restaurants ONLY come down to nuances and personal preference. I've had meals at some CH darlings where the dishes were poorly conceived to begin with or poorly executed.

                          And there are definitely hotly debated restaurants here (see David Change and Batali restaurants in particular -- there are people who think Babbo and the Momofukus totally suck) so I don't know if there really is a "power local consensus" at work.

                          Then add in the restaurants critically acknowledged as being terrible that still remain in business (see the NY Times reviews of some zero star restaurants like Ninja, for example). I mean, their audience isn't people who post on CH, but someone is going to them...

                          For Type #5, mid-range restaurants, definitely look into Brooklyn. For Type #7, cheap and cheerful, I will again point you to Queens.

                        2. re: kathryn

                          1): Particular dish? Maybe not that extreme. But I do have a strong fondness for sausage, and really good pancakes would also be well-received. Scrambled eggs I kill for, if done well, but almost nobody ever does (they tend to be done over a griddle rather than in a pot, which creates chopped omelette IMHO)

                          4) Yes, with more feedback it's becoming clear that EMP, in spite of what the guidebooks say, is more American than French. I'm strongly leaning towards it at this point.

                          7) Mission Chinese looks interesting from their menu. Amero-Chinese fusion. Could be fun. I'll give it a try. Anybody else any comments on that?

                          1. re: AlexRast

                            Mission Chinese isn't really full blown fusion. A lot of the dishes are pretty faithful despite the unique twists. It's likeable, but some of the hype is overblown.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              From my point of view on the menu Mission looks fairly fusion - it's just that the customary emphasis is reversed from the American side to the Chinese side. So it appears a bit what one might imagine a Chinese restaurant might like to do, if they'd heard about interesting "American" cuisine and wanted to incorporate ideas from it onto their menu. Whatever the case may be; I'm certainly intrigued by the reviews, and with the prices being what they are, how can you lose anyway? What's the queueing situation like? I assume nightmarish? I want to make sure my timing for that takes into account the wait.

                              Speaking of fusion, I went ahead and on the strength of the recommendations, made an EMP booking, but the discussion on Annisa vs. Blue Hill is making me ask myself some questions. I definitely LOVE middle Eastern food in all its derivatives (my father was Iranian), and the positive comments on Annisa now have me second-guessing the EMP decision. Have I made a terrible mistake?

                              On the mid-range options btw, one I've seen lots of positive comments about is Torrisi. Any opinions?

                              1. re: AlexRast

                                To begin, Annisa is not middle-eastern; its "fusiony"; it describes itself as contemporary american, but is really a mix of american/french technique with lots of asian flavors thrown in, at least IMO. In addition, while I absolutely love Annissa, it is just not on the level of EMP. IMHO, neither is Blue Hill. They are both wonderful restaurants, certainly worthy of the star they each have, but EMP is fully worthy of its 3. If you asked me on a given night, I might well prefer either Annisa or blue hill to EMP, but for what you are looking for, I would strongly recommend EMP as you're hands down best bet in NYC.

                                1. re: AlexRast

                                  I was under the impression they've started taking reservations, or you can go get a drink, and they'll call you when your table is ready.

                                  I just think it looks more fusion on paper than it is. Something like dates with cumin lamb ends up tasting more traditional in general than I expected. It's not a deconstructed or totally reinvented dish. I had leftovers mixed up with leftovers from another traditional Chinese place, and we almost forgot which dish came from where.

                                  1. re: AlexRast

                                    For Mission Chinese they take a handful of dinner reservations only for parties of 1-5. But only 7 days in advance. If you don't get one, go for lunch to avoid the lines.

                      2. re: AlexRast

                        When you go to Absolute, try at least one mini bagel. I found that those were better than the full-sized bagels, though that was just one trip, so take that with a grain of salt.

                        Totonno's and DiFara are not very close to each other, and I can't imagine going to both, one right after the other, but that's your choice.

                      3. re: kathryn

                        OK, so here's what I ended up doing.

                        As might be expected, schedule constraints and unexpected contingencies meant some change of plan. But I did get to a decent proportion of the recommendations.

                        1: Obviously the bagel quest is a separate category, and I'll report on that separately. Other than bagel days, however, where I went was:

                        Sullivan Street Bakery. I had a croissant and a ciabatta roll. Both were good, although could easily be improved upon, and it didn't seem as good as I remember.

                        Bouchon Bakery. Well, the name is a COMPLETE misnomer, this is so far away from anything even remotely associated with Lyon I don't know what they were thinking, but no mind, they're quite good. I got a croissant, a demi baguette, and a mini brownie. The croissant was excellent; I've had better only at 3 places worldwide (for the curious these are: Luca Mannori, Prato, Italy, #3, Pierre Hermé, Paris, #2, Cristalli di Zucchero, Rome, #1). The demi baguette wasn't a baguette as such; it was much closer to an Italian bread, with a very dense crumb, but I prefer Italian anyway. And it wasn't sourdough (MASSIVE bonus points for that feat alone). The brownie, well, was fairly average. They should have used a better chocolate.

                        Clinton Street Baking company. I got the "Country Breakfast" (eggs, ham, hash browns, biscuit) and a side of sausage. First, the promised biscuit as it turns out uses vegetable shortening (Crisco). MASSIVE negative - almost fatal. They should be using either lard or butter. Being that this was the case I substituted toast (uninspiring). The rest was fairly average. I got scrambled eggs, which as usual was cooked over a griddle and for too long, resulting in something like a chopped overdone omelette. The "hash browns" aren't really hash browns (potato not shredded), but something of a hybrid between home fries (which uses cubed potatoes) and true hash browns. What they seem to have done is boiled the potatoes, then lightly smashed them before frying. Sausage was a bit too salty for my taste.
                        Minetta Tavern. It's a terrible shame they only do weekend brunch, because the breakfast here was really up to snuff. I got the hay-baked ham with grits, biscuit, and eggs. All first-rate. Biscuit made with lard. Eggs nicely scrambled, if still over a griddle. Breakfast here doesn't approach the world-class excellence of the Flying Biscuit in Atlanta, but it's very good - and they avoided any "cheffed up" flights of fancy with the dish as well. I really, really wish they'd open for breakfast on other days of the week, at an earlier time.

                        However, I think I now understand at least part of the reason why great breakfasts are few and far between in New York. The problem is, with a high population of very talkative people, word gets out almost instantly about anywhere even remotely good. The result is instant massive queueing and horrendous waits. When it comes to weekday breakfast, as opposed to brunch, this defeats the purpose: it simply isn't practical to arrive at a popular restaurant in the morning and expect to be able to leave at any time even close to when you need to get to work. I didn't do anything elaborate until I got some free time, at the weekend. So a great breakfast restaurant couldn't work as a business proposition: after a brief early flash of popularity it would quickly die once the target clientele figured out it wouldn't be realistic to go there for breakfast.

                        2. Twice tried to go to Di Fara. Both times ended in futility. First time because although their lunch hours may be as advertised, that's not the same as their seating hours. Basically, you have to arrive in time to be seated, eat, and leave within their hours of operation. (A bit of a pet peeve of mine, why do no restaurants, anywhere in the world, list their hours in terms of the *actual* time you need to arrive by in order to be served from the full menu? That's the figure that actually counts, from the point of view of the customer). Second time the whole restaurant was booked for a private party. The logistics of eating at Di Fara are particularly daunting, because you have to have the scheduling opportunity, factoring in travel time as well, to be able to arrive not long after the opening time, wait possibly in queue before then again for the pizza, and return. With narrow opening hours this becomes an almost hopeless proposition.

                        3. I went to Absolute and also to Murrays, since the latter was literally around the corner from where I was staying. Absolute was the clear winner and what I'd consider definitive. Great crisp crust, dense centre, impressively chewy. Strong bready flavour. Murrays was actually rather good too but Absolute takes the prize.

                        4. Eleven Madison Park was good, but only in the same sense that quite a few NY fine dining restaurants are good. The problem is, they seem to treat eating as a purely intellectual exercise and have forgotten that it needs to engage the senses in a visceral way. Great food has a quality to it that can't be mistaken - the first bite and it's "OHHH, that's GOOOD." They didn't make any *technical* mistakes, and all the dishes were delivered with great flair and some effort at originality, but I didn't get any one dish that I'll remember for the rest of my life. There's an element to which they're playing it safe: by going tasting-menu only, both the kitchen and wait staff can focus on delivering a choreographed, repeatable performance - which is the fundamental problem - there is a whiff of something generic and mechanical in what they do. Small plates like that also don't really satisfy; it's like experiencing what it *would be like* to have a dish rather than actually *having* it. However don't mistake my criticism of format as impinging specifically on what I thought of the quality: it's not that at least some of the dishes they did couldn't have been great in that visceral, mind-changing way, it's that they weren't. They were merely very well executed and beautifully presented; the product of a kitchen which I feel seems to be playing not to lose rather than playing to win. I'd rather see a few spectacular mistakes for some plates of greatness, than uniform, consistent excellence but with nothing that really shines. I'll put up a TripAdvisor review soon for those who want to see more of the gory details. Overall I don't think it can be considered in the category of the best world-class restaurants.

                        5. After carefully examining the prices, I realised that Annisa could actually be classified at the high end of mid-range - which makes it one of the ultimate food bargains of NY because the food there *was* great; better than EMP in fact. I had a steak tartare starter with couscous (very good but only a prelude), lamb with chickpeas and harissa (this was the great dish, the one with the "OHHH..." quality to it; they'd used lamb fillet, of astonishing quality, and they also had a mini tagine as well as the lamb fillet, lending an agreeable contrast, all immaculately executed and an inspired dish) and bread and butter pudding with lemon curd (curiously British, this was almost the epitome of the bread and butter pudding: the top was crispy, the bottom lovely and stodgy, and the lemon curd was definitive, helped with the inspired addition of some vanilla beans). Even the breadbasket here was first-rate; it didn't seem like an afterthought. The only caveat is miniscule portion size; not a place to come if you're feeling ravenous (fortunately on the day chosen I wasn't; indeed, I felt very much like a light dinner). Overall I think this is a much closer candidate for "world-class" than EMP. I'd still vote for the Gotham over Annisa, but in terms of value I would say run, don't walk to Annisa.

                        A bizarre mix-up over destinations had me going to Aquagrill instead of Pearl Oyster Bar for fish, but the result was satisfactory. I'd hoped they might have Yukon River Salmon but the Columbia River on offer was still very nice, if slightly aggressive on the lemon. Of course the real winner for me though was their (deadly) chocolate walnut pie, (which I already knew about); so a mix-up I won't regret. Not in the class of a Momofuku Ssäm IMHO but good enough for an everyday decent meal.

                        There were various Brooklyn expeditions; I'll comment on those separately in the appropriate group.

                        6: This is a complex topic which I'll put a different post on. Bottom line though: Abraço was still the winner.

                        7: Ended up at Shake Shack for expediency reasons; with the context of what you said about nostalgic tributes I can see where they fit. Minetta I also tried, although again this is closer to category 5. The burger, though, while in an entirely higher league from Shake Shack, suffers from the same problem: the patty is simply awe-inspiring, about as good as can possibly be imagined, but it's let down by a bun that is only mediocre. It needs more substance to hold its own against the weight of the patty; it's airy and insufficiently chewy, the crust too soft. They did make one mistake in ordering; I asked for it sans onions but they put them on anyway, no big deal because these could be scraped off completely, but still, why do they need to compromise the incredible meat with a superfluous additional component? Fries that went along with the burger are definitive and almost excessive in quantity, making it close to an ideal burger experience, but at $26, it had better be.

                        1. re: AlexRast

                          1. Ah, had you said you were interested in croissants, we would have pointed you towards Maison Kayser, Mille Feuille, Dominique Ansel, etc!

                          I believe that Bouchon Bakery is named after its chocolate bouchons. I find their American style baked goods to be good, like the TKO (his version of an Oreo) or their peanut butter cup.

                          As for Clinton St, sounds like you would have been far happier at Joseph Leonard, Buvette, or Egg in Brooklyn.

                          As for breakfast in general in NY, you can get a great *creative* weekday breakfast at numerous places, but your personal preferences immediately ruled all of those restaurants out.

                          2. Yes, Di Fara is more of a weekend endeavor, where you plan to spend a few hours. Though I wasn't aware you had to leave by closing time, as I've had friends who were the last ones in the door and "got locked in," as they closed the doors.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Actually I wasn't looking for croissants in any purposeful way, they just turned out to be an expedient choice under the situation, so I thought I might as well comment on how I found them to be relative to others I've had. At the end of the day I'm not that especially interested in French-style patisseries as such. In the baked-goods section I'm much more interested in breads.

                            As a general bakery, even if it's got a pastry shop slant, Bouchon is overall a winner. I was impressed by what I got.

                            I do *really wish* English didn't have this difficult language ambiguity: both bread and pastry shops go by the name "bakery" - which tends to make it difficult to find good bread bakeries, since for some reason most recommendations direct you towards pastry bakeries. French is much more specific, using "boulangerie" and "patisserie".

                            Clinton Street I went to mostly because, based on past visits, it was a reasonably reliable choice, and I believe in the patronage concept. What I got this time wasn't bad. It just wasn't exceptional.

                            1. re: AlexRast

                              Since you're a bread baker, IIRC, for future reference, look at the suggestions in this thread:

                              Hopefully you can come back with more leisure time to check out the various bread bakers around town, especially in the other boroughs.

                          2. re: AlexRast

                            You had some frustrating near-misses.

                            I think you found the most important non-pastry bakery in NYC, Sullivan Street, but didn't order what they are best at, which are the whole loaves of crusty, dense bread -- some of them matching your discussion of your preferences, although some of the crusts may be too dark and crisp for your taste.

                            Pearl Oyster Bar is a New York treasure. It's not a clean metaphor, but it is to fish how you describe breakfast (as opposed to brunch) places. The pan-fried fish sandwich at lunch uses the Sullivan Street Bakery ciabatta, I believe, the best use of it imaginable.

                            Although it feels more French than American, I think you would enjoy Buvette for breakfast or a light lunch.

                            Don't give up on DiFara's or Totonno's, but as others have pointed out, there are many alternatives.

                            I couldn't disagree with you more about the bun at Shake Shack -- I think it's a crucial element of the success of the sandwich. I'm actually trying to think of any of my favorite burgers that were served on artisinal buns. Where have you? You might want to try Brindle Room next time you are in town. A distinctive burger.

                            I don't live far from Absolute Bagel, and I buy them on occasion, but don't see what the big deal about them is.

                            1. re: Dave Feldman

                              Indeed - if the loaves had a very dark crust, I'd have been unlikely to buy them, simply because it's not what I'm looking for and leads to fairly specific expectations about what the bread will be like overall. (Usually too dry of a crumb, with a bubble size that's a bit too big, and with that caramelised crust flavour that more or less overwhelms the taste of the crumb or anything else). I could be wrong, of course, but lacking specific knowledge to the contrary it'd be something I'd instinctively avoid.

                              I admire Shake Shack particularly because in addition to the food side, they've thoroughly understood the operations side. When I went this time I was on a very tight schedule, with an unmissable appointment at 6:00 pm near Madison Square. And in spite of the perennial queues, they got me served and eating in time for me to finish at 5:55, with precisely the amount of time needed to walk down 23rd to my appointment. Watching the team in action is a study in efficient fast food management.

                              The bun problem, though, is a perennial one for me. Many people who try "artisanal" buns get it wrong for a different reason - they give you a different *type* of bun altogether (e.g. a sourdough roll or a ciabatta slice or something else out of place) rather than a purpose-made hamburger bun.

                              Absolute Bagel was good, but I think you've got to be realistic about what a bagel can be like. Bagels are, I think, something you either "get" or don't. Ultimately they're really very bland. In context, they were perfect for me, because I was in a situation (chocolate tasting) where a bland breakfast was a necessity.

                        2. For espresso: visit the brew bar at the new Stumptown location on W. 8th in the Village.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: loratliff

                            I'm not clear when you were here last, but here's some of the best coffee in NYC right now:

                            As @loratliff says, the single origin espressos available at the new Stumptown brew bar are quite wonderful. Right now they have an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Chelbessa, which is also available in all of their brew methods. I had it both as espresso and Beehouse yesterday and loved them both.

                            Not an exhaustive list, but in Manhattan you should also check out:
                            -Cafe Grumpy (which roasts their own in Brooklyn and has great espresso and consistent baristas. In addition to their Heartbreaker blend, they have a Yukro Ethiopian right now that I love),
                            -Third Rail Coffee (one of the most consistent shops, pulling some of Stumptown's less common blends and single origins plus guest espressos, and pretty good Chemex pourovers)
                            -Everyman Espresso SoHo (if you like Counter Culture they are pretty consistent here, with some barista champs on staff)
                            -Ports Coffee & Tea (they specialize in Heart Roasters from Portland and are consistently good)
                            -Culture Espresso (I think they're doing Sightglass right now, they have consistent baristas, although they usually very busy. A good place to stop near Bryant Park)

                            In Brooklyn/Queens:
                            -Parlor Coffee (my favorite new shop of 2012, beautiful design, espresso only, in the back of a Williamsburg barbershop, hand roasted in Inwood)
                            -Sweetleaf (pretty consistent baristas, with rotating coffee roasters including Ritual, Stumptown and other stuff)
                            -Cafe Grumpy (also some branches here)
                            -Variety (the branch on Driggs is more consistent and friendlier than the large branch, manages to coax the best shots of Ritual Sweet Tooth I've had out of an old bare bones La Marzocco)

                            1. re: Peter Cuce

                              Have you tried I Am Coffee on St Marks yet? Ran into a friend this weekend who swears it's legit despite the awful name.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                I am Coffee is good for espresso drinks in particular, and I believe one of the owners is a recent immigrant from Italy attempting to duplicate that style of service. It's not third wave, if that's your preference, but ok for a thick, darker style, like Illy. It's really a takeout bar, so it means standing and leaning.

                                Reading the OP's comments on Abraco, I would think La Colombe and then maybe the Blue Bottle's Chelsea location would fit. Grumpy's always delicious too.

                                If the OP is still missing Pacific Northwest Coffee, there's Stumptown, and the often overlooked Caffe' Vita from Portland.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  Well, to me, Abraço, while being a beautiful little shop with great food, is not to be recommended for espresso, because the shots are rarely well pulled. They used to use Counter Culture, which, if the OP likes Italian-style espresso, would make sense, but I believe they've either switched to Stumptown or are alternating.

                                  If the OP does like Italian-style coffee, he probably isn't going to be that into my recommendations except for perhaps Everyman, since Counter Culture's house espressos tend to run dark.

                                  The guy who runs I Am Coffee has a partner in Italy who studied under Illy, but they claim to be Italian artisanal coffee, roasting their own in Italy and shipping it here once a week. I haven't had a straight espresso there, so prefer not to say anything about the quality. The guy who runs the shop is certainly an engaging character.

                                  If you're looking for something darker, give Stix Mediterranean Grill a try, on E 23rd St. It's a Greek restaurant that roasts its own coffee somewhere in Brooklyn and has an espresso bar in the front, right by the sidewalk. I found their coffee to be fruity, but a little more Italian style, sorta what I imagine European Third Wave coffee might taste like. I liked it. They prepare it well.

                                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                                    Stix does advertise themselves as European/Italian... it seems they're roasting primarily blends....I've found it shockingly weak and the beans didn't taste fresh. My Way Coffee does a better job with Intelligentsia Coffee.

                                    I agree, of your suggestions, Everyman Soho fits, as does Stumptown (but skipping the Ethiopean you mentioned).

                                    I guess this is why the Nespresso stores do business.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      Why do you bring up My Way Cup? Because they're on 23rd St? There are zillions of places using Intelligentsia, including the brand new flagship in the High Line Hotel.

                                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                                        Right, because it's on the same block.

                                        I've had enough bad coffee/espresso from Stix to find it preferable to go to My Way Coffee instead.

                              2. re: Peter Cuce

                                The coffee report: I did a fairly comprehensive sweep.

                                Stumptown and Third Rail were both almost within sight of my hotel, so it was easy to try them both. The origin bar at Stumptown is better than their "regular" espresso. But both I think have a thinness and acidity that suggest slight underextraction. Temperature is perfect; they need to play with the grind/pack adjustment. Third rail is better, denser, smoother. Still a bit too much acidity - and did I detect a hint of scorched, implying too high a water temperature or inadequate cleaning of the group?
                                Cafe Grumpy: Darkest of the lot. The "regular" espresso was definitely scorched. Ethiopian still had some lightness left but I think they're both using too high of a water temperature and too much coffee in the group. All of these are very mild criticisms, let it be understood. None of the coffees at any of these places were less than excellent.
                                Blue Bottle: They had an interesting Brazil, very spicy. But their extraction is even lighter than Stumptown. That's quite a departure from the SF city centre shop where the extraction is always syrupy, almost oily. Usually I think the SF shop is over-the-top, in fact, in this area, where as NY is a bit too light; a bit like the difference in espresso between Sicily and Lombardy.
                                I Am Coffee: Very much bottom of the heap. Not a quality espresso. Not recommended.
                                Abraço: A quantum leap above all of the above in terms of quality. Much thicker, denser crema, smoother, less bitter taste, better (= slightly less) coffee volume. Still the easy winner for NY. It's possible to do better still, though, as I've already mentioned,

                                1. re: AlexRast

                                  I thought Third Rail was too acidic as well -- not worth repeating. Brilliant comment about the baguette above -- why is sour dough so prevelant here compared to France. Pierre Herme is my favorite croissant in the world. Your reports are most authentic -- bravo!

                                  1. re: Nancy S.

                                    My guess on the prevalence of sourdough is that from what I understand, the artisan bread movement in the USA started in San Francisco and Seattle, where the indigenous bread tradition always had been sourdough. Others picked it up 'round the country and thus the type gained early momentum. In France and Italy, the indigenous bread tradition is not sourdough, hence the greater prevalence of other breads.

                                    Re Third Rail, Blue Bottle, Abraço: Again it must be emphasised that none of these shops are bad or even substandard. All produce excellent espresso IMHO. At this point it does come down to some degree to personal preference. For example, I deduce that Peter likes a more acid, lighter coffee than me; fair do's. On a personal note, Peter, I'd be interested in what you criticise specifically. My criticisms are: still slightly high acidity, marginally overextracted. I'm guessing it's tjhe extraction you don't like; if you prefer a lighter espresso it'll be too heavy. The Blue Bottle I went to was the one in the Rockefeller Center. Definitely lighter than SF.

                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                      Sourdough is just a rustic bread with a long ferment.

                                      What most of the artisan bread makers sell as sourdough, just isn't sourdough at all. The closest breads to a classic SF Sourdough they make are the rustic French/Italian breads.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        I don't try to split hairs too finely over terminological nuances. I call all breads with any degree of "sour" taste as "sourdough" regardless of actual method used, because at the end of the day that's what actually matters - the taste, not the technical details.

                                        Several of the bakeries on the recommended list I've been to - but not in the outer boroughs due to time constraints. The comment "Some people love bread from Maison Kayser but I found them to be too dense and thick in texture" makes it sound potentially attractive - dense and thick is part of what I look for, but then again checking the Maison Kayser site they're using a levain method - which in my experience almost always yields at least a slightly sour flavour. (although it will be said the site does claim otherwise - "...offers a range of aromas devoid of acidity..."). Easy to test in any case - Paris for me is a hop across the English Channel by EuroStar.

                                        One of these days I'll come with real leisure time, I'm sure...

                                        1. re: AlexRast

                                          If you wanted a sour tasting bread in NY, by sourdough standards, you would be hard pressed to find it. The closest thing you can get to a classic San Francisco Sourdough in San Francisco, would be at Tartine, and it's not even sour. In NY, Bein Cuit makes rustic very traditional breads similar to a sourdough. Both are French style.

                                          Point being, your search for a classic French baguette really doesn't have anything to do with Sourdoughs.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Maybe that's just a difference in expectations. Virtually all the bread I've tried in NY, with the exception of Bouchon, has been what I would call sour. There are more sour breads to be had, but I'm not looking for bread that wouldn't be considered sour from the point of view of a person who prefers sourdough anyway. I'm looking for bread that isn't sour, *at all*. Habituation may play a factor in not tasting sourness when it's there. A classic French baguette also isn't exactly the direction I'd aim for. To be exact, what I look for is:

                                            Crust: thick, hyper-crisp and crunchy, strong flavour but not extremely dark: golden-brown rather than dark, heavily caramelised brown.
                                            Crumb: very dense, fairly moist, very high protein (and hence significantly chewy), very uniform small bubbles without any large holes or bubbles, strong taste of the flour (not a "floury" or "doughy" taste as such, though) and a hint of yeasty flavour.
                                            I lean towards white in my preferences but I also greatly enjoy rye, and interesting brown breads. I'm not fond of breads with inclusions (seeds, raisins, nuts, rolled grains, etc.) - with the exception of caraway in rye.

                                            and to loratliff: yes, in the end I wound up pizza-less. It was a question of logistics - once you have nights committed to certain establishments, that more or less blocks out other choices, and when the Di Fara expeditions backfired, I had to adjust by making quick alternative decisions that were strategically positioned relative to the subway.

                                            1. re: AlexRast

                                              "A classic French baguette also isn't exactly the direction I'd aim for."

                                              Hmm. Unfortunately we're discussing your preferences a bit late. With a more specific request you'll get better results.

                                              Baguettes in NY are better than ever, but I think most would agree it still takes effort to find a decent one, and it hasn't been a strong point. Even a place like Sullivan which you visited, isn't really known for their Ciabbata, and the croissant (which some people still like) comes from another bakery, Ceci Celi.

                                              Tom Cat distributes to stores, and might be what you're looking for, based on your description of your dream baguette.

                                              As for sourness...I was addressing the characteristics of the very specific regional Sourdough you mentioned in comparison, and wanted to correct the misunderstanding that West Coast artisan shops are responsible for influencing the flavor profiles you find prevalent, when in reality the classic Sourdough had become difficult to find anywhere, and only it's been a return of traditional processes on both coasts, that's brought these rustic breads back into favor.

                                  2. re: AlexRast

                                    Which Blue Bottle? The Chelsea location's bar area is prone to very light coffee (abnormal for their other locations), but I've found the NY offerings to be a different and usually darker approach than in SF.

                                    Agree about Third Rail being acidic, but I always though that was a personal reaction to Intelligentsia. Stumptown, it really depends on which beans. In their case, they almost always roast so there's a lighter bean, which if they're doing pour over, really requires weighing it,

                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                      I haven't had a well pulled espresso at Abraço in years.

                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                        That Stumptown location is relatively new, as noted, and I know a lot of the baristas are new to the company. I've had great things from their brew bar thus far, but obviously it might be a little longer before they are spot-on 100 percent of the time.

                                        Re: pizza... So you skipped Di Fara and thus ate no pizza at all? If you were staying in the West Village (as I assume, since you mention the proximity of Stumptown and Third Rail), you missed excellent pizza from John's of Bleecker Street, Joe's, and Bleecker Street Pizza. All three will make any "best" list in the city. John's is my ultimate favorite.

                                  3. See below in ALL CAPS:

                                    What I'd like particularly to find:

                                    1) A *really good* breakfast place; NOT!!! brunch orientated, I mean breakfast.
                                    2) A definitive New York pizza.
                                    >>>>KATHRYN'S SUGGESTIONS, AS USUAL, ARE SPOT ON.
                                    3) A definitive NY bagel.
                                    4) Somewhere absolutely at the pinnacle of American fine dining; they should have a recognisably American cuisine as opposed to something definitely foreign (e.g. French, Italian, Japanese, etc) - although of course foreign *influences* are fine.
                                    5) At least one good representative mid-range restaurant.
                                    6) A top-notch espresso
                                    >>>>>>>AGREE WITH WHAT OTHERS HAVE POSTED
                                    7) A "cheap and cheerful" option - high quality, but budget pricing.
                                    >>>>>>MISSION CHINEESE, IPPUDO, LUKE'S LOBSTER, OR POK POK (NOT IN MANHATTAN)