HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Quintessential NYC (Manhattan) fare

Good morning

This is a celebration trip that I have planned. I want it to be special for my Mom.

I am taking her on a week long visit to NYC (with three nights in the Hudson Valley). She had a really rough year - diagnosed with breast cancer just a few weeks before her 71st birthday (by the time of our September arrival it will be just about one year since her diagnosis) and had to deal with three surgeries and then chemo. Her last chemo was March 15 and she's doing great. Her energy is back and she's eating with gusto.

I have been taking her on annual trips to Europe with me for the past several years but I figured something closer to home might be nice - no jet lag to contend with.

So: where to eat? I visit NYC usually 1-2X a year (I live in metro DC) but those tend to be weekend trips and many times theater menus.

We won't be leaving Manhattan with our five nights which means 5 breakfasts and five dinners, and four lunches. Snacking too!

When I think of NYC I think of pizza and bagels and delis. That sort of thing. But, where to go to get them? And what else says "New York"?

We are staying at the Hilton on 53rd, and will probably be all over the map - the Frick, the Neue Galerie, the UN, the Met, the Tenement Museum, the Highline, Soho, etc. I tend to doubt we will go much above 86th street, though (although if the food is amazing, we might!).

Thank you for any thoughts.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. shopsin mac&cheese pancakes - les
    gruppos pizza - ev
    tompkins bagel - ev
    hot roast beef @ defontes

    1. Foodwise, choices can be overwhelming in a culinary center like NYC!
      For a person recovering from cancer, ( based on knowledge gained from my Wife's health food business ), I would recommend only visiting establishments and eat meals that use 'organic' ingredients! Pick dishes that use minimum of oil in the cooking ( hence avoid fried, greasy food ), try to avoid 'mucus' products like cream or cheese in dairy products and minimize sugar intake. Try to stay away from gluten products as well.
      With that in mind, I would suggest going to more 'high end' establishments that use organic local farm products. Bluehill, EMP, Bernadin.......etc
      Italian food that uses a lot of 'good' oil ( EVOL ) and packed with anti-oxident cooked tomato sauce is great. Babbo, Lincoln, Del Posto...etc are some establishments frequently mentioned on this board.
      Lastly, Japanese food using fresh products and fish is super healthy, ideal and good. Yasuda, Gari...etc are good choices
      All the best and have a great time in NYC!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        Thank you so much Charles and Rottyguy!

        We will take it easy on the "bad for you, but so good, foods". Maybe those places will be just a visit and a taste instead of an actual meal. Or she can taste what I order, and we'll get something better for herself.

        1. re: flygirl

          I've taken friends who are going through similar issues to Westville, and they really enjoy the simpler foods on the menu there. There are multiple locations around downtown. It's healthy while being delicious.

      2. if you are planning busy days, I suggest nailing down very good recommendations for enjoyable places near your hotel, because you really might not feel like venturing far at the end of a sightseeing day, and yet that neighborhood is no place to be just plopping into a restaurant for convenience sake. An overwhelming number of the restaurants around there have grim food, high prices and a terrible ambience. So if you get back to the hotel and want to eat in the neighborhood, best to have list of pre-selected places. I would even find out who has good take out and delivery.

        This is an old thread, but many of the recs still hold and would also be good for dinner, and you can ask others for updates.


        and I will recommend this place


        I agree with Charles Yu that what is "quintessentially New York" when it comes to eating is the wild variety of cuisines available in every price range. A lot of eateries selling a "New York" experience are pretty hokey and overpriced.

        7 Replies
        1. re: barberinibee

          Thank you for the recos. I know of a few places nearby that we will dine - Toloache, for one.

          I probably should have mentioned - I'm not into the touristy places (Eataly, notwithstanding, we have to visit) and Mom's more or less up for anything but seafood.

          I was thinking of "what pizza place can we just not miss" etc.

          Our last visit together was just a weekend and we went to Bouley's and also Balthazar. I'm thinking that our lunches will likely be near the current site visited and breakfast and dinner could be wherever. For instance, we will be hauling our butts down to City Bakery one morning for sure.

          Thanks again for all thoughts.

          ps. Maze - will check it out. For some reason I think I've been to Rue 57 before.

          Our last visit had us at the Michelangelo which is more or less the same 'hood.

          EDIT AGAIN:

          I did some digging, someone had a nice list of what they consider to be ten food experiences to aim for:

          1. A bagel with Nova and a schmear.
          2. A slice (of Pizza, silly)
          3. Jewish deli food
          4. A steak house
          5. Something from a street vendor
          6. An expensive power-scene restaurant
          7. A hip and swank new place that is turning out cutting edge food for beautiful people
          8. Odd ethnic food that is only found in NY or the original country. (Check the boards!)
          9. An old, crusty, NY establishment
          10. That one only-in-New-York restaurant that you've always dreamed of going to.


          I would probably knock off 4 6 7 and 8.

          1. re: flygirl

            Toloache is extremely noisy at night, maybe especially on theatre nights and weekend nights. If you reserve, you might want to specify sitting downstairs, which is marginally quieter (and then you also don't have to negotiate the steep staircase).

            Funny, but I would probably keep 8 on the list.

            1. re: barberinibee

              My Mom isn't the most adventurous eater. I don't think 8 would fly. Now, if we're talking blinis, that's one thing - she'd be all over that. But chicken feet, etc. - no way.

              I visited Toloache with a friend after a play a year or so ago. Yep, it was loud. We did sit on the main level.

              1. re: flygirl

                My late Jewish father-in-law adored chicken feet, which had been a staple of his impoverished childhood. Blinis were what royalty ate!

                But ethnic dishes seldom found outside of New York aren't necessarily oddball or exotic. I noticed on another thread you were asking about a restaurant with a Pugliese kitchen. It is pretty hard to find real panzerotti in most any Italian restaurant outside of NYC , but actually, you could also describe them as fried pizza dumplings.

                1. re: flygirl

                  I would consider:
                  - Smoked salmon and bagels for sure
                  - A whole pizza at a coal oven place, not just a gas oven street slice
                  - A nice, relaxed prix fixe lunch, where you can sit and chat, and dress up, i.e. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8747...
                  - Pastrami and rye from Katz's
                  - If that is too unhealthy for her, maybe chicken soup from 2nd Ave Deli?
                  - I'd try to work the steakhouse back in... see the Guastavino tile at Wolfgang's, and you can share a salad and a steak. Or even just go have a snack/drink at the bar at Keens.
                  - A burger and custard (maybe milkshakes) outside at Shake Shack on a nice day
                  - Some great Italian along the lines of Babbo, Scarpetta
                  - Brunch maybe at Lafayette, it's kind of Balthazar-esque
                  - A cozy neighborhood restaurant like Joseph Leonard

                  1. re: flygirl

                    Let's drop the word "odd" and just look for ethnic food that is hard to find outside NY. This does not necessarily mean offal or organ meat or chicken feet or weird parts. But there is a wealth of great non-American/Italian/French food in NYC that you may not have available to you at home.

                    You're staying at the Hilton right by a famous halal cart, who are known for chopped up chicken and lamb, served over rice, with some pita bread, and salad. No offal here.

                    For example, Zabb Elee serves Issan-region Thai food. Maybe not "only found in NY" but it's not ubiqutious just yet. You won't find pad thai and lots of curries on their menu but you will find larb, papaya salad, etc.

                    Txikito serves Basque tapas. You might have tapas or small plates restaurants at home, but not necessarily inspired by the Basque region of Spain (which borders France).

                    We have lots of regional Chinese food, like Spicy Village, which serves food from Henan province. Again, hard to find, but not necessarily offal. Their famous dish is literally named "spicy big tray chicken."

                    1. re: flygirl

                      My favotite dish at Toloache is a Japanese dish believe it or not!!!! They serve black cod w miso glaze-absolutely delicious-very similar to Nobu's version but a more generous portion! It's on their main menu-not a special.

              2. If you guys are spending time in the Hudson Valley, I hope you're making a trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Call ASAP, they take reservations 2 months in advance and late summer is a VERY popular time to go given the produce bounty. Please do let them know about the occasion you are celebrating as well.

                Near the Hilton on 53rd you have the wonderful restaurant connected to MoMA, the Modern, just down the block -- and the museum cafe is actually pretty good as it is run by Danny Meyer's restaurant group. And there's also the famous Halal Guys food truck. For the Neue Galerie and the Met (I assume you mean the museum and not the opera) depends how far you are willing to walk. There are some decent options on Museum Mile nowadays. There's not much to eat by the UN, so I'd plan around that. For the Tenement Museum, you have all of the wonderful restaurants on the LES available. The High Line has Chelsea Market nearby and excellent food vendors on the park grounds. And Soho also has lots of great places to eat.

                Here's what I wrote for another visitor. Hopefully it helps you.


                To make the best use of your time, you should try to find things to eat to/from the tourist destinations or near the tourist destinations. Our tourist destinations are spread out all around town.

                Where are you coming from?

                When are you coming? How long are you here? How many meals do you have available?

                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...

                I'd say we are pretty strong in a lot of different cuisines but not equally. Budget will makes big difference in where you can go.

                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? It is much easier for us to help you if you give a pre-tax-and-tip figure.

                Feel free to break out your budget in terms of upscale/fancy meals (and number of them) and cheaper/everyday meals.

                Note that popular places tend to book about a month in advance. Most upscale restaurants 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).

                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:

                Best NY style pizza:

                We also have some of the harder to find Chinese cuisines: Henan, Shaanxi (Xian Famous Foods) and Fuzhou in Manhattan, and many more in Queens and Brooklyn (Shangdong/Qingdao and Dongbei to name a few). scoopG's Chinatown list (dependent upon where you are coming from these may be exotic or not... most places don't have Henan or Xian style food though):

                You might also want to do a restaurant doing creative takes on Asian, like at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Wong, Fatty Cue, Takashi, RedFarm, Mission Chinese, Jungsik, Kin Shop, or Danji.

                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 common tourist inquiries:

                Where to Eat Near Times Square:

                Where to Eat Near MoMA (the museum cafe is actually pretty good, as is the Modern next door):

                Where to Eat Near Museum Mile (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney, Guggenheim, etc) on the UES:

                Where to Eat Near the Museum of Natural History on the UES:

                Where to Eat Near Macy's/Herald Square/Penn Station/Empire State Building:

                Where to Eat Near Grand Central/Midtown East:

                Where to Eat in Soho:

                Where to Eat near 5th Avenue shopping / Bloomingdale's / Rockefeller Center:

                Pre-theatre Dining (many of the same Times Square recs also apply):

                Where to Eat Near the 9/11 Memorial:

                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.

                If you like 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:

                2 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  Whoa! Thank you Kathryn. Lots of fantastic ideas. How to narrow it down to so few meals though!

                  And thanks for the HV reco too. I made rez at the CIA, I will now make rez at the place you mentioned.

                  David, thank you as well.

                  1. re: flygirl

                    For the Hudson Valley, I hope you'll solicit ideas on the New York State board. Those of us who live outside the city have lots to recommend and know a wide breadth of different places depending on where you plan to stay.

                2. For starters, I would recommend a pastrami sandwich at Katz's deli on Houston Street. Then a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder and possibly oysters at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. For steak, try Keen's. Near Katz's, you could also get a bagel with lox & cream cheese at Russ & Daughters, also on Houston.

                  1. If you're going to the Neue Galerie don't forget to try the
                    Cafe Sabarsky. I don't think they take reservations so if you want lunch aim for an early time.

                    1. A lot of fine recs.
                      I even hesitate to broaden the list but I do see some choices that are missing you might want to consider close to your hotel.
                      Italian: Vice Versa/A Voce/Lincoln
                      French: La Silhouette

                      I won't add to the confusion.
                      Whatever you decide, my congrats on the wonderful recovery of your Mother and...
                      Bon appetit!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: arepo

                        Thank you. We are all so glad Mom is doing so well.

                      2. A very unique place for lunch would be Il Cantuccio in the West Village at the corner of Bleecker and Christopher St (just down the street from the Christopher St subway stop). They specialize in Tuscan biscotti, cookies, focaccia, sandwiches ,breads, and pastry(they offer samples so you can try before you buy). They also set the standard for a properly prepared cappuccino. If you'd like to share a pizza then there is John's just down the street on Bleecker, Murray's Cheese, Faicco's Pork Store and Cones, Ice Cream are there too. All kinds of food in the area and a slice joint at 7 Carmine St. (that crosses Bleecker) called Joe's. Hard to beat the food options in this area. Father Demo Square is just across the street from Joe's with nice benches, a fountain, and trees...great place to eat snacks that you might have bought.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: facultyandtraveler

                          I have a lot of these places listed in my West Village food crawl, BTW.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            My wife and I were in NYC for a long weekend and flew home yesterday. Your list was great. FYI we did not have a good experience at Keste..soggy pizzas and disjointed service. The star find was Il Cantuccio and the trip into Faicco's was amazing. The best sandwich we had was at Defonte's of Brooklyn(Manhattan site)...what a hero. Thank you for your previous recommendations and knowledge base--I had visited your foursquare site before our trip. We unfortunately did popbar instead of your gelato recommendation.

                          2. The first thing that comes to mind always in questions like these is this snack found only in NYC...

                            Maine Lobster Roll


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ziggy41

                              Ha. Very funny... unless the OP is from Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc.

                              Anyway. OP is from DC, they have Luke's Lobster there now.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                Really! That's a lot more mileage for an already expensive snack. I believe its around $16 here. How much is it in DC

                                You can probably find anything "Only in NYC" in DC I imagine

                            2. How about a visit to the Museum of Design and lunch at Robert at the Museum--a beautiful view--ask for a window table and enjoy a a lovely lunch or dinner. it isn't that far from your hotel at 2 Columbus Circle at 59th St.

                              1. OMG! You go to Peru for 36 hours and look what is waiting for you when you get home. I'm putting my big THANK YOU up near the top so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Still getting used to the embedded replies which seem to start their own little side conversations.

                                1. Hi everyone

                                  Thank you again for all the recos. This is a partial update - we are here, actually in the Hudson Valley since yesterday, and back in Manhattan Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon.

                                  Saturday night was Toloache (already reserved) and Sunday was supposed to be the LES food tour but after the Doughnut Plant (excellent, four doughnuts) we wandered to the San Gennaro festival and eventually split a grilled sausage sandwich.

                                  We had 2 PM LES TM rez and so there went the rest of the time to do the LES food walk because we also had to fit in not only the 911 memorial but also the Brooklyn Bridge walk. Mom did fabulously, by the way. Completely full of energy and kept the pace all day. Sunday Sept 15 marked the 6 month mark after her last chemo treatment. We took cabs from point to point. Sunday was a regrettable dinner at Bobby Van's. Never ask the concierge for recos.

                                  What I didn't do (and shame on me) was to print and map out these wonderful recos other than the LES food walk. Our plans have been somewhat on the fly and other than the LES I didn't map out locations very well. I really should have taken the advice to specifically map out places near the Hilton. Shame, shame on me. This is what happens when you spend all day sightseeing, get back and just want something to eat.

                                  Monday morning was City Bakery (planned - and yay) and lunch was Birreria (planned). Monday night, again, tired, and since I knew Bar Americain was nearby we went there.

                                  Tuesday AM we just had to go back to Doughnut Plant and this time went to their 23rd street location and then ate a few in the park near the Flatiron Bldg. Those were 50 dollar doughnuts. 24 in cabs and 26 for doughnuts and coffee/chai. Ouch. We made it back in time to get the cab to Grand Central Station for our HV portion of this trip.

                                  Back on Friday - and I am definitely using the recos here. Our time Friday afternoon/Saturday will be mostly Hilton area and north since we did so much to the south already. We didn't have pizza yet, though, so we might have to venture south at least once...

                                  BTW we did walk through Chelsea Market but since we had just eaten at City Bakery and had the Birreria planned as well we didn't eat a thing there. That would be a good place for meals though.

                                  Thank you again for all the great tips. Even if I don't use all recos this time, I will be coming back to this thread for subsequent trips, too.

                                  ps. although if anyone has a really good pastry shop reco near Central Park South we'd love that because I can see another breakfast being a walk with pastries and coffee... :)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: flygirl

                                    Dean & Deluca usually carries DP doughnuts among other pastries. There's one in Rockefeller Plaza as well as one on 7th and W56th.

                                    A much better steakhouse near 53rd and 6th is Quality Meats. It's on 58th off 6th Ave.

                                    When going around the city, a list of possible eating venues & Yelp on your smartphone is really, really useful. I also recommend The Scoop by the NYT, especially for coffee recs.

                                    Don't forget delivery & takeout. You could have gotten takeout from the Halal Guys cart on the SW corner of 53rd & 6th. Szechuan Gourmet isn't too far, either on W56th and Broadway. Seamless.com says that you can get delivery to the Hilton from a bunch of places. Looks like Toloache, Pure Thai, Whym, Eatery, and a bunch of others. My friend who works nearby actually swears by delivery from !Savory (yes, with an exclamation point in front).

                                    If you're up for going out for a meal, try Ma Peche or Bar Room at the Modern.

                                    Near CPS, you could go to Petrossian, Momofuku Milk Bar in the Chambers Hotel, or the Food Court at the Plaza. Or make a detour to Rockefeller Center for Blue Bottle / Jacques Torres / Bouchon Bakery.

                                  2. Hello everyone

                                    Thank you all so much for the assistance on this trip. It was very helpful and we will use this information again.

                                    Here is a list of what we did (no review, just list):

                                    Saturday night (arrival day): Toloache

                                    Sunday: Doughnut Plant in LES. Then a stroll to the San Gennaro festival where we split an Italian sausage sandwich. Dinner was Bobby Van (boo)

                                    Monday: City Bakery for breakfast, then a stroll to Chelsea Market to wander. Birreria for lunch. Campbell Apartment for drinks. Dinner was Bar Americain.

                                    Tuesday AM before we hopped on the train for the HV: Doughnut Plant in Chelsea.

                                    Friday afternoon back in town, "dinner"/late lunch at R Lounge which was really, really good. Grilled Cheese as well as Philly Cheesesteak, and drinks. Don't scoff but that small meal scored very highly - much higher than Bobby Van's and to be honest I'd go back there before Bar Americain! After a movie we had Cheesecake at Juniors.

                                    Saturday: Wandered to Orwashers for pastries (found on Yelp, wanted something on Upper East Side as I was hoping we'd do Museum Mile). Kind of blah but nice walk along 78th and then Madison. Then snacks on top of Met roof. Grimaldi's pizza for late lunch. We had Kinky Boots tickets and we were too full to eat before it, but, had Shake Shack cheeseburger and fries right afterwards.

                                    Sunday: Brunch at Petrossian.

                                    1 Reply