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Aug 4, 2013 07:56 AM

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.

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  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.
                  - 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.