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Tasting menus, coffee, delicious eats

Hi all,
I will be meeting my husband down to NYC for a pre-Christmas getaway Dec 12-17. We are currently living on opposite sides of the country for work, so I'm VERY excited about the prospect!
My first and only visit to your beautiful city was last December, and we had some amazing eats including EMP, Babbo, Katz's, Shake Shack and Grimaldi's (we don't differentiate, just love good food).
This trip, I have some specific must-try's:
1. I would love to take him for an inventive, delicious tasting menu. I loved the techniques of EMP, but want to try somewhere new. Suggestions?
2. We love a good mocha, or other slightly sweet coffee. Loved Blue Bottle last time I visited. Any other similar or better places?
3. We will be meeting friends for a Saturday morning brunch. Again, looking for unique and delicious. Thoughts?
4. Always on the lookout for a can't-miss bakery item!
5. Pizza!

We will be staying at the Distrikt Hotel near Times Square and relying on walking/public transit.

Some places I have thought about based on previous CH suggestions include:
Atera (dinner)
Acme ( late dinner)
Ippudo (lunch/dinner)
Di Fara (lunch)
Jean George's (lunch)

Any recommendations on the above, or new suggestions altogether, are more than welcome! Thanks!

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  1. 2. Stumptown opened a second Manhattan location just off Washington Square Park. I prefer them to Blue Bottle, but drink both at home.
    4. Have you made it to Levain for the chocolate chip walnut cookie?

    Cafe Sabarsky for coffee and apple strudel.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coasts

      I forgot to mention that Levain was an almost daily treat :) Thank goodness for all the city walking!

    2. Di Fara, while excellent, is quite the hike. I like it a lot, but I don't think it's worth the time investment for a visitor, just FYI.

      1 Reply
      1. re: loratliff

        I know this should be on the Outer Borough board. But Di Fara, is good for the show. Seeing the owner snip fresh basil on the pizza and making each pizza fresh. Looking at the same guy's picture 40 years ago making the pizza. The pizza itself is good, but nothing amazing.

      2. 1. Consider Modern or Jungsik

        3. Minetta Tavern

        1. 1. Given that Chef Paul Liebrandt is no longer at Corton in Tribeca, your best bets for "inventive" tasting menus in Manhattan are probably WD-50 and Atera. You should also look into Brooklyn!

          Maybe Momofuku Ko? Atmosphere- and comfort-wise, probably the opposite of EMP. But if frozen shaved foie gras with lychee, pinenut brittle, and Riesling gelee sounds good to you, I'd try to get in. Just make sure you make a backup reservation first, since Ko only takes reservations 10 days in advance (including the current day).

          2. If you like mochas, definitely try Stumptown's. Last time I checked, they use local Mast Brothers chocolate syrup.

          If you have an iPhone, download the free New York Times app "The Scoop" which has a big map of coffee places, with descriptions.

          3. Best brunch, much depends upon number of people/tolerance for waiting in line.

          I love The Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., Public, Spotted Pig, Minetta Tavern... but only LV and MT take reservations. And Shopsin's maxes out at 4 people, and I wouldn't take more than 4 people to Clinton St Baking Co either, for example.

          Best brunch:

          4. American style bakeries or French style bakeries or any style? You'll probably want to visit Dominique Ansel (the Cronut guy) at a minimum.

          Best bakeries

          Best French pastry

          If you like sweets, you might like my walking tour of Greenwich/West Village/the High Line (see link below).

          5. Pizza, there are so many styles and Grimaldi's is just the tip of the iceberg (I actually don't think they're that great any more). It REALLY depends what you're looking for. Grimaldi's is classic NY coal oven. Lots of people associate NY pizza with gas oven (aka "Ray's"). However, Di Fara is doing its own thing, not really like anybody else.

          Best NY style pizza:

          For Di Fara, make sure you check the hours beforehand, their Facebook page for any last minute changes, etc. It is quite a long trek for a tourist... it's excellent, but it depends if you have a special interest in pizza or not.

          I am not sure I'd say you absolutely must try Di Fara if you haven't tried a lot of others in NYC yet. How about Motorino?

          > Some places I have thought about based on previous CH suggestions include:
          > Atera (dinner
          )> Acme ( late dinner)
          > Ippudo (lunch/dinner)
          > Di Fara (lunch)
          > Jean George's (lunch)

          For Ippudo, there are two now, one in the East Village and one in Midtown. I would try to hit it at an off time, either weekday lunch at the EV one (not dinner) or maybe weekend brunch for the Midtown one (not lunch).

          For JG, make sure you reserve in advance and heed the dress code. There are also a lot of other prix fixe lunches around town:

          Also: for something casual but also inventive, you could look at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Pearl & Ash, Empellon Cocina, and/or Louro, especially if Acme sounds up your alley.

          I see from your profile that you're Canadian. What about the other lunches in your schedule? You could try some "American" type foods: lobster rolls at Pearl or Luke's (note: Pearl only does weekday lunch), BBQ at Mighty Quinn's, fried chicken at The Dutch (they take brunch reservations).

          I'd also consider an interesting Asian lunch, such as Mission Chinese, dim sum at RedFarm (weekends only), Kin Shop (they have a daily prix fixe), Danji (M-F only), the duck over rice lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

          Or you could do a noshing tour in the West Village combined with a walk through Chelsea Market & the High Line.

          5 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Wow, kathryn, your wisdom is much appreciated as always!
            How difficult are Atera reservations to land? Any tips? Also, is it table vs counter seating?
            Ko sounds wonderful, we will have to try our best for that reservation!
            Thanks, again!

            1. re: Suzie4399

              Photo of Atera here:

              No tables, 1 C shaped counter, 13 seats total, IIRC. Getting a reservation doesn't seem that difficult to me -- they are on CityEats and showing availability tonight and on Saturday night.

              1. re: kathryn

                Thank you everyone!
                We have narrowed it down to Atera, Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, Acme, Jungsik, and lunch at Jean George's... Of course, I realize that this is a "in a perfect world' type wish list... My question- when do the above restaurants start taking reservations? We would be looking at December 12-16, but I'm having trouble finding how many days out reservations open... Just don't want to miss the boat.
                As always, you all have been such a great resource!

                1. re: Suzie4399

                  If you are apprehensive about exactly when to book (9am vs midnight, etc), contact the restaurants and ask.

                  Atera's CityEats widget on their site indicates 42 days in advance, or 6 weeks including the current day. So today the calendar goes up to Friday, November 15. I see lots of availability even on upcoming Saturday nights.

                  Of the ones you have listed, you'll have the most trouble at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. They are very specific about the process on their site, as they open up 1 week at a time Monday AM:

                  "Every Monday morning we open up a new week at 10:30 am. All reservations for the sixth week out are booked at that time."

                  Call Monday, November 4th for December 13th-14th (week starting December 9th). Call Monday, November 11th for December 16th. They are closed Sundays.

                  Acme on OpenTable lets me book 21 days into the future including the current day. Jungsik, 54 days. And JG looks me look at 31 days ahead.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Thanks kathryn! You're a Chowhound icon :)

          2. December is a lifetime away in NY's food scene. A lot can and will change.

            Do you recall what you had at Blue Bottle? Was it one of their blends? For coffee, the Stumptown suggestion is solid. Next I'd say Toby's Estate, in Brooklyn is similar enough in approach and Van Leeuwen ice cream also carries it. Gasoline Alley, La Colombe and Caffe Vita would be a pretty good match . Irving Farms coffee often leans towards chocolatey profiles, but lighter. Cafe Grumpy, Intellegentsia, Gimme Coffee all have devotees, but these aren't always a natural fit for Blue Bottle fans. I think I'd send you to Stumptown, Toby's and La Colombe in that order.

            Jean George is always a nice time and a good meal. Keep your expectations down as far as 4 start dining goes though.

            1. Jean Georges is a good choice.
              For tasting menus I recommend
              WD 50
              Recette ( Mondays with Jesse)
              Kyo Ya
              15 East Omakase
              Brooklyn Fare
              for Pizza Motorino, Gran Daisy or Sullivan Street ( no seats
              Ceci Cela Bakery for good pastry and IMO good coffee(iLLY)
              Minamoto Bakery ( Japanese pastry, but no seating)
              Takahachi Bakery ( good coffee, good Japanese pastries, has seating)
              Nespresso ( it looks nice inside, but kind of touristy but interesting coffee creations if you like sweet coffees)

              1. City bakery has a few hot chocolates in the winter, their cookies are great (esp the chocolate chunk) and also a nice brunch (sit upstairs)
                Buttercup bake shop is not mentioned often (2nd ave near 52nd st) and they have a good selection of cakes by the slice, very "like what grandma made" style. The hummingbird is a favorite. Their coffee is blah.

                1. Stumptown (with two branches now, one in the Ace Hotel and the other in Greenwich Village) has one of the better mochas in town, using Mast Brothers Chocolate, for a perfect, slightly sweet version of this drink.
                  Photo: http://flic.kr/p/83XPLS

                  1. Thanks for the help! Anyone know how Bouley is lately? And what about Juni?

                    6 Replies
                      1. re: Suzie4399

                        We were at Bouley fairly recent for lunch and it was at least (possibly better) as good (RE: fantastic) as ever.

                        1. re: Suzie4399

                          Bouley continues to be wonderful. I've been dining a few times a year at Bouley for almost 15 years, and I have never had less than a superb experience.

                          Just returned from my fourth dinner at Atera, and it continues to "wow" me: food is among the most creative and delicious (27 courses) and service among the most polished in NYC (friendly, attentive and knowledgeable). You should definitely try to get a reservation at Atera.

                          Also highly recommend Momofuku Ko. You should consider the Kappō at Ma Peche (the Momofuku midtown restaurant): also an intimate (limited to 8 guests) 10 course tasting menu served at the chef's counter for $95.

                          I was planning to try Juni, but they switched out some of the dishes that I had wanted to try so I'll wait for a menu that appeals to me more.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Perfect! I've just scored us a lunchtime reservation at Bouley... That 5 course tasting seems like a steal! Are there any things that we shouldn't miss trying?

                            Also, any must-eat items off the menus at JG and Acme?

                              1. re: Suzie4399

                                Highly recommend the porcini flan (it's become a signature/favorite dish), the egg dish is sublime, the duck dish is another favorite of mine. Have a great time!

                          2. Hello everyone,
                            Thank you all so much for your wonderful suggestions! Based on the feedback you all have given me, I''ve come up with the following itinerary:

                            Late Thursday dinner: Ippudo
                            Friday lunch: Bouley 5 course lunch (reservation made)
                            Friday dinner (heading to Annie at 8:30, so will have to be an earlier one): Acme vs Alder vs Pearl & Ash
                            Saturday dinner: Atera tasting menu (reservation made)
                            Sunday lunch: Motorino
                            Sunday dinner: Ippudo
                            Monday lunch: Eataly
                            Monday dinner: Jungsik tasting menu (reservation made)

                            Blue Bottle @ Rockefeller Centre

                            Cookies from Levain
                            Ice cream from Big Gay Ice cream
                            Pretzel croissant from City Bakery

                            1. Our flight doesn't land until 7:30pm Thursday night. We are staying around 8th and 9th Avenue on West 40th Street. Any suggestions for places open a bit later that we could walk to?
                            2. We will be doing the 5 course lunch at Bouley... What are the not-to-misses on the menu?
                            3. We are stuck between Acme vs Alder vs Pearl & Ash for our Friday night dinner. Since we're spending a bit more on Atera/Jungsik, hoping to keep the price of this meal down a bit. We really just want delicious food. Thoughts?
                            4. I'm all about delicsious treats! I realize that there are tons of threads out there, but if you could pick 1 delicious treat in Manhattan, what would it be?
                            5. Always on the lookout for good coffee! Any other suggestions welcome! I will be studying while my husband is at a conference, so any places that are quiet with a sitdown area is appreciated!
                            6. On the lookout for Belgian pearl sugar... Has anyone spied that anywhere?

                            Many thanks, all!

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: Suzie4399

                              For your arrival night...How far do you want to walk and how much do you want to spend? Ippudo West is about ten blocks away. Is that too far?

                              What time do you anticipate eating? A 9pm dinner time isn't really considered late in NYC, especially on a Thursday.

                              Maybe Larb Ubol?

                              For coffee, Stumptown on 8th has some seating. Stumptown on 29th has the Ace Hotel lobby. Great for people watching. And comfy couches.

                              A lot of coffee shops in NYC don't have much seating, or it's hard to find a free seat because they are so busy.

                              You're staying by the new Grumpy in Midtown BTW.

                              Where to drink coffee in midtown:

                              NY Cake Co will probably have the pearl sugar.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                The cafe grumpy location in chelsea has some good seating options- no wifi, but no one minds if you linger. Excellent coffees, including pour-overs.

                              2. re: Suzie4399

                                Are you doing Ippudo twice (Thurs dinner and Sunday dinner) or did you forget to update your itinerary?

                                Thurs night, if you're up for super casual, you can go to the new Ivan Ramen spot at the brand new Gotham West Market food "mall" on 45h St and 11 Ave. Looks like it's open til 10pm.


                                For #2, Bouley for lunch tasting menu is the best deal in town, IMO. The "Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms" and "Porcini Flan" are must-get dishes. The Forager's Treasure is one of my favorite dishes, period.

                                1. re: Suzie4399

                                  You may want to do a late dinner after your show vs lunch at bouley and then an earlier dinner...... Just my two cents.

                                  Right now i'm loving the hot chocolate from grom-and i need to go back for the hot chocolate affogato.

                                  Little pie co on w44th st has an amazing sour cream apple pie with a crumble-streusal topping- fresh in my mind since i enjoyed some yesterday :)

                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                    Thanks for the advice!

                                    Does anyone know anything about Annisa? Should we out that on our list?

                                    Also, I will be flying home to Saskatchewan on the 17th... I would love to bring something quintessentially New York home with me... Some kind of food basket. Any suggestions for something delicious that travels well and will clear customs?

                                    1. re: Suzie4399

                                      If you're interested, book Annisa ASAP since they open their books 3 months ahead.

                                      NYC food souvenirs:

                                      Local NYC gift ideas?

                                      New ideas for NYC food gifts that can travel well.

                                      What to take for friends in SF?

                                      Non-restaurant Chow places to visit?

                                      1. re: Suzie4399

                                        Bialys. The new owners of Kossar's are baking up some excellent ones, as well as pletzels and bulkas.

                                        1. re: Suzie4399

                                          ... bringing something New York home:
                                          I know this looks a little self-serving (may I use that term here?), but these local apple pies [http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/925581] in season and for sale at the Union Sq. greenmarket really are something deliciously else.
                                          Once home, you can say they're from the "Big Apple" and be the talk of all Fort Qu'Appelle.

                                      2. re: Suzie4399

                                        You can probably do better than Big Gay Ice Cream. That place is mainly just about the condiments.

                                        For coffee with lingering seating, the Stumptown's are really an obvious suggestion. There's a divide between the really good coffee places, and places designed to attract students doing the working at a coffee shop thing. 71 Irving/Irving Farm pops into my head as another good choice for you. There's also La Colombe's Tribeca location, all the Think Coffees, Everyman at Classic Stage Company, Birch Coffee's library level, Ost Cafe during daytime hours, Third Rail Coffee's East Village location, Joe's Coffee on 12th, and Ground Support in Soho, attract people working away from home. Some have better coffee than others.

                                        Delicious treats? Too many to name, but I'd take a look at the hot cocoa thread. Also, NY Cider is really nice this time of year. It's nothing to go out of your way for, and a lot of them sit too long, but a nice cup is always a treat you can't duplicate in some other cities.

                                        1. re: Suzie4399

                                          I didn't think Big gay ice cream was all that good. Try gelato from Grom or il laboratorio del gelato. For pastries and desserts, try Lady M(for mille crepe) and Maison Kayser(for baguette, walnut bread, any kind of bread really). Luckly both places are near each other on 41th st. Also try macarons from Maison du macarons, hot chocolate from Maison du chocolat and doussant from Chikalicious(so good and my current favorite dessert!).
                                          If you need another lunch place, I strongly recommend Lincoln...it was just fab especially given the price.
                                          Marseille near your hotel opens until midnight on thursdays.

                                          1. re: Monica

                                            Laboratorio del gelato has the most creative flavors of all the gelato places. Amorino , I think has the best gelato though,

                                        2. For a bakery item take a short walk over to Maison Kayser at Bryant Park. No tables but if the weather is nice eat in the park. The other Kayser locations are cafe's.
                                          Pizza at Motorino or Keste
                                          DiFara is excellent but way far out in Brooklyn