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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:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/893178

          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
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/897618

          Best French pastry
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/831071

          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:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/890813

          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:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8747...

          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.
          https://foursquare.com/kathrynyu/list...
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844638

          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:
              http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/...

              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:
                  http://www.brooklynfare.com/pages/che...

                  "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.