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Sep 13, 2013 10:37 AM

First NYC Trip

My husband and I are visiting NYC for the first time the second weekend in October, for a long weekend, and I find myself very overwhelmed by restaurants! I would consider us foodies, and for a special weekend like this we don't worry too much about food prices.

I have been scouring over this site,, and the Michelin NYC restaurant guide...and I want to know the places that we cannot miss, from brunch, to fabulous dinners, to cupcakes!

Thank you!

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  1. If you wish to go to a place like Eleven Madison Park, Babbo, Per Se, or Le Bernardin, I would decide ASAP.

    This is because EMP opens its books 28 days in advance at 9am and books up in minutes. Babbo books 1 month in advance to the calendar day every day at 10am, so has already started taking reservations for Oct 13th. Per Se also books 30 days in advance and is also very, very popular. And Le Bernardin opened its books for ALL of October already on the first business day of September. So a lot of the primetime weekend tables are already gone.

    Here's something I wrote for another visitor to NYC. Maybe it will help you.


    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?

    How hard are you willing to work for a reservation at a restaurant that's hard to book?

    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.

    What else are you doing while you are here? Planning around sightseeing, shopping, Broadway shows, etc? Also if you are sightseeing, 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.

    Lots of people who visit try to jam their itineraries completely full and end up running around all over town, getting completely exhausted by the end of the day. Or with tasting menu fatigue as they try to do multiple fine dining destinations in a row. We can help with that.

    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 Georges).

    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 UWS:

    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:

    28 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Yikes! kathryn, you continue to impress...

      1. re: kathryn

        Wow Kathryn! Thanks!

        We are coming from the Detroit area, October 11-14. We will have about 8 meals. We like to do brunch/lunch, a yummy afternoon snack (maybe with a drink), and then a later dinner.

        We are usually cool with waiting for a table...for an hour/hour and a half. I will work pretty hard to go somewhere I want to go! In the last couple days I have tried for Per Se, no luck. I tried EMP this luck. I have one more shot tomorrow morning.

        I would say our budget is $200 pp (which I knew we were going to blow at Per Se...It helped me give up pretty easy on those reservations) for fancy meals... $50-75 pp (before drinks) for more casual meals. We are only trying to do one fancy dinner...and the rest of our meals we would like to do good foodie food....just more fun/casual.

        We are trying not to plan too much. Definitely doing 9/11 site and the Statue of Liberty. May also do a museum...not sure which one. We probably will plan food around our sightseeing...getting some food in those different areas. It looks like you have some suggestions above...

        I will read more into your suggestions! Thanks so much!

        1. re: andrietta

          > We are coming from the Detroit area, October 11-14. We will have about 8 meals. We like to do brunch/lunch, a yummy afternoon snack (maybe with a drink), and then a later dinner.

          Some places that are good to do afternoon snacks are Otto, Lupa, Eataly's restaurants, Spotted Pig, Balthazar, Casa Mono, Bar Room at the Modern, and pizza places because they serve all day long, though some restaurants will switch to an "afternoon" menu between 3-5pm.

          But if by "drink" you mean a cocktail, a lot of our well known cocktail bars don't open until 6pm.

          How late is a "late dinner"? Some NYers are eating dinner out past 10pm on a regular basis.

          > We are usually cool with waiting for a table...for an hour/hour and a half.

          In terms of waiting for a table, there are definitely places that you'll wait 2-3 hours on weekends at prime times.

          > In the last couple days I have tried for Per Se, no luck. I tried EMP this luck. I have one more shot tomorrow morning.

          I find it best to divide and conquer -- have the computer open to OpenTable AND at least one person on the phone. More than one is best. ALSO be flexible, get on the wait list, and be willing to do lunch instead of dinner.

          For interesting, creative, chef-driven but casual cuisine, look at Pearl & Ash, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Acme, Montmartre, Louro, Public, Tertulia, and Danji. You can eat very well even if you don't get into Per Se/Eleven Madison Park.

          > We are trying not to plan too much. Definitely doing 9/11 site and the Statue of Liberty.

          Liberty Island has only 1-2 official concession stands, without anything really interesting, so I would plan around that. Going to the Statue of Liberty can really take up your most of your day.

          1. re: kathryn

            We scored a table at EMP! My husband and I both called...he got through first!

            I do mean cocktail by "drink", so we'll keep that in mind. We prefer 8pm dinners, but are open to 9/10/11 too!

            Thanks for all your other suggestions. I do know that the Statue of Liberty will take a bit of time, but we really would like to do it, so it's a priority.

            1. re: andrietta

              Great news! Pre- or post-EMP, you might want to visit Milk & Honey.

              For the Statue of Liberty, the first available crown access is in November, but you can still go into the Monument's pedestal. Make sure you reserve online in advance.

              1. re: kathryn

                Milk & Honey is a perfect idea for post EMP, we recently checked out M & H in the new location and just love the place (I know a lot of people will disagree because they loved the old, smaller place). For pre-EMP dinner we enjoy the EMP bar too much to go anywhere else.

                  1. re: Sneakeater

                    I just looked up M&H...looks fantastic! However, I think we have to go pre-EMP because our EMP reservation is not until 9:15. It doesn't appear that we will be able to get in without membership after 11.

                    We'll make time for a drink at both M&H and the EMP bar!

                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                      Sunday. Will M&H even accept us? I read that non-members tend to only be allowed at the early part of the week...

                      1. re: andrietta

                        Half of the new M&H is set aside for walk-ins. Perhaps you're reading material about the old space on Eldridge St?

                        1. re: andrietta

                          You can do a walk in and since your dinner is going to keep you at EMP rather late you should be okay (if you are up for it).

                          1. re: Spiritchaser


                            Yes, I was looking at their drink menu that still stated the 11pm rule. Just an old menu...

                            1. re: andrietta

                              M&H NY doesn't have a drink menu. It's only bartender's choice.

                              The London one is actually unaffiliated with the NY one except for the shared name, although that's not what they imply online. The cocktail menu online at is not used here.

                              This is the real M&H NY site (members only):

                    2. re: kathryn

                      Grrr...I didn't realize it was that hard to get into the crown. I'm bummed. You know I looked it up the other day and couldn't figure out why I couldn't get crown tickets. I just gave up and thought I would come back later. I obviously didn't read enough into it.

                      How far out do you typically need to book crown access? You can tell I am a NYC rookie!

                      This may change our plan... Maybe we save the Statue of Liberty until a future NYC trip?

                      1. re: andrietta

                        The earlier the better, obviously. When it was still a new thing, the crown tickets were selling out 3-4 months in advance. You can always come back! And hopefully Ellis Island will reopen soon and you can see that as well on a subsequent trip.

                        1. re: andrietta

                          I was up in fhe crown as a kid in the 70s. It wasn't that exciting. And I was a very excited kid! Big disappointment.

                          For one of the better views in NYC, I recommend the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center). Amazing!

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            Better than the Empire State Building (which we weren't planning on doing)?

                            1. re: andrietta

                              TOTR is much better, because you can actually SEE the ESB from TOTR. And Rockefeller Center has some good foodie destinations. Blue Bottle, Jacques Torres, La Maison du Chocolat, Bouchon Bakery...

                              1. re: kathryn

                                "TOTR is much better, because you can actually SEE the ESB from TOTR."

                                @kathryn took the words right out of my mouth. This is EXACTLY what I tell every visitor I speak with that comes to NYC. Plus, you get a most wonderful view of Central Park from TOTR, which should be beautiful in October.

                              2. re: ttoommyy


                                Better to take the SI Ferry (free) and get a great look at the Statue, then have a drink up at the Rainbow Room or Top of the Rock. Best views!

                                1. re: Elisa515

                                  Rainbow Room closed in 2009 and has not yet reopened.

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    Oh my, sorry!

                                    But thanks for the update. The principle is the same, though, right? top of Rockefeller Center building, great view.

                                    1. re: Elisa515

                                      Yes same principle but it sounds like the new Rainbow Room is intended for private events, and open to the public only one night a week?

                                    2. re: kathryn

                                      Thank you all. We weren't planning on even doing the ESB, but since we can't visit the crown (doesn't sound like it is worth it anyway), we may do TOTR.

                                2. re: andrietta

                                  If you decide to save your Statue of Liberty visit for another trip, you can still take the (free) Staten Island Ferry to get a great view.

                                  No reservations needed at M&H anymore.

                      2. If you are coming for just a long weekend, please do yourself a favor and pick a couple of places that really appeal to you (seems like you've done a lot of research) and make reservations. Then leave the rest to happenstance and just enjoy yourself! NYC in October is magical. Walk around, see the sites and just let it happen. This is the best advice I can give you.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          That was our plan!

                          We would like dinner reservations, and the rest we are going to have an idea...but just let it happen!

                          I have heard that Fall in NYC is so great...very excited!