Trip report from first time visitors - 30s from Alabama
Trip report time! You all were so helpful when I posted my tentative itinerary, so I figured I'd provide an update now that I'm back home. I apologize in advance for the length. There was a lot of eating!
Dinner at Txikito was a great experience. The room had a nice energy. We drank too much txakolina and ordered the daily specials (including the suckling pig) on Kathryn's suggestion. Another favorite was a crispy eggplant served with minted yogurt.
After dinner we wandered down to Buvette for chocolate mousse and a night cap. My husband ordered cognac which was poured almost like a glass of wine. Quite a generous pour for the price, but who needs that much cognac? I wish we would have had time to go back here for a meal.
After enjoying some of the tourist attractions in midtown (I was a first time visitor, after all), we stopped at Num Pang Grand Central for lunch. I had the grilled chicken "chimi" with pickled apples and my husband had the pork belly with pickled pears. They sure do love their pickled stuff here! Both sandwiches were fantastic and were quickly devoured.
Pre-theater dinner was Mercato, which I picked based on Ziggy's reviews. The back room there is lovely. I really enjoyed both the lentil dip they bring with the bread and my orrechiette with broccoli rabe and anchovies.
After the show, we went to Blue Ribbon Downing Street bar because I had heard good things about their wine list. The bar was very well stocked with some off the beaten path (at least compared to what we can get in Alabama) selections. A stand out for me was a prie blanc from Valle d'Aosta in Italy that was suggested by the bartender and a taste of a strange Italian vermouth that's new to the US market. I wish I could remember the name. We ate the Mexican honey and manchego toasts and the chocolate bread pudding. The food was decent, but this is the kind of place that you go primarily to drink. We enjoyed our time (especially the staff) that we went back a few nights later.
Lunch was a small lamb pie from Myers of Keswick. We also partook in the breakfast at the hotel (on-site baked bread, eggs, meat, cheese, fruit served until 11:30) so as to not fill up too much before our 6:00 Eleven Madison Park reservation. I won't go into detail on our dinner since so much has already been said here about the EMP experience. We left feeling that the meal was absolutely worth the expense. My favorite special touch was sending a cook from Alabama to chat with us during our kitchen tour.
The weather was beautiful, so we did our little LES/East Village walking tour. We stopped for smoked fish and cream cheese on a bialy at Russ and Daughters, an egg cream from Ray's Candy, half sour pickles and pickled pineapple from The Pickle Guys and gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Everything was delicious. I liked comparing the Ray's egg cream to the one at EMP the night before. Very different, but special in their own ways.
After a short rest at the hotel, we walked around the Financial District to kill time before the parlor room at Dead Rabbit opened. I can see how this place might intimidate some (72+ cocktails to choose from), but I just loved it. They were having a special on oysters, so my husband partook in a pre-dinner snack. If you're into well made cocktails, this is a must-do. They are very serious about updating historical recipes to fit contemporary tastes.
Dinner was a glass of gragnano, fennel salad and brussels sprout pizza (all good, but I may have been a little drunk) at Motorino followed by late night banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery.
My husband and I split up to do our own things in the morning. The first stop on my agenda was shopping in SoHo. I didn't mean to do it, but cronuts and a DKA were purchased after seeing no line at Dominique Ansel Bakery. It was worth the less than 5 minute wait. I think I liked the DKA better than the cronut, honestly. My husband preferred the cronut.
I was in desperate need of fresh vegetables at this point in the trip, so I lunched at Sweetgreen. I had the September seasonal salad with kale, arugula, watermelon, mint and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. It was very good for what it was and definitely satiated my craving for veg. The husband took in a Barcelona soccer game at Legends.
We met up that evening at Amor y Amargo to start our East Village bar crawl. Amor y Amargo was my favorite stop of the night because of the great bartender, Lindsay, and the extensive selection of amari and vermouth offered. Subsequent stops were Pouring Ribbons, Booker and Dax (where we had pork buns and a cookie) and Mayahuel. Our bellies needed food after all that booze so we stopped in to Veselka for borscht and pierogies before calling it a night. Drinking in NYC can sure get expensive.
We hit up a few spots in Chinatown for lunch. There were pork and pumpkin buns from Golden Steamer, spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods and Macao style egg custard from Double Crispy Bakery. The noodles and pumpkin bun were the tour's stand outs. They both made walking through Chinatown's crowded streets worth it. We also walked through the Festival of San Gennaro, but nothing struck our fancy there.
The afternoon included a stop at the Blue Bottle Coffee siphon bar in Chelsea and another Num Pang sandwich for my husband (the pulled pork this time) in the Chelsea Market. The siphon bar was a cool experience; the barista there really knows his stuff. I really enjoyed the iced tea made from the dried coffee fruit.
We took a class about wines from Burgundy at the Institute of culinary Education in the evening. It was a fun way to spend a few hours while learning something. Dinner was a shackburger from the Madison Square Park Shake Shack. It was just what I needed after all of that wine. We finished the night with a half bottle of a grand cru Burgundy pinot noir back at Blue Ribbon Downing Street. Their half bottle selection is the largest I've ever seen.
Sadly, this was our last whole day. Lunch was Persian at Shalazeh in the Upper East Side before visiting the Met. We shared the hummus and a shirazi salad, which were both lovely. My husband loved his lamb stew as well. I stuck to the cold dishes as it was a warm day.
Our last meal was at Balthazar. We were seating in the back corner, so we got to enjoy the boisterous atmosphere while not being too overwhelmed by it. We ordered the bar steak, duck confit, a couple glasses of cremant d'alsace and a bottle of cabernet franc from the Loire valley. All very nice. We walked back to the hotel after dinner with a stop at the Big Gay Ice Cream shop for soft serve before bed.
Phew, that was long! There were a lot of places we visited that I'd not return to, but only because the options in NYC are so numerous. I truly enjoyed everything I ate during the week. I would absolutely go back to Txikito, Num Pang, Russ and Daughters, EMP, Xi'an Famous Foods, Golden Steamer and Balthazar for food and Blue Ribbon Downing Street, Dead Rabbit and Amor y Amaro for drinks. I regret not making it to Terroir and not having a meal at Buvette.
Again, thanks so much for all of your suggestions! I'd be glad to provide more details or answer any questions.