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What can't I get in DC?

Planning to visit New York for 3 nights. Will be seeing at least 2 plays on Broadway and staying in the midtown area. I live in the D.C. area so am used to a fair variety of cuisines. (For instance, there are many Ethiopian restaurants walking distance to our house in the burbs.) I was wondering if there's any cuisine or restaurant you would recommend as something that I can't get at home. Spicy or not is fine. There should be at least some vegetarian options. What do you think? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Kajitsu is a one of a kind vegetarian restaurant in midtown east. There's nothing like it in DC and few like it outside of Japan. The menu changes each month, but you can get an idea of what they serve by looking at past months.

    I'd also suggest looking at Ma Peche and Ivan Ramen's Slurp Shop.

    1. Try and get out of midtown for this one. Look for more specific types of regional cuisines. We have some great Filipino places, like Jeepney. Places that specialize in different regions of China. Like Lotus Blue, which specializes in Yunnan cuisine.
      For more of an experience, try places like Hurricane Club.

      Good luck,

      1 Reply
      1. re: ediatopia

        Hurricane Club? The fact they don't have that in DC should be viewed as a net positive for DC. Its ok if you want boozy umbrella drinks but for food? I think not.

        I would say try Ssam Bar. One of my favorite places in the world. Great atmosphere, unique food.

      2. When are you coming? What days of the week?

        What plays will you be seeing & where are the theaters? Dining pre theatre often has a lot of timing constraints and you won't want to be too far away or else you'll miss your curtain. Also you'll want to make reservations for pre theatre meals ASAP.

        Given that you live in the DC suburbs, I'm guessing you have eaten your way around the inexpensive ethnic restaurants in the area. Yes? No? For those unfamiliar with DC, it might to list out what you eat a lot of already (Sichuan, Peruvian, etc).

        Maybe it makes more sense to focus on high end restaurants (possibly those with prix fixe lunch deals) as NYC has more fine dining options, or perhaps niche/fusion places (Momofuku? Italian American? Danji?).

        Or on "quintessential NY" foods though this is a little harder if you're stuck in Midtown. Also a little more challenging if you're a vegetarian and can't eat smoked salmon, pastrami, etc. though I am assuming pizza and bagels and pickles will be alright?

        However, it's very difficult to make recommendations without a budget in mind. If you could provide that information, it could really help narrow things down. What's your budget per person BEFORE tax, too, wine/drinks?

        1. Here's what I've written for other visitors & it may 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.

          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:

          Where to have dinner before a Broadway show/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:

          1. New York has food from just about every corner of the earth so I think you would get more interesting responses if you posted what national cuisines aren't in DC rather than have people here try to guess. Most people do know that DC has an overload of Ethiopian restaurants (and Thai) but probably aren't sure if you can get Belgian, Swedish, Korean or Peruvian where you live. Also kind of pointless to suggest a unique chef driven place like Dirt Candy if you say you aren't looking for quirky or don't want to stray too far from the theater district.

            1. Just speaking from the perspective of downtown DC (and not the 'burbs or exburbs), I would say high-end sushi, ramen, and Chinese would be my food groups.

              That is not to say that DC doesn't have high-end sushi (see: Sushi Taro), or that it doesn't have ramen (see: Toki), or that downtown DC doesn't have Chinese (well, ok, it doesn't really have Chinese), it's just that the diversity and quality of those food groups are a bit more eclectic and interesting than what you will find in the beltway.

              As far as restaurants that I would hit up in NYC, if I was coming from in/around the DC area, I think they would include some combo of the following:

              15 East
              Totto (or Minca, or Yuji or maybe Ivan)
              Mission Chinese

              Hope that helps, enjoy your visit.

              4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  OP did mention there should be some vegetarian options available. I'm not sure Ko is the best choice them if they need a no-meat, no-fish menu. Ditto for 15 East, and any ramen joint, to a lesser extent (I can't recall if all of your suggestions have vegetarian options).

                  1. re: kathryn

                    For vegetarian ramen Ipuddo makes an excellent wasabi shoyu ramen and has a good number of veg appetizers/non-ramen options.
                    The midtown location could be a good pre-theater choice since they open at 5pm

                  2. re: ipsedixit


                    Really? There's no shortage of neapolitan pizza in DC.

                  3. What about Indian? Someone from DC once told me there's a shortage of good Indian there. If true, look at Malai Marke and Chote Nawab

                    She also loves the Austrian stuff: Wallse, Seasonal

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ziggy41

                      I had a great Indian dinner at Rasika in DC but maybe there are few good Austrian restaurants there.

                      1. re: Ziggy41

                        But I would be careful about assuming that a NYC restaurant is providing an accurate representation of a foreign cuisine.

                        Might be better to seek out chef-driven restaurants in Manhattan where the chef 's creations are not only unavailable in DC, they aren't available in the other 4 boroughs of NYC either.

                        1. re: Ziggy41

                          DC does Indian pretty well, esp. high-end Indian with Rasika and Bombay Club.

                          Austrian might be a good area to explore.

                        2. An oyster or seafood pan roast at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, plus 15 varieties of fresh oysters.
                          Edit: nevermind, it's not a vegetarian place.

                          1. Thanks for all the input. I'm a bit overwhelmed. Let me answer a few of your many questions and see if that narrows things down at all.

                            We are coming in only a week, so any restaurant that requires a month's notice is out of the running. I actually do eat some meat, but not much, and only if it's kosher. I'm well aware NYC has better kosher delis than DC. Figured that was better posted on the kosher boards. In any case, DH is not vegetarian and I do eat fish, but not shellfish.

                            In terms of likes, we like most Asian cuisines we've had so far except Japanese. And yes that includes sushi. (Please don't tell me we've never had the good stuff. We've been to Japan and didn't like it there either.) Also not interested in Indian for allergy reasons. We eat Thai, tapas, Mexican and Italian on a regular basis. I'm guessing NYC has much better Chinese than home and the suggestion to go somewhere with regional specialties is appealing. Filipino sounds interesting as does chef driven restaurants. I heard the chef of Dirt Candy interviewed on the radio - sounds good if I could fit that in. Not sure about prices - probably want one splurge place and some other more moderate ones.

                            We will arrive next Thursday, probably early afternoon and are staying at the Staybridge Suites Times Square. Don't know what we'll do in the afternoon, but have tickets to The Book of Mormon (Eugene O'Neill Theatre
                            230 West 49th Street) at 7 pm that night. We will probably grab a snack before and something light afterwards. Suggestions for something nearby would be appreciated.

                            Friday morning my husband has a work commitment at NYU Law School which may include lunch. I will amuse myself. Any suggestions for food related activities, cooking classes or tours would be good. Not sure what we'll do for the afternoon. Would like a nice restaurant for that night.

                            Saturday we have tickets for Pippin ( Music Box Theatre
                            239 West 45th Street) at 8 pm. Are there any pretheater places you recommend nearby?

                            Not sure what we'll do the rest of the time. Just to give you more ideas of locations, -we'd like to see the Tenement Museum and the 9/11 Memorial at some point. Probably will also see another museum or two.

                            Thanks in advance for your help.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: jerirl

                              Living in DC (but from NY), I can tell you my must haves on every trip, the first one of which won't work for you, but I am sharing anyway. And these are very broad, I know:
                              1. Sushi
                              2. Italian
                              3. Chinese
                              4. Bagels
                              5. Pizza

                              (In that order, meaning we don't always get to the pizza.)
                              I know you said you eat Italian all the time, but the choices, quality, variety in NY are far superior - imo - than what we have in DC.

                              1. re: jerirl

                                Sushi - You probably never had the good stuff ;)

                                Dirt Candy - This is actually a good choice even for non vegetarians. I think, never been. Couldnt get a table last time I tried.

                                Near Eugene O'Neill: Ippudo (Is Ramen ok?), Danji, Gazala's Place, Pure Thai. Pure is not your average Thai. Or how about Ethiopian (Meske, Queen of Sheba)

                                Near Pippin: Same applies. You'll be closer to Mercato and Larb Ubol (Great Isan Thai). Another option is the new Gotham West Market. Try the smoked whitefish at Ivan's, great tapas across and 6 other options

                                1. re: Ziggy41

                                  Dirt Candy often posts last minute tables/cancellations to Twitter:

                                2. re: jerirl

                                  Even though you get Italian food on a regular basis, the restaurant Mercato, which is convenient to where you are staying and the theatre district, has a few specialties from Puglia and Sicily that are not commonly seen on menus anywhere in America. In particular I would draw your attention to fave e cicoria, friselline pugliese, trenette al pesto trapanese -- and you can see from the menu that there are plenty of ways to put together an interesting vegetarian or meat meal and they also have interesting dishes made with sardines, octopus and anchovies.


                                  You might also take a look at the menu of Toloache, which has locations both in the theatre district and downtown. It is Mexican food but again, some unusual creations, and there is also a solely vegetarian menu on offer:



                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                    barber, that Trenette at Mercato is fantastic. Had it twice already.

                                  2. re: jerirl

                                    > Any suggestions for food related activities, cooking classes or tours would be good. Not sure what we'll do for the afternoon. Would like a nice restaurant for that night.

                                    Take a look at the Lower East Side and/or West Village self-guided tours I posted above.

                                    Also consider Scarpetta for dinner that night as they have a pretty long vegetarian menu.

                                    1. re: jerirl

                                      There's some pretty bad sushi in Japan as well.

                                    2. Thanks again. I have gone through many of your suggestions below, but am still looking.

                                      As mentioned, for Thursday we have 7 pm tickets to The Book of Mormon and will either grab a sandwich or ramen nearby.

                                      Friday we are going to The Comedy Cellar for the 10:30 show. This would be the night for a nice relaxed dinner. What do you suggest? Remember, we really don't like Japanese (unfortunately at least half the restaurants suggested so far). Also, there should be some interesting vegetarian options. I looked at Dirt Candy but they are booked for at least 2 months! I need suggestions for a place I can book with "only" a week's notice.

                                      Saturday we have the 8 pm show, so will pick someplace in the theater district. Hakkasan and Mercato look like possibilities. Do you recommend somewhere else with pretheater specials? How far in advance would these places need reservations?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: jerirl

                                        You started by asking "What can't I get in DC?", jricrl, and I suspect the best NY answer is "spontaneity."

                                        At least for Friday, start at the top of Ninth Avenue, on 57th, and walk south with your partner -between that street and 42nd, you'll eventually find what you need. Apart from Wisconsin above M and 18th in Madame's Organ, you won't find the wealth of culinary possibility that presents itself to inquisitive pedestrians in any other American city.

                                        Washingtonians (and I used to be one) can overthink things; my modest advice is to absorb what you will on CH, then lose yourself in the moment and act independently -Manhattan makes that vivaciousness so easy.

                                        1. re: jerirl


                                          For your Friday night dinner, take a look at the menus for Junoon, which has a vegetarian tasting menu but also many interesting vegetarian ala carte options. It is really a very lovely restaurant. Sorry don't know their availability for your nights but I have made same-day reservations in the past.


                                          1. re: barberinibee

                                            Scroll up where the OP posted the following:
                                            "Also not interested in Indian for allergy reasons. "

                                            1. re: barberinibee

                                              and if you order the tasting menu at junoon, chef vikas khanna will probably come to your table and chat for a bit, just to make sure you're enjoying your dinner.

                                              ... you can't get that in dc :)

                                            2. re: jerirl

                                              For sandwiches before Book of Mormon, I would go here:

                                              Mooncake might also work, I have a pescatarian friend who loves their stuff:

                                              For pre-Comedy Cellar, you could go to the aforementioned Scarpetta (Italian). I see some early reservations available on OpenTable for next Friday there. It's relaxed and a bit upscale but not super formal. And you'd have plenty of time to get over to the Comedy Cellar.

                                              For something more casual, you could also do Perilla (American/fusion) or Kin Shop (Thai), both of which are closer to Comedy Cellar. Note: the Kin Shop menu looks shorter than it really is, make sure you look at the "specials" menu as well.

                                              For Chinese near the theatre district, we usually end up at Szechuan Gourmet (Sichuan). They take reservations. It's nowhere near as upscale/pricey as Hakkasan, but it's delicious. And spicy!

                                            3. oh, I missed that about allergies and Indian. Sorry!

                                              How about food from Denmark? Do that have that in DC? You can ask the chef for a vegetarian chef's choice menu, and their regular vegetarian dishes are interesting to be sure.