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.
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.
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.
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?
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 Museum Mile (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney, Guggenheim, etc) on the UES:
Where to Eat Near Grand Central/Midtown East:
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
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.