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Help with food itinerary

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Hi nice people,

I live in the US for the last 6 months (Chicago) and in April I plan a vacation in NY with my wife. It’s our first time there and as food lovers, we want to explore the food scene in the best possible way.
We will spend 5 nights in NY, but I’m not planning to schedule all the meals in restaurants because we really want to also try interesting local cheap things (pizza, burgers, delis, food trucks, etc.).

I was doing my homework, and came up with a short list of restaurants for some of the meals, for others- I’m still debating. I would really appreciate your assistance.
So, for my itinerary, I want to schedule 2 lunches and 3 dinners. Unfortunately, we’re on a budget, and therefore we will try to enjoy the really fine-dining places during lunches.

Lunch #1 + lunch #2-
So we have two lunches to schedule. I want them to be as amazing as possible. As I see it, my main “competitors” for the two lunches are (and they are ranked by my current interest level):
• Le Bernardin- at first, I thought LB would be a must for us. I was really amazed by the reviews I read. However, I’m a bit afraid. Sea-food was never our major food component- we love it, but always prefer meat. I thought that maybe because of that we should try LB, to be overwhelmed by what this place can do with sea-food, but I’m afraid to be disappointed.
• Gramercy Tavern
• Jean George
• Bouley
• Gotham Bar & Grill
• Del Posto
What do you think? Any thoughts on what should I choose? What combination will be a good one? I want the two restaurants to be diverse in terms of the experience.

Dinner #1-
No options here. Peter Luger is a must for us.

Dinner #2 + Dinner #3-
Here I’m really debating- want to try good restaurants. Interesting restaurants. Places that will leave us with amazing memories. However, my money was already spent, so I need to find places with a reasonable pricing (around ~$30 for entrees…?)
I thought about going to The NoMad for one evening (hey, if I can’t afford EMP, at least I’ll try NoMad). But I’m having hard time narrowing the options for the second evening. Would love to hear suggestions about it (and also if NoMad is a good choice or maybe pick totally different things).

Thanks a lot for the help!

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  1. Tell us more about what you like. Favorite spots in Chicago? Where did you live before that?

    Le Bernardin is excellent but many dishes are subtle and nuanced. Not bold and in your face. If you prefer meat, not sure that you'd love it as much.

    Your lunch list doesn't seem all that diverse to me... They're all similar in terms of genre except for Del Posto.

    Book Luger ASAP. They fill up quickly.

    For dinners 2 and 3, hard to recommend without knowing what you like. Momofuku Ssam? Txikito? You have a lot of French/Italian/American on your list. How about something else?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks a lot Kathryn!
      To give a little background- I'm a graduate student here in Chicago. Originally from Israel. Have to admit, had some pretty rough time here since arrived (+ I'm a student. Low budget), so couldn't really explore the Chicago food scene. From what I did have a chance to try, my favorite places are Girl and The Goat (was amazing), David Burke (wonderful stakes) and Avec.

      Great tip about LB, maybe I will drop it. I know that my other options are not diverse in the genre but I guess this is what we like (I don't care that the genre is similar, just want the experience to be different). Maybe I'll try a good Asian place for dinner (you recommend Ssam?), but for our fine-dining lunches- I don't know, those seemed the best from what I read. I understand that you don't agree? :)
      For the other dinners (2+3)- so as you can understand, we love French, Italian, American. We don't like Mexican. We're fine with Asian.

      1. re: OaOmOt

        BTW, just got off the phone with Peter Luger and they offered me only 4:45 or earlier on my first choice of date on a weekend.

        1. re: kathryn

          Yes, happened to me as well earlier today. Saw your message and wanted to reserve a table but on my first choice (Saturday) they had only 4:45 or 10:45. So had to change my schedule and leave Peter Luger to a different day.
          Anyway, thanks a lot for the tip! Without you I would probably be left without a table at Luger at all :)

    2. The $38, two course lunch at Jean-Georges was absolutely top notch in our opinion and an incredible deal.

      1. You should consider Bouley at lunch; $55 for a multi-course tasting menu with choices is a great treat!

        The NoMad is wonderful for lunch, brunch or dinner. Had another terrific dinner at The NoMad this week.

        Betony is another excellent choice for lunch; they have a $38 two course (app. + main). The Chef and General Manager are EMP alumni.

        1. Regarding lunch:

          Bouley is one of the best lunch deals in the city, $55 for five courses, and you get to pick your dishes from a pretty good selection. Given your lackluster feelings towards seafood, they'd be a better call than Le Bern. I prefer them to Jean-George as well - you get more for your money (you'd only get three courses for the same $$) and the food is just as (if not more) interesting IMHO. The ambiance is nicer as well - given your tastes in Chicago, I think you'd prefer the reclaimed farmhouse vibe of Bouley to the more Midtown "corporate" one at JG. (And Le Bernardin, for that matter)

          Which means, if you're going to keep things diverse, don't go French for Lunch 2. Del Posto would be the most "different" of the options above, and they're also a great deal - $39 for three courses, or $49 to add a pasta course. With all the extra amuses and whatnot, it's a steal.

          Dinners - NoMad's not a bad choice but the bill can very quickly add up there. Some other good choices with entrees in your range (or less) -

          Momofuku Ssam Bar (or Noodle Bar)
          Babbo
          ACME
          Public
          Marc Forgione
          Skal
          Txikito
          Salinas
          Blue RIbbon

          If you can stretch the budget to a prix fixe (but one at the lower end) there are a number of really good options - something like Aska in Williamsburg ($79 for 7 courses most nights) is putting out really interesting, memorable rustic-modern (if that makes any sense) Nordic fare. It might be cool to do something like that one night and for the other night just grab pizza or do Chinatown or something at the cheaper end.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sgordon

            Thanks for the details re Bouley. It will be our 'special' lunch next visit.

            Also Babbo does lunch Tuesday through Saturday and it was an easier res to get. I honestly think one could have walked in without one. We were in the area 45 minutes before our time and just checked and were seated right away.

            1. re: sgordon

              My foodie friends from Chicago loved Ssam and Babbo.

            2. Thank you all for the great recommendations! Already made reservation for lunch in Bouley after sgordon's great recommendation.
              I noticed that no one even mentioned Gramercy Tavern as an option. It is interesting because my impression, from reading reviews and looking at the restaurants' websites, was that GT is a great option.
              So, when thinking about lunch- GT is not in the same level as Bouley and Jean-George?

              3 Replies
              1. re: OaOmOt

                I love GT. I go pretty regularly. Its been around for so long and since its not run by a celebrity chef, it isn't among the places people talk about endlessly and breathlessly. But its a great choice. I prefer it to JG. Never had a bad experience at GT. I also think of it as very reasonably priced for what you get.

                Also, if you like Girl and the Goat, I think Ssam bar will be right up your alley.

                1. re: OaOmOt

                  GT - an old standby, a NYC classic at this point. I think Michael Anthony's done a great job and defined his own style there really well - he's not just filling Tom Colicchio's shoes. I like the ambience there a LOT more than at JG. Though I've never been for lunch, I assume the service is as exemplary as it is at night. (For service, they've always been the standard-bearer.)

                  It looks like a good deal - $58 for a five course tasting (though no choices - you'll both be having the same menu) and the a la carte prices are very reasonable. It'd be sufficiently different than Bouley - though for a starker difference, going Italian is probably your best bet.

                  I wouldn't do Bouley AND JG though - they're too similar, both modern-French-with-Asian-influences. And between the two - putting aside how good the deal is - I just like Bouley better personally, both in terms of food and ambiance. Service can be up or down at both, frankly. I've always had good experiences with staff at Bouley but I know some others haven't. At JG, I often found the staff just kind of robotic.

                  Agree with BKeats re: Ssam Bar, especially for dinner. It's no-rez so you'd have to wait for a table, but if you go early enough you should be fine without too long a wait, and there's 100 bars within a block to hang at until they call you.

                  1. re: OaOmOt

                    GT feels like a more relaxed environment, and while the food is gorgeous and flavorful it doesn't quite look like precious modern art as it can at JG.