The Experts Choice
This is my first post but I have been watching the board for quite a while and I have picked up some wonderful tips – THANKS ALL!
We are visiting NYC again later this year and have eaten at some wonderful places on our previous visits.
However I thought I’d ask you for your help by naming your favourite restaurant in the following categories:
Best Italian - We are looking for a restaurant that will give us a real Italian experience.
Not To Be Missed Restaurant
Best Sunday Brunch
We are staying in Battery Park City but are happy to travel and price is irrelevant, we just want to experience some great food.
Thanks in advance for your help.
When is your trip? Your top picks may be fully booked already if you coming in less than 30 days. For example, Peter Luger books up 6-8 weeks beforehand.
Where did you eat at before (so we don't suggest repeats)? And what did you think/like/dislike?
Best Italian - Assume you want traditional/authentic and NOT Italian-American/red sauce. Any preference as to region or favorite dish? How upscale or not? I love Babbo and Scarpetta, Maialino is also good, but some people prefer Del Posto or Marea or Lincoln. The latter 3 I mentioned are a little fancier.
Best Chinese/Asian - Way too broad a request as it lumps in Thai, Japanese, Korean, Loatian, etc. and within Chinese you also have multiple sub-genres such as Sichuan, Taiwanese, Cantonese, etc. in addition to dim sum parlors, dumpling houses, hand pulled noodle shops.
I love so many Asian restaurants in NYC... it's hard to pick a favorite. Momofuku Ssam Bar. Takashi. Blue Ribbon Izakaya. Kin Shop. Etc. All VERY different.
Best Steakhouse - What cut do you prefer? Are sides important or not? What kind of atmosphere, modern or old school? Do you like dry aged meat, and if so, how funky? I love Minetta but it's not a traditional steakhouse. Wolfgang's or Keens might be more your style if you want a traditional one. Also some of the best steak I've had isn't at a steakhouse -- Resto, Tertulia, Craft, Momofuku Ssam.
Not To Be Missed Restaurant - really open and kind of vague without knowing more about your tastes, where you're traveling FROM, what your home town is weak in, what cuisines you can't find at home. Some might chose a little hole in the wall in Chinatown. Others might say Eleven Madison Park.
Best Sunday Brunch - again depends. What kind of food -- breakfasty or lunch? Creative or traditional? Do you like savory and egg based or more waffles, pancakes, French toast? etc.
Thanks for your helpful info.
Our trip is not until the summer so hopefully we still have plenty of time to make reservations.
We are from London UK and our tastes are quite eclectic. We are happy with a hole in the wall through to 3 Michelin star restaurant it is the quality of the food and atmosphere that attract us most.
We've been to Babbo and Marea which we liked very much but we are looking for something more traditional this time. Region of Italy is irrelevant.
We've somehow left out Chinese cuisine on previous visits and so we'd really like to try some this time. Sorry in the UK most Chinese restaurants tend to be Cantonese so I guess that will probably be more to our palate but we also love Thai.
We have been to Wolfgang's, Bobby Van's and Quality Meats. All different but good in their own way. I think I am coming down on the side of traditional - Peter Luger v's Keens. Might also try Club A.
There are certain restaurants that I would recommend to people visiting London and I guess I was just after the same recommendations from you New Yorkers. Which restaurant is your favourite irrespective of cuisine/ price/ neighbourhood.
For Sunday brunch we are looking for somewhere that offers the usual breakfast/lunch items plus has a great atmosphere - ideally without too many children running around. We don't mind children we just we don't want to be surrounded by them if we can help it.
I hope this additional info helps and thanks again for your info.
Read through my post.
Even though you seem to be adventurous, note that you only asked for Italian, Chinese, steak, and brunch... Which gave the opposite impression.
NYC has a lot more to offer, so just keep that in mind.
I have my favorites but we have many visitors here from other cosmopolitan cities and also many also from rural areas. So I find it helpful to know a little more before making a suggestion, especially since my tastes may not align with yours.
My most visited is probably Momofuku Ssam but that's also a function of constantly changing menu and reason all price point.
You're welcome. I hope you also end up finding some more obscure cuisines or uniquely NY or American foods (BBQ, burgers, steak, etc :).
For reservations do note that Annisa books something like 3 months in advance.
And if you want Luger, gotta call 6-8 weeks ahead.
Le Bernardin is on the first business day of the month--they open up the entire next month at once, and you must call. Their online reservations are only about a month ahead.
Those three should be on your radar for not conforming to the one month ahead rule. There are others (esp. small tasting menu only restaurants) who have "non standard" reservation policies as well like Ko.
The easiest tool to book reservations is OpenTable.com but some restaurants don't put all their tables online, or put them online after taking reservations after phone for a few days, etc. And not every place is on OpenTable.
Here's a guide I've written for other visitors, though it is not gluten free specific.
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 Macy's/Herald Square/Penn Station/Empire State Building:
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
As Kathryn said, some of these categories are highly debatable :) Also, I don't proclaim to be an expert.
Best Italian - Highly debatable. Del Posto has a wow factor, if I had to choose a place to eat Italian food, I'd probably schlep to Al Di La in Brooklyn.
Best Chinese/Asian - Overwhelmingly broad. If I had to pick one Chinese restaurant to have a special meal at, it'd be Hakkasan but you have one in London.
The food at China Blue is very good but they still have service issues so I'm reluctant to recommend it to visitors.
As for other Asian restaurants, there are many many wonderful restaurants ranging from traditional to fusion.
You might want to consider Kyo Ya or 15 East (omakase, at the bar)
Best Steakhouse - I really enjoy Peter Luger but you can get amazing steak in so many restaurants in NYC.
Not to be missed - Really depends on what you enjoy. For an exceptional meal you can rely on Annisa. Or River Cafe which is really magical, but in Brooklyn.
Best sunday brunch - Brunch to me means dim sum, if you're looking for something more Western, then NoMad or Egg since you're willing to consider Brooklyn.
I strongly recommend you do one of the walking food tours that kathryn linked to, i recently did the chinatown route with visiting friends and everyone really enjoyed it.
Asian- Momofuku ssam, Zabb elee
Italian- il buco alimentari, bar pitti
Steakhouse- i'm not helpful (vegetarian!) but i can say the sides at keen's are well done
Not to be missed: in the summertime there are tons of free concerts in the parks- pick up some snacky dinner treats at despana, or chelsea market, grab a bottle of wine and have a picnic.
Sunday brunch: i love prune but hate waiting, they don't take reservations.
First I'll disagree with everyone above that Momofuku Ssam is an "Asian" restaurant. They've always described themselves as American, and while there are Asian influences here and there, I'd guess maybe half of the two-dozen or so savory dishes have Asian ingredients in them at any given time. Sometimes less, sometimes more. I'd venture to say they've the same percentage of dishes with Asian elements as the menu at Jean-George, but no one's calling JG an "Asian" restaurant.
"Best Italian" covers a lot of ground. If you've been to Babbo and liked it, you could go to their fancier sister Del Posto. Lincoln has been great lately, and every month or so they put a focus on a different region of Italy, and have a themed tasting menu as well as a number of a la carte dishes. Currently it's Emilia-Romagna, but by the time you're here it'll be something different.
Maialino and Lupa both have a Roman theme, and tend to keep things pretty straightforward but done really, really well.
Chinese/Asian - where to even start? That's like saying "Best European" - other than soy products and ginger, some Asian cuisines have very little in common with each other. Japanese and Sichuan are about as similar as Italian and French. Maybe less so.
That said, I find Cantonese (dinner) is best done with a group since many dishes are family-sized, but currently I probably like Fuleen Seafood and Ping's the best for Manhattam. Dim Sum is another matter, in which case I'd probably do Nom Wah Tea Parlor or Dim Sum Go Go.
Do you like spicy? That's kind of an important consideration. Zabb Elee is great, but can melt your face off if you're not prepared. Xi'an Famous Foods is fantastic, but (while not as spicy as Zabb) some dishes can singe a bit. I also like N'Gam for creative, modern Thai, and Kin Shop.
Steakhouse - honestly, and I've said this before, but if you've got a good steakhouse where you're coming from, I can't see the reason to visit one in another city when you could go somewhere for something you can't get back at home. I'm not saying "a steak is a steak" - obviously quality is important, but I imagine you have quality steakhouses in London. If it's more for the old-school NYC experience, then sure - Keen's or Luger's. I tend to lean towards Keen's. American Cut is new but has the advantage of having much better sides & apps than most traditional steakhouses. Out in Queens is M. Wells Steakhouse, as well.
If it's just, at some point you'll want a great steak - go to Minetta Tavern and order the Cote de Boeuf for two.
Brunch - I'm awful fond of Public.
Not to be missed? Momofuku Ko, if you can get a reservation. EMP. A softshell crab sandwich at Nathan's followed by a walk down the boardwalk and then a pizza at Totonno's Coney Island. Kaiseki at Kyo-Ya, in the Tatami Room if you can. Maybe WD-50, if you're fans of Heston over there. Aquavit (do you have Nordic in London?) - or Aska, if you're adventurous. The River Cafe - they're overpriced, yeah, but to take in that view at sundown is about as transporting and romantic an experience as exists in the city. Wander around and graze the food at Smorgasburg. Katz's Deli. Lox and herring at Russ & Daughters. There's a lot to do here.
What about Mexican / South American? Any interest? I'm guessing there's not much of that to be found in London.
Thanks for your comprehensive reply.
We do have steak houses in the UK but I'm afraid they are no where nearly as good as the ones in America. Ours tend to be chain restaurants which just don't offer the quality or choice of cuts that you do. Sorry fellow Brits but it is true. Husband is a real meat guy and so I think we'll go to Keens.
I'm not one of those expert, but I just want to share with you my best experience on an italian restaurant away from home (I'm italian). So every time I go to NY there's only one place that remind me of my crazy country: MALATESTA
Just wondering… why going to NY to eat italian when you are just a 1hr40 flight from Italy??