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Critique my NYC food itinerary, please!

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My partner and I are coming to town in May for a 3 night visit. I’m a regular visitor (from Toronto) but this will be my first non-business trip in a while and we’d like to make the best of it food-wise. On our previous trips, we’ve eaten at WD-50, Ma Peche, Milk Bar, Craftbar, Breslin, Russ & Daughters, Shake Shack, Chelsea Market, Eataly, Hanjan, Danji and other less notable places.

On this visit, we’ve opted to stay in the Upper West Side at NYLO (77th & Broadway) and we’ve done the major touristy stuff already. We’ll obviously be taking in other neighbourhoods (including a trip out to Brooklyn) but I’d love your suggestions and feedback on my proposed itinerary:

Thursday:
Dinner: Jacob’s Pickles or Red Farm
Drinks: Manhattan Cricket Club (any good?)
I made these choices assuming we’d be too tired to travel far but Is it worth taking a short cab ride to other food options a bit further and if yes, where should we go?

Friday:
Breakfast: Barney Greengrass
Lunch: Xi’an Famous Foods or Shake Shack
Dinner: Uncle Boons, Fatty Crab, return to Hanjan (my partner hasn't been there) or somewhere else (preferably ethnic).

Saturday:
Brunch: Probably the Brooklyn Flea, but if whether’s bad we’ll need Manhattan brunch suggestions
Pre-theatre drinks: Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station - read mixed reviews, is it worth a visit for a drink and oysters?
Post-theatre drinks: Rum House (love it here when there’s live music)
Later dinner: Minetta Tavern, Balthazar or The Dutch? Please also suggest good bars near these restaurants.

Sunday:
Breakfast: Murray’s Sturgeon - sounds like it’s takeout only, what do you recommend?

Other places we plan to visit: Big Gay Ice Cream, Levain Bakery, Zabars, Gray's Papaya, Sal and Carmine's Pizza

Additional questions:
- One of the reasons I liked Hanjan so much is the makgeolli (Korean farmer beer) where else do they serve it?
- Where are the best coffee shops in UWS?
- We love cocktails, what are your favourite cocktail bars in Manhattan?
- Is there a glaring omission in my itinerary?

Thanks so much. This board has already been so helpful!

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  1. I'm not a huge fan of Red Farm but many others like it. Do you have time to head to the outer boroughs at all? I realize this isn't the right board for specific suggestions but my wife and I have been taking the LIRR 2 stops to Flushing and have been having truly mind-blowing Chinese meals.

    I don't think you have any Italian there. I would throw in Babbo or a casual afternoon antipasti and wine at Otto if possible. Are you interested in Japanese?

    I think Grand Central Oyster Bar is great for oysters and drinks.

    I'm not sure what kind of cocktails you enjoy but I love the drinks and experience at

    http://amoryamargony.com/

    They are a bitters bar so there is no citrus in their concoctions but they do amazing riffs on Negronis, Manhattan's, etc.

    I wan to try that Hanjan now! I've never tried it!

    JeremyEG
    HomeCookLocavore.com

    4 Replies
    1. re: JeremyEG

      Thank you, Jeremy!

      I haven't ruled out going to Flushing since we have a friend in Queens. We have some great Chinese here in Toronto, but maybe not as diverse as Flushing. Any must-go-to places that you'd personally recommend?

      Re: Babbo, I haven't been but we did go to Batali's Osteria Mozza in L.A. I like the idea of casual afternoon antipasti. Would we feel out of place if we walked in wearing jeans and carrying shopping bags?

      Love Japanese, so we welcome suggestions especially of the fun and not-too-fancy kind.

      As for Hanjan, yes, I really like it there, more than Danji. Do try it and let me know what you think.

      1. re: foxymoron

        Otto is the casual spot that's open all day, not Babbo. Jeans and shopping bags perfectly find there. It's a short walk through Washington Sq Park from Soho to Otto.

        1. re: foxymoron

          My favorite Shushi right now is Shimizu on 51st Street. He is flexible as far as price but I wouldn't plan on Omakase for less than $70 or so. I took a friend there last week and we had a baby squid piece of sushi that blew everything I've ever had from Yasuda, Gari etc. away. It's also quiet and near the Theater district.

          Sorry, yes Otto is the casual place for the afternoon. Babbo is far more formal and requires either reservations or a wait.

          I haven't been in years but you might drop by Decibel, a grungy but really fun Sake Bar in the East Village. Have fun!
          JeremyEG
          HomeCookLovavore.com

        2. re: JeremyEG

          Also not a fan of red farm and thought uncle boons was just ok.

          For cocktails, weather up in tribeca is great and next door khe-yo, a laotian restaurant is also pretty good!

        3. GCOB is my go-to place for oyster indulgence. The selection is unbeatable.

          13 Replies
          1. re: linguafood

            Two votes for GCOB, so we're going. Thanks!

            1. re: foxymoron

              +1 for GCOB
              Also nice place for cocktails on the UWS. If you're a
              bourbon drinker they have a great one called "FEW",
              out of Illinois and not available many places:

              http://barley-grain-nyc.com/

              Sounds like you'll be having a great trip. Enjoy.

              1. re: foxymoron

                surprised, i am not a big fan of GCOB, nothing special, aqua grill has much better oysters and atmosphere.

                1. re: maryanne007

                  This is the first time I've heard of Aqua Grill.

                  How big is their oyster selection compared to GCOB?

                  1. re: linguafood

                    it is huge and by far of a higher quality (you can go to their website and they have a daily list of oysters available). Right now the beavertail oysters are absolutely the best I've ever had anywhere.

                    http://www.aquagrill.com

                    1. re: maryanne007

                      Sadly, the link to their oyster selection seems to be broken, so I'll have to take your word for it.

                      I've been pretty happy with the GCOB selection of roughly 30 different varieties, but am always open to new suggestions.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        thats too bad, maybe google will show some past selections, but they have a lot and i think the quality is a LOT better.

                        1. re: maryanne007

                          Honestly can't wait to check it out next time I'm in town. Thanks for the tip!

                          1. re: linguafood

                            Aquagrill is great in warm weather- they have outdoor seating and good soho people watching :)

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Ah, warm weather. I've heard of that somewhere before.... seems like a decade ago '-(

                          2. re: maryanne007

                            I think the attraction lies in the fact that it's in Grand Central station. Thanks for the Aquagrill suggestion. Another friend had suggested it, so I may end up there, too.

                            The oyster list is back online: https://www.dropbox.com/s/v6mbf6yn074...

                      2. re: linguafood

                        Aquagrill is fantastic for oysters, better than GCOB, not to mention entrees, no comparison... that being said, I do love the atmosphere at GCOB, it has an old New York charm.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Another vote for Aquagrill. It's been there forever and they are my go to place for oysters and seafood platter.
                          Their desserts are fantastic too.

                  2. The best bar near the Minetta Tavern is the bar at Minetta Tavern.

                    1. Thursday night dinner, you might fill in the Italian hole with Salumeria Rosi. It's a small place, so make reservations.

                      Friday night, if you go to Hanjan, you could try to grab a drink afterwards at the bar at the NoMad.

                      Saturday brunch, you could go back to the Breslin or Spotted Pig (a different April Bloomfield restaurant). We also really like Minetta Tavern, Public, etc. for brunch. But depends what kind of food you're looking for--egg & savory dishes vs sweet dishes vs lunch food. And how long you're willing to wait.

                      For post-theatre drinks, I love Lantern's Keep. Closed Sundays. Staffed by Milk & Honey folks. Make a reservation. They have a decent sized menu but are also excellent at making something custom to your tastes (boozy vs refreshing, bitter, spicy, fruity, favorite liquor base, etc). Chill, no standing environment.

                      For coffee, the UWS Joe the Art of Coffee isn't too far from where you are staying.

                      If you have a smartphone, download "The Scoop" app from the NYT. It'll give you well regarded coffee spots anywhere in the city, on a map.

                      I also didn't see pizza anywhere on your itinerary.

                      Minetta Tavern is very close to the new Burning Waters Cantina. You could walk east Sweetwater Social, or you could go west and try Whitehall, Wallflower, Little Branch, or Employees Only. It's not that far from Pegu Club either if you head south. All of these will probably be madness/standing room only on a Saturday night though.

                      Balthazar or The Dutch are not that far apart as well and nearby you'll find Pegu Club, 1534, Mother's Ruin, the Daily.

                      Best mixology:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/925938

                      Best breakfast/brunch in NYC:
                      It is (IMO) at the Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern.
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8093...

                      I don't see any time in the East Village on your schedule. This is basically cocktail bar central with PDT, Death & Co, Booker & Dax, Golden Cadillac, Amor y Amargo, Pouring Ribbons, Mayahuel, and others.

                      What about Mexican food? You could combine great cocktails and food at an Empellon restaurant.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: kathryn

                        @Kathryn Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions (and for clarifying Otto vs. Babbo). We have a lot to consider but some quick Qs for you:

                        Curious if you have any preference for our late night meal on the Saturday: Minetta Tavern, Balthazar or The Dutch?

                        Re: Empellon, are you referring to Tacqueria or the Cocina?

                        Thanks!

                        1. re: foxymoron

                          Depends what you are looking for menu-wise--we mainly go to Minetta Tavern for the steak, not sure I'd want steak if it's going to be that late at night, but that's just a personal preference. Whereas I can see doing a little meal of oysters, steak tartare, and duck confit at Balthazar at 11pm. But again, that's personal preference.

                          I like Empellon Cocina slightly more than Tacqueria. But a lot that has to do with the room and the location.

                        2. re: kathryn

                          -- Arte Around The Corner is a nice UWS coffeeshop...it's on Columbus near 73rd (and is, unsurprisingly, around the corner from a restaurant on 73rd called Arte which i know nothing about)...

                          -- +1 on GCOB...sit either at the counter or in the bar and order only raw oysters plus beverage of your choice (they have a nice wine by the glass list, as well as interesting beers sometimes)...

                        3. The scoop app misses a few uws coffee shops, irving farm has a new location on 79th and this list includes a couple more:
                          http://ilovetheupperwestside.com/coff...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            Thanks Irving Farm looks great and so close to the hotel!

                          2. Jacobs Pickle and Red Farm are both pretty gimmicky, I'd go to Telepan instead.

                            1. Try the Happy Hour cocktails at Jacques 1534 on Prince Street. (Downstairs)

                              1. I would pick Red Farm over Jacob's Pickles, but it sort of depends what you like. Red Farm is sort of Asiany. Jacob's Pickle's is sort of southerny. Someone else suggested Telepan which is, I agree, a much better restaurant, but also slower, more expensive, more quiet.

                                GCOB - only for oysters, unless things have changed a lot.

                                Murray's Sturgeon is takeout only. If it's nice weather, you could walk over to Riverside Park and have a picnic. However, if you are going to Zabar's and Barney Greengrass you don't need to go to Murray's too (unless you are crazy for smoked fish).

                                Gray's Papaya - good hot dogs, but on a short trip, I don't know if it's worth it.

                                Cocktails - if you like gin, there is a place in the village called Whitehall - an amazing gin list (pages and pages) and the bartenders know their stuff. They have a sister restaurant nearby that is similar but for scotch (I think - I am not a scotch fan).

                                Saturday Manhattan brunch - Breslin, but there will be a line.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: plf515

                                  +1 on Whitehall...the food i've had there is very good too...

                                2. Red Farm is a great. I really didn't want to like it because I'm generally not a fan of fusion Chinese food, but it really is very good.

                                  Fatty Crab is my pick if you've not already tried it. Great beef rendang and pork buns.

                                  Barney Greengrass I would do on a Saturday or Sunday as that's when they have the latkes. My suggestion is the share: nova scrambled eggs, plate of sturgeon and the latkes

                                  Oyster Bar is perfectly fine for oysters and cocktails. There is a happy hour there I believe. For post theatre drinks you should also consider the Campbell Apartments. No live music, but a beautiful room, with beautiful drinks.

                                  Minetta Tavern is the best of the bunch you've listed and it's close to Little Branch, a very lovely little cocktail bar.

                                  Sunday is when you should go to Brooklyn. I'm a fan of Buttermilk Channel for brunch.

                                  Other spots to consider: Battersby, Henry Public, Toro, Han Dynasty, Ippudo Westside, Maysville, Mighty Quinn's BBQ

                                  1. Manhattan Cricket Club is good for the neighborhood, but wouldn't make any top ten list of great cocktail bars. I'd add Booker and Dax to your list. It's part of the Momofuku family, so you can have great cocktails plus their famous pork buns.

                                    Jacob's Pickle is often very busy with long waits - so long that I've never eaten there myself, despite living nearby. Their menu is very focused on beer, whereas the Cricket Club is definitely more about cocktails. Just something to consider if you'll be drinking with dinner and then after.

                                    No great coffee shops on the UWS. As Kathryn said, there is a Joe not far. Irving Farm is on 79th.

                                    For what it's worth, you can buy great Makgeolli in stores. You want to find the type that has an expiration date. We drink this brand: http://mykoreaneats.com/wp-content/up.... Don't know how to call it, though.

                                    1. GCOB is weak on everything other than oysters, but I love the room and atmosphere. Oysters and drinks, you can't go wrong.

                                      Minetta Tavern over Dutch, I think Dutch is so overrated, Balthazar is fine but so noisy and the food really doesn't wow.

                                      Not a fan of Red Farm, I want to like them but I've yet to find a single entree I like there, only the dim sum and apps are good and those are a mixed bag. I'd suggest Hakkasan for Chinese food.

                                      There are many great places for pizza,what kind do you enjoy?

                                      1. To complicate things even further, you are fairly close to Gazala's, Druze/Middle Eastern cooking.

                                        For your Brooklyn day on Saturday you can visit Brighton Beach for some Russian/Uzebk/Georgian fest for something a little different. We can help with the selections on the Outer board

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Ziggy41

                                          We are big fans of Middle Eastern. How does Gazala compare to Balaboosta? I know it's further away, but I just picked up the Balaboosta cookbook (without any context, just based on the cover and it was deeply discounted) and am now curious about Admony's restaurant.

                                          1. re: foxymoron

                                            They are quite different. Gazala is more of a classic, simple Arab/middle eastern. More suited for a light meal with its array of hummus, and the best Bourekas this side of Haifa, close to the Druze village where Gazala is from. Thats not to say you cant have a nice heavier meal here

                                            Balaboosta is more of a modern interpretation of Israeli/Middle Eastern cuisine.

                                            So it depends on what you are looking for. Einat's new restaurant BTW is opening...Googling.. Today! Bar Bolonat. So thats another option I suppose

                                        2. Thanks to everyone who provided their feedback. Due to a long day of flight delays and poor weather, we didn't visit all the places we hoped to, but still had a very satisfying visit. Here's a quick rundown:

                                          Barney Greengrass - A unique establishment we wouldn't find anywhere else which is why I'm happy we visited. However, the prices and the quality of food (good not amazing) mean we probably won't return again. I liked the sturgeon sandwich and my partner had the Nova Scotia smoked salmon and eggs but overall, preferred the fish at Russ & Daughters.

                                          Oyster Bar at Grand Central - Loved the room, the selection and the overall experience (another uniquely NYC place), but for a place that prides itself as an Oyster Bar, I found the oysters sloppily assembled with a couple tipped on their sides, spilling the coveted juices into the dish.

                                          Uncle Boons - Overall, my favourite dining experience on this trip. Since one of my dining partners has an aversion to cilantro, I especially appreciate places that accommodate her, so we were very pleased that they were more than willing to take the herb out of every dish and put it on the side for the rest of us who love cilantro. Standouts: betal leaf wrap (meng kum) and crab fried rice (kow pat pu).

                                          Attaboy - Turned out to be the only cocktail bar we would visit, but I'm glad we came here. While I was in a dark liquor sipping drink mood, my drinking mates gave the barkeeps some open-minded instructions and we were very pleased with the cocktails they came up with. Would recommend this for anyone who has a high tolerance for loud music and an open mind towards cocktails.

                                          Maison Premier (Brooklyn) - Love the space and even though the restaurant wasn't close to capacity, the service was EXTREMELY slow. A simple basket of baked goods took a full hour to arrive and our server was MIA for much of the meal. The oyster prep, however, was done perfectly, much better than the Oyster Bar. Overall, the food was underwhelming, but I would return for more oysters and cocktails.

                                          Balaboosta - Had a late meal here and admit I was just OK. Our table was literally an inch away from the next couples (one pair on each side) which I know is not uncommon in space-tight NYC, but still, it was akward. The raved about cauliflower was just OK, on the oily-side but the chicken was perfectly cooked.

                                          I wish had more time but since we're only a short flight away, we'll be back soon! Thanks again everyone!