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PDX to NYC Late May - Research done, but would appreciate some help

Travelling from Portland, OR to NYC late May for another culinary adventure. We were last there in the fall of 2012 and our trip was foiled a little bit by Hurricane Sandy. The “ones that got away” were Jungsik and WD50 (reservations that were cancelled due to the storm).

We are 2 adults staying 5 nights in Midtown and just recently found out (after already planning THIS trip) that we will be back again in November for the NYC Marathon! So we are fortunate enough to have 2 trips to NYC this year, which means don’t have to hit everything on the list this trip. That said, for our 5 days (5/22-5/26) we are thinking of:

Atera (chef came from Castagna in PDX) – this one looks like it will have to wait until the November trip due to only having reservations the day we arrive, which does not allow for any travel snafus.
EMP (bar seating; we have done lunch and dinner in the dining room previously)
**Jungsik (reservation made)
Something else Asian (Sushi Nakazawa, Hakkasan, Kyo Ya, …) – thoughts here?
The NoMad (had lunch here on the last trip but didn’t get to try any cocktails…)

Minetta Tavern (probably do a lunch/brunch here for the burger)
The NoMad (if we don’t do a dinner there)
Momofuku Ssam Bar
Russ and Daughters
Peter Luger (for the burger at lunch) – are reservations needed/hard to get for lunch?
Shake Shack

Other random places we have been meaning to try:
Grand Central Oyster Bar - for oyster apps only
Halal cart - Halal Guys (53rd and 6th after sunset)

Please note if any of the dinner options would be particularly good choices for a lunch instead. We are interested in cocktails as well, but we will seek out bar advice once the dinners are set.

Previous trip report:

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  1. i like tocqueville but think it would be a less expensive option if you went at lunch rather than dinner. they have an excellent prix-fixe considering it's in a quiet part of town for lunch.

    louro is good but im hard pressed to remember much of what i ate. i also think it would be ideal for a small group to share stuff rather than for 2.

    id actually recommend minetta for dinner rather than lunch. it gets no light and its much more lively for dinner.

    ssam bar lunch is a good option. russ and daughters keeps mentioning their cafe but it has yet to materialize.

    peter luger...i dunno...i dont think the burger is worth the trip. id steer you to diner across the street instead...for lunch or dinner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sam1

      Thanks. Sounds like great advice!

    2. You've got some of my favorites in your itinerary: Jungsik, Juni, Betony, Tocqueville, The NoMad. Too bad that Atera doesn't work with your schedule; I had a stellar dinner at Atera two weeks ago. Hope it works into your plans for your return trip.

      I'm having dinner at Louro in a few weeks.

      I love Russ & Daughters (just started reading the book), but currently there is no seating at the store. There are plans to open their own restaurant nearby, and I believe it should be open for your return visit.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ellenost

        I'm thinking the weather might be nice enough late May to get something and take it outside to eat. If not, we will do it in November when the cafe will hopefully be open.

      2. Solid list w/ two exceptions. I wasn't impressed with Juni and find the room to precious and dated. Same with Toqueville.

        No Italian? No Pizza?

        3 Replies
        1. re: thegforceny

          Good point. We have actually been to NYC a few times and have done some Italian and pizza, but might do Italian again this trip or next. Pizza could be a good choice for lunch if we are not eating too heavily at dinner.

          Italian - Babbo (twice), Bettola, Manzo, and one other place on the UWS I can't remember
          Pizza - John's, Lombardi's (both of which I realize might not be on the top of anyone's list currently)

            1. re: cobpdx

              Portland punches way above its weight for a city of its size for pizza (the two pies I tried at Scholls and Nostrana were quite memorable, drool).

              I'd go to Motorino (though note it is more Naples inspired, and leans heavily on the char). And are you willing to go to Brooklyn? See if you can get to Paulie Gee's on a Monday when Adam Kuban is there (he founded slice.seriouseats.com). Adam is actually looking to open up a satellite Paulie Gee's in Portland, OR.

          1. Great list. As for Asian, Kyo Ya is excellent, haven't been to Nakazawa but reservations are apparently difficult to get. What you should pick depends on what cuisine you'd be most in the mood for. Hakkasan for duck, dim sum. Tori shin for grilled skewers. Sugiyama for kaiseki. Maharlika for sizzling sisig, kare kare.

            1. Louro has really excellent cocktails BTW done by the wonderful Mayur Subbarao, who makes his own vermouth, cordials, and collaborates heavily with the Bittermens folks.

              Momofuku Ssam has a more extensive menu during dinner and you can visit their molecular cocktail bar next door, Booker & Dax!

              The Momofuku Ssam program is also no slouch, and is headed by an ex-PDT bartender. Not sure if you tried the 7 Spice Sour on a previous visit, but it's back on the menu... for now. If you like "funky" rum in your drink, the Scottish Navy Sour.

              I should also mention that a former PDT/former Momofuku Ssam Bar bartender Don Lee is now heading the program at Golden Cadillac, a collaboration with Cocktail Kingdom. A 70s themed bar, trying to claim drinks of the era, and add their own spin. He is currently revising the menu, and gave me a sneak taste of this lychee negroni (I know, right?) that was really interesting. And of course you can have his classic, the Benton's Old Fashioned.

              If you are interested in cocktails and WD-50, note that Alder is doing some cool stuff right now, especially with cocktails on draft & doing 1/2 portions. The set up is also pretty convenient to eat at the bar, too.

              We are also heavily into Pouring Ribbons lately, as well, created by an ex-Death & Co guy with some Violet Hour folks. Very interesting menu, calibrated against the characteristics of each drink, plotted on an x- and y-axis. And if tequila/mezcal is an interest, definitely look at what Empellon is doing.

              And of course Dead Rabbit is also a favorite, should you find yourself all the way downtown in the financial district. Their bound cocktail book is gorgeously illustrated and feels a mile long, in a good way. I have a friend who is a regular who is attempting to drink every drink on the menu.

              (I am assuming you've already done PDT, Death & Co, Milk & Honey, Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, Mayahuel.)

              I'd make a note that there are 2 Ippudos, one in the East Village, and one in Midtown. Try to time it so you don't accidentally hit the Midtown lunch rush.

              Minetta also feels more like a dinner destination to me, but we really go there for the atmosphere, crowd, and to drink and eat steak, not really the burger.

              8 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                I haven't had a Golden Cadillac cocktail in years (it's a lot more retro than the 70s!):


                Another for The Dead Rabbit.

                Grand Central Oyster Bar (sit at the counter) and Russ and Daughters are "only in NYC." If you eat outdoors many parks are off limits to adults unless you have a child with you (there will be a sign).

                Went to Kyo Ya recently. Might want to save some Asian food for your November trip.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  just wanted to mention that i find the dead rabbit to be horribly overrated.

                  im never down there but was meaning to try it after all of these reviews.

                  to me, its nothing more than an irish pub with a makeover. i drink scotch and found their pours to be stingy and it just struck me as a cheesy bar cashing in on a trend from 10 years ago.

                  1. re: sam1

                    Were you upstairs or downstairs (menu is different)? Did you order any punch or cocktails?

                    1. re: kathryn

                      i started on the 2nd floor and then moved upstairs to the 3rd.

                      i drank scotch all night and have a particular issue with bars who hold themselves out as old school but measure the pours especially when im at the bar having a drink.

                      its just my opinion but i did feel that the place gets too much publicity for what it really is.

                      1. re: sam1

                        I am immediately turned off when I iorder a rocks drink and the use that dreaded measuring device to pour my drink. It is such a small amount for 15$
                        Forces me to switch to beer.

                    2. re: sam1

                      Thanks for your perspective, sam1.

                      We sat at the 1st floor bar and a table on the 2nd floor. We didn't drink that much, went more for apps.


                      There is some novelty because it's newer. I like that the servers wear dresses and they serve punch in the tea cups. I could see how you feel it's overrated.

                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                        its not really a place to go for a straight scotch. yes, im sure they have a well cultivated list, but if you're not ordering punch or cocktails there, you're really missing the point. it would be like going to a dessert place, only ordering a few appetizers without trying any sweets, and then saying the place was no good.

                  2. re: kathryn

                    You have shamed me, kathryn. Because of the way we have structured our trips previously, we have done more fine dining at dinner than casual. Consequently, we have only had enough stamina for the 3+ hour dinners (often with wine pairing) and that left no room for cocktails. Which means we have hit NONE of the great cocktail places in NYC, except Lantern's Keep. I know, pathetic. So I have spent the last week figuring out how to fix it.

                    I have mapped out some of the restaurants we are interested in and the bars of interest to see what is in proximity to what and a new plan is developing. First, we are going to go more casual. I actually think this is going to be a lot more fun. Second, we will try to hit one bar per day (before or after dinner). See below for the new plan.

                    Thank you for your thoughts on the cocktail scene. As always, interesting and informative, and it helped me "see the light." The lychee riff on the Negroni does sound interesting (I love lychee)…did they use a lychee syrup for some of the sweet vermouth?

                  3. I have had a slight change of plans due to kathryn's post and we are going to go a bit more casual. The tentative plan is now as follows:

                    Thursday night
                    Walk-in dining at the bar (EMP or The NoMad) - don't know what time exactly as this is the day we arrive. Any thoughts on which might be easier? Possibly hit another nearby bar after, depending on how much damage we did at dinner.

                    Breakfast/Brunch - Russ & Daughters (on our way to 9/11 memorial)
                    1:30 pm 9/11 Museum
                    The Dead Rabbit after (I have a feeling we will need it)
                    Dinner - Betony vs Louro vs Alder (thoughts?)

                    Dinner - Italian (Maialino vs Perla vs Scarpetta - thoughts here, anyone?
                    Cocktails - something near whichever restaurant we choose

                    Dinner - Momofuku Ssam
                    Cocktails - Booker & Dax

                    Dinner - JUNGSIK
                    Cocktails - is there anything nearby?

                    Lunches will be on the fly. Want to hit Ippudo and Ma Peche, maybe Motorino or Keste. Any deli other than Katz worth checking out?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: cobpdx

                      Thursday - EMP might be a little easier after the post-work crowd leaves?

                      Afterwards, Milk & Honey is literally across the street.

                      For the NoMad, you could adjourn to the Library Room at the NoMad hotel or stick around the NoMad bar itself. It also gets a big post-work crowd, I think mostly because there isn't much competition in the immediate neighborhood.

                      Friday - note that the Parlor Room at DR isn't open until 5pm. They do fill up fast on Friday nights after opening and have a $1 oyster happy hour 5-7pm.

                      So for dinner you might want somewhere quiet/more low key/less boisterous, so not Alder, since my memory is that it's a little loud there.

                      Saturday - Scarpetta is also in a few other cities. Toronto, Las Vegas, LA and Miami, not super NYC-specific. So I'd lean towards the other two.

                      Near Perla, Burning Waters is new and literally around the corner. Or you could walk down to Pegu Club since you've never been, but it tends to be pretty crazy on weekends and have a line. Little Branch is also nearby, but also tends to have a line on weekends.

                      For Maialino, it is also fairly close to Milk & Honey.

                      Monday - for Tribeca cocktails, look at Weather Up, Ward III, Lounge at Atera, Distilled, The Butterfly...

                      This new bagel shop should also be on your radar from the Mile End Deli folks:

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Thanks, kathryn. Black Seed looks great!

                        I only threw Scarpetta in because my cousin and her husband recommended it (they left NYC 2 years ago after being longtime residents). I liked the look of Maialino's menu the best and Perla got me with the pasta dish with Nduja. I love that stuff.

                        As for M&H, is it hard to get a reservation? Their website says they tend to only allow reservations to non-members early in the week.

                        For Dead Rabbit, the taproom looked like it had plenty of choices for cocktails. If we wanted to go upstairs from the taproom right at 5, would we likely have success?

                        1. re: cobpdx

                          Unfortunately non-members can no longer make reservations at Milk & Honey. You'll have to walk in. The policy change ld and the web site wasn't updated.

                          Yes, I've done that before at DR. Don't miss the Irish Coffee.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            If we ge to M&H right when they open on Thursday night are our chances good or do we have to go late?

                      2. re: cobpdx

                        Two other deli options (along the same vein as Katz) would be Sarge's and Second Ave Deli.
                        Not sure you would need to visit another deli on your short trip though.

                        Congrats on getting in to the marathon!

                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          +1 for Sarge's! They've recently re-opened after a bad fire closed them for more than one year.

                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            We won't go To Katz' this year (we've been twice). It would be nice to try something new, so thanks for the suggestions!

                            And it was my partner that got into the marathon, but I still get to go along for the ride!

                          2. re: cobpdx

                            Re Saturday dinner, I like Maialino far more than Scarpetta. I haven't been to Perla. Re lunches, if you want it to "fly" get to Ippudo either very early or late for lunch; lines can be long.

                            Re cocktails: If you like gin, I highly recommend Whitehall in Greenwich Village. Lots of gin cocktails, knowledgeable bartenders. Ask for the "gin list" (they don't give it to you automatically) with page after page of options.

                          3. If you go to the LES on a nice day, you can get your goodies at Russ and Daughters and take them to the park for a picnic. but otherwise, it's back to the hotel room.

                            Tocqueville does have a lovely lunch, I really like their dining room at that time of day. But the food's great at all times of day. :)

                            Frankly I don't see how you're going to eat all those lunches and dinners without literally rolling home!

                            oops, just saw the Peter Luger entry. Is there some reason you want to go all the way to Brooklyn for a burger? Theirs are good, but there are great burgers in Manhattan, and I'm sure you also have great burgers in your home town.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I know it seems like a lot, but we generally only eat 2 meals per day, a brunch/lunch then dinner. Maybe a snack here and there. For example, on Friday, we will probably do Russ & Daughters for our first meal of the day, have a snack with a drink at Dead Rabbit, then have dinner. If we do Ippudo we may share a ramen at lunch (that type of thing). Plus, we are walkers and walk a ton generally, and NYC is no exception. Even then, some dietary correction IS generally required upon returning home…:-)

                              Thanks for the heads-up on Peter Luger. Someone else also suggested it is probably not a destination burger, so we will skip it.

                              1. re: cobpdx

                                Hey cobpdx, jeff_pdx here. I make a similar trip to NYC every couple of years and also try to focus on things that Portland just doesn't do or doesn't do well, or are simply uniquely NY. Here's my thoughts:

                                If you haven't been to Shopsin's, you must. Plenty of threads about it exist on Chowhound. I'd start looking at the menu NOW because it will take you until late May to make a decision.

                                I haven't made it to Peter Luger yet, but one thing that is definitely worth the schlep to Brooklyn is a pilgrimage to DiFara.

                                I used to also try to hit a Sichuan place on each visit, but PDX has stepped up its game there enough in the past five years; however I would definitely recommend a visit to Xi'an Famous Foods -- you won't find noodles like that here.

                                Oh, and Atera was absolutely jaw-dropping, so definitely get there on your next trip. It's probably not fair to compare the two based on one visit each, but since the 2014 World's 50 Best came out today, I'd say Atera was at least 10 times more memorable a meal than 21-ranked Le Bernardin.

                                1. re: jeff_pdx

                                  Agree with you about Atera 100%! Had another amazing dinner at Atera this past Saturday night. Atera has quickly risen to be among my top 3 restaurants (in addition to Ko and EMP--and for anyone that knows me, that's very high praise).

                                  1. re: jeff_pdx

                                    Thanks, jeff_pdx! Funny, I was thinking about Shopsin's (and we have never been), so I will check it out. Same for Xi'an Famous Foods. That sounds like a great lunch spot. Adding both to the list.

                                    And I am bummed about Atera. We will definitely try to get there in Oct/Nov.

                                    1. re: cobpdx


                                      Definitely try for Shopsin's on a weekday when the line is shorter. Follow the rules, etc.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Thanks for the link. This is actually the first time I've done any in-depth research into Shopsin's and I'm sold. That menu is CRAZY!. So, for 2 people, I'm guessing we will only be able to manage:

                                        Sliders with onions
                                        Mac & cheese pancakes (with hot sauce and maple syrup)
                                        Maybe some donuts, although I'm intrigued by the jewchurro - anyone know what that is?

                                        1. re: cobpdx

                                          Hmmm, never had that one. The menu does change frequently.

                                1. I am not that impressed with Shake Shack. There are certainly better burgers in Manhattan and probably in Portland. For one, I find the burgers at Five Napkin burger much better. I haven't ever been to Luger's for lunch, but I am sure their burger is FAR better than Shake Shack. So is Minetta Tavern

                                  And I know I am going against the majority here, but I didn't find Ippudo ramen to be worth the waits; I like Jin a lot (although it might be out of the way for you). I've heard very good things about Ivan Ramen, but have not been there myself. I also like Menchanko Tei.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: plf515

                                    Which Five Napkins do you go to? I find the quality varies wildly depending on location. The one near Wall Street is probably the worst I've been to. Park Slope the best. Shake Shack on a whole is better than all of the ones I've tried. For a relatively inexpensive burger, I go to Shake Shack over Corner Bistro or Burger Joint.

                                    I don't think Ippudo is worth the wait either, simply because the wait is so ridiculously long, but I think it's better than Menchanko Tei which is ok but not great imo.

                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                      I go to the one on 84th and Broadway (2 blocks from my house).