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Apr 15, 2014 09:16 AM

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 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?