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More Torontonians Seeking Distinctly NYC Tastes

My husband and I are planning to indulge in Manhattan eating for just over a week in May (7th to 16th). I've spent hours poring over this board; I’ve been following this thread closely (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/972501), have looked up older Toronto requests, and clicked on many many links posted by the incredibly-helpful Kathryn. But there’s still so much more time I could spend at it! However, the trip is approaching so I thought I’d ask for some feedback before I run out of time.

Our main interests are 1) food experiences that are unique to New York and 2) things we can’t get in Toronto. We are especially hoping that people who know both cities can help us out here – it’s pretty overwhelming trying to figure out which Chinese specialties NYC has that we don’t (as it is, we’re not that familiar with what Toronto and environs has to offer), and we were under the impression (open to correction if mistaken) that Toronto’s Italian is good enough that we don’t necessarily need to focus on it in New York.

We like a wide range of experiences: we’re very happy with low-brow street or ethnic foods, but will also have some high-end dining here and there – to that end, we have made a dinner reservation at Eleven Madison Park. Overall our balance will probably favour the lower end, but budget isn’t a limiting factor for any specific consideration. We’re staying in Chelsea for the first week and then commuting in from Flushing, but are happy to explore all over the island via subway.

We’re focusing on lunch, dinner and snacks, since it’s unlikely we’ll be going out for breakfast or brunch much, unless you have some “nowhere else but in New York”, absolutely-not-to-be-missed type of ideas.

Here’s the beginning of a short-list:

Patsy’s Pizzeria and/or Sal and Carmine’s
Eataly
Katz’s
Barney Greengrass
Café Edison
2nd Avenue Deli
William Greenberg for black and white cookies
Junior’s for cheesecake
Empellon Taqueria
Calexico Truck
Oda House (we’ve only tried Georgian food once before
)Momofuku Ssam Bar
Eleven Madison Park

We plan to follow the posted LES food crawl that includes Yonah Schimmel’s, Russ and Daughters (we’ll do a separate meal at Katz’s), Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Ray’s for the egg cream, and Kossar’s for the bialy.

We will also walk the Highline and check out some of Kathryn’s suggestions along the way.

So… What are the “must-haves” that we are missing?
Any specific suggestions for more Mexican or Central/South American food?
Any other cuisines/dishes Manhattan has that Toronto doesn’t?

Thanks very much in advance!!

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  1. Things that you might want to add:
    Steakhouse: Keen's, Wolfgang's (with the Gustavino tile), Minetta Tavern, Peter Luger (though you'll probably get a really crappy time since you're booking less than 6 wks ahead)
    BBQ: Mighty Quinn's, Hill Country, etc. assuming you can't really find this in Toronto
    Southern food: ditto
    Lobster rolls: Pearl, Luke's, etc
    Grand Central Oyster Bar: drinks and raw bar only
    Japanese?
    Balthazar?
    Shopsin's?
    A fancy cocktail bar/speakeasy?
    Halal cart?
    Shake Shack? My Toronto dwelling friends love it when they visit.
    Red Hook Ball Fields? Smorgasburg?

    Question to Locals http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911971

    Visitors, travellers, tourists and other Chowhounds who do not live in NYC, which places do you revisit when you visit Manhattan? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912049

    What says NYC to you?
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/929958

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      You had me at mac-n-cheese pancakes, so Shopsin's did get added to the list! Thanks, it was definitely an experience not to be missed!

      Thanks so much for the Greenwich suggestions too - they were fantastic!

    2. I'm not sure about what Chinese food is available in Toronto but, since you're going to be in Flushing, I recommend hitting the Golden Mall (the older, dirtier, more interesting warren of stalls) and maybe go to Fu Run or Golden Palace (see Outer Borough posts). In terms of Central/S.American, Flushing is literally 10 minutes away by train (#7 train) from the largest enclave along Roosevelt Ave. I suggest you look at http://iwantmorefood.com/tours/ (scroll down for the Roosevelt Ave Latin stuff) and contact Jeff. As for your list, the LES self-tour is a good idea (btw, Yonah Schimmel's is out) and I'd definitely suggest walking the area around Bleecker St in the Village for wall to wall stimulation. Katz's is great and 2nd Ave Deli is probably redundant if you go there (& its no longer on 2nd Ave, but in lower mid-town). If you've never had cheesecake like what's sold at Juniors, I guess it's worth it but otherwise, not really.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Steve R

        Thank you - as per my summary below, we ended up not being able to fit much out-of-Manhattan stuff into our itinerary, so we had to give up on researching Flushing :( after all. Next time!!
        Definitely agree about Bleecker St and Katz's, but were delighted with 2nd Ave as well. 4 delis in two weeks was not too much for us. :)

      2. Barney Greengrass is great for smoked fish, be sure to go on a weekday morning. You can get good bialies there too, which might make Kossars redundant. (Personal favorite there is a sable platter with lightly toasted bialies. Sable is less-ordered than lox etc, but I think it's even better, and less likely to be available in Toronto).

        Yonah Schimmels - only if you have a time machine that can take you back a few decades

        Russ & Daughters is not sit-down and might be redundant with Barney Greengrass.

        2 Replies
        1. re: plf515

          Wow - had sablefish and whitefish (not salad) with bialies, and sturgeon with 'everything bagel' - all of which were incredible!! Also sampled their black and white cookies which seemed really good to us, not being connoisseurs. Amazing place!

          1. re: Klafouti

            Glad you liked it. And glad to have another fan of sable.

        2. There are no Mexicans in Ontario. I highly suggest seeking out the best Mexican food in New York City, which is in the outer boroughs. The Outer Boroughs in general are where many of the best "Distinctly New York" food gems reside. You don't want to blow too much money on touristy nonsense in Manhattan. I highly suggest posting your query on the Outer Boroughs Board.

          3 Replies
          1. re: AubWah

            Believe it or not, Mexicans and Mexican Canadians, and even a few Mexican Americans, live and work in Ontario.

            That being said, I like the Mexican food I've found in Manhattan over the past 20 years, including Gabriela's, Mercadito, Cafe Frida, Rosa Mexicano near Lincoln Centre (yikes, a chain!) and the tourist-magnet Toloache in Midtown West (which I consider to be one of the best places to eat near Times Square before/after a Broadway show).

            1. re: AubWah

              "There are no Mexicans in Ontario"
              That's funny.

              1. re: AubWah

                Thanks to your post elsewhere, we did end up at Carnitas Al Atoradero! Unfortunately a proper exploration of the Outer Boroughs is going to have to wait for another trip...

              2. If you haven't already, post on the Outer Boros as well since you'll be staying in Flushing. Tons of good Chinese in Flushing and tons of good ethnic in Queens in general. You could do a South American food tour just following Roosevelt Ave. Toronto does Cantonese very well, however, there's more to Chinese food than Cantonese and Flushing does a lot of the other foods well. As mentioned, check out Golden Mall (I think the original Xi'an is down there) and New World Mall a block away, and Nan Xiang for soup dumplings is nearby.

                Things NYC has that Toronto doesn't (limited to Manhattan for this board, but there's more choices in the outer boros):
                - Medium rare burgers: Paul's da Burger Joint, and the places Burger's Priest has pictures of on their wall: JG Melons, PJ Clarke's and Corner Bistro.
                - Soul food: Sylvia's and Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too
                - Southern: Georgia's Eastside BBQ, Amy Ruth's
                - BBQ: Dinosaur, Hill Country, Mighty Quinns
                - Korean Fried Chicken: Bon Chon, Kyochon,
                - Pizza: Keste, Motorino, John's Pizzeria (on Bleecker), South Brooklyn, and pretty much any non-chain pizzeria beats Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova, Mama's, Pizzaiolo, etc.
                - Dessert: Chickalicious, Spot Dessert Bar
                - Yakitori: Oh Taisho, Yo Taisho, Village Yokocho or just follow your nose on St. Marks/E. 9th.
                - Halal cart: Halal Guys (6th & 53rd, 52nd bet. 7th/Bway), Kwik Meal Cart (E47th & Park Ave.) - Bonus, Kwik Meal dude is from Toronto.
                - Tacos: Pinche on Lafayette, La Esquina, Tehuitzingo, et al.
                - Baconeggncheezonnaroll: practically everywhere.
                - B&W cookies: Glaser's on the UES is good too.

                Stock up on stuff you can't get in Toronto like grits, Trader Joe's, Nathans hotdogs, etc., and be the envy of your friends at home.

                15 Replies
                1. re: GoodGravy

                  Thanks for the yakitori ideas - we went to Tori Shin for a whole new cultural experience. We were a tad disappointed that with the omakase we didn't get to try many of the weird and wonderful items from the special menu (knee cartilage??), but everything was good.

                  Question: Baconeggncheezonnaroll ?? Tried to research this - from Eggs Travanganza food carts? Any tips on where?

                  +1 for Trader Joe's! Definitely will be stocking up before heading home!

                  1. re: Klafouti

                    Baconeggncheezonnaroll is how it sounds when people order it. You can get it from Eggstravaganza and pretty much most cafe/delis (delis that aren't delicatessens like Katz or Sarge's) that are open for breakfast, and at diners. It's just breakfast on a bun. I like mine on toasted and buttered rolls.

                    1. re: Klafouti

                      Those weird items have to be requested when you order the omakase and you can get 2 requests per person.

                      1. re: Shirang

                        Aw, must have missed that in the rule book ;) . Frankly I assumed "omakase" meant I didn't have any choice, which is what I thought it usually means! It's certainly a complicated system there - trying to put the skewers and bones in the right place, taking one dish down from the counter yourself but not the next… I felt like dining there would take some practice, too bad we only had the one chance!

                        Our next Japanese adventure will be at Kajitsu. Shojin is another cuisine Toronto doesn't have. Feel free to share any other unwritten rules I should know about for that meal!!

                        1. re: Klafouti

                          Kajitsu has a new chef that just started last month, heard he is better than the last one. No rules just enjoy.

                          1. re: Shirang

                            We certainly did - that was a phenomenal meal!!!

                          2. re: Klafouti

                            Tori Shin is a good pick. Excellent experience, great food. Even the humble tsukune upgraded by the addition of cartilage, which may have been one of the best items they served.

                            Mad for Chicken/Turntable for Korean fried chicken. It will blow your mind. Get the spicy sauce, not the sweet one. Drumsticks are usually your best bet.

                            For Japanese: the ramen at Totto destroys anything we have in Toronto (get it spicy). Ivan's new restaurant just opened as well. Go to Otafuku for some cheap takoyaki/okonomiyaki.

                            Pizza and burgers. Shake Shack (I think the MSP still has the crinkle fries, not the new boring ones).

                            1. re: yakionigiri

                              At Tori Shin we had the "special meatball" with chicken and duck - they didn't mention if there's any cartilage in them… but the almost-raw egg yolk sauce was pretty cool.

                              Unfortunately we have already OD'd on Korean fried chicken from Hell's Chicken - did we go to the wrong place? :) We thought it was good but have no basis of comparison.

                              I thought ramen is quite decent in TO. My husband thinks it compares favourably with what he tried in Japan. In any case I think we have it too often to seek it out here, but takoyaki, mmm, we'll have to see if we can still fit that in!

                              1. re: Klafouti

                                The chicken/duck still sounds quite tasty.

                                For KFC, does Hell's Chicken sound familiar? If so, it's okay, I guess, but I wouldn't say it's any better than Bonchon or Kyochon. Mad for Chicken is the same style as Bonchon or Kyochon, but I find their chicken is always the perfect size, juicy, flavourful, well-fried...

                                While Toronto has some okay ramen (Santouka, Sansotei, sometimes Guu) and a lot of mediocre-to-bad ramen (basically everything else), NYC has more options, different styles (see: Ivan's new joint), and, if you go to the right places, much better ramen. I think your husband may have not been to the right places :-(

                                1. re: yakionigiri

                                  I did notice that there is a Hell's Chicken in TO but it didn't get the raves that the NYC one did, so I assumed it wasn't that similar, or at least not as good. Oh well, we don't have enough time in NYC to try the competitor/s! :(

                      2. re: GoodGravy

                        If anyone is still reading this South Brooklyn Pizza in the East Village is gone, repossessed by the owner. I don't know what the f--- happened, except the obvious. It's a crying shame - I miss my good pizza!

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I did a search to see if anyone had mentioned anything. This happened a couple of weeks ago. I'm very surprised no-one posted anything about it.

                          2. re: Pan

                            That sucks. The pizza was better than the usual slice joints. I hope they open somewhere else.

                            1. re: GoodGravy

                              Yes, and they were open till 5 AM every night.

                        1. Some disagreements:

                          Sal and Carmine's was crazy salty (in the batter, not the toppings) the last time I was there. In my opinion, it is no destination pizzeria. Granted, that was several years ago, but I'd be skeptical if I were you.

                          Cafe Edison is not a destination eatery.

                          I'm also not sure that Junior's is the best place for you to get cheesecake. Eileen's gets high marks, though I haven't tried them. I do like Two Little Red Hens, though their cheesecake is just a touch salty, and I prefer other items there, like their squares, which are wonderful.

                          I may come back to this with more remarks later, but I think the others are steering you well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Pan

                            Thanks for the encouragement to reconsider re cheesecake - after further research we decided to try Eileen's, and were VERY impressed. One regret is I wasn't hungry enough to have more while I was there...

                          2. Barney greengrass, katz, and 2nd ave deli are very similar to each other, you may want to reduce this to one or two.
                            Cafe edison is not notable.

                            The doughnut plant on w23rd st in chelsea has very well made unique doughnuts and excellent coffee, note that weekends get quite busy
                            http://doughnutplant.com/contact/

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Katz's and Second Ave are arguably similar but Barney Greengrass is completely different. Deli and appetizing are two separate animals.

                              Get meat sandwiches at Katz's and bagels with smoked and/or cured fish at Greengrass or Russ N Daughters

                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                barney greengrass for sable/lox

                                lots of katz kissers on this board, but what really delivers the pastrami goods is Carnegie. yes it's much bigger. it's also juicier and better.

                                1. re: Ttrockwood

                                  We had no issue with hitting 4 delis (Katz's, Russ and Daughters, Barney Greengrass, 2nd Ave). They were all wonderful. We have been to Carnegie before and definitely have a soft spot for it. Were considering going back but time did not permit.

                                  We weren't sure we really 'needed' to add doughnuts to our itinerary, but we adored the Doughnut Plant (LES). They so wanted us to try the rose "doughseed" that they gave us one on the house! And it was aMAZing.

                                  1. re: Klafouti

                                    Thanks for reporting back! Glad you made it to so many of the great delis- and i have never been let down by doughnut plant, that flavor sounds wonderful!

                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                      It was!! Apparently it's a Valentine's / Mother's Day special so you won't be seeing it for a while…
                                      It also looks beautiful, with a fresh rose petal on top!

                                    2. re: Klafouti

                                      I think Russ & Daughters and Barney Greengrass are both appetizing stores instead of delicatessens, but that's just splitting hairs. All four of those places are great.

                                      1. re: GoodGravy

                                        I noticed that Russ & Daughters' sign specifies "appetizers". I am confused by this, since you can make quite a meal of their products.
                                        I also registered MVNYC's comment above: " 'deli' and 'appetizing' are two separate animals."

                                        Could you expand on the distinction between a "deli" and an "appetizing store"? I feel like I'm missing something here.

                                        1. re: Klafouti

                                          "Appetizing also originated from Jewish dietary laws, which dictate that meat and dairy products cannot be eaten or sold together. As a result, two different types of stores sprang up in order to cater to the Jewish population. Stores selling cured and pickled meats became known as delicatessens, while shops that sold fish and dairy products became appetizing stores."

                                          http://www.russanddaughters.com/whati...

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Well of all things!
                                            I'm reassured by the part that says "it is particularly local to New York"…
                                            'Guess I will stop calling them a deli, as per their request.
                                            Thanks for pointing out the explanation!!

                                          2. re: Klafouti

                                            Typically "appetizing" stores sell no meat, only fish or dairy products. Delicatessens sell meat. This is in keeping with kosher laws where meat and dairy are kept separate. Although Russ & Daughters is "kosher style" not "kosher". I'm reading the "Russ & Daughters" book; excellent reading.

                                            1. re: ellenost

                                              Hm - something for my Christmas list perhaps? Thanks!

                                    3. Not sure you need to go to Ssam Bar as you have Momofuku in Toronto other than if you are looking to compare and contrast. Lots of overlap on the menus.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                        Hm, yeah. I did like the compare and contrast idea, but it ended up sinking lower on our priority list.

                                      2. Thanks ever so much everyone! I wish I had had time this week to pursue all your leads - I'm still hoping/planning to get to more of them. For now, a few responses and questions:

                                        I take your point(s) about needing to post on the Outer Boroughs board. (And thanks for the tips about Roosevelt Ave, Golden Mall, and other places.) My problem is I haven’t had time to scour that board yet, so don’t want to post before I’ve done some background research. Hopefully next week...

                                        Regional specialties from other states are lower on our list, since we do get to different parts of the US once or twice a year. Also we don’t tend to eat out for steak or burgers much – but we will think about adding a steak-house to the list for the experience. And Nathan’s is such an institution that I’m sure we will end up there for hot dogs one time.

                                        Will add Grand Central Oyster Bar for oysters and chowder(?) and drinks. (For silliness’ sake, is this a good place to say we had a Manhattan in Manhattan?)

                                        In terms of Japanese, I think Toronto is good on the ramen front; and we tend to avoid sushi as we try to eat sustainable seafood. However I had no idea what “yakitori” seems to mean in Manhattan - I've never heard of menus like this! (Frankly, I had thought yakitori was boring…) You've made me research it further and plan to reserve a dinner at Torishin. Now that is NOTHING like what we have here.

                                        As to the delis, I am disappointed by the resounding votes against YS. I was hoping there would be somewhere else to go for a knish, but searching yielded “there are no good knishes in NYC.” :(
                                        Also too bad about Café Edison – sounded so yummy in one of our Road Food books.
                                        Barney Greengrass – definitely planning on the smoked sablefish, sounds amazing! We'd like to try the sturgeon too, but does anyone know where it’s sourced from (apparently sturgeon is sustainable if it’s shortnose sturgeon from a “closed system” farm)?

                                        We did want to hit one of the “original” Momofukus, partly for sake of comparison, tho we’ve only tried Toronto’s Noodle Bar so far. Does anyone know which if any of the Momofukus are particularly different from Toronto’s set?

                                        Thanks again for all your help!!

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Klafouti

                                          I grew up traveling to NYC several times a year for extended periods (have close family there), and my 10 years in Toronto are currently coming to a close. That being said, here are my picks;

                                          Grand Central Oyster Bar
                                          Katz's
                                          Russ and Daughters
                                          Shopsins (although you are not interested in breakfast this place is an institution with character you will not find in TO).

                                          Pizza-not sure if you specified coal vs. wood etc.. as there are many different styles, perhaps give us an idea.

                                          If you love wine, you may want to consider hitting up the original Terroir in the East Village owned by a Canadian.

                                          If you want a pint, McSorleys, nothing like it in TO.

                                          Agree with other posters re: burgers and steak but you've mentioned that category doesn't interest you.

                                          Love EMP, and fine dining in general is tops in NYC

                                          Also agree on your lower east side eating tour. The East Village is my favorite area of Manhattan.

                                          Have fun!

                                          1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                                            We ended up at Patsy's for a whole pizza (oh no, missed out on the NY slice experience :) ) and really enjoyed it.
                                            Thanks for all the tips, and good luck in Belgium!

                                          2. re: Klafouti

                                            While at grand central stop by the campbell apartment to have your manhattan, its inside grand central:
                                            http://hospitalityholdings.com.s16878...

                                            I will be contradicted on this, but if your choices are knish at YS or no knish at all then go to YS, get a classic not weird flavor, have them heat and share it there with some salt and spicy mustard. Not what it could be or once was but its worth the couple bucks IMO.

                                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                                              I haven't had any good knishes in Toronto so since you'll be passing it on your way to Russ & Daughters and Katz', stop in and grab one like Ttrockwood says. It's better than nothing and better than anything I've had in Toronto. It's no Mrs. Stahl's, but they went out of business a long time ago so whattayagonnado.

                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                We didn't make it to the Campbell Apartment (too rushed that day) but you did get us thinking about fancy bars, so we were glad we had the chance to splurge at the Old King Cole in the Regis.

                                                Hm, forgot about your suggestion of mustard with the knish - had it heated and plain, and thought it was really good. I can only imagine what it must have 'once been'!

                                                1. re: Klafouti

                                                  Oooh, love the Old King Cole bar for a posh beverage! And yeah, even a not as good as it could be knish is still pretty damned good IMO :)

                                              2. re: Klafouti

                                                I love Barney Greengrass. If it's crowded, you could always get your order to go, and take whatever you order to Central Park.

                                                If you're a fan of chocolate chip cookies, I'd suggest a trip to Levain Bakery, which has several versions of a distinct-to-NYC chocolate chip cookie you won't find in TO.

                                                From my last few trips, my favourite NYC places that have no equivalent in Toronto would be Bar Room at the Modern (which while a splurge, came around to $50/person without alcohol), and Louro in the West Village. For a burger that is unlike the burgers I've had outside NYC, I recommend the burger at the Spotted Pig.

                                                I took the subway to Coney Island for Nathan's close to 15 years ago, and was underwhelmed. My bun was slightly torn and slightly stale, and the hot dog tasted the same as any Nathan's hot dog I'd ordered in Manhattan. If you do trek out to Coney Island, make sure you leave some time to wander around through the Russian delis and bakeries in nearby Brighton Beach, which were more impressive to me than Nathan's!

                                                Be sure to check out the Best Dishes of 2014 thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9307... Nice to see Empellon Cocina's guacamole with pistachios on the running list.

                                                re: South American food in Manhattan
                                                There are a lot of Peruvian chicken places in Manhattan, if you're looking for a budget meal. I don't know of any Peruvian chicken places operating in Toronto.

                                                re: cuisines that aren't well represented in Toronto
                                                Austrian/German- Wallse, Seasonal, Blaue Gans, Cafe Sabarsky
                                                Malaysian- Laut
                                                upscale Middle Eastern- Ilili
                                                Puerto Rican, Dominican- I don't have any recs, but difficult to find these cuisines in Toronto
                                                Manhattan offers better Moroccan, Brazilian, Ukrainian, Afghan and Turkish food than Toronto does,but any of my recommendations would be out-of-date. Here's a relatively recent thread with some Moroccan/North African/Middle Eastern recs: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/914196

                                                I've never seen Carciofi alla Giudia in Toronto: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/973686

                                                1. re: prima

                                                  I think you've given us the list we should start with when we plan our next trip!! :) Thanks so much - sadly there is tons here we weren't able to follow up on!

                                                  We did go to the Spotted Pig for the burger and it was terrific!!!

                                              3. "And Nathan’s is such an institution that I’m sure we will end up there for hot dogs one time."

                                                Just keep in mind that it's a pretty long trip to Coney Island; you can't just pop over there and back.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Skippy1414

                                                  Yeah, it was just one of those touristy trips I assumed we'd make, but then we didn't, and that was fine. Katz's was our only hot dog and we feel OK about that!

                                                2. Other people will tell you different but Juniors cheesecake is nothing special. It's not bad but the location is somewhat inconvenient and when you come out you'll be saying "we probably could have done something better with our time."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    There seemed to plenty of votes against Junior's - we didn't do a comparison but just went to Eileen's for our one NY cheesecake, and it was incredible.

                                                  2. I haven't seen it mentioned yet, but in previous visits I've really enjoyed Danji and Hanjan for a modern take on Korean we don't have yet in Toronto. I prefer the latter because it's a bit more fun, but that's likely attributed to the many glasses of makgeolli I drank. That's another thing we don't have: makgeolli!

                                                    I do love Shake Shack but many Torontonians and TO-turned-NYC'ers argue that Burger's Priest has the superior burger. I'm on the fence, but SS has the better fries.

                                                    We do now have yakitori in TO, opened by the Guu folks (on Bloor, above Kinton Ramen). It's probably my least favourite of the Guu empire though. If you've visited, I'd love to know how it compares to Tori Shin since we are going to visit NYC next week. Thanks!

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: foxymoron

                                                      We do have makgeoli; it's even available at the LCBO. A bunch of Korean resto/bars here serve it as well. Hanjan is good. Their take on bolognese is tasty.

                                                      Tori Shin absolutely demolishes all of the yakitori in Toronto. Zakkushi, Kintori, etc. are all using lower-cost/quality product. You can get better skewers from Yakitorivs at Smorgasburg... Yakitori Totto is much better as well, but Tori Shin is miles ahead; they serve better quality chicken, cooked properly, including the parts you won't find in TO. It's also a much in the more ephemeral components: service, atmosphere, etc. Japanese overall is far better in NYC.

                                                      Also, Burger Priest (which I find is worse than Holy Chuck or even P&L when they can actually cook burgers properly) doesn't even really compare. Shake Shack? I don't think I know a single person from NYC who would rather eat at BP... Sounds almost like blasphemy! Better bun, better grind on the meat, better toppings, more consistent cookery, better fries, better shakes, beer and wine... I think it's even cheaper when you factor in the conversion.

                                                      1. re: yakionigiri

                                                        Hm! Korean bolognese! Tempting. We will have to see whether there is any space left in our eating itinerary!!

                                                        As to the burger debate, sigh, we won't be able to weigh in. Embarrassingly we eat burgers out so rarely that we haven't even tried Burger's Priest yet! I think if we have a New York burger it will be at the Spotted Pig, but right now I don't feel like I will ever be hungry again so it's a bit hard to imagine...

                                                        1. re: Klafouti

                                                          I'm not a fan of BP. The burger at the Spotted Pig is a completely different animal. Best fancy burger I've had, and great frites. The ricotta gnudi are fantastic, too.

                                                          1. re: prima

                                                            Agree RE: Burgers Priest. I enjoyed them in the beginning, but last 3 tries were extremely disappointing. Absolutely zero seasoning. Blech. I've now given up.

                                                            Good burger at Spotted Pig, and great ones at Minetta as well...

                                                      2. re: foxymoron

                                                        That's interesting about yakitori in Toronto! - and no I haven't tried the new Guu place. I think I will have to eat nothing but salad at home for the next two months after the amount of eating I have done here, so I won't be able to compare for a while!! Have a great meal at Tori Shin, and be sure to ask for some of the special skewers.

                                                      3. Sorry for the delay in posting our summary – it took a while to compile! Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I wish we could have followed up on more of them, but our eating itinerary was completely full, so we would have needed another week or several (ditto for stomachs). We ended up just focusing on Manhattan despite walking right by some amazing-looking places in Flushing on our way to the train! You just can’t do everything…
                                                        Here’s the blow-by-blow (this is long! I’ll do Week 1 first):

                                                        Week 1

                                                        Saturday
                                                        Eataly for lunch: very delicious prosciutto crudo focaccia sandwich with arugula and tomato; lemon gelato with tasty chewy bits(?)

                                                        ..and again for dinner:
                                                        We started at Verdure for a lovely bruschetta with lemon ricotta and peas; peas, ramps and asparagus salad; purple potatoes and cheese crisps, and a “farrotto” – risotto with farro, pecorino, and peas, delicious!
                                                        After all those vegetables we went to I Salumi I Formaggi for the grande salumi mista platter, and then a very good banana chocolate chip gelato.

                                                        Sunday
                                                        Lunch: Larb Ubol for Isan Thai food, a brand new experience. Really enjoyed everything we had: dark and sweet iced coffee, GuayThiew Nam Tok (dark-broth noodle soup with beef, morning glory, green onion, tiniest angel hair vermicelli that did not overcook; broth was lovely - not too salty, limey, garlicky, not too sweet); crispy pork Larb salad (very yummy, though with lots of deep fried pork fat), Duck Pad Ped – very spicy and with little green peppercorn clusters, also very tasty.

                                                        Dinner: Felidia, complete with a glimpse of the star chef herself. Particular highlights were the verdure alla carbonara (like a riff on eggs Florentine: a piece of toast covered in spring vegetables, bacon and a fried egg), cacio e pere (pear and pecorino ravioli), seasonal rabbit-stuffed pasta with rabbit and butter sauce, and quail breast saltimbocca with quail thighs braised in Marsala. The tortino di piselli e pistacchi was particularly impressive - a spring peas and pistachio olive oil cake, with wild strawberry ice cream. We also enjoyed a Bastianich prosecco and later a local grappa, handmade by a 76-year-old racecar driver!

                                                        Monday
                                                        Lunch: took out another Eataly focaccia sandwich (prosciutto cotto, local ricotta, arugula)

                                                        Dinner: Katz’s. What I actually found confusing here is that you order things like soup and egg creams from “the grill” (I didn't initially realize that the location of the overhead menus indicates where you order from). Anyway we loved our pastrami sandwich, latkes, blintzes and vanilla egg cream. The all-beef hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard was very nice. The chicken noodle soup was too salty but very flavourful.

                                                        Tuesday
                                                        Dinner: Churrasacaria Plataforma. A good place for a group dinner with people who haven’t experienced a churrascaria before. Not all the meats were inspiring but we particularly enjoyed the prime rib, ribeye, pork rib and lamb.

                                                        Wednesday
                                                        Lunch: Zen Palate. We needed somewhere vegan in that neighbourhood. Agree with other reviews: not that tasty or well executed, or even as healthy as you’d think vegetables would be (many of them were deep-fried)!

                                                        Dinner: Tori Shin. Amazing, although much more confusing than Katz’s in terms of the eating culture. We required a lot of instruction on how to eat what, and what to do with which dish. For skewers we had: chicken livers, chicken breast with shiso and plum, chicken wings, buttered potato, shishito peppers, pork belly with garlic miso, chicken filet, grilled turnip in homemade miso, duck and chicken meatball with egg yolk sauce. It was all wonderful but we would have loved to have some more unusual items.

                                                        Afterward we walked over to the Old King Cole bar in the Regis hotel, and spent $24/drink so we could admire the Maxfield Parish mural. We had an "Astor Midnight" with Stoli Blueberi, lavender syrup, limoncello, Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling (and a thick layer of macerated blueberries), and the “Madison Avenue” with Corzo Tequila, fresh lime, blood orange soda, pinch of salt. Delicious and very, very strong.

                                                        Thursday
                                                        Lunch: Barney Greengrass – as mentioned, phenomenal smoked sablefish and sturgeon with bialys, and a hunk of smoked whitefish with 'everything' bagels. And we shared a mini-black and white cookie. (We didn't realise they are slightly lemony cake cookies – surprising and yummy!)

                                                        Dinner: Empellon Taqueria. Really enjoyed the app of raw Nantucket bay scallops with avocado puree, cocoa vinaigrette, serrano peppers, pistachios and sprouts; and the amazing Queso fundido with shishito peppers; also the lobster taco with pozole and corn sprouts (gorgeous, not overcooked lobster, sweet and tender, beautifully flavoured). Sadly the beer-braised pork tongue and chorizo taco had lovely tender cubes of meat but was much too salty, as was the Brussels sprouts and pistachios taco. That was a bit of a let-down, given the hype. The passion fruit ‘custard’ (more like curd) was pretty cool – puckeringly tangy with actual passion fruit seeds, orange bits and an unexpected, if slightly strange, spritz of mescal.

                                                        Friday
                                                        Lunch at Patsy’s: Shared a whole Margarita pizza which was great – super thin crust spotted with black; sweet, ripe-tasting tomato sauce, lots of basil, thin slices of melted cheese.
                                                        Then to William Greenberg’s for a full-size black and white cookie. (woops, richer than we realised)

                                                        Dinner: Locanda Verde. We thought the food was very good if not mind-blowing. The special salad of asparagus with poached egg and lardons was very good. Really enjoyed the girandole with speck, ramps, english peas and fiore sardo – very lovely chewy pasta, cheesy without being too creamy. The squid ink linguini with clams, squid, soppressata, garlic and shishito was very well executed as well. The spearmint-chocolate chip gelato was a dessert highlight.

                                                        1. Week 2

                                                          Saturday
                                                          Lunch was at Epicerie Boulud since we needed something speedy beside the Lincoln Centre. The best part was the lobster roll – beautiful tender lobster with celery, avocado puree blobs, cherry tomato halves. The cubana was OK but too salty. The beet, bean, walnut and goat cheese salad was fun too, just not very much for $8.

                                                          Dinner: Hell’s Chicken for Korean Fried Chicken. We had one mixed box with no sauce, and one with spicy soy ginger. It seemed really good to us but we are Korean FC novices.

                                                          Sunday
                                                          Lunch: Greenwich/Bleecker St food tour. Started with a beautiful and tasty macchiato from Third Rail Coffee. Went to Faicco’s for the Italian Special sandwich on a whole wheat hero, with yummy slabs of fresh mozzarella. Got a chocolate chip chocolate gnocchi at Rocco’s (after wasting 15 minutes sitting at a table waiting for service!). Grom’s cioccolato extranoir (sorbet with egg yolk) was absolutely to die for! One of the highlights of the whole trip. The texture was silky texture and the flavour so dark and not too sweet. We also loved the pampelmosa. Then to the Bosie tea parlour for the mythical and beautiful Ispahan macaron, wow.

                                                          Dinner: 2nd Avenue Deli. Tried gribenes (addictive! but we’re glad we didn’t eat the whole bowl), kasha varnishkes, matzoh ball soup (the best I have ever tasted), and another great pastrami sandwich. The free chocolate soda shot for dessert was a nice touch!

                                                          Monday
                                                          Lunch: Gogo Curry, having never had this style of Japanese curry before. Really liked it!
                                                          Eileen’s for strawberry cheesecake – amazing! SO light-textured and creamy! Wish we could have gone back a few times.

                                                          Dinner: EMP. Absolutely loved it, the show, everything. Dinner should always be this fun. The sous vide asparagus in pig’s bladder was particularly impressive, but we loved the whole thing.

                                                          Tuesday
                                                          LES food tour for lunch:
                                                          We shared a potato knish at Yonah Schimmel’s; went to Russ and Daughters for Pacific wild king salmon with cream cheese on a sesame bagel, and soy-glazed smoked sable cheeks and orange and lemon cured peppered mackerel (really salty); had a bialy at Kossar’s. Then went to the Doughnut Plant for crème brûlé and rose-filled “doughseeds” (mini filled doughnuts) and a carrot cake doughnut with cream cheese icing filling! (and amazing fall-apart texture), and a triple chocolate for later. At Il Laboratorio del Gelato, we tasted avocado, cucumber, green apple, and tarragon pink pepper; had lemon ginger (nice non-candied ginger burn), yuzu (also non-candied, very tart), prune Armagnac (definitely the zingiest), and butternut squash (more subtle but I really enjoyed it). Went to Ray’s for a chocolate egg cream, which was SO delicious. Then back to Russ and Daughters for a chopped liver mini-everything bagel – and a little sample bite of babka.

                                                          Then had a late dinner at Kajitsu. Another incredible meal. Beautiful, fascinating and tasty. Probably our favourite dish was the plain bamboo shoots after being flambéed over dried bamboo leaves! But the whole evening was phenomenal.

                                                          Wednesday
                                                          Brunch: Got to Shopsin’s around 11:15am and there were tables free. Our waiter forgot to bring our coffee but we were too afraid to say anything, so just waited quietly for 20 minutes. (And then were too afraid to make a joke about being too afraid to say anything!) The food took about half an hour or slightly more. We weren’t treated to any displays of Ken’s temper, no one got kicked out.
                                                          Had the Blisters on My Sisters (original with chorizo) – rice, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes, arugula, chile peppers, fried eggs, cheese, chorizo, all in a skillet. Very cute and yummy.
                                                          I insisted on coming here after reading about the mac’n’cheese pancakes, so I had a half-order of these and a half order of the original “slutty”. Both were so delicious! We triumphantly polished everything off and then weren’t hungry for about 7 hours.

                                                          Dinner: We were in Brighton Beach for the evening so had Russian at Café Glechik, which was fun. Enjoyed the sorrel-heavy green borsch with rice and eggs, Solyanka soup with lemon, olives and sausage, “Siberian” pelmeni (pork and veal) and sour cherry vareniky. Tried the Napolean torte for dessert which was most remarkable for its size – at least a double portion! We had half of it for breakfast the next day.

                                                          Thursday
                                                          Late lunch at the Spotted Pig (only a 15-minute wait at 1:30pm). The chicken liver toast was unbelievable, sweet, fragrant, with slightly charred toast, drizzled with olive oil – wow. Got the famous burger which really was quite perfect. By this point in the trip I really appreciated that it didn’t seem heavy – it was almost non-burger-like in its greaselessness! Definitely worth having. Unfortunately the shoestring fries with deep-fried garlic slices and rosemary sprigs were also SO good (only a very occasional one was soggy) that I polished them off too, meaning that I could only handle a snack for dinner. We also had the gnudi which were really tasty, but frankly a ricotta-filled deep-fried dumpling sitting in a pool of butter was overwhelmingly rich for our tastes – we wished there was something acidic in the dish to relieve the butter overload.

                                                          Dinnertime snack was at Grand Central Oyster Bar. Mainly for the sake of being cheesy tourists we had the Manhattan clam chowder (was OK), and a Manhattan cocktail. We shared two dozen local oysters (Long Island “naked cowboy” and New Jersey “Cape May salts”) which were fabulously fresh and wonderful. (SO fresh there was a live tiny crab hiding under one of them…) Too bad they don’t come with fresh horseradish though.

                                                          Late night snack at Halal Guys. Glad we had the opportunity to fit in one food cart! We were surprised at the amount of food you get for $6! We had the combo of gyro and chicken with white sauce and hot sauce. The gyro was too salty but the chicken was perfect and lovely.

                                                          Friday
                                                          On our way to our next destination we stopped in the Bronx for a late lunch at Carnitas Al Atoradero. Not sure if we ordered the right stuff – it was good but didn’t strike us as hugely remarkable. The chicken in salsa verde special was tasty, and we enjoyed the tacos – al pastor, beef tongue and carnitas – although there were some mystery bits in the carnitas that we weren’t too sure of (squares of skin??) and we found the latter two taco fillings a bit gristly.

                                                          Last but not least, I was enticed by the Ben and Jerry’s “Core” ice cream subway posters and discovered it isn’t (and won’t be?) available in Canada, so we went to an A&P and bought ourselves the raspberry jam one. I would have liked more raspberry flavour in the raspberry-chocolate chunk side, but thought the jam idea was cool, and was pleased that the core wasn’t overly sweet.

                                                          And that was it! Definitely one of the most memorable food vacations we have ever had!! Thanks so much for helping us fine-tune our plans. ☺

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Klafouti

                                                            Amazing summary. I can't wait to return to New York to follow some of your suggestions. I love Thai food and stay very close by, but I had no idea of the existence of Larb Ubol. Many of your other suggestions sound wonderful as well.

                                                            1. re: omotosando

                                                              Thanks / you're welcome! One always hopes that the effort made to report back is helpful to others!!

                                                            2. re: Klafouti

                                                              My in-laws from Toronto each bought a combo rice from the Halal Guys once while my wife and I bought one to share. They too were amazed at how much food they got for $6. It's one of the foods I crave and can't find when I'm in Toronto.

                                                              1. re: Klafouti

                                                                Glad you fit in a Russian meal in Brighton Beach! Sounds like a super trip.

                                                              2. Thanks for your wonderful reports on your amazing 2 weeks of eating.