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Apr 21, 2014 07:39 PM

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 (, 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
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
    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

    Visitors, travellers, tourists and other Chowhounds who do not live in NYC, which places do you revisit when you visit Manhattan?

    What says NYC to you?

    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 (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.