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first time visiting NY

hi, I will be visiting NYC for the first time in early May. I have looked through some websites regarding restaurants. Its kind of hard to make decisions on that so was wondering if anyone has a few recommendations on some must go spots for a first timer. Not a foodie or anything like that, just want to try some good spots that a first timer should try. Even touristy spots are ok too. I'm coming from LA if that helps any. Thanks!

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    1. Here's what I've written for other visitors & it may help you.

      Where are you coming from?

      When are you coming? How long are you here? How many meals do you have available?

      We don't want to recommend food that you might do better at home (i.e. BBQ to a Southerner, Mexican to an LA resident), but we also may have some cuisines you can't find at home...

      I'd say we are pretty strong in a lot of different cuisines but not equally. Budget will makes big difference in where you can go.

      Are you willing to wait for a table at a no reservations restaurant? If so, for how long?

      How hard are you willing to work for a reservation at a restaurant that's hard to book?

      What is your budget, per person, per meal, BEFORE tax, tip, wine/drinks/etc for your meals? It is much easier for us to help you if you give a pre-tax-and-tip figure.

      Feel free to break out your budget in terms of upscale/fancy meals (and number of them) and cheaper/everyday meals.

      What else are you doing while you are here? Planning around sightseeing, shopping, Broadway shows, etc? Also if you are sightseeing, to make the best use of your time, you should try to find things to eat to/from the tourist destinations or near the tourist destinations. Our tourist destinations are spread out all around town.

      Note that popular places tend to book about a MONTH in advance. Most upscale restaurants serve weekday lunch (but not weekend lunch), and serve dinner Monday through Saturday, and are usually closed Sundays, though there are a few exceptions to the "closed Sundays" rule (ex: Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Jean Georges).

      Check out some "Only in NY" type foods while you're here: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, pizza, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

      Russ & Daughters (takeout, busy on weekends), Katz's Deli (from When Harry Met Sally), Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic), William Greenberg's black and whites, Junior's cheesecake, egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's, Pickle Guys, the Halal Guys (53rd and 6th after sunset), are all iconic "NY" sorts of places that are worth a look.

      Past "Uniquely NY" discussions:

      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?

      If you're interested in some of the places I listed above, you could do a LES food crawl. I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:

      Best NY style pizza:

      We also have some of the harder to find Chinese cuisines: Henan, Shaanxi (Xian Famous Foods) and Fuzhou in Manhattan, and many more in Queens and Brooklyn (Shangdong/Qingdao and Dongbei to name a few). scoopG's Chinatown list (dependent upon where you are coming from these may be exotic or not... most places don't have Henan or Xian style food though):

      You might also want to do a restaurant doing creative takes on Asian, like at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Wong, Fatty Cue, Takashi, RedFarm, Mission Chinese, Jungsik, Kin Shop, or Danji.

      My favorite unique places in NY serve Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal food, steak, upscale rustic Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese (like kaiseki), creative desserts, molecular gastronomy, mixology/creative cocktails, and creative brunches (sometimes every day of the week).

      Some common tourist inquiries:

      Notable food trucks/carts:

      Prix fixe lunch deals:

      Late night dining:
      Best Old New York Restaurants:

      Old school cocktail bars


      Best mixology:

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

      Best bagels in NYC:
      Summary: the freshest bagels are the best; bagels don't age well at all. Focus on the smoked salmon instead. Preferably at Russ & Daughters! Featured in shows such as No Reservations and Louie!

      I'm fond of red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one, they're surprisingly different (and lox is not the same as smoked salmon, because lox is salmon cured in salt brine, and most people actually prefer the more modern, Nova-style smoked salmon). You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters, too, if you wish. Takeout only.

      Eating near tourist attractions:

      Where to Eat Near Times Square:

      Where to Eat Near MoMA (the museum cafe is actually pretty good, as is the Modern next door):

      Where to Eat Near Museum Mile (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney, Guggenheim, etc) on the UES:

      Where to Eat Near the Museum of Natural History on the UWS:

      Where to Eat Near Macy's/Herald Square/Penn Station/Empire State Building:

      Where to Eat Near Grand Central/Midtown East:

      Where to Eat in Soho:

      Where to Eat near 5th Avenue shopping / Bloomingdale's / Rockefeller Center:

      Where to have dinner before a Broadway show/pre-theatre dining (many of the same Times Square recs also apply):

      Where to Eat Near the 9/11 Memorial:

      If you like the idea of RGR's self-guided LES tour above, check these out, too.

      Maybe scoopG's self guided Chinatown tour:

      A West Village food crawl

      East Village:

      5 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        I appreciate your help. That is a lot of useful information. But I guess to be more specific, I was just wondering a few "must go" spots that New Yorkers would suggest. I have looked through websites and best of city lists but there are so many places to look through its hard to choose.
        I'm from LA so if visitors come I would suggest to them a few must go spots, like a taco spot, or a place in koreatown they must try, a LA must go spot in Beverly HIlls, or must try this nice spot by the beach, etc.

        Just anyones suggestions of a few must go spots for a first timer. Location, budget, upscale or casual, any of that doesn't matter. Thanks!

        1. re: stephenyoungchoi

          Please read through Kathryn's post - her post has pretty much answered all your very general questions.

          1. re: stephenyoungchoi

            stephenyoungchoi-Kathryn has provided more than enough info for you. I suggest you plan you consult a Zagat guide and narrow down your choices by food category etc.

          2. re: kathryn

            Wow, you really put a lot of time and effort into your reply. I hope it is appreciated.

            1. As others note, the breadth of kathryn's well-chosen suggestions shows there is no one-size-fits-all "must go" list. Provide a more specific idea of your likes and dislikes and locals will be happy to narrow things down for you.

              6 Replies
              1. re: squid kun

                i appreciate the help from everyone but what I was looking more for a few suggestions of any must go recommended place. For example, if I have some first timers coming to LA, I would suggest a few spots like lets say... in-n-out, el tarunio, parks bbq, and maybe another nice restaurant, for example... I have looked through yelp, zagat, those 100 best NYC guides, etc, but its too hard to review and choose, plus Id rather take local peoples suggestions then choose my own that I have no idea about. I heard a few like Halal cart, lombardis, peter lugers. So was just trying to get a few options from local NY'ers. Thanks!

                1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                  Once again, read Kathryn's post. The answers you seek are there.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    hmm... either I'm not explaining correctly or its not registering.... those lists have over 100's of restaraunts and its the same thing that I can find when I google like 100 best NYC restaraunts, or such. I'm looking more for spots that a first timer should go, that shows this is what NYC is. Same as if I have first timers coming to LA I wouldn't give them a list of 100 restaraunts and say choose what you want ( cos no one knows any of those restaruants if ur not from the area). I would suggest they try a few spots which shows this is LA. I had a few suggestions, Halal cart, Lombaris pizza, Peter Lugers, Katz, so I'm looking for those types of suggetions. If all you got is 100 list of restaraunts then I'll just go by those few already suggested to me..

                    1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                      You have not read the threads then that she links. They are not mere lists. There is no one singular NYC experience. Spend forty minutes going over the links/threads in her post and create your own "to do" list. If you have specific questions, then great - folks here are happy to help your refine your choices.

                      1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                        I'll say it again: we are not going to hold your hand and tell you exactly where to go. That is your decision. Also, NYC is has much more to offer thal L.A., so it's not the same. Since you have never been here, I think you cannot truly understand this until you get here. And see for yourself. Try not to obssess over it and just enjoy your time here. If you pick only one of kathryn's suggestions each day, you will have a great time.

                        1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                          Well, no one has been able to give you more specific recommendations because you haven't answered the questions Kathryn asked...

                          If we suggest that you have a $500 dinner at Eleven Madison Park because we think that's a necessary NYC experience but your budget is only $100 per day, that's a useless suggestion and a waste of everyone's time. Or maybe you hate hamburgers; why would we suggest Shake Shack?

                  2. My LA friends loved:

                    The Modern
                    Carnegie Deli
                    Momofuku Ssam Bar

                    1. I don't want to sound like I'm piling on but it's hard to get more "local" then kathryn, those aren't just lists she has put together; a lot of it is based on personal experience

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                        oh yea sorry if I sound like I didn't care for Kathryn's list. I looked at some of the suggestions she gave but was sorta also looking for only a few suggestions on some... hmm how do I say... like "this is a new York spot" places... if I make any sense?? either way thanks for everyones help!

                      2. So maybe you want something more like this:

                        Shake Shack (Madison Park location) for incredible burgers from the original location

                        Ippudo (E Village location) - for, IMO, the best ramen in NYC (I'm opening a can of worms saying that)

                        Keens steakhouse - Real "Old School" with the most incredible mutton chop (but really just lamb) in existence

                        Barney Greengrass - for the best smoked fish in NYC, a NY tradition (along with Russ and Daughters)

                        Gramercy Tavern Tap Room

                        Katz deli

                        Minetta Tavern

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                          yea something like that... I guess if I want to word it better...
                          if you had someone coming for the first time, what would be the 2-3 spots you would have to take them to...

                          thanks for your help! =)

                          1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                            What dates are you here? Weekday, long weekend, etc? Are you free during the day for lunch?

                            For some places you should have been booking weeks ago for early May. For example, for Luger, they may only have 4:45 or 10pm left by now. They book far in advance. Same for Babbo & Minetta Tavern, two of my "only in NY" type favorites.

                            Are you willing to wait a long time to eat somewhere, like brunch at Shopsin's or Shake Shack on a nice day?

                            Are you bringing a suit jacket? If not, this may exclude some of the best of the best and some good prix fixe lunch choices.

                            1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                              Right now, I'd take them to Gato for Bobby Flay's great Spanish-influenced food, in a fabulous room. And to maybe even glimpse BF on the line.

                              Racines Wine Bar...Just opened, already has lines out the door.

                              Upstairs to have a drink in the Mandarin Oriental, or even to dine at Asiate (recently loved by Alan Richman) and for the greatest view in the city.

                              Alder - for Wylie's and Jon's best pub food you'll ever eat, and great cocktails to boot.

                              Golden Cadillac for a perfectly executed 70s throwback cocktail.

                              Jean-Georges or Nougatine for possibly the best lunch deal in the country.

                              Katz's. Great NY Noodletown. 4 for $1 Dumplings.

                              That's a start.

                              1. re: stephenyoungchoi

                                You really don't understand: There is no way a knowledgeable New Yorker would suggest the same 2-3 spots to everyone. I doubt it would make sense to do that for LA, either, but it certainly wouldn't make sense here.

                            2. If In-and-Out qualifies as a good "locals" recommendation for LA, the Shake Shack is just as good (and mentioned in just about every guide book, like In-and-Out).

                              stephenyoungchoi, people understand what you are hoping to find. However, given the huge numbers and varieties of restaurants, and given the variability of tastes/preferences/incomes of locals (including CH posters, and yourself), the idea of a "must go" or "this is a quintessentially New York" spot is frankly nonsense. By always coming back to that as your only operating parameter, you are making it "too hard to review and choose" because you are making the perfect --or idealization-- the enemy of the good (as they say).

                              The suggestions you have gotten thus far ARE the quintessential "New York" spots by definition, in as much as they are beeing offerred/recommended by New Yorkers! But if you want something that SEEMS quintessentially New York, then use the lists found in guidebooks (which you reject); these recommendations SEEM quintessentially Ney York because they are routinely visited by tourists looking for the New York thing, which is why they are listed in the books.

                              Make a list of 3 or 4 of these suggestions here for each neighborhood and each meal so you can be flexible, and perhaps do further research (on Yelp, whatever).

                              Some will be hits, some misses, depending on your preferences. But that is life and the adventure of learning about what the "real" city is all about.

                              1. If someone was coming for the first time it would depend on their budget, personal tastes, likes and dislikes, where they were coming from, etc.

                                Also, as Kathryn mentions in her post: lead time, personal preferences (waiting in line, etc.), dress, etc.

                                If they don't eat or like fish I wouldn't send them to Russ and Daughters. If they were gluten-free I wouldn't suggest Kossar's. If they were coming from Cyprus, I wouldn't suggest Greek food. If they did, those would all be on my short list.

                                1. Afghan Kebab House - 764 9th (51st-52nd) Ave, New York, NY ‎
                                  (212) 307-1612


                                  Ariana Kebab House -

                                  787 9th (52nd-53rd) Avenue
                                  New York, NY 10019
                                  (212) 262-2323

                                  I like the lamb kofta the best. Rice pudding is good too.

                                  Reservations NOT needed at either and both are not noisy.

                                  1. Go for a cocktail at the Campbell Apartment upstairs in Grand Central Station. It's absolutely "Old New York," full of history at its finest, and a beautiful room.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                      Really? I've been over a dozen times in the past 10 years while waiting for a metro north train. It's not what it once was. There was a time when you could go upstairs for a smoke during the smoking banning days. Very speak easy like for smokers. I don't smoke anymore. But I think it is now overpriced cocktails for tourists and expense account westchesterites heading north. Maybe it is getting its luster back.

                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        I agree that the Campbell Apt. space is 'old NY' in a way that historical curiosities can be, but what fills it during peak business hours -the crowds of people and the hellacious noise they generate- is insufferable for me.
                                        Although the OP wasn't asking for a bar reference specifically, I'd recommend the King Cole Bar over the CA any day: the former is elegant, the latter something akin to a dog's dinner.

                                        1. re: Phil Ogelos

                                          I'll see you that King Cole Bar rec
                                          and raise you a Bemelmans' Bar to watch the comings and goings at the Cafe Carlyle

                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            Fortunately, bella, choosing between the two is not a zero-sum game -on a free-ranging night, anyway!

                                            [I went to a lecture on the Parrish mural a few weeks ago, and learned that the artist used it to win a bet with some fellow NY artists that he could paint a fart; the (offending) 'king' in this case was John Jacob Astor IV, who commissioned the piece and whom the teetotaling Quaker Parrish disdained. Most of the other characters in the tableau are varied portraits of Maxfield himself.]