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Apr 28, 2014 09:49 AM

2 Chicagoans in NYC Memorial Day Weekend

My husband and I are heading to NY over memorial day from Friday-Tuesday. My last trip to NY was about 3 years ago so I know many openings and closings have occurred since. We tend to do more grazing when we travel as opposed to large sit down dinners so we get the chance to go to more places and experience more.
Fri/Sat nights we are staying in Midtown East at either the Omni or Marriott East Side. I have stayed in this area several times in the past so I am pretty comfortable with the neighborhood and what I can find there. We get in late Friday so am thinking we will just hit La Bateu Ivre for a late French dinner. Has anyone been to the Lebanese restaurant Naya in Midtown east? Or is there another Lebanese restaurant that you would recommend in place of it? I am 50% Lebanese and we are definitely lacking good Lebanese food (that isnt fast casual).

For Sunday/Monday nights we are staying in Soho/Tribeca (right now I think either Sheraton Tribeca or Hilton Garden Inn Tribeca). We have really just started our list but so far we have the following on it:
Aquagrill for oysters
Blue Ribbon around the corner from Aquagrill
Is a Cronut worth trying? This would only be if I was able to order online, I am not a stand in line kind of girl.
Babbo- We are doing this for lunch, are we missing out if we don't do dinner there?
Balthazar- I usually just go here for some wine and an app, its just become a habit to stop
Ferrara Bakery Little Italy- This is just a tradition, I have been going here since I was 15 w/ my aunt so now I still stop by every trip
Katz's Deli and maybe Russ and Daughters
momofuku- not sure which one yet.
Pearl and Ash

We still have a lot of work to do on our list yet and would appreciate any other recommendations that you have. I know Kathryn has quite a few posts out there so I will be reviewing that as well. For this trip we plan on being relatively casual so no jacket requirements. Living in Chicago we have our share of steakhouses so unless my husband strong arms me, we won't be doing any steakhouses. One thing I haven't done before is any of the food tours as I usually kind of create my own, but are there any of them that you would recommend paying for? Any places that you local NY hounds just can't get enough of right now? Any great must visit bakeries right now?
Wine bar and creative cocktail lounges are a plus for us as well as any place we can either share something, get appetizers or small plates to continue through our "grazing" mentality although we are open to full sit down dinners as well.
Budget- Ideally we would like to keep it under $100 per not including alcohol for any sit down dinners.

I look forward to your suggestions and advise!

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  1. I have heard good things about Naya but have never been. There is a Naya Express on 3rd Av but it's mainly a takeout place.
    I do love Al Bustan which is a short walk from your hotel and Byblos on Madison and E 28 th??
    Both Al Bustan and Byblos are authentic Lebanese/Syrian restaurants cooking like my Jiddo cooked. Both serve kibbeh nayeh which you won't find in most Middle Eastern restaurants.
    There is also Ililli which has very good middle eastern food with a young trendy vibe. Very noisy.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Motosport

      Great thanks, I will be sure to check these out. Kibbeh Nayeh is my favorite and in the 5 years I've been in Chicago have only found one restaurant that will make it for me on a regular basis.

      1. re: Dee74

        I would have thought it would be easy to get kibbeh nayeh in Albany Park or Bridgeview. The market/butcher I used to shop at growing up in Chicago had a whole freezer section dedicated just to kibbeh!

        I've only been to Naya for lunch. I thought it was fine for mezze and kebabs, but now that they have a larger menu with Lebanese specialties like Daoud Basha and Sheikh al Mahshi, I've meant to go back for another visit. Al Bustan, though, is the reliable standard in the neighborhood for classic Lebanese cuisine. If you had to choose between the two, I'd go with the latter.

        While you're in SoHo, you might want to check out the Lebanese popup in the old Bowery J train station. I'd also trade Aquagrill for Ed's or Mermaid inn for oysters.

        The rest of your list hits all the standard spots. If you want to pay a visit to a small plates restaurant, I think the wine cellar at Bacaro is one of the underappreciated gems in the city. Degustation, Alta might also appeal to you.

        As far as cocktails go, I'd suggest paying a visit to Sother Teague, a man who takes his craft seriously, honing his skills as a mixologist as much as a conversationalist. You'll find him at Amor y Amargo nowadays. Evelyn Drinkery, Booker & Dax and Pouring Ribbons are good. If you are a gin fan, The Winslow has one of my favorite gin services around.

        1. re: JungMann


          Thank you! I haven't been to any of the restaurants in Bridgeview, but the ones I have been to in Albany Park are slightly casual and none serving kibbeh nayeh. I have a place in Lincoln Park that I do go to for it and he does a good job but in the 5 years I have lived here I have found I could get much better Lebanese food in N. VA/DC area. I would love to know what Butcher you used to go to and see if they are still there!

          Al Bustan is also open later than Naya so we may be able to fit that in Friday when we arrive. The menu looks great. I did see on yelp about the lebanese pop up and was wondering if it was still there.

          Thanks for the oyster tip. We had been to Aquagrill last time and enoyed what we had. I will check out the other two places. Or maybe we will hit them all and compare! How does Grand Central Oyster Bar compare?

          I will put the other suggestions on my list to research. Appreciate the tips!

          1. re: Dee74

            My family shops at Al Sahar. We mostly buy prepared goods, but their meat counter might be able to grind kibbeh nayeh by special order. Jaafer Sweets right next door is also worth a visit for their made-to-order knafeh and fantastic baklava.

            The Lebanese popup, Manousheh, is going to be pretty casual, as one can expect from a place that specializes in nothing but manakish, but it's a charming enough neighborhood cafe if you're walking the area.

            GCOB is fine for raw bar, but not too much else. Some people like the noise and bustle of the place; I prefer a more relaxed environment for oysters and wine.

            1. re: JungMann

              I will have to check those out. I usually go to Nazareth Sweets, but will check out Jaafer next time I go up there.

          2. re: JungMann

            Aquagrill does have that big selection of oysters that other places don't have, though.

            I've heard good things about Upstate Craft Beer & Oyster Bar.

            1. re: kathryn

              Much prefer Aquagrill over Mermaid. Both for oysters and any food you might order.

              1. re: kathryn

                I like the looks and reviews of Upstate Craft Beer and Oyster Bar.

          3. If you really want great Italian pastries, consider posting to the Outer Boroughs board, where people will suggest the wonderful and inexpensive Villabate (nowhere to sit, though).

            There have been some sad downhill posts about Balthazar lately, but I have had items from their bakery in New Jersey and they are as good as ever, so it seemed (and certainly good indeed).

            Kathryn is fantastic, but can you give any more guidance as to what kinds of places you are looking for, for additional recommendations?

            1. Right now we are in a big rotation of Tertulia, Momofuku Ssam, with some visits to Blue Ribbon Izakaya once in a while.

              The best cocktail bar in Midtown is Lantern's Keep. It's small. Make a reservation. Closed Sundays. A bit of a walk from your proposed hotels but it is excellent and they are also quite good at tailoring a drink to your preferences.

              Pre or post-Ssam you're in cocktail bar heaven in the East Village, with Booker & Dax, Pouring Ribbons, Mayahuel, Amor y Amargo, PDT, Death & Co, etc. Just don't expect to waltz right in and get a seat right away at primetime on a weekend night at PDT or Death & Co especially.

              In Soho, you should stop in at Pegu Club on Sun/Mon if you've never been.

              Near Pearl & Ash is Experimental Cocktail Club, Nitecap, Attaboy...

              For sweets, Bleecker St has become somewhat of a sugar mecca over the last few years. Grom, Cones, Royce Chocolates, Murray's Cheese expanding their bakery selection, Rocco, Amy's Bread, Bisous Ciao, etc. And Victory Garden and Bosie Tea Parlor just off Bleecker.

              I guess the hottest new thing is probably the new Laduree in Soho.

              17 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                Thank you all for the suggestions thus far. I have been traveling a lot lately and haven't had as much time as I typically like to plan but I am loving all of these suggestions!

                So places now on our radar also include:
                Bacaro- I like the looks of the downstairs
                Ed's for a Lobster Roll
                Mermaid- Maybe for some oysters in addition to Aqua Grill
                Upstate- If we are close by we would probably check this out.
                Pouring Ribbons
                Amor y Amargo
                PDT- This looks cool depending on the wait.
                Death & Co- depending on the wait
                Nitecap looks like it could make the list
                Lanterns Keep- We may hit this when we are in Midtown, it looks like its only about a 1/2 mile from our hotel (now the Omni) so definitely walkable for us.
                For Momofuku we are doing Ssam

                I need to start looking up these sweets places because my husband definitely has a sweet tooth (especially chocolate). I know Grom will definitely be on the list, we went to one in Bologna last year and while it wasn't the best Gelato of our trip, the location was a memorable one for us.

                1. re: Dee74

                  For Grom, take a look at my Greenwich Village/West Village/Meatpacking walking tour that includes the High Line, Chelsea Market, Bleecker St.

                  Much sugar near/on Bleecker St these days including chocolates, gelato, goat milk soft serve, macarons, cupcakes, etc. as I posted above.


                  For top quality chocolate in Soho, check out Kee's, but go on the earlier side. Might be good to combine with some other good sweets in Soho like La Churreria, Dominique Ansel, Birdbath, the pastry counter at Dean & Deluca, Balthazar Bakery...

                  FYI the Pouring Ribbons folks also do the Violet Hour among other bars...

                  1. re: kathryn

                    The walking tour is great, thank you! I am glad to see on Magnolia it doesn't talk about the cupcakes because I am definitely not a fan of their cupcakes!

                    I do have Birthbath on my list, I had some good treats from them last time. For Dominque Ansel, I am going to try to pre-order a cronut otherwise will probably stop by to try something else, I would not wait in line for the cronut.

                    Maybe that is why I like the looks of Pouring Ribbons, I do like Violet Hour!

                    1. re: Dee74

                      What impressed you at Birdbath? I've never found anything I've had there outstanding.

                      1. re: Pan

                        I don't know if I would use the word impressed, but I did enjoy a cookie there with my morning latte and it could have been the cookie, or it could have been my latte (from elsewhere) but the combo was very satisfying.

                        1. re: Pan

                          Not the pretzel croissant or baker's muffin? I also like the non alcoholic sangria. Cookies are usually a hit at parties, too.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I never tried any croissant there, just cookies, muffins and brownies, and while everything was fine, nothing impressed me. Is the baker's muffin a particular type of muffin or just any of their muffins?

                              1. re: kathryn

                                OK, yeah, I remember liking them. I haven't disliked anything at Birdbath, though; I just haven't found anything outstanding. De gustibus, etc.

                          2. re: Pan

                            The chocolate chip cookie is very good, and as kathryn mentioned the pretzel croissant- those sell out often though.

                    2. re: kathryn

                      And has NY gotten more affordable for cocktails or is Chicago just getting more expensive because most of these bars seem pretty on point with what I would find in my neighborhood.

                      1. re: Dee74

                        I think Chicago has gotten more expensive? Where do you live?

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Yeah I think you are right. Not all bars are that expensive but there isn't much of a price difference. If you are familiar with Chicago at all, I live in the West Loop or to relate it to food, the same neighborhood as Girl and the Goat, Grant Achatz's Next and the Aviary, Grace...

                          1. re: Dee74

                            Ah, makes sense, the West Loop is very hot these days (love Aviary, Au Cheval, GATG, etc). We've also visited friends in other neighborhoods and the cocktail prices in, say, Logan Square seemed cheap to us compared to Manhattan!

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Aviary is a great but definitely not a place I go every week with prices. Au Cheval is my go to when I am craving a burger although that isnt all they do well (love that entire group). Logan Square has had a lot of places popping up lately and yes, those are definitely less expensive than Manhattan. On average in the city I would say we are paying 12-14 for a craft cocktail. Some places you can get 9-10 depending.

                              1. re: Dee74

                                Also note that Lantern's Keep is a bit more expensive than even $13-14. They don't have prices on their web site and I can't recall off the top of my head, but I believe it's $16 per cocktail.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  I believe I also saw $16 on some of the online reviews.

                    3. In tribeca terroir is a great wine bar

                      Maslow 6 has a nice selection and bonus that you can buy a bottle next door at their wine shop

                      And i have to tell you to visit Kaffe 1668 while in tribeca for coffee, (my avatar was their macchiato), the larger location at 401 greenwich has better seating options if you want to linger.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                        Great thank you Terroir looks great and for the coffee we will definitely check out Kaffe 1668, I love a good latte in the morning!

                        1. re: Dee74

                          The midtown location of Kaffe is closest to your hotel, its in the lobby of a big office building:
                          530 5th Avenue (between 44th and 45th street)
                          New York, NY 10036
                          Mon-Fri 7:00am-6pm