A year in New York
Hello Hounds! I will be visiting the Bronx on weekends and holidays for all of next year and would love to try out restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. We love ethnic and contemporary American but would give fine dining a try too. In the past we have been to and have liked Jojo, Marc Forgione, La Sirene, Cafe Boulud, Annisa, Babbo, and a few other places I can't seem to remember. This past week we had two good meals at Sushi Yasaka and Gallery 32 (Koreatown). We have had not so good experiences also, recently at Balthazar, Prune and Les Halles. All in all, so far we haven't been terribly impressed with NYC, like the way we have been with Chicago, New Orleans and Montreal. What have we been missing? I want to compile a list of not-to-miss food experiences in NYC for the next year. On our list right now are:
1. Le Bernardin/ 11 Madison/ Bouley
2. Spotted Pig
3. Couple of David Chang places
4. Estiatorio Milos
6. Restaurants in Flushing Chinatown
8. Sushi Nakazawa/Sushi Yasuda
9. ABC Kitchen
11. Jean Gorges/Perry Street
Please help build our list.
New York can't compete with Chicago for cutting edge inventiveness but we do certain things well, such as:
Pan Asian or Asian influenced cuisine - Momofuku Ko, Brooklyn Fare, Ssam Bar, Ma Peche, Wong, RedFarm, Jeepney, Pig & Khao, Chez Sardine (soon to re-open as Bar Sardine)
Japanese - Ippudo, Tori Shin, 15 East
Modern Italian - Perla, Lincoln, Marea, Del Posto, Ristorante Morini, Torrisi Italian Specialties
Modern American - Betony, The NoMad, The Modern, M. Wells Dinette, Acme
Spanish - Tertulia, Casa Mono, Txikito, Gato
Steak - Wolfgang's, Keens, Minetta Tavern
And don't forget pastrami at Katz's or Carnegie Deli.
re: peter j
If you haven't done so yet, make sure to also post to the Outer Boroughs board for recommendations in Queens Brooklyn and the Bronx.
I see you like Jojo, so Jean Georges is an obvious idea. My favorite places in Koreatown are Don's Bogam and Madangsui, but I still have yet to make it to Gaonnuri. However, everyone in the know says that Korean food is best on and near Northern Blvd. from Flushing to the Nassau County line and beyond, and in New Jersey.
I've loved Tocqueville in the past, but the last time I went, I was pretty disappointing, as everything tasted merely buttery. Perhaps a fluke, though, I guess.
I don't know what "we love ethnic" means. Which particular cuisines do you like best?
Thank you Pan.
1. Any particular recommendations for Korean food in New Jersey? I drive to the Bronx via Fort Lee and I see lots of Korean restaurants around (but we haven't been to any yet).
2. Excuse me for the choice of word but by "ethnic" I meant ethnic neighborhood food, such as Chinese, Polish, Vietnamese and Italian sandwiches in Philly, tacos in San Diego (where can I get adobada pork tacos in NYC?), Filipino in Jersey City, Cuban in Miami, pizza (!) in Trenton, Spanish in Newark, some good Persian in suburban DC.
3. I will look for postings on the Outer Boroughs boards. We would like to find out more about contemporary Brooklyn cuisines (including Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare if we could get reservations), neighborhoods in Queens (we once had Egyptian food on a street full of Egyptian restaurants but it wasn't anything to write about), Ghanaian food in Bronx perhaps. The other day we had some very good tacos at Queen of Tacos (Norwood) and Bangladeshi at Neerob (Parkchester).
1. No, I have no personal knowledge of Korean places in New Jersey. Go to the New Jersey board for recommendations from people who know.
2. In Manhattan, most of the best Chinese food seems to be Sichuan, nowadays. You could start with the original branch of Sichuan Gourmet (39 St. between 5th and 6th) and then cycle through the rest of them. However, there are a whole bunch of regional Chinese cuisines represented in Flushing; search in and post to Outer Boroughs for those.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn is reportedly the best place in New York for Polish food. Again, Outer Boroughs. The East Village has some decent Polish and Ukrainian restaurants, my favorite of which is Ukrainian East Village in the Ukrainian National Home. I'm not sure any of them are destination restaurants, but you'll be here for a year, and it's fun, so go.
New York is weak in Vietnamese food, so you might want to skip that. We do have some good Thai food, though, both in Manhattan and Queens. In Manhattan, try Larb Ubol and Somtum Der.
We have Italian sandwiches, too. I don't have those a lot, though. Pizza is definitely something you should be getting here, and start with the Bronx (again, Outer Boroughs board).
Your best bet for tacos is Jackson Heights, Queens, and there's been some discussion on this topic in Outer Boroughs lately.
I don't know the Filipino places in Jersey City, but there are some in Queens, again with some recent discussion.
For Spanish, you should check out the best-reputed tapas places here. I've loved Txikito, but there are others, too (Tertulia is some people's favorite). This is also a much-discussed topic.
Persian is not a strength of New York, but you can get Bukharan food in Rego Park, Queens and also in Brooklyn.
3. I remember there being a lot of talk about an Egyptian restaurant named, I think, Ali's, in Astoria. There are other very good Arab restaurants in the Outer Boroughs, including Yemen Cafe, which has two branches (the one on Atlantic Av. is the one I know).
This is a bit random, but what about doing an ethnic food tour? I sent my parents on one in queens (i couldn't go) and the tiny group of them went to a number of hole in the wall ethnic shops. My parents loved it and the outer borough boards unanimously agreed this was a good one.
Otherwise the links from kathryn with the walking self guided food tours are a great way to discover new places and the neighborhood.
re: peter j
Thank you Peter J for the suggestions. We did try Ssam bar on Saturday (loved the rotisserie duck on rice).
1. Is M Wells Dinnette open for lunch only?
2. Where would you rank Babbo compared to the other modern Italian you mention in your list? How are the older Italian places around Christopher Street such as Malatesta trattoria?
M. Wells Dinnette is open until 6PM (I've eaten early dinner there). Their menu is small and changes frequently, if not daily and it can be hit or miss. Sometimes there's nothing on the menu that I feel like eating, other times, they've sold out of dishes. I would call ahead to get an idea of what they're serving.
M. Wells Steakhouse is only open for dinner and some of the food is very good, but the steaks don't impress me and much of the food is hit or miss as well or will have some element that throws the dish off.
If you're going to LIC, I'd suggest you try Tournesol (very reasonably priced, well executed bistro fare) or LIC Market (excellent new-American with a focus on local ingredients). Their duck hash is really delicious.
I like Malatesta, but it's an entirely different category of restaurant than Babbo - an informal, mid-priced trattoria as opposed to an upscale, more luxe ristorante, in Italian terms. People have different opinions about Babbo. I liked the one meal I had there some years ago, and I think it's certainly worth your going once, but don't overlook the cheaper Lupa, which continues to be a real bargain but is very hard to get reservations for. I don't see Ai Fiori on peter j's list, and I certainly recommend it.
For rustic Italian I prefer Perla over Babbo. The chef at Perla, Michael Toscano, came from Babbo so the menu has a similar sensibility.
The other suggestions are a bit more formal and not really comparable to Babbo, with Del Posto being the fanciest, followed by Marea, Lincoln, Ristorante Morini, and Torrisi Italian Specialties.
I haven't tried Malatesta. Glad you liked Ssam Bar.
Babbo is the only modern Italian (as opposed to trattorias) we have been to in NYC. That is why I was wondering how it compared to all other upscale Italian restaurants mentioned by Peter J. We liked Babbo a lot, and it was actually not difficult to get a reservation (contrary to what I was hearing online).
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 (they have both a retail store and a sit down place now, 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
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:
Old school cocktail bars
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 Museum Mile (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney, Guggenheim, etc) on the UES:
Where to Eat Near Macy's/Herald Square/Penn Station/Empire State Building:
Where to have dinner before a Broadway show/pre-theatre dining (many of the same Times Square recs also apply):
Note that the High Line is quite long and has its own seasonal food vendors as well.
Hudson Eats, an indoor food hall, is also nearby:
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
I will try and respond to all your questions:
1. I will be traveling from Lancaster, PA every weekend (sometimes Fri-Mon) to see my wife in the Bronx. 50 more weekends or so, and 2-5 meals per weekend (no breakfast).
2. All we want to do is eat out so yes, we are willing to wait for a table, couple of hours if it is worth it.
3. Not too keen on very hard to book places.
4. We will splurge every once in a while ($300-400 per head before tax and tips) but most days we would like to stay in the $75-100 per head range. That would probably rule Masa out but that is okay. Is there any other place out of our budget?
5. We won't do much sightseeing but will go to a few broadway shows once in a while (matinees on Saturdays mostly).
Thank you so much for providing links to past discussions on chowhound. This is going to be my weekend reading. We are going to Estiatoria Milos for lunch and Madangsui for dinner on Saturday, followed by Perry Street for lunch (or brunch) on Sunday. Last weekend we did Momofuku Ssam for lunch.
You might want to consider:
Hangawi for delicious vegetarian dishes, they prepare mushrooms scrumptiously.
Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken for southern fried chicken that's moist, juicy and well-seasoned. Get the chicken when it's fresh out of the fryer, not when it's been sitting around.
Breslin - Their lamb burger is phenomenal and their menu is strong overall, although they're a little heavy handed with salt. I request them to go easy on the salt.
Hakkasan - Fantastic dim-sim brunch and the best Peking duck in town. Top notch desserts.
Decoy - Very good non-traditional dim sum items, small bites.
Tori Shin - Perfectly grilled meat skewers. I find them more consistent than Yakitori Totto which is also very good but sometimes the meat is overcooked, and the waits are long.
Mad For Chicken/Turntable - Korean fried chicken that is done well. Go for lunch if you like a quieter environment, night time the music gets loud and the atmosphere is more like a noisy bar than restaurant.
Maharlika for very tasty Filipino food, sizzling sisig is lush and well-prepared pata.
I find the Breslin to be a little bit more varied in terms of menu, and a bit more ambitious. Had my birthday dinner there a few years ago and had an entire roast suckling pig. Including the head!
We avoid going to the SP primetime on weekends (only for early dinner or weird afternoon hours), sorry, can't help you there.
John Dory is awful, regardless of the Yelp reviews, I had one of the worst meals in NYC there.
Small portions, cheap ingredients, high prices, middling execution and just ridiculous. I had oysters there (mediocre), the stuffed squid (tasty but small and not worth it), the oyster pan roast which was basically toast and oyster flavored foam. It was so little food, we cut our losses and walked over to Ilili to have a real dinner.
Thanks for the chowhound listings. I haven't been through the list yet but I will over the weekend.
Restaurants we liked (with opinions and comments in parenthesis):
Chicago - Girl and the Goat, Takashi, Purple Pig, Blackbird, Avec, Frontera Grill, Xoco, Topolobampo, Longman and Eagle, Publican Quality Meats, North Pond (a memorable pheasant dish), Au Cheval, Pleasant House Bakery (great British pies).
New Orleans - August, GW Fins, Cochon, Domenica (best happy hour), Dragos (for grilled oysters), Brigtsen's, Luke, Commander's Palace (great lunch and 25c martinis), Peche.
Montreal - Au Pied du Cochon, Joe Beef, Lemeac, Le P'tit Plateau (best BYOB), Toque, L'Express, Maison Publique and a few others that I can't remember now.