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Where to Eat in NYC 2008? The Big Topic


Saltydog
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Dear All,

Please be gentle, I am new and just a simple Northern boy from England.

I travel to NYC on honeymoon next week and I am looking for some recommendations. So far I have been told I must have dinner at Babbo (spelling correct?), but I cannot find out how to book, as they seem to have no website/open table listing. Am I getting sucked into super-restaurant hype here, or is it really that good?

Also, I have been recommended 11 Madison Park.

We have four dinners to look forward to and I am looking for two $175-200 (for two, 3 courses + wine) establishments and two sub-$150 places.

My wife is not big on fish/seafood, so please bear this in mind.

I am in your hands….

Many thanks,

Paul

This is a tough one, as sneakeater has eloquently noted above. Rather than Babbo, you might try to do a walk-in (early) at Lupa or Otto - where even if you have to wait a bit, you'll be much more comfortably within your price range (either at $150 or $200). And some (me included) like the food and vibe as much, if not more than the one at Babbo, which can be a little more maitre-d snooty.

Perhaps you can do a much less expensive meal one night and add the savings to your higher end meal...for instance, you can have a really delicious meal at Redhead for $100 or less.

You've also not mentioned lunch and breakfasts, which surely you'll be indulging in. Go to a fancy restaurant for lunch and save a small fortune - Jean-Georges has been touted numerous times, as have Perry St. and various other establishments.

Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar are both excellent lunch choices, and far from the maddening crowd. We have excellent Japanese noodles around town, some good dim sum (the lunch special at Chinatown Brasserie is a steal), and great burgers as well...Fat Guy has waxed rhapsodic about the burger bar at Beacon - so you know it's gotta be good. Oh, and the pastrami at Katz's ain't bad either, and there are one or two pizza joints that might make you happy.

Congrats and have a great trip.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I second weinoo's suggestion that you do something less expensive one night and put the $ toward a more expensive place. Lupa is a great suggestion - I've had terrific $50 meals there. I would also recommend within your price range the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern, Hearth, Dell'anima, Scarpetta, Perilla, Tailor, Boqueria. Market Table?

Has anyone been to A Voce lately? Under Andrew Carmellini it was excellent, and could be done for $100/person.

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I wouldn't shy away from Babbo, as long as you're willing to go early (before 6:00 p.m.) and wait for a bar table. Those tables are unreserved, but they serve the full menu. A reservation on such short notice is unlikely, unless you happen to get a cancellation.

As Sneakeater noted, the standard tip in New York is 20%, and sales tax is 8.75%. If you want to stay within $200, that means you need to keep food and wine to $155 for two. Unfortunately, this precludes Eleven Madison Park, unless you spend much less on some of your other meals.

What you can do on your budget depends on how much you tend to spend on wine. For those restaurants with online wine lists, it's a good idea to look in advance. Unfortunately, there are some restaurants where the food is reasonable, but there are hardly any wine bottles—or at least, none that are very appealing—below $50. I'm not saying that happens everywhere, but it does happen, especially at top and upper-middle tier places.

I endorse the idea of having some of your better meals at lunch, as you'll get a very good feel for these places and your dollar will go a lot farther.

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Dear All,

Please be gentle, I am new and just a simple Northern boy from England.

I travel to NYC on honeymoon next week and I am looking for some recommendations. So far I have been told I must have dinner at Babbo (spelling correct?), but I cannot find out how to book, as they seem to have no website/open table listing. Am I getting sucked into super-restaurant hype here, or is it really that good?

Also, I have been recommended 11 Madison Park.

We have four dinners to look forward to and I am looking for two $175-200 (for two, 3 courses + wine) establishments and two sub-$150 places.

My wife is not big on fish/seafood, so please bear this in mind.

I am in your hands….

Many thanks,

Paul

Having hosted an unusually large number of English guests for dinner over the past 5 years, I'd share the following:

Book a steakhouse.

BLT Prime works quite well I find (something familiar about a popover, some meat and roasted tomatoes on the side). Order the porterhouse or the NY Strip, don't order the fillet - no one really eats that here in NY (outside of the porterhouse portion). I've never hosted someone from the UK that wasn't blown away with American beef, and BLT Prime is more of a honeymoon appropriate place than say... Peter Luger (which is a dump by comparison). If you can stomach it, order your meat medium-rare, but don't go past medium or you'll ruin the meat. The bill for two should definitely be under $200, maybe even $150 if you do good on the alcohol tab.

If you really want fillet, then the Wellington from Dylan Prime with some mash on the side is fantastic, and also a nice cozy atmosphere.

As for other advice, I might try to book a single blow out meal at a place like Jean Georges (3 star michellin) on any night I could, and make that the big romantic night out. Other nights you can do something moderately romantic (and less expensive) like go down to little italy and pick a place you think looks good, or do a pre-broadway or pre-opera special and save some money for drinks around town after. I've found that either my guests are blown away by something very special (BLT/JG) or they find almost anything that we consider to be decent very good, allowing you to save some money on the stuff in between. I'm not sure I've hosted anyone that would have thought eating offal, or paying a ton for pasta while sitting at a bar (i.e. Babbo), or going to eat modern (crazy to some) food at WD-50 was a good idea (sorry to buck the trend, this is just from my experience with English guests - I'd very much enjoy both).

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Other nights you can do something moderately romantic (and less expensive) like go down to little italy and pick a place you think looks good...

Well, that will get you nothing but a bad meal.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I agree that if you're a steakhouse person, and you're from England, you'll probably be impressed by the quality available in New York. But it's extremely difficult to get a three-course steakhouse meal, with wine, for under $200. Taking BLT Prime for instance, the porterhouse ($79), two appetizers (avg. $14 ea.), two sides (avg. $9 ea.), and two desserts ($10 ea.), gets you to $144 before wine, and there are very few bottles there below $50. Hence, you're well above $200 with tax and tip.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I agree that if you're a steakhouse person, and you're from England, you'll probably be impressed by the quality available in New York. But it's extremely difficult to get a three-course steakhouse meal, with wine, for under $200. Taking BLT Prime for instance, the porterhouse ($79), two appetizers (avg. $14 ea.), two sides (avg. $9 ea.), and two desserts ($10 ea.), gets you to $144 before wine, and there are very few bottles there below $50. Hence, you're well above $200 with tax and tip.

Yeah the wine is very pricey there, you're right. The pricing almost assumes beer will be consumed.

I would add however that since they give you both chicken liver amouse and a massive popover, there is no need for 1 potentially, let alone two apps. The desserts are ok, I'd share one. The steak tends to be so large, then when I go with a party of 4 guests from abroad, I order enough steak for three and it's plenty.

But the wine is killer there, you're right on on that one.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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Other nights you can do something moderately romantic (and less expensive) like go down to little italy and pick a place you think looks good...

Well, that will get you nothing but a bad meal.

Different strokes for different folks.

So I guess some people like bad meals?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'm a contrarian on the Little Italy question, because I've known guests to go there and have a good time. Who am I to say, "Excuse me, but you shouldn't have enjoyed that." But the reality is that for someone who had their sights set on Babbo and Eleven Madison Park, it's not likely that a Little Italy meal—especially at a restaurant essentially "chosen at random"— will measure up.

I agree that WD~50 should not be on anyone's list unless they already know they like avant-garde cuisine.

I do not recommened booking one blow-out meal (e.g., Jean Georges), and skimping on the rest of the trip. It sets up a situation where if the restaurant happens to have an off-night when you're there—and it happens at even the best places—it casts a pall on the rest of your vacation. I think it's better to have several meals booked that have the potential to be very good, so that the culinary part of your holiday isn't hanging entirely on the success or failure of one evening.

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fwiw, I've noticed that many times when someone is actually suggesting that you can find decent food in Little Italy they're actually talking about NoLIta, not Little Italy per se. you can certainly eat just fine at Peasant or a number of other places that are in the historical Little Italy environs...

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Blue Hill also fits the criteria nicely. Despite the close tables, it's romantic, keeping a meal for two under $200 is not unrealistic, and the food is impeccable. It's always among my first recommendations for first time visitors to NYC. It gives a visitor a good impression of what American food means right now. I also think that the tasting menu there is a tremendous value, but it'll cost about $300 all in.

Another restaurant that doesn't get mentioned too often but is both romantic and delicious is Falai. Again, staying under $200 is pretty easy there. You can also pull the pasta trick there - order it to share and they'll present each person with a nearly full portion. That, with a shared appetizer and a main for each person, with dessert and a moderate wine will clock in just below $200. Staying under $150 there is also realistic.

The Momos get enough play and are a must visit. And I don't really understand the Ssam bar for lunch thing that gets tossed around occassionally. It's Noodle for lunch and Ssam for dinner. Period.

The Spotted Pig would be fun (especially for an English couple) but the wait could be long. Balthazar is another NYC classic that would be fun for the experience (and the food is pretty good too).

Finally, I would say that lunch at JG is a must. Of course, that'll eat the night's dinner budget up. I would follow up lunch at JG with a unique, cheapish, Japanese place like Yakatori Totto or Ippudo. Also, a cheap dinner at Cafe Katja (~$100 for two) followed by cocktails at one of the downtown cocktail dens would also make for a lovely, romantic night.

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Is that special ongoing or was it just during the "Appetite Stimulus Plan" OpenTable promotion? Surely there are great deals out there, but it's almost a challenge to keep them all straight and to figure out when one starts and ends with regard to promotional periods, days of the week, hours, etc.

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The Momos get enough play and are a must visit. And I don't really understand the Ssam bar for lunch thing that gets tossed around occassionally. It's Noodle for lunch and Ssam for dinner. Period.

So there are like, so many people eating incorrectly at these two places? It's amazing, but perhaps it would be great to tell everyone exactly what they should order as well. Period.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Testy. Trying to be a little tongue and cheek, I'm sorry if it offended your better sensibilities. For clarification's sake, I think that visitors to the city (and probably people who live here but can't frequent both restaurants) will get a much better idea of what they're doing at Ssam at dinner then at lunch. Why? The more limited Ssam lunch menu means that a visitor won't get to experience many of the dishes that make the restaurant so great, namely the offal ones as well as some of the fish and meat. Also, the whole vibe of the place, one of the reasons why it is so different and exciting, is a little toned down. Noodle, meanwhile, retains its whole menu during lunch and the atmosphere and style of food are more amenable to a lunch type experience.

The Momos get enough play and are a must visit. And I don't really understand the Ssam bar for lunch thing that gets tossed around occassionally. It's Noodle for lunch and Ssam for dinner. Period.

So there are like, so many people eating incorrectly at these two places? It's amazing, but perhaps it would be great to tell everyone exactly what they should order as well. Period.

Edited by Adrian3891 (log)
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Thanks, Daisy. I have been to (and loved) the bar at Gramercy Tavern, but I haven't been to NY in many years and haven't followed the restaurant's evolution under Michael Anthony. (I ate at Blue Hill once when he was still there, and I even assisted him once at a demo at the IHMRS many years ago.)

I am interested in three of the Meyer restaurants, actually: Gramercy, Eleven Madison Park and the Modern. The Modern is especially appealing since I could combine a visit there with a tour of the museum. Which of these do you think is best and why?

I am planning cheaper eats for lunchtime and am willing to splurge some at dinner, but if it's possible to eat a fantastic dinner on a budget then all the better. I'll go look at the J-G threads, I've never dined at any J-G restaurant.

My brother and I had lunch at J-G a couple of months ago and were kind of underwhelmed. Sure, the ingredients are all excellent, as one would expect and hope, but as some others have mentioned, it seems like, when J-G does heavily Asian-influenced stuff, one of the ingredients (such as soy sauce, for example) is too heavy-handed and drowns out the other flavors. We didn't think our meal was close to 4 stars, more like a good 1 1/2-star meal and fair value. My recommendation, for whatever it's worth based on one meal, is to steer clear of any dish that smacks of fusion and go with dishes that sound more classic. Also, don't pay the supplement for the scallop dish; it's merely good and not worth the extra money. My general feeling is that Vongerichten was a better chef when he was at Jo Jo in the 1980s, making non-fusion food that used reductions of fruits and vegetables in season brilliantly.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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My all time favorite restaurant in NYC is Patsy's. It is the best Italian food I have ever had! What an amazing establishment it is. It is located up towards Central Park and is always crowded. I was turned on to it by Phillipe, the concierge, at the http://newyorkhotels.itravel.bz/new_york_hotels.php]New York HotelNew York Hotel that we were staying at. I believe a dinner jacket is needed and be prepared to see some famous peeps dining inside. :cool:

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My brother and I had lunch at J-G a couple of months ago and were kind of underwhelmed. Sure, the ingredients are all excellent, as one would expect and hope, but as some others have mentioned, it seems like, when J-G does heavily Asian-influenced stuff, one of the ingredients (such as soy sauce, for example) is too heavy-handed and drowns out the other flavors...

Thanks for the guidance, Pan. I do have a lunch reservation lined up at J-G next week. I have never had the opportunity to eat in a four-star restaurant, though I have visited several three-star places on past trips. I was attracted to J-G because I have never eaten in any of the J-G restaurants, I would like to try the four-starred flagship, and the lunch deal sounded unbeatable. I'll be sure to report back when my trip is over.

Maybe I'm putting too much stock in there being a distinction between three-star and four-star restaurants. Maybe I'm giving disproportionate weight to the opinions of a single critic in the bargain. But that's another topic for another day...

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