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Pan

THE BEST: "Non-Fancy" NYC Restaurants

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That's exactly what's called for.... your post and the Eisenberg recommendation (which I second - old New York still survives...) will stick with me. A list of names without why doesn't.

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Alright, I'll post some more sort of mini-reviews.

Congee Village: Chinatown's favorite banquet restaurant is just south of Delancey St. Its large size is still insufficient to hold all the people who want to dine on weekends in its beautiful big eating hall, smaller party rooms downstairs, and the smaller room in the original part of the restaurant. So don't show up on a weekend night without reservations, and be prepared to wait a few minutes, even so. Once you're seated, ask for the menu with the lamb chops on it, pick some dishes from it, and ask for some recommendations from the larger menu. The congee is excellent, of course, but there are so many good dishes at this place, and the atmosphere is celebratory. Service can be slow at times from the crush of people, but the servers are friendly and helpful when you've shown them that you appreciate their style of Hong Kong banquet food. And for the quality of food you're liable to have, their prices are really economical. You probably won't like everything on the menu, but there's enough to please even a longtime regular like me every time.

Madras Cafe: In the East Village, a neighborhood chock full of stomach-turning restaurants calling themselves "Indian," the legendary common conveyor belt on 6th St. never made it to Madras Cafe, on 2nd Av. between 4th and 5th Sts. The South Indian vegetarian cuisine in this restaurant is good enough to please confirmed carnivores. Everyone I've taken there has liked it, except for one child who couldn't stand any degree of spiciness whatsoever. Avoid the mango pickles, but otherwise, you can't go wrong. I usually focus on South Indian specialties like utthapams or masala dosas. If you still have room for dessert, have it: It's a treat. The restaurant is chef-owned and, therefore, is a good bet never to deteriorate.

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glenn, you've got a good point, but how about if you lead by example with the descriptions? I'll write some later.

Pan, I posted early on about Eisenberg's. I'll try to think of more. Thanks for your reviews -- your mini-review motivated me to check out Madras tomorrow as I'll be in the area.

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Just in case someone misses my edit above: I was talking to my husband at lunch and he told me the deli I disliked wasn't Katz's but another famous New York deli which hasn't been mentioned in this thread. No need to mention that place - and I apologize to Katz's. I think the drugs I'm taking both after dental surgery and for a very bad cold are starting to take a toll on my brain :sad:. Robyn

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Even though i'm not in NYC currently I was talking to my daughter who mentioned that she's tried a Restaurant on the lower east side that was much better then most of the much more expensive places she frequents with clients.

Haven't seen it mentioned so thought that i'd put a recommendation into this topic, as she says it generally costs less then $30.00 per person to eat there.

Paladar Restaurant

161 Ludlow Street

212-473-3535

Irwin

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Typical tourists will stay away from the Outer Boroughs and probably will hang out in the Times Square District except for trips to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. eGulleteers, on the other hand, are at least somewhat more likely to take a 20-to-40-minute trip for some great food.

I think you underestimate the average tourist in New York based on the thousands I've run into in places other than Times Square - the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.

The problem for a lot of tourists - even if we're only talking about Manhattan - is that it's big in terms of computing travel distance times. Now I can go the equivalent of a trip from Columbia to Soho on I-95 in Florida in maybe 10 minutes - but it's not so easy in New York - particularly if it's raining (and it's hard to get a cab) - or there's a disruption in the subway system (and you can't get a cab or take some subway lines - etc.).

I suspect I am not unique in that if I'm there on a 3 or 4 day trip - I try to group things I want to see/do/eat in terms of neighborhoods. I don't want to make more than 1 roundtrip updown/downtown a day (although I sometimes wind up doing that). And I definitely don't want to take an hour or more roundtrip to get to a restaurant that takes me out of the general area where I'm planning to spend my day.

That said - it might be a good idea to put together a small list of "non-fancy" restaurants by neighborhoods - both neighborhoods that many tourists do see (including some out of the way ones - like - for example - the Queens neighborhood where MOMA is camping out these days) - and neighborhoods that more tourists should see (e.g., there was an article today about tourism on the lower east side).

I've found many "smaller deal" restaurants - especially for lunch - that were very enjoyable simply by looking up the neighborhood where I was planning to do things on a given day - and checking out the restaurants in that area (although I wasn't so successful in this last time I went to the Bronx zoo :shock:). I don't generally like Zagat's - but it is ideal for this purpose because it breaks down restaurants by neighborhood. Robyn

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You can't necessarily get a full meal there, but Jacques Torres Chocolate qualifies as "not fancy," and is absolutely worth the trip even if you're a tourist scared to leave Manhattan. :laugh:  The hot chocolate mix is so good you can eat it straight from the tin (spousal quote: "Wow! This stuff would be worth having PMS for!").  We made an awfully good dent in the display case for personal consumption and gifts for less than $20.  The staff person who was making the chocolate bunnies do a happy dance was a little disturbing, but I suspect they're on a permanent sugar high from the air alone.  It smells goooooood in there.

Well - that's 2 votes for a chocolate lunch :smile: .

By the way - Jacques Torres sells some of his wares on line. You can see them here. Robyn

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It's on 55th by 8th, IIRC.  And I'm not sure if it's open weekends -- I remember their having really limited open hours.

It's called "Al's Soup Kitchen International," by the way.

is it not gone?

Oops, must be.

Haven't been there in several years -- pretty good place, though.

It's still there. Just ate there the other day.

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How was it?

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Well I'd have to add WoHop in Chinatown to the list of definitely "non-fancy" :biggrin: April last year 5 of us walked out of there absolutely stuffed for $150. It's definitely not fancy but the food is good.

Regards

Tom

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Cheap eats.........

Kitchenette – Broadway & Duane (plus a new place upstate, or uptown - same difference) - if for nothing else, go there for the peanut butter chocolate cupcake and/or the brownies. But there’s lots of other great items. They serve among the best brunches in the city (standouts include pancakes, thick bacon, french toast, home fries), as well as great lunches, but stick to the hearty sandwiches and soups. I never had dinner there. Comfort food on the cheap, under $15.

Cowgirl (formerly Cowgirl Hall of Fame) – Hudson St. & 10th St. - it’s kind of hard to justify a Tex Mex / Cajun place as uniquely NY, but this place is an original. It’s cheesy, festive and fun. There's lots of novelty items including the infamous ice cream baked potato. The food is not amazing or anything, but it’s good ol’ fattening comfort food. Cheap, under $15.

Pakistan Tea House – Church St. – although I’m not overly familiar with Pakistani food, I’m sure there are lots of better places in the city. But I highly doubt any place is a better value. Zillions of dishes, mostly vegetarian. Everything tastes fresh, probably because of the high turnover. The décor is minimalist, no, make that non-existent, but who cares? You’d be hard pressed to spend $10.


Edited by glenn (log)

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StInGeR, Wo Hop is definitely not fancy, but I don't think it's very good, either. We'll have to agree to disagree on that.

glenn, thanks for your reviews. Just one tangential point: The adjective for Pakistan is Pakistani. "Paki" is a slur that to some people is as bad as "nigger." But please keep the reviews coming, if you have more!


Edited by Pan (log)

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glenn, thanks for your reviews. Just one tangential point: The adjective for Pakistan is Pakistani. "Paki" is a slur that to some people is as bad as "nigger." But please keep the reviews coming, if you have more!

A thousand apologies, I had no idea. I edited my post accordingly.

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StInGeR, Wo Hop is definitely not fancy, but I don't think it's very good, either. We'll have to agree to disagree on that.

glenn, thanks for your reviews. Just one tangential point: The adjective for Pakistan is Pakistani. "Paki" is a slur that to some people is as bad as "nigger." But please keep the reviews coming, if you have more!

Like you said Pan agree to disagree :biggrin::biggrin:

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StInGeR:

I do have a pertinent question for you, though. Do you remember what dishes you had at Wo Hop? Some are good. I'm trying to remember because it's been some time since I last ate there, but I think there was some string beans dish that I liked.

glenn, I knew very well that you weren't intentionally writing a slur. :biggrin:

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StInGeR:

I do have a pertinent question for you, though. Do you remember what dishes you had at Wo Hop? Some are good. I'm trying to remember because it's been some time since I last ate there, but I think there was some string beans dish that I liked.

glenn, I knew very well that you weren't intentionally writing a slur. :biggrin:

Geez Pan you're really making me think hard here, I mean it was last April and not being used to NY Chinese I let my in-laws, who used to be cops in that area, do most of the ordering. I do remember hout/sour soup which was good, some sort of wontons, which were a little bit oily but tasty. There was a spicy beef dish which in my mind could have been spicier but was still good, also egg foo yung also good and from memory we also had the green bean dish too. There were a couple more dishes but for the life of me I can't remember what they were. Like I said it's not fancy. For the record this is the downstairs version of Wo Hop

Regards

Tom

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It's on 55th by 8th, IIRC.  And I'm not sure if it's open weekends -- I remember their having really limited open hours.

It's called "Al's Soup Kitchen International," by the way.

is it not gone?

I have also looked for the Soup Nazi and I found the windows covered by newspaper. Is it closed or just seasonal ?

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It is definitely seasonal, but I'm pretty sure they're open in the winter.

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It is definitely seasonal, but I'm pretty sure they're open in the winter.

My office is the across the street (great for looking out the window, and running out when there's no line!) Definitely seasonal, in a quirky kind of way. I believe they didn't open until way after the cold weather kicked in this winter - I guess Al's doing well enough to take longer summer breaks.

The soup's still great, though later on in the day (he sometimes stays open 'til after 5) it does tend to get thick. I usually stick to the (pricier) seafood bisques and chowders. The mushroom barley I had last week seemed a little overly-herbed to me.

Sorry to get off topic. What do people think of aKa Cafe on the LES? Inexpensive, creative, consistently tasty (mmmm. . . . lamb's tongue sandwich).

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Peasant on Elizabeth

(Ssshhhh!!!)

Don't be so quiet. :laugh:

Would you please contribute a mini-review?

I'm glad this thread has been revived.

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One of our family's long-time favorites is Sevilla, located on West 4th and Charles. Excellent, decently priced Spanish food and great Sangria. My wife's family has been going for over 20 years. It is certainly not in the Adria or Arzak mode, but good Spanish comfort food at good prices.

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Peasant on Elizabeth

(Ssshhhh!!!)

Good food and reasonably priced, but I've had my last meal in the dark. There are basically three tables far in the back near the kitchen where you have enough light to see the table top. Reading the menu, or worse yet, the wine list anywhere else in the restaurant is a real feat without a flashlight. For a while we made a point of requesting one of those three tables and that request was honored, but the last time we were there they sat us elsewhere in spite of confirming one of those tables over the phone. As a consequence, I ordered pasta, which is good there, but the specialty is roasted meat. I just didn't want to wrestle with a quail or animal shank in the dark. I just don't get it.

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I first went to Tout va Bien in 1974. Perhaps the only true French bistro (old sense of the word) in NYC. Great unpretentious French food at a reasonable price.

I last ate there in 1999. Nothing had changed in 25 years. It's on W. 51st.

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