Great Food Experiences in NYC
November 6, 2008 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Can someone please suggest some particularly awesome food experiences in New York for this weekend?

I live in NYC and have one of my best friends coming tomorrow to visit for the weekend. He and I are both foodie types, and I want to take him to do something foodish that is particularly awesome.

I'm thinking of things that go beyond just going to a good restaurant - things somewhat more experiential, like going to Di Fara's for pizza or the Redhook ballfields for tacos and papusas. Special restaurants are of course great, but I'm looking for something that offers a bit more than just great food.
posted by ecab to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
can you give a couple more points of reference?
sounds like you want cheap and good. any specific ethnic foods? how about a location?
would you want a $50/pp meal that was extraordinary?
there's basically an infinitie number of things that i could recommend, but I would prefer a bit more guidance on what you're looking for.

Off the top of my head I'd recommend going to queens for thai (srai prai phai) or chinese (flushing).

Ballfields are closed for season. Difara is awesome. Bring a bottle of wine and chill out if you go there.
posted by alkupe at 8:52 AM on November 6, 2008

DiFara's will be an all day project on a weekend. alkupe is correct that the ballfields are closed.

I would go to chowhound and ask there. barring that, some vague suggestions:

--latino vendors in jackson heights (i haven't done this. i go through chowhound and save posts to delicious about people i want to try to find.)
--indian food in jersey city's new little india: I haven't done this one yet either. But it would get you out of the touristy route
--the LES food tour. You could combine that with visits to the tenement museum and the eldridge st. synagogue and then a stroll through chinatown (which could of course be its own thing)
--take the train out to coney island and go to nathan's before that's all gone
--take the train out to brighton beach and nosh.
posted by micawber at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2008

Pastrami Sandwich at Katz's Deli.
Steak at Peter Luger.
Clams at Johnny's Reef Restaurant on City Island.
posted by jonmc at 9:00 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian hotel.

Or hit up the new Shake Shack location on the UWS - 77th and Amsterdam I think - just across the street from the Museum.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Duck Blood Soup at the New Malaysian Restaurant in the Elizabeth St. Arcade (i.e., Alley).
posted by milarepa at 9:19 AM on November 6, 2008

alkupe: price isn't a huge issue here. Obviously not something crazy, but we can pay a decent amount for something great. And Di Fara was meant as an example, not an idea for this time - he and I went last time he was in town and I have been several times.
posted by ecab at 9:24 AM on November 6, 2008

i 2nd luger if you like steaks, but you probably can't get a reasonable reservation at this point, so you'd have to just go there and wait for a table, which could be a while. its cash only also. Its a remarkable experience though, which sounds like what you're going for.

there's lots of restaurants i could recommend, but it sounds like you want more of an experience...I'm gonna second my original idea about queens. spend a day there traveling out on the 7. end up in flushing for chinese food. use chowhound to find a place that sounds like what you want.
posted by alkupe at 9:36 AM on November 6, 2008

Shanghai Joe's in Chinatown. Get the soup dumplings.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:37 AM on November 6, 2008

I'm going to second Katz's just because this is a dying opportunity. NYC's Jewish delicatessens are being squeezed and we've lost a lot of the old guard in the last five years.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:38 AM on November 6, 2008

if you just want some favorite nice restaurants, i like lupa, mary's fish camp (or brooklyn fish camp), blue hill, craft, Convivium Osteria (brooklyn), Frankies Spuntino (brooklyn), and blue ribbon sushi (for sush--brooklyn or manhattan).

Any of these would provide a unique great meal.
posted by alkupe at 9:41 AM on November 6, 2008

Panna II for cheap Indian food and fun atmosphere. Serendipity for dessert if you can handle the tourists. You could try to find all the street vendors who won the Vendy awards this year, or the dessert truck I keep hearing about.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 9:46 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wo Hop is always kind of classic, if you like that kind of thing... Indian buffets in Jackson Heights (Indian Taj on 74 St, in particular). Usually for this sort of thing I recommend Lemon Ice King of Corona, but that's not really a "meal" in any sense.
posted by zvs at 9:46 AM on November 6, 2008

Doing a whirlwind tour of great places to eat via cab sounds like a neat thing to do. NPR did a story on one of these guys: Famous Fat Dave's.
posted by mmascolino at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2008

Korean fried chicken in queens. Also, the best Thai in the city happens to be in a Mexican neighborhood, so that one can get taco-truck tacos and hot-pepper mango while walking to and from the subway.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2008

Tasting menu at Per Se is quite an experience, if you can swing it.
Katz's for giant, meaty sandwiches and "I'll have what she's having" reenactment.
Walking the Union Square Greenmarket and sampling everything is great.
Taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Grimaldi's is pretty fun, depending on weather.

But my personal favorite is grabbing dumplings from Dumpling Man and eating them in Thompson Square while people-watching.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:30 AM on November 6, 2008

Well...I am pretty broke so all I can suggest a reasonably priced night out. Below is my tried and true incredible night out. I usually throw these two places in whether showing someone new NYC or taking a girl out on a date.

dinner at the Olive Tree Cafe. Followed by a few drinks at NuBlu.

Olive tree is an incredible Mediterranean bar/restaurant with a comedy club in the cellor. The tables are made of slat and you are encouraged to chalk them up while you wait for your food. Silent Charley Chaplin movies play on one of the walls amidst the rest of the very awesome decor. All the food is great, I suggest one of the combo plates or if your cold and want a light meal, you cannot beat the home made hot borscht.

Nublu is a very small bar/club. If you show up early you will get some great live music, samba, jazz, salsa, electric, etc. Be ready to get some dance on. If you stay or show up later they host some of the most pumping DJ's from the area. Again, be prepared to dance. As far as i am concerned this is the one of the best "semi" underground clubs in NYC. Crowd is hip but extremely welcoming to all.

Oh! Depending on when you are doing this. The First Fridays at the Guggenheim are fantastic. No food really, but there is a bar and a decent DJ. As a note First Friday is THIS Friday (10/7).

posted by Black_Umbrella at 10:32 AM on November 6, 2008

I prefer the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park since you are right by the Flatiron Building, can see the Empire State building, and you're eating in a gorgeous park with public art int the middle of Manhattan.

Some unique culinary experiences in NYC, available on short notice:

A day trip to Flushing, Queens to do a food crawl of the dim sum scene and/or the shopping mall scene (definitely research this on Serious Eats or the New York Times). One possible excursion would be dim sum at Perfect Team Corporation, duck buns at Corner 28, dumplings at Zhu Ji Guo Tie, lamb "burgers" or hand pulled noodle soup in the Golden Shopping mall, kebabs on the street, Sichuan food at Spicy & Tasty, the list goes on.

Dinner at Kabab Cafe (brains, heart, cheeks, liver, testicles, etc. and the friendliest restaurateur you will ever meet) in Astoria, Queens.

Eating yourself silly on strange parts at Yakitori Totto. Get there early, they run out of the interesting parts quickly (neck, liver, heart, knee bone, tail, skin, testicle).

Book one of Scott's Pizza tours.

Grab a last minute reservation at Sushi Azabu, an authentically Japanese sushi restaurant hidden in the basement of a Japanese-Italian restaurant in Tribeca. Call now. It just got reviewed by the New York Times.

For more places that don't look like what they really are from the exterior or are semi-hidden, see also PDT, La Esquina, Freemans, burger joint, Decibel, Angel's Share, Banh Mi Saigon, Sakagura, East Side Company Bar, rooftop bar at the La Quinta...

Speaking of bars, what about some delicious cocktails at PDT (bar is first come, first served, they do take reservations but only on the day of at 3pm, enter through the phone booth in Crif Dogs)?

Or grab a last minute reservation at Degustation, a Spanish small plates restaurant with an open kitchen and all counter seating. For 5 dishes for $50, it's one of the cheapest tasting menus in town and you get to interact with the chef.

Try the solid cocktails at molecular gastronomy temple Tailor. Or try dessert tasting menu at Tailor or WD-50.

Experience the chaos of brunch at Shopsin's and hope that Kenny drops a few f-bombs while you're there.

Some of the Red Hook Ball Field vendors will be at Brooklyn Flea, BTW, through December 21st.

And of course there are always the street carts, as purplecurlygirl mentioned, although a lot of them are only M-F and serving the weekday lunch worker crowd: Dosa Man, Calexico, Dessert Truck, Wafels & Dinges, Treats Truck, chicken/rice vendor at 53rd and 6th avenue, etc. Here's a great guide to street vendors, although this was written before the insane number of dessert trucks popped up suddenly.

Fun things to eat in NYC that you don't find elsewhere.

A self-guided gustatory tour of the Lower East Side.

Dollar grub guides in a variety of neighborhoods.

And, of course, there's always dining at the bar at Babbo.
posted by kathryn at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2008 [8 favorites]

Thanks, Kathryn. Those are some good suggestions. In particular, I'm reminded of Kebab Cafe - I used to live in Egypt and have been there once and really loved it.
posted by ecab at 11:13 AM on November 6, 2008

When I have friends come in from out of town I bring them for dumplings, donuts, pickles and candy in LES/Chinatown. They probably should not be all eaten at exactly the same time, but with a block or two of walking between each vendor it a quick and cheap way to have an extremely decadent meal and see some sights in NYC.

My wife and I argue about which dumpling place to go to. probably knows best.
We get Pickles at The Pickle Guys at Essex and Grand (better than gus' pickles and cheaper than Katz's for Jewish Lower East Side foot), donuts one block east at the Donut Plant, and then head North to Essex and Rivington for Economy Candy. We used to also stop a few blocks North at El Sombrero on Ludlow for Margaritas to go (in coca-cola cups) but I think they got in trouble and stopped doing that.
posted by abirae at 1:02 PM on November 6, 2008

Monkeytown has excellent, molecular-gastronomy influenced food, and crazy multimedia spectacles in the back room. So you can eat and be surrounded by performance art.

Looking at kathryn's post almost made me cry. I miss nyc.
posted by lalochezia at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2008

A few more fun things around the east village/lower east side:

$2 Punjabi on Houston Street late at night.
Doughnut Plant Doughnuts
Il Laboratorio de Gelato
Katz's Deli
B & H Dairy for old-school dairy lunch-counter service
Veselka - the nexus of the universe, I've run into my professors from Houston there
Kenka on St Mark's Place for punk rock Japanese Bar food (or any of the Itzakayas on that street)
Bamn! Food for the novelty of an automat
Momofuku empire for deliciousness
Decibel for sake

And somewhere below 8th street there is a magic restaurant serving rustic japanese food "for women", but since stumbling upon it I have never seen it again
posted by abirae at 3:23 PM on November 8, 2008

Actually the women's Japanese home cooking place is Chiyono.
posted by abirae at 3:47 PM on November 8, 2008

There is nothing anywhere in the world like Sammy's Roumanian. A NYC tradition you will never forget.
Soon it will be gone too.

(Starve yourself first.)

NYers - we should meetup there sometime. Nothing like pitchers of chicken fat, frozen blocks of Vodka, massive steaks and cheesy cabaret to make a memorable meetup.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2008

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