Julie recently asked that I do a post listing my top 10 favorite NYC restaurants for those going to BlogHer. Of course, the foodie and former New Yorker in me is MORE than happy to write this post! A couple of my favorite places have closed since we moved (sad, sad day), but NYC has plenty of tasty spots to satisfy any and every palate...and budget.
I should admit that I'm not hugely familiar with the area immediately around the convention hotel, but it's just a quick walk or ride from there to many of these places. Also, keep in mind that New York City restaurants are machines--they are equipped to and used to churning food out quickly for greater turnover. It also doesn't take nearly as long as you might think to get from one place to another in that city (most of the time, anyway), so don't feel as though you're restricted to a 2-block radius on lunch breaks.
Also note that if you ask other New Yorkers to do this exact task, you will get completely different answers and they will probably heartily disagree with at least one thing on my list (as I will with theirs). New Yorkers are ferociously loyal to their favorite places, especially if they are in the neighborhoods where we live (or lived in my case). I have a deep love for the Upper West Side, as I worked there most of the time I lived in the city. I ate as many meals in UWS restaurants as I did in the restaurants around my apartment in Astoria Queens. These are just places I enjoy for one reason or another and that I think would satisfy a tourist or a local.
Here are my picks for where and how to eat in NYC (Manhattan only), in no particular order:
1. Diners. I'm not naming one specifically because really? They are more or less all alike to some extent. They consistently have good burgers and salads and GREAT breakfast. Which leads me to Jen's #1 tip for visiting NYC: EAT A BIG BREAKFAST. In a diner, you can generally get a very filling, tasty breakfast for around 6 bucks. They have a great selection--waffles, pancakes, French toast, pastries, eggs and omelets of all sorts, bacon and sausage. Fill your belly in the morning to give you stamina and eat cheaper and lighter at lunch. If I had to pick my favorite Manhattan diner, it would be Applejack Diner, 55th St. and Broadway. They make a great reuben and the world's best cheese fries and they have tons of good breakfast specials.
2. 44SW I love this place. Here's their site. I've never had a bad morsel of food there. When I worked at a theatre on 42nd Street, this was where I'd go with friends for a late-night bite after a show. The cuisine is excellent, the atmosphere is cozy and it's not insanely loud. If you want a nice Italian dinner, you can't beat 44SW.
3. VYNL DINER. I mentionVYNL separately from other diners because it's so unique. If you're a music lover, you've got to eat here. Your menu comes to you in a record sleeve. All the drinks have catchy names like the Pearis Hilton. The best part, though, is the bathroom. Bathrooms, actually--there are 4. Each is themed around a music superstar. They rotate sometimes, but last time I ate there, they had Elvis, Cher, Nelly and Dolly Parton. There's a tile mosaic on the wall depicting the star, plus a shadow box with that star's doll. The star's music blasts while you do your business. VYNL is usually pretty crowded and loud, so you may want to go early or expect a wait.
4. PIZZA. Ok. Pizza is a controversial topic. Here's the thing: DO NOT eat at Sbarro. I know it's convenient and flashy right there on Times Square, but DON'T DO IT. If you do, I will be forced to disown you and you'll be very disappointed. There are some NYC based chains, like my favorite, Ray Bari, that are good, but a lot of times you'll find the best slices in random little Mom and Pop shops. If you're walking by a pizzeria that smells amazing, it probably IS amazing. Give it a try. You can usually score a slice of pizza and a coke for about $4 (or less). My all-time favorite pizzeria is in Astoria, where I used to live. I may have the cab take me straight there from the airport. For BlogHer lunch breaks, I'd probably hit the original Ray's on Broadway at 54th St.
5. Arte' Cafe. This place is a subway or cab ride away from where BlogHer will be held, but it's worth it, especially if you go for the early bird dinner special. Located on W. 73rd Street, this place was a favorite dinner spot for my friends and me when I worked at Lincoln Center. The service is friendlly and fast and you cannot beat the early bird dinner--15 meals under $15 between 4-6pm daily, which INCLUDES dessert, salad and drink. Their lunch specials are also fantastic and they have a good amount of outdoor seating. BONUS: They are next door to Alice's Tea Cup, a famous NYC tea shop. They also serve food, but you need to have a while to spare if you're going to eat there. I believe they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. But you can do what I like to do: Eat dinner (or lunch) at Arte Cafe, then go to Alice's and grab a cup of tea and a scone to go!
6. Hale and Hearty. I have no idea whether or not they are a NYC chain, but this place has awesome soups and sandwiches for a pretty good price. They are scattered throughout the city. The closest one to the Hilton is on 56th St. between 5th/6th Ave.
7. Carmine's. I know. New Yorkers reading this are banging their heads. But if you're a NYC tourist or you're eating with a big group, Carmine's is great. (I like their food, actually.) It's right in the heart of Times Square on 44th St. and serves big Italian dishes family style. For four people, I'd recommend a salad and 2 entrees to share. You'll be satisfied, I promise, and you'll get out of there for under $20 per person.
8. Chat N Chew. If you venture down to Union Square, which you should, pop into Chat N Chew on 16th St. between Union Square West and 5th Ave. They serve up comfort food and awesome desserts. My favorites are the turkey burger (oh, my word, it's delicious, I wish I had one now) with a teeny ween mac and cheese (a small version of their usually enormous favorite dish), followed by a big piece of Coca-Cola cake.
Edited to add: I just talked to a friend in NYC and she told me Cafe Mozart closed! SAD DAY.
9. Cafe Mozart. I assume a lot of folks will want to do brunch on Sunday. My favorite brunch place of all time, Candella, closed and became a TGI Fridays. (It physically hurt me to type that.) For those with a late flight out on Sunday or those sticking around through the weekend, venture up to Cafe Mozart. (It's on West 70th Street) They have outdoor seating, but also have a pianist inside if you choose to sit indoors. Everything I've ever had there has been awesome. I like their weekday lunch menu, too, but brunch is my favorite. They used to have green eggs and ham on the menu, which were pesto-infused scrambled eggs, served with perfectly cooked Canadian bacon. This is likely where you'll find me on Sunday morning.
10. Angus McIndoe. If you are a theatre fan and/or want to see some celebrities, go to Angus around 10 or 10:30pm on any given night (except Monday--most theatres are dark that night). It's THE place to go after shows. They have incredible calamari. Ask to sit upstairs. If you want to splurge on a nice steak, this is the place to do it.
A few other thoughts...
*Don't fear food from carts! You haven't really visited NYC if you don't eat a hot dog from a vendor! I like mine with mustard and sauerkraut. OH, and FYI, you can't really get yellow mustard anywhere in NYC. They all use deli mustard. It's good. Try at least one hot dog while you're there. I would, however, avoid the pretzels. They tend to be overpriced and dry. Meats on sticks are also tasty. (My friend Kitty, the world's pickiest eater, eats them weekly and calls it "Street Meat.")
*The same goes for those kinda sketchy looking delis that double as quickie marts. They usually make sandwiches behind the counter, they usually use Boar's Head meats and cheeses, and they are usually awesome. Don't wast $25 at Carnegie Deli on 2 pounds of dry turkey when you can get a fully dressed sandwich on a fresh roll for about $2 at a small deli. Deli breakfast is almost always good, too, if you're in the mood for a bagel or breakfast sandwich.
*Avoid chain restaurants! Do not go to Applebee's, TGIFriday's or even McDonald's. You're in NYC and you're going to pay NYC prices! An entree that's $10 where you live will be at least $15 in Manhattan. You're in New York, home of some of the best restaurants in the world. Try them instead of chains!
*Pick up a copy of TIME OUT NEW YORK as soon as you get into town and read their restaurant section. They'll have reviews of new places and tried-and-true gems.
New Yorkers--tell us your favorites that aren't on mylist!
Any type of cuisine you feel is under-represented here? Ask me! This is just my top 10 list. Remember, I spent 7 years eating in this city.
This was fun. Now I'm hungry.