I asked for recs & read the board in April, then visited NYC the first week of May. Tardy as it is, here's my report.
I arrived Wednesday evening, Michael gave me the "leave me alone until Friday, I'm here working" speech, then left for a business dinner. I got on the N, got off at Prince St. and wandered around. Ah, look, Zinc Bar as recommended by Jim Leff. I love this place dark, cozy, not too noisy in the early evening, decent drink prices and Dabney, the bartender is friendly and made many recommendations for food & other bars in the area. I had many cosmos, by the time I went back to the hotel, I realized I hadnt eaten. My first meal in NYC? the rest of the meza plate from Ali Babas that I brought on the plane to avoid airline food.
Thursday, woke up very late and missed breakfast. I gingerly made the trek to lunch at Katz Deli Pastrami on Rye, pickles and two Dr. Brown Black Cherry Sodas. Stunning sandwich. Nice pickles. Wow, was I dehydrated and in need of those sodas? Yes, and they were marvelously refreshing.
After Katz, I walked around and found the Tenement Museum and Guss Pickles. Then it was on to Kossars Bialys and Bakery for bialys and rugalach. Yum. Then I wandered through Chinatown and Little Italy. I stopped in Ferrara for a cappuccino and cannoli. The cannoli was a little too sweet for my taste, but decent.
Stared at food goods in Little Italy (Italian Food Center, etc.) but was too stuffed to buy anything. Same thing at Gourmet Garage, which seemed like a nice Trader Joes substitute. Petted the cat at Broadway Panhandler which looks like a good kitchen-ware store. Went into McNultys but became disoriented by choices and overwhelmed by the intense aroma. Regrouped across the street at The Factory Café with a refreshing glass of tea. Was impressed by the selection at O. Ottomanelli & Sons very nice looking meats & sausages. Popped in Murrays cheese and tried a few cheeses including Pt. Reyes Blue marinated in olive oil & pink peppercorns? Wacky but good. Bought an intense Ciambella AlAglio (garlic rubbed/soaked cheese) and a tasty Munster. Tony, my cheese advisor, also let me know that the best martini in the world was just a few blocks away at The Monster (service sucks though). Saw many, many interesting looking dives and fancy places Da Silvano, Joes Dairy, Hampton Chutney, etc. Went back to the hotel to met up with the hubby where we made a critical error we went downstairs to the hotel bar for a drink while deciding where to eat. Next thing we knew, his coworkers were there, we were all having Cosmos & bar snacks for dinner. We left only to go back upstairs.
Friday I had a late breakfast at Petrossian chocolate croissant, orange juice and cappuccino. Lovely, light & flaky croissant, really good chocolate. But not as good of a hangover cure as yesterdays meal. Since Carnegie Deli was right there, I popped in for a matzo ball soup & a black cherry soda. Nice. Id never had matzo ball soup before so while it was light and comforting, I have no idea how it compares to others. Refreshed, I then spent the rest of the day at museums (and a couple of thrift stores). At about 7pm, Michael was officially done and was free for the rest of the weekend.
Being in a carnivorous mood, his choice for dinner was Les Halles. We arrived a little bit before 9:00 pm and were told it would be a 35 minute wait for a table. We started the evening with one glass champagne each. All the sudden the place was packed three to four deep at the bar. We felt lucky to have gotten there just before rush. We moved on to a nice pinot noir while waiting for our table and were seated after a 50 minute wait. I only know because the staff person apologized and mentioned the time. Hell, I didnt even notice cause we were enjoying people watching. My favorite was Tony Bourdain talking to some young women who, as soon as he stepped away, giddily recounted their conversations with him to each other. We started with a delightful Roblichon cheese, potato gratin w/ bacon. Michael had the steak au poivre. I had the fillet with béarnaise sauce. It was quite nice - tender, just right searing on the med-rare steaks. Good but not spectacular frites. The salads were over-dressed but then I noticed every salad we had in NYC had too much dressing which overwhelms the greens. Is this a NYC or East Coast thing or was I just unlucky? It was a little pricey but we enjoyed Les Halles. I think if we went back, we would try to go a little earlier in the evening so we could talk to each other. (Boy, is it noisy).
Saturday A.M. - I snacked on my leftover steak while Michael slept in and then puttered around. Then we headed out to Normas for breakfast. Michael had been looking forward to this meal since I first showed him the menu. We arrived at about 10:30 am and got seated in about 15 minutes. The shot glasses with the smoothie sample of the day was cute, but that days smoothie had a lot of coconut in it so I gave mine to Michael. We saw many fabulous dishes go by - the waiter saw us gawking, stopped and let us know what each dish was. I had the crabcakes, orange juice & coffee. The crabcakes were plenty crabby, not too much filler. Michael had the foie gras brioche French toast, orange juice & coffee. It was a pretty big piece of foie gras. Very, very good meal but its quite pricey.
Non-food after breakfast we went to Mario Badesco to get a facial analysis and stock up on skincare goodies. I love MB products and making the pilgramage to mothership was fun. Next we wandered some flea market near Madison Square Park. One of the vendors was eating some great smelling Indian food she said it was from around the corner but when we went searching, we didnt find it.
Snack So we walked over to Bread Bar, but it wasnt open yet. We were kinda walked out so we retired to Live Bait for a beer and to plan our next move. While having an ice cold beer and pawing through my notes, I realized that the Tamarind Tea Room nearby. We walked around the block to check it out. I really liked Tamarind Tea Room, it only seats 13 people but the menu of sandwiches and tea is quite nice. (Tamarinds menu looked interesting, too). We had Ti Kuan Yin tea and split a Saag Paneer sandwich, it was fresh spinach what was drizzled with a tasty sauce, a mild white slightly garlicy cheese, all wrapped in a medium weight Parantha. It was just the right amount of food for a snack.
Errors in Judgment Next, I tried to take Michael to Zinc Bar cause I had such a good time there Wednesday evening, but it wasnt open yet (opens at 6 pm). We decided to head back to the hotel and take a nap but Michael had to pee (too much tea) so we stopped in at the bar/restaurant kitty corner from Zinc for a Cosmo and pee break. $27 for two Cosmos with tip? Yawozza. And the bartender made it with tequila instead of vodka. Oh well, live and learn.
After reading Jims entertaining chow alert story about Il Vesuvio, we had to check it out. We took the LIRR out to Bayside Queens and found Il Vesuvio in just a couple of minutes. Michael was kinda surprised by the décor - it looks like any other to-go pizza joint, formica tables, cheap chairs, a pizza counter. The place is run by two brothers from a little town outside Naples two other brothers are still in Italy but their parents joined the two in the US. Their father does the desserts one of the waitresses said she doesnt like tiramisu but she loves Il Vesuvios.
The waitress seated us in one of my favorite locations the back, nearest the kitchen where we got to watch all the action. OK, not the action in the kitchen, the neighborhood how you doin action. The owners parents were holding court at the table next to us and spoke entirely in Italian. The dad danced with the waitresses, children and babies at random intervals to the American-Italian classics playing in the background. Before the parent left, I got to see the Mom bust one of the brothers over the cleaning job he did on the pizza oven and see him start over. One of the brothers came around the counter and talked to us apparently Bayside is really taking off and there are a lot more good restaurants, bars and clubs than there used to be.
How was the food? With atmosphere like this, I almost didn't care. But I do. It was very good. We started with a bowl of pasti e fagioli soup which was very filling and quite nice both the pasta and the beans were still slightly firm. The dinner salad was a basic salad (over-dressed) but decent. The bread was excellent big rustic slices that had been toasted in the pizza oven. By this time, I was full so I only had a few bites of my pasta, chicken, tomato and olive dish. It was good and I ended up taking it to go. And the next morning, I had it for breakfast and realized it was excellent. Michael had the veal parmigiana which he enjoyed but said could have been a little more tender. We loved this place as much for the good food, reasonable prices, family hangout atmosphere and the cheap quaffing wines ($3.50 a glass). Still, we did realized we had not ordered to the restaurants best advantage (Jim had recommended ordering off the specials menu) because almost every table ordered the stuffed mussels which looked good. We also saw about six orders of the Seafood Salad go out that looked stunning. The fish was plump and super fresh looking. Regretfully, we were too full to try the desserts so we had a cappuccino and staggered back to the LIRR and rubbed our bellies all the way back to Manhattan, exclaiming at our excellent bargain dinner (it was less than half the price of our Les Halles dinner).
Alas, the next day was our last, we checked out of the hotel, rushed to get knishes and bagels to take home (& eat on the plane), then on to the airport. It was way, way too short a trip.