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A Toronto Chowhound's trip report: dining with a group in Midtown and on the Upper East Side

prima | Jun 2, 2012 12:21 PM

Thanks to any Chowhounds who helped me plan our visit. Most mains were under $30.

dinner at Benoit, group of 7
This place worked out well for our group. Beware, the quenelles might be hot enough to burn your mouth! People in the group liked the Riviera-style halibut, the lamb, the French onion soup, the bacon wrapped salmon.

breakfast at Sarabeth's on 59th, group of 7
I liked the blintzes- richer than I'm used to, but tasty. About half our group went with sweet breakfasts, and the others went with savoury ones. Everyone was happy with their order, and the round table was just right for our group. I'd be likely to return to Sarabeth's for a group breakfast.

lunch at 3 Guys (post Frick). Great coffee shop. Some of us were hungry, some weren't. I was happy with my Corfu salad (romaine, dill, tomato, feta). Others ordered a panini, the nicoise salad, an ice cream soda, lentil soup.

dinner at Toloache, group of 5
I ordered the fish and shrimp tacos, and others enjoyed carne asada, tumbada (sp? Mexican take on paella), the garlic shrimp and the ceviche.

breakfast at Norma's, group of 8
I realize a lot of people bash this place, but I wanted a place that would have interesting brunchy dishes at breakfast time. I liked the fact there are free refills on the expensive $9 fresh-squeezed OJ. The people in our group who ordered the huevos and berry waffle were the happiest. I tried the chorizo, eggs and arepa, which was ok, but I don't know what I was thinking, ordering an arepa at Norma's. I guess it was the novelty of seeing it on the menu that got me. A few people shared breakfasts. For Chowhounds who don't mind Norma's, which dishes would you recommend the most, should I ever re-visit? :-)

lunch at the food court on the Concourse at Rockefeller, group of 7
I've only walked through the Concourse on the weekend, and I didn't realize how incredibly loud on a weekday afternoon. It was frustrating to try to round up enough chairs for the group. Some people got sandwiches at Wichcraft, others went to Hale & Hearty or Just Salad. I liked the New Orleans-style Iced coffee from Blue Bottle. I think we would've been better off at Bouchon Bakery or La Bonne Soupe.

dinner at Puttanesca, group of 8
The staff was very welcoming, and I liked the space. I was in the mood for veal, and went with the Milanese, which was huge, but a little dry . I should've gone with another preparation or dish. Others ordered pizza, veal scallopine, striped bass with mussels, gnocchi, lasagna and chicken parmigiana. Very reasonably priced. I'm realizing I would rather just splurge for higher-end Italian, but a place like this is good for a group, and probably a great place if you know what they do best.

breakfast at Ellen's Stardust Diner, group of 8
It was ok for what it is. My bagel was fresh.

lunch at Fresco by Scotto, group of 7
We were looking for place to have a late lunch close to Madison and 52nd. One person in our group suggested the Pax next to Fresco, and I didn't want to spend at meal at Pax, so I suggested Fresco. We were eating after the lunch rush, and the management agreed to let us just order antipasti and appetizers, since some people in our group weren't that hungry. I was happy with everything I tasted- the daily pizza, grilled vegetable platter, tuna tartar. The atmosphere is old school and a little stuffy, but the servers were friendly. It was the best service we experienced during our short time in NYC. I wouldn't have normally dined at a place like Fresco, and it won't appeal to anyone looking for hip or trendy Italian, but it's certainly a solid place for good, classic Italian food and good service in midtown.

dinner at Molyvos, group of 8
Molyvos was my favourite Greek restaurant in the late 90s. Our meal was good, but I guess I've become more particular over the last 15 years. The softshell crabs (seasonal special at $32 for 3, including vegetables iirc), grilled octopus and lamb chops were very good. My Greek style cabbage rolls were bland, and the avgolemono wasn't lemony. The gigante and beet salad were ok, but the skordalia was too garlicky (and I like garlic!). The bougatsa was a nice version, scented with orange.

breakfast at Viand, Madison & 61st, group of 7
Great tomato and feta omelette. I order tomato & feta omelettes anytime I have breakfast at a Greek owned coffee shop or family restaurant, and this one would place in my top 3 Greek omelettes. Good NY coffee shop-style coffee. 7 of us ate for $86 before tip. Cash only. It might be pricey for a coffee shop, but I thought the food was tasty, and it's a nice option for a quick breakfast close to hotels that charge $30+ for breakfast. Good people watching, too. I liked my omelette at Viand better than the breakfasts I've ordered at the Red Flame or Madison Restaurant.

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