Now that I have finished my two week stint in New York for work, I would like to share with all of you some of my dining experiences while out in Manhattan. I begin this rant with a warm hearted thanks to all those who provided suggestions in response to my numerous inquiries posted to this board. So without further ado.....
Steak Tour 2003 -
A1 (nyuk nyuk) priority for me during this trip was a visit to some of the famed NYC steakhouses I have heard about. I had the opportunity to visit three such establishments (in order of visit):
Smith & Wollensky -
I believe the closest S&W to Los Angeles is the one in Las Vegas (I think). I have never been to a S&W, but my buddy from college swore by it, so he took me there for dinner Tuesday night. The place was packed and rather loud, and the atmosphere was quite jubilant. I didn't notice that the tables were close together at first, but this detail would come to stand out as I visited the other steakhouses during my trip. Service was great...we had a cheerful English chap full of one-liners (think balding jokes and the whole bunch). The seafood appetizer for two was quite delish, I enjoyed the lump crab meat and the minty (in color) green sauce served alongside the cocktail sauce. I would appreciate it if anyone could enlighten me as to what this sauce is, since I've never had such a condiment in LA. I ordered the bone-in sirloin with creamed spinach and hashbrowns. The hashbrowns were lifeless and lacked any type of crunch, and the cream of spinach was decent. The steak seemed a little too charred for my tastes, but it came out just about right as I had ordered it (medium rare). Had a nice apple pastry with vanilla sauce for dessert. A decent meal to say the least, as I was impressed with the service. The food was good, but I wouldn't say I was blown away by the meat.
Sparks Steakhouse -
Wednesday night, my coworker and I decided to put our expense accounts to the test and visit this steakhouse after grabbing a few drinks at a nearby bar. We walked in to a mob scene (nyuk nyuk) at the front door, with whispers of a a 45 min - 1.5 hour wait. We decided to brave the elements and mosy up to the bar. The bartenders were really nice, and I enjoyed the way they asked if you were having dinner, and if you were the tab would be included with your final dinner bill. This inquiry by the bartender led me to believe that if we were to have some drinks and tip accordingly, we would get a table faster than the others just sitting around. I do not know if my theory proved to be true, but we did get sat 35 minutes later, and soon enough we were eyeing the menu and extensive wine list. My buddy and I were already buzzed from the nights previous drinks, so we ordered a few glasses of the house red that night, and two seafood appetizers. I ordered the crab meat and scallop appetizer, while my coworker ordered something else (which escapes me at the moment). Perhaps the reason why I can't remember the other appetizer was because the crab and scallop appetizer really stood out in my mind. It was quite delish, with a buttery goodness that my simple tastebuds seem to relish. On a side note, the bread served was good, and the amount of butter provided seemed a little too much (how many pats does one person need really?). On to the steak, where I ordered the sirloin and again, the hashbrowns. First off the hashbrowns were delish, very crunchy and burnt/brown just the right amount to give the dish a little bite. I really thought the potatoes were great compared to S&W's version. The steak was not as charred looking as at S&W and at first bite, my first reaction took my by surprise. I thought my first bite was rather salty/bitter. It was unnerving at first, but I realized that I had taken from a particulary charred portion (rather fatty as well). I took a swig of my wine to reset the pallet, and I made an incision closer to the inner part of the steak and took another bite. My tastebuds were back under control and all was well. So well in fact, that I began to sing the praises of the slab of meat in front of me til the end of the dinner. The spacing of the tables seemed vast compared to S&W, and I was appreciative of the fact that I can move my elbows without knocking over someone's place setting. I also noticed the number of nature prints (the ones I would often see in my grandparent's house) hanging on the walls, very unique - albeit funny touch.
All of these steaks were leading up to the culmination of my ultimate steak experience in NY (if not my entire life). I have read reviews staing that Sparks is just as comparable to Luger's and with the ambience to boot, so I had lowered my anticipation for PL's thinking that it would be a similar experience to Sparks (I didn't want to disappoint myself). I walked into the blindingly bright restaurant to notice the bar and the hardwood floors as described. We were seated immediately (my college buddy and his kid brother came with) since I had set up a reservation. To prevent going on to long about PL's and warrant a post removal to the Outer Boroughs board let me just say that I had possibly the best steak at PL's and I am forever damned when it comes to steak. It was cooked right, and not too charred that the flavor became inconsistent. Everything about the place was just right (even to the lack of ambience and horrible lighting). We had steak for four, and an order of the canadian bacon (as recommended on this board), along with hashbrowns (of course). I couldn't complain any about my meal. Clearly blew my other previous experiences away.
Other places I ate while in NYC (in short)
Rappingo (81st and Amsterdam - I THINK) -
Decent sushi place with VERY reasonable prices. I was impressed with the quality and the service (I am not a sushi snob, trust me). I had the sashimi special, which was plentiful and cheap at $20. My cohorts (less sushi inclined) had several rolls of the Spider and Spicy Tuna variety. Both noshed w/out a word, so I can only assume the place was decent for them as well. Tuna tartare was presented very well, and delicious. I was also very impressed with the seaweed salad, as a lot of work went into the salad itself (think different varieties of seaweed - something even some of the best places in LA tend to forget). Great find.
Gray's Papaya -
We have Pink's in LA, and all I can say is that Gray's blows Pink's away (though an Angeleno can argue that they are apples and oranges). Limited menu, but the simplicity is what rules at this place. The hotdogs are simply the best, and I am now hip to the spicy red onion phenomenon, and have realized that a NY dog is the way I like mine. I even craved it during nights when I could have gone to an expensive dinner, but instead opted to walk to the nearest one to my hotel for a foursome of Gray's finest.
Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits in Times Square -
This chain will forever be a guilty pleasure of mine. I know I will get harassed for even including this in my post, but I will not apologize for my love of Popeye's chicken. I thought this place deserved recognition, given the times it gave me sustenance during those nights I had to work late. The place was always crowded too, so that wasn't too bad of a sign. Go ahead, bust my chops, but I love the chicken there.
John's Pizzeria (Times Square) -
Lovely set up in a former church. Waitress was very pleasant. My girlfriend the pizza lover (in for the weekend) loved the crust, as did I. Very good and while I am sure there are other pizzerias serving pies worthy of being labeled as a truer NY Pizza, our initial experience at John's was great to say the least.
Virgil's BBQ Times Square -
Post theater dinner at Virgil's proved to be a success. I had the Memphis style baby backs, and my GF (from Texas) had some of the chicken wings and fries (she's all into this anti-entree kick where she only orders appetizers a la Spanish tapas). Thumbs up from the Texan, which wasn't a bad sign. I got pretty full before anything was said and done. I'm not a Q expert, and the debate in LA to find decent Q is a hot one, but I know what I like, and I liked Virgils. The hot sauce was very good. Should have bought a bottle.....
Blue Fin (for breakfast) -
Had two breakfasts during my stay at the W Times Square in the Blue Fin. Had to say I liked the omelettes a lot. They were as big as the pillows on my bed, with some pretty good fillings. The red potato hash served on the side was excellent and service was attentive and quite stylish (ha ha).
Katz Deli -
Buddy took me to this place on the way to some watering holes, and I was floating on air. Of course I had heard of Carnegie Deli, but Katz didn't ring a bell outright (though after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that I had heard of it). Had the pastrami on rye with mustard, unbelieveable. Pastrami is not something I go out and search for, but I have a feeling one night in LA I will be craving Katz' pastrami to no avail....
Tossed (Rock Center Concourse) -
Took this place up after a recommendation on this board. I liked the salads a lot and actually frequented the place three times during my visit. Very good, quick, and relatively cheap.
Two Boots (Rock Center Concourse) -
When I wasn't at Tossed, I was at Two Boots. Adored the Newman. Very good pizza, and I enjoyed the crust. Sure they heated it up in the oven before serving, but who am I to judge?
So there you have it NY Hounds. I salute and envy you all, being that all of you are stones' throws away from some of the best dining in the world. I thank you all again for such wonderful suggestions, and while I wasn't able to get to all of them, I hope to get another crack at the Big Apple. Until then, thanks again and happy eating!