Wednesday, November 16, 2005

By Neighborhood

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View By Cuisine


Carroll Gardens Classic Diner [155 Smith St. (at Bergen St.) 718-403-9940]
Try to sit in the enclosed porch that is the back room if you can in this wonderful Smith Street diner. As with every other diner, you can find anything you want on the menu, but you should probably focus on breakfast dishes. Treat yourself to the chocolate chip pancakes with two eggs and you will not regret it. And if you are really hungry, try the Lumber Jack (it's got everything). You might regret that, but in a good way.

Caserta Vecchia [221 Smith St. (bet. Baltic and Butler Sts.) 718-624-7549]
Try this quaint and authentic Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill for some fantastic Neapolitan-style pizza. Order whichever pie suits your fancy, although I can tell from experience that the prosciutto is good. The prices are very reasonable, and I highly recommend that you sit in the garden in the back. This place is a well-known Brooklyn institution and is definitely worth a visit.

Peter Luger Steak House [178 Broadway (Brooklyn, NY) 718-387-7400]
Simply the best, better than all the rest. Everything you have heard is true, except for the fact the waiters are not gruff, they just have personalities. Located just over the Williamsburg Bridge, Luger's is a steak-lover's paradise. Obviously you must order the porterhouse steak for the number of people in your party plus one (because you will all eat more than usual here). I also like the tomato and onion appetizer and one strip of the best bacon you will ever eat. The first bite of a Luger's steak is like eating heaven. Oh, and sometimes they give you Hanukkah gelt (little gold chocolate coins) at the end of your meal! Call ahead for reservations because it is always booked. Lunch is also an excellent option here if you have the time (and it will be cheaper too).

Chelsea (includes Meatpacking District):

Nooch [143 Eighth Ave. (at 17th St.) 212-691-8600]
You've gotta go to the bathroom here. No, seriously. But after that, you should probably eat here too and look around. The decor at this Singapore-based noodle bar chain is something else. As for the food, it is very affordable and it is also tasty. Despite being from Singapore, Nooch serves up traditional Thai favorites along with various Japanese noodle and sushi options. I would steer clear of the Edamame to start (not salty enough) and go with the Thai chicken drumsticks instead. This minced chicken on a piece of sugar cane may be greasy, but it gets the job done. For main courses, go with the noodles. I greatly enjoyed my Zaru Soba with Salmon Sashimi, and I feel that I might have equally enjoyed the Pad See Oui (luckily my friend ordered it with my advice). This place certainly stands out in a crowd of Eighth Avenue restaurants.

The Lobster Place [436 W. 16th St. (inside Chelsea Market) 212-255-5672]
I absolutely love this place. I used to go here for lunch at least twice a week when I worked at Chelsea Market. Offering the best of everything fishy, The Lobster Place serves excellent soup and sushi, along with extremely fresh and inexpensive fish. It is not a sit-down restaurant, but I wanted to include it because whenever you eat fish at home, you should order it from here. Check for ordering and delivery information.


Fried Dumpling [99 Allen St. (bet. Broome St. and Delancey St.) 212-941-9975]
So cheap it's silly. $1 gets you 5 dumplings. Or 4 pork buns. Or two huge pieces of a Sesame Pancake. And so on and so forth. The dumplings are solid, but unspectacular. But did I mention that they cost $1 for 5?! If you really like them, you can bring 30 of them home for $5 and cook them yourself.

Fusion Crepes [125 Bowery (at Grand St.) 212-966-2266]
It's a crepe stand with an Asian twist...and funny names for most of the crepes. All the usuals are there, but if you're in the mood for a meal, I strongly recommend the savory Duck crepe. It consists of roast duck, scallions, sliced cucumber, and oyster sauce. It is essentially like Peking Duck. It is delicious and it costs $5.

Great N.Y. Noodletown [28 1/2 Bowery (at Bayard Street) 212-349-0923]
My new Chinatown eatery after the sad closure of Win Hop, a Berger family staple for nearly 30 years. Try the Wonton Noodle Soup ($3.50) and any dish over rice. Beef with Broccoli is only $3.50. Typical authentic Chinatown atmosphere.

Joe's Shanghai [9 Pell St. (bet. Doyers St. and Bowery) 212-233-8888]
The line outside is usually long. Once inside, you sit at a big table with strangers (ours were from Sweden) and everyone is packed together. But the soup dumplings are very good. A Shanghai specialty, these treats filled with pork, or my preferred pork and crab, should make up the bulk of your meal. They are the main reason to come here, as opposed to other Chinatown restaurants. One caveat: don't eat the whole thing in one bite Tom, or you will burn your mouth. I also recommend the Shredded Turnip Shortcakes and the Shanghai Fried Flat Noodles, which were both tasty. And of course, as this is Chinatown, prices are very low.

New Green Bo [66 Bayard St. (bet. Mott and Elizabeth Sts.) 212-625-2359]
Another cheap Chinatown joint, you will have a lot of options here. Because it serves Shanghai-style cuisine, New Green Bo offers the classic Shanghai Dim Sum. Steamed Crab Meat and Pork Tiny Buns (soup dumplings) are the way to go in this regard. I recommend splitting an order of these with someone else and then each of you should get one dish "Over Rice." The Chicken with Broccoli is a solid choice. Do NOT get the Stewed Beef unless you know a lot about authentic Chinese cuisine!

East Village/Lower East Side:

Blue 9 Burger [92 Third Ave. (bet. 12th and 13th Sts.) 212-979-0053]
Although it's definitely no In-N-Out Burger, it's probably the most similar thing you can get on the East Coast. The menu is simple and the burgers are greasy, but as long you eat them while they are hot, you will enjoy yourself. Make sure to get the "special sauce," which, like at In-N-Out, is some variation of Russian dressing. The fries are solid as well.

Buenos Aires [513 E. 6th St. (bet. Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-228-2775]
A quaint neighborhood steakhouse, this authentic Argentinean restaurant offers up excellent steaks at realistic prices. Try the Jamon Serrano to start, but avoid any salads. This place specializes in meat. I went with the Bife de chorizo (Shell Steak) and had more than enough to fill me up. But if you have an even bigger appetite, I recommend the Bife de costilla (Ribeye Steak). The atmosphere is very nice as well, and I especially enjoyed seeing soccer games on two flat screen TVs!

Cafe Mogador [101 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-677-2226]
A worthy rival to Zerza, Cafe Mogador offers East Village diners another excellent option for Moroccan food. Start off with an order of the Mixed Platter, which consists of a variety of different Middle Eastern spreads and is a great appetizer to share among friends. I would then recommend the lamb cous cous, which features some succulent meat and vegetables. Finish off your meal by relaxing with an order of the sweet Moroccan tea.

Caracas Arepa Bar [91 E. 7th St. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-228-5062]
From what I have read, this tiny place might be the only authentic Venezuelan restaurant in the city (except for its To Go sister cafe next door). Caracas offers a variety of Venezuelan specialties, but the arepas (think stuffed english muffin, but made of corn flour) are the signature dish. Along with my assistant, I tried the De Guasacaca (guacamole and cheese), the Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado), and the De Pabellon (beef, black beans, plantains, cheese). All the fillings were fresh and tasty. The arepas themselves were very good as well. They were a little too hard for me the first time I went, but the second time, the arepa consistency was just right for my delicious La Del Gato. For appetizers, start with the Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guac) and the Yoyos. All in all, Caracas will offer you a great meal for a great price.

Chipotle [19 St. Mark's Place (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-529-4502 (See for more locations)]
This Mexican fast-food chain has hit the Big Apple and us New Yorkers are better off for it. Offering cheap, tasty, and enormous burritos, along with other Mexican favorites, Chipotle is a splendid place for lunch.

Crooked Tree Creperie [110 St. Mark's Place (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-533-3299]
An adorable little place in which to enjoy crepes, salads, and sandwiches. And you should definitely have some wine or sangria while you're there. I tried my crepe with the old reliable combination of Nutella and bananas. It was a great dessert and the restaurant did a good job of making me feel like I was away from the madness that can be New York. Prices are reasonable.

Gyu-Kaku [34 Cooper Sq. (bet. Astor Pl. and 4th St.) 212-475-2989]
A great place for groups, but also somewhere you could dine alone, this outpost of the Gyu-Kaku chain has some of the most delicious BBQ south of 32nd street. The menu has a lot of options for what you can throw on the grill (you have to cook it yourself), but I would recommend sticking mostly to the beef. The best option, of course, is anything Kobe. We had the Kobe Kalbi and it was simply fantastic. Almost as good however, and much cheaper, was the Harami, marinated skirt steak. A third good beef option is the regular Kalbi. Be careful when you are ordering because each portion is not that big and the tally does add up. It's worth it though. And if you can get there early or late, they have happy hour pricing on one meat each day Monday-Thursday.

Katz's Deli [205 E. Houston St. (at Ludlow St.) 212-254-2246]
A nice place to bring your hipster friends after you hang out with them on the Lower East Side. You can bond over a corned beef on rye (overpriced, but tasty), a bowl of matzo ball soup, and maybe for the more adventurous, a tongue sandwich. Huge, well-lit, and serving beer, it's a good late-night option.

La Paella [214 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-598-4321]
Relive your time in Spain (or imagine what it might be like) as you enjoy tapas, sangria, and paella at this charming little restaurant. For the tapas, you're best off going with a big group so you can try a lot of different dishes without breaking the bank, but if you can't do that, pick the few that look best to you. I really enjoyed the stuffed squid with squid ink and tomatoes and the Basque salad (lots of smoked salmon). For the main course, I had to get paella, and I split the Paella Basque with friends. It was very good, but not incredible. The sangria, on the other hand, was delicious, although there didn't seem to be much alcohol in there. On the whole, I had a very enjoyable dinner. However, next time I go will probably be for lunch, as the $12.99 lunch special from noon-4 pm every day just looks too good to pass up.

La Palapa [77 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-777-2537]
After walking past this place countless times, I finally went in to eat here. It turns out that the food is pretty good, although not spectacular. Make sure to start off with some Guacamole which is excellent, but you might need two portions because each one is not that big. I tried both tacos and quesadillas. I preferred the quesadillas and would recommend the Bistec, which was noticeably better than my other dishes. It is also worth noting that the margaritas are very tasty and the food is generally spicier than most Mexican places I have been to.

Le Miu [107 Avenue A (bet. 6th and 7th Sts.) 212-473-3100]
An absolute gem of a restaurant in the East Village, Le Miu offers Japanese food with a twist. By that I mean that Le Miu provides its patrons with a creative array of dishes that you won't find at any ordinary Japanese joint. And when you combine excellent food with a sleek, modern atmosphere and good service, you have a place worth returning to multiple times. For appetizers, my dining companion and I began with the Grilled Marinated Duck Breast and the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, which was particularly delicious. For main courses, we split the Miso Marinated Baby Lamb Chops and the Chef's Sushi Platter. Both were exquisite and presented beautifully. The only thing that might scare people away from here would be the prices, but the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food and I highly recommend that anyone who reads this review pays the restaurant a visit.

Momofuku Noodle Bar [163 First Ave. (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-475-7899]
Well-known for its famous clientele, Momofuku is not your ordinary downtown noodle bar. It is cleaner, more crowded, and way more expensive. Is it better? Probably. Is it worth the difference in price, not to mention the potential long wait? Probably not. That said, I greatly enjoyed my $11 order of Tsukemen (chilled noodles, Berkshire pork, vegetables, dipping broth) and it was certainly very filling. Regretfully, I did not have any steamed buns, which was a mistake. So, it means I will probably go back and I recommend that diners visit here every so often, but do not make it your regular go-to place in the area if you are looking for a better overall value.

OG Restaurant [507 E. 6th St. (bet Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-477-4649]
A wonderful little find in the East Village, this tasty hideaway serves up Asian Fusion cuisine at very reasonable prices. All of the different dumpling options seemed good, but we went with the Signature Shrimp Dumplings and the Curried Beef. We were pleased. For my main dish, I enjoyed the Half Crispy Duck. The scallion crepes that came with the duck were especially creative. The Five Spice Chicken is another solid main course option. Finally, the service was extremely friendly, making the overall experience that much better.

Orologio [162 Avenue A (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-228-6900]
A wonderful little Italian restaurant in the East Village, Orologio offers up a nice variety of delicious dishes at very affordable prices. If you're in the mood for a salad, start with the Insalata Dirucola Enoli (arugula salad with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts). Then, I would recommend a pasta dish. Two of the better options would be the Spaghetti alla Chitarrina (spaghetti with lamb ragout) and the Tagliolini Bianchi e Neri Piccanti (black and white tagliolini in a spicy tomato sauce). Bottles of wine are mostly in the low $20 range and the clock motif around the restaurant makes for a nice atmosphere. Finally, once you finish dinner, there are a number of fun bars in the neighborhood to cap off your night.

Paul's [131 Second Ave. (bet. 7th St. and St. Mark's Pl.) 212-529-3033]
This burger is about as greasy as they come, but it's also very good. It's big and juicy and I recommend that you get it on an English muffin. I know that sounds weird, but trust me on this one. If you want fries, try the sweet potato variety. However, just a burger should be enough to fill you up.

Sharaku [14 Stuyvesant St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-598-0403]
Located on one of the few true East-West streets in Manhattan, this friendly East Village spot offers good Japanese food at affordable prices. But for the best deal, make sure to go here on a Monday night, when you can get a wonderful prix fixe special loaded with soba, sushi, soup, and edamame.

SobaKoh [309 E. 5th St. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-254-2244]
For my money, this is the best soba in New York this side of Soba Nippon. You can just get the classic Zaru Soba and you'll probably be happy, but I recommend getting one of the (cold soba) specials instead. I got my soba with soft shell crab and the taste of the shellfish definitely enhanced my soba experience. And if you're in the East Village early, they have a prix fixe menu available until 7 pm every night.

Sushi Lounge [132 St. Mark's Place (at Ave. A) 212-598-1188]
All sushi is 50% off all day. And it's pretty good too. Also, they have a fantastic happy hour deal on drinks from 10 pm to 1 am every night ($6.25 pitchers of Kirin!). I had the Zaru Soba, which was decent, but not exceptional. All in all, however, this is a solid option for downtown sushi and a good way to conserve funds if you are going drinking in the area.

Zerza [304 E. 6th St (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-529-8250]
Lovely service and great food make this East Village Moroccan restaurant a great place to try something different. The atmosphere, which includes music and sometimes belly dancing, lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. As for the food, there are a couple of good appetizers to try. Depending on your tastes, I would recommend the extremely sweet Saganaki (fried Feta cheese with pure honey) or the Marinated Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese. For my main course, I was desperate for some cous cous, so I ordered the lamb variety. It was excellent. The lamb was succulent and the blend of toppings on the cous cous was wonderful enough to make sure that I cleaned my plate. The tagine was good as well. Try a red Algerian wine, which is sweet and a fine complement to the food. If you feel like relaxing, top things off with a hookah.

Financial District/Tribeca:

Ise Japanese Restaurant [56 Pine St. (bet. Pearl and William Sts.) 212-785-1600]
Of the three Ise restaurants in the city, I had the pleasure of eating at the downtown establishment (the other two are in Midtown). No need to mess around here, I recommend ordering sushi. All the sushi is freshly prepared, including numerous daily specials (these are pretty expensive, however). The more standard options are reasonably priced for an upscale sushi restaurant. I greatly enjoyed my Maguro Sushi, which offered me 3 pieces each of 3 different preparations of tuna sushi. You will have plenty of room if you go for dinner, but apparently the place is packed at lunch time, so beware.

Liberty View [21 South End Ave. 212-786-1888]
A solid downtown Chinese option with a separate menu of Chinese specialties. Lily says it's not the best, and she knows more than I do, but I would say that you will do pretty well here unless your parents own a Chinese restaurant. Besides you don't exactly have a lot of options in Battery Park City. And as a bonus you potentially get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. My favorite dish of the night was Sliced Duck with Scallions.

Nobu [105 Hudson St. (at Franklin St.) 212-219-0500]
Everything they say about how good the food is here is true. Dishes are small and not that expensive by themselves, but you have to order many of them to have a full dinner, so the bill certainly adds up by the end. Waiters are very knowledgeable about the menu and can help guide you in ordering, but I will recommend some dishes anyway. Try the Sashimi Salad, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Squid "Pasta" with Garlic Sauce, Chilean Sea Bass with Black Bean Sauce, Broiled Black Cod with Miso, and many others. The sushi is also top notch and not absurdly pricey. You might want to go for lunch if you are interested in getting a table here. Alternatively you can call far in advance for a reservation. Or visit Nobu, Next Door (which is literally next door) if you want a chance to get a table without waiting a month.

Flatiron District, Gramercy, and Union Square:

Blue Smoke [116 E. 27th St. (bet. Lexington and Park Aves.) 212-447-7733]
Linked with an excellent jazz club, the Jazz Standard, but also a self-contained restaurant, the popular Blue Smoke serves up some tasty barbeque. Eating while listening to some jazz, I went for the Rib Sampler, featuring three different types of ribs with three different sauces. I probably liked the Kansas City ribs the best. If I had to do it over again, however, I might have chosen the Rhapsody in 'Cue due to its wider variety of cuts of meat.

Da' Giulio [176 Lexington Ave. (bet. 30th and 31st Sts.) 212-889-2939]
If you order correctly, Da' Giulio is a good choice for dinner. If you don't, you might feel a little bit ripped off. I recommend both the Fried Calamari and the Beef Carpaccio as appetizers and the Scialiatelli (pasta with shrimp and lobster sauce) as a main dish. Each of these dishes is flavorful, albeit somewhat conventional. Avoid the Rigatoni Da Giulio because it's too creamy and avoid the Lamb Chops because you just don't get enough food.

Eleven Madison Park [11 Madison Ave. (at 24th St.) 212-889-0905]
A beautiful restaurant with excellent food to match the stunning setting. Things are high class all the way here in lobby of a bank building. I may be calling this an American restaurant, but the food is heavily influenced by French cuisine and is extremely rich and flavorful. I recommend starting with the White Asparagus Veloute and both the Lamb 'Navarin' and the Poularde make for excellent main dishes. In addition I was impressed by the "amuse-bouche" between courses. All in all, a fantastic restaurant, well worth the high prices. My only caveat is that the portions are not that big.

Hamachi [34 E. 20th St. (bet. Park Ave. S. and Broadway) 212-420-8608]
Perhaps overshadowed by its neighbors like Mizu Sushi, this is somewhat of a hidden gem. High-quality sushi and surprisingly easy to reserve for large parties (think dinner for 10-12 people). The specialty rolls are where it's at, even if they are a little pricey. The Deep Impact Roll was particularly good and the Blue Monkey Roll was also delicious. Beware of the fried, rather than steamed, Gyoza.

i Trulli [122 E. 27th St. (bet. Park Ave. S. and Lexington Aves.) 212-481-7372]
A terrific Italian treat. This massive restaurant offers top-notch food in an equally nice atmosphere. I had the Panzerotti to start and the Orecchiette as my main course. Both were delicious. For wine lovers, there is an extensive wine list and even a separate wine bar. Not for the light of wallet.

Lamarca [161 E. 22nd St. (at 3rd Ave.) 212-674-6363]
Moderate prices and solid pasta make this a good choice for dinner. Each pasta also comes with a salad and of course a big piece of bread, so you will probably leave stuffed.

Mishima [164 Lexington Ave. (bet. 30th and 31st Sts.) 212-532-9596]
A solid sushi option, this restaurant serves up all the standard Japanese specialties. With fresh fish and reasonable prices, you should certainly enjoy any meal here. I greatly enjoyed the Spicy Tuna roll that was a little different and went well with my Sushi special dinner.

Mizu Sushi [29 E. 20th St. (bet. Broadway and Park Ave. S.) 212-505-6688]
This hip sushi joint serves up solid sushi at expensive, but not outrageous, prices. They offer a great Maki Combo (Spicy Tuna, Shrimp Tempura, and Eel Avocado). Ask them to ring the gong when you do sake bombs.

Mumbles [179 Third Ave. (at 17th St.) 212-477-6066]
No, this is not a Dick Tracy theme restaurant. But it is an excellent family restaurant, or a nice place to go for a dinner with friends before a night out in the Union Square area. Prices are very affordable and the portions are generally HUGE. I tried the Maryland Crab Cake appetizer with the Penne a la Vodka and I was happily stuffed. The menu is fairly diverse with all sorts of options for meat, fish, pasta, and other dishes. And you shouldn't have too much trouble snagging a table, even on a weekend night.

New York Burger Co. [303 Park Ave. South (bet. 23rd and 24th Sts.) 212-254-2727]
Maybe I'm missing something, but these are NOT the best burgers in the city, as once voted by AOL Citysearch. They are certainly good and worth your time if you are in the area, but I wouldn't recommend a special pilgrimmage. I did think the french fries were much better than most though.

Shake Shack [Madison Square Park (at 23rd St. and Madison Ave.) 212-889-6600]
Your arteries will not thank you for going here, but your taste buds will. I would try the double Shack burger with that special Shack sauce (similar to every other delicious special sauce it is Russian dressing-y). Make sure to ask for your burgers rare or medium rare, because medium is the default. Also go for a milkshake.

Tabla [11 Madison Ave. (at 25th St.) 212-889-0667]
Not your cab driver's Indian food, this high class fusion establishment will leave you wanting to come back for more. As with its sister restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, the setting is spectacularly designed and includes beautiful views of Madison Square Park. As for the food, dinner upstairs requires you to order from a Prix Fixe menu, but that still leaves you with plenty of mouth-watering options (although it will set you back a pretty penny). The Tabla Crab Cake is fantastic, with the avocado giving it a nice flavor and the papadum "bowl" making for a clever presentation. As for main courses, I found my Baby Pig to be extremely tasty and the Elysian Fields Lamb and Black Sea Bass were also delicious. No dish was an Indian standard, but each one certainly had Indian influence and flavoring. I highly recommend a visit, and for a more Indian (and cheaper) menu, check out the Tabla Bread Bar downstairs.

'wichcraft [49 E. 19th St. (bet. Broadway and Park Ave. S.) 212-780-0577]
For those New Yorkers from New Haven who miss Gourmet Heaven. 'wichcraft allows to create your own sandwich from an array of delicious ingredients. But it comes at a price, an expensive one. The sandwiches are good enough, however, to merit a visit anyway.

Greenwich Village/West Village:

Aki [181 W. 4th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-989-5440]
It won't be easy to get a table at this tiny, tasty treat, but I recommend that you give it a try. It might be the only Japanese-Jamaican restaurant in New York, and the inventiveness of this fusion cuisine is most evident in the appetizers. I highly recommend two of them: Jamaica Chicken (jerk chicken with mango teriyaki sauce) and Tuna Mille-Feuille (tuna with apple, avocado, and a white balsamic vinaigrette). Both were splendid and creative. For my main course, I ended up just trying the Sushi Assortment (which was very good, but not unique), but I should have had the Jamaica Roll and the Dinosaur Roll instead. At least it gives me a good reason to go back. Also, they have a special $26 prix fixe dinner from 6-7 PM every night.

bite [333 Lafayette St. (at Bleecker St.) 212-431-0301]
Making brilliant use of a bizarre corner of a building space, this tiny place serves up delicious panini-style sandwiches at reasonable prices. I am particularly fond of the smoked turkey with pesto panini and the nutella/banana ciabatta.

Burrito Loco [116 W. 4th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-675-1977]
They make the guacamole in stone bowls right in front of you! Dan is sometimes obsessed with this place and the guacamole is certainly excellent. The rest of the food is pretty good as well, but nothing out of the ordinary. Burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, take your pick.

Corner Bistro [331 W. 4th St. (at Jane St.) 212-242-9502]
Strong competition for the burger joint, this downtown landmark is cheap, delicious, and open late. You may have to wait for a table in the back (at any time of day or night), but you can drink cheap beers while you do so. Don't mess around with something like chicken or chili. Get a burger and fries. Your taste buds will thank you.

Da Andrea [557 Hudson St. (bet. Perry and 11th Sts.) 212-367-1979]
It's in the West Village. It's trendy. It's good. And most surprisingly, it's very affordable. Homemade pastas for $10-$11 are the way to go in my opinion, but others might beg to differ. I chose to devour the Cavatelli with Pesto (and Shrimp and Salmon) as my main course and was happy with my choice. Also, the Caprese appetizer was excellent, as was the Torretta di Verdure according to my lovely assistant. The atmosphere of the restaurant is pleasant and appealing, giving you an authentic Italian feel. Furthermore, bottles of wine are pretty cheap! I was fortunate to stumble onto this place and I will be more than happy to return.

Joe's Pizza [7 Carmine St. (at 6th Ave.) 212-255-3946]
This is the famous Joe's Pizza seen on the big screen in Spiderman. Those of you like me who would thus assume that the pizza must be overrated would be pleasantly surprised to find out that it is actually very good. I usually go for the fresh mozzarella slice, although the traditional plain is solid as well. A good, quick, cheap dinner or late-night snack.

Midtown East:

Ammos Estiatorio [52 Vanderbilt Ave. (bet. 44th and 45th Sts.) 212-922-9999]
It will be all Greek to you at this new and beautiful restaurant in Midtown, but that's a good thing! You must start with the Greek Spreads before you even begin to think about what else you are going to order. Served with small, warm slices of pita bread, these spreads each have a unique and satisfying flavor. As for main courses, I greatly enjoyed the Arni Souvlaki (essentially lamb and vegetable skewers), but any type of fish, the crabcake sandwich (Kavouri), and the salad with grilled chicken were all excellent alternatives. The place is a little pricey, but the setting is lovely and the food is too.

Brick Oven Pizza 33 [489 Third Ave. (at 33rd St.) 212-545-9191]
The perfect end to a night in Murray Hill, this pizza is delicious. Again, the fresh mozzarella is probably the best slice, but they are all excellent (albeit expensive).

Chola [232 E. 58th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-688-4619]
Delivery from here may take forever, but at least the food is very good when it finally arrives. In-house dining is even better of course, offering a wide variety of dishes at pretty high prices.

The Dining Concourse [Grand Central Terminal]
A convenient meeting place, and the food is decent too. There are an array of options here, most slightly overpriced, but still able to provide a solid meal for much less than a restaurant would charge. For pizza, you can get a good slice (or two) from Two Boots. For a good deal on Italian pastas and sandwiches, try Paninoteca Italiana. For your classic Chinese combination platter, check out Feng Shui. Obviously Hale and Hearty is always a reliable choice as well. Finally, have a crepe, some gelato, or both for dessert from Ciao Bella Gelateria!

Django [480 Lexington Ave. (at 46th St.) 212-871-6600]
Fantastic French fare is on offer at this beautiful midtown restaurant. A great place to take a client (or to be taken out by a client), I recommend the prix fixe for lunch. Eat upstairs in the luxurious main dining room if you can, or rent out the special tent for an event. The food is extremely rich and filling, but that also means it tastes good. I had soup and fish as my meal and enjoyed every bite.

Fukumatsu [212 E. 52nd St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-754-4840]
Here's the run-down: The must-have item here is the dinner box special. It will give you a good variety of well-prepared classic Japanese specialties, while filling you up for a reasonable price. Basically, it's a solid neighborhood restaurant, but I wouldn't make a special trip there.

Fusha [1065 First Ave. (at 58th St.) 212-752-8883]
A sort of Japanese-Thai fusion restaurant, this relatively new place serves very good food at not overly expensive prices. I especially recommend the Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce or the Thai Chilean sea bass.

Grand Central Oyster Bar [Grand Central Terminal (42nd to 44th Sts. bet. Lexington and Vanderbilt Aves.) 212-490-6650]
This place has a lot of hype, but I was not overly impressed. There was an extensive oyster menu, but the soups were very disappointing. Maybe it was because we went late at night, so I would give this place one more chance before dismissing it. Either way, the oysters are good.

The Huddle Cafe [280 Park Ave. (bet. 48th and 49th Sts.) 212-450-2000]
Open only to NFL employees, the NFL cafeteria is quite an exclusive lunch destination. Commissioner Tagliabue is a regular, as are most employees. Prices are dirt cheap, especially for any sort of salad or side dish. Food is markedly better than in most cafeterias. I am especially fond of the pasta salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, antipasti, and various daily specials.

Le Colonial [149 E. 57th St. (bet. Lexington and 3rd Aves.) 212-752-0808]
Fantastic and authentic Vietnamese food is served in a wonderful setting that feels like Saigon (at least I would think so). Every dish I have eaten here has been good. This place is high class, so bring a full wallet.

Le Perigord [405 E. 52nd St. (at 1st Ave.) 212-755-6244]
To put it simply: go during Restaurant Week. The food is good, but not worth the normal $62 prix fixe rate. On the plus side, however, my family and I were greeted by a friendly French maitre d' who complimented me on the quality of my spoken French. As for food, the Butternut Squash soup was especially delicious (and the baguettes were some of the better this side of the Atlantic). The chicken was a little dry, but I have a preference for dark meat. The salmon was better. Finally, dessert was typically rich.

Morton's, The Steakhouse [551 Fifth Avenue (entrance on 45th St.) 212-972-3315]
Yes, they even do Happy Hour at steakhouses. And this is one of the better ones. The tiny burgers are absolutely delicious, as are the shrimp and oysters. Prices are reasonably low, especially considering the fact that someone with a small appetite could definitely call this his dinner. Happy Hour runs from 5-6:30 PM and from 9:30-11 PM Monday-Friday.

Mr. K's [570 Lexington Ave. (at 51st St.) 212-583-1668]
One of the top Chinese restaurants in the city. Expensive, and popular among celebrities (they keep personal chopsticks for the famous people who visit), Mr. K's is a great example of fine Chinese dining. Make your parents take you there.

Notaro Ristorante [635 2nd Ave. (bet. 34th and 35th Sts.) 212-686-3400]
Exactly what you expect from a good New York Italian restaurant. Prices are reasonable and the food, albeit perhaps not overly creative, simply tastes good. As far as I know, this is one of the better options for Italian in the neighborhood. The ambience of the restaurant is nice as well. I recommend the Pappardelle in a tomato sauce with arugula and goat cheese.

Original Soup Man [4 E. 42nd St. (at 5th Ave.) 212-599-5900]
Terrific, unique, severely overpriced. Hale and Hearty is almost as good for half to two-thirds the price. That said, I tried the Crab Bisque and it was great because it was completely different from a traditional bisque, making it more interesting to eat. For those who are wondering, the staff is pretty friendly, and unfortunately you will not actually see the Soup Nazi there.

Peking Duck House [236 E. 53rd St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-759-8260 or 28 Mott St. (bet. Chatham Sq. and Pell St.) 212-227-1810]
The Peking Duck is excellent, the rest of the food is pedestrian. I tried the special dinner where you get one duck and two entrees for four people. You are better off with two ducks. Worth a trip to either location just for the delicious duck.

Oriental Noodle Shop [135 E. 45th St. (bet. Lex. and 3rd Aves.) 212-697-2353]
I wasn't sure whether or not to include this place, but then I realized that I needed to provide the working classes of midtown with more lunch options. This place doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but it does provide solid, cheap Chinese food very quickly. So don't expect anything high class, but you should get your money's worth.

P.J. Clarke's [915 Third Ave. (at 55th St.) 212-317-1616]
Totally old-school New York. And totally fantastic burgers. Bar in the front, tables for eating in the back. You can even enter on 55th Street (the Sidecar entrance). Also, the staff is friendly and they serve burgers until 3 AM.

Rosa Mexicano [1063 First Ave. (at 58th St.) 212-753-7407]
The guacamole is to die for at this trendy, upscale Mexican eatery. The rest of the food is delicious as well (and I recommend the trademark frozen pomegranate margarita as a drink). For main dishes, I was especially fond of the Enchiladas de Jaiba and Mixiote de Cordero (lamb shank presented in parchment paper). Let me warn you that this place is only open for dinner and is ALWAYS crowded (there are other locations on the Upper West Side and in the Union Square area).

Sakagura [211 E. 43rd St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-953-7253]
Such good food, and such small portions! This extremely authentic Japanese restaurant, located in the basement of a midtown building, will not let you order sushi deluxe, because sushi is not even served here. But excellent and creative dishes are certainly on display. Most of the dishes are served tapas style and the food arrives extremely quickly. Try the roast deck negimaki and the deep fried shrimp balls to start. For more entree-like fare, I suggest the toro with citrus ponzu sauce and the even better beef with citrus ponzu sauce. The beef comes raw and you must cook it with lard on a hot stone. It is remarkably flavorful. I topped off my meal with a bowl of udon noodles and mushrooms. Unfortunately the only problem with this restaurant is that if you have big appetite, you will leave hungry unless you spend at least $50. All this and I haven't even mentioned the sake. Sakagura offers an extensive sake list, even going so far as to suggest appropriate pairings of food and sake. It is definitely a classy restaurant (and apparently it has quite the lunch special too).

Shun Lee Palace [155 E. 55th St. (bet. Lexington and 3rd Aves.) 212-371-8844, also Shun Lee West at 43 W. 65th St. (bet. Columbus Ave. and Central Park West) 212-595-8895]
These two restaurants serve excellent Chinese food in classy settings. The prices are rather high though, so these can't be places that you visit regularly. I especially like starting with the Sizzling Rice Cake soup. Another good dish is Neptune's Net, and most of the beef dishes are delicious.

Sparks Steak House [210 E. 46th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Ave.) 212-687-4855]
Despite a fantastic wine list, this "not-quite-Luger's" -y hideaway, is not quite as good as Luger's. But it still serves up a terrific sirloin in a classic steakhouse setting and is more than worth a visit if you do not want to make the trek to Brooklyn. I suggest starting with the Fresh Bufala Mozzarella with Sliced Tomato and then going straight to the steak. Wine lovers will also appreciate the vast selection of bottles available.

Sushi Yasuda [204 E. 43th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-972-1001]
Treat yourself to a uniquely fantastic sushi dinner here and you will not be disappointed (and if your wonderful girlfriend takes you, things will taste even better...). The fish is fresher and more diverse than at any other sushi restaurant this side of Tokyo. Make sure to choose your fish wisely and look for the freshest fish of the day (they give you a menu for this). I also recommend trying some of the fish that you don't normally see, such as Tasmanian Trout, Fluke, or White King Salmon. If you can afford it, certainly try the Omakase. The decor is spare, but classy.

The Yale Club [50 Vanderbilt Ave. (at 44th St.) 212-716-2100]
See how the other half lives at this fine dining experience. Choose from one of three dining rooms: the Tap Room, the Grill Room, or the Roof Dining Room. The Roof Dining Room is the fanciest, but I usually take my meals in the Tap Room. The two best options here are both lunches: Sushi Tuesdays (an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet) and Seafood Fridays (an all-you-can-eat shrimp, oyster, and crab claw extravaganza). I also recommend Pasta Pasta on Thursday. Note: Meals taste better when you are wearing a suit.

Yodo Restaurant of Japan [13 E. 47th St. (bet. Madison and Fifth Aves.) 212-751-8775]
Discovered while working for my father, this hidden gem boasts one of New York's best happy hours. From 5:30-8 PM every day, you can sip $3 large Sapporos and $2.50 sakes while munching on free appetizers such as edamame or California rolls. A nice way to end a day of work or to start a night out on the town.

Midtown West:

Abboccato [138 W. 55th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-265-4000]
Excellent midtown Italian restaurant across from the City Center theater. I went for lunch during restaurant week, but according to the waiter, the same prix-fixe I had is available all the time. I chose a lovely and surprisingly large Fritto Misto (lightly fried mixed seafood) as my appetizer. My main course was the Pollastrello alla Romana, a delectable chicken dish with peppers, tomatoes, and olives. Dessert was the Bonet (chocolate mousse). It was a lot of food for lunch, and it came with a hefty price tag ($24.07). But despite the high prices, I would still recommend Abboccato for its high quality food.

Bella Napoli [150 W. 49th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-719-2819]
An excellent lunch-time option for those who work in Midtown. Many others know about this place as well however, so expect a long line. It is a little pricey, but get two fresh mozzarella slices and you will feel good about your purchase.

burger joint [Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-708-7414]
Tucked into a corner of the lobby of this fancy hotel, this place makes one of the best burgers in the city...and at a reasonable price ($5-6). A burger, fries, and a coke should run you $10-11. Expect a long line at lunchtime, but it is worth the wait. You may even spot Bob Costas there.

Cafe Spice [54 W. 55th St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-489-7444]
Do not eat here! Under intense time pressure because we had tickets to an 8:00 PM performance at Carnegie Hall, my friends and I abandoned our plan to eat at the surprisingly crowded Tang Pavilion (one of my favorites as you all know), and walked across the street to Cafe Spice at 7:00 PM. Thinking myself vaguely familiar with the name, I figured it would be a decent choice for a quick dinner. Whoops. The lowlight was certainly the Lamb Seekh Kebab. Avoid it like the plague. It was so rubbery that Dan couldn't even take more than one bite. I unfortunately forced it down. The next afternoon I had some serious stomach problems for about an hour. Coincidence? I think not. For my main dish I ordered the "platter" of Murg Tikka Lababdar (essentially Chicken Tikka Masala). The great deal about the platter is that you get rice, lentils, and naan for "only" $5 extra. Rice is usually included with every dish... Anyway, this dish was thoroughly mediocre. Maybe they excel in more obscure, "authentic" dishes. I did see an Indian family eating there when we were leaving (in time for the show). And I will say that the bathroom sinks were very cool and the service was friendly enough. But don't ever go here. Especially with the incredible Tang Pavilion across the street. I don't care what kind of time pressure you have.

Carnegie Deli [854 Seventh Ave. (at 55th St.) 212-757-2245]
The biggest sandwiches you will ever see at some of the biggest prices. That said, they are extremely tasty and you basically have no choice but to go for the corned beef or the pastrami. Sadly, they charge you extra for sharing a sandwich, but by the time you are done with both the sandwich and the obligatory slice of seven-layer cake afterwards, you just won't care.

Churrascaria Plataforma [316 W. 49th St. (bet. 8th and 9th Aves.) 212-245-0505]
Massive Brazilian smorgasbord. A little pricey ($50 for dinner), but you will definitely leave stuffed. Salad bar is enormous and varied, but don't fill up there. Wait for the meat to come around on skewers. Beef ribs are fantastic, as are the high-end cuts of beef like Top Sirloin. Avoid too much flank steak.

Del Frisco's [1221 Sixth Ave. (at 49th St.) 212-575-5129]
Exactly what you expect to see from a classy New York steakhouse, including the incredible steak. With ceilings higher than most buildings in other cities, and crowds of people who earn more money than most small countries, Del Frisco's in full swing is quite a scene. I suggest the Shrimp Cocktail and the Crab Cake as appetizers. Both are a cut above the industry standard. As for steak, I am partial to the 24 ounce Porterhouse, but you can't go wrong with any of the steak options. All cuts come seasoned and taste delicious. So far, I would christen this the best steakhouse in Manhattan. But, of course, it still does not measure up to Luger's.

Del Valle [665 10th Ave. (bet. 46th and 47th Sts.) 212-262-5510]
Very cheap and very authentic Mexican food is on offer at Del Valle (and at a number of other restaurants on 10th avenue apparently). Oh, and if that's not enough for you, the portions are huge! I ordered 3 soft tacos (1 fried pork, 1 grilled beef, 1 grilled chicken) and I could barely finish my meal. Throw in a Jarritos soda and you'll feel like you're in Mexico, although the food is simply good, not spectacular.

Kang Suh [1250 Broadway (at 32nd St.) 212-564-6845]
This 24-hour Korean joint is a good place to go before or after karaoke in Koreatown. The menu is extensive, but you better eat some do-it-yourself BBQ. With numerous side dishes and plenty of meat, you will leave with a full stomach and a not-too-empty wallet.

Kum Gang San [49 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-967-0909]
Another very good Korean BBQ restaurant in Koreatown. Almost all of these places are extremely big and this one is no exception, and the front has what I thought was an 80" TV. Oh yeah, the food is good too. Stick to the BBQ, I especially liked the Special Kalbi and the Miso Soup was a good starter.

Kunjip [9 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-216-9487]
This place was jam-packed, but once I finally sat down here, I was treated like royalty, Korean royalty. The service was extremely attentive and it seemed as if the staff did not want any of its diners to lift even a finger. I started with the Man Doo Jim (steamed dumplings), before moving onto some delicious BBQ. All the regular side dishes were on display and my favorite BBQ dish was probably the Yetnalsik Bul Go Ki. All in all, an excellent K-Town dining option.

Rockefeller Center Food Court [30 Rockefeller Plaza]
The place to meet if you work on Park Avenue and your friend works on 6th Avenue. I'll always have a soft spot for Manchu WOK, mostly because they will call me "Young Man" until I am 50 (don't worry girls, they will call you "Young Lady" for just as long). And their combination plate is surprisingly a little above mediocre. The ubiquitous Hale and Hearty is predictably solid. I'm not sure what everyone sees in Cucina & Co., but it is there. Mendy's, Tossed, and Two Boots round out some other places that deserve consideration. Only one major problem: getting a table at lunch time can be a battle, but if you are vigilant and aggressive you should be ok.

Soba Nippon [19 W. 52nd St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-489-2525]
One of my favorite lunch spots, Soba Nippon grows its own buckwheat for its fantastic soba noodles. My favorite is the Zaru Soba lunch which comes with a salad and tofu sushi. I will often supplement this with a toro scallion roll, showing that this place is not one-dimensional, but the noodles are clearly the best and superior to any others I have had in America.

Shaan [57 W. 48th St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-977-8400]
This high-quality midtown joint is tasty and authentic. Guaranteed to fill you up while not lightening your wallet too much, I would recommend the Lamb Pasanda.

Tang Pavilion [65 W. 55th St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-956-6888]
For my money, the best deal on Chinese food in the city. Not only is the quality of the food arguably as good as anywhere else, but the prices are not too high. There is something for everyone here, although I usually start with the Egg Drop Soup with Crab Meat, before ordering Lamb with Broccoli in Hot Sauce, Beef with Shredded Peppers, and Shredded Chicken with Snow Pea Leaf. But almost every dish I have tried has been delicious.

Won Jo [23 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-695-5815]
An excellent Korean BBQ restaurant. They have all the standards and they taste very good. Also a nice atmosphere and the grill is powered by real coals that they bring to your table. Prices are standard.


BondSt [6 Bond St. (bet. Broadway and Lafayette St.) 212-777-2500]
Upscale and trendy, BondSt offers excellent sushi, along with a variety of other tasty dishes with a Japanese flavor to them. Located in what appears to be a converted brownstone, the decor of this multi-floor restaurant (that also features a lounge downstairs) makes you acutely aware of the fact that you are in an expensive place. For those who don't like sushi, the Grilled Rack of Lamb is extremely succulent. For those who do like sushi, most of the rolls are delicious, but I would especially recommend ordering off the daily special menu. How many times will you get to eat Barracuda sushi? Be warned that you will probably need reservations and that your meal will not come cheap. Your food, however, will be delicious.

Cafe Habana [17 Prince St. (at Elizabeth St.) 212-625-2001]
This super-hip NoLita joint is always packed with trendy young people. The food is good and relatively cheap. Fish tacos, corn on the cob, and rice and beans are all pretty tasty.

Peasant [194 Elizabeth St. (bet. Prince and Spring Sts.) 212-965-9611]
If you can look past the pretentiousness of having the menu in only Italian, you will see that food here is very good. I especially enjoyed the Risotto Nero di Seppia (pretentious, moi?) and the butter that came with bread. Very creamy. The waiter, although not Italian, spoke "excellent menu" and was very knowledgable about food and wine.

Upper East Side:

Arriba Arriba [1463 Third Ave. (bet. 82nd and 83rd Sts.) 212-249-1423]
Good food at pretty good prices. They also have good margaritas here. I tried the fajitas and was impressed, although a little more guacamole wouldn't have hurt (it never could). I would also recommend the create your own platter. You can get a lot of food for not that much money.

Asia Grill [1239 Second Ave. (at 65th St.) 212-753-9818]
Vietnamese food is the focus here, but there is also solid sushi on offer. Delivery is extremely fast, and I like the lunch specials because they are cheap and tasty. Ga Xao Cai (basically chicken with mixed vegetables) is one of my favorites.

Atlantic Grill [1341 Third Ave. (bet. 76th and 77th Sts.) 212-988-9200]
Consistently high-quality food at consistently high prices. Some of the better and fresher fish in the city is available here and they offer both traditional and sushi-style fish. In addition, it is a nice place to go for Thanksgiving dinner if you don't like eating at home.

Bawarchi [1149 First Ave. (at 63rd St.) 212-371-3535 (See for more locations)]
A good, solid, reasonably priced chain of Indian restaurants (formerly Baluchi's). You know what you are getting here, and you know it will taste pretty good. The lunch special here is a particularly excellent deal.

Brasserie Julien [1422 Third Ave. (bet. 80th and 81st Sts.) 212-744-6327]
A wonderfully romantic French bistro. All the standard French dishes are offered, in addition to some specials based on what is fresh. I enjoyed the rack of lamb with a crab cake appetizer, while my beautiful date had a special scallop dish. The brasserie also has an extensive beer selection, and I drank a bottle of Kwak from Belgium. The prices are a little high, and the tables are a little tight, but that just makes things more intimate (tables, not prices).

Caffe Buon Gusto [236 E. 77th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-535-6884]
Small and cozy, this is a very tasty choice for dinner. You can create your own pasta or choose a specialty pasta such as the black linguini with calamari or the green and white linguine with salmon that I had. Prices are affordable and of course other Italian specialties are available as well. I recommend reservations as it is a pretty popular place.

Dalga [401 E. 62nd St. (bet. 1st and York Aves.) 212-813-1790]
A nice setting and a great rotating variety of fresh fish make this Turkish restaurant a great choice for dinner. Prices are reasonable for fish, and because of the location you won't be bothered by too many other diners. A nice date spot.

Dallas BBQ [1265 Third Ave. (at 73rd St.) 212-772-9393 (See for more locations.)]
Good, but not great, cheap BBQ all over the city. Texas-sized drinks pack a serious punch. Perfect for large groups that don't want to spend that much. I usually order the Chicken and Ribs combo.

Giorgio's Pizza [1343 Second Ave. (bet. 70th and 71st Sts.) 212-628-8419]
At Giorgio's you can find an extremely unique (and pretty tasty) type of pizza. The shape of the slices is the same, but instead of the traditional method of the cheese covering all of the sauce, there are small spots (maybe an inch wide, four per slice) of sauce that are exposed. Definitely good for a change of pace, but I personally could not eat here all the time.

Hale and Hearty Soups [849 Lexington Ave. (bet. 64th and 65th Sts.) 212-517-7600 (See for more locations)]
This chain of soup, salad, and sandwich shops is an excellent lunch location. They have a few solid soups available every day, but I always prefer to go for one of the daily specials. My favorites include Shrimp Bisque, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato Bisque, and Chicken and Corn Chowder, along with other bisques and chowders.

Haru [1329 Third Ave. (at 76th St.) 212-452-2230 (See for more locations)]
This sushi chain could be considered the Baluchi's of Japanese food. You know what you are going to get and it will be good, but you could get better. That said, Haru certainly serves high-quality, albeit somewhat overpriced, sushi at each of its many locations.

Jasmine [1619 Second Ave. (at 84th St.) 212-517-8854]
Despite its unassuming exterior, this restaurant serves up very good traditional Thai cuisine. All the favorites are here, from Tom Yam Goong to Pahd Thai to my choice, Pahd See You. The chicken in my Pahd See You was particularly tender and overall the food was tasty. I also recommend the Pahd Woosen.

JG Melon [1291 Third Ave. (at 74th St.) 212-650-1310]
This Upper East Side hot spot is always mobbed around dinner time, but if you really want to eat there, it is open until 4 am every night, so you should have plenty of chances to feed your cravings. And this is a good idea because the burgers here are juicy and delicious. There's a reason that people come here from far and wide. Finally, for once, I would highly recommend ordering the fries. They are among the best I have had in New York.

John's Pizzeria Eastside [408 E. 64th St. (bet. 1st and York Aves.) 212-935-2895]
This is the Upper East Side outpost of the chain of pizzerias spawned by the original John's of Bleecker Street. No slices is the rallying cry here, and it makes sense because the pizza is so good that you will want a whole pie. Sadly I have not yet been to the original, but I plan on making a pilgrimage there in the not-too-distant future.

JoJo [160 E. 64th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.) 212-223-5656]
Located in a beautiful converted townhouse, this elegant Jean-Georges resturant serves up splendid French fusion cuisine. The setting is superb and the seemingly simple menu (main courses are named Chicken, Duck, Lamb, etc... although they rotate) belies a high level of creativity in the dishes. For starters, I recommend the Soft Shell Crab or the Warm Asparagus Salad, depending on which way your tastes tend to lead you. I chose the crab, and could not have been more satisfied. For an entree, I chose the Duck and again was very pleased with my selection. The fowl was tender and delicious, with a wonderful sauce to complement it. But if you prefer chicken, fish, or any other meat, I have a feeling that you will be equally happy. Finish things off with the Warm Valrhona Cake. Trust me.

Luke's Bar & Grill [1394 Third Ave. (bet. 79th and 80th Sts.) 212-249-7070]
I liked the atmosphere and the beer selection and prices. It has a nice traditional feel to it. And the burgers are pretty good, although not amazing. All the American classics are available here.

L'Absinthe [227 E. 67th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-794-4950]
Absolutely outstanding French food in an authentic brasserie setting. Certainly an expensive treat, L'Absinthe is worth the money. My favorite dish is the rack of lamb, but you can't really go wrong here. A nice date spot for the well-heeled. A nice parents-take-you-out spot for the not-so-well-heeled.

La Cantina Toscana [1109 First Ave. (bet. 60th and 61st Sts.) 212-754-5454]
Try out this tiny Tuscan treat on the Upper East Side. Featuring an authentic Italian atmosphere and more options than most comparable restaurants, La Cantina Toscana is a good place to try something new. For starters, if you want something light, go for the Mesclun Salad. If you want something a little heavier, order a bowl of the Pappa al Pomodoro. For your main course, make sure you have some wild game or fish. For wild game, you can choose anything from wild boar to venison to pheasant, generally served in a ragu with a healthy portion of pasta. Buon Appetito.

Maya [1191 First Avenue (bet. 64th and 65th Sts.) 212-585-1818]
You may not have realized it, but there is such a thing as upscale Mexican food. And Maya serves it up with aplomb. The guacamole is a must-have appetizer and the Tacos de Punta de Filete (basically Filet Mignon tacos) are very good as well. For main dishes, I would recommend the fish, either the Pescado a la Talla (Red Snapper) or Robala con Hongos (Striped Bass). Make sure to wash your food down with a margarita (I like mango the best).

Maz Mezcal [316 E. 86th St. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-472-1599]
As mentioned, there is a general dearth of high-quality Mexican food, but Maz Mezcal provides some. The good food, along with tasty drinks, mean that this place is certainly worth a visit.

Mediterraneo [1260 Second Ave. (at 66th St.) 212-734-7407]
A Berger family favorite for years, pasta doesn't get much better than at Mediterraneo. The pizza and other dishes are good too, but pasta is clearly the specialty (along with fast service). Among others, I would recommend Tagliolini al Granchio, Linguine Nere all'Arrabbiata, Pappardelle all'Anatra, and Penne al Sugo Toscano, but every single pasta dish I have ever tried there has been delicious. This restaurant is almost always crowded, so if you can't get a table, I suggest a visit to the sister restaurant down the block, Za Za (see below).

Our Place [1444 Third Ave. (at 82nd St.) 212-288-4888]
Good quality Chinese cuisine at not too terrible prices. I like the Chicken Corn Soup, Li Po Chicken, and Beef with Chinese Vegetables. There is also another location on East 55th St. bet. Third and Lex.

Penang [1596 Second Ave. (at 83rd St.) 212-585-3838]
This chain of Malaysian restaurants is pretty good and not overly expensive. As with most of the Southeast Asian restaurants, I like the decor, especially the exterior of this location.

Pintaile's [26 E. 91st St. (bet. 5th and Madison Aves.) 212-722-1967]
An extremely thin crust pizza with a totally original taste, Pintaile's is not for everyone. I would recommend it personally, and I think that is a slice that all New Yorkers (and even tourists) should try. If you don't like it, eat no more. If you do like it, you have discovered a whole new world of pizza.

Poke [343 E. 85th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-249-0569]
Recently expanded (although it remains crowded all the time), but still featuring BYOB and excellent sushi, Poke is the place to go for creative and delicious sushi. Poke offers a wide variety of specialty rolls with high quality fish. Too many rolls can get a little pricey, but sushi is expensive everywhere, so when you visit, indulge yourself. Among others, I recommend the Xmas Roll, Red Dragon Roll, or the Ninja Roll.

Quattro Gatti [205 E. 81st St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-570-1073]
Authentic Italian food that tastes better than most of its neighbors. I liked the Linguine alla Positano, but I would also recommend the Branzino. A little expensive, but far from outrageous considering the quality of food and atmosphere.

Roma's Pizza [1568 Third Ave. (at 88th St.) 212-369-3455]
Formerly La Mia, this place will always be near and dear to my heart for the countless slices I ate here during and after school for many years. The slices here are always reliable and tasty and the prices are reasonable as well. For some reason, the delivery is not quite up to the same standards, but it has been awhile since I ordered from here so maybe times have changed.

Scalinatella [201 E. 61st St. (at 3rd Ave.) 212-207-8280]
High-end, fantastic Italian food. The setting may be a little crowded and the prices may be a little high, but the food is always most important to me, and it is excellent here. They even give you two incredible free toppings for your bread (some diced zucchinis in a brown sauce and a seafood salad of sorts). Listen for the specials, because there is usually something particularly good there.

Sel et Poivre [853 Lexington Ave. (bet. 64th and 65th Sts.) 212-517-5780]
This cozy French bistro serves up a tasty, traditional menu at reasonable prices. The best time to go is actually on a Friday or Saturday night when you can enjoy steak frites or any chicken dish on the menu for only $12.95. Bon appetit!

Shanghai Pavilion [1378 Third Ave. (bet. 78th and 79th Sts.) 212-585-3388]
This new Upper East Side restaurant serves excellent and distinctive Chinese cuisine at affordable prices. If you want to, you can create your own dishes, but I would recommend choosing from among the specialties, including Green Tea Chicken.

Silver Star [1238 2nd Ave. (at 65th St.) 212-249-4250]
An old Berger family favorite, Silver Star is a nice, reliable, Upper East Side diner. The French Toast is particularly good, the pancakes are solid, and portions in general are huge of course.

Sushi of Gari [402 E. 78th St. (bet. 1st and York Aves.) 212-517-5340]
Make sure to get a reservation for this fantastic sushi specialist. The fish is so fresh you might think that it's still swimming. A little more expensive than most, but the food is worth it. Definitely get a dish with fish, sushi regular is a steal at $22. But the good stuff costs a little more. The Chef's special sushi is incredible, but it costs $75. If you want something special, but also fantastic, for a more affordable price, try the Tuna of Gari for $43. Another small Upper East Side location, Gari has a sister restaurant simply called Gari on the Upper West Side which is equally delicious I'm sure.

Sushi Seki [1143 First Ave. (bet. 62nd and 63rd Sts.) 212-371-0238]
Absolutely outstanding. The most unique and delicious sushi I have had in New York. I highly recommend Seki's Original Special Recipe Platter. It may be a little more expensive, but it is worth every penny for the creative combinations of fish and sauces. For those not inclined toward sushi, the Beef Negimaki is tender and tasty, and you can't go wrong with the Chilean Sea Bass. But I would still insist that sushi has to be the ticket to a splendid meal. Seki is only open for dinner, beginning at 5:30 PM, and due to the small space, you must make a reservation ahead of time if you want to eat dinner any time from about 7:00 to 9:30 PM. After that, tables and the sushi bar are often available, and amazingly the restaurant is open most nights until 3:00 AM.

Turquoise Seafood [240 E. 81st St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-988-8222]
Owned and run by a friendly Israeli man, this seafood restaurant offers fresh fish from around the Mediterranean. The setting is beautifully designed and there is excellent food to go along with it. Good appetizers include the Homemade Tzaziki, the Grilled Vegetables, and I would think the Zucchini Medallions as well. As for main courses, you must have fish, either whole, or prepared in one of a variety of ways. The Chilean Sea Bass, the Red St. Peter's (Tilapia), and the Salmon Fillet en Papillote (cooked in parchment paper) were all especially good. Then, if you're not too full, top your meal off with an exquisite molten chocolate cake.

Yuka [1557 Second Ave. (bet. 80th and 81st Sts.) 212-772-9675]
An all-you-can-eat paradise and long-time favorite among me and my friends. For just $18.00, you can stuff yourself with tuna, salmon, and other favorites until you have gills. Unlike most places with this same deal, the fish is pretty high quality. For those without such a large appetite, most other food is fairly inexpensive as well. And portions tend to be huge.

Za Za [1207 First Ave. (bet. 65th and 66th Sts.) 212-772-9997]
This sister restaurant to Mediterraneo serves up food just as good, but it is almost never crowded and it delivers! Za Za is especially good in the summer when the back garden is open and they offer an incredible $10 lunch special.

Upper West Side:

Cafe Mozart [154 W. 70th St. (at Broadway) 212-595-9797]
After taking in a movie at Lincoln Square cinemas and peeking at David Blaine at Lincoln Center, I needed a late dinner, so I walked uptown with Dan to a place that he recommended. That place was Cafe Mozart. The live piano made up for the otherwise mediocre decor and the food was very good. The menu is extremely eclectic, but Dan and I both chose pastas. I had the creative Midnight Summer Shrimp Pasta featuring black linguine and yellow tomato marinara sauce. Dan went for the Chicken Pesto Pappardelle Pasta and both were delicious. The dessert, however, a Viennese Chocolate Cake, was the best part of all. My one issue was that the pastas were a little overpriced. You can eat a good meal here, but I would recommend it most as a dessert place.

Caffe Swish [2953 Broadway (bet. 115th and 116th Sts.) 212-222-3568]
A different kind of Japanese is served at this Shabu Shabu specialist. Popular among Columbia students, Swish also offers all the standard Japanese fare, along with select Thai dishes. I had the Shabu Shabu, however, and I was intrigued, but ultimately a little disappointed. The dish comes with more food (mostly vegetables) than you could ever possibly eat, which is good. But the process is a little overly involved for my taste (Korean BBQ is better in my opinion). The food quality was solid and the house special sauce was pretty good, however. Make sure to try the Gyoza appetizer and be hungry when you get there.

Columbia Cottage [1034 Amsterdam Ave. (at 111th St.) 212-662-1800]
The food is solid, but nothing to write home about. The real reason to visit this place is the free wine. Yes, that's right. You can get as much free wine as you like with your meal. I recommend a trip to nearby O'Connell's pub (formerly Cannon's at 108th and Broadway) after dinner for some darts and cheap Rolling Rock pitchers.

Crepes on Columbus [990 Columbus Ave. (bet. 108th and 109th Sts.) 212-222-0259]
Delicious food, although the decor is simple and lower-end. I enjoyed a splendid meal here, chowing down on one savory crepe (with grilled chicken, avocado, and swiss cheese) and one sweet crepe (with Nutella, bananas, and strawberries). I was very full for not that much money. My friend had an excellent roast beef sandwich and it appears as if they cook everything well here. And while it is a decent sit-down dinner option, I would say that the restaurant is best suited for brunch, lunch, or delivery. If I lived in the neighborhood I would probably order from here at least twice a week, maybe more.

Flor de Mayo [484 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 83rd and 84th Sts.) 212-787-3388 and 2651 Broadway (bet. 100th and 101st Sts.) 212-663-5520]
A unique dining experience (at least for me), this restaurant offers both Peruvian and Chinese fare (yes I am being a little lazy putting it in the Chinese category). Anyway, the food is very good, the prices are very low, and the portions are very big. This place is a great deal. I got a huge bowl of Egg Drop Soup for $1.50, half a chicken with yellow rice and a small salad for $7.50, and a side order of yuca for $3.50. Let's just say that was a huge meal. You could easily stuff yourself with just the chicken dish.

Gennaro [665 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 92nd and 93rd Sts.) 212-665-5348]
A nice, affordable restaurant, Gennaro won't blow you away, but it should leave you satisfied and with most of your money still in your wallet. A nice wine selection is an added bonus.

Indus Valley [2636 Broadway (at 100th St.) 212-222-9222]
Delicious Upper West Side Indian food (plus they have cool cups for your water). I especially liked the lentils and the Chicken Zafrani. Apparently it is one of the only good Indian restaurants on the Upper West Side.

Jacques-Imo's [366 Columbus Avenue (at 77th St.) 212-799-0150]
This is THE place to go for authentic Nawlins food. Prices are a little high, but the food is very high quality. I especially like the Crawfish Etoufee and the cornbread. During the summer, Sunday nights are all-you-can-eat crawfish.

La Cocina [217 W. 85th St. (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Aves.) 212-874-0770]
You will not walk away from here hungry. The burritos are even bigger than those at Chipotle. And they are available at a reasonable price. But on the whole, the food here is pretty standard Mexican fare. The big deal here is the 2 for 1 margarita special every night from Monday to Thursday. Good for large groups.

Monsoon [435 Amsterdam Ave. (at 81st St.) 212-580-8686]
Solid, but not spectacular Vietnamese fare. I went for the Dim Sum, which was pretty tasty. I also liked the decor of the restaurant, particularly the fans, which made you feel like you were in another country, Vietnam.

Nonna [520 Columbus Ave. (at 85th St.) 212-579-3194]
An Italian brunch? Yes, that's right, I had bacon and eggs here and they were very good. With a nice corner location, this is a good place to eat outside on a summer or spring afternoon. Also, the more traditional Italian food is supposedly pretty solid, so I plan on coming back at some point.

Prohibition [503 Columbus Ave. (bet. 84th and 85th Sts.) 212-579-3100]
Try the mini-burgers...they are delicious. Portions are large, two appetizers could even be enough for a meal. Can also go here as a bar, live (mostly jazz) music every night.

Raku [57 W. 76th St. (bet. Columbus Ave. and Central Park West) 212-873-1220]
Top-notch sushi on the Upper West Side at typical sushi prices. I highly recommend that you visit Raku for a meal. Start off with some excellent Edamame with just the right amount of of salt on it. Then, order the Raku Sushi. This dish offers two large pieces each of 4 of the most popular cuts of sushi (salmon, tuna, eel, and yellowtail), along with a roll of your choice (get the Spicy Tuna roll). The fish is extremely tasty and I loved the sliver of avocado on top of each piece of salmon. This will now be my go-to Japanese restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Saigon Grill [620 Amsterdam Ave. (at 90th St.) 212-875-9072 and 1700 Second Ave. (at 88th St.) 212-996-4600]
Similar to Asia Grill, these two sister restaurants offer typical and tasty Vietnamese dishes at low prices, especially for lunch. Sushi is also offered, but I would recommend sticking mostly to the Vietnamese.

Sezz Medi' [1260 Amsterdam Ave. (at 122nd St.) 212-932-2901]
A taste of Italy on the Upper West Side. Pizza is the way to go here. If you're hungry, order a full pie for yourself. If you're not that hungry, order a full pie and take the leftovers home (or I guess you could share it with someone else...). My Margherita with Prosciutto was fantastic. If you really don't want pizza, you could try a Panuzzo. This is something like a calzone, but with less cheese. It is very filling as well, however.

Silk Road Palace [447 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 81st and 82nd Sts.) 212-580-3465]
The food here is mediocre to bad. But the wine is boxed, jugged, and free. Unfortunately, too many people know about this place and it is often crowded with a B and T crowd. I recommend Columbia Cottage instead, but Silk Road is more convenient for most people. The Road brunch will always be a dream of mine.

Copyright 2005 Richard H. Berger. All rights reserved.

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