Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Best Tourist Eats in NYC

So You're Coming For A Visit?.... I've Got A Place For You!

As many of you know, I am the ultimate foodie. Not just a “food lover”…. but someone who loves the culture, origin and history of all foods. As a nation, we are defined by food… mostly regionally… and those foods and the people who prepare them are the fabric of our communities.

Living in NYC is almost a food misnomer. Nearly every cuisine in the world is represented here in some way, at almost any hour. It’s like living in a Disneyland of food. I love it.

For those of you new to this blog, this blog entry of ForkNewYork is dedicated to tourists. Below is my very own selection of “can’t miss” spots that are so low risk (meaning your chance of having a bad meal are slim to none) that you could close your eyes and randomly select. Being from South Louisiana, I have a secret guide to New Orleans restaurants I have been email friends for years… but mainly for locals. This is a list that should feel universal in appeal.

The list includes restaurants you have certainly heard of, but may also include a few you haven’t. All of them will give you a little insight to why I love them and what to order.

So without further ado, here is ForkNewYork’s 2010 Tourist Gems of NYC!


Make no mistake about it, NYC is a steak and Italian food town. Other than a handful of ripoff Times Squareish steak places (Tad’s anyone?), you can locate and enjoy a spectacular piece of meat. Here are a few that will knock your socks off.

Peter Lugar’s in Brooklyn

Lugar’s tops my list, maybe not for the best steak (although their steals and sides are excellent), but for the history. Lugar’s is the Smithsonian of steak houses. This cash only spot in Brooklyn is a NYC institution, and millions of folks have celebrated everything imaginable here. Don’t Miss: Porterhouse for Two, Medium Rare. Warning: Do a little research before you go, the waiters frown upon using menus, and this place is cash only.

Quality Meats

Since they opened a few years ago, this spot has been a favorite of mine… and why not. The space is sexy, the food incredible and the attention to detail (tableside steak sauce preparation, individual pies for dessert) is top notch. The place is owned by Smith and Wollensky which means the meat is Prime, and throw in a charcuterie in the bar area with freshly sliced salami and prosciutto… well, you get the picture. Don’t Miss: Corn Crème Brulee. Warning: Go early or make a reservation. This is popular.


Just plain old school. Fantastic space (has aged well), simple delicious menu, and midtown locale. Besides top quality steaks and lobsters, Keen’s has been serving perhaps the most famous “Mutton Chop” in America since 1905. This is a can’t miss, fantastic authentic NYC steak experience. Don’t Miss: any Prime steak or the Mutton Chop. Warning: Popular with locals so call ahead.


There are easily 1000 italian spots in the five boroughs alone. Everything from old school Sicilian, to hip Northern Italian, to upscale celebrity joints. Here are a few of my favorites that never dissapoint.


Likely the most popular with locals and tourists, you’ll need to reserve a table a month before your trip…. but it’s worth it. Of all of Chef Mario Batali’s joints, this one still reigns supreme, and the food is consistently terrific. This is a tiny townhouse of a space, but if you can land a table upstairs or down, you’ll be considered lucky. All of the dishes are top notch, but for my money, one of the best values in NYC is here, ordering the “Pasta Tasting Menu”. This 5-course masterpiece is the best way to initially experience Mario’s magic. Don’t Miss: I think you know. Warning: Reservations are a must, or get in line at 4pm and snag one of 4 or 5 tables in the bar, which are first come.


This is one of those gems you see Tom Hanks bring his date to in just about any movie about NYC. Small, quaint, authentic, delicious. Gennero is routed in authenticity, and tasting their menu shows it. From handmade gnocchi to their braised lamb shank, it is a favorite of Upper West-siders who know their food. Don’t Miss: one of their homemade pasta dishes. Warning: Cash only my friends. Hit the ATM before you go…. although this isn’t a terribly expensive meal.


If Mario is the King of Italian cooking, Lidia Bastianich is the Queen. This charming townhouse on the Upper East Side has been open since 1981 and still serves what is likely some of the best Italian food in America. With a menu that can lean toward rustic Italian fare, Felidia has become a special occasion spot (or for those on a company expense account) as the quality of the food can command the prices… recognizing this, the restaurant now features excellent Prix-Fixe options at lunch and dinner which can ease the wallet pain. Don’t Miss: Veal Osso-Buco here is an out of body experience. Warning: It ain’t cheap, but nothing on this level is.


It feels as if there are a million Chinese places in NYC. And all of them deliver to your house. But strange enough, a few really stick out as being truly special. Incredibly authentic and overall spectacular. If you are in NYC and are craving the real deal, you can’t miss with any of these….

Szechuan Gourmet

Quite possibly the best Chinese food in Manhattan, period. You’d never guess it from peeking through the window, but the freshness of the ingredients and the amazing dishes make it’s competitors look like rookies. This is where you can find the best noodles in NYC, and also order duck tongue, sliced conch, tea smoked duck and frog. Getting the picture? OK, so you don’t have to be so adventurous… you can order the sliced pork belly with leeks (think the best bacon you have ever put in your mouth), shredded pork with chives or wok-fried lobster and stay on the beaten path. Don’t Miss: the pork belly is really all that. Warning: they like it spicy here, so make sure you understand the heat level before you order. Special note: last time I was in this place, Sara Jessica and Matthew were inhaling some type of tofu dish that looked incredible….

Wu Liang Ye

I learned about this place soon after I moved to NYC, and have been bringing people there ever since. My first notion that this was authentic, was when I was seated and quickly realized I was the only person from this continent in the restaurant. Like Szechuan Gourmet, Wu features fantastic authentic dishes, but excels in dumplings…. mainly their famous pork dumplings in chili sauce, although I know people who fly across the country to eat their Dan Dan Noodles with minced pork chili vinaigrette. You can get the tea smoked duck here, terrific fish, scallops and shrimp everyway imaginable… but I stick to the basics here and am never disappointed. Don’t Miss: the Dan Dan noodles… are you kidding? Warning: the location by Rockefeller Plaza tends to be the better of the two in NYC, so choose wisely.

Mee Noodle

You’re in NYC. You’re starving. You’re nearly broke. Welcome to Mee Noodle.

My love affair with Mee dates back nearly 15 years… but their food remains solid. The menu alone may be worth the trip, as you can get anything and everything (especially in the noodle world) every-which-way you can imagine. But what really excels here are the soups and noodle dishes, which are fired about 10 feet behind the tiny dining room. Don’t Miss: “Little Bit Of Everything Noodle Soup”, noodles on sizzling platters and scallion pancakes. Warning: the menu is overwhelming…. Bring friends and share. ** super affordable!


If I don’t start to cut this off now, this blog entry will turn into a novella, so I’ll list a few more places that will make your trip uber-special,keep it brief, and pay no attention to genre…..


The wine and small plate masterpiece is still thriving in the East Village and recently opened a new locale near Chelsea. The wines are supurb, the food fresh and amazing… and it feel like a true NYC original…. even though our friends in Barcelona have been eating this way for 500 years. If you don’t eat the truffled egg toast, you have wasted a trip.


Mario’s village mainstay remains terrific and the food inventive and consistent. New hours keep the kitchen open all day.

Da Umberto

Owned by an amazing Italian family, this pricy but charming Chelsea tratorria can sometimes serve NY’s best Italian food.


You know it, you love it. The mushroom menu alone (crispy hen of the woods? Are you kidding me?) is worth the trip, but this restaurant never disappoints in any way, shape or form.


Where else can you eat an amazing Indian dinner for under 10 bucks? Fresh hot Naan bread, the best chicken tikka in NYC, and a selection of biriyani dishes that I crave constantly.

Maffei’s Pizza

It’s a dump. A dive. On a corner. And oh yea, they serve the best “grandma’s slice” on the planet. Think crunchy, buttery crust smothered in san marzano sauce and homemade mozzarella. See ya there.


If falafel is your thing, well, it just doesn’t get any better. I use to frequent the Amsterdam store when traveling in Europe, and low and behold, here they are with two stores in NYC! Love love love it.

Minetta Tavern

You can’t get in, so disregard this. But if somehow you do, get the Minetta burger and the potatoes fried in duck fat. Good lord.

Chicken and Rice Cart at 53rd and 6th

Bizarre I would include a street cart, but when you are as famous as this place is, well you deserve inclusion. The chicken and rice dish here is unreal… a container of spicy rice, topped with curry-grilled boneless chicken, topped with a white-sauce that isn’t of this planet and a shot of the spicy stuff to wake you up. If you see a line that stretches around the block at 3am, that’s the place.... and uh, they have their own website.


I know, I know, I include a lot of Mario’s places… but when you have an Italian wine list like this, you must be on the list. The cheeses drizzled in truffle infused honey doesn’t hurt, either.


This would be your “we’re celebrating our anniversary in NYC” dinner. Bouley recently moved locations, but happily has retained it’s magic. This is high quality stuff… and you pay for it.

Blue Ribbon Bakery

Where else can you get food this quality at 2am? Nowhere. Blue Ribbon stays on course for being the best option… almost anytime… with great food and a hip scene. But make no mistake about it… however impressed you are with the menu….it has always been about the fried chicken.

Well my fellow foodies, there you have it.... my don't miss tourist list of 2010. Well, of March 2010, anyway. Have fun out there and experience the best that NYC has to offer... and drop me a line to let me know what you thought!