For Alan and me, going to New York is mainly about two things: going to plays and going to restaurants. With a museum and gallery or two thrown in for good measure.
Of course we have our favorite restaurants. Alan’s is Le Bernardin (click here and here for reports on our visits there). Mine is Becco (click here and here and here for reports on visits there). We decided that on our four-day trip to the Big Apple last week we would try to go only to eateries we had not before visited. Although we missed our tried-and-true faves, I’m glad we stuck (for the most part) with our plan.
Here’s a rundown on the great, the good and, unfortunately, one big disappointment. Read on.
Over the Top
Oceana was simply over the top. It was the best restaurant of our trip.
We adore seafood and we wholeheartedly recommend Oceana. The flagship of the Livanos Restaurant Group for over two decades, it is located on 49th Street, just west of Rockefeller Center, and steps away from Radio City Music Hall and the theaters of Broadway.
One whole section of the menu is called simply “Fish on a Plate” and it involved selecting a type of fish and its preparation and then adding a sauce of your choice.
Our friend Margie Nichols, who was along with us, adores soft shell crab, which only are in season for a few weeks. Luckily, they were on the menu and she couldn’t resist.
Ca Va Todd English had the distinct advantage of being located inside our hotel, the InterContinental New York Times Square.
In New York, almost every eatery had this appetizer on the menu: avocado toast. We really like avocados so, why not?
There are two eateries from this trip in this category.
Tiny’s (and the Bar Upstairs) is a three-story townhouse located on West Broadway in the heart of Tribeca. The building dates to 1810 and much of the original materials have been restored and overlayed with whimsical American finish detail.
Siblings Matt, Jack and Ana Abramcyk conceived of a space where you can come to eat, drink, or just talk over a glass of wine. The menu reflects modern American cuisine with Southern and French influences.
Surprisingly, the other “very good” eatery was The Players, at 16 Gramercy Park South. Being a private club, we didn’t have high expectations. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised.
These next three restaurants were good, and we recommend them. They would have gotten even higher ratings if we hadn’t been comparing them to the eateries listed above. But such is life.
Alan and I have found that cafes located inside museums are some of the best places to eat. Maybe it’s being surrounded by so much great art that makes the chefs feel compelled to match the creativity and quality.
Petrie Court Cafe and Wine Bar, located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a floor-to-ceiling view of Central Park, reinforces that impression.
We were first in line when it opened for lunch at 11:30.
For me, all the dips were a little bland and we were having a hard time flagging down our waiter to ask for hot sauce. Fortunately, I have a little remedy for that that I always have tucked away in my purse for just this kind of occasion.
While we were in Greenwich Village one day, we decided to stop by a cozy little Italian spot called La Lanterna de Vittorio, located at 129 MacDougal St.
La Lanterna is located in the middle of a bunch of New York University buildings and it attracted a good number of students and professors at lunchtime. It definitely did not seem like a tourist spot.
Another Italian place we really liked was Scarlatto, 250 W. 47th St., back in the Theater District.
Here’s a little lagniappe.
We didn’t have a full meal here, but one other entry in our “good” category was, as you would expect, The Palm, at 250 W. 50th St., in the heart of the Theater District. We only stopped there for drinks and (in Alan’s case) dessert. We had been warned not to be late to our play, “The Father,” playing across the street at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre because latecomers would not be seated. We perched ourselves at The Palm’s bar to wait until near the start time.
I hate to write this part. We had vowed not to go to our usual haunts, but we broke down and went to the famed Sardi’s — just for a drink. What a bad decision that was. We have been there many, many times and almost considered it to be de rigueur on a theater trip. (Click here and here and here and here for reports on happier visits.)
But this was such a letdown. The downstairs bar was closed when we arrived after a play, so we trekked upstairs to the other bar and selected a high-top table near the windows. For 10 minutes, nobody even acknowledged that we were there. Finally, the bartender motioned for Alan to come over and order our drinks at the bar.
Alan ordered a house cabernet sauvignon. He only drank a few sips. It was wine the quality you would expect at one of those student dive bars on the Cumberland Avenue Strip in Knoxville.
I had a cosmopolitan. Again, awful. Cloyingly sweet without the slightest bit of finesse. Ugh.
We left with a very bitter taste in our mouths (despite the sugary cosmopolitan!).
So, there you have it. The great, the good and the disappointing. We already are researching restaurants for our next New York trip. Please leave any suggestions in the comments section! We’d appreciate it.
How funny that Julia, et. al. were dining upstairs at Tiny’s! We ran into her party at LaGuardia on Sunday for our return to Knoxville. Small, small world. Thanks for these excellent recommendations for next year’s trip!
David: I know! Crazy! I thought I saw a woman who looked like Robyn Askew standing in the rest room line. But I told myself it couldn’t be her. But it was!
Alan, I’m with you on the scallops. Love them!
You guys really know what to do. The food looks amazing, except I’m sure the crème brule was not at good as mine! Ha!
Monique, as good as the creme brulee was, it could not surpass your wonderful version.
Hi Cynthia! I’m also a lover of Becco. Was in NYC in March and saw The King and I, Kinky Boots and Something Rotten. Couldn’t quite spring for Hamilton tickets, but I bet it was worth every penny!! Miss seeing you!
Jealous of your trip! We loved Oceana also and Kevin Bacon was near us and I stared at him…lots!
Hey, Moira: It sounds like you have the same tastes in theater as we do! We have seen all those plays you mentioned. We liked all of them except “The King and I.” I just didn’t care for the story very much.
I miss seeing you, too, but I keep track of you on Facebook. Maybe we should get together IRL — in real life!
Oh, Pat: How exciting that must have been!
Degustation on 5th Street not Ave. between 2nd and 3rd Ave. Wonderful. We will need to talk about it. Hard to get in so you must call ahead.
Loved all your reviews and can’t wait to try Tiny’s! I love Becco, too, and have been to CaVa many times. The bar area with the fireplaces is a great Midtown business meeting spot! Three places I really like that you might be interested in trying are Cafe Habana at the corner of Prince and Elizabeth in NoLIta/Soho. It’s a tiny place – not fancy- with good Cuban food. Their Cuban sandwich was voted #1 in NYC and that’s saying something! Also their Mexican corn on the cob is addictive and they have great drinks! I also really enjoy The Olive Tree on MacDougal in the Village. An eclectic restaurant in both menu and decor that has been around for years. They have delicious Middle Eastern food along with an eclectic mix of other dishes.They have blackboard tabletops and they provide you with chalk so you can write /draw on them. So many interesting pictures on the walls with old Charlie Chaplin films and other silent movies running on a continuous loop. The Comedy Cellar is downstairs right underneath you. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere so just sit and enjoy. Another favorite is Cleopatra’s Needle on the Upper West Side at 92nd and Broadway. Delicious Mediterranean food, great drinks and hot live jazz. Free cover and reasonable prices. A fun place to listen to jazz while enjoying good food and drinks! None of these places is expensive. They are all very relaxed and casual and maybe something off the beaten track and a little different than the standard touristy Midtown fare. One more place I can add that is quite expensive and usually requires reservations months in advance is Chef Mario Batali’s place on Waverly Place in the Village, Babbo. Really top notch food, drinks, atmosphere, everything.
Jim: OK. I would love to talk about it. And get in!
Kim: What a wonderful post with so many great suggestions. You have been a major help for our plans for the next trip. Thanks so much. Missed seeing you in NYC. Hope your visit to Knoxville was a good one.
I love the Oceana in DC. Related?
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