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A CurtainUp Feature
Grabbing a Bite Before or After a Show
By Elyse Sommer
A note for fish lovers: Wherever you eat, not all fish is good for you. To avoid ordering fish that may have been farmed with pesticides or are otherwise less than ideal choices, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's guide of best choices, alternative choices and no-nos at http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx
(includes Ninth Avenue and Side Streets)
Far West- (9th and 12th Aves)
Gramercy Park/ Kips Bay
Upper Midtown Manhattan
Chinatown-World Trade Center
California Restaurant Tips . . . Snacking and Dining in the Berkshires . . . Miscellaneous $wise Tips For Navigating New York. . . General Links Page
Manhattan has so many restaurants per block, some the size of telephone booth, that any list of favorites is bound to be woefully incomplete. One thing's for sure: Scarlett O'Hara wouldn't have to rip a raw carrot from Tara's soil to stave off hunger. Whatever your taste or budget, you need never go hungry in New York -- whether a walk and eat a hot dog from a street truck or a pricey dinner in a posh setting, there's something for everyone. There are also plenty of guides, on and off line, with very complete listings and reviews. Thus, consider this page an informal notebook listing some spots that I and CurtainUp readers have found to be dependable spots in various locations, with the focus on cheap bites in the Big Apple. Feel free to send us items from your own list.
Restivo Restaurant, on the northwest corner of 22nd Street and 7th Avenue, is a charming and delicious place for lunch or dinner. The menu is diverse and delicious. The atmosphere is warm and quiet, the service pleasant and the prices very reasonable. The deserts irresistible, and if you go to a matinee, the brunch is a real bargain. This is a hop, skip and jump from the Irish Rep (even has the same green walls) and a three blocks north of the Atlantic Theater
New York's still a deli town even though the healthy food police making those meat filled sandwiched you can barely get your mouth around something a guilty pleasure. Some favorites have fallen by the wayside — Wolf's on 57th street is now a Cafe Europa branch and the Second Avenue Deli fell victim to its owner's tragic death. But plenty of landmark delis remain to dish up gargantuan sandwiches filled with enough meat to make a vegan blanch. The countless Greek luncheonettes in the theater district and all over town, including Edison Hotel's Cafe also can be counted on by pastrami lovers. One of New York's landmark delis, Katz's on the lower East Side (205 E Houston St at Ludlow St) seems to be a favorite with You-Tubers. My favorite of these chowhound videas is this one of 3 NYPD guys chowing away; also this quick hype showing of a mouthwatering pastrami sandwich being made. Some other landmarks not yet caught by camera carrying You Tubers are Carnegie Deli,854 7th Ave, at 55th St and the Stage Deli at 834 7th Ave, between 53rd & 54th Streets.
Theater District Restaurants
Post Curtain stargazing opportunities. There are those who rush home to bed as soon as the curtain goes down, but the real theater buffs keep the sleep fairy at bay and head for a post-theater repast or drink-- and hopefully some elbow-rubbing with actors and theater folks. Currently, one of the most popular places for celebrity spotting is Angus McIndoe, a pub at 258 W 44th St where the food tends to be better than usual for hot spots in the heart of the theater district. See also Chez Josephine and Joe Allen's below. -- posted 6/09/06.
Another and More Elegant Ollie's For Playwrights Horizon and the Forty-Second Street Theater Complex.
If it weren't for the name, you might not believe this stylish new tenant of a space formerly occupied by various other restaurants, and directly next door to the West Bank Cafe, was part of the noisy, nuts and bolts noodle chain formerly closer to Broadway.
Cafe Edison, 228 W 47th St
Comments: Also known as " the Polish cafe " Great for celebrity spotting, and especially popular for lunch. Favorites: Matzoh Ball soup-- nothing else needed! The Edison's lobby with its wonderful city murals is a favorite meeting for people headed to a nearby theater -- a little like the old Astor Hotel.
Carmine's, 200 W 44th St
Comments: Tourist-y but ever popular for its huge shar-able portions.
Chez Josephine, 414 W 42nd St
Comments: Not a bargain, but great for celebrity gazing
John's Pizzeria, 260 W 44th St
Comments: There are other popular branches but this is the one deepest in the heart of the theater district.
John's Shanghai, 144 W 46th St
Comments: Part of a chain -- quieter and a bit more pricey than Ollie's but worth it.
Ollie's, 200 W 44th St
Comments: Noisy but convenient. Favorites: The Little Bit of Everything Soup
April 28 Update:And now another past history restaurant-- this popular spot to be replaced by a Mac store@.
Joe Allen, 326 W 46th St
Comments: Long a favorite theater district standby for natives and visitors -- good celebrity spotter.
Far West -- Between 9th and 12th Avenues
Ninth Avenue between between 53rd and 42nd Street (both sides of the Avenue) has so many restaurants-- some large and established, many tiny new ethnic establishments-- that we figured out it would take someone several months of nonstop eating out to try them all.
This former fancy deli, is now part of a self-service chain with branches all over town. We found the above location a good, quiet stop for coffee and a snack before a matinee or evening performance at Playwrights Horizon on the 42nd Street theater complex. The coffee is excellent and they have a variety of hot and cold specialty drinks. The sandwiches come on a wide variety of breads. There's a steamed table for complete meals. People living or staying near any of the Lenny locations can order in by logging onto www.lennysnyc.com
Alas & Alack: Closed. Starwich Salads and Sandwiches, 525 West 42nd Street Phone: 212 - 736 - 9170 for Signature Salads andsandwiches when visiting the Signature Theater.
A recent foray to the Signature Theater on the western edge of 42nd Street found us having dinner virtually next door at a uniquely designed, low-key comfortable and reasonable food spa considerably removed from the more heavily trafficked theater district. You create your own salad or sandwich here from a printed list: Step A (Choose your bread and salad greens), Step B (choose your ingredients from a list of vegetables, meats, cheeses, fruits, seafood etc.) A selection of Signature sandwiches and salads are also available and cost between $10 and $15 dollars. As for ambiance you can choose to sit at small tables, a large family style table or enjoy your food as you lounge on comfortable sofas. The food is notable for its freshness and options of many exotic ingredients. A skirt steak salad, with baby spinach, sweet piquant peppers, marinated vine-ripe tomatoes, dried cranberries and ranch dressing was tender, ample and scrumptious and only $9.95. You may find it hard to choose between the delicious breads, including ciabatta, challah, sourdough, semolina Raisin-Fennel and Tuscan Log. Food is brought to your table by an exceptionally friendly staff. They also serve the best (not too sweet) mug of hot chocolate topped with real whipped cream in the city. There are five locations for this chain around the city and they cater and deliver. Signature theater goers receive a 10% discount!—submitted by Simon Saltzman while covering the Signature Theater's August Wilson season.
Cozy Thai, 712 9th Ave
Comments: Typical of fairly priced and growing number of Thai eatieries here, there and everywhere
Good and Plenty, 43rd Street, between 9th and 10th Aves, at the Manhattan Plaza Complex.
Comments: This is a favorite take-out place for the many show people living in these huge high rise buildings. But on a nice day, they as well as savvy theater goers head here for tasty al fresco lunches or dinners at one of the tables right outside. The Little Pie Shop, just a few doors down, has a few tables and a small counter for all-weather snacking which now includes spinach pies and salads as well as their heavenly desserts and the best coffee in town (Ask for the milk to be steamed!).
Southwest 44, 621 9th Ave
Comments: Since it's expansion a few years ago, this restaurant has become ever more popular so that, except at lunch, reservations are advised.
Theater Row Diner 424 W 42nd, the former Kraft Coffee Shop is closer to Theatre Row theaters and with a more funky decor. Try the paninis.
Uncle Nick's, 747 9th Ave, between 50th & 51st St 212-245-7992. For me, Greek food and grazing go hand in hand. While I find a soup to nuts style Greek dinner too heavy for my taste, grazing is ideally suited to Greek fare generally and Uncle Nick's in Particular-- the centerpiece of my outings to Nick's being their terrific grilled Octupus.
Westside Cottage II, 689 9th Ave
Comments: Nothing different from any other chain but reasonably priced and good service.
Lenny's 613 Ninth Ave (43/44th Streets)
Most restaurants offer plenty of vegetarians choices, but if you're looking for a strictly vegetarian menu, here are a few of our non-carnivore critic Amanda Cooper's favorites.
Angelica Kitchen, 300 E 12th St, Betweenn 1st & 2nd Avenues.
They serve the freshest organic food, with few added spices and flavors, so you are actually able to taste the nuanced flavor within these foods. It's like a therapy session for your insides. The specials are often funky, and sometimes excellent. And the regualr menu choices are reliable. If you are not careful, you may find yourself craving a Wee Dragon Bowl each time you enter the East Village.
Caravan of Dreams, 405 E 6th St, between Avenue A & 1st Avenue.
Hippie food reigns supreme on this menu, with a variety of vegan burritos and pizzas, Seitan burgers, and more raw food entrees than I care to try. But it is all good, and prepared with love. Plus, the low-key atmosphere can convince most any meat-eater that this place is worth a try. And ever since I had the coconut milk mango smoothie here, I have been making them at home quite regularly, too.
Gramercy Park/Kips Bay Area Restaurants
Noodles on 28 394 3rd Av
Comment: No contest-- the best dumplings (especially the vegetable dumplings with sesame sauce) in Manhattan and all its boroughs. They have an upper East Side branch as well. The closes theaters are the Baruch Center's theater and The Blue Heron, though on a nice day it's a nice walk to Union Square area.
Paul & Jimmy's 123 E 18th St
Comments: This is a favorite with Gramercy Park residents. Nothing edgy or nouveau, but a flavor of old style, upper middle class restaurants. Nice early bird pix fix menu.
Pete's Tavern, 129 E 18th St
Comments: If you're into history, this is said to have been a favorite O'Henry hangout.
East Village Restaurants
(Area theaters: New York Theater Workshop, The Pearl, Jean Cocteau, LaMama, The Connelly -- see our AnnotatedOff-Broadway Listings Page .
Silver Spurs, 771 Broadway
This is actually best classified as in the middle of the village, East of Broadway but not as far East as the eateries below. It's ideal for a good, moderately priced meal before or after a visit to the Public Theater. The decor is industrial, the clientele mixed, and the food plentiful-- giant platters, hamburgers, sandwiches and salads. Nothing fancy, but fast, friendly service. We stopped there to fortify ourselves for 3 hours with King Lear at the Public. My chicken noodle soup was delicious, a meal in itself. A grilled veggie sandwich was tasty and not greasy. My husband's roast beef sandwich was stuffed to the brim and his french frieds crisp and tasty. An excellent capuccino topped things off. The platters range from meat loaf to steak.
2nd Avenue Deli, 156 2nd Ave |
Comments: If there's such a thing as a classic or historic delicatessen, this is one of them, attracting even visitors from the Midwest who may, just order their pastrami on rye with mayonnaise and a glass of milk. Update: Alas, skyrocketing rents have led to the demise of this landmark. There are still plenty of deliss scattered throughout Manhattan (see Comfort Food) and its boroughs. Close to the theater district, another popular deli, Wolf's was replaced several years ago by one of the growing number of Cafe Europa eateries. However, the Stage Deli on 7th Avenue, between 53rd & 54th Street, continues to draw crowds. A word to the price and figure conscious: Their sandwiches are big enough for sharing.
Cucina Di Pesce, 87 E 4th St
Comments: Noted for their early bird special, which is indeed a super value.
Le Tableau, 511 E 5th St
Comments: Not in the bargain category but wonderful enough for a bit of a splurge. And with the handsome Connelly Theater usually offering great theatrical fare at bargain prices just around the block, why not?
Virage, 118 2nd Ave
Comments: We recently had a matinee at New York Theatre Workshop and an evening booking at the Public Theater-- this was conveniently in between. Also good for lunch.
Chinatown-World Trade Center Area
Part of the fun of visiting two of downtown's most cutting edge theaters, the Flea on White Street and SoHo Rep on Walker Street is that you can also browse the multitude of busy vendors on Canal Street and have a meal in nearby Chinatown. Green Bo Restaurant, 60 Bayard Street is always busy and there's a reason. The food is terrific, plentiful and cheap. The "over rice" dishes are popular. My own favorite is sauteed fish filets in white sauce. This is not a fancy place and on weekends two people can expect to share a table with strangers-- which could be fun as the clientele tends to be interesting even if not likely to be show biz types.
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy some of the comfort food places that are part of the Lower East Side's Lore. Check out Katz's Delicatessen and Russ and Daughters on Delancey Street, though the Second Avenue Deli is, per note under East Village Restaurants, has gone the way of so many restaurants done in by skyrocketing rents.
Theater District Restaurants
West Village Restaurants
Moustache, Moustache 90 Bedford St, (Btween Grove & Barrow St)
We discovered this delicious little mid-eastern eatery when going to the Lucille Lortel Theater just 2 short blocks away on Christopher street. It's quiet, inexpensive and the service is friendly and helpful. Every dish is big enough for two. A salad dish (not your usual greens) will be a spread served with a puffed up hot pita bread. Follow this with a main dish (we've tried and liked their Pitza and lamb sandwiches. Desserts are yum-- especially the flan. $30 for two should cover all the above.
Paticceria Bruno, 245 Bleeker Street.
The Village is sheer heaven for anyone with a sweet tooth. Patisseries for pre and post-theater cappuccinos and pastries are everywhere but Bruno's is my own favorite. The sweet temptations are not only delicious but gorgeous to look at. My own favorites are the delectable meringues -- large fluffy white ones as well as wonderful nutty cookies.
Smorgas Chef, 283 W. 12th Street
This used to be the Cafe duPris, a cozy neighborhood bistro. Now a more upscale Swedish restaurant, with Midtown and Wall Street branches. Terrific Swedish meatballs and apple tarts big enough to share and thus a less guilty pleasure
Grano Trattoria, 21 Greenwich Ave
Comments: Brunch, lunch dinner-- good service, interesting dishes-- not your usual spaghetti and meatballs Italian.
Upper Midtown ManhattanRestaurants
Alice's Tea Cup 102 West 73rd Street, right next door to the Arte (below).
Comments: You don't have to go to London to find mouth-watering scones with cream and jam. This is one of the most charming places for tea, brunch, and lunch. Tea is brewed as it's supposed to be brewed, served in lovely teapots. Sandwiches are at once delicate, substantial and healthy -- tea for two selections (sandwiches, scones, desserts, tea) are served on handsome tall servers. This place is understandably always busy and weekend brunch waits can be long-- but it's a great place for a pre-matinee lunch with just enough of a walk to walk off the calories. Hours: Tues - Fri 11:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sat 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sun 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Arte Cafe, 73rd Street, off Columbus
Comments: Nice old midtown atmosphere, between the Promenade Theater and Lincoln Center. Young and old alike flock to their weekday early bird specials.
Greek Kitchen, 889 10th Ave, At 58th St
Comments: Close enough to Lincoln Center, nice atmosphere, never crowded. Good for grazing.
Mama's Food Shop 200 E 3rd St, between Aveues Btwn Ave A & Ave B
Comment: This is self-service -- a main dish plus "sides" -- a favorite with neighborhood residents. Like all these super cheap places, it's not as cheap as it used to be but you won't leave hungry or broke either. Good desserts too. editor's comment: Ben, an East Village reader jogged my memory of having been there a couple of times, so this is a double recommendation.
As long as you're mentioning Comfort Food places, this probably fits that category. Like so many of those places it's way downtown: Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant Clinton, 4 Clinton Stree, between East Houston & Stanton-- grab one of 32 seat for breakfast, lunch dinner and weekend brunch like you mother may have made. The pancakes are to die from. Great for food gifts. Sort of an all-ethnic goodie place. -- Freddie Fisher, Bronx.
Bagels have long stopped being a New York or a Jewish thing. But a genuine bialy is something that's still worth a trip to Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. The place to go is Kossar's at 367 Grand Street, betweenE ssex and Norfolk Streets, near the Delancey Street station of the F trains. Their bagels are also quite a different taste experience from the usual chewey, giant variety sold elsewhere. You'll also want to check out something called a Bulka. And that isn't all! They're closed Saturdays, but open 6 to 8pm all other days. -- Miriam Stanwart, Philadelphia.