Trip to NYC - November/December 2007
Eating and drinking in New York City

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As I have mentioned in previous trip reports...finding good places to eat, when you travel, can be tricky. Do you just stick around the main tourist areas? Do you try a place based on how it looks from the outside and the menu? Or do you listen to others recommendations? Do you blindly trust the guidebook? Before going to NYC I tried to note down various options based on feedback from travel forums, guidebooks etc. I put everything into Google My Maps (as you can see here). Note that you can see all the places that we did end up going to on this interactive Google map. The restaurants are marked with red icons.

A real American steak – Sparks Steak House
A steak at Sparks Steak houseWhen we planned the trip to NYC this time we agreed that we had to make a stop at a real All American steak house. There are many to choose from in NYC and the likes of Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky etc are names that pop up all the time. We decided to try out Sparks Steak House as it is located in the midtown area (210 East 46th Street). We didn’t have a reservation but we decided to give it a try anyway. As we were walking to find the place a guy came up to us and asked us if we knew where “Sparks Steak House” was located. We were a bit surprised and sceptical by this coincidence but I told him where it was located and said that we were going there. It turned out that Owen actually lived in NYC (1 year) and was on his way to meet his father-in-law for dinner...maybe he was hoping to not find the restaurant :-).

We managed to get a table...well, we were squeezed in at a table in the bar area. The place was very lively and it seemed to be both a place for a business dinner...and an after hours beer. We were not really dressed up for the occasion but that did not seem to be a problem as the place was more relaxed than e.g. the StripHouse where we ate on our last trip (see trip report from 2004).

The menu was pretty simple and there was of course a lot of focus on the steaks :-) I went for the Steak Fromage which was steak topped with Roquefort cheese and Nikki went for prime sirloin steak. We asked to get the steaks medium done but it seems like Americans like it a bit on the rare side because it was pretty bloody to the core. But that was not really a problem as the steaks were very tender. I’m glad that we didn’t go for any starters as we got stuffed by the steaks and side dishes that we had. The meal cost us 160$ including the mandatory tip. It also included 2 glasses of wine at 15$ per glass.

Note: As a Norwegian I’m not really used to the whole tipping game. But it seems like they expect about 15% tip. To calculate this easily take the 8% sales tax and double this.

As good as it gets? – Cheesecake at Junior’s
Caesar salad at Junior's in NYCI have a bit of a sweet tooth and I do enjoy a good slice of cake. One of my favourite cakes is the NY style cheese cake and I can actually make a pretty good homemade cheese cake...I even won the great cheese cake duel at work in November 2007 :-) The last time I went to NYC I didn’t try the cheese cake as I was afraid that it would be a bit of a let down. But after this I have gotten lots of feedback from people saying that I should try out the cheese cake at Junior’s at Grand Central Station.

Maybe the best cheese cake in the world :-) Junior's in NYCWe went there one day during lunch hour and we didn’t have any problems finding the place and getting a table. For lunch I had the Caesar salad with chicken and it was huge portion but pretty good. Nikki’s club sandwich was also too large in our opinion. The place is pretty informal by the way and the food is served on paper plates. After the lunch we were ready for the main event: the plain cheese cake. And to make a long story short I have to admit that it was pretty damn good. Very rich, filling, creamy and with a great taste :-) But don’t expect much when it comes to the coffee. We tried a cappuccino and that was horrible! The salad and sandwich was about 11$ each and the meal was 45$ in total including a 5$ tip.

Note: there is also a Junior’s branch in the Times Square area.

A small piece of Italy on 5th Avenue - Otto pizzeria
Cheese as starter at Otto PizzeriaThe last time we went to NYC we tried to get a table at Otto Pizzeria but there was a 1 hour wait and as we were starving we ended up at Domino’s instead (they have great buffalo wings). We decided to try our luck again and stopped by after watching Cyrano De Bergerac on Broadway. We took the subway to Washington Square Park (W 4th St) and from there we just walked over to the restaurant located on 1 5th Avenue. You will recognize the place if you check out Will Smith’s new movie “I am legend”. The streets were very quiet in the area but we managed to find the restaurant again. It was quite a shock to come was nice and warm compared to the brisk cold weather outside and it was very lively and noisy. It looked pretty full but luckily they did have a table for us even without a reservation.

Penne puttanesca at Otto PizzeriaTheir wine list is very impressive to say the least - as long you are willing to cough up enough money. We decided to be a bit modest so we went for a Campirossi 2004 from Puglia and that was 32$ for a bottle. Nikki decided to go for various prosciutto for starters while I went for three cheeses with sweet side dishes. I think I had Pecorino Di Fossa, taleggio and one more and it is always great with a bit of cheese.Pizza at Otto Pizzeria For the main meal I went for the mushroom and taleggio pizza which was OK while Nikki went for the penne puttanesca (pasta in a spicy tomato sauce). I was pretty stuffed after the meal but I decided to go for a small dessert anyway. I tried the affogato which is gelato ice cream with espresso poured over it. The meal at Otto was 110$ (ca 140$ incl tip). All in all it was nice to sit down and have a warming Italian meal with wine on the side but I would not say that it was just like being back in Italy. Check out the Otto pizzeria website for more information and menu.

Note:  If you want to make sure that you will get a table make sure to make a reservation. You can e.g use .

A Slow Travel Get together at Roberto Passon
Tomato gnocchi at the restaurant Roberto Passon in NYCWhen we planned our trip to New York City this time, I posted on the Slow Travel forum to get some help and ideas with our itinerary. When the members of the Slow Travel forum found out that we were coming to NYC they suggested a get together and we decided to meet up at a place called Roberto Passon. As Slow Travel is mainly focused on Italy it was only natural that we decided to go for an Italian restaurant :-)

Osso bucco at the restaurant Roberto Passon in NYCThe restaurant is located on 741 9th Avenue (corner of 50th Street) so we just took the subway and walked from there. It was freezing that night so it was great to come inside and into the warmth of this small restaurant. The place only has about 65 seats (according to the homepage) so it was pretty crowded. The noise level was also quite high and it was a bit hard to communicate with others sitting a couple of seats away from me. I decided to go for the tomato gnocchi to start with and that was excellent. I do like gnocchi and the sauce was an excellent combination of tomato and herbs. For the main dish I decided to go for a classic: osso bucco. The Tirimasu at the restaurant Roberto Passon in NYCThis is a veal shank that has been boiled for a while so that the meat gets tender...and in my case the meat was very tender and delicious. When I managed to dig through the thick and rich sauce I found a nice layer of saffron risotto (risotto alla Milanese) and this is also one of my favourites. As we were about 8 around the table we just bought wine by the bottle and shared this and it was an excellent meal in good company. To round it of I went for the tirimasu with some coffee. I think we had to pay about 55 $ per person including tip and that was not bad at all because it was a great meal. If you need more info check out the restaurant homepage. Sorry about the bad pictures. The light in the restaurant was very dim so it was very hard to get the camera to focus.

Thank you to all the Slow Travel members that took the time to meet up. It was great to spend an evening with local people that I have only “met” online.

There are so many places to eat and drink in NYC and there is something for everyone both when it comes to taste and the size of your wallet.

Note: Did you know you can take food tours in NYC. Search a bit to see what fits your schedule and budget.

 Please continue to this interactive NYC Google map



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