NYC Moderately-priced restaurant help!

Ok, HOs. I need some quick advice on dining in Manhattan. My sister-in-law is coming in for a very quick visit starting tomorrow evening, and she is giving me ZERO to work with in terms of choosing restaurants. She says she wants to eat “everything” and that she loves everything, but she is actually an extremely picky eater with a host of weird food issues. She used to be a vegetarian but is supposedly eating meat now; however, I would NOT take her to a steakhouse. She claims Italian and Asian are her favorites, and she definitely has a sweet tooth. As far as prices, I guess I’d say under $30pp for just food? She’s from Chicago so it’s not like she thinks the Olive Garden is expensive, but I don’t think she wants to spend a fortune.

Anyway, we will be in the Rock Center area at dinnertime tomorrow and will obviously need to get away from there to find anything decent. Should I just take her down to Little Italy/Chinatown and get all of the tourist stuff over with in one go? is there ANY Italian worth eating down there? Or should we do Chinese and have Italian elsewhere? The other alternative is to head back to our place after the tree viewing - we live in Sunnyside so Salt and Fat or Sripraphai are good options for dinner.

Saturday I was thinking of taking her to Trestle on Tenth for lunch/brunch along with a walk on the Highline and trip through Times Square. Not sure what else she wants to do in terms of tourism, if anything. I would so appreciate some advice on this one - for some reason I am coming up empty!

I’d suggest Yakitori Totto, but you might spend $35 or so on food there. I’d say go anyway, though, assuming your sister-in-law is fine with eating chicken (though they do have some excellent vegetable yakitori, too - I love their egg tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms, they have excellent shishito peppers, scallions are good, and their eggplant is also good).

If you’d rather have Chinese food, there are two branches of Szechuan Gourmet in Midtown. Neither is really cheap, so $30 for food is a distinct possibility. There’s also Wu Liang Ye, right around Rockefeller Center, which is probably more expensive than Szechuan Gourmet, but I haven’t been there in years. I wasn’t impressed with Wu Liang Ye, for whatever that’s worth.

I haven’t tried Don Antonio, but they are supposed to have great pizza, according to hounds and other critics, so that’s an option. I would absolutely not suggest going to “Little Italy” for Italian food. If you want to go downtown for Italian food, consider Otto if you don’t mind extreme noise, or consider Lavagna (get reservations), which will be quieter, or Crispo, which might be as loud as Otto, or perhaps not.

See, bionda??? There’s your chance for ma la :slight_smile:

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Former NYC tourist here.

Immediately thought of Bianca in NOHO only to find out its closed.

I’m devastated. It was my favorite!

This is a great idea - is this restaurant related to Totto Ramen? In any case, it looks like there’s tons of variety and SIL could easily pick around her food issues. Totto Ramen might also work, since they have chicken based broth rather than pork (she is more likely to eat chicken).

I love Szechuan Gourmet but I thought SIL might prefer to go to Chinatown for the tourist experience; however, if we stay in midtown this is a good option. Weirdly, SIL is not a big pizza eater, but I have been meaning to try Don Antonio so I’ll keep that in mind. Any other Italian suggestions (not necessarily downtown)? Lavagna is booked (as will be most good places at this late date, I’m sure)…

Yes, Totto has yakitori, ramen and soba restaurants. I went to Soba Totto about 3 weeks ago and had a very good dinner there, too.

The ramen I had at Totto Ramen was chicken-broth-based but had pork slices in it, but I see on their menu that whereas their ramen has char siu by default, you can opt for “char siu chicken” instead of pork.

If you do want to go to Chinatown, Congee Village was good again the last time I went (after a period of not being as good), and they have a wide menu. I also like Noodle Village, and if you go there, consider casseroles with rice and other non-noodle-soup items, though their noodle soups are also good. Or go to Great NY Noodletown.

If you don’t want to go to Crispo, in case it’s too loud, you could consider a place like Aria Wine Bar in the far west Village or one of the other wine bars that gets good reports. Aria is a lively, bustling place, but if you sit next to each other at their counter, you won’t have trouble hearing each other, I think. Friday night, though - doesn’t seem at all the right time to deal with a place like that. The difficulty is that without reservations (and I don’t think Aria takes them), you could have to wait a long time.

Yeah, due to the last-minute nature of this visit, I think we’re going to have to dine at off times to avoid long waits, and we don’t really have the option of dining super early or super late on Friday. I’m thinking we’ll come back to Queens and do Salt and Fat after our Rock Center stop, then dine in Manhattan on Saturday and do an early lunch and dinner to avoid drama. I still don’t know what SIL wants to see in Manhattan on Saturday, though…frustrating!!!

Just a quick follow-up and thank you to everyone that contributed ideas! We ended up having dinner at Salt and Fat on Friday, then went into Manhattan on Saturday and wandered around A LOT. We were starving when we got to Chinatown and were planning to hit Prosperity Dumpling for a quick snack, but it is now closed (indefinitely, although the interwebz indicates that they may be reopening in a new location). We punted and went to Excellent Dumpling House, and by the time we were seated we were hungry enough that we just ordered a full meal’s worth of dumplings. Good choice! We had steamed pork, fried chicken, pork buns, soup dumplings (spelled Shau lon pau here, which confused me as I am used to seeing it spelled Xiao long bao), scallion pancake and a peking duck egg roll, all of which were good, but the fried chicken dumplings and soup dumplings were the big winners.

After a bit more wandering, we were tired of the crowds in Manhattan so we came home and ended up going to Sripraphai for dinner - excellent as always. Overall, a good trip!

Serial dumpling envy ovah heah!!

Interesting. I haven’t eaten at Excellent Dumpling for years but was never impressed. Perhaps they have new kitchen staff and the place is better now.

I really enjoyed everything we ate there. The dishes I saw coming to other tables looked good too - many Chinese patrons seemed to be ordering dry fried long beans, which looked excellent, and I saw a number of noodle dishes that looked tasty as well (although I would probably go elsewhere for noodles in Chinatown). I’m not sure that Excellent Dumpling House was up to the standards of some of the better dumpling spots in Flushing, but I wouldn’t hesitate to eat there again if I need food in Chinatown!

Not that it proves anything, but what the the ratio of Chinese vs. non-Asian customers look like?

I would say it was around 50/50, although turnover was VERY fast so it was kind of hard to tell.

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