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NYC tight budget but ate well

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John Hagan

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NYC tight budget but ate well

by John Hagan » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:06 pm

I thought Id share a couple of highlights from our recent stay in NYC. The trip was supposed to be a mix of work and fun but ended up with less time for fun than we thought we would. As a result we didn’t get to try or visit many of the places we would have liked to.
We got in mid evening on a Sunday night, staying in the theater/times square area, and we were just up for something like pizza. Knowing many of the restaurants in the area cater to theater/tourist crowd we didn’t get our hopes up for a killer pizza. Well… we were pleasantly surprised by Johns Pizzeria(not a bad name…) basically on 44th and 8th. From the outside it didn’t really stand out from anything else, but when you get inside you realize the space is a fabulous old church. We were seated up in a balcony looking at giant murals and a really cool stained glass ceiling feature. See pics http://www.johnspizzerianyc.com/index2.htm
It was a cool spot to view the brick ovens at either side of the space, as well as good people watching. We went with the margherita pizza(our norm if we don’t do cheese/ sausage). I have to say I was really surprised with the quality of this pizza. I have many of the iconic pizzas around NYC and this pie holds its own, if not outshining some. Crust had excellent texture, fresh yeasty smelling dough, bright but not sweet sauce sparingly applied, good quality cheese (no orange grease here) and copious amounts of basil. The coal fired brick ovens were within sight, so we could watch our pie being made and then whisked over to us in short order. Along with some of house Chianti it made for a cheap(NYC) quality meal. The large pizza was eighteen bucks and a carafe of Chianti was about the same.

Most of the eating on the trip consisted of ducking in and out of delis and food trucks. We felt we could treat ourselves to one extra nice lunch. After some debate we ended up(we were in the area) back at Les Halles on John(not a bad street name) street. Not my first time there, I really enjoy anything I ever get there. I also like the atmosphere at Les Halles, it brings a fairly mixed crowd from wall street guys, a few tourists and thugs like us. We started with a very course but delicious pate maison I ended up going with a favorite of mine. the Planche de Grillades a real meat feast consisting of lamb chop, hanger steak, mergez, rare steak, fatty thick bacon and a pile of killer frites served up on a large wooden slab. Anne went with the Choucroute Garnie, a meal of smoked pork loin, veal sausage ,frankfurter, smoked bacon with potatoes and sauerkraut cooked in alsatien beer. Needless to say everything was cooked to perfection. While for many, this place is probably not considered pricey at all, but for our budget it was a stretch for lunch, but worth every penny. We ate at the bar ,kicked back a few chimays and were treated like family by the bar tender.
One of the things I look forward to in NYC is the ability to get a great bowl of ramen. I posted here on LHB about where to find ramen in the area and am usually pointed to the fifteen cents packets in the soup aisle at Kroger. If that’s the only ramen you have ever had, I feel sorry for you. We were lucky enough to have a place right around the corner from the hotel that’s makes great ramen. So good that there is always a line standing out the door waiting up to an hour to get in. It’s a pretty limited menu with just a few variations on their version of ramen. Start with the best the best chicken broth/stock/soup you’ve ever had and add in fresh made noodles, onion, scallions a piece of nori and some pork that’s blasted with a blow torch prior to going in the bowl. Killer noodles and broth! Simple but so very very good. Worth the wait for sure. The place pretty much caters to the Asian crowd and English wasn’t really going on which made communication interesting, but it didn’t matter… your there for the soup.Its really good..its pretty cheap. Check out the link
http://tottoramen.com/?page_id=50

I think Ive mentioned this place on here before, but I always go when in the city. Defontes deli on Columbia st ? in Red Hook Brooklyn makes my all time favorite sandwich. And that’s really saying something as I love sandwiches of all makes and models. This monster of a sub is the Nicky special consisting of ham, capocollo, salami, fried eggplant, provolone, hot salad, marinated mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar. The two salads, hot and mushroom, on this thing keep it from being over heavy(well kinda anyway). Ive had it many times and sometimes the salads vary but its always a nice mix of spicy hot and vinegar sweet. It’s a bit sloppy but if you keep it wrapped in the paper as you eat it, she holds together pretty well. I guess the reason I like this sub so much is the unusual combination of flavors that end up working great together. The bread is also out of this world good, exactly the right mix of crusty to chewy that you need to maintain structural integrity on a sandwich of this magnitude. The neighborhood can be a bit funky and parking a challenge but its worth the hunt to find this beauty of Brooklyn. Now that an Ikea( lame but whatever) has sprung up near the old Eire basin they put in a cool park where the old docks were. You can have lunch under one of the old cranes that used to unload ships and check out cool various nautical bits of history they have keep in the park. Again cheap quality eats in NYC.
Our last night in the city we were really beat after spending the entire day at the giant, confusing mega bureaucratic FDNY metrotech 9 center filling out what seemed to be an endless pile of forms and papers. After many hours of this we wanted something close to hotel and lucked out finding Tout Va Bien. This is a little crowded basement type bistro with, what we thought, was really good French fare. Ive seen a lot of mixed reviews but the night we were there it was spot on. I guess a good sign was that almost no English was to be heard in the restaurant. We were lucky enough to be seated by a couple of English speaking regulars who filled us in on things there. They really frown on anyone they see as the “theater” crowd or obvious tourist types. Basically if they don’t like what they see you don’t get seated. Not sure how true it is, but that’s the story we got. We started with a pate maison(better than one we had at Bourdains) and a carafe of house red. I went with a classic Steak Au Poivre cooked perfectly rare served with a stuffed tomato and sweet potato starch I cant quite describe, but was tasty none the less. Anne ended up with Rognon Sauté Vin Blanc Ou Bordelaise (veal kidneys). While Anne loved her kidneys she was less thrilled with my remarks about her eating baby cows(just joking).The rest of the meal fades out a bit as we were bought many rounds of calvados by our neighboring table. One highlight was hanging out on the lower than street level patio surround by chain smoking French dudes incessantly bitching about things and waving their cigs around. Again for NYC standards this place was rather inexpensive with most entrees coming in at twenty bucks or less.
http://www.letoutvabien.com/

One of the cheapest and memorable meals was chomping on a dirty water hot dog with mustard in central park. As we sat on the bench looking at folks taking pics of the Jon Lennon Imagine memorial, a posse swooped in and more or less cleared away the site for Yoko Ono to step in a get her pic taken at the memorial.. She was in and out in a couple minutes but it was pretty cool none the less, what are the odds of that.
All in all had a good trip on a tight budget.
The tall one wants white toast, dry, with nothin' on it.
And the short one wants four whole fried chickens, and a Coke.
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Dan Thomas

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Re: NYC tight budget but ate well

by Dan Thomas » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:19 pm

Nice tales of your travels John! Sounds like you had a good time. Where and what event were you shooting?
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Annemarie M

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Re: NYC tight budget but ate well

by Annemarie M » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:36 pm

no little italy.... :cry: maybe there will be a next time.
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Re: NYC tight budget but ate well

by Heather Y » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:55 am

Your are totally right John, and thanks for the heads up! That is very inexpensive by NY standards, especially considering I just paid $29 for a filet at Martini Italian Bistro in a strip mall here in Louisville, KY. (by the way, mmmm mm, worth every penny).

I will put this restaurant in my list for the next trip home!
Glad to hear you had a good experience.
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John Hagan

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Re: NYC tight budget but ate well

by John Hagan » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:58 am

Hey Dan,
No shooting this trip. We were just up there to secure licensing(sp?) to work in the city for this coming year. Believe it or not NYC gets pretty touchy on having all your license/permit issues in place.
And yes AM...we tried to do it(little Italy) but time fell short. We will definitely make an effort to get over there next time. There is just so much to see and do...only limited by time and money of course. :)
The tall one wants white toast, dry, with nothin' on it.
And the short one wants four whole fried chickens, and a Coke.
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Re: NYC tight budget but ate well

by Ellen P » Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:57 pm

Our recent experience is typical of a UL fan traveling on the road, I believe. We look for beer and UL bars.
Stout was the UL bar, near MSG, and since UL played 4 times (!) we went there 4 times in 4 days.
Always have to go to the Empire State Building so visited Heartland Brewery at that location, twice. Street level and downstairs beer hall. Great spot. Good beer. Several locations in the midtown area but that's the one we went to.
Found Rattle and Hum - had a bite of food and beer. I think it is labeled one of the oldest bars in NYC. It looked more like a crummy campus bar, but it was good.
Went into Gingerman. If we hadn't wanted alittle food too we might have stayed but the place was packed. All young professionals again. Since Mike and I great grandparents, we try not to intrude. Wall to wall people.
Juniors across from our hotel was one of those old time (in the theater district/Times Square) family restaurants. Club sandwiches which I have loved since Stewarts and Kaufmans. Deserts. Pastrami.
So no expensive small plate stuff for us. Just walking 3 or 4 hours a day, eating, drinking, and watching Big East basketball.

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