“Hi, my boyfriend and I are eloping in NYC next week and we would like some recommendations on where to eat near our hotel, but can travel anywhere pretty much. We are both HUGE Foodies and eat just about anything. But particularly we love Indian and Vietnamese. No chains please, and no Italian hehe we got plenty of those lol. Cheerio for now. Georgina”
A common food question on the message boards. Even if you are not one of those, I advise you to read the following before asking for recommendations
“No Chains” – I see this way too often. I’m sure it looks like an honest requst to many locals, but I cringe whenever I see this. Why would we recommend chains? You are asking for recommendations on where to eat in arguably the greatest food city in the world with the hope that we dont recommend Applebees. Its like telling us “kindly do you job and recommend something that doesnt suck”. It also begs the question, what is a chain anyway, but we wont get into that now. It just implies to me that the poster has no idea about the destination food scene, which is fine. That’s what this post is for.
“No Italian” – Whenever I see this, my first instinct is to recommend Italian. Italian in NYC is a complicated web of eateries ranging from NYC classic Italian to Tuscan, Sicilian, Venetian, and even Asian influenced Italian. Italian is everything and it is nothing. It took me four trips to Italy to understand what it means. There’s almost nothing in common between Roman food and canal food in Venice. We have an incredible array of chefs doing all sorts of wonderful things from great veggies, fantastic seafood, to Roman style pizzas, and Italian with an Asian twist. So, if you are sick and tired of the Italian scene in your city, its more reason to try ours. After all, that’s what Italians visiting from Italy do here. including chefs.
“Near our hotel” – Ok, I admit, I sort of like when they say that because in a city with 25,000 restaurants it gives me something to work with. But somehow, “Foodie” and “Near my hotel” just doesnt add up. While there’s a good chance that you will find some decent spots near where you are staying, why not take full advantage of the amazing dining NYC offers in other neighborhoods. Raise your hands if you are staying near Times Square. Now try East Village, West Village, Lower East Side for a totally different feel. And if you haven’t discovered Hell’s Kitchen yet, its time.
“Can travel anywhere” – No you cant! You are vastly underestimating the size of this city just like you are vastly underestimating its offerings (no chains please). I sort of forced this one in after “Near our hotel” but you get the idea. Most respondents would be quick to suggest something anywhere in Manhattan with the reasoning that the poster would not mind taking the subway to East Village but I wouldn’t be so quick. If you are playing the “can travel anywhere” card, give us something else to work with to reduce the 25,000 NYC restaurants into something more manageable.
“We love Indian and Vietnamese” – This is great, but why is it my problem ;). While people will no doubt respond with fine Indian and Vietnamese suggestions, perhaps even including myself, I would suggest to skip what you like and try something different in the city of different. Unless of course you are coming from Pocatello, Idaho with one or two competing Indian. Pizza, Ramen, burgers, and the only in NYC Maine Lobster Roll!, are just some of things NY is known for. While there’s no doubt you can find some fantastic Indian here, it may or may not be better than what you get at home (I’m looking at you Brits). And Vietnamese food just never took off here. Eating something that you can easily find at home, not named Italian, is one of the worst travel offenses
Before asking a food question one should understand the vastness. NYC is a giant melting pot of world cuisine that comes in all shapes, sizes. and price points. There are no “Musts” (another popular word) as a result. To better answer your question, do a bit of homework first to get a sense of the destination. Guidebooks, food blogs, even simple Googling will do. If you care about food that is. On the other hand of the spectrum there are those that just “eat to live” and dont really care about any of this nonsense. They ask the questions anyway, mainly out of fear that they wont find something near where they are staying. All you need to do is go out of the hotel, turn right, and the world is your oyster. Tomorrow, turn left.