Travel Planning: New York at Thanksgiving – A First Timer’s Guide to Food in Manhattan

I’ll preface this post with an apology – I only took two food photos during our trip. I know I’m a bad blogger in that respect, but honestly, most of the time I was too focused on scarfing my food to worry about taking a photo. I can’t help it, I’m a girl who likes her food. 🙂 To read more about our New York adventures, check out the shows we saw here, the sightseeing we did here, and our arrival here.

PARK LANE HOTEL

Breakfast at the Park Room Restaurant

When we arrived at the Park Lane Hotel our first day in the city, we were ravenous. Even my mom, who’s been strictly dieting the last several months, was ready to eat whatever they put in front of us. I guess being on a flight that doesn’t feed you for over five hours will do that to a girl!

Our late breakfast at the Park Room Restaurant featured fairly standard breakfast fare which was all hearty and filling. Although we could have opted for the buffet, that was the more expensive option, and neither of us felt like eating food that was soon to be cleared out (it was almost eleven). We ended up splitting the All American Breakfast which included eggs, bacon, toast, and breakfast potatoes. If you’re traveling with someone and don’t mind sharing, this is a great option for keeping costs – and calories – low(ish).

We ended up returning to the Park Room Restaurant two more times – once before we checked out, and again the day before we left. While I’m all for trying new things, breakfast is a tough meal to find options for if you don’t know the area, and since the Four Seasons wasn’t an option due to cost, this suited us nicely.

Harry’s New York Bar (image source: Park Lane Hotel)

We also tried Harry’s New York Bar at the Park Lane for dinner our first night since we were both too tired to explore. Mom had seen a yummy-looking burger on the site so we opted to split that (noticing a pattern here?). Let me say, that was one tasty burger! It was the Cheeseburger 36, and I highly recommend it if you’re staying at the hotel or looking for a quiet, moderately upscale classic bar experience.

The one trend I noticed everywhere we supped was how expensive drinks were – and this is an Angeleno talking. Drinks around SoCal are not cheap, but I was definitely surprised at how expensive alcohol was in the city.

FRANCE IN NEW YORK

After our 3+ hour tour on Wednesday, mom and I were freezing, and her only request was she wanted French onion soup. Yelp to the rescue! I ended up finding a cute place on our walk back to the hotel called La Bonne Soupe. Although it doesn’t have the level of reviews I typically look for, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Here’s where I heartily regret not taking photos of our French onion soup. It was so tasty, and when paired with the house salad and a choice of two desserts, made a lovely meal that left us feeling warm and well-fed. My only complaint that should be taken with a grain of salt is that the service was less than spectacular. There was one waitress waiting on about ten tables downstairs where we were sitting, and while she was doing a great job, it was evident she was stretched thin.

We ended up returning to La Bonne Soupe for our last lunch in the city, and that day the service was much better. Overall, this is a great spot for a hearty, French-style meal for a reasonable price. Definitely gets my vote for a return trip!

THANKSGIVING SHENANIGANS

After doing my typical research, I came to the conclusion that viewing the parade along Central Park West above Columbus Circle was our best bet. Keeping that in mind, I booked a reservation at Cafe Fiorello, knowing we’d both be starving after being at the parade 5+ hours. I cannot stress this enough – MAKE RESERVATIONS! The line of people waiting to be seated was literally out the door, which was a shame since it was 17 degrees and freezing.

I ended up leaving the parade before Santa got to us because I didn’t want to lose our reservation – plus, heat. I gave my name to the host and was seated within two minutes. In an unfortunate recurring theme, and the holiday was probably to blame, the service was terrible and our waiter gave us the bare minimum of attention. We probably sat there twenty to thirty minutes before putting in our food & drink orders.

My mom ordered the Tony Bennett’s French toast, and I ordered the Bella Benedict. I’ve never seen my mom eat more than one, maybe two pieces of French toast, so it’s a testament to the restaurant that she very nearly cleaned her plate. Mine was good, but the eggs were overdone which kind of defeats the beauty of an eggs benedict. I really want to go back when the restaurant isn’t jam-packed with people or dealing with one of the biggest holidays of the year.

For Thanksgiving dinner, I had read a blog post that sounded like I could have written it – a mother-daughter duo who do Thanksgiving in the city every year, basically an almost identical itinerary to our trip. She mentioned that they always go to The Sea Grill in Rockefeller Plaza for Thanksgiving dinner, which intrigued me. Until that point, I hadn’t seen any places on the “where to have Thanksgiving dinner” lists that interested me, so I had high hopes for The Sea Grill.

Not only did they appear to have a fantastic seafood selection, their special prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu included options such as your standard turkey fare as well as filet mignon. Neither of us are big seafood fans, so our butternut squash soup, filet mignon with mashed potatoes and dessert fit the bill nicely. The food was fresh and savory, and the service was impeccable. Added bonus – a view of the Rockefeller skating rink!

OUT AND ABOUT

Eeyore enjoying a slice at Stage Door Pizza

Before our afternoon tour on Friday, we headed out to explore a bit on our own. After experiencing the 9/11 memorials, I was committed to finding a decent pizza place to experience my first NYC pizza. After trawling through page after page on Yelp, I came across Stage Door Pizza.

Let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised! This place was small, the pizza was reasonably priced, and although incredibly busy, the staff hustled. I ordered one slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni and mom and I split a tiramisu for dessert, and we both left feeling a bit better about the world.

The one meal that I felt was good, but rather over-hyped, was Bar Boulud NYC. I had seen rave reviews online, and it seemed to be an Instagram dream, so I figured it would be a great place to go before the ballet on Friday night.

Turns out, I had fallen into the classic hipster trap – if a place sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I have to say the food was very good and it was funny to watch the sommelier carry around a gigantic bottle of wine, but I don’t think it was worth the buzz. I am also not a fan of eating at places where the customers are packed in like sardines, and that’s exactly what I felt like while trying to keep my normal-sized plate on our tiny table.

Other places we tried during our trip included drinks at the Four Seasons’ bar TY57 (oy the prices!), and Levain Bakery‘s famous 6 oz cookies. After reading about the crazy long lines, I decided to hit up the Amsterdam Avenue location right at opening, and was the first one in. I ended up buying almost a dozen cookies – let’s face it, I had to bring something home for Mr. P² ;-).

I regret not trying more places that I had flagged, I was really hoping to try New York City’s Asian cuisine, as well as several speakeasys I read about. However, there’s always next time!

All the best,

Mrs. P²

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