Chewing Outside

11 Apr


I know several people that hate eating outside. The dust, the noise, the general pollution, the people walking by. I’m all about energy. No place I’ve ever visited comes close to capturing the energy of New York City. That may sound weird but the activity, lights, sounds, laughter and vibrations are the reason NYC is the city that never sleeps.

Now that the weather is getting nice, I love to sit outside on the sidewalk and watch the world go by. It’s the urban equivalent of a backyard barbecue. Sitting and sipping on a margarita is a wonderful way to relax the day away. Many places offer al fresco dining. The larger sidewalks on the Upper East and West sides make for perfect evenings.  Give these restaurants a try and let me know your favorites.

Cilantro All 3 locations have window doors that fully open in nice weather and plenty of outdoor seating. They make table side guacamole and from 4pm-7pm you can delight in $5 margaritas and sangria.

Pier I Cafe Pier I is a gem that I almost hate to share. They are opened on weekends until 4/26 when the full time staff moves in. Located in Riverside Park at West 70th Street, it makes me feel like I’m at the beach on vacation. Beers start at $6 and main entrees at $11. The burgers are fresh off the grill and the old bay fries are the perfect compliment. They offer a coffee bar with pastries and a full coffee menu from 7:30am-3:30pm daily. Coffee and pastries start at $2. $4 for a cappuccino.

Back Forty The East Village location has a huge backyard patio complete with picnic tables. They are a farm to table restaurant so everything is fresh and priced as such. Appetizers start at $10 and large plates $23. You can score half price drinks daily (M 6pm-close, T-Th 6pm-8pm, F 6pm-7pm, Sat 2:30pm-7pm, Sun 3pm-7pm). The salted caramel apple pie is heavenly.

The Best Sushi in NYC

4 Apr


There are tons of sushi places in New York City. The good news is that in order to compete for diners like me, the food has to be good. It’s too easy for me to walk down the street and find another restaurant if I’m dissatisfied with my meal. There are some places that while I found them good, didn’t leave me wanting to come back. There are only a few gems that make me dream about sushi for days.

Cost wise, the “specialty rolls” can be very pricey. That’s how they get you. They draw you in with unique combinations of fresh fish and interesting ingredients like mango and guacamole. To keep costs down, go with their standard rolls. At any of these places you’ll be very happy.

Amber There are 4 locations in New York City. They are tops for consistently fresh fish at reasonable prices. Rolls start at $5. I recommend the spicy tuna and avocado salad ($8) which includes a huge helping of tuna and if you want to splurge, try the dragon roll ($17). The main dining room is very sleek and would impress a date.

Sushi Damo They are my favorite for a high end sushi restaurant and located at Columbus Circle. They do happy hour for drinks at the bar Monday-Friday from 5-7pm with $5-$7 wine and cocktails. Go for the lychee martini. The specialty rolls are all above $20 but they are glorious. Try the passion and neo rolls. Great for a special occasion.

Hane Sushi From the outside it looks like any old sushi joint. Not. They have a large selection of rolls and hot dishes. Everything is reasonably priced. Rolls start at $4. I love the spicy yellowtail. Specialty rolls start at $11.95.


Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

21 Mar

Monica DiNatale 365 Guide Book New York City NYC Restaurant Deals Bar Specials

I love pizza. If I could pick my last meal it would be pizza. It’s just the perfect combination of heavenly flavors. Isn’t it?

I’ve found that New York pizza really is in a class by itself. I never realized how spoiled we are in New York City until I go anywhere else and the pizza just isn’t the same. I spend a lot of time researching (testing) this topic. What is it? Is it the water in the dough? Is it the sauce? Is it the tomatoes? Fresh mozzarella or not? I’ve concluded 2 things make it above average in NYC; the crust and the sauce. The ideal crust is thin but not like a cracker. Depending on my mood, I like floppy pizza or a perfectly crisp bottom. Most times I go for the slice that can stand on it’s own. Sauce is a mystery and a well guarded secret. It’s like asking my Italian grandmother for their “gravy” recipe. Even if they share it, they’ll leave out a key ingredient so you can’t copy it. I find the best sauce to be simple crushed tomatoes with garlic and olive oil with a hint of sweetness. Is that from sugar or balsamic vinegar? We may never know.

I’m going to give you a few of the best places for pizza in the city. Have a suggestion for a place I should check out?

Patsy’s One word…sauce. It’s like they just picked the tomatoes in the kitchen. I love the fresh cheese and basil on top as well. This is a pie place, no slices.

Justino’s This is one of my favorite places for a slice. I go for lots of topping here. My favorite is meatball with ricotta. Great crust and a large variety of toppings.

John’s Perfectly crisp brick oven pizza. Crust is king here. There is always a line but worth the wait. No slices.

Joe’s This is the spot for a floppy perfect slice. There is a reason it’s a New York staple. Just the right amount of cheese and not greasy.

Will winter end?

14 Mar

Monica DiNatale 365 Guide Book NYC New York City Restaurant Deals Bar Specials

Ahh. The last days of winter. Living in New York City is at times like being in a huge wind tunnel. Some streets are so windy that I’ve been lifted off the ground (57th). I don’t want the weather to ever deter wandering the streets to find my next gem or deal. The city is a culinary jackpot at any given time. It made me realize that finding a treat in bad weather can turn your day around. It’s something that I take for granted. I am never really “snowed in” because I don’t have to drive anywhere.

These are some affordable and tasty foods available in any weather, any day of the year. I get them in good weather too! They make me smile.

Baked by Melissa Melissa’s specializes in mini cupcakes. For $3 you get 3 mini cupcakes in interesting flavors. I like the peanut butter and jelly and the birthday cake. Splurge and get 6 for $5.50. They pop perfectly in your mouth.

Gray’s Papaya The Recession Special. 2 hot dogs and a drink for $3.50. It’s almost hard to believe this deal in NYC but it’s real and the hot dogs are good.

Schmackary’s Schmackary’s is a cookie store. The offer dozens of flavors like red velvet, chocolate peanut butter and sweet corn. They are the most unique cookie place I’ve found. Cookies are $2.75, 3 for $5 or splurge for a dozen for $25. They can be slightly warm and are always fresh.

Photo by: Paul Undersinger

Where’s the beef?

6 Mar

Monica DiNatale 365 Guide Book New York City NYC Restaurant Deals Bar Specials

I love hamburgers. My favorite thing to do is grill burgers in the Summer. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. At a time when it’s freezing outside, I guess I am longing for the warm weather. In New York City though I can get delicious burgers any day of the year. It inspired me to share my thoughts on finding that perfect burger. I generally go for huge sandwiches with raw onion, lettuce and tomato. Some places offer unique toppings like avocado and crumbled blue cheese…which I like as well. Basically, I like meat. Give these a shot and let me know what you think. Do you have a favorite burger joint??

Island Burger They offer 40+ different combos and toppings for burgers and chicken “churasco” sandwiches. My favorite is the Mona Lisa with pesto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and grilled onions.

Corner Bistro You will see why Corner Bistro is a New York staple. $3 beers and $7 burgers. The burgers are juicy and served on a perfect potato roll. You will want more than one! The menu includes burgers and a few other sandwiches. That’s it. If you want a salad, go somewhere else!

P.J. Clark’s As a Deals Expert I must confess this is a $17 hamburger. I include it as one of my favorites because it is delicious. It is located across the street from Lincoln Center, so if you are seeing a show for a special occasion, give this a try. It is a treat. They have a high end raw bar as well. Get the fried shoestring onions as a topping on your burger and enjoy.

Soup Dumpling Heaven

27 Feb

Monica DiNatale 365 Guide Book New York City Soup Dumplings

Nothing cheers me up on a cold day like a piping hot soup dumpling. They are the Chinese equivalent of a warm blanket and hot chocolate. I’ll give you some places to try and also a lesson in how to eat them and not burn your tongue.

Unlike most dumplings that you can pop in your mouth, soup dumplings are filled with very hot broth. They are larger than most dumplings and you would burn your mouth if you don’t let the steam out.

There are two ways to enjoy them. Place the dumpling on your spoon. You can either bite the top off and suck out some broth, or pierce the side of the dumpling with your chopstick and let some broth fill the spoon. Either way you can start to enjoy the soup and let the inside cool. Be sure to add soy and fresh ginger. You will find pork, crab, veggie and combo dumplings. I like pork dumplings the best and enjoy eating my soup as it spills out into my spoon. Take your time and enjoy the ride.

These are some of my favorite places:

Shanghai Cuisine 89 Bayard Street 212-732-8988 Try a Lychee Martini as well.

Joe’s Shanghai Make a reservation. They are very popular with several locations.

Shanghai Café They have great wontons in hot oil if you like spicy dumplings.

Love, Love, Love… and Cupcakes

14 Feb

365 Guide New York City Book Restaurant Deals Bar Specials Cupcakes

I’m not a big “buy me a gift person.” Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t push away the gift bag, but when it comes to Holidays food is my friend. I would much rather go out and have a special treat. Nothing makes me smile more than a cupcake. My two best friends are peanut butter and chocolate. Seriously. A $5 piece of pastry or pint of ice cream is so much more enjoyable than most “things” to me. That must be why I wrote a book about food!

So if you’re stuck about what to get, try one of these places in NYC. They will make your sweetie smile. Buy one for yourself and the world will seem like a better place!

Sprinkles My favorite thing to do at Sprinkles is order a frosting shot. Yup. A generous helping of frosting in a cup with or without sprinkles. They have creative flavors like salty caramel, chai latte and ginger lemon.

Crumbs Bakery Crumbs are famous for colossal cupcakes stuffed with frosting and interesting flavors. I like the cookie dough, peanut butter cup and monkey business (banana again) cupcakes. They do offer minis that you can buy by the dozen and smaller cupcakes if you need just a little something sweet.

Billy’s Bakery I prefer the vanilla cupcake to the chocolate here. They also have great flavors like pumpkin or banana nutella.

Magnolia Bakery I lovvvveeee the plain chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. My favorite in the city. If you are or aren’t a banana fan, try the banana pudding. I have converted many people with this dessert.

I will spend “love weekend” sampling one cupcake from each place!

What to do in Times Square for the Super Bowl??

31 Jan

Monica DiNatale Restaurant Deals Bar Specials 365 Guide Book New York City Super Bowl

I like to be well informed so I can pass on useful information to fans of 365 Guide NYC so I went to Times Square on Wednesday to check out Super Bowl Boulevard. I must say that it was really well done and more than I anticipated. It runs from 34th Street to 47th Street on Broadway.

The FOX and NFL Channel booths are very cool to see. I saw Melissa Stark broadcasting. There is an ice sculpture of the Super Bowl logo where the FOX guys are as well. You never know who may be appearing and live broadcasts go off at noon and 6pm.

The toboggan is massive. I am doing it tonight! A definite tip….The ticket booth and will call windows if you bought tickets on ticketmaster is located at 42nd & 6th. You can also register there for a GMC badge. The badge allows them to email for FREE photos of yourself coming down the slide as well as FREE photos at the M&M booth. It replaces the need to sign the waiver for the toboggan. Go there first!

You can get in line to have your photo taken with the Lombardi Trophy and catch FREE bands all day long. I saw the Bacon Brothers. Yes, it’s cold but everyone is in good spirits. It’s great for kids of all ages.

Now the important info….where to eat and drink afterwards!

Langan’s Feeling chilly? Order a hot toddy and a flat bread pizza.

Blarney Rock Pub They offer $4 drafts 365 days a year and good burgers.

Latitude Try the $4 drafts, $5 well and Cosmos (until 10pm) plus the nachos or black truffle fries.

Super Bowl Fever

23 Jan

365 Guide Book New York City Restaurant Deals Bar Specials Super Bowl

Even though the Super Bowl is in New Jersey, it feels like it’s coming to New York City. There are a lot of fun things going on. Some are super expensive and some are actually free. Many bars are charging set cover charges but most will be open as usual. If you’re in town, you won’t be bored. These are some economical ways to spend Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl Boulevard

This free, interactive, football-themed experience takes place January 29–February 1, noon–10pm, on Broadway between 34th and 47th Streets. You can kick a field goal and have a toboggan ride. Tickets are $5 per ride and can be purchased at the ticket kiosks at Three Bryant Park Plaza, 40 West 40th St. or at the NFL Shop at Super Bowl in Macy’s and on Ticketmaster

I’ll be at this one. I am a big Billy Blanks fan and will need to work off my half-time munchies in advance!

Celebrity Sweat Ultimate Workout Challenge
When: February 2
Where: City College of New York
Billy Blanks (co-creator of Tae Bo) and Celebrity Sweat’s “Eric the Trainer” lead a morning of fitness before Super Bowl Sunday devolves into a frenzy of guacamole-and-hot-wing consumption. The event is free, but reservations are required. To reserve a spot, call 1-800-725-9423, extension 818.

Beer Authority

They are offering packages from $75 to $150. All of them included some type of open bar a food buffet. If you plan on drinking a lot of beer with great appetizers, this may be the place for you. I like this place because there is plenty of seating and tons of TVs.

What is IdeaMensch?

15 Jan

Monica DiNatale 365 Guide Book New York City Restaurant Deals Bar Specials

I just love the word….IdeaMensch. It makes me smile and now that they interviewed me I’ve been able to explore the site and learn something new. If you’ve ever had a great idea or got your business off the ground, you’ll surely learn something new from other entrepreneurs. IdeaMensch is a site for people who bring ideas to life. Enjoy my article.


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