Visiting Madison, Wisconsin is easy. There are 20-30 really good restaurants and if you know someone there, you’re guaranteed a good meal. In New York, that doesn’t work. You need at least some parameters. There are, approximately, 300 million restaurants in the city and 75% of them are good.

If you want to make it easy on your host/friend/butler, give him something to go on. Here are some suggestions:

  • Location: “I’m going to the Mets game on Saturday. What should I eat before the game?”
  • Atmosphere: “My brother is hard of hearing, any quiet restaurants near Penn Station?”
  • Cuisine: “I’m trying to eat a burger in every state. What’s your favorite spot?”
  • Anti-cuisine: “I’d love to go out, so long as it’s anything but Indian; I had that last night.”
  • Trendiness: “I cannot stand waiting in line or fighting for reservations. I just want a simple Italian restaurant.”
  • Cost: “I just got my tax return. Take me to the best sushi in the city.”
  • Time: “Let’s meet for brunch, but it’s got to be quick. I’ve got a shift at the Park Slope Co-op at noon.”
  • Situation: “This is my first trip to NYC and I want to try your favorite spots.”

The more of these you have, the better. That being said, a good friend sent me an email asking for recommendations for tasty restaurants that don’t need reservations and aren’t too trendy. This was for a couple that never been to NYC. Because I love being a gastronomic ambassador, I occasionally ignored the instructions and provided the following list.

And before I begin, this list was meant to be a good sampling of restaurants. Some of my favorites and stand-by’s are there, but this is far from all-inclusive.

  • One of my favorite spots is called Little Owl. They’re always booked, but if you pop in around 5, they sometimes have a table available for later that night. It’s in the West Village

  • If that doesn’t work and they want Italian, there’s Frank on 2nd and 5th. No reservations, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

  • My favorite sushi spots are Sushi Yasuda and Soto. Reservations are recommended at both, but they should check Open Table to see what’s available.

  • Another good spot to try in the East Village is Northern Spy.

  • If they like BBQ, they should go to Hill Country in Manhattan or Fette Sau in Williamsburg.

  • Thai food: Pam Real Thai in Manhattan or Sripraphai in Queens.

  • Sichuan: Grand Sichuan International (the one on St. Marks is my fave) or Sichuan Gourmet in Manhattan.

  • Pizza: Company, Totonno’s or Lombardi’s in Manhattan or Best Pizza in Williamsburg.

  • There is a great arepas place in the EV called Caracas.

  • For brunch they should go to Veselka. If not, they should go to any diner.

  • I know they don’t want trendy, but the Momofuku’s are fantastic if they’re feeling a little adventurous. I prefer Ssäm Bar, but they’re all good (get the pork buns).

  • If they want a delicious sandwich and are in Flatiron, go to Defonte’s, No. 7 Sub, or Hill Country Chicken (get the chick’wich).