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.

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