365 Guide delivers dining deals in Manhattan

When I first visited Manhattan, ranked by one firm as the most expensive area in the U.S., we stayed on the Upper West Side at a small hotel with knowledgeable personnel who directed us to excellent, but economical, local eateries that helped stretch our vacation dollars. Now, there’s a handy little book that can help you do the same thing.

“But why?” you may ask. “Isn’t that information all over the Internet?”

Sure. But as I pointed out in my guide, Getting the Most out of Social Media, the Internet in general and social media sites in particular are vast repositories of opinions, often presented without any context and/or by people who wouldn’t know an undercooked piece of chicken if it sat up and clucked at them.

Enter Monica DiNatale. A foodie who adopted New York as her home 15 years ago, she has spent a considerable amount of time researching her guide titled, “365 Guide, New York City.” Slightly mistitled, 365 Guide, New York City focuses exclusively on Manhattan and does not venture out into the other four boroughs.

Monica DiNatale
“Many people come to New York City with the preconceived notion that drinking and eating is always a hassle and unaffordable,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “Without knowing where to eat, which neighborhood you’re in, or which places are worth a visit, it can be frustrating.”

To say the least.

DiNatale set some parameters for her guide. To qualify for her book, any bar or restaurant she cited needed to be open for a minimum of five years and consistently offer customer savings.

That first part is especially important. A study by The Restaurant Brokers showed that 90 percent of independent establishments – i.e., non-chain restaurants – close during their first year of operation. The remaining restaurants will have an average five year lifespan, so putting the latest hot spot in such a guide might soon render that guide out of date.

Case in point: A restaurant in my home town of Phoenix – Haus Murphy’s – was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in March 2009 as a place with great German food. Because it is fairly close to my old neighborhood, I intended to visit during one of my trips.

I never made it. However, in May 2012, the very same restaurant was the focus of Food Network’s Mystery Diners after falling on tough times.

365 Guide is short on discourse and long on information, directing diners to deals at establishments ranging “[f]rom the best dive bars to exclusive five-star restaurants,” each of which offers some sort of dining special. Some of those deals are for bar seating only, while others are good throughout the entire establishment.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Grill, an upscale establishment I’ve enjoyed a time or two, is on the list with ½-price beer and wine and a ½-price menu from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. True enough, that’s early for the locals, but you’re on vacation!

365 Guide lists restaurants across the City’s most famous borough first in alphabetical order (well, mostly; DiNatale puts every restaurant with a name that starts with “The” under “T” while most lists would go to the next word when determining alphabetical order); then by a list called “Finding the ‘Basics’” (including my favorites Gray’s Papaya and Nathan’s for hot dogs); “Seasonal Finds”; indexes by neighborhood, type of establishment, weekend deals (smaller than the Monday-through-Friday list); and closes with convenient maps of the area.

DiNatale uses Too! Many! Exclamation points! and puts "too many" things “in quotations 'for emphasis'” in the Introduction and How to Use 365 Guide. However, those sections are less than four pages long, so even if you’re not able to ignore those foibles (which I, obviously, was not), the sections are quick reads and provide a nice set-up to the excellent information that follows.

The 300-page book will fit easily in your briefcase or purse and is available from Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and through most major booksellers. It is also available as an e-book for several platforms. The e-version includes live links to the restaurants’ websites, as well as Google maps to show how to get where you're going.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

DiNatale's publicist provided me with a complimentary copy of the book so that I could review it for this post.