Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's (2015)
Where to Eat
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Planning | Cuisine Highights
Although it’s unusual to see children in the dining rooms of Manhattan’s most elite restaurants, dining with youngsters in New York does not have to mean culinary exile. Many of the restaurants reviewed in this chapter are excellent choices for families, and are marked as such.
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Some renowned restaurants like Per Se, Daniel, Brooklyn Fare, and Momofuku Ko are booked weeks or even months in advance. If that’s the case, you can get lucky at the last minute if you’re flexible—and friendly. Most restaurants keep a few tables open for walk-ins and VIPs. Show up for dinner early (5:30) or late (after 10), and politely inquire about any last-minute vacancies or cancellations.
Occasionally, an eatery may take your credit-card number and ask you to call the day before your scheduled meal to reconfirm: don’t forget or you could lose out, or possibly be charged for your oversight.
WHAT TO WEAR
New Yorkers like to dress up, and so should you. Whatever your style, dial it up a notch. Have some fun while you’re at it. Pull out the clothes you’ve been saving for a special occasion and get glamorous. Unfair as it is, the way you look can influence how you’re treated—and where you’re seated. Generally speaking, jeans and a button-down shirt suffice at most table-service restaurants in the $ to $$ range. In reviews, we note dress only when a jacket or jacket and tie are required. If you have doubts, call the restaurant and ask.
TIPPING AND TAXES
In most restaurants, tip the waiter 15%–20%. (To figure out a 20% tip quickly, just move the decimal point one place to the left on your total and double that amount.) Tip at least $1 per drink at the bar, and $1 for each coat checked. Never tip the maître d’ unless you’re out to impress your guests or expect to pay another visit soon.
Smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public spaces in New York City, including restaurants and bars.
New Yorkers seem ready to eat at any hour. Many restaurants stay open between lunch and dinner, some have late-night seating, and still others serve around the clock. Restaurants that serve breakfast often do so until noon or later. Restaurants in the East Village, Lower East Side, SoHo, TriBeCa, and Greenwich Village are likely to remain open late, whereas Midtown spots and those in the Theater and Financial districts and uptown generally close earlier. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Be sure to ask the price of the daily specials recited by the waiter; the charge for specials at some restaurants is noticeably out of line with the other prices on the menu. Beware of the $10 bottle of water; ask for tap water instead, and always review your bill.
If you eat early or late, you may be able to take advantage of a prix-fixe deal not offered at peak hours. Most upscale restaurants have great lunch deals.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but many restaurants (particularly smaller ones downtown) accept only cash. If you plan to use a credit card, it’s a good idea to confirm that it is acceptable when making reservations or before sitting down to eat.
CHECK BEFORE YOU GO
The nature of the restaurant industry means that places open and close in a New York minute. It’s always a good idea to phone ahead and make sure your restaurant is still turning tables.
The food-truck movement is officially on. It seems there’s a special truck for everything from ethnic eats to fresh-baked sweets. The southern end of Washington Square, near NYU, is a prime location, with trucks lined up serving the cuisines of Holland, Colombia, Cambodia, and Mexico, but you can find food trucks parked all over town, some with legendary followings and Twitter feeds to help you find them. Thompson Hotels, which has several properties in New York, even has a Food Truck Concierge.
There are few things more Big Apple than a slice of pizza, its bottom crust crispy from the coal oven. There are take-out joints for slices and sit-down restaurants that only serve pies; some are thin-crust, some are thick, some even have fried dough,and everyone has a favorite. There’s no question that pizza will always be synonymous with New York, but the crust is being elevated to a real art form these days. Some people say the reason the pizza here is so good is because of the excellent quality of the New York water.
SOUL FOOD IN HARLEM
Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food” and proprietor of the eponymous Harlem restaurant, may have ascended to that great soul food restaurant in the sky, but the cuisine lives on in this historic neighborhood—in fact, more now than ever, since celeb-chef Marcus Samuelsson moved into the area, opening the Red Rooster, a global eatery that gives a big nod to soul food.
There’s Chinese food and then there’s New York’s downtown Chinatown Chinese food, which some visitors might find head-scratchingly unfamiliar. That’s because Chinatown boasts a diverse population from China’s many regions, which means menus are going to look deliciously foreign to the uninitiated. Go ahead, point and order something you’ve never heard of. Restaurants serving dim sum, which are basically different kinds of small fried or steamed dumplings, are popular for weekend breakfast.
Hamburgers will forever be a part of the Big Apple dining landscape. But it so happens that it’s never been a better time to be a burger eater, and nearly every restaurant—American or not—has some kind of burger on its menu. If you’re a discriminating burger lover, look for the name Pat LaFrieda, a meat purveyor par excellence. Just don’t expect to save any money; it’s not unusual to see a $20 hamburger on a menu.
The gastropub phenomenon, imported from London, began with the Spotted Pig in the West Village, and within a few years, every neighborhood had one. And why not? Blending a casual pub atmosphere with way-better-than-average pub grub is a fun and tasty combination that’s hard to beat.
BANH MI SANDWICHES
The banh mi sandwich has grabbed the attention of Big Apple eaters in recent years and has not let go. This French-influenced Vietnamese sandwich consists of pork, pâté, carrots, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers stuffed into a baguette. This is a delicacy worth seeking out, so check the menus at our top Asian restaurant picks.
The focus on local food and beverages has definitely taken hold at NYC restaurants. Menus flaunt the nearby provenance of their meat and produce, whether it’s from upstate New York or from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. Wine lists frequently include excellent Long Island wines, as well as bourbon and other spirits brewed as close as the Brooklyn Navy Yards or the Hudson Valley.
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Lower Manhattan | SoHo, NoLIta, Little Italy, and Chinatown | East Village and Lower East Side | Greenwich Village and the West Village | Chelsea and the Meatpacking District | Union Square with the Flatiron District and Gramercy | Midtown East with Murray Hill | Midtown West | Upper East Side | Upper West Side | Harlem | Brooklyn | Queens | The Bronx | Staten Island
The southern tip of the island, once skyscraper-laden and nightlife-starved, has been getting buzzier in the last few years. Exciting new bars and restaurants have opened,but the old dependable steakhouses and bistros are still here.
Adrienne’s Pizza Bar.
$$ | ITALIAN | It’s hip to be square at this downtown pizzeria. Father-and-son team Harry and Peter Poulakakos’s square (also known as Grandma) pies are worth the trek and a convenient stop en route to the Statue of Liberty. They also do a mean traditional round pizza, and first-timers should opt for the signature Old Fashioned: thin, crispy crust loaded with tangy tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Salads and pasta are on the menu, too. Service has never been Adrienne’s forte, so be flattered if you get someone to crack a smile. | Average main: $17 | 54 Stone St., near Hanover Sq., Financial District | 212/248–3838 | www.adriennespizzabarnyc.com | Station: R to Whitehall St.; 4, 5 to Bowling Green.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | The oldest continually operating restaurant in New York City (since 1837), austere Delmonico’s is steeped in cultural, political, and culinary history. Lobster Newburg and Baked Alaska were invented here—and are still served. Inside the stately mahogany-panel dining room, tuck into the classic Delmonico’s steak, a 20-ounce boneless ribeye smothered with frizzled onions, and don’t forget to order creamed spinach on the side. The cheesy spaetzle with pancetta is also sinfully sublime. The dining room gets busy early with an after-work Wall Street crowd, making reservations essential. | Average main: $37 | 56 Beaver St., at William St., Financial District | 212/509–1144 | www.delmonicosny.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: 2, 3 to Wall St.; R to Whitehall St.; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; J, Z to Broad St.
$ | CAFÉ | On the cobblestone pedestrian street that has become the Financial District’s restaurant row, this charming pâtisserie serves excellent pastries and delicious savory foods, like mushroom bisque, salads, and hot or cold sandwiches (we have cravings for the panini pressed with prosciutto, fig jam, mascarpone, and arugula). After lunch, relax with a cappuccino and a financier (almond tea cake), or an elegant pastry. In warm weather, perch at an outdoor table and watch Manhattanites buzz by. There are locations all over town. | Average main: $7 | 62 Stone St., between Mill La. and Hanover Sq., Financial District | 212/344–5600 | www.financierpastries.com | No dinner | Reservations not accepted | Station: 2, 3 to Wall St.; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; J, Z to Broad St.
Harry’s Café and Steak.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Its noise-dampening acoustics and maze of underground nooks combine to make Harry’s Steak—the fine-dining half of the restaurant (Harry’s Café is more casual, but the menu is the same)—one of the city’s most intimate steakhouses. Settle into a leather booth and start with a classic shrimp cocktail or the tomato trio, starring thick beefsteak slices topped with bacon and blue cheese, mozzarella and basil, and shaved onion with ranch dressing. The star attraction—prime aged porterhouse for two—is nicely encrusted with sea salt and a good match for buttery mashed potatoes infused with sweet roasted shallots and thick steak sauce spooned from Mason jars. Weekend brunch is popular, too. | Average main: $35 | 1 Hanover Sq., between Stone and Pearl sts., Financial District | 212/785–9200 | www.harrysnyc.com | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green; 2, 3 to Wall St.; J, Z to Broad St.
$ | AMERICAN | Squeezed between skyscrapers and the towering New York Stock Exchange, Stone Street is a two-block restaurant oasis that feels more like a village than the center of the financial universe. After the market closes, Wall Streeters head to Ulysses’, a popular pub with 12 beers on tap and more than 50 bottled beers. Hungry? There are decent pub-grub options, like minicheeseburgers, fried oysters, nachos, and wings. | Average main: $9 | 95 Pearl St., near Hanover Sq., Financial District | 212/482–0400 | www.ulyssesnyc.com | Station: R to Whitehall St.; J, Z to Broad St.; 2, 3 to Wall St.
TriBeCa and its restaurants are a playground for the rich and famous. Fortunately, glamorous dining rooms in converted warehouses have been joined in the last few years by more casual spots.
$$$ | AUSTRIAN | Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, one of the most lauded Austrian chefs in New York, runs this sprawling brasserie like an all-day clubhouse. Pop in for a late-morning or early-afternoon snack—the coffee comes topped with schlag, the doughnuts filled with apricot jam. Or swing by in the evening for Central European standards like sausage, schnitzel, potato dumplings, and beef goulash. Wash it all down with a hoppy Austrian brew. | Average main: $25 | 139 Duane St., near West Broadway, TriBeCa | 212/571–8880 | www.kg-ny.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers St.
$$ | AMERICAN | Neighborhood crowds clamoring for coffee and freshly squeezed juice line up for brunch at this TriBeCa mainstay, but Bubby’s is good for lunch and dinner, too, if you’re in the mood for comfort food like mac ‘n’ cheese or fried chicken. The dining room is homey and cozy, with big windows; in summer, patrons sit at tables outside with their dogs. Brunch options include just about everything, including homemade granola, sour-cream pancakes with bananas and strawberries, and huevos rancheros with guacamole and grits. | Average main: $18 | 120 Hudson St., at N. Moore St., TriBeCa | 212/219–0666 | www.bubbys.com | Station: 1 to Franklin St.
$$ | AMERICAN | This small, comfy restaurant lives up to its name with tables so close together, you’re likely to make new friends. Indeed, the dining room pretty much feels like a breakfast nook, and the food tastes like your mom made it—provided she’s a great cook. Think comfort food: fried chicken, barbecue brisket with mashed potatoes, and even a turkey dinner. There are no frills here, just solid cooking, friendly service, and a long line at peak times. At brunch don’t miss the peach pancakes or the baked cinnamon-swirl French toast. | Average main: $15 | 156 Chambers St., near Greenwich St., TriBeCa | 212/267–6740 | www.kitchenetterestaurant.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Chef Andrew Carmellini, first an acolyte of Daniel Boulud, and then a chef with a half a dozen restaurants in his culinary arsenal, has definitely made a name for himself in New York City. This Robert De Niro–backed restaurant is still one of his best. The space at Locanda Verde is warm and welcoming, with accents of brick and wood and large windows that open to the street, weather permitting, while the menu is full of inspired Italian comfort food that hits the mark. Standouts include small plates like blue crab crostino with jalapeños and the pumpkin agnolotti in brown sage butter that diners reminisce about. Several draft beers, along with more than a dozen wines by the glass, make an already hopping bar scene even more of a draw. | Average main: $26 | 377 Greenwich St., at N. Moore St., TriBeCa | 212/925–3797 | www.locandaverdenyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to Franklin St.
$$$ | AMERICAN | Restaurant success runs in Chef Marc Forgione’s blood—his father was one of the New York food scene megastars with his 1980’s restaurant, An American Place—but he more than holds his own at this neighborhood restaurant that continues to attract crowds for the ambitious, creative New American cuisine. The menu changes frequently, but whatever you order will be bold, flavorful, and inventive without a hint of preciousness. Meat dishes are excellent and well-prepared, but Forgione has a special way with seafood. His chili lobster appetizer, a take on a dish you find all over Asia, comes with Texas toast for mopping up the spicy, buttery sauce. Tartare (perhaps kingfish, hamachi, or salmon, depending on the day) is accented with avocado in a pool of sweet, soy-lashed sauce. | Average main: $30 | 134 Reade St., between Hudson and Greenwich sts., TriBeCa | 212/941–9401 | www.marcforgione.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St.
$$$$ | JAPANESE | At this large, bustling TriBeCa dining room (or its sister location uptown), you might just spot a celeb or two. New York’s famed Japanese restaurant has gained a lot of competition in recent years, but this is still the destination for the innovative Japanese cuisine Nobu Matsuhisa made famous (though he’s rarely in attendance these days). Dishes like fresh yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, rock shrimp tempura, or miso-marinated Chilean sea bass continue to draw huge crowds. Put yourself in the hands of the chef by ordering the tasting menu, or omakase, and specify how much you want to spend, then let the kitchen do the rest. Can’t get reservations? Try your luck at the first-come, first-served Nobu Next Door (literally next door), with a similar menu plus a sushi bar. | Average main: $37 | 105 Hudson St., at Franklin St., TriBeCa | 212/219–0500 | www.myriadrestaurantgroup.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to Franklin St.
$$$ | FRENCH | New Yorkers change hangouts faster than they can speed-dial, but this spot has managed to maintain its quality and flair for more than 30 years. It still feels like the spot in TriBeCa to get a late-night bite. The neo–Art Deco room is still packed nightly with revelers, and the pleasant service and well-chosen wine list are always in style. Bistro menu highlights include frisee aux lardons (with bacon) with poached farm egg, grilled NY strip steak, and slow-cooked cod with baby leeks and fennel confit. | Average main: $28 | 145 West Broadway, between Duane and Thomas sts., TriBeCa | 212/233–0507 | www.theodeonrestaurant.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers St.
$$$ | INDIAN | Many consider Tamarind to be Manhattan’s best Indian restaurant and the elegant atmosphere makes it a different experience from many other NYC Indian restaurants. Forsaking the usual brass, beads, sitar, and darkness, the dining room is airy and modern. Welcoming host, owner Avtar Walia, practically reinvents charm. The busy kitchen prepares multiregional dishes, some familiar (tandoori chicken, a searing lamb vindaloo), some unique (succulent venison chops in a vigorously spiced cranberry sauce, she-crab soup with saffron, nutmeg, and ginger juice). The more intriguing a dish sounds, the better it turns out to be. | Average main: $25 | 99 Hudson St., at Franklin St., TriBeCa | 212/674–7400 | www.tamarindrestaurantsnyc.com | Station: 1 to Franklin St.; A, C, E to Canal St.
SOHO, NOLITA, LITTLE ITALY, AND CHINATOWN
Sure, eating in SoHo may not feel very low-key, with mostly pricey eateries full of fashionistas and the “see and be seen” crowd. But the restaurants here are too hot to dampen any hungry spirits and worth the fight for a table.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | A SoHo standard for fresh seafood, this lively neighborhood eatery also maketheir own pastries and baked goods—including the bread for their brunchtime challah French toast with cinnamon apples and pecan butter. Fans rave about the lunchtime $24.50 prix-fixe Shucker Special—a half-dozen oysters with homemade soup or chowder and a salad. Dinner specialties include roasted Dungeness crab–cake Napoleon with sun-dried tomato oil, and falafel-crusted salmon. Desserts are excellent, too, especially the chocolate tasting plate with its molten chocolate cake, milk-chocolate ice cream, and white chocolate mousse. Service is warm and welcoming. | Average main: $28 | 210 Spring St., at 6th Ave., SoHo | 212/274–0505 | www.aquagrill.com | Reservations essential | Station: C, E to Spring St.
Fodor’s Choice | Back Forty West.
$$ | AMERICAN | Chef Peter Hoffman has been doing sustainable farm-to-table fare long before it became a near-obligatory restaurant trend in the Big Apple. The original Back Forty was in the East Village but the current location just makes it more convenient for neighborhood denizens and shoppers to access the well-executed comfort food. The menu changes with the season, but expect dishes like coconutmilk–spiked scallop ceviche, pumpkin hummus, a very good grass-fed burger, and grilled trout from the Catskills, served alongside quality cocktails and a short but excellent list of beer and wine. Add in rustic, homey décor, and feel like you’re hundreds of miles from that shopping mecca known as SoHo. | Average main: $18 | 70 Prince St., at Crosby St., SoHo | 212/219–8570 | www.backfortynyc.com | No dinner Sun. | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; N, R to Prince St.; 6 to Spring St.
$$$ | FRENCH | Even with long waits and excruciating noise levels, most out-of-towners agree that it’s worth making reservations to experience restaurateur Keith McNally’s flagship, a painstakingly accurate reproduction of a Parisian brasserie with an insider New York feel. Like the décor, entrées recreate French classics: Gruyère-topped onion soup, steak frites, and icy tiers of crab, oysters, and other pristine shellfish. Brunch is still one of the toughest tables in town. The best strategy to experience this perennial fave is to go at off-hours or on weekdays for breakfast to miss the crush. | Average main: $28 | 80 Spring St., between Broadway and Crosby St., SoHo | 212/965–1414 | www.balthazarny.com | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$$ | BAKERY | Follow the beguiling scent of fresh-baked bread to Balthazar Bakery, next door to Keith McNally’s always-packed Balthazar restaurant. Choices include fresh-baked baguettes and other varieties of French breads, as well as gourmet sandwiches, soups, and memorable pastries to take out (there is no seating). Try the berry noisette tart or coconut cake, or keep it simple with an eggy canelé or a buttery lemon or chocolate madeleine. | Average main: $23 | 80 Spring St., near Crosby St., SoHo | 212/965–1785 | www.balthazarbakery.com | No dinner | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | After 20-plus years, Blue Ribbon still has a reputation not just as an eclectic, top-notch seafood joint, but also as a serious late-night foodie hangout. Join the genial hubbub for midnight noshing, namely the beef marrow with oxtail marmalade and renowned raw-bar platters. Trustafarians, literary types, chefs, designers—a good-looking gang—generally fill this dark box of a room until 4 am. The menu appears standard at first blush, but it’s not. Try the duck club sandwich or matzo ball soup; the latter is a heady brew filled with the sacrilegious combo of seafood and traditional Jewish dumplings. | Average main: $32 | 97 Sullivan St., between Prince and Spring sts., SoHo | 212/274–0404 | www.blueribbonrestaurants.com | No lunch | Reservations not accepted | Station: C, E to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.
Blue Ribbon Sushi.
$$$ | JAPANESE | Sushi, like pizza, attracts plenty of opinionated fanatics, and Blue Ribbon Sushi gets consistent raves for their überfresh sushi and sashimi. Stick to the excellent raw fish and specials here if you’re a purist, or branch out and try one of the experimental rolls: the Blue Ribbon—lobster, shiso (Japanese basil), and black caviar—is popular. The dark, intimate nooks, minimalist design, and servers with downtown attitude attract a stylish crowd who don’t mind waiting for a table or chilled sake. Given the quality and the location, it’s not cheap. | Average main: $25 | 119 Sullivan St., between Prince and Spring sts., SoHo | 212/343–0404 | www.blueribbonrestaurants.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: C, E to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.
$$$ | AMERICAN | Perpetually packed with the “see and be seen” crowd, Chef Andrew Carmellini’s homage to American cuisine is really an encapsulation of recent food and dining trends: there’s an excellent burger (and at $22 it should be), a Kentucky-size bourbon collection behind the bar, greenmarket-driven comfort food dishes like fried chicken, and bacon paired with things you would have not likely seen a couple decades ago (in this case, scallops with bacon jam). And it all works well at this SoHo restaurant—so much so, you might consider returning for weekend brunch when the housemade bologna sandwich or cornmeal flapjacks appear on the menu. | Average main: $28 | 131 Sullivan St., at Prince St., SoHo | 212/677–6200 | www.thedutchnyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: C, E to Spring St.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Set on a quiet block of Greenwich Village, the rustic, farmhouse-slash-greenhouse that is Hundred Acres is a lovely place to while away a long lunch or quiet dinner. The market-driven creative comfort food keeps the neighborhood patrons and out-of-towners-in-the-know coming back. The menu is loaded with all the items you’d expect from a farm-to-table affair: oysters, deviled eggs, broccoli rabe, and, yes, kale. Mains run the gamut from fish to meat: think a luscious pork shank with polenta and rhubarb chutney; shrimp and grits; or a classic burger made from pasture-raised beef, topped with Vermont cheddar and served with fries and Vidalia onion mayonnaise. Weekend brunch stands out, with variations on a bloody mary theme, and treats like a country pâté sandwich and goat cheese–sage bread pudding. | Average main: $26 | 38 MacDougal St., between Houston and Prince sts., SoHo | 212/475–7500 | www.hundredacresnyc.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.; C, E to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.
$$ | BISTRO | Whether you’re lucky enough to nab a table at this scene-y SoHo bistro at 1 pm or 1 am, Lucky Strike always seems like the place to be. Bedecked in classic bistro trappings—hammered-copper stools, mirrors with menu items scrawled on them—the restaurant would look just as perfect in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris as it does in this swanky part of the Big Apple. The kitchen offerings are straightfoward: croque monsieur, grilled salmon, and salade niçoise are old standbys, with a turkey burger thrown in to accommodate the Americain palate. | Average main: $18 | 59 Grand St., between West Broadway and Wooster St., SoHo | 212/941–0772 | www.luckystrikeny.com | No credit cards | Station: 1, A, C, E to Canal St.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | Decorated like the clubby interior of a sleek luxury liner, Lure serves oceanic fare in multiple culinary styles. From the sushi bar, feast on options like the Lure House Roll—a shrimp tempura roll crowned with spicy tuna and Japanese tartar sauce—or opt for creative dishes from the kitchen, like steamed branzino with oyster mushrooms, scallions, and ponzu sauce, or Manila clams over pancetta-studded linguine. For an all-American treat, you can’t go wrong with a classic lobster roll on brioche. The dark subterranean bar is a good spot for cocktails and a snack. Brunch is served on weekends. | Average main: $29 | 142 Mercer St., at Prince St., SoHo | 212/431–7676 | www.lurefishbar.com | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; N, R to Prince St.
$ | CAFÉ | Practically invisible from the front of the chocolate emporium, the back entry to the Cacao Bar opens into a sweet, high-ceiling, 12-table hot-chocolate shop. Most people order the Aztec, European-style (that’s 60% Colombian chocolate mixed with hot water—no cocoa powder here!). The first sip is startlingly rich but not too dense; American-style, made with milk, is sweeter. Not to worry if you’re visiting in spring or summer: you can opt for Aztec iced chocolate—the warm-weather version of the decadent cacao elixir—or the house-made chocolate gelato. For more substantial snacking, choose a salad or sandwich from the dainty lunch menu. | Average main: $12 | 484 Broome St., between West Broadway and Wooster St., SoHo | 212/925–6999 | www.mariebelle.com | No dinner | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Spring St.; A, C, E to Canal St.
The Mercer Kitchen.
$$$ | ASIAN FUSION | Part of Alsatian superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s culinary empire, the celebrity-laden front room of this SoHo spot in the Mercer Hotel is as much about scene as cuisine,which isn’t a bad thing. Dishes here look toward Asia (as is the proclivity of Mr. Vongerichten), using simple ingredients and pairings. Think scallops with lentils and pancetta or crispy squid with black-olive tartar sauce. It’s all good enough to make you feign disinterest over the A-list celeb who just walked in. | Average main: $30 | Mercer Hotel, 99 Prince St., at Mercer St., SoHo | 212/966–5454 | www.jean-georges.com | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Fodor’s Choice | Osteria Morini.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Less formal than Chef Michael White’s other renowned Italian restaurants (like Marea in Midtown West), the atmosphere at Osteria Morini is lively and upbeat, with communal tables at the center and a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. The food nevertheless steals the show. Start with a selection of cheeses and cured meats, then move on to hearty pastas—a lusty ragù Bolognese or garganelli with prosciutto and truffle butter, for example—and main courses like oven-baked polenta accompanied by either sausage or mushrooms. Waits can be long, so try to come early or late, or grab one of the few bar seats for an inventive cocktail or a glass of Italian wine. Brunch is served weekends. | Average main: $25 | 218 Lafayette St., between Spring and Broome sts., SoHo | 212/965–8777 | www.osteriamorini.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to Spring St.
$$$ | FRENCH | One of the first trendy spots in SoHo, this arty French restaurant has yet to lose its touch, either in the kitchen or atmosphere. Expect a chic bar scene—especially late at night—filled with polished PYTs, amazing photos on every piece of available wall space, and a lovely back room that you reach through the kitchen. The winding stairs to the upstairs dining room are narrow and a bit treacherous if wearing your highest heels. Foodwise, it’s bistro-inspired, with oysters and salads to start, and pastas, fish, and meat options for mains. | Average main: $29 | 180 Prince St., between Sullivan and Thompson sts.,SoHo | 212/966–3518 | www.raouls.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: C, E to Spring St.
$$ | GREEK | This SoHo cubbyhole may look like just another drop-in café, but the food served inside transports diners to Greece. Typical mezes like tzatziki, taramosalata, hummus, and skordalia are several notches better than what you’d get elsewhere, but the menu options go beyond snacks: pop in at lunch for a braised-lamb sandwich or spinach pie, or linger in the evenings over votive-lighted tables and pastitsio or stuffed peppers. The light-filled West Village location, Snack Taverna, is somewhat roomier and also serves breakfast daily and brunch on weekends. | Average main: $19 | 105 Thompson St., near Prince St.,SoHo | 212/925–1040 | www.snacksoho.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: C, E to Spring St.
Spring Street Natural.
$$ | AMERICAN | When this SoHo spot first fired up its burners in 1973, restaurants emphasizing organic, whole, and natural ingredients were mostly limited to San Francisco and college towns. The dining landscape may have caught up, but Spring Street Natural is still going strong, powered by a loyal clientele who come here for healthy food that actually tastes good. Start with the creamy organic hummus (and warm pita bread) before moving on to pan-roasted free-range chicken (accompanied by sweet potato–poblano pepper gratin) or the pancetta-laced pumpkin ravioli. If too full for dessert, order a glass of organic wine, sit back and stare out the floor-to-ceiling windows, gawking at the occasional celebrity and the SoHo shoppers. | Average main: $18 | 62 Spring St., at Lafayette St., SoHo | 212/966–0290 | www.springstreetnatural.com | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Spring St.
In NoLIta, SoHo’s trendy next-door neighborhood, the spirit of old, pre–chainstore SoHo prevails. Diminutive eateries, squeezed between up-and-coming designer boutiques, flank the narrow streets of this atmospheric neighborhood.
Black Seed Bagels.
$ | New York is known for bagels, which tend to be large and doughy and delicious. Montreal-style bagels, which is what you’ll find at Black Seed, have a denser, sweeter dough. The “toppings” (sesame, poppy seed, salt, everything) are more generous than on the New York bagels. The all-day menu here includes sandwich options with cream cheese, smoked salmon, whitefish salad, or baked eggs; the lunch menu adds a BLT with spicy mayo, roast beef with horseradish cream cheese, and a tuna melt to the mix, among others. Order at the counter and eat in if you can get a seat: the dark-wood-paneled café make this one of the classiest bagel joints around. | Average main: $9 | 170 Elizabeth St., NoLIta | 212/730–1950 | www.blackseedbagels.com | No dinner | Station: 6 to Spring St.
$$ | FRENCH | Specializing in simple salads, sandwiches, and a selection of hot mains, this French-Moroccan café draws models and model-gazers to its rather cramped NoLIta location. Both the clientele and the waitstaff seem to have wandered in fresh off the runway. The scene is quietest in the morning, when there are flaky croissants and big bowls of café au lait. There’s a larger branch on the far edge of the West Village. | Average main: $15 | 242 Mott St., near Prince St., NoLIta | 212/334–9552 | www.cafegitanenyc.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; J, Z to Bowery.
$ | MEXICAN | The Mexican-style grilled corn, liberally sprinkled with chili powder, lime, and cotija cheese is undoubtedly worth getting your hands dirty at this crowded, hip luncheonette. Follow up with a classic Cuban sandwich (roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and chipotle mayo), fish tacos, or one of the innovative salads. Be prepared for a wait at lunchtime or on weekend afternoons. The cocktails are good, too. There’s a take-out shop with a few seats down the street at 229 Elizabeth Street. | Average main: $13 | 17 Prince St., at Elizabeth St., NoLIta | 212/625–2001 | www.cafehabana.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; J, Z to Bowery.
$$$ | FRENCH | Restaurateur Keith McNally’s signature is restaurants that become perpetually hip”seeandbeseen” spots (cases in point: Odeon, Minetta Tavern, Balthazar, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, etc.). This French bistro opened in 2014 but fits in so well with the neighborhood that it seems like it’s been anchored on this corner for decades. The menu of classic French fare blends well with the rustic décor: as with most McNally restaurants, the culinary wheel is not being re-invented. Expect the classics—pan-roasted foie gras, steak tartare, steak frites, and lobster ravioli—executed very well. The wine list, French and Italian, includes ample amounts of affordable but delicious options. | Average main: $25 | 282 Bowery, NoLIta | 212/226–3055 | www.cherchemidiny.com | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Emporio.
$$ | ITALIAN | The brick-lined front room of this homey Roman eatery in NoLIta is a gathering spot for early-evening happy hour at the bar, where you’ll find an appetizing selection of free small bites like frittata, white-bean salad, and ham-and-spinach tramezzini (finger sandwiches). The centerpiece of the large, skylighted back room is a wood-fired oven that turns out crisp, thin-crust pizzas topped with quality ingredients like prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella. Service is solicitous but not speedy, so you can linger over a bottle of wine from the copious selection. House-made pastas like garganelli with pork sausage and house ragù, and entrées like whole roasted fish with grilled lemon, are also excellent. | Average main: $22 | 231 Mott St., between Prince and Spring sts., NoLIta | 212/966–1234 | www.emporiony.com | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; N, R to Prince St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
Fodor’s Choice | Estela.
$$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Long before Mr. and Mrs. Obama ate dinner here in late 2014, this second-floor restaurant had been on the map for those in the know. Ignacio Mattos is the commader-in-chef and his creations have a tendancy to sneek up on the diner: Is that rye matzo bread under the mashed salt cod? And are those sunchoke chips folded into the sumptuous beef tartare? Are scallops and lardo a good paring on the plate? The answer is “yes” to all of the above. The wine list is compact yet sprinkled with some great off-the-radar European gems. The minimalist room is a fitting space for the deceptively simple cooking going on here. | Average main: | 47 E. Houston St., NoLIta | 212/219–7693 | www.estelanyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | When an orange cat crossed celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s path while he was waiting for the real estate agent to show him this space, he decided right then to call this restaurantGato(Spanish for cat). And a sly cat it is. Despite the name, the menu goes beyond Spain to cover large culinary swaths of the Mediterranean. Sit at the bar and nosh on roasted octopus deliciously paired with bacon, garlicbread–topped crab risotto, and Brussels sprouts sprinkled with pomegrantes and pistachios. It all makes you feel like one lucky cat. | Average main: $20 | 324 Lafayette St., NoLIta | 212/334–6400 | www.gatonyc.com | No lunch | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$$ | MEXICAN | Anchoring a downtown corner under a bright neon sign, La Esquina looks like nothing more than a fast-food taquería, with cheap tacos sold to-go until 2 in the morning. Just around the corner, though, is a modestly priced café serving those same tacos along with more ambitious fare like chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers) and carne asada (grilled meat). The real draw, however, is hidden from sight: the basement brasserie, like a Mexican speakeasy, is accessible by reservation only, through an unmarked door just inside the ground-floor taquería. Inside, discover a buzzy subterranean scene with pretty people drinking potent margaritas and dining on upscale Mexican fare. Prices downstairs are high, but portions are large. | Average main: $20 | 106 Kenmare, between Cleveland Pl. and Lafayette St., NoLIta | 646/613–7100 | www.esquinanyc.com | Station: 6 to Spring St.
$$ | PIZZA | Brick walls, red-and-white-checker tablecloths, and the aroma of thin-crust pies emerging from the coal oven set the mood for dining on some of the best pizza in Manhattan. Lombardi’s has served pizza since 1905 (though not in the same location), and business doesn’t seem to have died down one bit. The mozzarella is always fresh, resulting in a nearly greaseless slice, and the toppings, such as meatballs, pancetta, or imported anchovies, are also top-quality. The clam pizza, with freshly shucked clams, garlic oil, pecorino-romano cheese, and parsley, is well-known among aficionados. | Average main: $16 | 32 Spring St., at Mott St., NoLIta | 212/941–7994 | www.firstpizza.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Spring St.; J, Z to Bowery; N, R to Prince St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | The crowd at this rustic restaurant is stylishly urban. Inspired by the proverbial “peasant” cuisine where meals were prepared in the kitchen hearth, chef-owner Frank DeCarlo cooks all of his wonderful food in a bank of wood- or charcoal-burning ovens, from which the heady aroma of garlic perfumes the room. Don’t fill up on the crusty bread and fresh ricotta or you’ll miss out on flavorful Italian fare like sizzling sardines that arrive in terra-cotta pots, or spit-roasted leg of lamb with bitter trevisano lettuce and polenta. | Average main: $25 | 194 Elizabeth St., between Spring and Prince sts., NoLIta | 212/965–9511 | www.peasantnyc.com | Closed Mon. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to Spring St.; J, Z to Bowery; N, R to Prince St.
$$$ | ECLECTIC | To start with, the space here is complex and sophisticated, with soaring ceilings and whitewashed brick walls, skylights, fireplaces, three dining areas, and a vast bar. You’ve come for the food, though, and you won’t be disappointed. The menu flaunts its nonconformity, and dishes like Australian barramundi fish, served with vanilla-celeriac purée and braised garlic greens, demonstrate a light yet adventurous touch. Brunch at Public is a local favorite, with exotic dishes like coconut pancakes topped with fresh ricotta, mango, and lime syrup, and a juicy venison burger. Standout desserts include a chocolate mousse with tahini ice cream and sesame candy. | Average main: $25 | 210 Elizabeth St., between Prince and Spring sts., NoLIta | 212/343–7011 | www.public-nyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.; J, Z to Bowery.
$$ | ITALIAN | Named for a jet-setting Dominican playboy, this Rubirosa is only Latin and lascivious in name. Owner Angelo “A. J.” Pappalardo created an exciting Italian-American eatery that locals have shown an insatiable appetite for (so be prepared to wait). The kitchen isn’t trying to reinvent anything here; they simply serve high-quality classic Italian dishes, from pasta with red sauce or a fork-tender veal chop Milanese to the thin-crust pizza (the recipe for the latter comes from Mr. Pappalardo’s parents who have run the popular Staten Island pizza joint, Joe &Pat’s, since anyone can remember). You don’t have to be a jet-setter or a playboy to love this place. Just come hungry. | Average main: $18 | 235 Mulberry St., between Prince and Spring sts., NoLIta | 212/965–0500 | www.rubirosanyc.com | No credit cards | Station:6 to Spring St.; N, R to Prince St.
$$ | AMERICAN | Subterranean and almost hidden, the Smile turns frowns upside down, if you like hipsters and celebrities, and, most especially, hipster celebrities. Lounge among the fashionably conscious clientele (who are trying oh-so-hard to not look that way) and munch on breakfast-y items (served until 4:30 pm) like chunky granola, or go for one of the giant sandwiches or spaghetti with heirloom-tomato sauce. Dinner options, like whole trout, brisket, hanger steak, or roasted chicken, are more ambitious. Just be sure you wear shoes that scream “this season.”|Average main: $15 | 26 Bond St., between Lafayette St. and the Bowery, NoLIta | 646/329–5836 | www.thesmilenyc.com | No credit cards | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
$$ | THAI | If you’re looking for quality Thai in Manhattan, a good choice is Uncle Boon’s in NoLIta. The chefs are a husband-and-wife team who originally met in the kitchen at Michelin-starred Per Se. You’d have to look underneath the layers to find evidence of über-haute cuisine here—but that just means that the simple, tasty Thai fare here is very good. Skip the green papaya salad—usually a must,but somehow bland here—and go right for heartyentrées, such as the khao soi, an ultra-tender chicken leg doused in a delciously tangy yellow curry, or anything that’s grilled. | Average main: $22 | 7 Spring St., near Elizabeth St., NoLIta | 646/370–6650 | www.uncleboons.com | No credit cards | Station: J, Z to Bowery; 6 to Spring St.
These days Little Italy is a tourist trap of pasta factories that just aren’t very good. Don’t despair, though: there is seriously yummy Italian food in just about every other neighborhood in the city—including nearby NoLIta.
Chinatown beckons adventurous diners with restaurants representing numerous regional cuisines of China, including Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan, Fujian, Shanghai, and Hong Kong–style cooking. Malaysian and Vietnamese restaurants also have taken root here, and the neighborhood continues to grow rapidly, encroaching into what was Little Italy.
456 Shanghai Cuisine.
$ | CHINESE | Come to this Chinatown eatery for above-average Chinese fare, such as General Tso’s chicken, pork buns, and cold sesame noodles, but do yourself a favor and order soup dumplings (xiao long bao) as soon as you sit down. You won’t regret it. The dumplings, doughy and thin on the outside, encase morsels of crab swimming in a bold porky broth, truly a wonder of the culinary world—and 456 does them as well as (or better than) anyone in the city. | Average main: $14 | 69 Mott St., between Canal and Bayard sts., Chinatown | 212/964–0003 | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Great New York Noodletown.
$ | CHINESE | Although the soups and noodles are unbeatable at this no-frills restaurant, what you should really order are the window decorations—the hanging lacquered ducks and roasted pork, listed on a simple board hung on the wall and superbly served with pungent garlic-and-ginger sauce on the side. Seasonal specialties like duck with flowering chives and salt-baked soft-shell crabs are excellent. So is the congee, or rice porridge, available with any number of garnishes. Solo diners may end up at a communal table. Noodletown is open late—till 4 am on Friday and Saturday. | Average main: $11 | 28 Bowery, at Bayard St., Chinatown | 212/349–0923 | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.; F to East Broadway.
$$ | CHINESE | On weekend mornings people pack this vast dim sum palace, so be prepared to wait. Once your number is called, take the escalator up to the carnivalesque third-floor dining room, where servers push carts crammed with tasty goodness. Expect to be plied with delights like steamed dumplings, crispy spring rolls, barbecue pork buns, and shrimp balls. For adventurous eaters, there’s chicken feet, tripe, and snails. Arrive early for the best selection, and save room for mango pudding. | Average main: $16 | 20 Elizabeth St., 2nd fl., between Bayard and Canal sts., Chinatown | 212/964–5256 | www.jingfongny.com | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
$ | CHINESE | Joe opened his first Shanghai restaurant in Queens in 1995, but buoyed by the accolades showered on his steamed soup dumplings—filled with a rich, fragrant broth and ground pork or a pork-crabmeat mixture—several Manhattan outposts soon followed. The trick is to take a bite of the dumpling and slurp out the soup, then eat the rest. There’s almost always a wait, but the line moves fast. The soup dumplings are a must, but you can fill out your order from the extensive menu. There’s another Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown, at 24 West 56th Street, between 5th and 6th avenues (where credit cards are accepted). | Average main: $16 | 9 Pell St., between the Bowery and Mott St., Chinatown | 212/233–8888 | www.joeshanghairestaurants.com | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
$$ | MALAYSIAN | This Malaysian restaurant is a real find. Literally. You could stroll right by it and never know it existed. That’s because it’s in a passageway between the Bowery and Elizabeth Street. It’s worth the trouble, though, as the menu is loaded with Malaysian favorites like roti flatbread with curry and delicious red-bean and coconut-milk drinks. The atmosphere is casual and table service is relaxed, which means you might need to flag down your server. | Average main: $14 | 48 Bowery, near Canal St., Chinatown | 212/964–0284 | www.newmalaysiarestaurant.com | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
Peking Duck House.
$$ | CHINESE | This Chinatown institution is the place to go in New York for authentic Peking duck. Although the restaurant serves a full Chinese menu, everyone—and we mean everyone—orders the duck. Begin, as most tables do, with an order of Shanghai soup dumplings, then move on to the bird. It’s carved tableside with plenty of fanfare—crisp burnished skin separated from moist flesh. Roll up the duck, with hoisin and scallions, in tender steamed pancakes. The menu at the Midtown location (236 East 53rd Street) is a bit pricier. | Average main: $19 | 28 Mott St., at Mosco St., Chinatown | 212/227–1810 | www.pekingduckhousenyc.com | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles.
$ | CHINESE | The name says it all. The open kitchen at this salt-of-the-earth Chinatown restaurant (located on charming, curved Doyers Street) means you can watch the noodle-slinger in action while awaiting your bowl of, um, tasty hand-pulled noodles. Just choose your ingredients—beef, pork, oxtail, eel, chicken, lamb, or shrimp, among others—and prepare to eat the most delicious bowl of $5 noodles since that last trip to Shanghai. The restaurant is small so be prepared to possibly share a table with a fellow diner. | Average main: $5 | 1 Doyers St., at Bowery, Chinatown | 212/791–1817 | www.tastyhandpullednoodles.com | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House.
$ | CHINESE | One of the best deals in Chinatown can be found here. Sizzling pork-and-chive dumplings are four for a buck. There are also vegetarian options. The restaurant is very casual: order at the counter and then grab a table, if you can find one. Vanessa’s is especially popular with Lower East Side revelers looking to pad their stomachs before the night’s debauchery. | Average main: $8 | 118 Eldridge St., near Broome St., Chinatown | 212/625–8008 | www.vanessasdumplinghouse.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: B, D to Grand St.
$ | VIETNAMESE | A good Vietnamese restaurant in Manhattan is hard to find, which is why you should seek out Xe Lua, in Chinatown just below Little Italy. Quick service and the marathon-length menu should satisfy any palate but the real standouts are the clay pot dishes: cooked and served in—you guessed it—a clay pot, the pork, chicken, veggies, or whatever you order become slightly caramelized, giving a subtle sweetness to the dish. The pho (the soupy national dish of Vietnam) is also a good bet, as the broth has a bolder flavor here than at other places. | Average main: $11 | 86 Mulberry St., between Canal and Bayard sts., Chinatown | 212/577–8887 | www.xeluarestaurantnyc.com | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
Xi’an Famous Foods.
$ | CHINESE | Serving the very underrepresented cuisine of western China, Xi’an Famous Foods serves food like you might not have tasted before. The restaurant first made a name for itself at its original location, in the dingy basement food court of a mall in Flushing, Queens, but this spot—shinier, brighter, and cleaner—serves the same exciting fare. First-timers should try the spicy cumin lamb burger, which is mouthwateringly delicious. Some of the dishes challenge the bounds of adventurousness in eating (lamb offal soup, anyone?), but don’t let that scare you off. It’s cheap enough to experiment, so tuck into that bowl of oxtail noodle soup and enjoy. | Average main: $10 | 67 Bayard St., between Mott and Elizabeth sts., Chinatown | 212/608–4170 | www.xianfoods.com | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
$ | CHINESE | Chinese students throng this Hong Kong–style eatery where the walls resemble bulletin boards—they’re tacked with dozens of sheets announcing a mind-boggling variety of foods, from dim sum to Thai (you can also ask for a menu). Dishes emerge from the kitchen seemingly at the speed of light. The food, which ranges from the exotic (sautéed frog with ginger and scallion) to the comforting (delicate shrimp wonton soup), is some of Chinatown’s finest. | Average main: $9 | 148 Hester St., between Elizabeth St. and Bowery, Chinatown | 212/965–8645 | www.xokitchen.com | No credit cards | Station: 6, J, Z, N, Q, R to Canal St.; B, D to Grand St.
Getting Caffeinated in NYC
There might be a chain coffee shop on every corner in New York City, but you won’t find many locals there. The so-called “city that never sleeps” is fueled with coffee, but not just any coffee. We’re a bit particular, some might say downright snobbish, about coffee, so—even if we’re in a rush, which, of course, we are—we’ll wait those few extra minutes for the best freshly roasted beans and pour-over brews. If you want to join discerning locals, look for outposts of Blue Bottle Coffee, Everyman Espresso, Joe Coffee, La Colombe, Ninth Street Espresso (which has locations other than 9th Street), Stumptown, and Third Rail Coffee all over Manhattan (and Brooklyn). Most spots offer the added bonus of homemade baked goods, and some also have light snackes, but don’t expect that it’ll be easy to find a seat.
NYC Restaurant Chains Worth a Taste
When you’re on the go or don’t have time for a leisurely meal, there are several very good chain restaurants and sandwich bars that have popped up around New York City. Those listed below are usually reasonably priced and the best in their category.
Dos Toros. Fresh and inexpensive tacos, burritos, and salads are the calling card at this local minichain with several locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. The brothers who run the joint moved to NYC from San Francisco and were disappointed with the taquería options here, so they took matters into their own hands. Order at the counter and grab a seat. | www.dostoros.com.
Le Pain Quotidien. Part bakery, part café, this Belgian chain with locations throughout the city serves fresh salads and sandwiches at lunch and is great for breakfast. You can grab a snack to go or stay and eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner with waiter service. There are more than 20 locations throughout Manhattan, including one in Central Park. | www.lepainquotidien.com.
Pret A Manger. This sandwich shop started in London in 1986 and opened their first American outpost in 2000. These days you can find them in various locations around NYC—there are several in Midtown, catering to the bustling lunch crowds. The sandwiches are excellent, and the salads are good, too. | www.pret.com.
Shake Shack. This homegrown chain has expanded across the United States and beyond, but it got it start in Madison Square Park. There are multiple locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn to enjoy burgers, hot dogs, and shakes. | www.shakeshack.com.
‘wichcraft. Tom Colicchio may be best known these days as head judge of Bravo’s Top Chef, but his fine-dining restaurants Craft and Craftbar are also well known around Manhattan and beyond. At ‘wichcraft, the sandwich shop he started with several partners back in 2003, the creations have his deliciously distinctive touch. | www.wichcraftnyc.com.
EAST VILLAGE AND LOWER EAST SIDE
This neighborhood, once a grungy ghetto for punk rockers and drug addicts, has gotten itself into shape, with great restaurants on every block—from amazing, inexpensive Asian spots to Michelin-starred destinations. St. Mark’s Place is the center of New York’s downtown Little Tokyo, and East 6th Street is its Indian Row.
$$ | AMERICAN | Chef Wylie Dufresne, whoran the show for years at acclaimed avant-garde eatery wd-50, until it shuttered at the end of 2014, is the wizard in the kitchen at this modern gastropub. As Dufresne has demonstrated in the past, looks can be deceiving, and there is more than meets the eye(and the mouth) here. The rye pasta with toasted caraway and pastrami is an ingenious re-imagining of the classic New York deli sandwich. The crackers in the New England clam chowder are made from puréed oysters and pack a flavorful punch. Pair anything with the carefully selected craft beers or innovative cocktails. Sunday brunch is also fun: try the bacon, egg, and cheese gyoza or the pastrami hash, with one of the unique bloody marys. | Average main: $18 | 157 2nd Ave., near 10th St., East Village | 212/539–1900 | www.aldernyc.com | No credit cards | No brunch Mon.–Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: L to 3rd Ave.
$ | PIZZA | Grab a gargantuan slice at this popular take-out joint, or order whole pies in the small, adjacent no-frills dining room. In the wee hours, lines often snake out the door for the artichoke-spinach slice, which tastes like cheesy dip on thick, crusty crackers. Those in the know opt for the less greasy margherita slice. Make sure you’re hungry, and be prepared to stand in line a while. For shorter lines, stop into the Greenwich Village location at 111 MacDougal Street. Or try the more formal Artichoke outpost underneath the High Line at 114 10th Avenue. | Average main: $5 | 328 E. 14th St., between 1st and 2nd aves., East Village | 212/228–2004 | www.artichokepizza.com | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to 1st Ave.
$$ | MOROCCAN | An East Village dining institution if there ever was one, Cafe Mogador is a frequent stop for locals and, for some, a hip place to be seen. Since 1983, the restaurant has been serving above-average Morrocan cuisine in a date-friendly candlelit atmosphere. Finish off that creamy hummus before the chicken tagine arrives, nurse that glass of Italian wine, and ponder the fact that most of the people around you were barely walking when this family-run restaurant first fired up its couscous-cooking burners. | Average main: $16 | 101 St. Marks Pl., near 2nd Ave., East Village | 212/677–2226 | www.cafemogador.com | No credit cards | Station: L to 1st Ave.
$ | FAST FOOD | Gluttony reigns at Crif Dogs, where you can indulge in creative—and delicous—hot dog creations. Try the Chihuahua, bacon-wrapped and layered with avocado and sour cream, or the Tsunami, bacon-wrapped with pinapple and teriyaki. (There are vegetarian dogs, too.) The tater tots banish all memories of the high school cafeteria. And that phone booth in the corner? Use that to enter secret, chic cocktail bar PDT (where there are more hot dogs available to pair with craft cocktails). | Average main: $5 | 113 St. Marks Pl., at Ave. A, East Village | 212/614–2728 | www.crifdogs.com | Station: L to 1st Ave.
DBGB Kitchen & Bar.
$$$ | FRENCH | The downtown arm of Daniel Boulud’s New York City restaurant fleet, DBGB forgoes the white tablecloths, formal service, and steep prices found at the famed chef’s fancier digs, and instead pays homage to the grittier, younger feel of its Lower East Side location. (The name is a wink at the legendary rock club CBGB.) Lined with shelves of pots, plates, and pans (not to mention copperware donated by renowned chefs from around the world), the dining room gives way to a partially open kitchen where you can catch the chefs preparing Boulud’s take on French- and German-inspired pub fare. The menu features 14 different varieties of sausages, decadent burgers (the aptly named “piggy” burger, a juicy beef patty topped with a generous portion of pulled pork, jalapeño mayonnaise, and mustard-vinegar slaw on a cheddar bun), and classic entrées like steak frites and lemon-and-rosemary roasted chicken. | Average main: $27 | 299 Bowery, between Houston and 1st sts., East Village | 212/933–5300 | www.dbgb.com | Reservations essential | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Edi & the Wolf.
$$ | AUSTRIAN | For those who have always wanted to spend an evening in a countryside Austrian pub—and who hasn’t?—but can’t hop on a plane to Vienna, there’s Edi &the Wolf, an outstanding restaurant deep in the section of the East Village called Alphabet City. The rustic interior (usually crammed with stylish thirtysomethings) is the perfect venue to sample dishes like honey-and-beer-accented ribs, pork belly–laced poached eggs, and, of course, Wienerschnitzel, which is supertender and refreshingly free of grease. The well-curated beer selection focuses on Central Europe. Try the dark Czech brew, Krusovice (pronounced Kroo-sho-veetzay) | Average main: $22 | 102 Ave. C, at 7th St., East Village | 212/598–1040 | www.ediandthewolf.com | No credit cards | No lunch weekdays | Station: F to 2nd Ave., L to 1st Ave.
$$ | ITALIAN | There’s something almost formulaic about this restaurant on the ground floor of the hip Bowery Hotel: from the rustic, wood-bedecked interior to the see-and-be-seen crowd who frequent the place and the menu of above-average Italian staples (from pizza to pastas and heartier mains). But the food here is good, the service is attentive, and nabbing an outside table may make you feel cooler than you are for a couple of hours, so what difference does it make? Answer: no difference, until it’s time to pay the bill. Weekend brunch is also a good bet. | Average main: $20 | 335 Bowery, at 3rd St., East Village | 212/505–9100 | www.theboweryhotel.com | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: F to 2nd Ave., 6 to Bleecker St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Owners Pierluigi Palazzo and Gianluca Giovannetti named their restaurant not after gnocchi but a regional Italian specialty—deep-fried dough bites typically served with Northern Italian sliced meats like capicola, salami, and aged prosciutto. The gnocci are certainly good, but the menu has so many other options you’ll be forgiven if you skip them in favor of the house-made pasta specials; pizza topped with mozzarella, truffles, and mushrooms; hearty entrées like pork tenderloin in a balsamic emulsion with flakes of Grana Padano cheese; and salads—preferably all enjoyed in the roomy, canopied garden out back. | Average main: $20 | 337 E. 10th St., between Aves. A and B, East Village | 212/677–1913 | www.gnocco.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: L to 1st Ave., 6 to Astor Pl.
$$ | CHINESE | Yes, it’s a local Chinese chainlet, and no, you don’t come here for the ambience, but the food—like fiery Sichuan dan dan noodles, kung pao chicken, double-cooked pork, or crab soup dumplings—is good and inexpensive. Check the website for other locations around town. | Average main: $18 | 19–23 St. Marks Pl., near 3rd Ave., East Village | 212/529–4800 | www.grandsichuanstmarks.com | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Hecho en Dumbo.
$$ | MEXICAN | “Made in Dumbo”—referring to the restaurant’s former location in Brooklyn—specializes in antojitos, or “little cravings.” The result is something equivalent to Mexican comfort food for the hip thirtysomethings who frequent this restaurant on the Bowery. Variations on a taco theme may dominate the menu, but Hecho shines with house dishes like roasted kid and wine-braised oxtail served over Oaxacan mole sauce. Pair your meal with one of their delicious margaritas (no bottled mix used here), sangria, or perhaps a michelada—beer and tomato juice on ice with lime and a salted rim. | Average main: $17 | 354 Bowery, between Great Jones and 4th sts., East Village | 212/937–4245 | www.hechoendumbo.com | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
$$$ | ITALIAN | The unabashed clutter of vintage kitchen gadgets and tableware harks back to Il Buco’s past as an antiques store and affects a romantic country-house feel with excellent food—this is a favorite for a cozy, intimate meal. The menu focuses on meat and produce from local farms, with several excellent pasta choices, and a variety of Mediterranean tapas-like appetizers. Call ahead to book the intimate wine cellar for dinner. Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, around the corner at 53 Great Jones Street, is a more casual setting, with a small market up front selling gourmet cheese and house-cured meats, and a wine bar in the back. | Average main: $28 | 47 Bond St., between the Bowery and Lafayette St., East Village | 212/533–1932 | www.ilbuco.com | No lunch Sun. | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$$ | JAPANESE | Crowds wait hours for the ramen noodles at Ippudo, the first American branch of the Japanese chain. Loyal patrons say it’s all about the rich, pork-based broth—there is a vegetarian version available but it lacks the depth of flavor. Those really in the know, though, make sure to order sleeper-hit appetizers like the peppery chicken wings or pork buns. It’s not a hole-in-the-wall ramen spot, so although a meal here is relatively inexpensive, it’s not dirt-cheap. There’s a newer Ippudo outpost in Midtown at 321 West 51st Street. | Average main: $16 | 65 4th Ave., between 9th and 10th sts., East Village | 212/388–0088 | www.ippudony.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
$$$$ | JAPANESE | Arguably the best sushi restaurant in the East Village, this tiny space gleams in a minefield of cheap, often inferior sushi houses. The futuristic bamboo tunnel of a dining room is gorgeous, but try to nab a place at the sushi bar and put yourself in the hands of sushi master Yoshi Kousaka. The five-course omakase, or chef’s menu, starts at $125. (A less expensive sushi or sashimi omakase is $75.) You are served only what’s freshest and best. | Average main: $50 | 239 E. 5th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., East Village | 212/979–1012 | www.jewelbakosushi.com | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Lafayette Grand Cafe & Bakery.
$$ | FRENCH | Food media darling, Chef Andrew Carmellini (of Locanda Verde, Bar Primi, and the Dutch) goes Gallic here. After nearly a decade of Italian dominance on the Big Apple restaurant scene, French is back in vogue again, and Lafayette is a return to Carmellini’s roots:the kitchens of his mentor the great Daniel Boulud. There’s no culinary trickery happening here, just straightforward and very satisfying bistro fare. Creamy duck confit–spiked pumpkin risotto, a silky beef tartare, and steak frites are all excellent. So is the people-watching at this “seeandbeseen” spot. | Average main: $24 | 380 Lafayette St., at 4th St.,East Village | 212/533–3000 | www.lafayetteny.com | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
$ | MIDDLE EASTERN | This hole-in-the-wall institution,bustling day and night, is the place to go for speedy, hot, supercheap, and delicious Middle Eastern food. Tahini-topped pitas are packed with fresh, green-on-the-inside falafel balls. Be warned: the hot sauce is incendiary. The small space has a few tables, but this is food you can easily eat on the go. Best of all, it’s open every night until at least 4 am. The original Mamoun’s is still on MacDougal Street, near Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. | Average main: $7 | 22 St. Marks Pl., between 2nd and 3rd aves., East Village | 212/387–7747 | www.mamouns.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
$ | DELI | Named for a neighborhood in Montréal where the city’s famed bagel bakeries exist, Mile End became the darling of the city’s fooderati when it opened in January 2010 in Brooklyn. By the time this NoHo location began rolling out its light, chewy, and slightly sweet Montréal bagels in May 2012, the place was already an institution. The bagels are authentic, but the real reason to come here is for the impressive deli fare, including pastrami, roast beef, and smoked-meat sandwiches. The poutine—french fries with cheese curds and gravy—is a delicious mess. Once standing-room only, there’s now seating in the long, narrow room, as well as dinner service. Dinner is also served at the original Brooklyn location in Boerum Hill, at 97A Hoyt Street. | Average main: $10 | 53 Bond St., near the Bowery, East Village | 212/529–2990 | www.mileenddeli.com | No credit cards | No dinner Sun. and Mon. | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
$ | JAPANESE | It may have received less fanfare than some other East Village noodle bars, but the ramen at this tiny, cramped spot is among the best in the city; the fact that visiting Japanese students eat here is a good sign. Try to get a seat at the bar, where you can watch the chefs prepare your food. Start with homemade gyoza dumplings, then dive your spoon and chopsticks into one of the many types of ramen. The shoyu (soy sauce) Minca ramen is unfailingly good, but anything with pork is also a good bet. | Average main: $13 | 536 E. 5th St., between Aves. A and B, East Village | 212/505–8001 | www.newyorkramen.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Momofuku Ko.
$$$$ | ASIAN | After a move to this quaint alleyway near where the Bowery and 1st Street meet, Momofuku Ko is still firing on all cylinders. There are no more tables at James Beard Award–winning chef David Chang’s most formal dining option; diners sit at the bar to see Ko’s chefs in action or opt for a standalone table. The menu is prix-fixe only: 20 courses for $175. And it’s worth it for the complex flavor strata that Chang builds. Reservations can be made online only, no more than 15 days ahead for dinner, and are extremely difficult to get. Log on at 10 am (a credit card number is required just to get into the system), when new reservations are available, and keep hitting reload. | Average main: $100 | 8 Extra Pl., at 1st St., East Village | 212/203–095 | www.momofuku.com | Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Momofuku Milk Bar.
$ | CAFÉ | This combination bakery, ice cream parlor, and sandwich shop boasts quick-serve access to Chef David Chang’s cultish pork buns, along with some truly psychedelic treats by pastry whiz Christina Tosi. Swing by for a kimchee croissant and glass of “cereal” milk, or for treats like the curiously flavored soft-serve ice cream (cerealmilk, lemon verbena), “candy bar pie” (a sweet bomb of caramel, peanut-butter nougat, and pretzels atop a chocolate-cookie crust), one of the addictive cookies (try the “compost” cookies, with pretzels, chocolate chips, and whatever inspires the bakers that day), or any of the intriguing savories (the “volcano” is a cheese and potato pastry that is impossible to eat daintily). | Average main: $6 | 251 E. 13th St., East Village | 347/577–9504 | www.milkbarstore.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to 3rd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Momofuku Noodle Bar.
$$ | ASIAN | Chef and owner David Chang has created a shrine to ramen with this stylish 70-seat restaurant. His riff on the Japanese classic features haute ingredients like Berkshire pork, free-range chicken, and organic produce—though there are plenty of other innovative options on the menu. His modern take on pork buns with cucumber and scallions is phenomenal—alone worth the trip. You’ll probably have to wait if you go at regular meal times, but seats at the long counter open up fairly quickly, and the lively atmosphere is part of the fun. The excellent fried-chicken meal includes both triple-fried Korean-style and Old Bay southern-style chicken with a variety of accoutrements, and feeds four-to-eight people(available by special reservations only on the website). | Average main: $17 | 171 1st Ave., between 10th and 11th sts., East Village | 212/777–7773 | www.momofuku.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar.
$$ | ASIAN | New York foodies have been salivating over Chef David Chang’s Asian-influenced fare since he opened Noodle Bar in 2004. Ssäm Bar, with a more extensive menu, is equally worth the raves. The restaurant is packed nightly with downtown diners cut from the same cloth as the pierced and tattooed waitstaff and cooks. The no-reservations policy (except for large parties or special dinners) means having to wait in line for a chance to try Chang’s truly inventive flavor combinations. The menu is constantly changing but the not-to-be-missed riff on the classic Chinese steamed pork bun is almost always available. Have a nightcap at Chang’s inventive cocktail bar, Booker & Dax, around the corner. | Average main: $24 | 207 2nd Ave., at 13th St., East Village | 212/254–3500 | www.momofuku.com/ssam | Station: L to 1st Ave.
$$ | PIZZA | The Manhattan branch of the Williamsburg original has brought its impossibly high standards—and long lines—to a new borough. The authentic Neapolitan pies are made with glutinous, dough-friendly double-zero flour and San Marzano tomatoes, and the crusts are lightly charred. You can’t go wrong with any of the signature traditional pizzas, like marinara; margherita with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil; or a pie with spicy sopressata, sausage and garlic; but the seasonal selections are also tempting. Check out the brunch pizza (with egg and pancetta) on weekends. Antipasti like octopus and fingerling potato salad with celery-chili oil, and cockle-clam crostini round out the menu. The weekday, lunchtime prix-fixe means pizza and salad is a bargain at $12 per person. | Average main: $16 | 349 E. 12th St., at 1st Ave., East Village | 212/777–2644 | www.motorinopizza.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Northern Spy Food Co.
$$ | AMERICAN | A gem in the East Village, named for an apple variety, Northern Spy is run by two San Francisco transplants with a West Coast perspective on the farm-to-table movement. Start your meal with the freekeh risotto, a traditional dish made with a quirky little-known grain, or a giant mound of shredded kale tossed with cheddar, pecorino, and toasted almonds. Main courses are winners, too—choose tender meatballs in marinara sauce, roast chicken for two, or baked polenta, eggs, and mushrooms topped with crème fraîche. There is also an interesting, reasonably priced list of wines and beers, and a selection of housemade desserts like chocolate cake with sea salt and caramel. | Average main: $22 | 511 E. 12th St., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, East Village | 212/228–5100 | www.northernspyfoodco.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to 1st Ave.
$ | MEXICAN | Offshoots of a popular Tijuana taco shop established in 1973 and still going strong, these slim taquerías (the word “pinche” can be translated as “tiny”) do fish tacos the West Coast way, with lightly battered fish, crunchy cabbage, and a dollop of cilantro crema. The tacos al pastor—filled with succulent pork slow-roasted on a rotating spit, are of a similarly superior caliber, stuffed into warm, house-made corn tortillas and generously anointed with fresh guacamole. There’s another location just around the corner at 227 Mott Street (near Prince) and at 103 West 14th Street; all these spots get busy at prime meal times. | Average main: $6 | 333 Lafayette St., near Bleecker St., NoHo | 212/343–9977 | www.pinchetaqueria.us | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
$ | ITALIAN | Super-succulent Italian roast pork—dusted in fennel pollen and covered in crisp cracklin’ skin—is the star attraction here. It is, in fact, just about the only thing on the menu of this tiny spot. Order your pork in a sandwich or as a platter with stewed greens and roasted potatoes. There’s not much room for dining on-site, but the benches out front are ideal when the weather cooperates. | Average main: $11 | 110 E. 7th St., near 1st Ave., East Village | 212/777–2151 | www.porchettanyc.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
$$ | AMERICAN | There’s just something very right-on about the food at Prune, a cozy treasure of a restaurant serving eclectic, well-executed American food from cult Chef Gabrielle Hamilton. The choices change with the season, but you might find braised rabbit legs in vinegar sauce, whole grilled fish with fennel oil and chunky sea salt, or roasted marrow bones with parsley salad and toast points. If they’re on the menu, try the pillowy, fried sweetbreads. There’s usually a wait, and quarters are very cramped, so don’t expect to feel comfortable lingering at your rickety wooden table. Desserts, like ricotta ice cream with salted-caramel croutons, are irresistible, and on weekends lines form early for the restaurant’s deservedly popular brunch. | Average main: $22 | 54 E. 1st St., between 1st and 2nd aves., East Village | 212/677–6221 | www.prunerestaurant.com | Reservations essential | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
$$$ | GREEK | The perfect setting for a relaxed dinner or an intimate special occasion, this tastefully refined, light-filled East Village restaurant emphasizes rustic cooking from all over Greece. There are delicious versions of hearty comfort food dishes like pastitsio and moussaka on the menu but the lighter dishes—especially fish—let the flavors shine through. There is an extensive selection of interesting hot and cold mezes—start with the traditional trio of tzatziki, taramosalata (lemony fish roe dip), and melitzanosalata (an eggplant-based dip) and explore from there. Accompany your meal with some vino from the all-Greek wine list; the light white Atlantis wine from the island of Santorini is particularly enjoyable—and affordable. | Average main: $25 | 128 E. 7th St., near Ave. A, East Village | 212/473–0220 | www.pylosrestaurant.com | No credit cards | No lunch Mon. and Tues. | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; L to 1st Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Saxon & Parole.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | One of the hottest spots on this burgeoning stretch of the Bowery, this eatery may be named for two 19th-century racehorses but the food—and the extremely good-looking crowd—is nothing you’d find in a barnyard. Settle into this cozy, sceney spot, order a cocktail, and peruse a menu loaded with the Zeitgeist dishes of New York dining: roasted bone marrow, Brussels sprouts, pork belly, chicken liver mousse, and, of course, an overpricedbutexcellent burger. The kitchen executes it all to complete deliciousness. The bar scene is lively, so come early for a cocktail. | Average main: $22 | 316 Bowery, at Bleecker St., East Village | 212/254–0350 | www.saxonandparole.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.; F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Somtum Der.
$$ | THAI | Once upon a time, New Yorkers had to venture to Queens to get good Thai food, but that’s no longer the case. Not only have a handful of great Thai restaurants opened in Manhattan in recent years, but many of them hail from Isaan, a region in northeast Thailand that emphasizes light, spicy fare. Somtum Der, originally based in Bangkok, is one of the best. Start with the namesake somtum, a palate-singeing green papaya salad, before moving on to the larb moo, a mound of minced pork mixed with veggies and chilis. Also worth trying is the fried chicken, which makes you question the southern United States’ monopoly on crispy bird. The restaurant is small and can get quite noisy. | Average main: $15 | 85 Ave. A, East Village | 212/260–8570 | www.somtumder.com | No credit cards | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; L to 1st Ave.
$ | CAFÉ | Since 1894, this bustling bakery-café has sold every kind of Italian dolce (sweet), from cherry-topped cookies to creamy cannoli and flaky sfogliatelle (shell-shape, filled pastry). Cheesecake-lovers rejoice in Veniero’s ricotta-based version. In all, a hungry visitor with a serious sweet tooth can choose from more than 150 different types of desserts. A wine license means you can top off your evening with a bottle of red. Veniero’s is worth a look—check out the pressed-tin ceiling, marble floors, and stained glass—even if you’re not hungry. | Average main: $5 | 342 E. 11th St., near 1st Ave., East Village | 212/674–7070 | www.venierospastry.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
$ | EASTERN EUROPEAN | Potato pierogies are available 24 hours a day at this East Village stalwart, which opened in 1954. The name means “rainbow” in Ukrainian. The authentic Ukrainian-slash-diner food is the perfect stick-to-your-ribs ending to a night on the town—or beginning to a new day, as the restaurant serves a full array of breakfast staples. It’s a neighborhood experience, with tables of families sharing space with the hipsters. The spacious, sunny interior, with giant wall paintings to please the eye, is great for people-watching; don’t take the servers’ studied indifference personally. | Average main: $11 | 144 2nd Ave., at 9th St., East Village | 212/228–9682 | www.veselka.com | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU; L to 1st Ave.
$$ | GERMAN | Located in Alphabet City, this garrulous Teutonic spot teaches the ABCs of beer drinking and hearty eating. Grab a table outside when the weather’s nice, among the young hipsters who frequent the spot, and get ready for some kraut-laden fun. After quaffing a liter-size stein of the sudsy stuff, you may crave food, and the menu, naturally, is a veritable sausage-palooza. In addition to the usual meaty fare, such as Wiener schnitzel and goulash, there are, well, more sausages. The crispy potato pancakes are a good bet, too. | Average main: $16 | 107 Ave. C, at 7th St., East Village | 212/598–1098 | www.zumschneider.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: L to 1st Ave.; F to 2nd Ave.
LOWER EAST SIDE
The Lower East Side, home to generations of immigrant newcomers, has become quite the culinary hub over the last 15 years, with everything from molecular gastronomy to hipster Chinese cuisine. You can’t walk a block without hitting a place that makes your stomach growl.
Fodor’s Choice | Clinton St. Baking Co.
$$ | AMERICAN | There was a time when this Lower East Side restaurant was the place to come for brunch. Specifically, it was the place to eat blueberry pancakes, which many regulars professed were the best in the city, if not the state, or the whole country. But all that changed when owners Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman added lunch and dinner to the menu. Oh, it’s still a great place for brunch but now you can eat those pancakes (along with a good Black Angus burger or crab-cake sandwich) anytime. February is pancake month when, in addition to the blueberry, every weekday brings a special incarnation of the pancake. | Average main: $19 | 4 Clinton St., near Houston St., Lower East Side | 646/602–6263 | www.clintonstreetbaking.com | No credit cards | No dinner Sun. | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
$$ | CHINESE | Don’t be put off by the name—this boisterous Chinatown icon serves much more than the eponymous rice porridge. Indeed, the menu is enormous, covering an encyclopedic range of unusual Cantonese classics. The bamboo-cloaked dining room is great with a group of people, but being wedged in at a communal table with a boisterous family is part of the experience. If feeling adventurous, try the duck tongues in XO sauce or salt-and-pepper frog, or stick to familiar classics. Either way, the congee is a great way to start. | Average main: $15 | 100 Allen St., near Delancey St., Lower East Side | 212/941–1818 | www.congeevillagerestaurants.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.; B, D to Grand St.
$$$ | FRENCH | Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, the chefs who created a small empire of Italian-American restaurants (Parm, Carbone, ZZ’s Clam Bar) go Gallic at this Lower East Side bistro in the Ludlow Hotel. The name says it all: while the fare from the kitchen is French, the team put their own spin on it, taking many of the dishes on a tour of places like North Africa and Louisiana before they land on your table. Porgy is dusted wth Cajun spices and the duck à l’orange is spiked with Moroccan ras el hanout spice blend. The long, all-French wine list includes some nice bottles from off-the-radar regions. | Average main: $30 | Ludlow Hotel, 180 Ludlow St., Lower East Side | 212/254–3000 | www.dirtyfrench.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
$ | CAFÉ | If the cupcake craze is getting you down, head to the Doughnut Plant, where the all-American junk food staple is elevated to high art. Fresh seasonal ingredients go into these decadent treats, with real fruit and imported chocolate mixed into the batter. Traditionalists croon over the vanilla-bean doughnut, but there are plenty of exotic flavors to tempt tastebuds: the dense, fudgy Blackout is covered in crumb topping; carrot cake doughnuts have a cream-cheese filling. The Lower East Side location is open every day from 6:30 am to 8 pm (‘til 9 pm Friday and Saturday). There’s a second location in Chelsea, next to the Chelsea Hotel; doughnuts are also available around the city at Dean & DeLuca and Zabar’s. | Average main: $5 | 379 Grand St., Lower East Side | 212/505–3700 | www.doughnutplant.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.; B, D to Grand St.
Fodor’s Choice | The Fat Radish.
$$ | BRITISH | The phrase “seasonal British” might have once seemed puzzling but with seasonal ingredients very much in vogue and British cuisine making a name for itself, this handsome, hip, and sceney Lower East Side (almost Chinatown) restaurant is worth a visit. The menu is eclectic but full of excellent choices. Expect to be confronted by a lot of kale and other en-vogue ingredients. Green curried monkfish, a cheeseburger served with duck-fat fries, pork sausage and mussel stew, and roasted Peking duck breast are just a few of the menu showstoppers.Match that with quality craft British brews and potent cocktails and you’ll be championing English cuisine in no time. | Average main: $21 | 17 Orchard St., near Canal St., Lower East Side | 212/300–4053 | www.thefatradishnyc.com | No lunch Mon. | Station: F to East Broadway.
Fodor’s Choice | Freemans.
$$ | AMERICAN | It’s hard to believe now, but there was once a time when New York restaurant interiors were trying hard not to look cool, with no taxidermy or ironic tchotchkes littered around the room, or lodge-ish dishes like hunters stew, potted pork, and grilled trout on the menu. But we have Freemans to thank for the change, and their equally inspired cocktails menu. Down a little-used alleyway on the Lower East Side, trendsetting Freemans is as hip and popular as when it opened in 2004. Just don’t try too hard to look cool. | Average main: $20 | End of Freeman Alley, near Rivington St., Lower East Side | 212/420–0012 | www.freemansrestaurant.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, Z to Bowery.
Fodor’s Choice | Ivan Ramen.
$ | JAPANESE | Ivan Orkin’s improbable but true story is one of the many layers that make New York City’s restaurant scene so exciting, authentic, and delicious: the self-described “Jewish kid from Long Island” moved to Tokyo and became a ramen-making master, achieving near legendary status in the Japanese capital. In 2014 he opened this Lower East Side temple to ramen and it’s been packed since day one. First-timers should try the triple pork, triple garlic mazemen, a type of near-brothless ramen. The spicy red-chili ramen, filled to the rim with chicken broth, a smashed egg, minced pork, and rye noodles, lives up to its name. It all goes well with a pint of craft beer or a can of sake. | Average main: $16 | 25 Clinton St., Lower East Side | 646/678–3859 | www.ivanramen.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
Fodor’s Choice | Katz’s Delicatessen.
$$ | DELI | Everything and nothing has changed at Katz’s since it first opened in 1888, when the neighborhood was dominated by Jewish immigrants. The rows of Formica tables, the long self-service counter, and such signs as “Send a salami to your boy in the army” are all completely authentic. The lines still form on the weekends for giant, succulent hand-carved corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, soul-warming soups, juicy hot dogs, and crisp half-sour pickles. Weeknights are more laid-back. You get a ticket when you walk in and then get it punched at the various stations where you pick up your food; don’t lose it or you’ll have to pay the lost ticket fee. | Average main: $15 | 205 E. Houston St., at Ludlow St., Lower East Side | 212/254–2246 | www.katzdeli.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten.
$$ | GERMAN | Beer gardens once dotted the New York City landscape in the way that Starbucks does now, but after World War I and Prohibition, most of these outdoor drinking spots vanished. Then in 2003 came Loreley (which eventually kicked off a new beer garden craze in the city). Don’t mistake this Lower East Side hotspot for a place where geriatrics in lederhosen swing their plus-size steins of beer to polka music. Instead, there’s a better-than-good chance of finding a gaggle of hipsters nursing German craft beers while bobbing their heads to the new Radiohead album and munching on plates of sausage, meatballs, or schnitzel. The space out back may be more concrete than garden, but it’s a pleasure on a mild evening. | Average main: $17 | 7 Rivington St., near the Bowery, Lower East Side | 212/253–7077 | www.loreleynyc.com | No credit cards | Station: J, Z to Bowery; B, D to Grand St.; F to 2nd Ave.
The Meatball Shop.
$ | ITALIAN | New York’s first full-service meatball restaurant has a pedigree chef, a professional waitstaff, a wine list,and a hip crowd. And the meatballs, oh, the meatballs: choose beef, pork, chicken, veggie, or “special” ball options that range from chili cheese to Greek lamb and Buffalo chicken; then decide if you want them served simple as is, in sliders or a hero, as a salad, or a platter—all with an appropriate choice of sauce and cheese. The meatball concept quickly caught on, and there are now six locations: five in Manhattan and one in Williamsburg. Mix ‘n’ match ice-cream sandwiches—choose your flavor and cookie—are worth saving room for. | Average main: $10 | 84 Stanton St., near Allen St., Lower East Side | 212/982–8895 | www.themeatballshop.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, Z to Bowery.
$ | MEXICAN | Chef Danny Bowien rocked the New York dining scene when he imported his San Francisco hit Mission Chinese Food here a few years ago. He has another local favorite in this Mexican eatery. The menu changes seasonally but expect adventurous taco creations with creative ingredient pairings: beef tongue sprinkled with peanuts, and fresh tuna with wasabi are standouts. There are also huge burritos stuffed with chorizo, lamb, and rotisserie chicken. In the morning, the restaurant morphs into a Vietnamese eatery serving Southeast Asian breakfast staples like chicken pho and lamb-spiked rice porridge. The floor-to-ceiling windows are excellent for people-watching. | Average main: $13 | 172 Orchard St., Lower East Side | 212/254–2233 | www.missioncantinany.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Schiller’s Liquor Bar.
$$ | BISTRO | It may not be as hard to get in as it was back in 2003, when Keith McNally first opened this sceney hangout on the Lower East Side, but it still has the allure, with excellent bistro fare, sexy cocktails, and the kind of atmosphere that is as comfortable for celebrities as for parents with strollers. This is vintage Parisian à la McNally: verdigris mirrored panels, forever-in-style subway tiles, a tin ceiling, and a checkered floor, while Cuban sandwiches and steak frites reveal a steady hand in the kitchen. This is also the place for a late-night bite, since the kitchen is open until midnight every night (until 3 am Friday and Saturday). Breakfast is served weekdays until 4 pm, with brunch on weekends. | Average main: $20 | 131 Rivington St., at Norfolk St., Lower East Side | 212/260–4555 | www.schillersny.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
$$ | ECLECTIC | Don’t ask for substitutions or sauce on the side at New York’s most eccentric eatery, because Kenny Shopsin, owner and chef, may really toss you out or ban you for life; somehow the attitude is part of the appeal here. Though the eclectic menu runs to literally hundreds of items—from pumpkin pancakes to chilaquiles, and from chili cheeseburgers to lamb-curry soups—even the strangest foods conjured up in his tight diner kitchen taste pretty great. The mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes have loyal followers (they’re even better with hot sauce). The space in the Essex market is tiny, so expect to wait. Parties of more than four aren’t accepted. | Average main: $17 | Essex Market, 120 Essex St., near Rivington St., Lower East Side | www.shopsins.com | Closed Mon. and Tues. No dinner | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: F to Delancy St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
The Stanton Social.
$$ | ECLECTIC | This swanky Lower East Side favorite lures crowds with an expansive and eclectic small-plates menu, accompanied by a perfectly calibrated cocktail list. Come before 7 if you want to be able to hear your companion speak, but the people-watching and shared dishes are good at any hour. Try the gooey, Gruyère-topped onion soup dumplings, juicy Kobe beef sliders, and wasabi-crusted salmon. Downstairs feels like a more traditional dining room, whereas the second level features a buzzy bar. The late-night lounge area, decorated with cherry-blossom wallpaper and red leather upholstery, turns more nightclubby the later it gets. Brunch—with options like spicy lobster Benedict—might blow your mind. Whatever time you come, save room for the fresh doughnuts. | Average main: $20 | 99 Stanton St., between Ludlow and Orchard sts., Lower East Side | 212/995–0099 | www.thestantonsocial.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine.
$ | CAFÉ | The brainchild of two former Magnolia Bakery employees, Sugar Sweet’s cupcakes are far superior; try the chocolate-almond Gooey Gooey, or the cream cheese frosting–topped pumpkin flavor. The real showstopper? Swoon-inducing banana pudding, with slices of ripe fruit and crumbled Nilla wafers suspended in decadent vanilla pudding. Cupcakes are the perfect on-the-go treat, but if you prefer to hang out, there are cozy couches. | Average main: $5 | 126 Rivington St., between Essex and Norfolk sts., Lower East Side | 212/995–1960 | www.sugarsweetsunshine.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: F to Delancy St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
GREENWICH VILLAGE AND THE WEST VILLAGE
Greenwich Village’s bohemian days may have faded, but the romantic allure of its tiny bistros, bars, and cafés remains. Around New York University, shabby-chic eateries and take-out joints cater to students, but there is a growing number of more sophisticated dining spots, too. Avoid the generally schlocky restaurants on Bleecker Street.
$$$ | ITALIAN | While this stylish restaurant bills itself as serving “modern Venetian cuisine,” it’s more as if Japanese chefs quietly invaded Venice and begin updating the dishes. Chef Chris Jaeckle sneaks Asian elements into the otherwise Italian menu, emboldening the dishes to the tune of utter deliciousness. Truffle risotto has sake mash, crab-loaded garganelli has just the right touch of yuzu, and thick bucatini noodles are interlaced with fresh uni. There is, of course, more to the Japanese-accented Italian menu than just pasta: the juicy porchetta (laced with a seaweed salsa verde, naturally) and the tender short rib, paired with saffron risotto, are winning entrées. You’ll want to say “grazie” or perhaps “arigato” to the chef on your way out. | Average main: US$26 | 22 E. 13th St. | 212/231-2236 | www.allondanyc.com | Closed Mon. | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Square.
$$ | PIZZA | Few guidebooks list this classic New York pizzeria, but the jam-packed room and pleasantly smoky scent foreshadow a satisfying meal. There’s a full menu of Italian classics, but don’t be fooled: pizza is the main event. The thin-crust beauties are cooked in a coal-fired oven, and emerge sizzling with simple toppings like pepperoni, sausage, and eggplant. Monday through Thursday, you can call ahead to reserve a table; weekends, be prepared to wait and salivate. If you like the whimsical paintings that plaster the walls, ask the waiter the price: they’re for sale. | Average main: $18 | 106 W. Houston St., near Thompson St., Greenwich Village | 212/535–4480 | No lunch weekends | Station: 1 to Houston St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Fodor’s Choice | Babbo Ristorante.
$$$ | ITALIAN | It shouldn’t take more than one bite of the ethereal homemade pasta or tender barbecue squab with roast beet farrotto for you to understand why it’s so hard to get a reservation at Mario Batali’s casually elegant restaurant. The menu strays widely from Italian standards and hits numerous high points, in particular with the “mint love letters”: ravioli filled with pureed peas, ricotta, and fresh mint, finished with spicy lamb sausage ragout; and rabbit with Brussels sprouts, house-made pancetta, and carrot vinaigrette. This is the perfect spot for a raucous celebratory dinner with flowing wine and festive banter. But be forewarned: if anyone in your party is hard of hearing, or bothered by loud rock music, choose someplace more sedate. | Average main: $30 | 110 Waverly Pl., between MacDougal St. and 6th Ave., Greenwich Village | 212/777–0303 | www.babbonyc.com | No lunch Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | This tasteful, sophisticated den of a restaurant—formerly a speakeasy—on a quiet side street maintains an impeccable reputation for excellence and consistency under the leadership of Chef Dan Barber. The Obamas even stopped here for dinner, shutting down the street for one of their “date nights.” Part of the slow-food, sustainable agriculture movement, Blue Hill mostly uses ingredients grown or raised within 200 miles, including the Four Season Farm at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Barber’s second culinary project in nearby Westchester County. The chefs produce precisely cooked and elegantly constructed food such as wild striped bass with potato-and-clam chowder and house-cured guanciale (pork jowl), and a smoked-tomato soup with American caviar. | Average main: $31 | 75 Washington Pl., between Washington Sq. W and 6th Ave., Greenwich Village | 212/539–1776 | www.bluehillfarm.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | It seems like Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi can do no wrong. Case in point: Carbone. The achingly popular place not only sticks to the Italian-American formula that has won it (and their earlier restaurant Torrisi) acclaim, but goes one step further: the white-tableclothed Greenwich Village restaurant successfully emulates the Big Apple Italian restaurants of the 1950s, with revived dishes like veal marsala, ribeye Diana, and baked clams. It’s not cheap, but portions are generous. | Average main: $45 | 181 Thompson St., between Bleecker and Houston sts., Greenwich Village | 212/254–3000 | www.carbonenewyork.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Charlie Bird.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Perpetually packed since the day it opened in the spring of 2013, Charlie Bird is the love child of sommelier Robert Bohr, who was in charge of wine at vino-mad Cru, and Chef Ryan Hardy, who made a name for himself at Little Nell in Aspen and, more recently, sharpened his skills as private chef for food-loving Jay-Z and Beyoncé—it’s no coincidence the restaurant has a hip-hop theme (expect old-school and ‘90’s rap on the hi-fi). The Italian-leaning menu is divided into small and large plates, vegetables, a “raw” section, and pasta. The uni-loaded duck-egg spaghetti marries surf ‘n’ turf in a deeply satisfying way, while the scallops are subtly laced with lardo, giving them an umami boost. | Average main: $32 | 5 King St., at 6th Ave., Greenwich Village | 212/235–7133 | www.charliebirdnyc.com | No credit cards | Reservations essential | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Houston St.
Kati Roll Company.
$ | INDIAN | You can think of a kati roll as a South Asian taco: griddled parathas stuffed with savory-spiced grilled meat, shrimp, paneer, chickpea mash, or spiced mashed potato. They’re the only things sold at this tiny, popular lunch spot cheerfully festooned with Bollywood posters. This is an excellent and inexpensive lunch option, but be warned that lines often form at weekday lunch, and there are only a few seats, so a good plan is to take your kati roll to a nearby park bench. There are also locations at 39th Street and 6th Avenue, and 53rd Street and 3rd Avenue. | Average main: $6 | 99 MacDougal St., near Bleecker St.,Greenwich Village | 212/730–4280 | www.thekatirollcompany.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Even the most hard-to-please connoisseurs have a soft spot for Lupa, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich’s “downscale” Roman trattoria. Rough-hewn wood, great Italian wines, and simple preparations with top-quality ingredients define the restaurant, along with the “gentle” prices. People come repeatedly for dishes such as ricotta gnocchi with sweet-sausage ragout, house-made salumi, and sardines with golden raisins and pine nuts. The restaurant is split into two rooms: a boisterous space up front, with plenty of natural light, where walk-ins are welcome; and for those with reservations, an intimate back room, like a culinary cocoon in the best sense. | Average main: $22 | 170 Thompson St., between Bleecker and Houston sts., Greenwich Village | 212/982–5089 | www.luparestaurant.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Mermaid Oyster Bar.
$$ | SEAFOOD | If you’re craving a great raw bar, lobster roll, or soft-shell crab sandwich (in season), Mermaid Oyster Bar gives nearby classics Mary’s Fish Camp and Pearl Oyster Bar a run for their money. Almost every dish is a winner here, but the lobster bisque laced with Manzanilla sherry and toasted pumpkin seeds, the blackened striped bass with roasted squash and Swiss chard, and the spicy seafood bucatini fra diavolo are all standouts. From the bar, try something from the list of perfect-pitch cocktails, like a Dark and Stormy, made with black rum and ginger beer, or a Pimm’s Cooler with refreshing pieces of cucumber. There are two other locations in Manhattan: on the Upper West Side and in the East Village. | Average main: $23 | 79 MacDougal St., at Houston St., Greenwich Village | 212/260–0100 | www.themermaidnyc.com | No lunch | Station: 1 to Houston St.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | By converting a moribund 80-year-old Italian restaurant into a cozy hot spot, restaurateur Keith McNally created yet another hit. Try early and often to score reservations, so that you can sample creations like buttery trout meunière, bone marrow on toast, expertly aged steaks, and the celebrated Black Label burger, a gorgeous assembly of meat topped with caramelized onions and—for the brave—an added layer of cheese. The bar room, with its original details intact, is great for people-watching. Landing a table in the back room, with its original mural depicting West Village life and wall-to-wall photos of famous and infamous customers from eras gone by, makes sweet-talking the reservationist a worthy endeavor. | Average main: $27 | 113 MacDougal St., between Bleecker and 3rd sts., Greenwich Village | 212/475–3850 | www.minettatavernny.com | No lunch Mon. and Tues. | Reservations essential | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop.
$ | AMERICAN | For a childhood classic kicked up a notch, head to Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop. You can go with a standard PB&J, or explore any of the menu’s 20 options, including the Elvis (grilled with peanut butter, bananas, and honey), the Pregnant Lady (peanut butter and pickles), or the sandwich of the week, with expertly paired ingredients such as cherry jam, cream cheese, and Crunch Time peanut butter. Try a milkshake—there are traditional flavors as well as more innovative combos. And of course there are peanut butter cookies for dessert, as well as sundaes. | Average main: $8 | 240 Sullivan St., near 3rd St., Greenwich Village | 212/677–3995 | iwww.lovepeanutbutter.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$ | BURGER | Known as the “sixth taste,” umami is the sensation on our palate when we eat something savory. It’s also the name of this restaurant minichain whose New York location serves one of the best burgers in the city. The signature burger looks like any other (except for the “u” branded into the top of the buns) but looks are deceiving. Dig, if you will, the umami-building process: caramelized onions are doused with star anise, the sweet-accented ketchup is made in-house, and the patty is sprinkled with sea kelp powder and bonito flake, then sprayed with an oyster extract. The Manly Burger goes a step further, adding beer cheddar and bacon lardons. Starters include salads, fries, truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings. | Average main: $13 | 432 6th Ave., near 10th St., Greenwich Village | 212/677–8626 | www.umami.com | No credit cards | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
The West Village has mastered the art of destination restaurants that feel like neighborhood eateries. Places here are homey, yet remarkable enough to attract diners from all over the city.
$$$ | ASIAN | “Annisa” may mean “the women” in Arabic, but the top-notch food at this sedate West Village restaurant is inspired by Asia. Chef Anita Lo, one of the most underrated chefs in New York, cooks up miraculous dishes like foie gras soup dumplings, barbeque squid with basil and peanuts, and Japanese curry-spiked rabbit. Be sure to save room for dessert: the pecan and salted butterscotch beignets with bourbon ice cream are good enough to make you want to come back a second or third time. | Average main: $30 | 13 Barrow St., between 4th St. and 7th Ave. S, West Village | 212/741–6699 | www.annisarestaurant.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Chef Jonathan Waxman made a name for himself with his French-inspired California cuisine. Barbuto specializes in rustic preparations with bright flavors, like house-made duck sausage with creamy polenta, redwine–braised short ribs, and pasta carbonara, though the menu changes daily, depending on what’s available. The chef’s acclaimed roasted chicken is usually on the menu in one form or another. The airy, sophisticated space continues to get busy so make a reservation. The restaurant is particularly pleasant in nice weather when the giant garagedoor–like windows open onto the street to watch the neighborhood go by. | Average main: $18 | 775 Washington St., between Jane and 12th sts., West Village | 212/924–9700 | www.barbutonyc.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.; 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
$$ | ISRAELI | Chef Einat Admony who runs the show at Taïm and Balaboosta has devised an intriguing menu at this sleek West Village spot that serves dishes that represent the Jewish diaspora around the Mediterranean. Sit at the bar and watch the kitchen in action or dine at a two-top in the dark-hued dining room—either way you can munch on tender lamb neck wading in a chickpea purée or the palate-tantalizing yellow Yemonite curry bobbing with shrimp. The wine list goes beyond the diaspora, but there are some interesting bottles from Israel and Morocco. | Average main: $20 | 611 Hudson St., West Village | 212/390–1545 | www.barbolonatny.com | No lunch | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Bleecker Street Pizza.
$ | PIZZA | Flavor reigns at this bustling corner pizzeria. It’s the perfect place to stop for a stand-up slice at the counter, particularly to soak up some suds late at night. The thin-crusted Nonna Maria is topped with garlicky marinara, grated and fresh mozzarella, and freshly grated Parmesan, and worth the trek to the West Village. If not smitten with “Grandma Maria,” there are also Sicilian slices and whole white (that’s no tomato sauce) pies available. | Average main: $4 | 69 7th Ave. S, at Bleecker St., West Village | 212/924–4466 | www.bleekerstreetpizza.net | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Blue Ribbon Bakery.
$$$ | ECLECTIC | A neighborhood standard for good, if expensive, food, this outpost of the Blue Ribbon empire has an eclectic menu with substantial sandwiches on homemade bread (freshly baked in the oven downstairs), small plates, legendary bread pudding, and entrées that span the globe, from hummus to grilled catfish with sautéed collards and sweet potatoes. The cavelike basement dining room is dark and intimate; upstairs is more open and light-filled, with large windows looking out onto a pretty West Village corner. Brunch is notoriously crowded. | Average main: $25 | 35 Downing St., at Bedford St., Greenwich Village | 212/337–0404 | www.blueribbonrestaurants.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | This former speakeasy harks back to days gone by with its Diego Rivera–style murals, vintage sconces, and restored subway tiles, but the crowd really comes for Chef Harold Moore’s seasonal cuisine. Appetizers range from a red cabbage, apple, and pecan salad to yuzu-marinated hamachi ceviche. Entrées are just as vibrant: bright, sweet peas offset pristine halibut, and the shareable roast chicken, presented tableside, is served with foiegras bread stuffing. Brunch has a Middle Eastern influence, with scrambled eggs and hummus atop a pillowy pita, and a mean shakshuka (baked eggs nestled in a pepper, onion, and tomato sauce). Even the contents of the bread basket are a pleasure here. In an interesting twist, especially given the restaurant’s name, only credit cards are accepted. No cash. | Average main: $36 | 50 Commerce St., West Village | 212/524–2301 | www.commercerestaurant.com | No lunch Mon.–Thurs. | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Lines still snake out the door of this neighborhood favorite, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation. Once you’re in, check out the open kitchen, where the stylish crowd converges to watch chefs prepare authentic Italian dishes with a modern twist. Starters might include sweetbreads, bone marrow, or charred octopus with chorizo, while traditional first courses like pasta alla carbonara with speck (smoked and cured pork), egg, and pecorino are impeccable. The signature pollo al diavolo (spicy chicken) is seared with enough smoke and heat for all seasons. Anfora, their wine bar next door, is good for an after-dinner drink, if you want to linger in the area. | Average main: $26 | 38 8th Ave., at Jane St., West Village | 212/366–6633 | www.dellanima.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$ | SEAFOOD | Named for a surf spot in Montauk, this laid-back neighborhood restaurant serves an eclectic bill of beachfront fare—from fish tacos, lobster rolls, and fish ‘n’ chips to clam chowder and crab dip. There are options for landlubbers and vegetarians, too. It’s not quite a beach shack, but the food and setting, with an upbeat rock soundtrack, are designed for conviviality, and the wine-list prices are extremely friendly, with whole and half bottles sold just above cost. The bloody marys are recommended, too. Breakfast/brunch is served every day from 11 am and dinner served until 2 am nightly. | Average main: $18 | 29 Bedford St., near Downing St., West Village | 212/633–0202 | www.ditch-plains.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to Houston St.
$$ | KOREAN | If anyone in New York is responsible for making Korean food cool and user-friendly, it is the mother-daughter team behind this chic and perennially popular restaurant. Jenny Kwak and her mother, Myung Ja, serve home cooking in the form of kalbi jim (braised short ribs), bibimbop (a spicy, mix-it-yourself vegetable-and-rice dish), and other favorites that may not be as pungent as in Koreatown but are satisfying nevertheless—in a far more sophisticated atmosphere. The bar area, where movies are projected onto a side wall, gets pretty happening, too. | Average main: $23 | 55 Carmine St., between Bedford St. and 7th Ave. S, West Village | 212/414–1224 | www.dohwanyc.com | No lunch weekends | Station: 1 to Houston St.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Empellón Taqueria.
$$ | MEXICAN | Chef Alex Stupak worked for years as the wizardlike pastry chef at wd-50, New York’s premier home to molecular gastronomy, so when he left to open—wait for it—a taquería, many Manhattan diners either scratched their heads or wondered if they’d be served deconstructed tacos. Instead, they got simple yet well-executed fare using top-notch ingredients. There are straightforward options—fish tempura, lamb, steak—as well as surprising variations, like tacos with sweetbreads and a chorizo gravy poured over it. There are also several variations on the margarita theme including one using the Japanese citrus, yuzu. Empellón isn’t really south-of-the-border in its authenticity but when it’s this good, who cares? | Average main: $23 | 230 W. 4th St., at 10th St., West Village | 212/367–0999 | www.empellon.com | No credit cards | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | Fatty Crab.
$$ | MALAYSIAN | This rustic Malaysian cantina showcases the exciting cuisine of Chef Zak Pelaccio, who spent years cooking at famous French restaurants before escaping to Southeast Asia for a year, where he fell in love with the flavors of the region. Start with the addictive pickled watermelon and crispy pork salad, an improbable combination that’s both refreshing and decadent. The can’t-miss signature dish is chili crab—cracked Dungeness crab in a pool of rich, spicy chili sauce, served with bread for dipping. It’s messy for sure, but worth rolling up your sleeves. The small space fills up quickly, and be warned that the tables are practically on top of each other, but it’s lots of fun. | Average main: $18 | 643 Hudson St., between Gansevoort and Horatio sts., West Village | 212/352–3592 | www.fattycrab.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$$ | ECLECTIC | Up until 2011, subterranean Fedora was an ancient, little-patronized restaurant with an even more ancient owner (for which the restaurant was named). But charming Fedora, the old Italian owner, has left the building and restaurateur Gabe Stulman took it over, vowing to keep the design largely intact. Now “seeandbeseen” folk cram the long, narrow space, munching on French Canadian–accented fare like garlic cream–topped duck breast and scallops paired with bone marrow, and sipping creatively named (and made) signature cocktails. Fedora (the restaurant) will never be the same and that’s maybe a good thing. | Average main: $25 | 239 W. 4th St., between Charles and 10th sts., West Village | 646/449–9336 | www.fedoranyc.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
$$ | ITALIAN | The Frankies—that is, owners and chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo—have a winning formula at their West Village restaurant: serve hearty not-necessarily-by-the-book Italian-inflected fare using local, organic, and humanely raised ingredients in a laidback atmosphere. Most menu items change seasonally, but expect pasta dishes like pappardelle with mushrooms and chestnuts; black spaghetti with mussels, cockels, and pistachios; and sweet potato gnocchi with oxtail ragout. The large menu also includes crostini, fresh salads, cured meats, and cheese plates. It’s a casual, family-friendly, neighborhood spot. | Average main: $18 | 570 Hudson St., at 11th St., West Village | 212/924–0818 | www.frankiesspuntino.com | No credit cards | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$$ | ITALIAN | In a city of what seems like a million Italian restaurants, this minimalist-designed Tuscan-focused eatery in the West Village is a real find. Spikey-haired owner, Rita Sodi, a Florentine who formerly worked in the fashion industry, ensures the traditional fare coming from the kitchen is satisfying. The menu changes weekly based on seasonal ingredients but, expect a bevy of pasta dishes topped with good stuff like duck ragout and artichoke-laced lasagna, as well as not-very-Lipitor-friendly pancetta-wrapped pork and rabbit. Hoist a glass of grappa at the end of the meal, and be happy you’re in the right place. | Average main: $26 | 105 Christopher St., between Bleecker and Hudson sts., West Village | 212/414–5774 | www.isodinyc.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
$ | PIZZA | You might recognize this Greenwich Village institution from its frequent cameos in TV and film (in Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was a Joe’s delivery boy). But it’s the classic gooey New York slice, dripping melted cheese onto paper plates, that really makes the place famous. And in a city brimming with by-the-slice spots, the crispy-bottomed slices here are the best. | Average main: $6 | 7 Carmine St., near Bleecker St., West Village | 212/366–1182 | www.joespizzanyc.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Keste Pizza & Vino.
$$ | PIZZA | At the back of the long, narrow Keste Pizza & Vino restaurant is a beautiful, tiled, wood-fired oven that cooks what might be Manhattan’s most authentic Neapolitan pies at 1,000 degrees. Blistered and chewy around the edges, the margherita pie gives way to a softer center pooled with San Marzano tomato sauce and housemade mozzarella. There are numerous pizza options, including white pies and gluten-free crusts. This is a definite contender for best pizza in New York. The dining room is casual, and the location means it’s almost always busy. | Average main: $16 | 271 Bleecker St., between 6th and 7th aves., West Village | 212/243–1500 | www.kestepizzeria.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to Chrispher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
The Little Owl.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | This tiny neighborhood joint, with seating for 28 people, is exceptionally eager to please—and this attitude, plus the food, is a winning combination. The menu is just as small, which actually makes it easier to decide what you want. And what you want are the pork-veal-beef-pecorino-cheese meatball “sliders,” or miniburgers. The unusually juicy pork loin chop, served with Parmesan butter beans and wild dandelion greens, is gigantic and hugely satisfying. Raspberry-filled beignets, served with a ramekin of warm Nutella, are otherworldly. It’s quintessential West Village: quirky and wonderful. Fans of sitcom Friends might recognize the apartment building that houses the restaurant. | Average main: $24 | 90 Bedford St., at Grove St., West Village | 212/741–4695 | www.thelittleowlnyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Mary’s Fish Camp.
$$ | SEAFOOD | Diners still line up down the street before the restaurant opens for dinner to get a table at this small but bustling seafood shack. The result of a split between Pearl Oyster Bar’s partners, Mary’s is a more intimate space, but the two have similar menus: excellent fried oysters, chowders, and, of course, the sweet lobster roll with crisp fries, all of which have you licking your fingers. The killer hot fudge sundae is worth saving room for. The staff here are warm and friendly, too. This is the kind of place everyone wishes was in their neighborhood. | Average main: $21 | 64 Charles St., at 4th St., West Village | 646/486–2185 | www.marysfishcamp.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
$ | MIDDLE EASTERN | There’s typically a crowd waiting outside for one of the copper-top tables at this casual Middle Eastern neighborhood restaurant. The focal point is the perfect pita that accompanies tasty salads like lemony chickpea and spinach, hearty lentil and bulgur, or falafel. Also delicious is lahambajin, spicy ground lamb on a crispy flat crust. For entrées, try the leg of lamb, the juicy baby lamb sandwich, or merguez sausage sandwiches. Service is slow but friendly. There are also locations in the East Village and East Harlem. | Average main: $12 | 90 Bedford St., between Barrow and Grove sts., West Village | 212/229–2220 | www.moustachepitza.com | Closed Sun. | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Pearl Oyster Bar.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | There have been many imitators and few real competitors to this West Village seafood institution. Since 1997, Rebecca Charles has been serving arguably the best lobster roll in New York City in a no-frills space down charming, restaurant-lined Cornelia Street—and expanded next door to accommodate the throngs. But that’s not the only reason you should cast your net here. Pan-roasted sea scallops and plus-size crab cakes compete with the legendary lobster roll for your taste buds’ attention. Service is very efficient—you might even say rushed. | Average main: $25 | 18 Cornelia St., between 4th and Bleecker sts., West Village | 212/691–8211 | www.pearloysterbar.com | No credit cards | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$$$ | CHINESE | Conceived and run by Ed Schoenfeld, an expert on Chinese cuisine, and Joe Ng, known as the dumpling king of New York, this West Village restaurant specializes in—you guessed it—Chinese-style dumplings. At least partly. The menu focuses mostly on dim sum—small plates and snacks (often in dumpling form)—as well as Chinese-American dishes like three-chili chicken and chicken in garlic sauce. The lobster dumplings and the crab and pork soup dumplings are culinary wonders and nearly obligatory for first-timers. But come with a wallet the size of China itself because the dishes add up. Also consider trying the restaurant’s duck-themed restaurant, Decoy, in the basement. There’s also a location of RedFarm on Broadway and West 76th Street. | Average main: $30 | 529 Hudson St., between 10th and Charles sts., West Village | 212/792–9700 | www.redfarmnyc.com | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
The Spotted Pig.
$$ | BRITISH | Part cozy English pub, part laid-back neighborhood hangout, part gastronome’s lure, the Spotted Pig showcases the impeccable food of the now legendary London Chef April Bloomfield (Mario Batali and his partners consulted). Dishes like arugula salad with tangy radishes and Parmesan, and smoked haddock-and-corn chowder with homemade crackers are studies in texture and flavor contrast. Shoestring potatoes accompany the Roquefort cheeseburger. Chase it with a glass of Old Speckled Hen dripping foam. This neighborhood hangout still packs it in, so come early, or late. The Breslin,at the Ace Hotel, is another of Bloomfield’s standout New York restaurants with an überclubby feel. | Average main: $24 | 314 W. 11th St., at Greenwich St., West Village | 212/620–0393 | www.thespottedpig.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; 2, 3 to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Sushi Nakazawa.
$$$$ | JAPANESE | Daisuke dreams of sushi. Fans of the acclaimed 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi may remember Daisuke Nakazawa, the apprentice to the great Tokyo-based sushi master Jiro Ono, who spent the near-entirety of the film trying to perfect the egg custard. He finally succeeded, just as he has succeeded in wooing even the most finicky New York diners. It’s all omakase (a tasting menu set by the chef) here, so sit back and enjoy two hours of being fed by one of the best sushi chefs in New York. Mr. Nakazawa practices an old Tokyo style of sushi-making—putting all his highly fresh fish on a thumb-size bundle of rice. (Sorry, sashimi fans.) Reserve at least a month in advance. | Average main: $150 | 23 Commerce St., near Bedford St., West Village | 212/924–2212 | www.sushinakazawa.com | No credit cards | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
$ | MIDDLE EASTERN | There’s a real chef behind this tiny sliver of a restaurant, New York’s only gourmet falafel stand. Taïm means “tasty” in Hebrew, and Tel Aviv transplant Einat Admony’s fried chickpea balls are delicious, and available in several beguiling flavors (try them infused with spicy harissa sauce) along with a tantalizing display of à la carte salads (the carrots with Moroccan spices is a standout). There’s another location in NoLIta, on Spring Street between Mott and Mulberry, as well as a food truck that makes its way around the city (you can find it via Twitter). | Average main: $9 | 222 Waverly Pl., near Perry St., West Village | 212/691–1287 | www.taimfalafel.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$$ | AUSTRIAN | The modern Austrian menu at Kurt Gutenbrunner’s lovely, light-filled neighborhood restaurant has a strong emphasis on Austrian tradition and urban New York attitude. It’s hard to argue with such dishes as Wiener schnitzel with potato-cucumber salad and lingonberries, or venison goulash with spaetzle and Brussels sprouts, and it’s often lighter than you’d think Austrian food would be. Desserts do Vienna proud: apple-walnut strudel is served with apple sorbet. The atmosphere is casual but sophisticated—perfect for either a weeknight dinner or a special occasion. | Average main: $33 | 344 W. 11th St., at Washington St., West Village | 212/352–2300 | www.wallse.com | No lunch Mon.–Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$ | AMERICAN | If New York’s neighborhoods were small country towns, they’d all have restaurants just like Westville. These adorable spots—with branches in the East and West Village, Chelsea, and west SoHo—serve simple wholesome fare, at reasonable prices. Salads, grilled chicken, burgers, and chops are all good, but the seasonal sides, which change daily based on what’s fresh at the market, are the real star attraction (the “Market Plate” with any three sides is a popular dinner option). Dessert is worth saving room for, too, especially the daily pie selections. Expect a wait on weekend nights. | Average main: $11 | 210 W. 10th St., near Bleecker St., West Village | 212/741–7971 | www.westvillenyc.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
CHELSEA AND THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT
Several big-name chefs have moved to the western part of this neighborhood in recent years, putting Chelsea on the dining map. For a tasty quick bite or a gift for your favorite foodie, stop by Chelsea Market.
$$$ | ASIAN | Few—if any—restaurants in Manhattan rival the 16,000-square-foot Buddakan in terms of sheer magnitude and buoyant theatricality. In a neighborhood whose eateries often get by on sizzle alone, the food here has real substance as well. Restaurateur Stephen Starr outdid himself with this New York version of his Philadelphia original: the upstairs bar is a great end-of-day meet-up spot for pert cocktails and appetizers; the vast downstairs is like a dining hall in a medieval castle, complete with a communal table spanning the room. The kitchen prepares ethereal tuna spring rolls that are narrow flutes of ruby tuna tartare in a crisp fried shell, while edamame dumplings are light and delicate. The menu is large, made up of Asian specialties like black-pepper beef, glazed black cod, and sizzling short ribs served with tender, wide noodles. Considering the droves of patrons, service is surprisingly attentive. | Average main: $30 | 75 9th Ave., between W. 15th and W. 16th Sts., Chelsea | 212/989–6699 | www.buddakannyc.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Co.
$$ | PIZZA | “Company,” as it’s pronounced, took the New York pizza scene by redsauce–scented storm when it opened in early 2009. Bread master Jim Lahey, who made a name for himself at the Sullivan Street Baking Company, crafts simple but memorable pies, the dough and crust of which play a starring role. The simple margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil) is a good way to sample Co.’s fare, but diners are always tempted by unorthodox pizzas like the carmelized-onion-walnut-purée pie or the béchamel-and-Parmesan-topped version. If you can, take a few friends, and order several pies. But it’s not all pizza: the delicious veal meatballs and chicken-liver toast tempt even the most die-hard pizza lover to stray. This casual Chelsea pizzeria is anything but half baked. | Average main: $17 | 230 9th Ave., at 24th St., Chelsea | 212/243–1105 | www.co-pane.com | No credit cards | No lunch Mon. | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
$$$ | AMERICAN | One of far-west Chelsea’s first hot restaurants, Cookshop manages a casual elegance while focusing on seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine that continues to wow. Outdoor seating on 10th Avenue is quite peaceful in the evening; during the day you can survey a cross-section of gallery-hoppers and shoppers. Divine cocktails, made with fresh fruit juices, are veritable elixirs of well-being. Line up early for brunch; it’s worth the wait for dishes like baked eggs over duck and Swiss chard, or the fluffiest pancakes in town. Dinner is also a triumph, with a variety of perfectly prepared dishes like whitefish with lemony asparagus and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, or a simple roasted chicken. | Average main: $26 | 156 10th Ave., at 20th St., Chelsea | 212/924–4440 | www.cookshopny.com | No breakfast weekends | Station:A, C, E to 23rd St.
$$ | ECLECTIC | Named for a legendary ice cream shop in Havana, Coppelia is neither Cuban nor an ice-cream parlor. At least not strictly speaking. Chef Julian Medina has created a 24-hour pan-Latin diner that works on many levels—for a quick breakfast, casual lunch, or late-night bite. The continent-sized menu emphasizes comfort food, with satisfying dishes like the pork belly–spiked mac ‘n’ cheese, mountainous nachos, grilled cheese with jalapeño and bacon, and even kimchi-stuffed tacos. If you did have your corazón set on ice cream, there’s plenty of it on the dessert menu. | Average main: $15 | 207 W. 14th St., between 7th and 8th aves., Chelsea | 212/858–5001 | www.ybandco.com | No credit cards | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, F, M to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$ | CHINESE | Sure, there’s nothing Chinese about the generic name; and the location, on a stretch of 7th Avenue in Chelsea, is flanked by forgettable eating options. But do your taste buds a favor, and eat at this affordable Sichuan spot, whose quiet opening was followed by a lot of buzz among New York’s fooderati. The long menu is not for the indecisive but nearly anything is a hit, including the double-cooked bacon, the massive and flaky whole roasted fish, and the ultra-spicy ma po tofu. Dishes here lean toward the fiery side. | Average main: $14 | 88 7th Ave., between 15th and 16th sts., Chelsea | 212/929–1778 | www.legendrestaurant88.com | No credit cards | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, F, M to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Mulino a Vino.
$$$ | ITALIAN | You can’t throw a meatball in New York without hitting an Italian restaurant. But if there’s one spot not to miss, it’s this subterranean restaurant on 14th Street. The top toque is Davide Scabin, who has received all manner of acclaim for his avant-garde eatery in Italy, Combal.Zero. He tones things down a bit here, the fare balancing between weird and wonderful. The cacio a pepe doughnut is a pecorino-cheese-and-pepper stuffed fried ball of dough, and it’s revalatory. The San Daniele’s Miracle might be the best thing in the menu, though: it’s the porkiest prosciutto-and-fried-lardo sandwich you will ever eat. The wine list is long and Italian, and each can be had by the bottle or glass. | Average main: $30 | 337 W. 14th St., Chelsea | 212/433–0818 | www.mulinoavino.com | Closed Mon. No lunch Tues.–Sat. | No credit cards | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
The Red Cat.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Elegant yet unpretentious, a lovely neighborhood spot and a destination restaurant, the Red Cat is a great place to chat awhile with a friend, celebrate an auspicious occasion, have a business dinner, orjust an excellent meal. The American-meets-Mediterranean menu changes frequently, based on what’s in season, but expect an ecclectic menu of well-executed pastas, burgers, saffron-laced seafood, and meaty numbers. Factor in the affordable wine list and you’ll most definitely feel like one lucky cat. | Average main: $25 | 227 10th Ave., between 23rd and 24th sts., Chelsea | 212/242–1122 | www.redcatrestaurants.com | No credit cards | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
$ | SPANISH | It may be sardine-can small and dark, but that doesn’t stop this popular tapas bar from being packed most nights. This is one of the best tapas spots in town, with a welcoming vibe, a dozen reasonably priced Spanish wines by the glass, and charm to spare. One of the most original tapas has become a signature here: bittersweet chocolate smeared on a baguette disc and topped with salty Spanish chorizo. Patatas bravas (rough-cut potatoes served with spicy aioli) are so addictive, you won’t want to share them. The pork loin, piquillo pepper, and mild tetilla cheese sandwich is scrumptious, and so is the Galician octopus terrine. Tía Pol is also a great spot to stop and snack midway through a High Line jaunt. | Average main: $13 | 205 10th Ave., between 22nd and 23rd sts., Chelsea | 212/675–8805 | www.tiapol.com | Reservations essential | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
$$ | SOUTHERN | If New York’s Chelsea neighborhood were magically transported to the American South, the food might taste something like it does at this hip, southern-accented eatery with a menu of artery-hardening delights. Named for a boozy southern dessert, the Tipsy Parson and its menu are all about comfort in the belly and soul: fried pickles, homemade peanut butter with crackers, bourbon-laced chicken liver mousse, and seafood potpie are designed to make you full and happy. The restaurant’s close proximity to the High Line, the elevated park and greenway, means you can walk it all off afterward. | Average main: $24 | 156 9th Ave., between 19th and 20th sts., Chelsea | 212/620–4545 | www.tipsyparson.com | No credit cards | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Trestle on Tenth.
$$ | SWISS | Cozy and warm with an inviting exposed brick interior, this Swiss brasserie is a true west Chelsea neighborhood spot. Locals and gallery-hoppers quaff foamy beers and glasses of wine from the reasonable list while awaiting hearty Alpine-inspired dishes. Crispy duck necks, calves’ liver with potato rösti and butter lettuce with bacon are favorites. It’s not art—for that, hit up one of the many galleries in the neighborhood—but it makes you yearn for Alpine landscapes. The location is convenient to the High Line. | Average main: $20 | 242 10th Ave., at 24th St., Chelsea | 212/645–5659 | www.trestleontenth.com | No credit cards | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
$$ | | After being wined and dined at this popular Chelsea Spanish restaurant, you’d never guess that Chef Alexandra Raij is from very un-Spanish Minneapolis. Her husband and business partner is, though, and the duo put on an impressive show. The theme is cucina vasca, or Basque cuisine, one of the most exciting regions in Iberia for eating. Raij captures the moment by serving standouts like juicy lamb meatballs in a minty broth, crispy beef tongue, and an addictive crabmeat gratin. The wine list at Txikito (pronounced Chi-kee-toe) is loaded with great bottles of Rioja and other tempranillos, many of which are from Basque winemakers. | Average main: $15 | 240 9th Ave., at 25th St., Chelsea | 212/242–4730 | www.txikitonyc.com | No lunch | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Europeans, models, actors, and the people who love them stroll the sidewalk like they’re on a catwalk, going from one hot restaurant to the next in this cobblestone-laden neighborhood, which has become almost too sceney for its own good. There’s plenty of great eating here—you just might have to wait a while (or impersonate a celebrity) to get a table.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | Much more formal than Babbo, Del Posto is Mario Batali’s grown-up venue (in partnership with Lidia and Joe Bastianich), and the dining room—with its sweeping staircase, formal décor, and live music from a baby grand—has the feel of an opulent hotel lobby. This is one of the most consistently dazzling special-occasion spots in the city, and the food is stellar. There are a variety of set menus to choose from ($126 for five courses; $179 for eight), plusà la carte options for parties of four and under.Pitch-perfect risotto is made fresh to order for two people or more, meat dishes like roasted veal chops are standouts, and pastas are ethereal—all with old-world tableside service. For a smaller taste of the experience, come for a cocktail and sample the bargain bar menu. | Average main: $60 | 85 10th Ave., between 15th and 16th sts., Meatpacking District | 212/497–8090 | www.delposto.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
$$ | ASIAN | Set in a cavernous space amid embroidered curtains and artifacts from Burma, India, and Malaysia, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s playful take on Southeast Asian street food keeps you asking the waiters, “What exactly was in that?” Sometimes the playfulness works, sometimes it doesn’t, but don’t miss the steamed lobster with garlic, ginger, and dried chili, or the squid salad with papaya and cashews. This may not be the hottest new restaurant on the block anymore, but it’s still a fun Meatpacking venue with food that doesn’t disappoint. | Average main: $23 | 403 W. 13th St., at 9th Ave., Meatpacking District | 212/675–2322 | www.spicemarketnewyork.com | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
The Standard Grill.
$$$ | AMERICAN | Hotelier Andre Balazs created a scene for celebs, fashion-industry insiders, and the common folk, too, who all cluster at this buzzy restaurant inside the Standard Hotel. In warm weather, the spacious outdoor seating area is perfect for sampling creative cocktails; there’s an indoor bar, too, and two dining rooms—a casual one in front and a larger room in back, with a floor whimsically made up of thousands of glittering pennies. The menu is comfort-luxe, with dishes like roast chicken for two in a cast-iron skillet and delicious moist trout with a currant-and-pine-nut relish. For dessert, there’s a nearly obscene chocolate mousse that comes with silicone spatulas in lieu of spoons. A late-night menu is served until 4 am. | Average main: $30 | 848 Washington St., between Little W. 12th and 13th sts., Meatpacking District | 212/645–4100 | www.thestandardgrill.com | No credit cards | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
UNION SQUARE WITH THE FLATIRON DISTRICT AND GRAMERCY
Once the main spot in New York to go for protests, Union Square is now the stage for another type of communal experience: breaking bread. There is no shortage of appealing options at any price range (including picnic provisions from the wonderful greenmarket, open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday).
Fodor’s Choice | Gotham Bar & Grill.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | A culinary landmark, Gotham Bar & Grill is every bit as thrilling as when it opened in 1984. Celebrated chef Alfred Portale, who made the blueprint for “architectural food”—that is, towers of stacked ingredients—builds on a foundation of simple, clean flavors. People come for Portale’s transcendent preparations: no rack of lamb is more tender, no seafood salad sweeter. The stellar 20,000-bottle cellar provides the perfect accompaniments—at a price. The three-course $35 greenmarket-driven prix-fixe lunch, served weekdays from noon to 2:15, is a steal, even if it’s not as sophisticated as dinner. Take a stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket before or after lunch to see the chef’s inspirations. Desserts are also memorable. | Average main: $41 | 12 E. 12th St., between 5th Ave. and University Pl., Union Square | 212/620–4020 | www.gothambarandgrill.com | No lunch weekends | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$ | ASIAN | When Republic first opened, it was one of very few places to get an Asian-style noodle bowl with a stylish edge. Many have followed in its footsteps—and some are better—but for window-shoppers, greenmarketers, and anyone else in the Union Square area, this is a fun stop for a meal. The look is a cross between a downtown art gallery and a Japanese school cafeteria, and the young waitstaff dressed in black T-shirts and jeans hold remote-control ordering devices to accelerate the already speedy service. Sit at the long, bluestone bar or at the picnic-style tables, and order appetizers such as smoky grilled eggplant and luscious fried wontons. Spicy coconut chicken soup and Vietnamese-style barbecue pork are menu standouts. | Average main: $14 | 37 Union Sq. W, between 16th and 17th sts., Union Square | 212/627–7172 | www.thinknoodles.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$$$ | MODERN MEXICAN | The idea that you can’t find good south-of-the-border cuisine in the Big Apple is quickly fading, thanks in part to this Union Square restaurant (there are two other locations, at Lincoln Center and in Midtown East). Although the spacious, colorfully lighted interior might tip you off that authenticity is best sought elsewhere, if you’re looking for high-quality, well-executed Mex-flavored fare, step right up, hombre. Start with an order of guac (made tableside), moving on to the pork belly and scallop tacos, soul-comforting chicken tortilla pie, or the crispy pork shank—all of which taste better with a margarita. The daily happy hour at the bar is a great deal but gets crowded. | Average main: $28 | 9 E. 18th St., between 5th Ave. and Union Sq. W, Union Square | 212/533–3350 | www.rosamexicano.com | No credit cards | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Hidden just steps from busy Union Square, this refined dining oasis is a secret even to many New Yorkers. Enter through the austere reception area, past the heavy curtains and six-seat bar, and find the intimate dining area where chef and owner Marco Moreira’s signature starter is the unctuous angel hair sea-urchin carbonara. Main courses are steeped in French tradition, with international flavors like saffron-and-fennel-spiked grilled octopus, and smoked duck breast paired with baby bok choy and Asian pear. The three-course $29 prix-fixe lunch is the ultimate deal. Jacket and tie are recommended. | Average main: $30 | 1 E. 15th St., between 5th Ave. and Union Sq. W, Union Square | 212/647–1515 | www.tocquevillerestaurant.com | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
The popular Union Square Greenmarket has done wonders for the dining landscape in the area. Chefs, wanting to be close to the green bounty, have opened up restaurants nearby, particularly in the Flatiron District.
$$$ | AMERICAN | Much more than a shopping break, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s popular restaurant, inside posh housewares emporium ABC Carpet and Home, is more like a love letter to greenmarket cuisine. Underneath the exposed concrete beams, a chic crowd devours fresh, flavorful appetizers like the roasted carrot salad with avocado, crème fraîche, and toasted pumpkin seeds, or pretzel-dusted calamari. Winning entrées include roast suckling pig with smoked bacon marmalade and sea bass with chilis and herbs. The restaurant is committed to all the right causes—environmentalism, sustainability, supporting local farmers—all of which are announced in a near manifesto-length list on the back of the menu; thankfully, ABC Kitchen pulls it off without seeming patronizing or preachy. | Average main: $28 | 35 E. 18th St., between Broadway and Park Ave. S, Flatiron | 212/475–5829 | www.abckitchennyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$$$ | PORTUGUESE | Bouley alumnus George Mendes’s popular restaurant relies on his Portuguese heritage as inspiration,which he elevates to new heights. Although there are no bad seats in this sleek bilevel space decorated with wood, glass, and blue accents, watching Mendes work in his spotless tiled kitchen from one of the seats at the chef’s counter in the back is undeniably exciting. Petiscos (small bites) like cubes of crisp pork belly with apple cider reveal sophisticated cooking techniques and flavors. A delicate matsutake mushroom broth floated with a slow-poached egg is edged with a subtle brace of pine, while sea-salted cod reveals a deep, satisfying flavor strata. | Average main: $33 | 31 W. 17th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Flatiron District | 212/675–7223 | www.aldearestaurant.com | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.; F, M to 14th St.
$$$$ | SEAFOOD | Two stories above the less formal Fish Shack, BLT Fish is an elegantly appointed dining room in a Flatiron townhouse set under a spectacular skylight. Alaskan black cod is simply marinated overnight, then roasted piping-hot into one of the best seafood dishes in town. Other options include grilled Mediterranean branzino and seared Tasmanian sea trout. | Average main: $39 | 21 W. 17th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Flatiron District | 212/691–8888 | www.bltfish.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: N, Q, R, L, 4, 5, 6 to 14th St./Union Sq.; F, M to 14th St.
$$ | SPANISH | Perenially packed, this convivial tapas spot has leather banquettes lining the main room and a few seats at the bar, but if you want to make friends, opt for the communal table running down the center of the dining room—if you can get a seat. Fried quail eggs and chorizo on roasted bread are even better than they sound, and the mushroom and ham croquettes are a mainstay. Traditional churros come with a thick hot chocolate for dipping. The original spot in the Flatiron District was so popular it spawned an offshoot in SoHo, at 171 Spring Street. | Average main: $19 | 53 W. 19th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Flatiron District | 212/255–4160 | www.boquerianyc.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: 1 to 18th St.; F, M to 14th St.; L to 6th Ave.; N, R to 23rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | The Breslin Bar and Dining Room.
$$$ | BRITISH | A sceney meatopia inside the ever-trendy Ace Hotel, the Breslin is not for the Lipitor crowd. English chef April Bloomfield, who also runs the John Dory right next door and the excellent Spotted Pig in the West Village, hardens arteries with peanuts fried in pork fat, whipped lardo on pizza bianca, blood sausage accompanied by a fried duck egg, and a delicious feta-topped lamb burger. The dimly lighted, wood-bedecked interior is like a culinary womb, inspiring thoughts of planting yourself there all day or night nursing pints of cask-conditioned ale or scotch-based cocktails—you wouldn’t be the first (or last). | Average main: $30 | 16 W. 29th St., at Broadway, Flatiron District | 212/679–1939 | www.thebreslin.com | No credit cards | Station: N, R to 28th St.
The City Bakery.
$ | AMERICAN | This self-service bakery-restaurant has the urban aesthetic to match its name. Chef and owner Maury Rubin’s baked goods—giant cookies; addictively flaky, salty-sweet pretzel croissants; elegant caramel tarts—are unfailingly rich and delicious, but another major draw is the salad bar. It may seem overpriced, but the large selection of impeccably fresh food, including whole sides of baked salmon, roasted vegetables, soups, and several Asian-accented dishes, delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Much of the produce comes from the nearby farmers’ market. In winter, the bakery hosts a hot-chocolate festival; in summer, it’s lemonade time. | Average main: $12 | 3 W. 18th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Flatiron District | 212/366–1414 | www.thecitybakery.com | No dinner | Reservations not accepted | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.; F, M to 14th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Cosme.
$$$ | MEXICAN | When Enrique Olvera, chef at Pujol, arguably Mexico’s best restaurant, announced he was coming north of the border, New York foodies went loco. Olvera’s haute touch to his native cuisine is magic and, coupled with the sleek design (soft lighting, minimalist décor), Cosme makes for one fine dining experience. Sip an Expat Martini (it comes with a pickled tomatilla pepper floating in it) and peruse the menu of small plates: start with the hamachi crudo, impossibly complex with lime and chili bringing out a charge in the fish; and move on to lobster pibil with chorizo, which beautifully marries the surf and turf concept. | Average main: $30 | 35 E. 21st St., Flatiron District | 212/913–9659 | www.cosmenyc.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
$$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | A meal here is like a luscious choose-your-own-adventure game since every delectable dish comes à la carte. Craft is the flagship of Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio’s mini-empire of excellent restaurants around the country, including the upscale Craftbar and Craftsteak brands, as well as grab-and-go sandwich bars called ‘wichcraft. Just about everything here is exceptionally prepared with little fuss, from simple yet intriguing starters (like harissa-spiked octopus) and sides (including the justly famous variety of roasted mushrooms, with oysters, trumpets, chanterelles, and hen-of-the-woods) to desserts (warm chocolate tart with buttermilk ice cream, cinnamon custard, and cashews). The serene dining room of burnished dark wood and dangling radiant bulbs is more welcoming than it sounds. | Average main: $40 | 43 E. 19th St., between Broadway and Park Ave. S, Flatiron District | 212/780–0880 | www.craftrestaurant.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | This casual sibling to Tom Colicchio’s Craft is a bargain by comparison but still not cheap, though the food continues to garner raves and the service is consistently excellent. The menu features assertive seasonal cooking similar to what you can find at the upscale flagship just around the corner. The small-plates category on the menu elevates tiny nibbles like sausage-stuffed fried sage leaves or addictive fluffy salt-cod croquettes to temptations that make you forget the main course entirely. The rest of the menu is eclectic enough to satisfy. | Average main: $25 | 900 Broadway, between 19th and 20th sts., Flatiron District | 212/461–4300 | www.craftbarnyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$ | BAKERY | There’s a reason why these doughnuts in multilicious flavors have become a signature at so many cafés throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn—they are is the perfect combination of light and airy, with enough substance to not be overwhelmed by toppings. And at the Manhattan outpost of the Bed-Stuy original, you can get them fresh out of the oven. Can’t decide what kind? The hibiscus has just the right amount of tart fruitiness to balance the sweetness of the dough; other favorites include passion fruit, salted chocolate, and cinnamon and sugar. The coffee’s good and the rustic benches mean you can linger long enough to think about going back for another (they taste good the next day, too). | Average main: $3 | 14 W. 19th St., Flatiron District | 212/243–6844 | www.doughdoughnuts.com | Station: N, R to E. 23rd St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | The cavernous Eataly, from Mario Batali & Co., is a temple to all things Italian. Ignore the overpriced produce market by the front entrance and make a beeline for La Piazza for sandwiches made with meticulously sourced ingredients (you can eat at the stand-up tables nearby). There’s also a full-service pizza and pasta restaurant, a raw bar and fish eatery, and a wine bar for quaffing glass pours and beers on tap. Gourmet Italian chocolates, coffees, gelati, and pastries are all delicious for take-away, too, though still not cheap. Upstairs, the covered, rooftop birrerria is open in all weather and serves hearty Austrian and German food as well as Italian specialties—and excellent beer, of course. | Average main: $25 | 200 5th Ave., at 23rd St., Flatiron District | 646/398–5100 | www.eatalyny.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Eleven Madison Park.
$$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Luxury, precision, and creativity are the driving forces at this internationally renowned restaurant overlooking Madison Park. Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm oversees the kitchen, concocting unexpected dishes that change often. It’s entirely prix-fixe, and dishes are kept minimalist, giving Humm and company maximum latitude to work their magic on the plate. Not that they’re resting on their laurels and accolades: the restaurant seems to reinvent itself when you least expect it, and its most recent incarnation focuses on elevated versions of classic New York fare. Think cognac-doused, truffle-sprinkled foie gras and Sichuan peppercorn–encrusted duck. Reservations should be made two months in advance. | Average main: $225 | 11 Madison Ave., at 24th St., Flatiron District | 212/889–0905 | www.elevenmadisonpark.com | No lunch Sun.–Wed. | Reservations essential | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
$$ | BARBECUE | This enormous barbecue joint is perfect for big groups and carnivorous appetites. The beef-centric Texas-sized menu features meaty ribs and exceptionally succulent slow-smoked brisket (check your diet at the door and go for the moist, fatty option). Plump pork sausages, in regular and jalapeño cheese versions, are flown in directly from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas. The market-style setup can mean long lines for meat, sold by the pound, or ribs at cutter-manned stations. Bring your tray downstairs for a fine bourbon selection and nightly live music. There’s also an outpost in Brooklyn at 345 Adams St. | Average main: $20 | 30 W. 26th St., between Broadway and 6th Ave., Flatiron District | 212/255–4544 | www.hillcountryny.com | Station: N, R, 6 to 28th St.; F, M to 23rd St.
$$ | MIDDLE EASTERN | Famed Washington, D.C., restaurateur and chef Philippe Massoud brings his culinary talents to New York City with this bi-level, 400-seat eatery that showcases cuisine from his native Lebanon. The menu includes standard Middle Eastern fare, but also unexpected dishes like bone marrow with sour-cherry tabbouleh and black cod with fragrant rice and tahini. Waiters never fail to refresh the basket of hot, fluffy, house-baked pita bread. A glass of Lebanese or French wine is a nice accompaniment to the cuisine. Late-night entertainment includes belly dancing. | Average main: $19 | 236 5th Ave., between W. 27th and W. 28th Sts., Flatiron District | 212/683–2929 | www.ililinyc.com | No lunch weekends | Station: N, R to 28th St.
The John Dory.
$$ | SEAFOOD | Chef April Bloomfield and former rock band manager-turned-restaurateur Ken Friedman can do no wrong. After winning tastebuds and palates with gastropub Spotted Pig and the Breslin,the duo turned their attention to the sea. Fish tanks with brightly colored reefs and floor-to-ceiling windows create an eye-pleasing venue for the seafood feast that awaits those who snagged tables at this restaurant off the lobby of the hip Ace Hotel. The menu is dominated by small plates—chorizo-stuffed squid, an excellent lobster roll—but focuses on crudo (raw) dishes. The happy-hour special of $2 oysters and half off certain wines and beers is the perfect start to an evening. | Average main: $20 | 1196 Broadway, at 29th St., Flatiron District | 212/792–9000 | www.thejohndory.com | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: N, R to 28th St.
$$ | FRENCH | This local hangout, owned by Philippe Lajaunie since 1990 and benefiting from the celebrity of former executive chef, writer, and TV host Anthony Bourdain (although he has little to do with the restaurant these days), is boisterous and unpretentious—like a true French brasserie. A good bet is steak frites, its fries regarded by some as the best in New York. Other prime choices include crispy duck-leg confit with frisée salad, blood sausage with caramelized apples, and steak tartare, prepared tableside. Another Les Halles is in Lower Manhattan at 15 John Street. | Average main: $22 | 411 Park Ave. S, between 28th and 29th sts., Flatiron District | 212/679–4111 | www.leshalles.net | Station: 6 to 28th St.
Fodor’s Choice | The NoMad.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Named for the hotel, which itself is named for the up-and-coming neighborhood north of Madison Square Park, the NoMad is brought to you by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the masterminds behind much-lauded Eleven Madison Park. The atmosphere is a blend of lively and sophisticated: plush velvet chairs and drapes for the hip young crowd that frequent the place. The food is similalry vibrant yet simple: seared scalllops are paired with pumpkin, juicy suckling pig goes very nicely with pear confit and mustard. The poached egg and quinoa dish unexpectedly transforms into a stew once the yolks are broken. The restaurant’s pièce de résistance is the whole roasted chicken for two, which looks basic until the foie gras and black truffles are uncovered. Have a nightcap in the dimly lit and atmospheric Library Bar, which has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and comfy chairs. | Average main: $34 | 1170 Broadway, at 28th St., Flatiron District | 347/472–5660 | www.thenomadhotel.com | No credit cards | Reservations essential | Station: N, R to 28th St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | The charming father-daughter restaurant team of Tony and Marisa May closed uptown’s San Domenico to open this more casual yet still impressive Italian spot. The cavernous main dining room, decorated with a constellation of pinpoint lights and ringed with more intimate tables and banquettes, speaks to a fresher, more modern approach than its predecessor took. The food—pappardelle with wild boar ragout, smoked lobster with porcini mushrooms and orange segments—is a refreshing mix of classic and forward-thinking. Expect a personal greeting from either father or daughter before your meal comes to an end. | Average main: $26 | 19 E. 26th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Flatiron District | 212/265–5959 | www.sd26ny.com | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: N, R to 23rd St.; 6 to 28th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Shake Shack.
$ | AMERICAN | Although there are other locations of Danny Meyer’s patties ‘n’ shakes joint around town (including Brooklyn), this is where it all began. Here in Madison Square Park, there’s no indoor seating—just snaking outdoor lines. Check the “Shack Cam” from their website to gauge your wait. Fresh Angus beef burgers are ground daily, and a single will run you from $4.60 to $8.80, depending on what you want on it. For a burger on-the-go, they’re decidedly tasty. For a few more bucks you can order a double, a stack, or a vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger—a super-rich melty Muenster-and-cheddar-stuffed, fried portobello, topped with lettuce, tomato, and Shack sauce. The menu also offers “beef and bird” (chicken) hot dogs, french fries, and a variety of delicious frozen custard desserts, and—of course—shakes! | Average main: $6 | Madison Square Park, near Madison Ave. and 23rd St., Flatiron District | 212/889–6600 | www.shakeshack.com | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
This leafy, high-rent neighborhood, which has an old-world, old-money feel, is home to a few gems, tucked away down the long blocks of brownstones. Gramercy is a great place for a stroll before dinner.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | A masculine, vivacious space is the showcase for bold, appealing Franco-American cuisine. Menu specials are scrawled on a blackboard. Everything is served à la carte, and prices are high, but so is the quality of every dish. Although there are poultry, veal, and lamb dishes on the menu—from lemon-rosemary chicken to a lamb T-bone—steaks are the main event. The dry-aged USDA prime steaks—pulled from a 30-foot-wide dry-aging room—are broiled at 1,700 degrees, spread lightly with herb butter and served with a choice of sauce (the béarnaise is perfection). | Average main: $40 | 111 E. 22nd St., between Lexington and Park aves., Gramercy Park | 212/995–8500 | www.bltprime.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
$$ | SPANISH | Andy Nusser put in his time cooking Italian under Mario Batali at Babbo before an obsession with Spain landed him his own acclaimed Iberian niche. The perennially cramped and crowded Casa Mono sends patrons to Bar Jamón, the wine-and-ham-bar annex next door, where you can pick at plates of jamón serrano while awaiting the main feature. Our favorite seats are at the Casa Mono counter overlooking the chef’s open kitchen. Though most menu items are delectably shareable, of particular note are all things seared à la plancha, including blistered peppers and garlic-kissed mushrooms. Like his mentor, Nusser has a weakness for the neglected cuts of meat so check your food fears at the door. | Average main: $20 | 52 Irving Pl., at 17th St., Gramercy Park | 212/253–2773 | www.casamononyc.com | No Lunch weekdays | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | Danny Meyer’s intensely popular restaurant tops many a New Yorker’s list of favorite dining spots. In front, the first-come, first-served tavern has a lighter menu—including a value-packed three-course prix-fixe—along with great craft beers and cocktails scrawled on a board at the bar. The more formal dining room has a prix-fixe American menu, where choices include seasonal dishes such as marinated sea scallops with pickled peppers and fresh grapes, and rack of lamb with sunchokes, hazelnuts, and exotic mushrooms. Meyer’s restaurants—he owns several well-regarded eateries in the city—are renowned for their food and hospitality, and Gramercy Tavern sets the standard. | Average main: $35 | 42 E. 20th St., between Broadway and Park Ave. S, Gramercy Park | 212/477–0777 | www.gramercytavern.com | Reservations essential | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
$$$ | ROMAN | Named for its signature dish—suckling pig—the perpetually packed restaurant in the Gramercy Park Hotel is what it might look like if Manhattan and Rome collided: fashionable people eating in an Eternal City ambience. If you haven’t been to the Italian capital in a while, there’s plenty to reintroduce your taste buds to la dolce vita: excellent fried artichokes, spaghetti alla carbonara (made with guanciale, or pig cheek, just like in Rome), and sausage-studded pasta dish lumaconi alla Norcia. It’s enough to make a toast to the good life—that is, if your dining companions can hear you over the chatter of the fashion models and bankers at surrounding tables. | Average main: $26 | 2 Lexington Ave., at 21st St., Gramercy Park | 212/777–2410 | www.maialinonyc.com | No credit cards | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to 23rd St.
MIDTOWN EAST WITH MURRAY HILL
Midtown East’s streets are relatively quiet at night and on weekends, but during the week, the restaurants are filled with expense-account diners celebrating their successes. Indeed, some of the most formal dining rooms and most expensive meals in town can be found here.
Aquavit and Aquavit Café.
$$$$ | SCANDINAVIAN | This elegant and refined Scandinavian restaurant has seen a transition in the kitchen these last few years, going from Marcus Samuelsson to Marcus Jernmark, until he, too, exited. The place is now in steady hands with Emma Bengtsson at the helm. The elegant atmosphere features warm woods and modern Scandinavian design. There are a few options here: a $135 eight-course meal, $85 three-course affair, and a $105 six-course dinner that changes according to the season. Standout dishes include foie gras paired with liquorice, sweetbreads paired with sauerkraut, venison tartare, and for dessert, smoked vanilla crème brûlée. Head to the sumptuous bar area to sample housemade aquavit. | Average main: $70 | 65 E. 55th St., between Madison and Park aves., Midtown East | 212/307–7311 | www.aquavit.org | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Chef Laurent Tourondel may no longer be involved with his namesake steakhouse, but this classy space, decked out in beige with resin-top black tables, still draws crowds. As soon as you’re settled, puffy Gruyère popovers arrive still steaming. The no-muss, no-fuss menu is nonetheless large, and so are the portions of supple crab cakes with celery-infused mayonnaise and luscious ruby tuna tartare with avocado, ramped up with soy-lime dressing. A veal chop crusted with rosemary and Parmesan lends new depth to the meat. Sides and desserts, like a killer peanut butter–chocolate mousse with banana ice cream, are all superior. | Average main: $33 | 106 E. 57th St., between Lexington and Park aves., Midtown East | 212/752–7470 | www.bltsteak.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, N, R, Q to 59th St./Lexington Ave.
The Four Seasons.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | The landmark Seagram Building houses one of America’s most famous restaurants, truly an only-in-New-York experience. Owners Alex Von Bidder and Julian Niccolini supervise the seating chart like hawks, placing power players in finance, entertainment, and New York society in prime positions for maximum visibility. The stark Grill Room, birthplace of the power lunch, has one of the best bars in New York (and the $28 two-course bar lunch is a steal). Illuminated trees and a gurgling Carrara marble pool characterize the more romantic Pool Room. The menu changes seasonally; there’s a $75 prix-fixe pretheater dinner—a delicious indulgence. You can’t go wrong with classic dishes like Dover sole, filet mignon, or crispy duck, but the restaurant moves with the times, so expect seasonal specials featuring luxe ingredients and preparations. | Average main: $60 | 99 E. 52nd St., between Park and Lexington aves., Midtown East | 212/754–9494 | www.fourseasonsrestaurant.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential | Jacket required | Station: E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.; 6 to 51st St.
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | Deep in the belly of Grand Central Station, the vast Oyster Bar has been a worthy seafood destination since 1913. Sit at the counter for the fried oyster po’boy or to slurp an assortment of bracingly fresh oysters before a steaming bowl of clam chowder, washed down with an ice-cold beer. This is also the place to experience the pleasure of fresh, unadorned seafood, such as lobster with drawn butter or grilled herring in season—generally better options than anything that sounds too complicated, like a cream-smothered seafood pan-roast. | Average main: $30 | Grand Central Terminal, dining concourse, 42nd St. at Vanderbilt Ave., Midtown East | 212/490–6650 | www.oysterbarny.com | Closed Sun. | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
$$$$ | JAPANESE | Only a small sign in Japanese indicates the location of this extraordinary restaurant that serves sushi and sashimi exclusively. Bypass the tables, sit at the sushi bar, and put yourself in the hands of Toshihiro Uezu, the chef and owner. Among the selections are hard-to-find fish that Uezu imports directly from Japan. The most attentive, pampering staff in the city completes the wildly expensive experience. The showstopping chef’s omakase, priced at whatever the market dictates and the type of fish on offer, could run as much as $300, but it’s a multicourse feast you’ll never forget. | Average main: $175 | 7 E. 47th St., 2nd fl., between 5th and Madison aves., Midtown East | 212/317–2802 | www.kurumazushi.com | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Impresario-owner Sirio Maccioni still presides over this dining room, filled nightly with a “who’s who” of politics, business, and society—regulars who’ve table-hopped from Le Cirque’s first incarnation to its latest, in a glass-enclosed aerie on the ground floor of the Bloomberg headquarters. The menu strikes a balance between the creative and classic: Dover sole, filleted tableside, gives way to more avant-garde preparations like foie gras ravioli. Desserts, too, have a split personality, with the menu divided into the “classic” and “new.” The foot-tall napoleon that seems to arrive at every second table is an old favorite, but newer creations like the praline tortellini with exotic fruit also satisfy. Though jackets are still required in the dining room, things are more relaxed in the casual wine lounge. | Average main: $60 | 151 E. 58th St., at Lexington Ave., Midtown East | 212/644–0202 | www.lecirque.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse NYC.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this place is technically part of a chain: there’s nowhere remotely like it. The handsomely appointed space in Grand Central Terminal, hung with gracious filigree chandeliers, overlooks one of the most famous interiors in America. Start with the stack of soft, toasted bread soldiers in a pool of hot Gorgonzola fondue. Pristine oysters make a great prelude for a prime dry-aged ribeye or a 2½-pound lobster, grilled, steamed, sautéed, or broiled. Sides, like creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and a crispy rosemary hash-brown cake, are equally tempting. | Average main: $32 | Grand Central Terminal, West Balcony, 23 Vanderbilt Ave., between 43rd and 44th sts., Midtown East | 212/655–2300 | www.michaeljordansnyc.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Mint Restaurant & Lounge.
$$ | INDIAN | With a delightful dining room splashed with bright colors and flattering lighting, and executive chef and owner Gary Sikka’s brightly seasoned dishes, Mint has joined the ranks of the best Indian restaurants in town. The large menu includes rarely encountered specialties from Goa and Sikkim. Freshly grilled, moist ground lamb kebabs deliver a slow burn to the palate. Chili heat punctuates other spices in the lamb vindaloo, resulting in a well-rounded array of savory flavors. Finish with carrot pudding with saffron and coconut flakes. | Average main: $20 | 150 E. 50th St., Midtown East | 212/644–8888 | www.mintny.com | Station: 6 to 51st St.; E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.
The Palm Restaurant.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | They may have added tablecloths, but it takes more than that to hide the brusque, no-nonsense nature of this legendary steakhouse. The steak is always impeccable, and the Nova Scotia lobsters are so big—three pounds and up—that there may not be room at the table for classic side dishes like rich creamed spinach, served family-style for two or more. The “half-and-half” side combination of cottage-fried potatoes and fried onions is particularly addictive. There are other locations (the original, Palm One, is on 2nd Avenue at East 58th Street, there’s one in the mid-50s, one in TriBeCa, and one at JFK Airport), but because of its perch near the Theater District and Midtown businesses, this is the one with the most action. | Average main: $30 | 837 2nd Ave., between 44th and 45th sts., Midtown East | 212/687–2953 | www.thepalm.com | No lunch weekends | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
P. J. Clarke’s.
$$ | AMERICAN | This East Side institution has been dispensing burgers and beer for more than a century. Despite renovations and several owners over the years, the original P. J. Clarke’s (there are offshootsin Lincoln Square and Chelsea) maintains the beveled-glass and scuffed-wood look of an old-time saloon. Many of the bartenders and patrons are as much a part of the décor as the light fixtures. More civilized at lunchtime, the bar area heaves with an after-work mob on weekday evenings. Pull up a stool if you can for superlative bar food, like clams casino and the signature burger smothered in creamy béarnaise. | Average main: $18 | 915 3rd Ave., at 55th St., Midtown East | 212/317–1616 | www.pjclarkes.com | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.
Shun Lee Palace.
$$$ | CHINESE | If you want inexpensive Cantonese food without pretensions, head to Chinatown. If you prefer to be pampered and don’t mind spending a lot of money, then this is the place, which has been elegantly serving classic Chinese fare for more than four decades. Supposedly the dish orange beef was first made here. Indeed, it’s certainly worth a sample, but there’s so much more. Beijing pan-fried dumplings make a good starter, and rack of lamb Szechuan-style, grilled with scallions and garlic, is a popular entrée. The “Lion’s Head,” a slow-baked pork dish, is one of the most tender porky things you’ll eat. Beijing duck, served tableside with thin pancakes, is a signature dish here—and for good reason. | Average main: $28 | 155 E. 55th St., between Lexington and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/371–8844 | Reservations essential | Station: N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Fans of mob history recognize Sparks as the spot where, in 1985, members of the Gambino crime family were gunned down under the orders of John Gotti. Today there’s a lot less shooting and a lot more sizzling happening here, but still be sure to bring a wad of cash. Magnums of wines that cost more than most people earn in a week festoon the large dining rooms of this classic New York steakhouse. Tasty fresh seafood is given more than fair play on the menu, and the extra-thick lamb and veal chops are also noteworthy—but Sparks is really about dry-aged steak. Classic sides of hash browns, creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and grilled onions are all you need to complete the experience—plus maybe a martini. | Average main: $40 | 210 E. 46th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/687–4855 | www.sparkssteakhouse.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
$$$ | JAPANESE | Devotees mourned the return of namesake Chef Naomichi Yasuda to Japan, but things are in able hands with his handpicked successor, Mitsuru Tamura. Whether using fish flown in daily from Japan or the creamiest sea urchin, the chef makes sushi so fresh and delicate, it melts in your mouth. A number of special appetizers change daily (crispy fried eel backbone is a surprising treat), and a fine selection of sake and beer complements the lovely food. The sleek bamboo-lined interior is as elegant as the food. Try to sit at the bar, which was hand-crafted by Yasuda out of imported Japanese materials. | Average main: $31 | 204 E. 43rd St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/972–1001 | www.sushiyasuda.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Fig & Olive.
$$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Both the cozy tables and the long white marble bar are great options at this bi-level Mediterranean spot with a loyal following. Lunch is an ideal time to partake of shared plates like mix-and-match crostini (available in multiples of three or six), cheeses, and meats—not to mention soups, salads, and panini. At night, the place becomes more see-and-be-seen, but the food is still as attractive to the palate as the diners are to the eyes. Feast on truffle risotto or rosemary-spiked pork chops and finish it all off with the crème brûlée cheesecake. | Average main: $26 | 10 E. 52nd St., at 5th Ave., Midtown East | 212/319-2002 | www.figandolive.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential.
$$$ | PERUVIAN | You come for the Peruvian rotisserie chicken, but you’ll remember Pio Pio’s addictive, secret-recipe green sauce most. The $9.50 weekday lunch special (11-4), which includes a quarter chicken, salad, a side, and a soda, is enough for two meals. There are also locations in Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. See website for details. | Average main: $25 | 210 E. 34th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Midtown East | 212/481–0034 | www.piopio.com | Station: 6 to 33rd St.
This area has a residential feel with plenty of bistros perfect for a casual meal. Lexington Avenue’s “Curry Hill” section between 27th and 29th streets is home to Indian spice shops, cafés, and restaurants.
2nd Ave Deli.
$$ | DELI | It may no longer be on 2nd Avenue, but the most recent incarnation of this East Village institution—about a mile uptown, in Midtown—still delivers on its longtime traditional matzo-ball soup, overstuffed three-decker sandwiches filled with house-cured pastrami, and other old-world specialties. Hot open-face sandwiches, like juicy beef brisket served with gravy and french fries, may be a heart attack on a plate, but hey, you only live once. Even better, you can now get your fill of kasha varnishkes, carrot tzimmes, and potato kugel until the wee hours of the night. There’s also an outpost on the Upper East Side. | Average main: $23 | 162 E. 33rd St., between Lexington and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/689–9000 | www.2ndavedeli.com | Station: 6 to 33rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Marta.
$$ | ITALIAN | The excellent cracker-thin crust of the Roman-style pizzas at Marta are a refreshing break from the thicker crust of the Neapolitan pizzas that have overtaken Manhattan in recent years. And we have beloved restaurateur Danny Meyer to thank for it. The high-ceiling dining room belies the casual fare but the menu is a love letter to salt-of-the-earth Roman food, from the baseball-sized suppli (fried rice balls) to fried squash to those excellent thin pizzas topped with tangy tomato sauce and delicious items like guanciale (pork jowl) and arugula. | Average main: $20 | 29 E. 29th St., at Madison Ave., Murray Hill | 212/651–3800 | www.martamanhattan.com | Station: 6 to 28th St.
It’s true that tourist traps abound on Broadway, but fortunately you needn’t head far from Times Square to score a stellar meal. Just move away from the bright lights and unrelenting foot traffic that clogs the area. On calmer side streets and in adjoining Hell’s Kitchen there are excellent dining options for budget travelers and expense-account diners alike. Some of the best steakhouses and Italian restaurants are here, and many eateries offer budget pretheater dinners and prix-fixe lunch menus to draw in new business.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | Tradition’s the thing at this townhouse landmark, a former speakeasy that opened in 1929. Chef Sylvain Delpique tries to satisfy everyone with standards like the famous ‘21’ burger and Dover sole with brown butter, as well as more modern dishes, such as sautéed pork belly with butternut squash purée, but the food is almost secondary to the restaurant’s storied past. Belongings donated by famous patrons—for example, John McEnroe’s tennis racket or Howard Hughes’s model plane—hang from the ceiling. Men:jacketsare required, but you can leave your ties at home. | Average main: $41 | 21 W. 52nd St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/582–7200 | www.21club.com | Closed Sun. | Jacket required | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
$$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | An island of fine dining just a stone’s throw from bustling Times Square, Aureole is the second act of a New York classic from Charlie Palmer and his executive chef, Marcus Gleadow-Ware. From the street, a curved second-story corridor hosting the restaurant’s storied wine collection beckons. A welcoming front barroom serves a more casual, yet still refined, menu with dishes like a cheddar-bacon burger with pickled ramp mayonnaise. The dining room, with its abundance of flowers, is the place to hobnob with expense-account diners and pretheater revelers. For dinner, starters like the pumpkin risotto with shrimp is a treat, and the $148 “parallel tasting” has the menu’s greatest hits. There is no à la carte option in the main dining room. | Average main: $50 | 135 W. 42nd St., between Broadway and 6th Ave., Midtown West | 212/319–1660 | www.charliepalmer.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
$$$ | SOUTHERN | Celeb chef Bobby Flay’s largest Manhattan restaurant is the soaring Bar Americain. The 200-seat, two-story space looks like a dining room on a luxury liner. This is not food for the faint-of-heart: Flay piles on the butter, cream, and endless varieties of bacon. Southern-inflected brasserie fare includes deviled eggs with smoked shrimp, “secret recipe” fried chicken with black pepper biscuit, and duck confit flavored with bourbon-based sauce and fig chutney. Slightly naughtier are the éclairs piped with whiskey-infused pastry cream and burnished with a burnt-sugar glaze. Brunch, featuring dishes like biscuits and cream gravy with sausage and scrambled eggs, is delicious. | Average main: $35 | 152 W. 52nd St., between 6th and 7th aves., Midtown West | 212/265–9700 | www.baramericain.com | Reservations essential | Station: B, D, E to 7th Ave.; 1, C, E to 50th St.; N, Q, R to 49th St.
$$ | ITALIAN | An ingenious concept makes Becco a prime Restaurant Row choice for time-constrained theatergoers. There are two pricing scenarios: one includes an all-you-can-eat selection of antipasti and three pastas served hot out of pans that waiters circulate around the dining room; the other adds a generous entrée to the mix. The pasta selection changes daily, but often includes gnocchi, fresh ravioli, and fettuccine in a cream sauce. The entrées include braised veal shank, grilled double-cut pork chop, and rack of lamb, among other selections. | Average main: $24 | 355 W. 46th St., between 8th and 9th aves.,Midtown West | 212/397–7597 | www.becco-nyc.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
$$$ | FRENCH | Who needs to go to Paris when the world’s most famous French chef, Alain Ducasse, can come to you? The interior of Ducasse’s imported Right Bank bistro—cozy red-velour banquettes and wall lamps illuminating each table—is plucked straight from the City of Light. So is the menu, which doesn’t reinvent anything as much as it replicates. And that’s okay, especially when the fennel-inflected loup de mer (sea bass) or the tender roasted veal loin are so well executed. It’s not exactly cheap for simple bisto fare. Then again, neither is a round-trip ticket to Paris. | Average main: $27 | 60 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 646/943–7373 | www.benoitny.com | No credit cards | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.; F to 57th St.
$$$ | BRASSERIE | In a plush 120-seat dining room with just enough Art Deco touches to harmonize with its Rockefeller Center setting, sublime French bistro cookery is on display. The room has a refined air but the staff is so friendly that the place could never be stuffy. The raw bar, with its selection of pedigreed oysters, is a great way to begin, or opt for a blue crab salad over mâche with a honey-lime vinaigrette. If it’s on the menu, order braised rabbit nestled in mustard cream on a bed of fresh pappardelle, sprinkled with pitted cherries. Desserts like Floating Island—delicately baked meringue floating on a pond of crème anglaise—are embellished with a flurry of spun sugar. | Average main: $28 | 45 Rockefeller Plaza, 50th St. between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/974–2020 | www.brasserieruhlmann.com | No dinner Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Burger Joint.
$ | BURGER | What’s a college burger bar, done up in particleboard and rec-room design straight out of Happy Days, doing inside a five-star Midtown hotel? This tongue-in-cheek lunch spot, hidden behind a heavy red velvet curtain in the Parker Meridien hotel, does such boisterous midweek business that lines often snake through the lobby (which means you’re best-off coming at noon or earlier). Stepping behind the curtain, you can find baseball cap–wearing, grease-spattered cooks dispensing paper-wrapped cheeseburgers and crisp, thin fries. Forget Kobe beef or foie gras—these burgers are straightforward, cheap, and delicious. There’s a second location, serving inferior burgers, at 33 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. | Average main: $8 | Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St., between 6th and 7th aves., Midtown West | 212/708–7414 | www.burgerjointny.com | Station: N, Q, R to 57th St.–7th Ave.; F to 57th St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Savvy New Yorkers line up early for the affordable family-style meals at this large, busy Midtown eatery. Family photos line the walls, and there’s a convivial feeling amid all the Times Square hubbub. Don’t be fooled: Carmine’s may be huge, but it fills up with families carbo-loading for a day of sightseeing or a night of theater on Broadway. Hungry diners are rewarded with mountains of such popular, toothsome viands as fried calamari, linguine with white clam sauce, chicken parmigiana, and veal saltimbocca. | Average main: $24 | 200 W. 44th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., Midtown West | 212/221–3800 | www.carminesnyc.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority; 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Danji.
$$ | KOREAN | Diminutive and dark, Danji is no ordinary Korean restaurant. Helmed by talented chef Hooni Kim, this Hell’s Kitchen spot stands out among the rows of restaurants that attract theatergoing tourists in the neighborhood. That’s because Kim’s take on Korean cuisine is inventive and inspired. The menu is split in two, and both sides contain a number of winning dishes. Start with the scallion and pepper pancake and the trio of kimchi from the “traditional” side, then set your taste buds singing with Korean chicken wings and unctuous pork-belly sliders from the “modern” side of the menu. Then count your blessings that you’re not eating a mediocre meal like the rest of the out-of-town visitors in the neighorhood. | Average main: $18 | 346 W. 52nd St., between 8th and 9th aves., Midtown West | 212/586–2880 | www.danjinyc.com | No credit cards | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Station: C, E to 50th St.
db Bistro Moderne.
$$$ | FRENCH | Daniel Boulud’s “casual bistro” (it’s neither, actually) consists of two elegantly appointed dining rooms. The menu features classic dishes like Nantucket Bay scallops or hanger steak exquisitely prepared. Ever the trendsetter, Boulud’s $35 “db” hamburger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffles, is the patty credited with kick-starting the whole gourmet burger trend. Although it may not be the trendy destination it once was, it’s still a treat and worth every penny. The service is friendly without being overbearing. | Average main: $31 | 55 W. 44th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/391–2400 | www.dbbistro.com | Reservations essential | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner.
$$ | AMERICAN | If you haven’t had enough Broadway singing and dancing, you’ll get a kick out of Ellen’s, a retro, 1950s-style diner, complete with a singing waitstaff. The menu focuses on all-American classics like meatloaf and chicken potpie, and the waiters and waitresses serenading you on roller skates have the talent to prove this restaurant is right on Broadway. It’s the kind of over-the-top family fun you’d expect from the Times Square location, so don’t expect a sophisticated—or quiet—dining experience. | Average main: $20 | 1650 Broadway, at 51st St., Midtown West | 212/956–5151 | www.ellensstardustdiner.com | Station: 1 to 50th St.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | The name is Italian for “bait,” and this restaurant, courtesy of partners Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and longtime chef David Pasternack, lures diners in with delectable crudo preparations—such as tilefish with orange and Sardinian oil or pink snapper with a sprinkle of crunchy red clay salt—and hooks them with entrées like whole, salt-crusted branzino, sea bass for two, or bucatini pasta with spicy baby octopus. The menu changes daily. Bastianich is in charge of the wine cellar, so expect an adventurous list of Italian bottles. | Average main: $33 | 402 W. 43rd St., at 9th Ave., Midtown West | 212/564–7272 | www.esca-nyc.com | No lunch Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Five Napkin Burger.
$$ | BURGER | This perennially packed Hell’s Kitchen burger place and brasserie has been a magnet for burger lovers since day one. Bottles of Maker’s Mark line the sleek, alluringly lighted bar in the back, a collection of antique butcher’s scales hangs on a tile wall near the kitchen, and meat hooks dangle from the ceiling between light fixtures. Though there are many menu distractions—deep-fried pickles and warm artichoke dip, to name a few—the main attractions are the juicy burgers, like the original 10-ounce chuck with a tangle of onions, Gruyère cheese, and rosemary aioli. There’s a patty option for everyone, including a ground lamb kofta and an onion ring–topped ahi tuna burger. For dessert, have an überthick black-and-white malted milkshake. | Average main: $16 | 630 9th Ave., at 45th St., Midtown West | 212/757–2277 | www.5napkinburger.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
$$ | CUBAN | A little slice of Havana smack in the center of the Big Apple, Havana Central is a great place for reasonably priced group dining and sampling Cuban-Latino standards like garlicky chicken, hearty oxtail stew, guava-glazed pork ribs, pineapple-spiked chicken, and well-seasoned skirt steak with a cucumber-and-mango salad. There’s a huge list of rums and a full menu of tropical-flavored mojitos, including coconut, blueberry, and passion fruit. At the Cuban brunch don’t miss the dolce de leche French toast. | Average main: $19 | 151 W. 46th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Midtown West | 212/398–7440 | www.havanacentral.com | Station: N, Q, R to 49th St.; B, D, F, M to 47-50 Sts./Rockefeller Center.
La Bonne Soupe.
$ | FRENCH | Midtown office workers and in-the-know out-of-towners keep this French restaurant bustling for the ever-popular La Bonne Soupe special—you get a bowl of their excellent soup with bread, salad, a beverage (house wine, beer, soda, or coffee), and dessert for $20.95. À la carte options include bistro classics like crêpes, omelets, salads, quiche, sandwiches, and croques madame and monsieur. It’s not the hippest place in town, but you leave satisfied. There’s often a line at lunchtime, but there are two floors of tables so you won’t go hungry for long. | Average main: $17 | 48 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th aves.,Midtown West | 212/586–7650 | www.labonnesoupe.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
The Lambs Club.
$$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian’s opulent supper club on the ground floor of the Chatwal Hotel has superb Art Deco detailing, blood-red leather banquettes, and a roaring fireplace. Cocktails are concocted by hipster mixologist Sasha Petraske, who eschews the experimental in favor of classics like the sidecar and the martini, done well. The food is typical Zakarian, meaning New American cuisine with luxe touches in dishes like veal sweetbreads with peppered jus and grilled Treviso lettuce, or seared scallops with porcini mushrooms and Indian-spiced sauce. The lunchtime menu is padded with appealing choices, but the sleeper meal here is breakfast. Dishes like a house-made biscuit with fried egg, bacon, and cheddar, or fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes, fill you up for the rest of the day. | Average main: $36 | 132 W. 44th St., between 6th Ave. and Broadway, Midtown West | 212/997–5262 | www.thelambsclub.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
Fodor’s Choice | Le Bernardin.
$$$$ | SEAFOOD | Owner Maguy LeCoze presides over the teak-panel dining room at this trendsetting French seafood restaurant, and chef and partner Eric Ripert works magic with anything that swims—preferring at times not to cook it at all. Deceptively simple dishes such as poached lobster in rich coconut-ginger soup or crispy spiced black bass in a Peking duck bouillon are typical of his style. It’s widely agreed that there’s no beating Le Bernardin for thrilling cuisine, seafood or otherwise, coupled with some of the finest desserts in town and a wine list as deep as the Atlantic. It’s prix-fixe only, and there are nonfish options (pasta and meat) available on request. | Average main: $155 | 155 W. 51st St., between 6th and 7th aves., Midtown West | 212/554–1515 | www.le-bernardin.com | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Jacket required | Station: 1 to 50th St.; N, Q, R to 49th St.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.
Le Pain Quotidien.
$ | BAKERY | This international Belgian chain brings its homeland ingredients with it, treating New Yorkers to crusty organic breads, jams, chocolate, and other specialty products. You can grab a snack to go or stay and eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at communal or private tables with waiter service. Come for a steaming latte and croissant in the morning or a tartine (open-faced sandwich) at noon. There are more than 20 locations throughout Manhattan, including in Central Park. | Average main: $13 | 1271 6th Ave., at 50th St., Midtown West | 646/462–4165 | www.lepainquotidien.com | No credit cards | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; N, Q, R to 49th St.; 1 to 50th St.
Lugo Cucina Italiana.
$$ | ITALIAN | The area around Madison Square Garden is a restaurant wasteland with the rare sparkling exception of Lugo Cucina Italiana, founded by an Italian menswear line. Locals rejoiced at the introduction of this spacious Italian “brasserie” serving comfort food with a Dolce Vita twist all day long. Stop by for an espresso and pastry in the morning. Later, a single menu presents lunch, aperitivo, and dinner options, which include grazing portions of salumi, cheeses, and vegetable dishes like eggplant caponata, Tuscan white-bean salad, and grilled zucchini with pine nuts. Fuller meals of Neapolitan-style pizzas, house-made pastas, and grilled meats and fish also are commendable. | Average main: $24 | 1 Penn Plaza, 33rd St. and 8th Ave., Midtown West | 212/760–2700 | www.lugocaffe.com | No dinner weekdays | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 34th St.–Penn Station.
$$$ | ASIAN | Starkly decorated in the basement of the Chambers Hotel, Má Pêche is just blocks from MoMA. As the largest restaurant in David Chang’s empire, you’ve got a decent shot of nabbing a seat. The menus are a bit more refined (and expensive) than those at Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar, with elegantly composed plates that might include lamb shank accompanied by eggplant, raisins, and rice, or seared swordfish with black beans, braised celery, and crisped shallots. On the way out you can pick up sweets from the uptown offshoot of Momofuku Milk Bar, like the addictive, buttery Crack Pie or intriguingly flavored soft-serve. | Average main: $28 | 15 W. 56th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/757–5878 | www.momofuku.com/ma-peche | No lunch Sun. | Station: F to 57th St.; N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Marea.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | Carefully sourced, meticulously prepared fish and seafood take center stage at this well-pedigreed restaurant. Large picture windows in the dining room look out to expansive views of Central Park South, and silver-dipped shells on pedestals decorate the dining room. No expense is spared in importing the very best of the ocean’s bounty, beginning with crudo dishes—think scallops with orange, wild fennel, and arugula—that are becoming the restaurant’s signature. You’d be remiss, though, if you skipped the pastas that made Chef Michael White famous. They’re served here in lusty iterations like rich fusilli with octopus and bone marrow, and spaghetti with sea urchin. Whole fish like roasted turbot and salt-baked snapper are equally showstopping. Service is flawless. | Average main: $25 | 240 Central Park S, between Broadway and 7th Ave., Midtown West | 212/582–5100 | www.marea-nyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | With great food and a convenient location near several Broadway theaters, Marseille is perpetually packed. The Mediterranean creations are continually impressive, including the bouillabaisse, the signature dish of the region for which the restaurant is named—a mélange of mussels, shrimp, and whitefish in a fragrant broth, topped with a garlicky crouton and served with rouille on the side. Also worth a bite or two is the charred octopus with fennel and tomatoes. Leave room for the spongy beignets with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces. | Average main: $23 | 630 9th Ave., at 44th St.,Midtown West | 212/333–2323 | www.marseillenyc.com | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
The Modern and Bar Room.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Side by side on the ground floor of the New York MoMA are two spots that compete for the title of the country’s best museum restaurant. The food is no longer by Alsatian chef Gabriel Kreuther, but restaurateur Danny Meyer will, no doubt, make sure that whoever takes over will keep the kitchens turning out impeccable food. The formal Modern dining room features a view of the museum’s sculpture garden while the more accessible and popular Bar Room lies just beyond a partition. | Average main: $45 | 9 W. 53rd St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/333–1220 | www.themodernnyc.com | Closed Sun. | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | Entering this restaurant is like walking into the dressy stateroom of a modern luxury ocean liner. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out north and west, and the arrestingly designed raw bar backed with Mediterranean-hue ceramics serves stunningly fresh choices—you would expect gorgeous oysters at a restaurant called Oceana, and you get them. Chef Ben Pollinger has the skill and confidence to serve some of the most vivid and delicious seafood in town. A contemporary appetizer section includes items like marinated cucumber with apple and toasted spices. Grilled whole fish like halibut, swordfish, and crispy wild striped bass, are served with a perfect rotating roster of sauces that includes a classic romesco and a grilled pineapple salsa. | Average main: $34 | 120 W. 49th St., at 6th Ave., Midtown West | 212/759–5941 | www.oceanarestaurant.com | No breakfast or lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio.
$$$ | BRAZILIAN | This sprawling, boisterous shrine to meat, with its all-you-can-eat, prix-fixe menu, is best experienced with a group of ravenous friends. A caipirinha, featuring cachaça sugarcane liquor, sugar, and lime, kicks things off nicely. Follow up with a trip to the fabulous salad bar, piled with vegetables, meats, and cheeses—but remember, there’s about to be a parade of all manner of grilled meats and poultry, from pork ribs to chicken hearts, delivered to the table on long skewers. Everyone at the table gets a coaster-size disc that’s red on one side and green on the other: turn the green side up when you’re ready for more. Pace yourself so you can try all the different delicacies; it’s definitely a fun evening, but make sure to come hungry. | Average main: $34 | 316 W. 49th St., between 8th and 9th aves., Midtown West | 212/245–0505 | www.plataformaonline.com | Reservations essential | Station: C, E to 50th St.
Plaza Food Hall by Todd English.
$$ | ECLECTIC | At the Plaza Food Hall in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, celeb chef Todd English oversees a series of minirestaurants, each with its own counter and seating ideal for a quick snack or a full-fledged meal. Entry is a little confusing: though the place is made up of individual food concepts, you are seated by a hostess at any available counter. Once settled, get up and survey your choices, then sit down and order from your waiter. There’s a glistening raw bar, a burger joint, and a wood-fired pizza station where you can sample some of English’s iconic pies, such as fig and prosciutto. It’s one of the most varied and affordable daytime food options in an area of town that can still feel like a lunchtime wasteland. | Average main: $18 | Plaza Hotel, 1 W. 59th St., at 5th Ave., Midtown West | 212/986–9260 | www.theplazany/dining/foodhall.com | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | The handsome design at Quality Meats is inspired by classic New York City butcher shops in its use of warm wood, stainless steel, and white marble. Sit at the bar to peruse the extensive menu of wines and single-malt scotches, or sip a classic martini. Then retire to the dining room for memorable fare like the massive chunky crab cake, seared scallops, and sophisticated riffs on steakhouse classics like beef Wellington. The grilled bacon, peanut butter, and apple starter is a must for any first-timer. The wine list emphasizes big bold reds, the perfect companion to a rich chunky steak. | Average main: $37 | 57 W. 58th St., near 6th Ave., Midtown West | 212/371–7777 | www.qualitymeatsnyc.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: F to 57th St.; N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
$$$ | ITALIAN | This is one of the Theater District’s top spots for reliable food at a reasonable cost. The bilevel, casual Argentinian-Italian eatery is an inviting and friendly space where diners choose from a wide range of options. The lunch menu features staples like warm sandwiches and entrée-size salads, whereas the dinner menu is slightly gussied up with meat, fish, and pasta dishes (the rich agnolotti with lamb Bolognese sauce, topped with a wedge of grilled pecorino cheese, is a must-try). The freshly baked bread served at the beginning of the meal with pesto dipping sauce is a nice touch. Service can be slow at times, so leave yourself ample time before the show. | Average main: $25 | 832 8th Ave., between 50th and 51st sts., Midtown West | 212/262–8282 | www.sosaborella.com | Station: 1, C, E to 50th St.
$$ | MEXICAN | Make a quick detour off heavily trafficked Broadway into this pleasantly bustling Mexican cantina for one of the best dining options around Times Square. The bilevel eatery has a festive, celebratory vibe, with several seating options: bar, balcony, main dining room, and ceviche bar. Foodies flock here for three types of guacamole (traditional, fruited, and spicy), a trio of well-executed ceviches, and Mexico City–style tacos with Negra Modelo–braised brisket, and quesadillas studded with black truffle and huitlacoche (a corn fungus known as the “Mexican truffle”). There’s an extensive tequila selection—upward of 100 brands. Adventurous palates are drawn to tacos featuring chili-studded dried grasshoppers, lobes of seared foie gras, and caramelized veal sweetbreads. There’s another location in Greenwich Village. | Average main: $19 | 251 W. 50th St., near 8th Ave., Midtown West | 212/581–1818 | www.toloachenyc.com | Station: 1, C, E to 50th St.; N, Q, R to 49th St.
Tulcingo Del Valle Restaurant.
$ | MEXICAN | This authentic Mexican grocery and restaurant serves tacos, tortas, and Pueblan specialties seven days a week from breakfast until dinner. The menu is made up of delights like the cemita, a sesame bun piled high with mild white cheese, whole chipotle peppers, roasted meat, avocado, and papalo, cilantro’s peppery cousin. The real star, though, is the massive chicken mole poblano platter served with rice, beans, guacamole, and tortillas. Look for daily specials. | Average main: $12 | 665 10th Ave., near W. 47th St., Midtown West | 212/262–5510 | www.tulcingorestaurant.com | No credit cards | Station: C, E to 50th St.
Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Surpassing even its celebrated flagship restaurant in Bayside, Queens, Uncle Jack’s soars directly into the pantheon of the best steakhouses in Manhattan. As in most great steakhouses, you can feel the testosterone coursing through the place. The space is vast and gorgeously appointed, and service is swift and focused. USDA prime steaks are dry-aged for 21 days. Australian lobster tails are so enormous, they have to be served carved, yet the flesh is meltingly tender. Humongous pork chops, dripping with juice, are accompanied by chipotle sauerkraut. Desserts include an excellent 18-year Macallan scotch–laced bread pudding. It’s hard to go wrong at Jack’s. | Average main: $67 | 440 9th Ave., between 34th and 35th sts., Midtown West | 212/244–0005 | www.unclejacks.com | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: A, C, E to 34th St.–Penn Station.
UPPER EAST SIDE
Long viewed as an enclave of the privileged, the Upper East Side has plenty of elegant, pricey eateries that serve the society “ladies who lunch” and bankers looking forward to a steak and single-malt scotch at the end of the day. However, visitors to Museum Mile and 5th Avenue shopping areas need not be put off. Whether you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or just want to grab a quick bite, there is something here for almost any budget.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | Italian chef Salvatore Corea and his wife, Gina, a native New Yorker, are living their dream of opening an old-fashioned family-run restaurant on the Upper East Side. It’s not Corea’s first New York restaurant endeavor—he’s opened three other successful venues in the city—but Alloro is his first venture with his wife, and judging by the friendly vibe and the delicious dishes coming out of Corea’s cucina, it’s working swimmingly well. Chef Corea’s creative take on traditional, regional Italian cuisine leads the way for delicious dishes, like creamy Parmesan risotto with lambrusco-wine caramel. Both the sliced ribeye over corn puree and the fillet of sole in pumpkin-amaretto crust are fantastic. Gluten-free pasta selections are also available. | Average main: $38 | 307 E. 77th St., near 2nd Ave., Upper East Side | 212/535–2866 | www.alloronyc.com | Closed Sun. No lunch | Station: 6 to 77th St.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Manhattan’s “who’s who” in business, politics, and the art world come to hobnob at Daniel Boulud’s café-in-name-only, where the food and service are top-notch. The menu is divided into four parts: under La Tradition are classic French dishes such as roasted duck breast Montmorency with cherry chutney, green Swiss chard, and baby turnips, or Guinea hen terrine with pear, rutabaga, and foie gras; Le Potager tempts with lemon ricotta ravioli; La Saison follows the rhythms of the season; and Le Voyage reinterprets cuisines of the world. Start with a drink at the chic Bar Pleiades. | Average main: $42 | Surrey Hotel, 20 E. 76th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Upper East Side | 212/772–2600 | www.danielboulud.com | Reservations essential | Station: 6 to 77th St.
$$ | BRASSERIE | Unusually comfortable burgundy banquettes, huge antique mirrors, and low lighting that makes everyone look fabulous characterize this Alsatian gem. Start with a house cocktail—say, L’Alsacien, in which the aperitif Belle de Brillet meets cognac, pear, and fresh lemon in a happy union. Standouts include the tarte flambée, a fromage-blanc-topped flatbread scattered with tawny caramelized onions and hunks of bacon. The choucroute garnie entrée comes in a cast-iron kettle that keeps it piping hot. Sausages, smoked pork breast, and pork belly are so carefully braised that everything comes out in perfect harmony. Can’t decide what to wash it all down with? Let the in-house beer sommelier help you. | Average main: $22 | 1695 2nd Ave., at 88th St., Upper East Side | 212/722–5133 | www.cafedalsace.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Café Sabarsky.
$$ | AUSTRIAN | In the Neue Galerie, this stately coffeehouse is meant to duplicate the Viennese café experienceand does a good job of it, with Art Deco furnishings, a selection of daily newspapers, and cases filled with cakes, strudels, and Sacher tortes. Museumgoers and locals love to linger here over coffee. In fact, so much so it’s sometimes a challenge to find a seat (there’s a slightly less aesthetically pleasing outpost of the café in the basement). There is also a menu of heartier fare—created by Michelin-starred Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbrunner—of goulash, sandwiches, smoked pork–stuffed potato dumplings, and variations on a sausage theme. | Average main: $18 | Neue Galerie, 1048 5th Ave., near 86th St., Upper East Side | 212/240–9557 | www.neuegalerie.org | Closed Tues. No dinner Mon. and Wed. | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Candle 79.
$$ | VEGETARIAN | The Upper East Side may seem like an unlikely place for gourmet vegan fare, but the people behind Candle 79 have found a formula that would work in any neighborhood. The elegant, bilevel space, done in warm, autumnal tones, is far from the health-food stereotype. Appetizers like rice balls with tempeh bacon may sound like hippie throwbacks but taste more like well-executed trattoria fare. Signature dishes include the seitan piccata, which replaces the usual protein with a vegetarian substitute and is so well made that you would never miss the meat. Salads, soups, desserts, and entrées are all fresh and made with local, organic, seasonal produce. There’s also an impressive list of organic wines and sakes. | Average main: $22 | 154 E. 79th St., at Lexington Ave., Upper East Side | 212/537–7179 | www.candle79.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
$ | MEXICAN | Wrestling-theme design sets a whimsical backdrop at this reasonably priced Mexican restaurant. Tacos are inventive without veering too far from the comfort-food norm. The Camaron scatters plump roasted shrimp among fresh oregano, garlic oil, and black beans. The beef tongue is slow braised, then topped with spring onion and serrano chilies. There’s also fresh, creamy guacamole with house-fried chips, pert tortilla soup with queso fresco and chicken, and dinner-only platters like adobe-marinated Berkshire pork butt. At lunchtime, sandwiches—like shredded chicken with mango and smashed avocado—hit the spot with a cold Mexican beer. Inside seating is limited, but in temperate weather the outdoor tables expand your possibilities. | Average main: $13 | 1538 2nd Ave., between 80th and 81st sts., Upper East Side | 212/717–8226 | www.nyctacos.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Central Park Boathouse Restaurant.
$$$ | AMERICAN | There are plenty of pushcarts dispensing hot dogs and sodas, but if you’re looking to soak up Central Park’s magical ambience in an elegant setting, head for the Central Park Boathouse, which overlooks the gondola lake. There you can relax on the outdoor deck with a glass of wine and a cheese plate, or go for a more formal meal inside the restaurant. In warmer months the restaurant can get crowded, soaim for a late lunch or earlyevening cocktail. Note that dinner is not served in the winter months. | Average main: $30 | E. 72nd St., at Park Dr. N, Upper East Side | 212/517–2233 | www.thecentralparkboathouse.com | No dinner Dec.–Mar. | Reservations not accepted | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Daniel.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Celebrity-chef Daniel Boulud has created one of the most elegant dining experiences in Manhattan. The prix-fixe menu (there are à la carte selections in the elegant lounge and bar) is predominantly French, with such modern classics as turbot on Himalayan salt with an ale-and-gingerbread sauce, and a duo of dry-aged Angus black beef featuring meltingly tender red wine–braised short ribs and seared rib eye with black trumpet mushrooms and Gorgonzola cream. Equally impressive are the serious artwork, professional service, extensive wine list, and masterful cocktails. Don’t forget the decadent desserts and overflowing cheese trolley. A three-course vegetarian menu is also available. | Average main: $125 | 60 E. 65th St., between Madison and Park aves., Upper East Side | 212/288–0033 | www.danielnyc.com | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Jacket required | Station: 6 to 68th St.–Hunter College.
Lexington Candy Shop.
$ | DINER | Established in 1925, this corner luncheonette still sports 1940s-era milkshake mixers, coffee urns, and a soda fountain. Enjoy the epic collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia along with fresh-made sodas, burgers, classic sandwiches, and breakfast all day. This is serious old-school New York City at its best. | Average main: $15 | 1226 Lexington Ave., at E. 83rd St., Upper East Side | 212/288–0057 | www.lexingtoncandyshop.net | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
$$$ | MEXICAN | The upscale-hacienda appearance of this justifiably popular restaurant showcases some of the best Mexican food in the city, courtesy of pioneering Mexican chef Richard Sandoval. Begin with a fresh mango mojito, then tuck into delicious roasted corn soup with huitlacoche dumplings, stuffed poblano peppers, and a smoky filet mignon taco with jalapeño escabeche. Next indulge in the tender roasted pork carnitas or the spicy chipotle shrimp. The bottomless margarita brunch on weekends can get loud, but local Upper East Siders still enjoy it. | Average main: $25 | 1191 1st Ave., between 64th and 65th sts.,Upper East Side | 212/585–1818 | www.modernmexican.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
$$$$ | FRENCH | The Georgette in question is Georgette Farkas who spent 17 years as Chef Daniel Boulud’s marketing and PR person. She’s now branched out on her own and is set to show the culinary world how high rotisserie chicken can be elevated. This elegant spot with an altarlike rotisserie in the back of the room might spin the best fowl in the city. For a splurge, orderthe “Poule de Luxe,” a whole chicken stuffed with foie gras. The creamy burrata and the smoked salmon with fennel are fine starters. | Average main: $39 | 14 E. 60th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Upper East Side | 212/390–8060 | www.rotisserieg.com | No lunch Sun. | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
Sushi of Gari.
$$$ | JAPANESE | Options at this popular sushi restaurant range from the ordinary (California roll) to the exotic like tuna with creamy tofu sauce, miso-marinated cod, or Japanese yellowtail with jalapeño. Japanese noodles (udon or soba) and meat dishes such as teriyaki and negimaki (scallions rolled in thinly sliced beef) are well prepared. Some of the inventive nonsushi items on the menu are worth a try, especially the fried cream cheese dumplings. Reservations are recommended. There are other locations, too, including one across the park at 370 Columbus Avenue, in Hell’s Kitchen at 347 West 46th Street, and in TriBeCa at 130 West Broadway. | Average main: $25 | 402 E. 78th St., at 1st Ave., Upper East Side | 212/517–5340 | www.sushiofgari.com | No lunch | Station: 6 to 77th St.
UPPER WEST SIDE
The area around Lincoln Center is a fine-dining hub; as you head north you’ll find a mix of casual and sophisticated neighborhood spots.
$$$$ | ASIAN | The unparalleled view is reason enough to visit Asiate’s pristine dining room, perched on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Artfully positioned tables and minimalist décor help direct eyes to the windows, which peer over Central Park. At night, crystalline lights reflect in the glass, creating a magical effect. The kitchen turns out contemporary dishes with an Asian influence that pair unlikely ingredients: think foie gras and hazlenut brittle, or branzino and truffles. Professional, attentive service helps foster an atmosphere of dreamlike luxury. The restaurant has prix-fixe menus only, and an illustrious wine collection housing 2,000 bottles. | Average main: $100 | Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 80 Columbus Circle, 35th fl., at 60th St., Upper West Side | 212/805–8881 | www.mandarinoriental.com | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Fodor’s Choice | Bar Boulud.
$$$ | FRENCH | Acclaimed French chef Daniel Boulud, known for upscale New York City eateries Daniel and Café Boulud, shows diners his more casual side with this lively contemporary bistro and wine bar. The long, narrow space accommodates 100 people. The menu emphasizes charcuterie, including terrines and pâtés designed by Parisian charcutier Gilles Verot, who relocated just to work with Boulud, as well as traditional French bistro dishes like steak frites and poulet rôti à l’ail (roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes). The 500-bottle wine list is heavy on wines from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. A pretheater three-course menu starts at $45, and weekend brunch has four courses plus coffee for $32. | Average main: $28 | 1900 Broadway, between 63rd and 64th sts., Upper West Side | 212/595–0303 | www.barboulud.com | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center; 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
$$ | AMERICAN | At this Upper West Side landmark brusque waiters send out stellar smoked salmon, sturgeon, and whitefish to a happy crowd packed to the gills at small Formica tables. Split a fish platter with bagels, cream cheese, and other fixings, or get your velvety nova scrambled with eggs and buttery caramelized onions. If still hungry, go for a plate of cheese blintzes or the to-die-for chopped liver. Be warned that the weekend brunch wait can exceed an hour, so you’re better off coming during the week. | Average main: $18 | 541 Amsterdam Ave., between 86th and 87th sts., Upper West Side | 212/724–4707 | www.barneygreengrass.com | Closed Mon. No dinner | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 1, B, C to 86th St.
$$ | CAFÉ | Never mind that you’re in the middle of a shopping mall under a Samsung sign—soups and sandwiches don’t get much more luxurious than this. Acclaimed chef Thomas Keller’s low-key lunch spot (one floor down from his extravagant flagship, Per Se) draws long lines for good reason. Share a mason jar of salmon rillettes—an unctuous spread of cooked and smoked salmon folded around crème fraîche and butter—then move on to one of the fork-and-knife open-face tartines, like the tuna niçoise. When a sandwich has this much pedigree, $15 is actually a bargain. Grab dessert, a fresh macaroon or éclair, from the nearby bakery window. | Average main: $16 | Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd fl., Upper West Side | 212/823–9366 | www.bouchonbakery.com | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
$$ | FRENCH | The old soul of the Lincoln Center neighborhood seems to inhabit the tiled and mirrored walls of this lively, cramped restaurant, where West End Avenue regulars—including lots of on-air talent from nearby ABC News—are greeted with kisses, and musicians and audience members pack the room after a concert. The bar’s always hopping, and the menu (served until 11 pm Sunday through Tuesday and until midnight from Wednesday through Saturday) includes classics like steak tartare and lobster roll alongside more contemporary dishes like pan-seared trout with haricots verts, hazelnuts, and tomato-caper compote. | Average main: $22 | 200 W. 70th St., between Amsterdam and West End aves., Upper West Side | 212/873–7411 | www.cafeluxembourg.com | Reservations essential | Station: 1, 2, 3, B, C to 72nd St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Set on a nondescript block of Broadway, this branch of the Italian mainstay is a favorite for families celebrating special occasions, pre-prom groups of teens, and plain old folks who come for the tried-and-true items like fried calamari, linguine with white clam sauce, chicken parmigiana, and veal saltimbocca, all served in mountainous portions. Family photos line the walls, an antipasti table groans under the weight of savory meats, cheese, and salads, and there’s a convivial feeling amid the organized chaos. | Average main: $24 | 2450 Broadway, between 90th and 91st sts., Upper West Side | 212/362–2200 | www.carminesnyc.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 96th St.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | Inside Dovetail, chef and owner John Fraser’s subdued townhouse restaurant, cream-color walls and maple panels create a warm, soothing atmosphere. The menu, which changes daily based on seasonal and available ingredients, features refined but hearty dishes. Seek solace from winter temperatures with the earthy gnocchi topped with matsutake mushrooms, poppy seeds, and lemon. Tender lamb is heightened by potatoes, artichokes, and olives. The feast continues with pastry chef Italivi Reboreda’s luscious brie crème brûlée paired with buttermilk sherbet. | Average main: $40 | 103 W. 77th St., at Columbus Ave., Upper West Side | 212/362–3800 | www.dovetailnyc.com | No lunch | Station: 1 to 79th St.; B, C to 81st St.–Museum of Natural History.
Fairway Market Café.
$$ | CAFÉ | Fairway is a neighborhood institution, living up to its reputation for great prices on gourmet products—and shopping-cart jockeying down the narrow aisles. Upstairs, though, is the respite of Fairway Market Café, a large, brick-walled room with windows overlooking Broadway. Up front you can grab a pastry and coffee to go, but there’s a full menu of fairly priced entrées as well. The place is run by Mitchell London, who’s known for his juicy, well-marbled steaks—try the ribeye and you may never go back to Brooklyn’s Peter Luger steakhouse again. | Average main: $23 | 2127 Broadway, between 74th and 75th sts.,Upper West Side | 212/595–1888 | www.fairwaymarket.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 72nd St.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Upper West Siders aren’t going to be throwing Chef Michael Psilakis and his Greek-heavy Mediterranean fare back into the water any time soon. At Anthos, a big-box Midtown eatery that shuttered a few years ago, Psilakis was lauded for his prowess on the grill. He brings the same skills to Fishtag with dishes like grilled striped bass or swordfish. Fanatics of Anthos’s insanely good lamb burger can breath easy: it’s on the menu here. The wine list is long and categorized with subtitles like “Funky & Earthy” and “Explosive & Bold,” and brew imbibers declare Fishtag a good catch when they see 20 craft beers on the menu. | Average main: $20 | 222 W. 79th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side | 212/362–7470 | www.michaelpsilakis.com/fishtag | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: 1 to 79th St.
$ | FAST FOOD | It’s a stand-up, take-out dive. And yes, limos do sometimes stop here for these legendary hot dogs—they are delicious, and quite the economical meal. The recession special is two hot dogs and a drink for $5. There are cheap breakfast offerings, too, like the quintessential egg and cheese on a roll. Although there used to be several locations of Gray’s Papaya, this is the only one left. | Average main: $4 | 2090 Broadway, at 72nd St., Upper West Side | 212/799–0243 | www.grayspapayanyc.com | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 72nd St.
$$ | AMERICAN | Set in the shadow of the Museum of Natural History, Isabella’s has been a brunch-and-beyond stalwart for decades. Brunchtime is especially busy, even though the restaurant is large; lunch is less crowded, and a great time to try neighborhood-institution salads like the seafood-loaded Cobb or grilled artichoke hearts with Parmesan and lemon-thyme vinaigrette. Another winner: the crab cake sandwich layered with lush avocado. For dinner, don’t skip the pine nut–sprinkled mushroom ravioli. Try for a table outside when the weather’s nice; it’s a great perspective on the neighborhood and great for people-watching. | Average main: $21 | 359 Columbus Ave., at 77th St., Upper West Side | 212/724–2100 | www.isabellas.com | Station: B, C to 81st St.–Museum of Natural History.
$$$$ | FRENCH | This culinary temple in the Trump International Hotel and Towers focuses wholly on chef célèbre Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s spectacular creations. The chef may now have restaurants sprinkled around the globe, but this is the spot in his culinary empire where you want to be. Some dishes approach the limits of the taste universe, like foie-gras brûlée with spiced fig jam and ice-wine reduction. Others are models of simplicity, like slow-cooked cod with warm vegetable vinaigrette. Exceedingly personalized service and a well-selected wine list contribute to an unforgettable meal. It’s prix-fixe only. For Jean-Georges on a budget, try the prix-fixe lunch in the front room, Nougatine. | Average main: $120 | 1 Central Park W, at 60th St., Upper West Side | 212/299–3900 | www.jean-georges.com | Reservations essential | Jacket required | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
$$ | GREEK | Kefi is Greek for the bliss that accompanies a bacchanalia. At Michael Psilakis’s Upper West Side eatery—a giant homage to his grandmother’s Greek cooking—it’s not hard to achieve such a euphoric state. Among the mezes, the meatballs with roasted garlic, olives, and tomato stand out; the flavorful roast chicken with potatoes, red peppers, garlic, and thyme makes for a winning entrée; and the béchamel-rich Kefi mac ‘n’ cheese is irresistible. Reasonable prices make it easy to stick around for a piece of traditional walnut cake with walnut ice cream. | Average main: $17 | 505 Columbus Ave., between 84th and 85th sts., Upper West Side | 212/873–0200 | www.kefirestaurant.com | Station: 1, B, C to 86th St.
$ | BAKERY | Completely unpretentious and utterly delicious, Levain Bakery’s cookies are rich and hefty. In fact, they clock in at six ounces each! Choose from the chocolate-chip walnut, dark-chocolate chocolate chip, dark-chocolate peanut-butter chip, or oatmeal raisin. Batches are baked fresh daily and taste best when they’re warm and melty right out of the oven. Levain’s also bakes artisanal breads, including banana chocolate chip and pumpkin ginger spice, sour cream coffee cake, chocolate-chip and cinnamon brioche, sourdough rolls stuffed with Valrhona chocolate, blueberry muffins, a variety of scones, and bomboloncini—their unique jelly doughnuts. | Average main: $9 | 167 W. 74th St., near Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side | 212/874–6080 | www.levainbakery.com | No dinner | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 72nd St.
$$$ | BISTRO | If the Upper West Side and the French Riviera melded into one, it might look a little bit like Nice Matin. This is a longtime neighborhood favorite, particularly in warm-weather months, when regulars plant themselves at sidewalk tables and gawk at passersby while munching on Gallic fare like monkfish wading in sweet potato purée and garlicky mussels, and, of course, steak frites. The novel-size wine list boasts more than 2,000 bottles, so bring your reading glasses. Be sure to dress for the people-watching, particularly at the popular weekend brunch. | Average main: $25 | 201 W. 79th St., at Amsterdam Ave.,Upper West Side | 212/873–6423 | www.nicematinnyc.com | No credit cards | Station: 1 to 79th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Per Se.
$$$$ | AMERICAN | The New York interpretation of what many consider America’s finest restaurant, the Napa Valley’s French Laundry, Per Se is Chef Thomas Keller’s Broadway stage. The large dining room is understated and elegant, with touches of wood, towering florals, and sweeping windows with views of Central Park. Keller embraces seasonality and a witty playfulness that speaks to his confidence in the kitchen, and some of his dishes are now world-renowned, such as the tiny cones of tuna tartare topped with crème fraîche, and the “oysters and pearls”—tiny mollusks suspended in a creamy custard with tapioca. Dessert service is a multicourse celebration of all things sweet, including a choice of 27 house-made chocolates. Service is sublime, as you’d expect. An à la carte “salon” menu is available in the front bar room, but let’s face it: if you manage to snag a reservation, there’s nothing else to do but submit to the $310 prix-fixe. It’s best to make reservations at least two months in advance. | Average main: $85 | Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th fl., at 60th St., Upper West Side | 212/823–9335 | www.perseny.com | No lunch Mon.–Thurs. | Reservations essential | Jacket required | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
$$$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Terrance Brennan’s classic French restaurant has maintained its dignified atmosphere over the years, as well as the emphasis on contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, sourced from artisanal farmers and food producers. The menu is divided into options for five-course and twelve-course tasting menus. The duck and foie gras rillette, inventively paired with gingerbread, is particularly tasty. So is the caviar-sprinkled sea urchin panna cotta. Whatever you do, don’t miss the famous cheese course, which Brennan practically invented here. The atmosphere is refined but not stuffy. | Average main: $47 | 35 W. 64th St., between Broadway and Central Park W, Upper West Side | 212/724–8585 | www.picholinenyc.com | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center.
Porter House New York.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | With clubby interiors by Jeffrey Beers and an adjoining lounge area, Porter House is helmed by veteran chef Michael Lomonaco. Filling the meat-and-potatoes slot in the Time Warner Center’s upscale “Restaurant Collection,” this masculine throwback highlights American wines and pedigreed supersize meat. The neighborhood, long underserved on the steakhouse front, has warmed to Lomonaco’s simple, solid American fare. Begin with his smoky clams casino or rich roasted marrow bones. Steaks are huge and expertly seasoned, and come with the usual battery of à la carte sides—creamed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and truffle mashed potatoes. | Average main: $45 | Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th fl., at 60th St., Upper West Side | 212/823–9500 | www.porterhousenewyork.com | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto.
$ | ITALIAN | This compact space is a temple to cured meats. Chef Cesare Casella has created a showcase for dozens of varieties of prosciutto, coppa, mortadella, and more, carved from a professional slicer for consumption on the spot or as indulgent take-out. There’s also a more ambitious menu, including salads and a lusty osso buco over creamy mashed potatoes. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the avuncular chef with his signature rosemary sprig peeking out from his breast pocket. There’s a spin-off with a more elaborate menu on the Upper East Side. | Average main: $13 | 283 Amsterdam Ave., between 73rd and 74th sts., Upper West Side | 212/877–4800 | www.salumeriarosi.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 72nd St.
$$ | AMERICAN | Lining up for brunch here is as much an Upper West Side tradition as taking a sunny Sunday afternoon stroll in nearby Riverside Park. Locals love the bric-a-brac-filled restaurant for sweet morning-time dishes like lemon ricotta pancakes and comforting dinners. The afternoon tea includes buttery scones with Sarabeth’s signature jams, savory nibbles, and outstanding baked goods. Dinner entrées include chicken potpie and truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. There are several other locations around town, including one at Chelsea Market on 10th Avenue and West 15th Street. | Average main: $18 | 423 Amsterdam Ave., at 80th St., Upper West Side | 800/773–7378 | www.sarabeth.com | Station: 1 to 79th St.
$$$ | AMERICAN | The greenmarket-driven menu at Chef Bill Telepan’s eponymous eatery is heavy on the veggies (the seasonal vegetable starter wakes your palate right up), but fish lovers and first-timers should hook into the signature starter: smoked trout paired with sweet apple sour cream. Anything on the menu that contains eggs, like the “egg-in-a-hole” served with spinach and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, is worth a try. There’s the usual presence of foie gras and pork belly but Telepan does seafood very well (try the scallops). For dessert, a crunchy peanut-butter and gianduja duo with peanut-brittle ice cream is sublime. | Average main: $30 | 72 W. 69th St., between Columbus Ave. and Central Park W, Upper West Side | 212/580–4300 | www.telepan-ny.com | No lunch Mon. and Tues. | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center; 2, 3 to 72nd St.; B, C to 72nd St.
Harlem culinary renaissance? Yes, indeed. This historic northern neighborhood has seen an infusion of fantastic restaurants in the last five years or so. There are still the standby Southern and soul food restaurants but also newer arrivals, making your journey northward even more worthwhile.
$$$ | AFRICAN | You might feel like you’ve stepped into a private club after a pleasant doorman ushers you into this dimly lit space filled with red-leather banquettes and eye-pleasing art on the walls, but at the same time, the Cecil feels very welcoming. The menu is influenced by the African diaspora, so there’s a blend of culinary cultures—expect to be wowed. Heaping bowls of udon noodles are tangled around braised goat and edamame, all of which have been dunked in an African peanut sauce. Oxtail dumplings wade in a green apple curry sauce. A tender lamb shank sits upon coconut-spiked grits. This is a club you want to be a part of. | Average main: $29 | 210 W. 118th St., at St. Nicholas Ave. | 212/866–1262 | www.thececilharlem.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 2, 3, B, C to 116th St.
$$ | BISTRO | French Harlem? Not exactly, but Chez Lucienne is as close as you can get without leaving the comfortable confines of this historic neighborhood. If you can’t get into the Red Rooster next door, grab a seat at the baby blue banquette or relax at an outdoor table where locals come to sip coffee or wine, dogs at their side. The menu looks to Lyon with classics like sautéed foie gras and steak au poivre by a chef who logged time in the kitchen with famed Chef Daniel Boulud. | Average main: $19 | 308 Lenox Ave., between 125th and 126th sts., Harlem | 212/289–5555 | www.chezlucienne.com | No credit cards | Station: 2, 3 to 116th St.
Red Rooster Harlem.
$$$ | AMERICAN | Marcus Samuelsson, who earned his celebrity chefdom at Aquavit in Midtown for his take on Ethiopian-accented Scandinavian cuisine (fusing the food of his birthplace with that of where he grew up), moved way uptown to Harlem in 2010, where he has created a culinary hot spot for the ages. The comfort food menu jumps all over the place, reflecting the ethnic diversity that is modern-day New York City (and the patrons who regularly come here), from plantain-loaded oxtail to fried chicken to the tender meatballs (with lingonberry sauce) that he served at Aquavit. Expect a wait for Sunday brunch, with its gospel music, boozy cocktails, and modern takes on dishes like chicken and waffles. | Average main: $26 | 310 Lenox Ave., between 125th and 126th sts., Harlem | 212/792–9001 | www.redroosterharlem.com | No credit cards | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
$$ | SOUTHERN | This Harlem mainstay has been serving soul-food favorites like smothered chicken, barbecue ribs, collard greens, and mashed potatoes to a dedicated crowd of locals, tourists, and college students since 1962. Owner Sylvia Woods may have passed on in the summer of 2012, but her restaurant and signature sauces, jarred and sold online and in the restaurant, are more popular than ever. Some say it’s overly touristy—as the busloads attest—but it’s still worth the experience. For the ultimate experience, come for Sunday gospel brunch: singing and eating were never a more delicious combination. | Average main: $24 | 328 Lenox Ave., near 127th St., Harlem | 212/996–0660 | www.sylviassoulfood.com | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
Brooklyn may be the place to eat these days, but Brooklyn Heights has always been more pleasing to the eye than to the tastebuds. If you know where to look, there are decent neighborhood restaurants, but nearby Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill are chock full of edible goodness.
Fodor’s Choice | Colonie.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | The key to this perpetually popular restaurant’s success lies in its use of ultrafresh ingredients, sourced from local purveyors and presented with style in an upscale-casual space that honors its neighborhood’s historical roots. There’s always an oyster special, along with a selection of small plates like octopus with chorizo, duck egg with farro, and carrots with sunflower and candied garlic. The main courses, among them roast chicken and a sizable pork chop, tend to be hearty, though whole fish, fresh from the market, is on the menu as well. Dessert options include a sticky date cake, Vermont cheeses, and rich, sweet wines. | Average main: $20 | 12 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights | 718/855–7500 | www.colonienyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall; R to Court St.
$$ | AMERICAN | This neighborhood institution made its reputation serving wonderful food and excellent wines in an unpretentious, high-ceiling, brick-exposed dining room. The emphasis is on meat, with several nightly changing preparations of duck and veal—the latter, served with brussels sprouts, pancetta, and sage, is a knockout—but there are fish and pasta dishes as well. The annual Wild Game Festival is a showcase of hearty fare, including elk, buffalo, venison, and rabbit. The wine list, favoring California and Oregon vintages, includes noteworthy selections at all price points. | Average main: $24 | 44 Henry St., near Cranberry St., Brooklyn Heights | 718/834–1776 | www.henrysend.com | No lunch | Station: 2, 3 to Clark St.; A, C to High St.
$$ | ITALIAN | Efficient waiters, consistently outstanding food, and the hum of conversation make a visit to this always bustling Italian restaurant exceedingly pleasant. Squeeze lemon over your calamari, savor gnocchi with sage butter, or tuck into lasagna Bolognese: whether you’re in the mood for pasta, risotto, meat, chicken, or seafood, you’re bound to leave satisfied. Just be sure to hear about the daily specials before making your decision. The wines here are reasonably priced. | Average main: $20 | 38 Henry St., near Cranberry St., Brooklyn Heights | 718/625–3737 | Closed Mon. No lunch | No credit cards | Station:2, 3 to Clark St.; A, C to High St.
The River Café.
$$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | A deservedly popular special-occasion destination, this waterfront institution complements its exquisite Brooklyn Bridge views with memorable top-shelf cuisine served by an unfailingly attentive staff. Lobster, lamb, duck, and strip steak are among the staples of the prix-fixe menu ($120 for dinner, $42 for Saturday lunch, $55 for Sunday brunch). The chocolate Brooklyn Bridge mousse delivers the perfect ending to dinner. Jackets are required for men after 5 pm. | Average main: $255 | 1 Water St., Brooklyn Heights | 718/522–5200 | www.therivercafe.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 2, 3 to Clark St.; A, C to High St.; F to York St.
Filled with neoclassical courthouse buildings and glass skyscrapers, there isn’t much reason to come to downtown Brooklyn—unless, of course, you managed to nab a reservation at the borough’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Brooklyn Fare.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare.
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | Should you manage to snag one of the 18 seats at Brooklyn’s only Michelin three-star restaurant, you’re in for a treat. Chef Cesar Ramirez prepares 20-plus courses of French- and Japanese-influenced raw and cooked seafood small plates. The extravaganza feels like dining in a secret enclave of sophisticates; note-taking, photography, and mobile phone use are discouraged to keep the focus on the meal, which costs $255 per person, exclusive of wine, tax, and tip. Every Monday at 10:30 am, reservations open for the entire week that’s six weeks ahead. Seats fill up very quickly. Jackets are required for men. | Average main: $250 | 200 Schermerhorn St., near Hoyt St., Downtown Brooklyn | 718/243–0050 | www.brooklynfare.com | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: 2, 3 to Hoyt St.; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Nevins St.; A, C, G to Hoyt–Schermerhorn Sts.; B, Q, R to DeKalb Ave.
$ | DINER | Famous for its thick slices of cheesecake, Junior’s has been the quintessential Brooklyn diner since 1950. Classic cheeseburgers looming over little cups of cole slaw and thick french fries are first-rate, as are the sweet-potato latkes and pretty much all the breakfast offerings. You haven’t truly arrived in the borough until you’ve sunk into one of the vinyl booths and eaten comforting diner classics in this brightly lit space. | Average main: $10 | 386 Flatbush Ave. Extension, Downtown Brooklyn | 718/852–5257 | www.juniorscheesecake.com | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5 to Nevins St.; B, Q, R to DeKalb Ave.; A, C, G to Hoyt–Schermerhorn Sts.
Once upon a time, the primary reason for a hungry person to come to DUMBO was to eat pizza at Grimaldi’s. The past few years have seen the growing gentrification of these loft-strewn cobblestone streets, though, today sprinkled with toothsome eateries and cute boutiques.Now that the Brooklyn waterfront has been fully developed you can walk off your meal on a romantic stroll.
$$ | MEXICAN | Few restaurants are as equally suited to neighborhood families as to trendy twentysomethings, but Gran Eléctrica pleases all palates. Maybe it’s the tequila. The impressive list of bottles and a balanced cocktail menu accompany multiregional, streetfood–centric Mexican fare that regularly earns Michelin Bib Gourmand nods. Order a plate of albondigas de Juana—plump pork meatballs served with tortillas for mopping up the smoky chipotle broth—and you’ll quickly see what all the fuss is about. | Average main: $13 | 5 Front St., DUMBO | 718/852–2700 | www.granelectrica.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: A, C to High St.; F to York St.
$$ | PIZZA | Pizza pioneer Patsy Grimaldi’s eponymous pie shops checker the city, but Juliana’s is the latest in his thin-crust, coal-fired history. The restaurant is hidden in plain sight alongside neighboring Grimaldi’s, where the lines are twice as long and the pizzas not as good. Patsy himself has severed ties with Grimaldi’s, so do like the locals do and sample his classic white and margherita pies, homemade soups, and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory desserts in this bright, bustling space. | Average main: $20 | 19 Old Fulton St., DUMBO | 718/596–6700 | www.julianaspizza.com | Station: 2, 3 to Clark St.; A, C to High St.; F to York St.
Fodor’s Choice | Vinegar Hill House.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | DUMBO’s top dining destination is well worth the sloping walk up from the waterfront. Those who make the trek are rewarded with candlelit tables, seasonal menus, and a twinkling rear patio lined with cherry trees. Word gets out about a scene this good, so the wait for one of the 40 tables can be considerable, particularly during weekend brunch. Bide your time at the cozy bar, which pours potent cocktails, local beer, and wine by the glass. | Average main: $25 | 72 Hudson Ave., between Front and Water Sts., DUMBO | 718/522–1018 | www.vinegarhillhouse.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: F to York St.
Carroll Gardens has standout restaurants, which lure even those Manhattanites who might be loathe to cross the river.
Fodor’s Choice | Bergen Hill.
$$ | SEAFOOD | Seafood specialist Bergen Hill has earned a cult following among the neighborhood’s discerning diners (many of the city’s top food writers call the neighborhood home). Chef Andrew D’Ambrosi, a memorable Top Chef contestant, combines precisely cut raw fish with nontraditional flavors (perhaps tuna with green olive, currant, and jalapeño, or poached octopus with onion, raisin, and harissa). The toasts are a must—crunchy bread topped with lobster salad or perfectly seasoned roasted eggplant. The best seat is at the tiny chef’s bar, where he might tell you about a recent trip to Barcelona or slide you a sample of his latest creation. The wine list is mostly old-world and adventurous; cocktails lean alternately classic and interpretive. | Average main: $18 | 387 Court St., Carroll Gardens | 718/858–5483 | www.bergenhill.com | No lunch | Station: F, G to Carroll St.
$$ | AMERICAN | Food Network–famous fried chicken and waffles have earned this Southern-accented New American bistro epic brunch lines and a legion of neighborhood regulars with their kids (the Clown Sundae is legendary among Carroll Gardens third-graders). But when day turns to night, Buttermilk Channel transforms into a surprisingly serious restaurant with an excellent, mostly American wine list and satisfying entrées including steaks, pan-roasted fish, and an outstanding warm lamb-shoulder salad. Vegetarians are certainly accommodated at many Brooklyn restaurants but here they get a special menu. | Average main: $22 | 524 Court St., at Huntington St., Carroll Gardens | 718/852–8490 | www.buttermilkchannelnyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: F, G to Smith–9th Sts.
Fodor’s Choice | Frankies 457.
$$ | ITALIAN | When Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli opened this pioneering Italian-American restaurant in a former social club, Carroll Gardens was a culinary backwater. Much has evolved in the decade-plus since but what hasn’t changed is the small but well-conceived menu of shareable salads (many with vegetables roasted or marinated with the Frankies’ own Sicilian olive oil), handmade pastas like the cavatelli with hot sausage and browned sage butter, and crusty sandwiches that ask to be split and shared. When the weather’s nice, try to score a seat in the gravel-lined backyard. | Average main: $16 | 457 Court St., near Luquer St., Carroll Gardens | 718/403–0033 | www.frankiesspuntino.com | Station: F, G to Carroll St. or Smith–9th Sts.
Fodor’s Choice | Nightingale 9.
$$ | VIETNAMESE | Though it’s named after an old Brooklyn telephone code, Nightingale 9 takes its culinary inspiration from “long distance”: Vietnam. This smartly designed Smith Street favorite is a must for lemongrass-grilled pork chops or the steamed rice crêpes called banh cuon, stuffed with minced pork, chicken pâté, and cucumber. Chef Rob Newton visits Vietnam often and brings back authentic recipes that he sometimes reimagines with his Arkansas childhood in mind, such as smoked pork sausage served with rice cakes and shrimp paste. Catfish is fried with turmeric and spices, and served with a unique combination of dill and peanuts. | Average main: $16 | 329 Smith St., Carroll Gardens | 347/689–4699 | www.nightingale9.com | Closed Mon. No lunch | Station: F, G to Carroll St.
$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Steak, sausages, and serious Prohibition-era cocktails: it’s a winning combination for Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, who opened this Frankies offshoot as a tribute to turn-of-the-century New York dining rooms. Try a chilled iceberg-lettuce salad with Maytag blue cheese and a Vesper or dry martini to start, followed by a grilled heritage pork chop or perhaps an order of steak frites—though there are many other options, including a number of Teutonic dishes like herb and Gruyère spätzle and house-made weisswurst. | Average main: $25 | 465 Court St., at Luquer St., Carroll Gardens | 718/254–0327 | www.frankspm.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: F, G to Carroll St. or Smith–9th Sts.
Still probably the hippest, happening-est neighborhood in the five boroughs, Williamsburg is also one of the hottest destinations on the culinary landscape. You’ll find plenty of decadent twists on farm-to-table cuisine, dressed-up comfort food classics, and killer cocktails.
Fodor’s Choice | Diner.
$$ | AMERICAN | The word “diner” might evoke a greasy spoon, but this trendsetting restaurant under the Williamsburg Bridge is nothing of the sort. Andrew Tarlow—the godfather of Brooklyn’s farm-to-table culinary renaissance—opened it in 1999 and launched an entire movement. The restaurant occupies a 1927 dining car, and foodies cram into the tiny booths to sample the daily changing menu. Your waiter will scrawl the offerings on your paper tablecloth: expect two or three meat options, a fish or two, and veggies (asparagus in spring, delicata squash in fall) from farms in the Greater New York area. | Average main: $20 | 85 Broadway, at Berry St., South Williamsburg | 718/486–3077 | www.dinernyc.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
$$ | BARBECUE | It might seem odd to go to a former auto-body repair shop to feast on meat, but the funky building and courtyard are just the right setting for the serious barbecue served here. A huge wood-and-gas smoker delivers brisket, sausages, ribs—even duck—all ordered by the pound. Sides include potato salad, broccoli salad, and baked beans, but meat is the main event. Pair your meal with one of the more than 40 American whiskeys and 10 microbrews. Come early, as tables fill up quickly, and even at 700 pounds of meat a night, the good stuff sometimes runs out by 9. | Average main: $13 | 354 Metropolitan Ave., at Havemeyer St., North Williamsburg | 718/963–3404 | www.fettesaubbq.com | No lunch Mon.–Thurs. | Station: L to Lorimer St.; G to Metropolitan Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Isa.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Entering this restaurant on a rather barren block feels like walking into a modern farmhouse. Whitewashed walls, wood in geometric patterns, and a terra-cotta floor set the tone for Brooklyn-meets-Mediterranean fare, which means Tuscan-kale caesar salads and wood-fired breakfast pizza with pancetta, fontina, salsa verde, and an egg. The food is sourced as locally as possible, and the wine list features many organic bottles from France and Italy. Ask for a seat near the open kitchen if you want to see what the chefs are up to, or sit on the other side and watch the bartenders shake cocktails using herbs from the rooftop garden. | Average main: $24 | 348 Wythe Ave., at S. 3rd St., South Williamsburg | 347/689–3594 | www.isa.gg | Station: L to Bedford Ave.; J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Le Barricou.
$$ | FRENCH | The team behind nearby Maison Premiere operates this Parisian-style brasserie serving escargots, coq au vin, and other French bistro classics. Diners sit at rustic wooden tables, and the walls are collaged with vintage French newspapers. Come for brunch if you’ve been searching for perfect eggs Benedict: the version here is drizzled with hollandaise and accompanied by salad and home fries (there are no reservations at brunch, so come early or expect to wait). | Average main: $18 | 533 Grand St., between Lorimer St. and Union Ave., South Williamsburg | 718/782–7372 | www.lebarricouny.com | Station: L to Lorimer St.; G to Metropolitan Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Marlow & Sons.
$$ | AMERICAN | With its green-and-white-striped awning, you might easily mistake this buzzy bistro for an old-timey grocery store, but this is a wood-panel dining room packed nightly with foodies for remarkable locavore cuisine. Part of the Andrew Tarlow empire, Marlow & Sons serves food that sounds simple until you take that first bite. A starter the menu lists as burrata with radishes, for example, emerges from the kitchen as a complex dish of melt-in-your-mouth cheese with thin slices of the root vegetable and a crunchy topping of golden raisin bread toasted with olive oil. The entrées are equally inspired, thanks to the creative use to which the chefs put fresh, seasonal ingredients. The must-do dessert, the salted chocolate caramel tart, represents decadence at its flawless best. | Average main: $23 | 81 Broadway, at Berry St., South Williamsburg | 718/384–1441 | www.marlowandsons.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.; L to Bedford Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Meadowsweet.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Amid Williamsburg’s culinary landscape of casual, comfort food–centric bistros with rock-and-roll soundtracks, this restaurant and bar feels thoroughly grown-up. Chef-owner Polo Dobkins serves New American cuisine in an airy space with blond-wood accents. The striking mosaic floor was preserved from the original 1890 building, at one point a kosher cafeteria. The sophisticated dishes might include crispy baby artichokes peeking out of a beautifully arranged mound of arugula and topped with shaved Parmesan; the plancha marina entrée contains impeccably cooked shrimp, scallops, squid, and monkfish served with aioli. Save room for dessert—the pastry chef likes to cut loose, drizzling ice cream with olive oil or sprinkling marcona almonds on a lemon ice cream tart. | Average main: $30 | 149 Broadway, between Bedford and Driggs aves., South Williamsburg | 718/384–0673 | www.meadowsweetnyc.com | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Peter Luger Steak House.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | Steak lovers come to Peter Luger for the exquisite dry-aged meat and the casual atmosphere. You can order individual steaks, but the porterhouse is highly recommended and served only for two, three, or four. Make reservations as far ahead as possible as prime dining times fill up more than a month in advance. The lunch-only burger is beloved by those in the know, as is the bacon appetizer, available by the slice. | Average main: $50 | 178 Broadway, at Driggs Ave., South Williamsburg | 718/387–7400 | www.peterluger.com | Reservations essential | No credit cards | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Pies ‘N’ Thighs.
$ | SOUTHERN | Opened by three Diner alums, this little restaurant takes its moniker seriously, serving famously delicious fried chicken and pies made with organic and local ingredients. Perched on chairs from an elementary school, diners enjoy Southern-style meals that come with a protein (catfish and pulled pork for those who don’t want chicken) and two sides (grits, mac ‘n’ cheese, and biscuits are favorites). Save room for pie: perhaps guava, key lime, banana cream, bourbon pecan, or many other varieties. | Average main: $12 | 166 S. 4th St., at Driggs Ave., South Williamsburg | 347/529–6090 | www.piesnthighs.com | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Reynard.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | The largest of Andrew Tarlow’s Williamsburg restaurants (which include Diner and Marlow & Sons), Reynard has all the hallmarks of a Tarlow venture. Farm-to-table fare highlights the season’s freshest ingredients, and everything is made in-house, even the granola. The grass-fed burger is always available but the rest of the menu changes often enough that you’ll want to come back to try it all. | Average main: $26 | Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Ave., at N. 11th St., Williamsburg | 718/460–8004 | www.reynardnyc.com | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | St. Anselm.
$$ | STEAKHOUSE | This modest spot grills high-quality meat and fish, all sustainably and ethically sourced, and at very reasonable prices. The sides, ordered à la carte, deserve special attention: the spinach gratin is dependably hearty, and the seasonal special of delicata squash with manchego (cheese from sheep’s milk) is divine. Come early or risk a long wait, though you can get a drink from the owners’ bar, Spuyten Duyvil, next door. St. Anselm is also open for brunch on weekends. | Average main: $19 | 355 Metropolitan Ave., at Havemeyer St., North Williamsburg | 718/384–5054 | www.stanselm.net | No lunch weekdays | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to Lorimer St.; G to Metropolitan Ave.
$ | AMERICAN | “Celebrating pork and shellfish,” the restaurant’s website proudly proclaims. Bohemian and fashionable without the attitude, this popular spot is decidedly and deliciously unkosher in a very kosher-friendly part of Williamsburg. Think bacon-egg-cheese sliders with sweet-potato fries, followed by bacon doughnuts. The patio overlooking the garden and the dining room, with paintings and photographs by local artists, is a happening place to be for weekend brunch. | Average main: $12 | 229 S. 4th St., at Havemayer St., Williamsburg | 347/844–9578 | www.traifny.com | Closed Mon., no lunch.
Fodor’s Choice | Zenkichi.
$$$ | JAPANESE | Modeled on Tokyo’s intimate brasseries, this hidden Japanese restaurant serves no sushi: they specialize in exquisitly composed small plates, best enjoyed as part of the eight-course omakase (chef’s tasting menu), though you can also order à la carte. Instead of a dining room, guests are seated in private booths separated by bamboo curtains, so other diners are audible but not visible. The gracious waiters can recommend sake to pair with your meal. This might be the closest to Tokyo you can get in Brooklyn. | Average main: $26 | 77 N. 6th St., at Wythe Ave., North Williamsburg | 718/388–8985 | www.zenkichi.com | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
$ | JAPANESE | The next evolution of sushi draws the locals to Bozu’s dim interior and the cozy deck out back: the sushi is excellent, but the showpieces are sushi bombs, small, half-spherical bites of rice topped with seafood or daikon radish. You can also skip the sushi and opt for the Angus beef ministeak, or Japanese fried chicken. Pair your selection with an infused shochu or an inventive cocktail like the wabi-sake (wasabi, vodka, and sake). | Average main: $14 | 296 Grand St., at Havemayer St., Williamsburg | 718/384–7770 | www.oibozu.com | No lunch.
$ | AMERICAN | Hipsters love it. Even Manhattanites make the trek across the East River to eat well-executed breakfast and brunch fare here, served daily until 6 pm. The new space on North 3rd Street is larger than the original but there are still lines on the weekends. It’s worth the wait. The Eggs Rothko is a brioche-wrapped, cheddar-topped egg with broiled tomatoes from Egg’s sustainable farm in Oak Hill, NY. The delicious duck hash will forever make you favor breakfast fowl. The French roast coffee is as excellent as you’d expect from a restaurant specializing in breakfast. Cash only. | Average main: $13 | 109 N. 3rd St., near Berry St., Williamsburg | 718/302–5151 | www.pigandegg.com | No dinner | Reservations not accepted | Station: L to Bedford St.
$$ | BRITISH | You never know what you might find on a Bushwick street, like this twee British gastropub. Innovative salads, vegetable sides, and shareable plates complement the small selection of hearty dinner mains—perhaps a skillet-cooked pork chop or cauliflower hash with curry. The Anglocentric cocktail menu deserves thorough investigation. Weekend brunch is outstanding, whether you’re in the mood for a full English breakfast, Yorkshire pudding, or the delectable Farmhouse cottage cheese plate. | Average main: US$21 | 41 Wilson Ave., at Melrose St., Bushwick | 929/234–2344 | www.dearbushwick.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: L to Morgan Ave., M to Central Ave.
$$ | AMERICAN | Husband-and-wife team Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke opened this restaurant in 2005, basing their farm-to-table aesthetic on the rural communities of their native Vermont. More than a decade later, the place still has a loyal following. The dishes, which change with the seasons, might include chicken with spaetzle and asparagus or rainbow trout with red quinoa, stinging nettles, and beurre noisette (hazelnut butter). The burger, served with Vermont cheddar, housemade mayo, and tobacco onions, is a mainstay. | Average main: $21 | 18 Wyckoff Ave., at Troutman St., Bushwick | 718/386–3864 | www.north-eastkingdom.com | Station: L to Jefferson St.
The big draw in East Williamsburg is Roberta’s. The neighborhood is still pretty industrial but there are new restaurants and bars out here creating a scene.
Fodor’s Choice | Bunna Cafe.
$ | ETHIOPIAN | The best way to sample the diverse flavors, many quite spicy, of Ethiopian cuisine at this stellar resaurant are the combination platters—for one or to share—though you can also order individual dishes. If the delicious, seasonal duba wot (spiced pumpkin) is available, definitely include it in your platter. Everything is served with injera, a sourdough flatbread used to scoop up the various stews. The drink menu includes traditional t’ej (honey wine), cocktails, and wine and beer from Ethiopia and elsewhere. The namesake bunna—Ethiopian coffee brewed with cardamom and cloves—is worth a try, too. There’s a special menu for brunch. | Average main: US$10 | 1084 Flushing Ave., at Porter Ave., East Williamsburg | 347/295–2227 | www.bunnaethiopia.net | Station: L to Morgan Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Roberta’s.
$$ | ITALIAN | A neighborhood groundbreaker since it opened in 2008, this restaurant in a former garage is a must-visit, especially for pizza connoisseurs. The menu emphasizes hyperlocal ingredients—there’s a rooftop garden—and the wood-fired pizzas have innovative combinations of toppings like fennel, pork sausage, and pistachio. There are also pastas and meaty mains, along with a vegetarian-friendly option or two. In summer service extends to a hip patio tiki bar. Roberta’s is wildly popular, so either come early or try for a table at lunch or brunch, which isn’t as hectic. Blanca, the two-Michelin-starred tasting-menu-only ($195, Wed.–Sat., email@example.com) restaurant on the Roberta’s property serves innovative New American food. It’s by reservation only. | Average main: $15 | 261 Moore St., at Bogart St., Bushwick | 718/417–1118 | www.robertaspizza.com | Station: L to Morgan Ave.
Fort Greene has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the lovely brownstone apartments attracting young professionals and many of the borough’s established writers and artists. It’s also a garden of culinary delights with restaurants leading the locavore farm-to-table movement. And who knows? Maybe even a famous director or author will be sitting at the table next to you.
$ | LATIN AMERICAN | If the hearty Cuban sandwich and spicy Mexican corn on the cob don’t win you over, the exceptionally potent margarita slushies will. An outdoor party scene with democratic appeal, Habana Outpost’s spacious corner lot is popular with families, first dates, and the occasional raucous-but-friendly group of revelers. Everyone chows down on crowd-pleasing Latin American fare, served from the window of a repurposed truck–turned–kitchen counter. On Sunday nights, May through October, the restaurant screens free movies like Purple Rain, Heathers, and neighborhood mainstay Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. | Average main: | 757 Fulton St., Fort Greene | 718/858–9500 | www.habanaoutpost.com | Closed Nov.–Mar. | No credit cards | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.; G to Fulton St.
$$ | SOUTH AFRICAN | Opened in 1999, America’s first South African restaurant remains a swinging good time. Whether you come for an alfresco brunch, late-night cocktail, or a hearty dinner of spicy chicken livers and oxtail stew, Madiba’s is always buzzing. On “Wine Wednesdays,” the restaurant pours half-price bottles of renowned South African Indaba wine and has specials on wines by the glass. | Average main: US$20 | 195 DeKalb Ave., Fort Greene | 718/855–9190 | www.madibarestaurant.com | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.; G to Fulton St.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Perch at the marble-top bar or lounge at one of the banquettes in the back at this buzzy neighborhood bistro lit up by Edison bulbs. The frequently changing menu puts a global spin on American classics. The result is nouveau fusion that pulls in droves of local diners and makes vegetarians happy. Highlights might include anything from crispy eggplant with tofu in a tomato vinaigrette to skirt steak with baked potato, Chinese sausage, and chimichurri sauce. Brunch dishes are similarly innovative but delicious—think fried eggs with nachos and jalapeños, or pork loin with fried eggs, buttermilk pancake, and pineapple maple syrup. On Monday night, the dining room is closed but the bar is still open. | Average main: $20 | 7 Greene Ave., Fort Greene | 718/522–6370 | www.no7restaurant.com | No lunch weekdays; no dinner Mon. | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.; 2, 3, 4, 5, B, Q to Atlantic Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Roman’s.
$$$ | ITALIAN | Part of an all-star Brooklyn restaurant group that includes Williamsburg favorites Diner and Marlow & Sons, this seasonally focused eatery has an Italian accent. Menus change daily and include farm-fresh fare like wintry fennel salads or pork meatballs in brodo, or delicacies like artichoke-studded house-made spaghetti in summer. When weather permits, request one of the candlelit alfresco tables: There’s no better perch from which to soak up the Fort Greene scene. | Average main: $26 | 243 Dekalb Ave., near Vanderbilt Ave., Fort Greene | 718/622–5300 | www.romansnyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.; G to Clinton–Washington Aves.
Stonehome Wine Bar and Restaurant.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | Just down the street from BAM, Stonehome is the place to go before or after a show for sophisticated food and wine at reasonable prices. This dimly lighted basement hideaway has excellent tasting flights—three samples for $18—and 38 wines by the glass, perfect to pair with cheese, charcuterie, and house-made pâtés. The small and uncomplicated menu focues on market-fresh new American fare like pan-roasted chicken with cheddar grits and greens. The back garden is a delight in nice weather. | Average main: $19 | 87 Lafayette Ave., at S. Portland Ave., Fort Greene | 718/624–9443 | www.stonehomewinebar.com | No lunch | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Walter’s.
$$ | AMERICAN | A sister restaurant to Williamsburg’s Walter Foods, this buzzy bistro has a seasonal menu, a comely crowd, and rosy-hued lighting that gives the space a glamorous vibe. Stop in for a cocktail after a day in Fort Greene Park, or come for a heartier repast courtesy of Walter’s raw bar, satisfying main dishes (the fried chicken with garlic mashed potatoes is a consistent winner), and market-fresh veggie sides. | Average main: $20 | 166 DeKalb Ave., Fort Greene | 718/488–7800 | www.walterfoods.com/walters | Station: B, Q, R to DeKalb Ave.; C to Lafayette Ave.; G to Fulton St.
$ | BISTRO | This funky French bistro on a Fort Greene corner is a longstanding neighborhood crowd-pleaser, with its colorful vintage interior, friendly staff, convivial vibe, and live music on some nights. The menu, short and heavy on the classics, is simple bistro fare with a focus on organic, free range, and sustainable ingredients. Highlights are the spicy lamb burger with goat cheese (lunch only) and the bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels simmering in a white wine sauce. Tables spill onto the sidewalk in warmer months. | Average main: $18 | 211 Dekalb Ave., near Adelphi St., Fort Greene | 718/852–6250 | www.chezoskar.com | Station: C to Lafayette Ave.
Park Slope’s reputation precedes it: this handsome, gay-friendly family neighborhood also happens to be a great place to fill the tummy. Restaurant-crammed 5th Avenue is not for the indecisive; there’s everything from Mexican to Italian to Thai, and it’s all quite good.
Fodor’s Choice | al di là Trattoria.
$$ | ITALIAN | Roughly translated as “the great beyond,” al di là has been consistenly packed since it opened in 1998, and it’s easy to understand why: perfectly prepared dishes from Northern Italy served at affordable prices, in a relaxed atmosphere. The warm farro salad with seasonal ingredients and goat cheese is perfectly al dente; the hand-pinched ravioli are deliciously homemade; and meatier entrées like braised rabbit, pork loin scaloppine, and charcoal-grilled young Bo Bo chicken are highlights. The wine bar is a good spot to wait for a table. | Average main: | 248 5th Ave., at Carroll St., Park Slope | 718/783–4565 | www.aldilatrattoria.com | Station: R to Union St.
$$ | MEXICAN | Authentic and flavorful contemporary Mexican food, perfectly mixed cocktails, and amiable staff define this cozy restaurant—the first of three in New York City overseen by award-winning chef and cookbook author Roberto Santibañez. It’s tempting to order by sauce alone: enchiladas with mole, scallops and shrimp with avocado serrano sauce, and poblano peppers with roasted-tomato chipotle sauce. Popular appetizers include the braised duck and the fish salpicon, both served on corn tortillas. The small space is always buzzing and in nice weather there’s backyard seating. | Average main: $22 | 434 7th Ave., between 14th and 15th Sts., Park Slope | 718/369–3144 | www.fondarestaurant.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: F, G to 7th Ave. or 15th St.–Prospect Park.
$$ | ITALIAN | Local, organic, sustainable, and high-quality are the watchwords at this lively spot known for delicious wood-fired pizzas and inventive Southern Italian dishes. The menu is gently priced but portions run small. Seasonal flourishes might include ramps, roasted fennel, or whipped eggplant, and pizza toppings feature unusual cheeses like nutty grana padano, peppery pecorino, and sharp Ragusano D.O. caciocavallo: all pair well with the extensive list of Italian wines. Watch the crew at work through the open kitchen. | Average main: $18 | 348 Flatbush Ave., between Sterling Pl. and 8th Ave., Park Slope | 718/230–0221 | www.frannysbrooklyn.com | Station: 2, 3 to Grand Army Plaza; B, Q to 7th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Talde.
$$ | ASIAN FUSION | Top Chef alumnus Dale Talde has created a showstopping menu of Asian-American comfort foods at this casual neighborhood restaurant. Taste the bold flavors of staples like the crispy pretzel pork and chive dumplings, tangy Kung Pao chicken wings with cilantro and peanuts, Filipino pork shoulder with pickled papaya, and Korean fried chicken with a kimchee yogurt sauce cooled by sliced grapes. If the Filipino halo-halo dessert is on the menu, you’re in for a sugar rush: it’s shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk, coconut, tapioca, seasonal fruit, and Cap’n Crunch. Distract yourself with a cocktail at the bar if there’s a wait for a table. | Average main: $22 | 369 7th Ave., at 11th St., Park Slope | 347/916–0031 | www.taldebrooklyn.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: F, G to 7th Ave.
Once referred to as the “new Park Slope,” the neighborhood on the other side of Flatbush has come into its own. Leafy, brownstone-laden streets are increasingly filled with great restaurants.
$$ | ITALIAN | On the Crown Heights–Prospect Heights border (corvo means “crow” in Italian, as in Crow Hill, this area’s old name) and a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Museum, this handmade-pasta specialist is an offshoot of Park Slope’s renowned al di là. Like its sibling, Bar Corvo offers rustic decor alongside refined starches and salads—squid-ink spaghetti with octopus, malfatti gnocchi with walnuts, and an impeccable warm farro salad (the fried spicy chickpeas, billed a “snack,” are highly addictive). For weekend museumgoers, Bar Corvo’s brunch is a refined alternative to Tom’s more casual diner fare up the block. | Average main: $18 | 791 Washington Ave., at Lincoln Pl., Prospect Heights | 718/230–0940 | www.barcorvo.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 2, 3 to Eastern Pkwy.–Brooklyn Museum; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Franklin Ave.; S to Botanic Garden.
Fodor’s Choice | Chuko.
$$ | JAPANESE | Whether it’s because of the miniscule size of the restaurant or the habit-forming flavors of the noodle bowls, there’s always a crowd outside this ramen storefront. Since opening in 2011 as an offshoot of Manhattan’s Morimoto, Chuko has become a Prospect Heights institution with a small, reliably tasty menu—the signature ramen comes in a simple selection of broths and toppings. The Brooklyn flagship has since spawned Bar Chuko (565 Vanderbilt Ave., at Bergen St.; closed Mon.), a block away, which has a wider selection of izakaya small plates—Japanese bar food like yakitori skewers and clams with XO sauce. Wander over there if the mothership is mobbed or to enjoy a shochu cocktail while you wait. | Average main: $13 | 552 Vanderbilt Ave., at Dean St., Prospect Heights | 718/576–6701 | www.barchuko.com | No credit cards | Station: 2, 3 to Bergen St.; A, C to Clinton–Washington Aves.; B, Q to 7th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | The Islands.
$ | CARIBBEAN | A Prospect Heights institution since before the neighborhood gentrified, this Caribbean restaurant has a tiny ground-floor kitchen and a steep staircase leading up to an equally small dining room that feels like a crow’s nest. The Islands does the area’s West Indian heritage proud with signature jerk dishes that are at least two-alarm spicy. Generous portions (a “small” plate is plenty) of chicken, shrimp, goat, and oxtail come with rice and salad—an authentic and delicious low-frills meal. | Average main: $12 | 803 Washington Ave., at Lincoln Pl., Prospect Heights | 718/398–3575 | No credit cards | Station: 2, 3 to Eastern Pkwy.–Brooklyn Museum; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Franklin Ave.; S to Botanic Garden.
$ | DINER | The legend of Tom’s may outstrip the reality (contrary to myth, Suzanne Vega’s hit “Tom’s Diner” is not named for the place), but lines form down the block every weekend around brunchtime for a spot at this snug, old-school lunch-counter joint that serves straight-ahead diner food. Kindly proprietor Jim Kokotas offers the folks in line coffee, orange slices, and sausage bites. When you finally sit, stick to breakfast staples—the lemon ricotta flapjacks are the real standout (ask for the flavored butters). If your party is small enough, counter seats can usually be had more quickly. | Average main: $8 | 782 Washington Ave., at Sterling Pl., Prospect Heights | 718/636–9738 | www.tomsbrooklyn.com | No dinner | No credit cards | Station: 2, 3 to Eastern Pkwy.–Brooklyn Museum; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Franklin Ave.; S to Botanic Garden.
$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | The mellowest of longtime Brooklyn chef Saul Bolton’s several restaurants in the borough, the Vanderbilt offers a broad menu in a large space. Comfort food like meatballs, chicken, and pork chops are joined by creative small plates, a charcuterie menu, a well-chosen craft beer menu, and intriguing cocktails. Weekend brunch is the busier, buzzier meal, with delicious shrimp ‘n’ grits. For a higher-end experience, Bolton’s eponymous flagship, Saul (closed Monday and Tuesday), moved from Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Museum several years ago; locals agree the menu became less exceptional after the transfer but the presentation is polished. | Average main: $16 | 570 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights | 718/623–0570 | www.thevanderbiltnyc.com | No lunch weekdays | Station: 2, 3 to Bergen St.; C to Clinton–Washington Aves.; B, Q to 7th Ave.
It’s no longer an island, but this amusement park on the sea is salt-of-the-earth paradise. Think pizza and hot dogs and calorie-laden carnival fare. If you’re in town during July 4, a Big Apple must-see is the annual Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest where hundreds of people gather to watch “professional” eaters scarf down tubular meat.
Fodor’s Choice | Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana.
$$ | PIZZA | Thin-crust pies judiciously topped with fresh mozzarella and tangy, homemade tomato sauce, then baked in a coal oven—at Totonno’s you’re not just eating pizza, you’re biting into a slice of New York history. Not much has changed since Anthony (Totonno) Pero first opened the pizzeria, in 1924, right after the subways started running to Coney Island—the restaurant is at the same location and run by the same family, who use ingredients and techniques that have been handed down through four generations. The casual dining room is old-school, too, with checkerboard linoleum flooring, red-top tables, and wall-to-wall autographed photos, historic news clippings, and awards and accolades (including the James Beard American Classic). | Average main: $16 | 1524 Neptune Ave., between 15th and 16th Sts., Coney Island | 718/372–8606 | www.totonnosconeyisland.com | Closed Mon.–Wed. | No credit cards | Station: D, F, N, Q to Coney Island–Stillwell Ave.
The subway trains that shuttle people out to this beachside neighborhood could be nicknamed the “time machine” because strolling the wide boardwalk along the sea feels like you’ve dropped into another time and space. Odessa in the 1980s comes to mind. After all, it was around that time when a mass migration of Russian immigrants settled in Brighton Beach. Today you’ll hear more Slavic than English and you’ll most certainly be tempted by the vodka and highly entertaining Russian restaurants that line the boardwalk.
$ | ASIAN | Uyghur cuisine, from the Chinese region of Xinjiang, is the focus of the menu at this postage stamp-size café. Standouts include naryn (lamb dumplings), samsa (empanada-like lamb pies), pickles, vinegary salads, and clay-oven-baked bread. The few Uzbek dishes on the menu are recommended, in particular the pilaf and the lamb and vegetable dymlama—a meat and potato stew that’s sometimes made with vegetables and fruit. The portions are definitely shareable. | Average main: $6 | 1141 Brighton Beach Ave., at Brighton 15th St., Brighton Beach | 718/743–3832 | www.kashkarcafe.com | Station: B, Q to Brighton Beach.
Fodor’s Choice | Tatiana Restaurant and Night Club.
$$ | RUSSIAN | There are two prime times at Tatiana’s: day and night. Sitting at a boardwalk-side table on a summer afternoon, enjoying the breezes and the views of the Atlantic while eating lunch alfresco, is a quintessential Brighton Beach experience. After dark, a flashier crowd arrives, especially on weekends when Tatiana’s hosts an extravagant floor show, with plenty of dancing, costumes, and acrobatics. The menu has a bit of everything: the Ukrainian specialties, like the sweet and savory vareniki, a pierogi-like dumpling that’s considered Ukraine’s national dish, are especially good, as are the herring, the homemade lox, and the caviar platters. Vodka can be ordered like wine—by the bottle. No sneakers are allowed in the evenings. | Average main: $20 | 3152 Brighton 6th St. (or enter from boardwalk), Brighton Beach | 718/891–5151 | www.tatianarestaurant.com | Station: B, Q to Brighton Beach.
After you’re finished with the sights, why head back to Manhattan? End your day with dinner at one of Astoria’s legendary Greek restaurants (on or near Broadway), or venture to the Middle Eastern restaurants farther out on Steinway Street.
$$ | MIDDLE EASTERN | Middle-Eastern restaurants are a dime a dozen in NYC, but Egyptian-Mediterranean spots are a rarer find, attracting celebrity chefs and TV personalities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. This charming yet eccentric 16-seat café, which excels at interesting homestyle dishes, is a true hidden treasure. The menu changes nightly, but think of the fare here as Egyptian-accented comfort food: exceedingly tender lamb stuffed with pomegranate is always great. For the super adventurous eater, try the grilled lamb brain or lamb tongue. When it’s available, the roasted goose in a saffron sauce is a must. | Average main: $17 | 25-12 Steinway St., Astoria | 718/728–9858 | Closed Mon. | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards | Station: N, Q to Astoria Blvd.
$$ | GREEK | The current powerhouse of Hellenic eats in the neighborhood, Taverna Kyclades serves Greek classics at a higher level than you’d expect, given the simple décor and unassuming location. Fried calamari and grilled octopus make appearances at rock-bottom prices, despite their obvious quality, as do more out-of-the-ordinary dishes like “caviar dip” and swordfish kebabs. Lamb chops drip with juice, and grilled sardines are so fresh you’d swear they were just pulled from the sea. Be prepared to wait for a table at peak times, as they don’t take reservations. There’s also a Manhattan outpost on 1st Avenue and East 13th Street in the East Village. | Average main: $16 | 33-07 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria | 718/545–8666 | www.tavernakyclades.com | Reservations not accepted | Station: N, Q to Astoria–Ditmars Blvd.
Manhattan may be known for its fine four-star restaurants, but food lovers know there’s one train to take to some of the best eats in the city. The 7 snakes its way through the middle of Queens, and conveniently through some of the best dining neighborhoods in New York. At the end of the line is Flushing, home to the second-largest Chinatown in the United States. (First is San Francisco’s.) Wide streets have few tourists and many interesting stores and restaurants, making the long trip worth it. A couple tips: bring cash, because not many of these restaurants accept credit cards, and be prepared to encounter language difficulties, as English speakers are in the minority. In Manhattan, catch the 7 train at Times Square or Grand Central Terminal.
Spicy and Tasty.
$ | CHINESE | Flushing is crammed with quality salt-of-the-earth Chinese eateries, but Spicy and Tasty is the place to go for stand-out Chinese, particularly if you’re a first-timer to the neighborhood. The restaurant lives up to its name with numbing Szechuan peppercorns and slicks of red chili oil. Tea-smoked duck has crispy skin and smoky, salty meat. Eggplant with garlic sauce tastes of ginger, tomatoes, and red chilies. Cool it all down with a Tsingtao beer. The $6.50 lunch special—weekdays only—is quite the deal. | Average main: $10 | 39-07 Prince St., at 39th Ave., Flushing | 718/359–1601 | www.spicyandtasty.com | No credit cards | Station: 7 to Flushing–Main St.
LONG ISLAND CITY
Long Island City began attracting more visitors when MoMA PS1 opened in the 1970s.
Fodor’s Choice | M. Wells Dinette.
$ | CANADIAN | When the original version of this beloved and experimental restaurant in Long Island City lost its lease and had to shut down, a swath of New York eaters let out a collective groan. But they didn’t have to go too long without their foie gras fix because French-Canadian chef Hugue Dufour reopened the restaurant at MoMA PS1. The menu changes depending on the season but diners might find dishes like veal cheek stroganoff, with thick bucatini, or bone marrow and escargot. Finish off with a slice of maple pie and a shot of maple bourbon. Then wander the gallery trying to make sense of the art (and your meal). The restaurant currently closes at 6 pm, leaving time for a leisurely lunch but not dinner. | Average main: $17 | MoMA PS1, 22–25 Jackson Ave., at 46th Ave., Long Island City | 718/786–1800 | www.momaps1.org/about/mwells | No dinner. Closed Tues. and Wed. | Reservations not accepted | Station: 7, G to Court Sq.; E, M to Court Sq.–23rd St.
M. Wells Steakhouse.
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | From the team that made Long Island City a dining destination with the original M. Wells and then the M. Wells Dinette inside MoMA PS1 comes this mecca devoted to meat. Once you find the door—go through the gate, then walk across the small courtyard—settle in at a table in the industrial space, order a cocktail (the Canadian sidecar just means there’s maple in the classic), and peruse the menu. There are some good but gimmicky options—a bone-in burger, the short or tall stack of pork chops, foie gras gnocchi—but we say stick to the steak, particularly the thick, juicy côte de boeuf, and you’ll leave a happy diner. | Average main: $40 | 43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City | 718/786–9060 | www.magasinwells.com | Closed Tues. No lunch | Station: 7, N, Q to Queensboro Plaza; E, M, R to Queens Plaza.
One of the most ethnically diverse parts of New York City, Jackson Heights is home to a United Nations of cuisine: from outstanding Indian and Pakistani places to surprisingly excellent taco carts. Most recently, Tibetans and Nepalese have been moving into the neighborhood, setting up small shops selling juicy meat-filled momos (dumplings) and other Himalayan treats.
$ | TIBETAN | Step through the doorway with the Himalayan eyebrow threading sign above it, head up the twisting and turning stairway, then enter through a beaded curtain and you’ll find yourself something of a delicious culinary anomoly: Tibetan-Sichuan cuisine. The traditional momos (Tibetan dumplings stuffed with meat) are worth trying, but the most exciting fare here lies in the fusion of the two cultures,like spicy blood sausage or tofu in a fiery chili sauce. The funky beef-studded Tibetan yak cheese soup is for adventurous eaters. | Average main: $9 | 37-65 74th St., Jackson Heights | 718/424–1869 | No credit cards | Station: 7 to 74th St.–Broadway; E, F, M, R to Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Ave.
It has long been said that to get great Thai food in the Big Apple, you have to go to Queens. While the Thai dining landscape has improved in other parts of the city, Woodside is still its epicenter. But to only associate Woodside with just Thai cuisine is underselling it; you’ll find a variety of ethnic eateries here, including Ecuadorian and Italian.
$ | THAI | The main reason foodies flock to Woodside is to go to SriPraPhai(pronounced “See-PRA-pie”). It’s widely considered the best Thai restaurant in New York. Don’t be overwhelmed by the huge menu—it’s hard to go wrong. Crispy watercress salad, larb (ground pork salad with mint and lime juice), sautéed chicken with cashews and pineapple, kao-soy (curried egg noodles), and roasted duck green curry are a few standouts. If you go with a few people, order the delicately flavored whole steamed fish. There’s a large separate menu for vegetarians. But prepare your palate: your mouth might feel like a five-alarm fire by the time you’re finished. | Average main: $12 | 64-13 39th Ave., Woodside | 718/899–9599 | www.sripraphairestaurant.com | No credit cards | Closed Wed. | Station: 7 to 69th St.
People don’t really wander into this borough—like they do into Brooklyn and even Queens, hoping to stumble on some gem of an ethnic eatery—but the Bronx actually has a lot going for it, if you know where to look. Dotted throughout the borough are some great Mexican taquerías, African eateries, and old-school Italian joints. Skip Manhattan’s Little Italy and head to the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue for a real red-sauce treat; it’s a much more authentic Italian-American neighborhood and a great place to carb-load.
$$ | ITALIAN | Antonio’s bills itself as “an Italian restaurant serving simple food,” but it’s underselling itself. This is fantastic salt-of-the-earth Italian fare at its best. Start with the mini-meatballs wading in a marinara sauce and move on to baked clams, house-made ravioli, fettuccine carbonara, or excellent pizza, baked in a brick oven in the Neapolitan manner. Only the red-and-white checked tablecloths are missing. It’s a bit off the main “Little Italy” strip, but worth the trek. And if you haven’t eaten enough, expect a server to come by, prodding you with “Mangia, mangia!”|Average main: $22 | 2370 Belmont Ave., Belmont | 718/733–6630 | www.antoniostrattoria.com | Station: B, D to 182nd–183rd Sts.
Zero Otto Nove.
$$ | ITALIAN | Though insiders who can get a table swear by Rao’s on 114th Street in Manhattan, Zero Otto Nove chugs along as one of the best Italian restaurants north of 96th Street. The draw? A menu that nicely balancesauthentic Italian fare with good Italian-American classics. Try a woodoven–fired pizza, perfectly chewy and loaded with buffalo mozzarella. The San Matteo, which adds broccoli rabe to the mix, is just as addictive as the plain Jane margherita. Pasta dishes are worthy of your attention, too: the malfade with chickpeas, crispy pancetta, and breadcrumbs might make you want to skip the pizza pie for now. For those who don’t feel like a trek to the Bronx, there’s an outpost in Chelsea. | Average main: $15 | 2357 Arthur Ave., Belmont | 718/220–1027 | www.roberto089.com | Closed Mon. | Reservations not accepted | Station: B, D to 182nd–183rd Sts.
Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern.
$ | ITALIAN | Arguably the best pizzeria in the borough, Denino’s has been run by the same Sicilian family for more than 75 years. Baking thin-crust pizzas in their current location since 1937, this Staten Island institution is worth the trip from from St. George (half an hour by bus; 15-minute drive). For dessert, try Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices and Ice Cream, conveniently located across the street. | Average main: $17 | 524 Port Richmond Ave. | 718/442–9401 | www.deninos.com | No credit cards | Station: S44 or S94 bus from Staten Island Ferry Terminal (30 mins).