54 E. 1st St.
Gabrielle Hamilton’s 17-year-old restaurant has earned its place among New York’s all-time classics, and for good reason: The food remains delicious and ambitious, and there’s a no-nonsense vibe that reflects Hamilton’s sense of confidence. Gluten-free, vegan, Paleo — any picky eaters — should stay away, as this restaurant doesn’t pander to the special requests of guests. While brunch draws a heavy tourist group (there are 11 variations of Bloody Marys), at night, the dining room is frequented by regulars who understand that triscuits and sardines are a Prune specialty. It’s an equally appropriate setting for a girl’s night out, a dinner with parents, or a first date. In 2014, Hamilton changed her menu a bit after finishing her cookbook, adding dishes like grilled pigeon with warm-parsley dressing and a kerchief pasta with French ham, a poached egg, and toasted pine nuts. But all meals should start with the fried sweetbreads, adorned with bacon and capers, which can turn convert even the sweetbread-adverse. It’s easy to play it safe here — Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in anchovy sauce, whole grilled fish, radishes with sweet butter — but it pays to order something more adventurous. And don’t skip dessert: Hamilton proves that sometimes the simplest sweets are the best — like bread topped with dark chocolate and olive oil. There’s a reason this restaurant has a cult following, especially among women, as it feels like a true New York treasure.