Semi-Exclusive Dining Club
163 First Ave., nr. 10th St.; no phone
With only room for a lucky twelve and a strict online reservation policy, this high-minded concept from celebrity restaurateur David Chang caused a furor upon opening. The hype has since calmed down, but the Korean-inspired food remains unflinchingly worthy of its two Michelin stars. The ever-evolving prix fixe menu offers ten courses for a cool $125, and has included inventive dishes such as shaved foie gras with lychee, deep-fried short ribs, and kimchi consommé.
The King of Burgers
113 Macdougal St.,nr. Bleecker St.; 212-475-3850
If there’s one way to turn the volume up on the classic American burger, it’s to serve one blended from four different cuts of prime meat from one of New York’s top purveyors. This is exactly what you’ll find at Minetta Tavern, Keith McNally’s famed upscale saloon. Served with a heap of caramelized onions and a mound of hand-cut fries, the steep price ($26) is worth every penny. (If your frugality won’t budge, a nearly as delectable cheeseburger is also offered at $17.)
The Locavore’s Den
35 E. 18th St., at Broadway; 212-475-5829
Don’t let its department-store location (yes, it’s inside of ABC Carpet & Home) fool you, this seasonally driven restaurant has remained a favorite of farm-to-tables devotees since opening in 2010. And the entire place is adamantly ecofriendly—right down to the compostable place mats.
How De Niro Does It
377 Greenwich St., at N. Moore St.; 212-925-3797
Robert De Niro’s Italian eatery is known for serving family-style meals designed to please the masses. Think garlic-crusted chicken for two or a selection of seven pastas, including “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” from chef and part-owner Andrew Carmellini. Easy-going, comfortable, and reasonably priced, this Tribeca mainstay will please both your in-laws and your teenage son.
Southern in the City
131 Sullivan St.,nr. Prince St.; 212-677-6200
New York may be well above the Mason-Dixon line, but with the recent influx of comfort-food-focused menus, it’s quickly becoming a kind of pseudo–Deep South for the Yankee set. At Andrew Carmellini’s the Dutch, one can taste both the Southern and the pseudo elements, with crispy fried chicken and honey butter biscuits, duck with polenta, pickled cherries, salted foie gras, and array of classic pies topped with the ever-essential scoop of ice cream.
Iberia by Way of New York
359 Sixth Ave., nr. Washington Pl.; 646-559-9909
Croquetas, jamón ibérico, paella—these are just a few of the dishes that make Spanish cuisine worthy of a transatlantic trip, but thanks to Seamus Mullen, such delicacies are only a train ride or stroll away. Located in the West Village, this quaint little gastro-pub serves authentic tapas-style Spanish dishes, many of which are roasted in the kitchen’s sizable wood-fired grill. Dishes are also served on hand-carved wooden platters for a truly rustic experience.
Asian Hipster Cuisine
154 Orchard St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-529-8800
In recent years, New York’s seen an influx of Asian Hipster Cuisine and no restaurant sums up the movement better than Mission Chinese. This all-the-rage restaurant began in San Francisco, but shifted east in 2012 to join the youthful bustle of the Lower East Side. The second location still serves up the fiery dishes that made chef-owner Danny Bowien famous, and the fun, no-frills atmosphere is a refreshing change of pace.
The Crème de la Crème
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., at 24th St; 212-889-0905
In 2012, this New York institution was named the top restaurant in the city by our chief food critic Adam Platt, and declared the fifth best restaurant in the world by the British publication Restaurant magazine. In other words: Should you choose to splurge, this is the place to do it. With the vaulted Art Deco ceilings, impeccable service, and finely crafted dishes that look too beautiful to eat, but smell too good not to, the overall experience is practically foolproof.
Go Beyond Pad Thai
Pok Pok Ny
127 Columbia St., at Kane St., Columbia Street Waterfront;718-923-9322
With a name that means “mortar and pestle” in Thai slang, this Brooklyn destination specializing in Thai street food is unassuming—that is, until you note the block-long line that has inevitably formed outside its doors each day by 6 p.m. (they don’t take reservations). It’s also located in the hard-to-reach Columbia Waterfront, but such is the price we pay to sample the best wings in the city (sticky, spicy, and slathered in fish sauce). The Northern Thai pork belly is a winner, too, not to mention a delicious selection of creative and memorable cocktails.
A Legendary Seafood Palace
155 W. 51st St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-554-1515
While some are dismayed by this venerable restaurant’s aesthetic makeover, its long-praised dishes have retained much of their perfection. Chef Eric Ripert still offers his signature tuna-and-foie-gras double-delicacy, with strips of sashimi-grade yellowfin laid over a cool slice of duck-liver pâté. The menu has also retained its trademark three sections— Almost Raw, Barely Touched, and Lightly Cooked—highlighting the straight-from-the-sea freshness you are about to receive. The desserts, including those topped with exotic ice creams, like popcorn and chocolate-caramel, aren’t so bad either.
Food for the Soul
310 Lenox Ave.,nr. 125th St.; 212-792-9001
Marcus Samuelsson has long been the recipient of varying degrees of culinary stardom, but it wasn’t until he opened this regionally focused neighborhood joint that he had the masses (and the occasional local luminary) flocking to Harlem. The comfort-food-focused menu draws from the neighborhood’s myriad of cultural influences with dishes such as mac & greens, chop suey, and jerk chicken. The attached bar serves up clever craft cocktails such as the Obama-tini and Down in the Delta, and with local artwork covering the walls, and the soulful sounds of live music filling the room (Sunday’s Gospel Brunch is one to wait for), you can have yourself a truly local experience.
A Slice of Hipster Heaven
261 Moore St., nr. Bogart St., Bushwick; 718-417-1118
The gritty, cement-block exterior and rustic, warehouse feel has been known to give outsiders reservations, but one bite of their crisp, Neapolitan-style pizzas (topped with high-minded ingredients like sunchokes, spring garlic, and maitake), and you’ll cast your more opulent hopes aside. Set smack in the middle of industrial Bushwick, but named one of the “Most Important Restaurants in America” by Bon Appetit, Roberta’s has become a perennial favorite of both the local artist scene and out-of-towners alike.
For the Vegivore
125 E. 39th St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-228-4873
With a menu inspired by the vegetarian shojin philosophy practiced by Zen Buddhist monks and an interior modeled after a Japanese tea house, you’re in for a truly serene experience. Chef Ryota Ueshima celebrates vegetables in all of their seasonal glory, incorporating local, American produce, and only serving his patrons set menus to ensure a balanced experience. The result is gorgeous plates of meticulously arranged vegetarian dishes, which will leave even your omnivore friends in awe.
An Italian Food Circus
200 Fifth Ave., at 23rd St.; 212-229-2560
Ever wondered what 50,000 square feet of Italian food and drink looks like? Brave the bustle at Eataly, and you’ll soon find out. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Piedmontese mega-market carries everything from beef carpaccio to panna cotta, and has become an epicenter for food tourism. The market also houses several sit-down restaurants: La Verdue, Il Pesce, Manzo, and a roof-deck-cum-beer-hall, La Birreria.
Mom and Pop
Vinegar Hill House
72 Hudson Ave., nr. Water St., Vinegar Hill; 718-522-1018
The legendary Red Wattle pork chop (brined for two days before oven roasted) is worth the trip alone, but this quaint, husband-and-wife-run operation can be a much welcomed reprieve from the city’s mayhem. Located in the snug, historic district of Vinegar Hill (bordering DUMBO), the wallpapered and warmly lit dining room feels like a step into the simplicities of the past, and the refreshingly rustic menu rotates seasonally (though the pork chop remains year-round).
East River State Park (90 Kent Ave., at N. 7 St., Williamsburg) & Tobacco Warehouse (30 Water St., at Hicks St., DUMBO); 718-928-6603
A mecca for the artisanal purveyor, this Brooklyn-based food market runs every weekend in two locations from spring to fall. Seventy-five to 100 vendors are featured each week, including enduring favorites like People’s Pops popsicles, Asia Dog’s exotic wieners, and dangerously delicious doughnuts from Dough. Even more, the waterfront locations (Williamsburg’s East River State Park on Saturdays and Dumbo’s Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sundays) make for gorgeous skyline views.
354 Metropolitan Ave.,nr. Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-963-3404
Any good Southerner should be skeptical of outsider attempts at barbecue, but the pork ribs and beef brisket at this succulent meat jamboree may have you second-guessing. The atmosphere is appropriately fuss-free with a driveway and cinder-block interior scattered with picnic tables, and a bar with stools fashioned from John Deere tractor seats. If you aren’t already sold, the meat is roasted in a gas-and-wood-fired smoker called “the Southern Pride,” sauce always served on the side.
Ramen Noodles Done Right
14 Mott St., nr. Bowery; 212-267-9680
You can find ramen almost anywhere in the city; however, a lot of it proves to be disappointing. Not so at Ajisen Noodle. This Japanese chain’s pork-based house soup—one of three broth bases along with curry and miso—topped with sliced roast pork, scallions, and hard-cooked egg, is rich and satisfying, the whole-wheat noodles just a little shy of al dente. Even better is the “tenderous ribs” version, which turns out to be soup with slow-cooked boneless pork ribs. Tenderous indeed.
Quick Run for a Pork Bun
238 E. 14th St., nr. Second Ave.; 646-669-8889
Eddie Huang’s steamed-bun shop is an East Village favorite for those looking for a quick bite, though you’ll probably wish your authentic Taiwanese steamed buns has lasted just a little bit longer. The super moist “gua bao’s” are stuffed with everything from tender pork belly to crispy fried chicken and come topped with crushed peanuts, cilantro, Taiwanese red sugar, and more.
Not Your Dining Hall’s Mozz Sticks
248 Mulberry St., nr. Prince St; 212-993-7189
Brought to you by Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of the highly acclaimed Torrisi Italian Specialties, this Italian-American deli counter slices and serves all the classics, such as chicken, eggplant, and meatball parmigianas, baked ziti, calamari, and, of course, mozzarella sticks. They may not be in the least bit Italian, but Parm’s take on everyone’s favorite late-night college snack is in a class of its own. During the evening, look for their nightly specials, which range from “Italian Thanksgiving” to Sunday night’s “Chinese.”
The Kids’ Menu Gone Gourmet
Sticky’s Finger Joint
31 W. 8th St., at Macdougal St.; 212-777-7131
At Sticky’s, the chicken finger is no longer only a juniors’ menu item. In fact, that’s all they serve, and in all kinds of delicious ways your child self would have never dreamed of (salted caramel, buffalo-balsamic-maple). Children are optional, and did we mention all the meat is free-range?
The Indoor Food Truck
Tacombi at Fonda Nolita
267 Elizabeth St.,nr. Houston St.; 917-727-0179
It may be a brick-and-mortar establishment, but at this casual Nolita taco joint, you’ll still get your tacos from a truck. Located inside a renovated garage, the open kitchen is camouflaged as a surf shack in the back, and a retrofitted VW bus functions as a taco stand. Theatrics aside, the meat is slow-cooked and moist, the seasonings fragrant, the tortillas handmade, and the horchata … well, just be sure to get that for dessert.
Because You Have To
366 Columbus Ave., at 77th St.; 646-747-8770
Forget your cholesterol for a day, stand in the lines, and order yourself a burger, shake, and fries from Danny’s Meyer’s celebratory menu of all-American fast food. The burgers are among the top in New York, and the Chicago-style dogs are slathered in all of the essential toppings, but best of all, the fries are crinkle cut. A few bites, and you’ll understand why this fast-food chainlet is approaching legendary status.
For the Exotic Sweet Tooth
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
125 E. 7th St.,nr. Ave. A; 212-533-9333
The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck has garnered legions of salivating fans for treats like the Bea Arthur (a vanilla soft-serve cone topped with dulce de leche and crushed Nilla Wafers), and sundaes incorporating toppings as diverse as cayenne pepper and ginger syrup. Expect all that and more at their East Village shop, which, unlike the ice-cream trucks that outran you in your youth, won’t ride away on wheels.
Chinese Goes Contemporary
529 Hudson St., nr. Charles St.; 212-792-9700
This lively newfangled Chinese restaurant takes the worn-out recipes of your favorite takeout joint and updates them to meet the city’s more creative standards. Think egg rolls stuffed with Katz’s pastrami or diced lamb with Chinese broccoli and white asparagus. The atmosphere will also strike you as new, with a dining room nestled into the bottom of a West Village townhouse designed to give the feel of a country barn.
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247 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215 nr. Carroll St., Park Slope; 718-768-7675
The key to the success of Dale Talde’s Loaded Nachos ($12) is spreading out his house-fried chips like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and lavishly serving the snack on a plastic cafeteria tray big enough to use as a sled. That way every perfectly crisp tortilla chip gets some love. Some carry all the elements and flavors (super-spicy bean-and-beef chili, a Sriracha-“enhanced cheese sauce, piquant house-pickled jalapeños) while others boast a bit of this and a hint of that. Photo: Victor Prado
90 Wythe Ave. nr. N. 11th St., Williamsburg; 718-388-2969
Depending on what’s on hand in his kitchen that day, the bar menu at Fredrik Berselius’s ascetic, Scandinavian-themed Williamsburg restaurant might include platters of plum-soft beef cheeks or oysters “foraged” from the coves of Long Island. If you have just one dish, however, make it the classic “potatis” potato dumplings ($6), which Berselius and his chefs stuff with a savory mash of cabbage and pork and serve, the way they do in the farm kitchens of Sweden, with smoky spoonfuls of farmer’s cheese and a sweet touch of lingonberry. Photo: Victor Prado
359 Bedford Ave. nr. S. 4th St., Williamsburg; 718-701-8909
Far from the epicenter of midtown power breakfasts, in a neighborhood better known for late nights than early mornings, smoked-meat maestro Dan Delaney has created what might be the best way to start the day since biscuits met gravy: Lush, fat-streaked meat, mingled with cheesy scrambled eggs cooked with crème fraîche, pickled red onion, and a smoky chile-and-tomato sauce, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Time-pressed commuters can even get theirs to go, wrapped in foil like a bodega egg-on-a-roll, and at $4 it costs about the same. Photo: Corinne Durand
99 Bank St. nr. Greenwich St.; 212-428-6000
Like all of the best desserts, this regally portioned dish at Harold Dieterle’s latest restaurant has something in it for everyone. The cake itself ($10) is cut in slabs large enough to feed a small party of lumberjacks, and contains enough dense, molasses-“rich sweetness to satisfy the most jangly, strung-out sugar addict. There’s a cup (or two) of Sixpoint Brewery’s Diesel stout mixed into the batter for boozehounds, and a fresh snap of ginger to evoke the joys of your favorite (okay, our favorite) childhood cookie. All of this comes topped with slices of roasted pear and scoops of house-made honey ice cream, which dissolve right in. Photo: Melissa Hom
80 Wythe Avenue, at N. 11th St., Williamsburg; 718-460-8004
Sean Rembold’s French fries ($6) are dispatched from his open kitchen dark and caramelized enough that you might mistake them for sweet-potato fries. The stack of locally sourced, crisp-yet-creamy skin-on spuds seems kind of perfect: twice-fried in the traditional fashion, with an especially leisurely break between canola-oil dips; seasoned aggressively, as all fries should be; and served with the requisite bowl of housemade aïoli. Photo: Melissa Hom
265 Union Ave. nr. S. 3rd St., Williamsburg; 718-855-8729
This is the type of old-school place whose slow decline hand-wringing slice hounds have been bemoaning for years: gas oven, paper plates, and a deeply satisfying, classic New York slice ($2.50) made with aged mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. Manager Nino Coniglio’s own fresh mozz and grandma pies might be even better. The ultimate, though, has got to be the square kale-sausage-and–Taleggio slice. It’s Old Brooklyn meets New on delectable terms. Photo: Dominic Perri
160 Second Ave. nr. 10th St.; 212-432-1600
Bob Truitt, currently desserts honcho of Michael White’s restaurant group, has never concocted a single more primally satisfying sweet as the fior di latte soft-serve ($5) at Michael White’s East Village pizzeria. Based on Truitt’s standard gelato recipe, the stuff is milky and soft, creamy and rich, but not excessively so”in short, it’s the perfect sensorial canvas for toppings that range from simple chocolate sauce to a more elaborate lemon meringue constructed from curd, streusel crumble, and meringue that Truitt’s minions blowtorch and oven-dry. Photo: Melissa Hom