Has anyone else who lives in NYC noticed how many people enjoy talking about restaurants? I have also fallen into the restaurant chatter trap and I must admit, I love it! My girlfriends and I even started a “Supper Club” a couple of years ago to feed this fixation (pun intended) and it has been an absolute ball (and a fun way to see the city). Every month we will pick a restaurant we’ve all been dying to try (because let’s face it, us girls tend to be a little more excited about these things) and then one of us calls about a month in advance to reserve (gotta love New York). Most of the time, we have something to celebrate coincidentally, like a birthday, an engagement (we’re 2 for 5 now), a new job, a half birthday…. ya know, important things worth celebrating! We have tried several places now from Corner Bistro to The Darby, but still haven’t even begun to tap our resources. There’s always a new spot or a classic you haven’t tried. One thing I find truly overwhelming is when my parents/relatives/friends are in town and I am in charge of choosing where we go to dinner every night. Yes, I know there are worse things in the world, but it really is a feat in this town! There are simply too many options and too little time! So because I am obsessed with talking about it AND many of you people will be either having visitors to New York or visiting New York for the holidays, I’ve put together a list of my favorite places to make it easier on you (you’re welcome).
The parent visit
While unfortunately located in Union Square (in my opinion), this gem will typically be a central location for wherever you’re parents might be staying and you might be living. There’s a jazz bar downstairs (for the dads) and the venue itself is sophisticated and fun at the same time. Amazing seafood and sushi which is great for sharing, at a price that you’re happy you won’t be paying (Sorry mom & dad… I’m riding it out for as long as I can).
The friends visit
If you can get in, you will not only be ooo-ing and ahh-ing at each bite, you will be guaranteed at least one celeb sighting and fantastic people watching, among other things. If you walk in, get there early, and make sure to order a pasta or scallops and don’t miss the side of brussel sprouts with pancetta (if they’re still on the always changing menu). Hands down one of my favorite places in the city. PS – also great for brunch!
A special occasion
This brought me back to living in Florence. Each waiter is more of a bs-er than the next, but it is the farthest thing from obnoxious and if you’re anything like my girlfriends and I, you will eat up every minute of it. Your dining experience can be explained by imagining you’re sitting in your [Italian] grandma’s living room getting fed appetizers you didn’t order and spaghetti Bolognese that melts in your mouth, while one of the ten Italian stallions waiting on you yells “bellissimo!” in your ear. It’s fantastico!
(photos via NY Mag)
Brunching with the ladies
It’s as if Ralph Lauren and Anthropologie opened a restaurant…a.k.a. a feast for the eyes and the palette. The skillet eggs are amazing and if you’re in the mood for lunch, order the burger. ‘Nuff said.
Oh my beloved Bubby’s… so many great memories, so many uneaten pancakes. A few pieces of advice: expect to wait, split the blueberry pancakes (1 order is enough to feed a family of 4) or any of their egg dishes, order the biscuits (I don’t care if you’re not that hungry) and keep your eyes peeled for nonchalant celebs. Cash only!
A romantic date
This is not easy on the wallet but the atmosphere and food makes it worth it. Order pasta and red wine and whisper sweet nothings across the table. Oh and while you’re at it dress to impress, this is not the crowd you want to see you in your work attire (coming from experience). The appetizers are what get you, so watch out.
A hot date
Call me unoriginal but this place is sexy! The lighting is dark, the ceilings are sky-high, the music is on, the people are young and the food is delish. Plus, you’re steps away from the heart of the meatpacking, just in case you want to follow your hot date with a wild night on the town.
A cheap (but awesome) date
Girl or guy dates go just fine with this little slice of heaven. It’s a cutesy wallpapered hole in the wall that has delicious Italian food for a fraction of the price that you’re used to paying. What more could you ask for? No reservations so walk in and hope for the best!
A casual date
It’s embarrassing how many times the BF and I have been here considering all of our options, but I am telling you, best burger in the city! It’s a more authentic P.J. Clarkes, with no frills and a guaranteed good crowd. They don’t take ressies so walk in, get your name penciled in on the list and saddle up to the bar for a beer. Yet another, cash only!
(photo one & two)
A cozy date
One word: fireplace. It is below ground and teeny tiny, there’s a fireplace (did I mention that?), a miniature bar and the food is very good (and comforting). You are right in the heart of the West Village, on a cobblestone street no-less! Perfect for a post dinner romantic stroll.
A first date
Now maybe I am biased because this is where the bf and I had our first date (can you say AWKWARD!), but I must say, it is a great first date locale. Close to all the East Village bars in case things get really uncomfortable, and cheap, delicious Italian food with a laid back atmosphere. Just remember your dolla dolla bills because it’s cash only! Oh and order the kale caesar, delish!
(photo one & two)
A “fun” dinner
I am just flat-out obsessed with this place. While it’s hard to get a reservation (sensing a pattern here?) the food and scene is unbelievable! You typically see a celeb or people who think they are celebs (equally as entertaining) and the margs knock your socks off. Make sure to order the Mexican street corn and the cheese fondue with pumpkin seeds… I dream about both, regularly. Just to paint a picture, to enter the restaurant you walk into a taco stand, through a hidden black wall, down stairs and through the kitchen. No joke. After dinner and several tequila cocktails, you will be ready to stroll next door to Southside to get your dance on.
A hidden gem
Walk down Hudson Street and you will walk right past this discreet secret garden. So here’s the inside scoop, walk along Hudson and go west on Morton Street. Check out the brick wall on your right and enter the first door you see. Voila! A little adventure into culinary bliss! The scene is trendy, the waiters are aspiring models and you may be as lucky as I was and see Ryan from the OC sitting next to you on a date. Eat your heart out ladies! And order the duck or the sea bass.
Located in the bottom of the infamous Standard Hotel, you’re always guaranteed an interesting crowd of trend-setters (and tourists), along with a meal you won’t be disappointed with (until you get the bill). The Standard Grill is great for brunch or dinner and the Standard Bier Garden next door is great for après dinner drinks, especially in the warmer months. Ideal for those who enjoy people-watching.
A BFF catch-up
Equally as delicious for brunch or dinner, this quaint restaurant is packed with the West Village locals and usually requires patience, as you will never forego a crowd. For brunch they keep the tables open outside for most of the year and for dinner it’s dark and cozy and perfect for an intimate dinner with a friend. Order the banana french toast for brunch and the sea bass for dinner.
An oldie but a goodie
Don’t be fooled by its grungy exterior, this old school joint packs a punch! Not only does it become quite a scene as the sun goes down, the food is out of this world! Order the steak frites or halibut. Just don’t have too many martinis or else you may have trouble climbing up the windy staircase to the bathroom. Unlike most restaurants in the city that come and go in the blink of an eye, Raoul’s still looks the exact same as it did over 35 years ago.
Whether you’re on the UES or down in the West Village, Molè is your Sunday pick-me-up. The margaritas are the best in the city and it is the freshest Mexican food you will find. The fish tacos and chicken burrito are my go-tos, along with guacamole to start, obvi. They also have a great daily happy hour from 4-7pm where you get half off drinks and discounted food specials.
I use “date” loosely, because all of these spots are just plain awesome whether you’re in a group, by yourself or with a lovah. As New Yorkers, we are spoiled by the amount of amazing restaurants we have at our fingertips! I hope this helps next time you are visiting or hosting!
What are your top dining destinations? Do you tend to stay in your neighborhood or branch out? Are your more of an atmosphere or food snob? Is anyone else hungry now?
HAPPY WEEKEND! Now go out to dinner or grab some brunch with friends! Treat yourself!