Summarizing my favorite places to eat in New York in one post would require a level of discipline and discretion that I simply do not have. I firmly am of the school that you could eat every single meal out without repeating a restaurant for months, if not years, in New York without ever having a bad meal if you choose wisely. Living in New York is a delicate balance of wanting to have local haunts that you frequent and also trying the abundance of wonderful food constantly available. Add in that EVERYWHERE delivers and you may never cook again. That being said, I will try to narrow it down, and I will update with things I undoubtedly forgot to mention. My recommendations are pretty exclusively downtown (if you include Gramercy in “downtown”, which some of my below 14th street friends would swear against), so if you are looking for park-side dining, as admittedly my photo might suggest, this isn’t the place for you. I am going to begin with what comes to mind immediately… the sorts of places I would go were my family to be visiting, or if I wanted a nice evening. My next post will include my cheaper old haunts and we’ll take it from there. Happy eating!
End of Freeman Alley off Rivington between Bowery and Chrystie
Freeman’s Restaurant at the end of twinkle light covered Freeman’s Ally sort of encapsulates all that is downtown manhattan. It is casual and rustic, rough around the edges exactly where it wants to be, and packed with the beautiful well-dressed trendy set. The restaurant is a play on the traditional colonial American tavern and the food is to die for. The artichoke dip might have more calories than one is intended to eat in a full day, but do not miss it. It melts in your mouth in the most fantastic way. This place doesn’t take reservations, and go early if you plan on being seated specifically on a Friday or Saturday night; however they will let you order drinks and appetizers while you wait at one of the two bars.
The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street at Greenwich
The Spotted Pig is another casual and comforting, yet ‘see and be seen’ sort of place. It really was the beginning of the gastropub trend in the US, and it is a mainstay on any “favorite restaurants in New York” list. April Bloomfield is a genius in the kitchen, and she excels here, bringing nose to tail cooking to New York. The burger and garlic shoestring fries are some of the best in Manhattan, but do not be afraid to branch out. Again, no reservations at this place, so go early on a Friday and be prepared to put your name on the list and come back in a few hours. If you are up, I have found it easiest to get in on the weekend for brunch before the rush hits (which in New York isn’t until about 1 pm) or sneak in with a party of two on a week night.
(The Greenwich Hotel)
377 Greenwich St @ North Moore
Some people have crushes on musicians, some on movie stars…. me— I have crushes on chefs. Andrew Carmellini, with his excellently executed, inspired rustic italian cooking, and his wonderful blog, has long had my heart. Locanda Verde is situated inside Robert DiNero’s uber hip TriBeCa hotel, The Greenwich, and it is a favorite among locals and celebrity guests alike. And the food! Where to begin? There are some staples on the menu like the fresh sheep’s ricotta to start with (DO start with it!) but then other things change seasonally. When my boyfriend and I ate here over Easter we had the most perfect artichoke ravioli that I could not stop talking about. Then again over the summer with my family I almost died after a bite of the heirloom tomato watermelon salad. I have never had a bad bite here. Highly recommended!
299 Bowery between 1st and 2nd
DBGB’s is french inspiration, Daniel Boulud’s downtown restaurant. In a huge space just south of where CBGB’s was located, the restaurant is described as a French brasserie meeting an American tavern. The menu breams with house-made sausage varieties, as well as 22 beers on tap and pages and pages of bottles in addition. The space is super cool— shelves stocked with kitchen standards much like the restaurant supply stores that the bowery is famous for. This place is great for the beginning of a night out with friends, passing plates of sausages and testing different beers from in one of the booths along the side. Plus you are getting all of the genius and attention to detail of Daniel Boulud without sacrificing a hip vibe.
The Standard Grill
(The Standard Hotel)
848 Washington Street @ 13th Street
I am going to be honest and begin by saying that I prefer the breakfast and brunch here to the dinner. Having said that, though, the dinner is great.. it’s just that the breakfast/brunch is another level. I enjoy the front room with the black and white tiled floor and I honestly have had dreams about the Two Poached Eggs with Olive Oil, Cracked Pepper, Maldon Sea Salt and Grilled Sourdough.
(The Bowery Hotel)
335 Bowery @ 2nd Street
The Bowery Hotel is my favorite celeb spotting haunt in New York City. (That is if you don’t count the gym floor of the Soho Equinox). It is not surprising at all that this place is a celebrity favorite— the lobby is cozy and elegant, grounded with antique wood and plush vintage red velvet. The restaurant is reminiscent of an old farm house, with candelabras plastered with dripping candle wax and baskets hanging from the ceiling. The food is less impressive than Locanda Verde, though it is consistent and great…. but the experience makes it worth it. Most of the waiters are Italian which is always fun at an Italian restaurant. No reservations except for hotel guests, but if there is a wait get a drink at the bar in the lobby… if you are lucky you might end up chatting up John Mayer or the likes.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Ave. between 10th and 11th
I used to live a block and a half from this place, making it one of my regular haunts. David Chang is often touted as one of the best young chefs in the world right now, a title that he well deserves. Momofuku Noodle Bar is the cheapest and most casual of the Momofukus. Pop in for the life changing pork buns and a bowl of ramen. The pork buns literally melt in your mouth with a tiny crunch of cucumber and just enough plum sauce. If you are up for trying to navigate the incredibly frustrating online reservation system, book a table to share one of the fried chicken dinners. The dinner is one of the best deals in manhattan… with dinner for 4-8 people at $100 flat (not including extras or drinks). Be warned, though, it took me MONTHS of trying every morning at 10 am on the dot to get a reservation for my friends and I. However, it was ENTIRELY worth it.
52 Irving Place @ E 17th
Casa Mono is the only non-Italian Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich venture in New York City. Their other restaurants include the constantly acclaimed Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Esca, Otto (which appears later on this list), and of course the . All of their restaurants are wonderful— Babbo and Del Posto have been on favorites lists for years— but I thought it a good idea to include the tiny Casa Mono instead. My good friend Blake used to live basically above this restaurant, so I first tried this place on his recommendation. They serves Catalan small plates, and each dish is inspired and authentic. Make a reservation because there are only 13 tables, and this place will get busy, and go with friends so that you can share food. The meal will be different than the myriad of great Italian restaurants in the city, and who doesn’t enjoy a nice Spanish wine?
(Gramercy Park Hotel)
2 Lexington Ave @ 21st
It’s only appropriate to mention Danny Meyer once names like Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich enter the conversation. Throw in Keith McNally and you have hit the triumvirate of New York City restauranteur-ing. Danny is the mind behind such Manhattan classics as The Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, 11 Madison Park, Blue Smoke/ Jazz Standard, and of course Shake Shack. Maialino is his newest venture, a casual Roman style Trattoria inside the restaurant space of The Gramercy Park Hotel. Now, I was of the mindset that downtown Manhattan’s trendy hotels did not need another upscale Italian restaurant after Locanda Verde opened, but I gladly admit to being wrong. Danny’s restaurants are famous for their impeccable service, and Maialino does not veer from that. Have the malfatti di maialino (suckling pig) as it is their signature, and you’d be hard pressed to find pork more tender, but you cannot go wrong with any of the pastas. Even the simple cacio e pepe impressed and brought me back to my life in Italy.
35 E 18th Street @ Broadway
I have to admit that I added ABC Kitchen to the list in part because of the food, but also in part because it is located inside one of New York’s greatest stores: ABC Carpet and Home. Now, I can’t afford anything in the store save for maybe a few trinkets from the first floor, BUT I could spend days in there looking and fantasizing. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the food. Jean George’s farm to table restaurant is healthy, sustainable and perfectly prepared. I especially enjoyed the morel and egg pizza during the spring, along with the roasted carrot and avocado salad. The juices are also a treat- fresh squeezed concoctions full of vitamins and enzymes to boost.
106 Kenmare St between Lafayette and Cleveland Place
Mexican food can be a tough to find for a spoiled Southern California native. It’s just one of those things that those of us from the sunshine state lament about living on the East Coast… no In n Out Burger and no good Mexican food. However, La Esquina fits the bill fabulously. By day a funky permanent taco and tostada stand, by night a happening bar, La Esquina is uniquely New York. Book the restaurant for dinner and follow the hostess in the “hidden door”, down the stairs, through the kitchen to a dungeon-esque space. During the summer the watermelon margaritas are my favorite… go with a group and order some pitchers as you wait for your food. The corn side dish is a must.
Torisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry @ Prince
I have had one of the best meals of my life at Torisi Italian Specialties. Now, that was in part because of the group of people, in part because it was a celebration of my good friend Kristy, and in part because we shared 6 bottles of wine between the 6 of us… but all of the rest of the credit goes to the extraordinary food. This place does a 4 course meal for $50 a head (not counting wine or service) and most of the food changes nightly. The chefs and owners are young but super experienced and their whole deal is creating a true Italian American experience in Little Italy. They don’t take reservations so send someone in your party down around 6 to put your name on the list and then come back to enjoy one of the best meals of your life.
1 Fifth Ave @ 8th Street
I thought for a long while about which Mario Batali restaurants to highlight, which was silly because Otto was quite clearly the obvious answer. Otto is the only one that I used to go back to regularly. It is the sort of neighborhood joint that was nice enough and special enough for celebratory dinners, but inexpensive enough to order delivery. Each pizza is special and creative but do not skimp on the vegetables and starters— oh and the carbonara! Have the carbonara! Be careful not to fill up too much though (which is difficult) because you have to try the olive oil gelato. I promise you won’t regret it.
Fontaine de Mars
Rue de l’Exposition
+33 1 47 05 46 44
My most recent trip to Paris was to celebrate my mom’s birthday. She had been to Paris a few years ago with a younger brother of mine and had had an excellent dinner at the recommendation of a close friend who, as an editor for a beauty magazine, travels to Paris in style quite often. When asked where she wanted to go for her birthday, my mom replied “You know… that place I went with Chase that Linda recommended”. As I was not on that trip, that description just didn’t cut it, nor did the second description of “You know, the one where the Obamas ate in Paris.” Only when the restaurant showed up on the list of recommendations given to me by my good friend Claire, was the name of the restaurant remembered. I tell you this story because this restaurant not only shows up on my recommendations, but also at the recommendations of my friend Claire, our good friend Linda, and the Obamas (!)… that’s how good it is. The food was fabulously french, decadent and buttery without leaving you feeling bloated and exploding. I have heard that the roast chicken is to die for, but it was not on the menu the night we went. Instead I had an incredible duck breast, and my mom’s duck cassoulet was perfect and never ending. I highly recommend!
Mon Vieil Ami
69 Rue St. Louis en L’ile
+33 1 40 46 01 35
This is another off of Claire’s recommendation email, and at the risk of just ripping off her suggestions, I am repeating it here. After a few nights of French food a menu with loads of vegetable options comes as quite a treat. The ambiance of this place is quite cool… it is small with a dimly lit but modern decor. The wine we had was fabulous, the food just right, and the experience exactly what we were looking for. I will definitely be returning.
51 Rue Verneuil
+33 1 45 44 69 13
My younger brother’s girlfriend lived in Paris for a semester last year and suggested this place. Her recommendation sparkled with “locals only type of place”… which is just my cup of tea when traveling. It’s true that we were the only English speakers in this joint, but the modern cafe feel and “design-y-ness” of the place made it feel some what like a great cafe you would find in San Francisco or New York. Being from San Francisco and New York, of course I meant that as a compliment. This place is an excellent lunch spot… not far from the Tour d’Eiffel or St. Germain de Pres, but off the beaten track. I had fabulous soup that was presented elegantly- ladled from a ceramic bowl right at the table, and a lentil salad with cripsed jambon that was exactly what I needed to keep me going on a cold french afternoon. They also serve Mariage Frères tea- my favorite!
Ile de la Cité
74 quai des Orfèvres
+33 1 46 33 69 75
This place is the sister restaurant to Cinq-Mars. When we arrived on a late afternoon for lunch (they stop serving lunch at 2:30— take note) we were immediately warned “We are out of the burger”. We didn’t really think anything of it and took our seats. Then we watched the tables around us being served the burger, and we understood why that warning might make people change their mind about staying for lunch. The burger looked and smelled absolutely fabulous, and it’s worth a trip back just to try. That being said, our lunch was still fabulous. Again, lighter fare as refuge from too much french indulgence— and it hit the spot perfectly. I loved the decor of this place with lighting hanging low and mismatched chairs… and as we looked out the glass door at the snow falling on Quai des Orfèvres, I sort of never wanted to leave.
30 Rue Bourg Tibourg
+33 1 42 72 28 11
I already mentioned that Mariage Frères is my favorite tea, so it should come as no surprise that i am recommending afternoon tea at their tea room/ shop/ museum. I stocked up on beautiful linen sachets full of tea to bring back to London. Note: there are other locations of their tea rooms around Paris… this just happens to be the one I have been to.
The River Café
Thames Wharf Rainville Road
The River Café is known as many things: the home for Ruth Rogers and Rose Grey,’s amazing cookbooks, the birthplace of Jamie Oliver’s enormous fame, and most importantly as the best Italian food in London. The menu changes twice daily and absolutely does not disappoint. The food is fresh and classic, using the finest ingredients prepared to perfection. I first went to River Café on Valentine’s Day, and it quickly became one of my boyfriend and my favorite restaurants in the world.
We ordered a starter, two pastas and one main, and found ourselves with plenty of food. While the menu isn’t necessarily designed for sharing, you will want to just so you can taste as much as possible. It is one of the most expensive dates we’ve been on, and it’s a little bit difficult to get to (Tube to Hammersmith, plus a cab ride to get to the restaurant) but it is absolutely worth it and we keep going back for more.
St. John Bar and Restaurant
26 St. John Street
+44 20 3301 8069
St. John is an incredibly unique dining experience. Known for their “Nose to Tail” cooking, St. John’s menu is not necessarily for the weak of heart. If you are adventurous and carnivorous, dinner at St. John will be a meal that you will remember for the rest of your life. The menu changes regularly, but do not skip the Bone Marrow with Sea Salt and Parsley as an appetizer, the Welsh Rarebit for a classic English side, and the half dozen light as air Madelines with your coffee.
47-48 St. John’s Square
+44 20 7553 9210
I discovered this restaurant while thumbing through the Phaidon book Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. Anna Hansen was touted as one of the world’s best new chefs, and her simple London café lives up to the praise. The food is complex and full of flavor, and the café design is modern and simple. I love this place for lunch, as she has brilliant soup and salad options, with a unique pan-Asian twist, however, I am sure that dinner would be equally as fabulous of an experience. Next door to the restaurant, there is also a little café with take out options. If you happen to be in London on a rare sunny day, grabbing lunch to go from here and heading to a park would be a brilliant way to spend the afternoon.
32 Exmouth Market
London EC1 R4QE
+44 20 7278 7007
Morito is the tapas bar adjacent to the slightly more well-known Moro restaurant in Exmouth Market. My great friend Kristy had mentioned Moro to me after being gifted the Moro cookbook, and when Stephen and I stumbled upon Exmouth Market on a Saturday lunchtime, Morito seemed like a perfect lunch choice. Since then I have been back and eaten at the restaurant as well. While Moro was wonderful, it is Morito that I am highly recommending that you do not miss. The restaurant is pure and simple, a few side tables and a long bar. The food is Moorish Tapas, and you can definitely taste the Arab influence in each of the dishes. I adore restaurants that encourage sharing (and often share at restaurants that don’t), and the best way to enjoy Morito is to go for it and order 7 or so dishes to share. Each dish that we tried was prepared to perfection… the lamb melted in your mouth and the hints of cinnamon and raisons and other Moorish flavors are a pleasant surprise.
Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
11 Stoney Street, Borough Market
+44 20 7403 9554
First of all, I should note that I am not an oyster connoisseur. To me, that says all the more about this restaurant. If you can get a non-oyster lover to rave about an oyster bar, then you’ve done well. Secondly I should note that my friend Kristy IS an oyster connoisseur… and she loved this place. So… oyster lover or non-oyster lover, we highly recommend a meal at the Wright Brothers. The vibe is great, situated on Stony Street at Borough Market, and the high tables or bar make a great afternoon perch with a pint and some warming fish soup.
The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, Borough Market
London SE1 1TL
+44 845 034 7300
This is my favorite place to get a full English breakfast in all of London. Just across the street from Wright Brothers, upstairs above Borough Market, Roast is a comfortable English restaurant flooded with light from its million windows. You will need to book if you want to have breakfast on the weekend, and it is worth it. Fill yourself up on eggs, sausage, streaky bacon, bubbles and squeek and black pud while looking at all of the marketers below. You will not be disappointed.
2 Park Street
With the trend of artisan coffee growing in my past home towns of New York and San Francisco, I felt it important to find a coffee place on par with Blue Bottle or Stumptown. Momnmouth is a whole different world. The coffee is incredible. They won’t serve you skim milk, and their only sugar offering is in the raw— proving that they will not let you sacrifice the taste of their creations. The original shop is on Monmouth Street in covent garden, but the Borough location is the one I frequent. If you end up here in the morning you can pay 3 quid for unlimited fresh bread and butter and jam, and sit leisurely at their long wood table to enjoy your coffee.