There are few places with the culinary chops of New York City — you could devote an entire vacation to dining at restaurants located within any of the five boroughs. One could even argue that there’s no other area in the world where you are guaranteed such a rich and diverse cross-section of ethnic cuisines, a wide range of price points, and truly unique dining experiences.
Choice, however, can be overwhelming.
Here’s where we come in with a selection of program restaurants, crisscrossing Manhattan and most of Brooklyn, that range from haute to delightfully divey. So whether you like to dine like a Russian aristocrat, prefer your Sundays with a little soul food, or are East Coast bound, but “California Dreaming”, there’s something here for you.
La Sirene (the mermaid) is a French restaurant in a NYC neighborhood that’s a nod to London’s West End. In other words, dining here is the best way to feel like a member of the jet set without ever boarding a plane. Intimate, cozy, and the farthest thing away from fussy, La Sirene is the perfect place to have perfectly executed coq au vin, fresh market fish, and foie gras.
The pièce de résistance is the Kassoulet Toulousain de la Maison (Cassoulet Toulouse’s Style). The chef’s personal recipe, this dish features cannellini beans, carrots, tomato, garlic duck confit, slab bacon, and pork sausage—all braised with noble duck fat, quail’s stock, and foie gras jus. We would warn you that it’s a rich dish, but it’s what the French are known for, oui?
With a menu that’s equal parts tapas plates and full-size entrées, Miti Miti is a truly eclectic spot: think dizzying blend of cuisines (Mediterranean with hints of Latin American and Middle Eastern influence) and décor that reflects all the cool that you’d expect of a Brooklyn restaurant.
Miti Miti, short for Mitad y Mitad (Spanish for “sharing”), serves up appetizers like lamb empanaditas (ground lamb, olives, raisins, thyme, fried wheat dough, cilantro, and radish yogurt sauce) and steak tacos with kimchi and pickled ginger. The early-ish bird is well fed here, however, because the brunch menu is their standout. Two words: hibiscus pancakes (hibiscus citrus glaze, toasted sunflower seeds, bananas).
Pacific Standard feels like a college pub — right down to the comfortable, seen-better-days couches in the corner and the bookshelf that we’re sure has at least one Hemingway novel on it. In other words, it’s nostalgic in the best way possible and totally lacking in pretension. And while this pub’s location is as East Coast as you can get, the Pacific Standard is all about the West Coast (see: UC Berkeley banners on wall).
Stop by for Pacific Stand-Up and hear some of the best and brightest in comedy today, or if you’re feeling artsy, check out their literary events… New York Magazine named them “Best New Literary Event of 2008”. Pacific Standard is all about the brew, but they do serve some great pub fare: pulled pork sliders, chili-cheese sloppy joes, and banh mi hot dogs to name a few. Don’t leave without trying an It’s-Its, a San Francisco legend—you’ll get major cred with your West Coast friends.
Form meets function at Greek Eats, a fast casual, sleek and contemporary Upper East Side joint where Greek food is served up simply and without kitsch. Rolls of white butcher paper hang above each booth, catching the light and flowing down to create a clean eating space, while large glass containers of olive oil add visual interest on the far wall.
Greek Eats serves up tried-and-true classics like falafel, souvlaki pita sandwiches (chicken, pork, lamb, or vegetable), and gyro pitas, but there are also quite a few dishes that will catch you by surprise. A bowl of avgolemono soup (chicken soup with rice, lemon, and egg) is perfect for chillier days and there’s an entire section of the menu devoted to dips and sauces that go way beyond hummus, though they serve that too.
What will really wow you is the beet salad (roasted beets with feta, toasted walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar). We suggest that you pair it with some tarama and warm pita bread.
Lexington Candy Shop
Love it or hate it, New York City is always changing. When you’re overwhelmed with the city’s impermanence, we’ll let you in on a secret respite: Lexington Candy Shop. Lexington Candy Shop opened its doors in 1925 and even though they celebrated their 90th anniversary last year, little has changed. The soda fountain/luncheonette is one of the last of its kind, holding on to the mom and pop feel through classic décor (1948 vintage coffee urns and a 1940 Hamilton Beach milk shake mixer) and recipes that have been keeping diners happy for almost a century.
This is classic diner food here, nothing fancy just certified Angus Beef burgers, ice cream desserts made with Bassetts “Super Premium” ice cream (a Philly company founded in 1861), and breads handmade at Orwasher’s Bakery (founded in 1916). Have THE Milkshake, it was voted best in NY by CBSTV and USA Today.
The exposed brick and dinner-by-candlelight interior is a complete departure from Fonda Comida Mexicana’s menu: the food here is colorful and flavorful, from the bright green of an avocado salad to the electric yellow of the pineapple margarita. Chef Roberto Santibañez — nominated for the James Beard Award for American Cooking and author of numerous books, including Rosa’s New Mexican Table — has not one, but three Fonda locations in NY.
This location in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, near Prospect Park, is not to be missed. Open Monday through Friday for dinner with brunch on Saturday and Sunday, you’ll be hard pressed to choose between dishes like the pollo norteno (boneless achiote marinated chicken tossed with melted Chihuahua cheese and served in a skillet topped with chiles serranos “toreados” and cured red onions) and the callos y camarones (pan seared diver scallops and jumbo shrimp over a cream roasted tomato sauce, topped with Spanish cantimpalo chorizo, cured red onions, and pasilla negro chiles).
A few blocks away from the Lincoln Center, you’ll find a quaint, upscale Italian restaurant. Enter the tastefully decorated Joanne Trattoria and you’ll glimpse a wall of photos filled with the smiling faces of the proud owners and their family. When you find yourself doing a double-take at the sight of Lady Gaga among those faces, do your best to keep your jaw off the floor.
Opening its doors in 2012, the unassuming space seems far removed from the singer/songwriter who has made a name for herself with over-the-top performances and a persona that’s larger than life. The restaurant is a collaboration between Gaga’s parents and Chef Art Smith, a former personal chef for Oprah. Don’t let the star power fool you, however, the focus is on the food and the fantastic service. Many of the recipes are straight from the Germanotta’s kitchen and the menu is a showcase of simple Italian favorites like chicken Milanese, polpette di melanzane, and grilled Tuscan ribeye.
We recommend having the house specialty, Joanne’s Spaghetti and Meatball, the dish (and the restaurant) was named in honor of Joe Germanotta’s sister.
In 1962, Sylvia Woods opened Sylvia’s in Harlem and the rest is more than history — it’s legend. Presidents, dignitaries, and celebrities have dined at the unassuming eatery that serves authentic soul food that is anything but ordinary.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can begin your day with corn meal-dusted catfish served with grits, wedge a serving of salmon croquettes and black-eyed peas in there for lunch, and end the day with Harlem-style fried chicken and waffles. Polish everything off with peach cobbler and a bottle of Renaissance Wit, brewed right in Harlem.
The Gospel Sunday Brunch is the highlight of the week and though we could recommend any of the delicious dishes offered, the standouts are the specialty drinks — the Waiting to Exhale was featured in the New York Times.
Onegin, named for the title character in Eugene Onegin, is a Greenwich Village restaurant whose opulence hearkens back to 19th century Russia. In other words, Pushkin would be proud. The interior is a feast for the senses: contemporary touches throughout with an underpinning of luxury, all of which give a subtle, nuanced nod to the restaurant’s literary inspiration.
The food, edible poetry, is divided into chapters which are roughly equivalent to courses and features a mix of well-known Russian dishes like brick oven borscht and kulebiaka, a savory fish pie filled with rice, onions, and chopped hard-boiled egg. Look no further than the blini with paddlefish and black caviar, however, for a meal that’s worthy of being canonized.
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