New York City’s food scene changes as fast as the taxis whiz down 9th Avenue. Since I’ve been traveling and somewhat removed from Manhattan, there’s no way I can keep up with the hot spot’s openings and closings. This would be a full time job (one I hope to have someday). On a recent visit, to take the pressure off myself, I just enjoyed some new random spots that were either recommended to me by friends or places that I’d been to before that have stood the test of time (a pretty big feat in NYC).
My current favorite spots
Red Cat – Great neighborhood gem holding court in Chelsea for more than a decade with Mediterranean-American flavors & a cozy white-painted wood-paneled New England charm. I’d eaten here with my grandmother (who lived just a block away for about 30 years) a few times, so besides the warm, inviting atmosphere, and especially tasty food, Red Cat holds special memories for me.
Birreria Eataly – I recently wrote about this fantastic rooftop bar and restaurant in the Flatiron District. After enjoying the gourmand’s wet dream downstairs, climb up for some great views and tasty views under a retractable roof and cozy heat lamps.
The Chelsea Market – Inevitably, I always end up here every time I am in Manhattan. I have a thing for the re-use of old buildings so you can imagine my crush on this former National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) factory where the Oreo was first invented. If nothing else, you should come to pay homage to this perfect cookie sandwich (do you eat it whole or twist off the top first?). It’s fitting that today it’s been re-purposed into an indoor-market of foodie finds – a fish monger, bread baker, gelateria, Italian specialty food market, several fast-casual restaurants, and, of course, home made cupcake shop. The exposed brick and duct work still help it retain its original industrial flavor with fragments of the National Biscuit heritage sprinkled all over the complex. It makes perfect sense that the offices of the Food Network are upstairs.
The Little Owl – Another neighborhood gem, oozing with cozy (read: tiny) charm, I was introduced to the Little Owl by my friend Marie Elena. Go ahead and click on their link to enjoy the sweet sounds of Frankie Valli, which to me, evokes the feeling of a warm spring evening in the Village. The Owl is little, as is the menu and the space: just 30 seats. But this is no “Chicken Little” when it comes to food, the Owl boasts unpretentious, straightforward food like their popular pork chop and one of the best burgers in the city – I savored it and have to agree with this distinction…much more flavorful than the Corner Bistro…sorry Mark.
Kashkaval – A recommendation by fellow travel blogger, Jodi, I met my step-sister here for a great after-work scene and dinner. The front is a gourmet cheese market and tucked in the back is a cozy wine and cheese bar. My mouth watered over the decadent fondue and amazing Eastern Mediterranean tapas like baba ghanoush, a lemony lentil salad, and Ajvar, a smoky red pepper spread. It’s a great date spot: dark, candle-lit, and full of foods to share.
The Park – Another Chelsea spot that I seem to keep returning to. The last two times I was there, I was invited by locals, so that’s always a good sign. The food is pretty good, but what I love the most is the gorgeous atrium and garden – a perfect spring and summer spot to dine under maple trees and chirping birds. But now I have to go back, as I can’t believe I had no idea there was a rooftop bar. My friend Michaela told me about the penthouse, that has a hot tub that allegedly gets some action on some late nights.
Trilby [now closed] – I had the good fortune of eating at the Cooper Square Hotel restaurant with my friend Monica and photographing our meal for the Wall Street Journal’s lunchbox column. Since we dined there just a few months ago, the hotel has now been sold to the hipster boutique hotel chain and is henceforth known as the Standard, East Village. I guess I really did have good fortune…because the restaurant is now closed (again) for revamping. But look for it when it re-opens, the outdoor garden space is really a quiet oasis in the city filled with trees and odd pockets of quite. Serenity in NYC? Why, yes.
Katz’s Deli – Gotta give a shout out to an old time classic meat haven. This is the real deal. Pastrami piled so high on rye you can’t see over it. Get it anyway. Then take half home. I have even been known to get them to vacuum seal half the meat to freeze and make later by dropping the cryo-vacced bag in boiling water.
Barbounia -This place has been here FOREVER! Well, ten years, but that’s a long time in Manhattan. Its staying power is a testament to its quality. It’s a great mix of some of my favorite flavors of the mediterranean — Greece, Southern France, Morocco, and Italy. It’s a great place for a group gathering as its large, lively, and festive.
Union Square Café – The last time I ate here it was around 1992. But it had a strong and lasting effect on me and my interest in food and dining out. I grew up a very picky eater. In the summer and fall of 1992, I lived in New York City while I was interning at “Late Night with David Letterman.” It was then that I started to eat ‘real’ food. And it was at Union Square Café that I tried new things and started to actually ‘like’ foods that I had always despised. I was finally eating food made right and loving it. The restaurant is now legendary and routinely tops lists for NY eateries.
Isabella’s – One of my first tastes of fresh Italian food that was not the heavy baked ziti and spaghetti and meatball variety that I’d grown up with in neighboring New Jersey. I first ate here when sundried tomatoes and capers were all the rage…and brand new to me. Wow. What are these fabulous treats? It was here I was introduced to lighter stock and wine sauces or just the simplicity of a freshly made pasta with extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, garlic, and salty, 3-year aged Parmigiana Reggiano cheese. Perfection.
Click here for or more of my favorite NYC restaurants.
Places I want to Eat:
Next time I’m in town…wanna chow and imbibe with me?
- DBGB Kitchen and Bar – Looks amazing and love the music on the site too.
- Tia Pol
- La Bottega
- Luzzo’s Pizza – said to be the new ‘best pizza in Manhattan’ if there is such a thing? They had me at Coal-Oven.
- Shake Shack – I’ve yet to wait in the queue for this popular spot
- Per Se – Somebody take me please?
- Ouest – Same. Same.
- Craft – Ditto.
- Crif Dog – Cream Cheese, scallions, everything bagel seasoning? Um…yum. Kind of like sushi’s ‘Philly Roll’ of dogs
- Taim – Supposed to be some of the tastiest falafel around. And I love me some falafel since my first food truck in NYC in the ’90s.