Popular with ladies and art dealers who lunch, this is a chic Upper East bistro located just off 5th Avenue. Mediterranean cuisine with Italian and French influences.
Bar Boulud, the newest venture from Daniel Boulud, provides a much-needed culinary infusion for the Lincoln Center crowd. Located directly across Broadway from the Center’s main entrance, Boulud’s casual eatery offers a full bistro menu featuring classics such as coq au vin, escargots and steak frites. But the real star of the menu is the wonderful selection of charcuterie. The pâtés include a to-die-for beef cheek and the chef’s specialty, fromage de tête; ask the expert sommelier to match your dish to a wine from the restaurant’s cellar. Although the vins come mainly from the Rhône Valley and Burgundy (the favorites of both Boulud himself and wine director Daniel Johannes), offerings also include lesser known varieties from outside the region. Tables can be tough to get, but we think landing a spot for a light meal and wine tasting before an evening at Lincoln Center is well worth the effort.
On a nice night, diners will find the garage doors open at this inviting and energetic West Village spot. The casual industrial setting pairs well with homey pasta dishes, and the chef Jonathan Waxman’s signature roasted chicken has been a standout for years. The simple menu rotates daily depending on what’s available and in season, but the fun atmosphere is ever-present. The spot is perfect for either a boisterous group dinner or a low-key date.
Named after the Italian word for “nibble,” this chic restaurant has been serving pastas for nearly twenty years. So that diners wont let prices affect their wine choices, all 100 available bottles are $25.
The legendary bistro, Benoit, has been open in Paris since 1912, but its New York branch is far younger.
As soon as you step through the front door, you do feel transported to an authentic Paris bistro. To the left is a classic men’s bar with black-and-white-striped wallpaper and a tiled ceiling with putti dreamily floating over the leather upholstered stools, a few tables and a brass rack from which the daily newspapers hang. Directly ahead, the dining room, which can seat 120, is lined in blond wood paneling with mirror insets. The chandelier and Art Nouveau sconces remain from La Côte Basque, the fabled café society haunt that used to occupy these rooms, as does the giant ceramic Art Nouveau bird sculpture. (To find the seascapes of La Côte Basque, you have to be invited to the private dining rooms upstairs.) The charming portraits of well-dressed flaneurs that parade around the room’s perimeter above the mirrors were kept from Le Choux, the restaurant after La Côte Basque. Red leather banquettes, white mosaic tiled floors, zinc tables and oak tables could have been lifted right out of the Right Bank original Benoit. Ducasse has added his own details, though. For instance, he salvaged the brass-edged milky glass dividers that separate the tables from an old Banque de France building. Antique carafes and liquor bottles from his collection line the bar and reception areas as well.
Just as Ducasse has honored the restaurant’s namesake, its predecessors and his own tastes in the décor, so does he pay homage to all three with the menu. You’ll find Benoit classics such as paté en croûte (recipe dates to 1892) alongside lighter more modern renditions such as braised barbue with champagne, asparagus and sabayon. The chocolate soufflé and vanilla millefeuille will please the La Côte Basque loyalists, who will be stunned to learn that Benoit will be open for breakfast too. In fact, the media hangout Michael’s is only down the block, and this may be a popular alternative for hearty breakfast eaters.
The private dining room upstairs competes with those at ‘21’. The highlight: the Officine, which seats up to twelve. Ducasse found ornate 19th century apothecary cabinets from an old pharmacy in Bordeaux that had been dismantled and had them refurbished and installed in a second-floor room. They surround a glorious antique dining table and the hallways and meeting rooms bear the oil paintings of sailboats off the Basque coast for which the former watering hole was named. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the 7th floor of New York’s most stylish department store, this restaurant draws ladies who lunch and midtown shoppers. The enfilade of rooms face Central Park and the plaza before the Plaza and has been glammed up by LA designer Kelly Wearstler to create the atmosphere of a Park Avenue apartment. Its Gotham Salad is a popular favorite for good reason. Tip: It’s also open for tea and drinks and a good spot for an early bite, since it stays open until 8 p.m. during the week. Reservations recommended.
This tiny French restaurant in the West Village is undeniably cute, perfectly Parisian and impossibly good. The small menu is complemented by a lengthy wine list and a short selection of delightful cocktails. The food is always on point (especially breakfast, which is arguably the best in the city), and the outdoor garden is ideal for steamed eggs in the morning, a croque-madame at lunch and a tartine followed by coq au vin for dinner. Grab a girlfriend, sit in le petit jardin and dream of the City of Light.
This Soho restaurant serves incredible pasta, but it’s the service that is my favorite detail here. They are so nice! The décor is all white which makes it stand out from many other NYC Italian restaurants. You can eat outside on the street when the weather is nice.
With a curated list of over 150 Italian wines, chic diners have nearly endless options to pair with the excellent dishes at this small Italian trattoria (a sister restaurant to L’Apicio, L’Artusi and Anfora). The changing menu typically features several variations of bruschetta, as well as an array of pastas, and usually offers a popular appetizer of charred octopus and chorizo. Reserve a spot at the chef’s counter, a six-seat bartop looking into the open kitchen, for an especially memorable meal.
Ed's Chowder House
Before heading to Lincoln Center, warm up with a bowl of seafood chowder or tuck into a lobster roll in this sleek spot on the first floor of the Empire Hotel. Diners sit on white leather banquettes and thanks to the somewhat hidden location, the restaurant is rarely packed and accepts reservations. Open for brunch on weekends and lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Before his death, Heath Ledger was involved in the initial planning of this neighborhood haunt in Greenpoint. In full swing since 2008, Five Leaves has a brunch that will knock yours socks off, and a burger to end all burgers. Topped with a fried pineapple ring, pickled beets, harissa mayo and a sunny-side-up egg, the burger is best enjoyed at one of the sidewalk tables, where diners can hipster people-watch.
Lorenz Bäumer has an only-in-New-York fondness for Freeman’s, which he calls “a rugged, colonial American tavern.” In the tiny restaurant tucked away at the end of an alley off the Bowery, the chef focuses on New York State farm produce, wild game and sustainable seafood. Think of hearty fare like baked mussels in white wine sauce, oven roasted chicken with creamed spinach and pork shoulder steak with baked beans.
Il Buco specializes in Italian and Mediterranean-inspired small plates, and does so exceptionally. The cluttered, charming restaurant oozes farmhouse chic with rustic wooden tables, copper pots dangling from the ceiling and low-lighting. The seasonal menu is constantly changing, which may explain why it is still hard to secure a reservation (the East Village spot opened in 1994.) Still fresh and exciting, Il Buco proudly offers a long wine list and the friendly wait staff well qualified to help you through it.
This four-year-old, charming Italian wine bar, located across the street from the Hotel on Rivington, has become a dependable staple in a neighborhood where even locals can’t keep up with the ever-changing, hotter-than-thou restaurant scene. An off-shoot of Greenwich Village’s tiny Ino, ‘inoteca is a boisterous celebration of Italian culinaria, and the lively atmosphere, tasty antipasti and large selection of wines attract a chic crowd of mostly thirty-somethings. Inoteca’s menu, overseen by Eric Kleinman (the former sous chef of Lupa, another Italian favorite), is mostly a small-plate affair, heavy on paninis, bruschette, antipasta, with a few substantial dishes, like the popular polpette (meatballs) that are served in a fragrant tomato-citrus sauce. The wine list is more extensive with bottles sourced all across Italy and the islands, and thanks to the well-informed, friendly wine stewards, you’re bound to discover interesting new vintages every time you go.
Inoteca is a lovely spot for a snack and pre-dinner drink, especially if you’re already in the area exploring sights like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum or, starting in December, the anticipated New Museum. On weekend nights, it’s a good idea to arrive early (‘inoteca doesn’t accept reservations). Open daily from noon-3 a.m.
Though not brand-new (the restaurant opened in late 2009), tiny Joseph Leonard is so tucked-away from Manhattan buzz that one suspects it will continue feeling like a find for a while to come. There are only seven rustic wooden tables, though diners can also eat at the zinc-clad bar that takes up most of the front room. The brick walls are decorated with old black-and-white photographs (the name of the place derives from the owner’s grandparents), antique memento and wood-framed mirrors. The open kitchen, dim lighting and fashionable downtown crowd makes for a chic scene, but there’s nothing frivolous about the food, which is focused, unpretentious and delicious. Appropriate for a real neighborhood spot, Joseph Leonard is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You cannot make reservations, so for dinner, it pays to arrive (with your whole group present) by 7 p.m.
Indagare Tip: Tip: If you plan to have dinner, make it a two-person visit and try to get seats at the bar. Or arrive an hour before you want to eat and put your name down; they will call your cell phone when your table is ready.
Read about sister restaurant Jeffrey’s Grocery
For fresh Greek salads and fabulous baklava near Carnegie Hall, head to Molyvos. The Greek culture encourages group dinners and Molyvos happily accommodates a big crowd.
Another one of Keith McNally’s home runs, Morandi is a West Village tavern meets traditional Italian trattoria that is always buzzing with energy while maintaining the laid-back village vibe. The food, while pricey, always delivers and because of its size you can always snag a reservation, even last minute. Try the panino con le uova (egg sandwich with prosciutto, stracchino, peppers and arugula). ~BH
Share a table of antipasti and a glass of vino in this contemporary restaurant specializing in classic Italian. Book a table well in advance for the popular pre-theater seating (the reservation line is open daily from 11am).
Sofia’s Wine Bar
Finally, some honest charm in Midtown. Exposed brick and candles give this intimate café a downtown feel, but the neighborhood numbed by pedestrian Irish pubs and mediocre power-lunch spots has joyfully embraced this Italian-owned café. Sofia pours over 15 wines by the glass, and serves simple Roman-style pizzas and small plates.
Named after the Spanish word tertulia, connoting the joyous coming-together of friends over food and wine, Tertulia pays homage to both the old and new definitions. With medieval décor and a welcoming rugged chic interior, Chef Seamus Mullen’s first solo venture has been a staple for boisterous group dinners since opening in 2011. With easy to share but almost too small tapas, Tertulia serves an array of traditional Spanish dishes, but the dishes with jamón ibérico are the ones that standout. Spring for the hand-cut ham, or enjoy it sprinkled atop arroz a la plancha, a creamy rice dish with snails, wild mushrooms, celery and fennel. The service is occasionally spotty, but the food is reliable; Mullen lived in Spain for many years. Reservations accepted for lunch and brunch, no reservations for dinner (except for the $55pp Chef’s Menu).
Started by a homesick Spanish ex-pat, this tapas spot is ideal for a quick bite before catching a show at the Joyce or strolling the Highline. The small-plate format makes Tia Pol a good spot for a group. Come early or be prepared for a wait: this sliver of a restaurant always fills up for dinner.