Given NYC’s constantly changing restaurant landscape, it’s hard for an Angeleno to keep up—there are still plenty of things to try, but here’s an ever-evolving list of favorites. Below, some new, not-so-new, or in a few cases, ages-old spots that never disappoint—in alphabetical order.
55 E. Houston St. | 212.274.8881
This institution on Houston is full of old-school gangsters and famous New Yorkers, meaning the people-watching is just as great as the food. Speaking of the food, it revolves around perfectly prepped rustic Italian pastas and chicken and eggplant parmesan, which more than justifies the hype and no-reservations policy (wait-times can get lengthy on busy nights).
541 Amsterdam Ave. | 212.724.4707
This old-school delicatessen has been around for over 100 years and carries every conceivable kind of smoked fish. It’s a fun stop even just to see the hand-painted 1950’s sign outside, and the vintage Americana interiors it has carefully stewarded through the decades. Greengrass is also a restaurant that’s particularly great for breakfast—there are plenty of egg and bagel options to accompany your choice of smoked fish. And, in keeping with tradition, portions are huge, so go hungry.
42 Grove St. | 212.255.3590
This is chef Jody Williams’ take on the traditional French café, the kind of place neighbors congregate for coffee and croissants in the mornings and come back to for quiet, small, plate-centric fare come dinner. There’s also a sprawling marble bar (and a cocktail menu to match) to pass the time while waiting for a table, since they have a no-reservations policy.
casa mono nyc
125 E. 17th St. | 212.253.2773
Mario Batali and Andy Nusser’s tiny tapas spot opened over a decade ago, but the vibe and food is still just as great—particularly on those days when you’re really missing Spain. The menu leans pretty heavily on proteins, but the more veggie-driven dishes (asparagus with octopus, spring leeks vinaigrette) hold their own, too. Meanwhile, Mono’s sister property next door, Bar Jamon, is great for a post-dinner nightcap.
Daruma-Ya Soba Izakaya
Daruma-Ya Soba Izakaya
428 Greenwich St. | 212.274.0428
When the beloved owner behind Mercer Street’s Honmura An moved back to Japan, and closed his restaurant in Soho, many a foodie’s heart was broken. But Daruma-Ya’s soba noodles might be just as authentic and exquisite. Beyond the noodles, which are shepherded to perfection by Soba master Shuichi Kotani, Daruma-Ya specializes in small plates. The uni soba is insane, as is, weirdly, the California Roll. Go for lunch, as they have a great special. Sushi Azabu downstairs is also great.
525.5 Hudson St. | 212.691.9700
Decoy is a Peking Duck-dedicated spot tucked away in a converted laundromat beneath RedFarm, and it has the sort of exquisite Chinese food that you’d expect from Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng. While the Peking Duck is excellent (you have to reserve one in advance), favorites are actually the uni noodle and octopus salad, and the crab fried rice.
1621 2nd Ave. | 212.772.2242
This is a New York institution, hands down, as the food is sort of classic Italian by way of New York. It’s got a great uptown, old-school vibe where you rub shoulders with the likes of Joan Didion, Barbara Walters, and Jerry Seinfeld.
42 E. 20th St. | 212.477.0777
For over 20 years, this venerable Danny Meyer restaurant has been continually packed, thanks to the delicious, seasonal, and local American cuisine, a movement that’s currently stewarded by chef Michael Anthony, of Blue Hill fame. The woodsy dining room, complete with Robert Kushner’s vegetable mural, is so comforting.
2 Harrison St. | 212.219.0900
Jungsik will take any preconceived ideas about traditional Korean food and squash them. Case in point: Chef Jung Sik Yim’s version of Bibimbap is crafted with fresh black truffles, while meat and seafood gets the molecular gastronomy treatment rather than the open fire in the middle of the table. All the fireworks aside, the home-y, yet surprisingly refined rice dishes are still the go-tos.
Noodle Bar: 171 1st Ave., 212.777.7773; Ssam Bar: 207 2nd Ave., 212.254.3500; Ko: 8 Extra Pl, 212.203.8095
David Chang’s Ko is a multi-course gastro experience, while the Noodle Bar next door is its laid-back, no reservations ramen-specific sibling. Meanwhile, up the street, Ssam Bar, which is attached to Milk Bar, offers a wider range of options. Chang, who is now legendary, does pretty revolutionary food, whether it’s noodle or pork buns, meaning that if there’s just one must-try foodie experience downtown, one of his restaurants would probably be it. At Ko, the reservation policy is a bit tough (log-in at 10am EXACTLY—tables open up 15 days in advance), but it’s worth a shot.
Pearl Oyster Bar
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St. | 212.691.8211
While this may be the oyster bar that started the casual seaside dining trend in the city, it hasn’t been overshadowed by its younger competitors. It’s a consistent siren song, thanks to the seaside shack fare they do so well, including oysters, of course, and huge, lobster rolls. Their hot fudge sundae is pretty insane, too.
70 Kenmare St. | 646.613.7522
Ramen Lab seats no more than 10 people at a time so there’s always a wait, but chef Jack Nakamura’s Sun Noodle creations—on most nights, he serves two seasonal ramen variations and one appetizer—are worth it. What’s more, the tiny space also serves as a think tank of sorts for emerging ramen chefs, hosting regular tastings and pop-ups to help them hone their craft.
Russ & Daughters
Russ & Daughters
127 Orchard St. | 212.475.4881
While take-out from the 1914 original on East Houston is an unparalleled New York City experience, the new, wonderfully turned-out, old-world café is about a ten minute walk from the mothership, with waits that are two or three times that long. We heartily recommend the classic open-face sandwich, the super heebster nosh with wasabi roe, and matzo ball soup. Dying to try next: Chocolate babka french toast, along with their potato pancakes, which are topped with Gaspe Nova smoked salmon and a sunny side up egg.