The Big Apple is America’s epicenter for food. You’ll find cuisine from around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Craving a midnight grilled cheese? Ever wonder what Vietnamese cuisine is like? Looking to dine at a Jazz Club? Look no further! There are more than 1,700 restaurant options at any given time with an average of 144 openings each year in Manhattan alone. New York truly has it all.
In our newest food adventure blog, we visited with the mission to discover restaurants that have the following qualities:
- Are small or locally-owned
- Serve up sustainable meat and produce
- Offer a creative menu
Whether you live in one of the many eclectic neighborhoods or are just passing through, we hope this guide will point you in the right direction next time you decide to dine out in New York City.
If you’re looking for a unique brunch experience, look no further! Bricolage is a quaint, authentic Vietnamese gastropub that does not disappoint. Edward and Lien Lin opened their first restaurant after working at the famous Slanted Door in San Francisco. You’ll find Lien back in the kitchen, which is open for diners to enjoy, while Edward runs the front of the house. The walls are lined with what seems to be salvaged wood accented with rustic fixtures. It’s a warm little nook in bustling Brooklyn, just a short walk from the D, N, R, B, Q, 2, 3, 4, and 5 lines.
We loved everything from the Fresh Summer and Crispy Imperial Rolls to the Niman Ranch Pork Belly Hash; but our favorite was the Breakfast “banh xeo” Crepe. The shell looks like an open-faced omelet, but it’s really Lien’s take on a traditional Vietnamese “crepe” with rice flour, spices and a little gluten-free beer to make it more crispy and light. Turmeric turns it yellow, hence the appearance of egg. Bacon, onion, bean sprouts and fried eggs complete this savory breakfast and fill you up perfectly for the day ahead.
Situated at the heart of Harlem’s jazz scene lies The Cecil. Everything inside is textured – from the walls to the curtains, the tables to the forks. This gives it a customized warmth you don’t find at many larger establishments. They have live jazz for brunch and jazz in the lounge on Mondays and Tuesday. Next door is their Jazz club, Minton’s, for those who feel like enjoying an intimate dinner with great music any night of the week.
Our favorite main course is by far The Butcher’s Cut. Chef “JJ” Johnson changes what cut he offers daily or weekly to learn what his customers like. This helps him tailor the menu to their tastes. It also creates an element of surprise for the more adventurous restaurant-goer. Seasonal mushrooms make their way into every dish and also change based on what’s available locally. The day we dined, medium rare Ribeye was the cut of choice. We did not leave disappointed.
Hearth has impressed diners of the East Village since it first opened in 2003, a time when rebuilding New York was accompanied by a wave of new restaurants. It’s easy to understand why this Italian-inspired concept has held its ground over the years. The atmosphere is inviting, warm, private. Chef/owner Marco Canora’s seasonal cuisine is top notch, leading to his semifinalist nomination for this year’s Best Chef: NYC James Beard Award.
If you’re really hungry, order one of their vegetable dishes and the Whole Grain Rigatoni. They grind whole grains in-house to make the hearty pasta then dress it with a rich and robust ragu that reminds you of your favorite grandma’s cooking, but with a serious gourmet upgrade. Pair this with the right wine and you’re guaranteed a memorable dining experience. The General Manager, Christine Wright, also happens to be their Wine Director. She’s quite knowledgeable of everything on the list, so don’t be afraid to ask her opinion on which wine is perfect for your meal.
When you enter Mercer Kitchen from the corner of Mercer and Prince Street in SoHo, you aren’t immediately greeted by the usual smiling hostess. This restaurant is set up a bit differently; you must first descend into the heart of the restaurant, which is filled with good conversation and the aroma of food wafting from the kitchen. Dimly lit brick sets the mood with mirrors lining each wall to open up the basement level dining area. If you have to wait for your table, hop over to their fresh bar and choose a drink or a variety of bi-coastal oysters. If you prefer a bit more light, request to sit street side on the entrance level.
This restaurant is New York. It feels like New York, sounds like New York, tastes like New York. Jean Gorges and Chef Chris Beischer have done a great job of making Mercer Kitchen a must-dine for anyone looking to drink wine and eat incredibly well developed dishes. For example, the Prosciutto-wrapped Pork Chop sits atop a bed of jus with seasonal mushrooms that complement the earthy flavor of the pork. House-grown microgreens and sage add a subtle touch of brightness that truly ties the whole dish together. Juicy, distinctive, savory, divine.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
Momofuku Ssam Bar is one of the many restaurants that’s helped David Chang carve out his empire in New York City. It’s a fun little spot with modern music on the speakers and bowls stacked full with chopsticks on each table. Dining here gives you the urge to invite all your friends and stay until close. The staff is both humorous and friendly with the chefs just beyond arms reach in the open kitchen towards the back. This is a great place to kick back and unwind from a long day at work or seeing the sites.
Every option on the menu will make your mouth water. We devoured the Smoked Seven Spice Beef Brisket, but if you’re hankering for a group meal, call ahead and get the Dry Aged Ribeye. It’s a spectacle in itself! It comes out with fries, a salad and several dipping sauces for your enjoyment. Depending on your appetite, this entree can feed anywhere from 2 to 6 people. By the time you leave, expect to have cheeks sore from laughter and a belly full from incredible food!
Did you know the “mother ship” of Shake Shack is an outdoor walk-up-window restaurant in Madison Square Park? It was originally a pop-up hot dog stand in the early 2000’s to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation “I ♥ Taxi.” The cart was a success and lines formed daily, so they saught a contract from New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and the Madison Square Park Conservancy and built a permanent food kiosk in the park. You wouldn’t believe how many burgers and hot dogs come out of this little shack today.
At lunch and dinnertime, the line often wraps around the side walk along the green. Have no fear – the staff is trained to get you through quickly, and the food is totally worth a little wait! Be sure to try their “Shake of the Week.” Culinary Director Mark Rosati comes up with a different flavor every week of the year, from S’mores to Red Velvet and Oatmeal Creme Pie.
We suggest you order the SmokeShack Burger before digging into dessert. It’s a classic Shack Burger with the addition of cherry pepper relish and Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, minus lettuce and tomato. The relish adds a sweet and slightly spicy tang to the burger that is far superior than just simply adding pickles. The bacon is always crispy, with its smokiness balancing the heat from the peppers.
The SmokeShack won’t be the only burger Chef Mark Rosati tops with our bacon for long. Coming soon… The Bacon CheddarShack! Get ready.