OK, so you’re in New York (yay!) and what do you want to do? Eat of course! I am not a massive foody but I’m definitely attracted to places that have great decor, a good vibe, tasty food that isn’t too pretentious but is interesting and a drinks list I can afford. I’ve not eaten out as often as I would’ve liked this year. 2014 has been all about weddings for me (including my own) so with a fair amount of dollar-pinching needed combined with prolonged periods of time out of the city (Hello weddings in: UK x 3, France x 2 and Australia x 1), we have done our best to explore and try a lot of tastylicious spots for breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner.
Here are my top five picks for each category. I’ve tried to give some options that relate to a mix of budgets and lifestyles (especially brunch when you might want a quicky so you can go shopping).
Murray’s Bagels – If you’re in the West Village (actually even if you’re not in the ‘hood), you have to make a trip to Murray’s. These bagels are d-to-the-vine. Their reputation preceded themselves to me and I will share the advice I was given – don’t ask for your bagels toasted. It’s frankly an insult to Murray’s peeps. Eek. But I now know what they mean.
These bagels are so fresh they have a natural crispier outter texture and soft center. They have about 10,000 cream crease and 5,000 smoked salmon choices (slight exaggeration, but there is a lot of choice!).
My fav order is a poppyseed bagel with lox, plain cream cheese, red onions, capers and tomatoes. Sometimes, when I am feeling really naughty (and after I saw a really cute French family having breakfast in there) I have a multi-grain with Nutella. Yeah, get those lips a tingling.
This place is so good it attracts the crowds, so expect a wait. But defo wait. Also, the eat-in option isn’t great (mainly due to the queues of people snaking around you) so this is more of a to-go option (tip: don’t say take-away to a new yorker, no one will understand you, it’s “to go”. Got it?)
Nourish Kitchen & Table – Another West Village spot. This is a dream of a place. There is such a relaxing atmosphere in here and you can tell the peeps that run it are seriously passionate about making food that is wholesome, seasonal and from locally sourced ingredients. Being a Sydneysider for several years got me intensely in to avocado on toast and this place creates a pricey but perfect avo on toast. Their sweet treats are also delicious.
Monument Lane – Guess what?! Another West Village spot. This is an eat in though. I love to come here on the weekend post the gym (which is right opposite) and grab a seat at the bar and read some blogs, on my own! It is a gorgeous and cosy space all year round. The mimosas are awesome and the bacon is mouthwateringly good. Get the bread basket to nibble on while you wait for your main plate to arrive.
The Wren – OK, we are going East. Ciao, West Village: Bonjourno East Village! I’ve actually only been to the Wren once but it is stand out and somewhere I can’t wait to go back to. The food is as rustic as the oh-so-cool-new-york-space you dine in. They do black pudding, which in my book is a sign of an amazing breakfast/brunch place. The cocktails are fab and creative and meaty… check out their menu and you’ll see what I mean. I had the Reyezuelo cocktail because I can’t move past any cocktail with grapefruit in it and it was ahhh, so goood!
Laconde Verde – TriBeCa. I have saved the best for last. It’s also the most expensive out of my top five brunch spots. You have to book. You have to go. And, you have to order the sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast as soon as you get there, along with a glass of their Prosecco while you peruse the rest of the menu. Every time we have been and/or recommended friends to go here, it is simply stand out amazing. The male waiters are also pretty hot!
Balthazar – SOHO. A lot of NY guides put Balthazar as a top spot for brunch. And while their breakfast/brunch menu is amazing (what French establishment doesn’t do a banging petit dejeuner) I actually prefer to come here for the lunch menu which is available from 12pm on the weekends. Booking is essential and don’t go with a lot of bags, the restaurant is quite cramped. Of course, get a mimosa here before you move on to the Rose.
Bar Americain – Mid Town West. I came here on a work lunch with clients and it was a-buzzin’ with New York City suits and boots (which isn’t the reason it’s making it to my list). It’s on the list because I generally find it really hard to know where to go in Mid Town. It’s busy, touristy and a bit icky which isn’t the vibe you get in the villages/downtown. When here, if you like shellfish, order the platters – they are so fresh and delicious. Also, when in New York… order the steak for entree (my preference is a fillet because I don’t like to chew on meat, but the hanger comes highly recommended from a foody friend)
Five Guys – These babies are dotted around everywhere! You’re in New York, it’s lunchtime – you crave a burger and fries. Fact. You can’t go wrong hunting out a Five Guys. They’re juicy. They’re real – the burgers aren’t even round for goodness sake and the fries are sooooo good. They keep the skins on the potatoes and you know how much better that makes a posh french frie.(OK, i am being cheeky here and chucking in some extra burgerliscious links, just for you, you’ll thank me! Also check out Shake Shack and NY Burger Company)
Beechers Handmade Cheese – Flatiron district. Did someone say cheese? This is an actual cheese-making kitchen in the heart of Manhattan. Did someone suggest mac and cheese with crab? Yes, that’ll be me recommending you to go to Beechers restaurant (you will have to go downstairs to the cellar) and hope there’s a low corner table available. They are so cosy and have cool cow hide covered chairs. Their organic Mexicane Cola is refreshing and the perfect wash down to your mac and cheese. Take photo ID with you as the cellar is strictly over 21s and they won’t let you in without it)
Spotted Pig – West Village. This is just a little gem. I’ve put it on my lunch top five because frankly with a no booking policy, the waiting time in the evenings is just too much to bear (can be 90 minutes plus). This is a real pub environment. Lots of wood and rustic loveliness. I have been countless times and can’t report back on anything other than the burger and signature skinny fries as that is the only thing I ever order from here (in hindsight my lunch favs are burger heavy). It’s just got to be done. You’ll be in the heart of West Village when you’re done so easy to get to a bakery for something sweet and the shops.
Wolfgangs Steakhouse – various locations but I really like the TriBeCa venue. It wouldn’t be a New York eats guide if there wasn’t a killer steakhouse on the dinner list. I describe this place to people as a quintessentially New York Mafia type place. It is old school New York. The veteran waiters have many a New York tale under their belts, you can tell. Order the share steak (order down, the slabs of meat are huge) with as many sides as you can afford (ensuring the spinach and broccoli are not missed) and the german potatos, along with your fav heavy red wine. Your steak will come out sizzling in its juices on a rustic dish, the waiter will dose a chunk of meat with the juice and serve you. I promise you’ll want to go back for more (after a few days… your body will spend a few days digesting the amazingness)!
Maison Premiere – Brooklyn. Check me out, being a cool bean and knowing a place to recommend in BR. This is a romantic and enchanting french oyster and champagne restaurant. I would say it’s best to go in the summer so you can enjoy the flower garden, complete with festoon lighting, gravel flooring and white wrought iron furniture. If you’re not a fishy person, I wouldn’t recommend going as there really isn’t much that you can choose off the menu. Also, if you are on more of a budget (like us when we went) and don’t want to spend $100+ a person, go for appertizers and then get some good old fashioned Brooklyn pizzas later in the night.
It’s a must to go though. The oyster menu is extensive covering west and east coasts of America (one side is creamy and the other side is salty, but I can’t remember which is which). The waiting staff are super duper helpful and made amazing recommendations. There is also sea urchin on the menu… which is interesting and worth a try. Defo one for the romantic readers.
Meatball Shop – Multiple locations, we go to the West Village one, obviously! This is simply great food in a down-to-earth buzzy environment. It’s no frills and you individually order using your own menu card and pencil. Be prepared to make choices! You choose what meat you want, what sauce you want and then what type of side you want. Want a pasta, then do you want your meatballs on top, on the side or underneath the pasta. What about making your meatball a sandwich…?? Just loads of options. I can safely say I have had everything on the menu and would recommend any of it! There is usually a short waiting time, but nothing hefty.
Beauty and Essex – Lower East Side. Get your glad rags on. This place is glamarama and hot to trot. You’ll need to book in advance. I would suggest a table around 10pm is best. Be prepared to wait a little bit though as you rarely sit down on time here. The food is designed to be enjoyed as sharing plates. There are typically western forms (like meatballs and burgers) but with Asian flavour influences. Defo order the seared tuna (which is a larger plate). The bar is always buzzing, there is always amazing people watching to be done, oh and you have to walk through a pawn shop to get to the restaurant out back.
Brushstroke – TriBeCa. This is the jazziest of places I have on here. Not in a literal way, unfortunately there isn’t a jazz band here, but it is refined, it is expensive, it is conceptual – it’s Japanese so you would expect all of the above. I went here with a group of close girlfriends and we couldn’t decide what to have off the menu so invested in the tasting menu. So glad we did. It was all incredible. The service is amazing and each course has a little bit of theatre with the serve. The only thing I didn’t rave about was the puddings, but then I never rave that much about Asian puddings. I like my puds chocolatey and gooey!
Freemans – Lower East Side. This place is tucked away up a little lane and is oh-so-charming. It’s rustic and there’s taxidermy on the walls and you can really bed in. Order the hot artichoke dip for a nibble while you choose your entree. I love pork so opt for the Cassoulet frequently, it’s delicious. The bar staff know how to make a bloody good Hendricks and Tonic, so that’s your aperitif sorted! To my earlier comment about puds, I’ve not really raved about many of the sweet afters in any of these recommendations. Which is odd as I’m one of those people who looks at puddings, drinks, mains, starters – in that order… anyway, I’m pleased to report that the choc brownie at Freemans is amazing. It’s huge though, so you have to really dig deep in to that second pudding tummy!
And that’s it! My West Fifteenth Recommends… New York Eats Guide. They are heavily Manhattan based as that’s where we live and therefore where we’ve spent most of our time.
The smart cookies out there will notice I sneaked in an extra restaurant on my dinner favs list, there is no way I could’ve missed off any of those restaurants. I’ve got enough dinner favs up my sleeve for a second top five list at a later date!
Enjoy eating your way around Manhattan and please let me know if you try any of these. Also, if you have any recommendations to share, please let me know in the comments box, I have a long list of places to try. Bon Appetit!
All photos are from my own instagram account which you can follow @westfifteenth