The NYC Secret Restaurant Primer
NYC loves making things hard to find: cabs at 4pm, any place you can afford to live without having to sustain yourself on ramen flavor packets and saltines, and things that are actually fun -- like secret bars, supper clubs, sex parties, and secret and hidden spots to eat around the city. So, we’re arming you with this beginner’s guide to 23 great restaurants you might otherwise not be able to find.
Behind a door in tapas spot Espoleta, this pizza speakeasy from pie champ Giulio Adriani is firing off clandestine goods like the Monatanara (deep-fried pizza, bro), or a lardo, burrata, truffle, and leek pie.
This one’s not such a well-kept secret anymore, thanks to how excellent the burger is, but hidden by a curtain just off the lobby of Le Parker Meridien you'll find this down-and-dirty patty stand.
Located in the basement of a Hindu temple out in Queens (wait, wut?), this Indian counter has some of the best buttery dosas around; order the Pondicherry dosa with spicy chutney, onion, green chili, and fiesta potato masala.
Only accessed through a reference and a secret phone number, this Japanese spot is one of the top trophies of the NYC secret restaurant game.
Below the taqueria, which is delicious, there’s a brasserie where you can snag margaritas, queso fundido, chile relleno, and carne asada with chimichurri in decidedly sexier environs.
Enter through the side door on Morton and walk through the garden to gain access to this charming spot, hidden away from its Hudson St storefront, and reap the benefits of your adventurous nature via dishes like grilled leg of lamb and pan-seared gnocchi.
Hidden inside the already glamorous confines of this Soho staple is a back room that operates as an apres ski chalet in the colder months and an oyster shack in the warmer months.
Inside a graffiti-tagged door and up a flight of stairs you’ll get to this Filipino/Thai fusion spot from whence Chef King Phojanakong slings flavor bombs like deep-fried pork belly lechon kawali, drunken spicy shrimp finished with sake, kalamnsi, and Thai chilies, and saffron rice loaded with chicken, sausage, shrimp, and mussels.
Secreted away beyond aisles and displays of whatever it is they sell at a Bloomingdales (doilies probably), LTB is modeled after an old-school French train car and serves fare to match, like croque monsieur, steak frites, and a burger topped with bleu cheese.
With approximately a billion sakes (200-ish, really) to choose from, this underground Japanese izakaya/sake bar reveals itself after heading below a standard office building. Once inside, it plies you with pairings to go along with eats like slices of chilled roasted duck wrapped around scallions, pork shumai, or fried, sake-marinated chicken.
There’s been ramen, and Thai, and now there seems to be a Korean restaurant underneath this unmarked bar. Theoretically, you can now get knife-cut noodle soup with beef flank and bi bim bap here, but check it out before it changes again.
“Hidden” through a pawn shop, this one is relatively easy to spot due to the large groups of people usually milling about and waiting to get in. Grab some grilled cheese, smoked bacon, tomato soup dumplings, or duck confit chilaquiles -- this place is a party scene for sure.
Similar to nearby Beauty & Essex, the secret is out on this joint situated behind a coffee shop/commissary. There’s a party atmosphere inside and dishes like sweet tea-brined fried chicken, lobster tostadas, and the Essex St Burger with cheddar and applewood smoked bacon.
Protected by the Mexican grocery up front, this 10th Ave spot holds stools and a kitchen that’s kicking out some excellent tacos filled with everything from pork ear, to al pastor, to barbacoa, plus burritos and quesadillas.
A late-night staple, this unassuming Mexican deli and grocer has a few tables in the back and an excellent selection of tacos.
It’s one of the best restaurants in the country and it’s in a grocery store. Pull up a stool at the counter and experience 20+ courses of culinary bliss.
Past some of the best pizza in the city at Roberta’s, the Tiki hut out back, and through the garden is this chef’s counter where Carlo Mirarchi and team plate course after course of amazing, boundary-pushing eats.
This sushi counter inside of David Bouley’s Brushstroke offers omakase menus to a very small number of people nightly. It’s worth getting one.
Accessed through the soba izakaya Daruma-Ya, this tiny basement sushi bar hooks up next-level sushi, like the signature ikura nigiri topped with a quail egg, flash-fried tile fish with ponzu sauce, and lobster tail with uni sauce.
Located on the second floor above a souvenir shop, a juice bar, and a slice joint on 5th, this flashy Korean spot specializes in Korean fried chicken (Hot & Spicy, or Soy Garlic) and Korean/American grub like panko-breaded cheese sticks, pork fat edamame, and a twister -- a spiral potato with Parmesan and chef’s sauce.
Available only at certain times (Monday-Wednesday after midnight, and Sunday after 5pm) inside Hill & Dale, this late-night ramen spot, formerly housed in Ushiwakamaru, does some amazing tonkotsu miso ramen with a soft-boiled egg, tender pork, and buttered corn.
It’s not exactly hidden, since there’s big sign out front, but it is in a loading dock in Midtown. Load your face up with heaping offerings of Ecuadorian food like stewed chicken and roast pork with yellow rice.