Food & Drink

An editor's guide to eating around NYC

Published On 05/02/2013 Published On 05/02/2013

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple's food scene can end up being more than some folks can chew. Thankfully, noted glutton and Executive Editor Hayden Lynch has made his picks for where you can do the city's best eating, and he's sharing them all right here. Favorite Restaurant: This is a tough one, but at the moment I'd have to go with RedFarm. The dumplings are insanely good, and specials like shrimp-stuffed crispy chicken are icing on the steamed rice cake. No matter what the hostess tells you, though, do not go around the corner to a bar and expect them to call you. Best Prix Fixe: I had heard mixed things going in, but Blanca is worth the price of admission in my book. The preparations are focused on skill & precision instead of molecular wizardry, and the wine list is dominated by funky, affordable labels they'll gladly steer you towards if you'd like to be budget conscious whilst dropping $195 on a tasting menu. An exceptional experience in almost every way. Best Dish: The kanpachi jalapeno with fried julienned potatoes at Bar Masa is so addictive that I usually end up making a second order, then promptly leave before going broke trying to fill up on $20 slices of toro. Best Fine Dining: It can't be easy to pull off French seasonal cuisine without coming across as precious, but Mas (farmhouse) somehow manages exactly that. The biggest problem with the menu is deciding, but fortunately their prix fixe gives you free reign. A meal that's worth one of the vintage Burgundies on their wine list. Best for Work: Le Bernardin. It's literally the best meal in the city, the vibe won't leave a client wondering if you two are on a date, and you'll be thankful that you aren't paying. Most Romantic: For a serious celebration, I'd go with Bouley. The space isn't quite as sultry as the former spot across the street was, but one bite of the silken chawanmushi with black truffles and barely-cooked Alaskan king crab is enough to make you question whether one should so gleefully dance around the dying embers of "high end" New York dining. For a more dressed-down occasion, Peasant seems to hit all of the right notes when it comes to straddling the line between modern & rustic, spacious & cozy. More importantly, they bring out ricotta instead of olive oil with their bread. Best Latenight Eats: To hit Crif Dogs on St Marks at 330a is to be faced with an artery-clogging decision of Solomonic proportions: do you get the bacon, egg, & cheese Good Morning dog, or the chili/slaw/jalapeno Spicy Redneck? And true to King Solomon, you should order as many as you want and cut them in half to share with an equally inebriated friend. Best Cheap Eats: There aren't many things cheaper than Chinatown dumplings, which often clock in at five for a buck. Nom Wah's are a little more expensive (four for $3.50, baller), but sometimes you have to spend some dough on your dough. Best Sandwich: The Roast Porchetta at Il Buco Alimentari offsets moist, fatty slices of swine with crispy skin, an acidic salsa verde, and bitter arugula packed into the top of a hollowed-out roll. It has left me deeply, deeply fat. Best Italian: Esca. Where else can you try half a dozen kinds of raw fish, get a platter of perfectly fried shellfish, and follow up some seriously tasty uni & crab pasta with a salt-cooked branzino? Best Steakhouse: If everybody could get Peter Luger's man-bits out of their mouth long enough to have a rational conversation about it, they might understand why I actually prefer BLT Prime's truffled mash, imported Chianina porterhouse, and gratis giant popover w/ pate to Peter Luger's German potatoes, American beef, and chocolate coins. But they won't. Best Thai: I actually think that Andy Ricker's Brooklyn iteration of Pok Pok is better than the Portland original. Worth the trip, worth the wait, and worth overeating yourself to death in order to sample as much of the menu as possible. Best Ramen: After a recent ramen binge, I'm currently really feeling Minca. Their pork isn't the best I've ever had, but the broth has serious depth, and there's something contagious about the sitting at the bar and watching the crew work. Best Sushi: There are a million places to get insanely good sushi (Sasabune, Yasuda, Bar Masa, etc.), but there's nothing quite like the omakase at Sushi of Gari. Every individual piece has the complexity of an entire composed dish, incorporating savory elements ranging from charred tomatoes to foie gras. Best Mexican: I'm not sure that Des Moines doesn't have more authentic Mexican food than NYC, but subterranean hole-in-the-wall Cafe El Portal at least tries to bring a taste of home cooking to SoHo. If you walk in at lunch you'll quickly realize that the mother in the black & white photos lining the wall is actually sitting next to you eating the staff meal. Because she's the staff. Best Burger: It's a dirty little secret in the restaurant industry that other chefs get the exact same blend from Pat LaFrieda that Minetta Tavern uses in their Black Label burger (they just can't legally say so), but nobody does it quite as well. It has a certain musty funk that lingers in the back of your throat, like olfactory umami. It's the rare burger that stands out for more than just excellent execution on a simple premise. Best Pizza: I would have advised driving to New Haven and waiting in line for Sally's Apizza until I blew out a tire on my way through town and ended up stranded for hours. Instead of getting caught in a pizza imbroglio, I'll go ahead and say that the most surprising pizza is probably Adrienne's. Who would have guessed you could get anything worthwhile on Stone St? Most Gut-busting Dish: Not only does the pig's foot at The Breslin sport a crisp, fried exterior protecting the gelatinous, mouth-coating fat inside, but it's portioned for two people. They say that the collagen makes your skin look more youthful, but so does stretching it out by getting all fat as hell. Best Large Format: Resto's Whole Beast Feast. Ma Peche's Beef 7 Ways. Suckling pigs pretty much everywhere. There are plenty of group-worthy specials meals worthy of rounding up a crew, but I was surprised to find that Back Forty's might take the cake. A recent feast of lamb liverwurst, lamb lentil stew, lamb merguez, and a massive platter sporting herb-marinated chops, grilled racks & slow-smoked shoulder was over-the-top good without gouging the wallet. Best for Partying: You can become an uninhibited sh*t show at Sammy's Roumanian and nobody will bat an eyelash. The last time I was there I watched someone drink an entire bottle of schmaltz straight from the cup. Ice-encrusted bottles of vodka and the borscht belt stylings of musician/comedian Dani Luv ignite a nightly bar mitzvah, but you'll stink like garlic for weeks. Best Breakfast: Should you find yourself in the rare position of having time to eat a breakfast out, Cafe Sabarsky will remind you why they call it a Viennese Hour. Great coffee and insanely good Austrian pastries. Best Lunch: Mile End Deli's NoHo-based Sandwich Shop is only open from 10a-6p, which means lunch is prime time for one of their killer bread bombs. A hearty schmear of chopped liver makes their BLT something of a revelation, and seeing as you're intent on murdering your arteries in the middle of the day, don't skip on the poutine. Best Brunch: Brunch is always a disappointment in my book, if only because I'm somehow voluntarily having one meal when I could have had two, so I prefer to head down to Oriental Garden for a crushing stream of pushcart dim sum. If you need a bloody mary, though, Jeffrey's Grocery makes the only one in the city I can tolerate, and optionally garnishes it with shrimp and raw oysters to boot. Weirdest Food: The "live octopus" at Sik Gaek in Flushing is about as bizarre as things get. When the writhing, chopped up tentacles actually manage to dig in with their suction cups, it leaves a faint numbing sensation on your tongue, not to mention a foreboding sense that they might get some traction in your esophagus on the way down. Most Local Food: It's worth going out to Blue Hill at Stone Barns just for the minuscule vegetables they pluck from the farm and stick on a series of skewers planted vertically in a wooden block, like heads on the outskirts of a village of cannibalistic carrots. Best Wings: NYC is decidedly not a place to get good Buffalo wings, though how this vacuum developed is totally beyond my comprehension. If you need spice, the ones at the Waterfront Cafe balance the lemony tinge of habanero with the acidic sweetness of tomato sauce. But the best wings are definitely the Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce wings at Pok Pok. It's just a shame that Pok Pok wing in Manhattan was converted into Pok Pok Phat Thai.

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1. RedFarm 529 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

This brick-walled West Village eatery serves up modern iterations on dim sum in a lively and trendy rustic setting. Snag a seat at a communal table and snack on quirky comestibles like egg rolls made with Katz's pastrami and shrimp-stuffed jalapeño poppers. Mains are hearty and run the gamut from cold noodles to fried rice dishes. For the most part, seasonal ingredients set the course of the menu, which changes regularly.

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2. Bianca's 550 W 38th St, New York, NY 10014 (Hells Kitchen)

Helmed by a professionally attractive chef whose resume includes private stints for George Soros, Joshua Bell, and Patrick "Pat" McMullen, B's occupies a separate lounge space inside HeadQuarters men's club, harkening back to the "sultry 1940s" with eye-catching, blood-red plush chairs and banquettes, black and white starlet prints, and a movie projector throwing up period flicks and "risque" French films.

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3. Masa 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

If you'd like to see what makes a meal worth most people's monthly rent, head to Masa. Masayoshi Takayama, chef and owner of this New York City sushi standard, manifests perfection in fresh fish dishes prepared with hyper-conscious attention to flavor interactions and plating techniques. Posted up in the Time Warner Center, you'll forget the bustle of Columbus Circle and the mall crowd below as you indulge on delicate nigiri and mackerel of the highest echelon.

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4. Mas (farmhouse) 39 Downing St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Mas Farmhouse serves New American Cuisine from New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. Resourcing fresh ingredients from small, sustainable farms outside of New York City, this small restaurant offers a daily dinner menu and wine list also of organic, independent origin.

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5. Le Bernardin 155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

Le Bernardin is the Meryl Streep of the New York restaurant scene. It has all the necessary accolades for being the best (three Michelin stars, seven James Beard awards), and other restaurants don’t even try to compete with it. Chef Eric Ripert has mastered the art of seafood in the form of a caviar-heavy prix fixe menu that tastes best with the optional wine pairing. Add white tablecloths and five-star service, and you’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime dinner.

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6. Bouley Restaurant 163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013 (Tribeca)

Led by Chef David Bouley, the eponymous Tribeca resto boasts an award-winning selection of over 40k wines. Try dishes like silken chawanmushi with black truffles and delicately cooked Alaskan king crab.

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7. Peasant 194 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

In the heart of Nolita, Peasant mixes the upscale hipness of downtown with the romantic tradition of Little Italy. The menu features everything that makes Italian food so darn good, like pizza with hot chiles and soppressata, gnocchi, and lamb with polenta. The main dining room, accented with painted brick walls, hanging indoor plants, and candle-lit tables, will woo you before you have a chance to see the subterranean wine room, which looks straight out of a rustic Italian barn.

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8. Crif Dogs 555 Driggs Ave, New York, NY 11211

The Williamsburg outpost of Crig Dogs serves the same over-the-top hot dogs as the East Village original. The huge menu varies between the namesake Crif Dog, a naturally smoked beef and pork dog, and more loaded ones like the Philly Tubesteak, which is essentially a Philly cheesesteak minus the steak, plus the tubed meat. There are burgers, beer, and milkshakes, too. The space is tight with limited seating, but its location right next to the Bedford L makes it too good to pass up on your way home at 2am.

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9. Nom Wah Tea Parlor 13 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)

Located in the heart of Chinatown, Nom Wah has been around in some form since 1920. It's been a bakery, kitchen, and now it's a dim sum specialist and tea house. Today, it still maintains its vintage looks and if you want to taste their claim to fame, order the fried sesame balls with lotus paste and the almond cookie.

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10. Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria 53 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012 (Noho)

At the sister restaurant of the famed Il Buco, you'll find a five-course, rustic Italian family-style menu that includes such options as chestnut agnolotti, baccala, and roasted pears. But you're really here for the lunch offerings, including the notorious porchetta panino, stuffed with hefty slices of pork and scented with rosemary. Be sure to check out the market, too, which functions as a salumeria, panetteria, formaggeria, and gelateria.

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11. Pok Pok Ny 117 Columbia St, New York, NY 11231

Andy Ricker's Michelin-starred restaurant on Brooklyn's Columbia Street Waterfront specializes in Northern Thai food, a regional cuisine that favors pork and deep-frying over spiciness and coconut milk. Pok Pok's menu is filled with family-style plates like deep-fried pork riblets, minced pork salad with crispy fried garlic, and insanely good chicken wings, deep-fried and coated in fish sauce. There's usually a wait at peak dinner times, especially for a table on the back patio in the summer.

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12. Minca Ramen Factory 536 E 5th St, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

Minca Ramen Factory is a tiny ramen spot in Alphabet City that delivers top-knotch, soul-satisfying noodle soup without the hype (and crowds) of Ippudo and Momofuku. Minca opened around the same time as Momofuku and has developed an under-the-radar following for its signature half-pork, half-chicken broth, as well as its noodle varieties (choose between thin, thick, wavy, or whole wheat). The house-made gyoza, filled with pork or shrimp, are pan-fried to perfection. Note that it's cash-only.

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13. Cafe el Portal 174 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)

Cafe el Portal might not be the biggest Mexican joint around, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in south-of-the-border flavor. You'll want to check out its traditional options like fish tacos, cactus burritos and roasted corn and wash it all down with a deliciously concocted margarita or sweet sangria.

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14. Minetta Tavern 113 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012 (Greenwich Village)

In the heart of Greenwich Village, Minetta Tavern boasts a classic oak bar, vintage photos on the walls, and supremely delicious burgers (amongst other menu items). Its Black Label Burger has quite the reputation -- it's an 8oz blend of Pat LaFrieda prime dry-aged beef, cooked until there's a nice, light crust on top, then dressed with caramelized onions on a custom brioche bun.

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15. Adrienne's Pizza Bar 54 Stone St, New York, NY 10004 (Financial District)

It might be tough to narrow down pizza places in NYC, but if you're in the Financial District, this Stone Street hideaway is a sure bet. From square to round to thin crust to "grandma" style, Adrienne's puts pies in their proper place.

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16. Resto 111 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

Resto NYC is a Belgian bistro in Murray Hill with a refined, laidback vibe that makes it a dependable dinner option any night of the week. The French-inspired menu features the best burger in the neighborhood, served with Gruyere, red onions, dill pickles, mayonnaise, and French fries. The rest of the meat-centric options are split between small plates like steak tartare and larger entrées like duck breast and mussels. The beer and wine program has one of the most extensive selections of Belgian brews in the city.

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17. MĂĄ PĂȘche 15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown)

Brought to you by the king patron of fusion David Chang, Midtown's MĂĄ PĂȘche combines the chef's signature Asian food with innovative service. In the fashion of dim sum parlors, MĂĄ PĂȘche uses carts and trolleys to serve 50-plus dishes nightly. While the concept is unique among Momofuku restaurants, the interior aesthetics, like communal tables made of maple-colored plywood and minimalistic walls that bring the focus back to food, remind you that you're in a Chang restaurant. Although, a bite of his famous pork buns might do the same.

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18. Back Forty West 70 Prince St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

BFW's got a raw stone wall, and a multi-hued bar made from reclaimed Shaker barnwood (sourced from the same guys who supply their pork), and an upstairs area with a fireplace surrounded by communal seats, art from former patrons & employees, and live edge tables.

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19. Cafe Sabarsky 1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028 (Upper East Side)

Inside the Neue Galerie, this elegant Viennese cafe proves that museum dining isn't synonymous with pre-made sandwiches and weak coffee. Decorated like a turn-of-the-century intelligentsia hangout, Cafe Sabarsky serves Viennese pastries and coffee, as well as savory dishes like goulash and wiener schnitzel. It's expensive, but the rich chocolate cakes are worth every penny.

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20. Mile End Delicatessen 53 Bond St, New York, NY 10012 (Noho)

Mile End Deli doesn’t fit neatly into a single category, serving non-kosher Jewish French-Canadian comfort food with a hipster twist. And yet, ironically but un-ironically, this has solidified it in the hearts of New Yorkers. Well, that and the absurdly succulent smoked meat. The meat masterminds here have crafted a true tour de force de fries -- poutine with cheese curds, chicken gravy, and the option to add smoked brisket (do it).

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21. Oriental Garden 14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)

Dim sum, dumplings, Peking duck, noodles... this is probably some of the best Chinese in the City.

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22. Jeffrey's Grocery 172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Jeffrey’s Grocery is a seafood-centric West Village restaurant known for its a) oyster bar and b) brunch. Fish makes its way into most of the dishes, like the poached shrimp omelette and fried clam roll on the brunch menu, and the lobster spaghetti at dinner. There are plenty of turf options too, like the raclette burger.

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23. Sik Gaek 16129 Cocheron Ave, Flushing, NY 11358 (Queens)

Anthony Bourdain and David Chang may have highlighted this restaurant’s still-alive octopus dish, but the non-squirming meat dishes pack just as much, if not more, flavor (you thought we were going to say punch, right?). The requisite order here calls for spicy marinated pork -- which promises an addictively sweet-piquant experience -- and twisted galbi. Offering a textural change from the classic marinated beef short rib item, the galbi pairs swimmingly well with Littleneck clam BBQ -- so you can taste Sik Gaek’s seafood renown, while getting your warm-blooded fix.

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24. Blue Hill at Stone Barns 630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills, NY 10591

Sourcing fresh ingredients from its surrounding fields and market, Westchester's Blue Hill at Stone Barns ditches menus in favor of letting diners combine ingredients to their liking.

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25. BLT Prime 111 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010 (Gramercy)

This upscale Gramercy Park restaurant sets the modern-day standard for steakhouses in New York City. The "beef is what's for dinner" commercials were created with this place in mind. It offers a myriad of steak options, as well as a full selection of seafood and an award-winning wine list.

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26. Sushi of Gari 402 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075 (Upper East Side)

Masatoshi "Gari" Sugio is legendary in NYC for dishing out one-of-kind sushi and meals like tuna with tofu cream and foie gras sushi. He's opened multiple locations throughout the city over the years, but the original Upper East Side still reigns supreme.

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