Murray Hill: a decidedly unhip neighborhood and the place your dreams of “living downtown” for your first apartment go to die. That’s to say: you don’t choose Murray Hill, it chooses you. Once you can get past the questionable crowds who voluntarily go to Joshua Tree and Tonic Saturday nights, there’s actually more to the ‘hood than meets the eye. We’re talking legitimate places to eat and drink that aren’t Penelope (though it’s still good) or Cask (still not good).
Probably not ideal for a first date as seating is limited and you don’t want to seem ill prepared. Probably an ideal place to come with a fellow meat-eater and ideally one who enjoys craft beer. There’s plenty of it. If you make a good enough impression with the bartender, he may even let you make your empty marrow bone into a whiskey luge. So yeah, probably not a good first date place.
You really can get a good cocktail a mere two blocks away from Joshua Tree. You just need to find Middle Branch first. It’s tucked away within a two-story townhouse and you have to enter in at garden level. Come after midnight or be prepared to wait for a seat upstairs. Go for “bartender’s choice” – bespoke cocktails are what they’re known for.
Not even close to the best taco you’ll find in the city but it’ll do the trick if you have some time before the next train out of Grand Central. Key word is time, as service still hasn’t gotten much faster despite a couple of years in business. Hit the rooftop if you come during off hours and work up a buzz before you take part in that commuter life.
Did you know a cozy wine bar perfect for first dates, big groups, and/or big group first dates exists on a weird stretch of 2nd Avenue? We didn’t either and may regret sharing this information because Vanguard is somehow always at the perfect capacity. They play movies in the background, the service is great, and the wine list is always changing. Grab a couple of seats at the bar, order some pimento cheese and get to drinking. If you don’t know, now you know.
We’ve ordered the matzo ball soup on more than one occasion when we’ve felt a cold coming on and miraculously have felt better after. Possibly a coincidence or probably the mystic powers of soup made by someone’s bubbeleh. Regardless, this place is an institution. Stick with soups and sandwiches and enjoy the gratis pickles. Maybe wear stretchy pants.
Penelope has been providing the neighborhood with good comfort food forever, which explains the crazy lines that start forming for brunch weekend mornings. Though their brunch is great, Penelope is equally good for dinner, when the wait for a table is typically much shorter.
There are actually old people that reside in Murray Hill and for whatever reason, they seem to only frequent Delectica when we’re there. Seating can be tricky but well worth fighting Nana for a chair if it means going HAM on an egg sandwich or their Israeli breakfast platter. Just avoid eye contact and it’s like it never happened. Also a great spot for salads and sandwiches if your office is close by.
Don’t come here and order a salad. You’ve already lost whatever bet you just made with yourself so just own it and order what you came here for: a basket of chicken fingers. Maybe you’ll get The Salted Caramel Pretzel and will still hit up Insomnia after to really stick it to the (wo)man. Or maybe you’ll go delicate route with an order of standard fingers with a sensible sauce for dipping. Either way, you’re a winner in our eyes.
Do you love knitting? Are you really into origami? Do you sometimes organize your closet according to the color spectrum? You're going to love Kajitsu. This high end Japanese restaurant is dedicated to the practice of shojin cuisine, which originated in Zen Buddhist monasteries. The food is delicious and beautiful and painstakingly prepared such that no detail is overlooked. Save it for a special occasion with that special OCD someone in your life.
Lamazou has been one of our favorites since the days before The Infatuation existed, or what we call "the dark times." Walk in and have them make you a sandwich with whatever they're feeling that day, or order from their list of preselected options. Know that Lamazou does get busy for lunch and that you're likely to confront a line if you're hitting it during peak daytime hours. It's not our little secret anymore. That may be our fault.
The best restaurant in Murray Hill and one of the best restaurants in the entire city. Good luck getting in. Your best bet is to hit it for lunch if you can get away from work for two hours on a Tuesday. If you can, nice job at career selection. Order the burger and the Five Lettuce Caesar.
Blue Smoke isn't the only BBQ game in town, but it's still one of our favorites. We love it for big group dinners and even dining solo at the bar, but recently it's become a smart move for brunch, when you can get your hands on a brisket and scrambled egg sandwich (pictured).
Every neighborhood needs an excellent, casual sushi restaurant, and Mishima is that for Murray Hill. It's the kind of place you could walk by for years and never notice, or even quite frankly avoid based on looks alone. But that would be a mistake. The fish is as fresh as it gets, and it's typically full of area locals who hope you don't find out about it. Sorry about that.
Vezzo is the spot most Murray Hillers turn to for pizza, and their cracker thin crust is probably the thinnest in town. It's the kind of place where the best pie has truffle oil on it, which should help you set your expectations. Di Fara this is not. But it is a solid option in an area with few of them when it comes to pizza.
Not that long ago, eating healthy in Murray Hill meant ordering an egg white omelette from the Sunflower Diner. Now there's Little Beet Table, a place that would sooner serve you a bowl full of nails than they would something with gluten in it. The food here is all "responsible" to say the very least, but Little Beet Table also has a full bar, making it the perfect place for a Girls' Night Out in the 'hood.
A much loved, classic Jewish deli that's been in Murray Hill for over 50 years and even survived a recent fire. Proof that you can't keep a good pastrami sandwich down. That said, any self respecting Murray Hill resident knows that you don't come to Sarge's for the sandwiches. You come for the blintzes. Always the blintzes.
Kalustyan’s is where you go to let your culinary freak flag fly. Did you need some curry powder? Would twenty different kinds suffice? Though it’s primarily a market, we’d be real jerks for not mentioning the café upstairs. An octogenarian (look, we found another old person in Murray Hill!) will probably make your meal but know that on the other end of it is all kinds of Mediterranean goodness.