A very long time ago, someone decided to make 14th Street the border between about eight or nine different neighborhoods. And not only does the L train run along 14th Street, but it also goes out to Bushwick and Williamsburg. All of which you already know if you live in NYC, but our point is: the L train is important (impending shutdown and all). So whether you live along the L, know someone who does, or just find yourself needing restaurants near it, we made this guide for you. We’re building it in segments, and this first edition has spots where you can eat and/or drink with someone anywhere from 8th Avenue to Lorimer Street.
Los Mariscos should be busier than it is. It’s from the same people behind Los Tacos No. 1, but they specialize in seafood: fish tacos, shrimp tacos, ceviche, and aguachiles. And nothing is too expensive. It is, however, a counter-service spot where you eat off paper plates, so you probably aren’t going to bring a date here (unless they’re really cool). Although there is a full bar with a great mezcal selection, and their tacos are some of the best you’ll find in the city.
Anfora is where you’d meet a date if your life were an early 2000’s romcom starring, maybe, John Cusack. You would meet in the dimly-lit room, claim a leather booth, and drink some wine while discussing your favorite childhood authors (who happen to be the same). Although if you don’t model your life after romcoms, you could just meet a friend here. This is a wine bar from the Dell’anima people, and it’s a good spot to grab a drink and a snack when you need something nicer than a dive bar. And if you don’t like wine, they also have beer and cocktails.
Nix is a vegetarian restaurant that does a pretty good job of appealing to people who typically don’t like vegetarian restaurants. It also does a good job of appealing to people who are more grown-up than the sophomores down the street at NYU. Here, you can get cauliflower tempura, bread with various dips, or just some hard-boiled eggs covered in crispy potato things (alongside some healthier things) in an upscale, comfortable environment just a few blocks from Union Square.
Japonica has been around since the 70s, and it’s a good place to grab some sushi without spending massive amounts of money. It isn’t the cheapest dinner, but they do have decently priced bento boxes. It’s a small spot that’s best for you and one other person wanting casual sushi near Union Square.
If you haven’t been to Momofuku Ssam Bar in a while, you should think about going back. They recently renovated, and the menu is significantly different. It’s lighter and more seafood-focused, although you can still get pork buns here (if you ask for them). You can also make reservations now, which is a plus if you don’t like waiting in a doorway with some Swedish tourists who have heard of Momofuku and want to tell their Swedish friends about it. (No offense Sweden, we picked you randomly.)
If you couldn’t tell by the name, Zadie’s doesn’t do much besides oysters. They usually have some things like bluefish paté or a BLT, but you probably shouldn’t come here if you don’t like shellfish. They do happy hour every weekday (when oysters are half-off), and the little room has a bar and a few tables where you can sit and have a casual hang.
The original Taverna Kyclades is in Astoria (and it’s pretty legendary), but if you live along the L train, you might also know that the one in the East Village is almost as good as the original. It also happens to be on top of the subway station at 1st Avenue, and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for authentic Greek food in the city. Everything comes family style, so come with a group and share some dips and octopus.
Motorino has been open for close to a decade now, and, in that time, about a million other places started serving really good pizza. So maybe people don’t talk about Motorino as often as they used to, but the pizza is still the same chewy, charred stuff that it’s always been. It’s also only two blocks from 1st Avenue L train station, so stop by and grab some dinner here with a friend. Just be aware that the space is pretty small, they don’t take reservations, and it tends to stay crowded.
For a casual group dinner or a quick meal with a friend, Han Dynasty will never be a bad choice. Unless you don’t like spicy food - but even then you can ask them go easy. This is a Schezuan mini-chain with a few locations around NYC and Philadelphia, and we’re partial to the one in the East Village. It’s perfect for when you’re seeing a movie at one of the theaters in the area and you want to get a great, affordable dinner beforehand.
If you want a quiet drink in Williamsburg, we recommend Hotel Delmano. It’s cocktail bar, but not a stuffy one, and the no-standing policy keeps things pretty mellow. You’ll still find a crowd here on any given night, and the atmosphere is perfect for a first, second, or 200th date. It’s dark, intimate, and it feels kind of like an abandoned hotel lobby that was turned into a bar. They also serve some small plates like cheese and oysters, and there are a few tables outside when it’s nice out.
There isn’t a lack of options around the Bedford L stop, but it can be hard to find a good place that isn’t completely packed when you’re trying to get dinner. El Almacen, however, is for some reason not too hard to get into. This charming Argentinian spot should please just about anyone you’re meeting - the steak is great, they serve avocado fries, the prices are reasonable, and they have a little backyard. It’s also only a few feet from the train stop.
Kings County is our favorite Chinese restaurant in Williamsburg, and it’s worth a trip over if you live anywhere along the L. Get some dim sum and spring rolls and dip them in the house-made soy sauce. The little dining room here is dark and lively, and there are booths with lazy Susans that are good for groups.
Suzume has sushi, ramen, and a few different kinds of tacos. Which is impressive for a place that’s about the size of a one-bedroom apartment. It’s a cozy space that’s good for date night, and most things cost less than $15. By all means, get both ramen and sushi. Maybe share a little of both with someone. Just be aware that this place is cash only.