The Least Annoying Restaurants In Nolita
If you don't want to wait several hours for dinner, try one of these spots.
Nolita, more than any other neighborhood, is full of annoying restaurants. Reservations are scooped up as soon as they're released online, and if you try to snag a walk-in table, there's usually an hour-plus wait. Once you finally get seated, you'll probably wind up drinking a $20 glass of wine while the people sitting next to you recap their night at Ray’s as if it were different from any other night at Ray’s. Don't get us wrong—some of these annoying restaurants are actually worth the hassle. But if you just want to grab some food at a relatively normal place that doesn't have a line down the block, head to one of these spots.
Café Habana should be busier. It isn’t exactly a ghost town at night, but it also isn’t tough to get into, and we can’t figure out why. At this diner-esque Cuban-Mexican restaurant (open since the ‘90s), you can listen to salsa and hip hop while you drink a frozen margarita and eat a good, crispy Cubano. You’ll have fun, you’ll eat some solid food, and you’ll pay around $20 for your meal (sans margarita).
Think of this Mediterranean restaurant as the backup plan to your backup plan. Little Rascal doesn’t get as busy as nearby spots like Rintintin (which almost made this list) and Thai Diner, and it's a charming place that serves some very decent Mediterranean food. The dishes aren’t especially elaborate or memorable, but you’ll enjoy your grilled chicken and hummus, which comes with some fluffy bread on the side. The dining room sort of feels like a small, gothic cabin, and there’s an outdoor patio that’s perfect for when the weather’s warm.
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Regina’s Grocery isn’t a complicated place. It’s an Italian sandwich shop, and it’s a pretty good one. The original location is on the Lower East Side, but they also have a takeout window on Mulberry Street where you can grab some food to go. The signature sandwiches come with all your classic ingredients like fresh mozz, hot soppressata, roasted red peppers, and provolone, and there are also a few salad options. For an extra dollar, you can add some spicy Calabrian chili spread to your sandwich. Spend that dollar.
photo credit: Melissa Hom
These days, people love to line up for a smashburger. But Bronson’s doesn’t serve smashburgers, and that’s probably why you can eat here without having to fight through a crowd. Instead of wafer-thin patties, this counter-service spot serves thick pucks of meat on regular or gluten-free buns. Their burgers are some of the best in the neighborhood, and you can easily get a table in the barebones space and enjoy a quick meal while you stare at your phone. We’re also fans of the shakes, which are made with vegan soft serve.
photo credit: Momoya Soho
Momoya has a few locations, all of which are on the pricier end of the mid-tier sushi spectrum. It’s easy to spend $75 per person here, which isn’t ideal for a random weeknight dinner—but they have a good fish selection, and that fish is always delicious. Get a basic sushi combo for around $40, or if you’re feeling fancy, try the $65 Momoya Box that comes with nine mini chirashi bowls arranged like a sushi advent calendar. With its massive windows, the restaurant sort of looks like a futuristic fish tank, and it’s easy to walk in and grab a bar seat or table.
A few doors down from Ruby’s—the eternally busy Australian cafe that always feels like a Tinder convention—there’s a relatively calm restaurant called 5ive Spice. 5ive Spice is a mini chain, and we prefer the location in Park Slope, but this Nolita one will do in a pinch if you need a bánh mì. It’s not hard to get a table, there’s some outdoor seating, and everything on the menu costs less than $20. (For the record, we also like Ruby’s. It's just so annoyingly busy.)
Emporio isn't the absolute best Italian restaurant in the city, but in the context of Nolita, it’s a very useful place. If you have to plan a last-minute dinner in the area and a few people in your group are demanding pasta, come here. Reservations are doable, and if you walk in on a Friday night and ask for a table, the host won’t laugh at you (although there might be a short wait). You can eat a crispy pizza or some decent cacio e pepe in the big, dark dining room with a low-key EDM soundtrack, and you’ll probably spend less than $50 per person.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Lovely Day’s menu is mostly Thai, but they also serve things like miso soup, french fries, and a pork chop with mashed potatoes. The food isn't going to change your worldview, but nothing on the menu costs more than $25, and most things are under $20. Stop by when you just want to eat some noodles and still have money left for drinks at a nearby bar. The main dining room—which looks like a small, quirky diner—tends to be packed with folks who can’t be bothered to wait in line at Rubirosa, and there’s a semi-secret basement with additional seating.