Recently, we noticed something: none of you like to wear pants anymore.
We don’t mean that everyone’s walking around New York in their underwear (yet), but that joggers, leggings, and sweatshirts are a pretty common manner of attire to walk around in these days. Thank Mark Zuckerberg? Who knows.
With that in mind, here’s our guide to restaurants throughout the city where you’d be perfectly welcome in your workout gear. No judgment on whether you actually worked out or not.
Eating at Eleven Madison Park in gym clothes sounds like something Larry David might attempt. The rest of us can go straight from a run to Made Nice, the Flatiron spot from the same team behind EMP. The salads and bowls are better than you’ll find at most fast-casual spots, with rotating seasonal options like spiced pork with Japanese eggplant and curry cauliflower with tofu. You should also know they have excellent soft serve.
Concord Hill is like the Westville of East Williamsburg, meaning similar vegetable-focused food, but with fewer people wearing Sperrys and backwards UVA hats. You can show up in those tear-away track pants that you usually only wear when you clean your apartment, and get something like a veggie burger and market sides. We also like this place at brunch, when the small space is packed with people having healthy-ish bowls and less healthy things like breakfast burritos and white wine sangria.
Banter is a bright Australian cafe in Greenwich Village where people wear yoga pants and baggy sleeveless sweatshirts because they look good in them, not because they’re actually hitting the gym today. You can treat it like a coffee shop and grab a flat white to go, or sit down for some avocado toast during the day and larger plates like chicken with kale and sausage at dinner. This is a good option when you’re looking for a casual place to eat something fairly healthy, but also may want to people watch while drinking a mimosa.
If you go to Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon, there’s a decent chance you’ll see someone you’ve dated or would date, so you may put more thought into your outfit than normal. You can shop for expensive cheeses and ancient grains at Mekelburg’s in Clinton Hill, but you also don’t feel like you have to think about your outfit before you grocery shop or eat here. You can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches, especially the porchetta or the duck banh mi, and they have a bunch of rare beers on tap behind the bar. The picnic tables in the backyard are great for group hangs as well.
Chelsea Market tends to be full of European tourists wearing Pumas and tracksuits, so you’ll fit right in wearing gym clothes at Miznon. This Mediterranean spot serves pitas filled with things like crispy rib eye, ratatouille, and avocado egg salad, as well as an incredibly good whole roasted cauliflower. The casual space has some table seating and a long bar, and is ideal for a quick lunch.
If you live downtown, then casual all-day spots serving kind-of-healthy food are about as unique as Canada Goose jackets around NYU. But this isn’t the case on the Upper East Side, which is what makes Blake Lane such a utility spot. They serve “California-style” food, which means lots of vegetables and rice bowls, and it’s a comfortable space to catch up with a friend after your yoga class.
One added plus of wearing gym clothes to South of the Clouds: you won’t have to be careful about soaking your outfit in soup broth. This brightly-lit spot specializing in mixian - rice noodles from Yunnan - works for casual groups at the tables up front or solo dining at the counter seats in the back. Come here for a quick and affordable lunch or dinner in Greenwich Village.
You could go pretty much anywhere in Park Slope wearing pants that don’t have belt loops and people will just assume you’ve been hanging out with your kids, even if you’ve actually spent 12 straight hours on your couch. When you can’t watch another episode of The Crown and feel like venturing out, head to Nargis for a low-key atmosphere with some really good and filling food - they serve Uzbek dishes like meat kebabs, dumplings, and spicy noodle soups.
You would probably feel a bit under-dressed if you showed up to dinner at White Gold in your leggings, but we like this place best for breakfast and lunch, when the meat-focused spot on the Upper West Side is counter-service. They serve one of the best BECs we’ve ever had, and some great sandwiches, like the one with meatballs cooked in pork fat.
The Indian-Chinese mashups at The Chinese Club, like tandoori kung bao chicken and Darjeeling hakka lo-mein, are good for takeout in Williamsburg, but the place is also useful for a casual lunch or dinner. The big space works for groups, and they have bar seating and beer and wine.
Gohan is the kind of place you could go wearing sweatpants and sit next to someone in paint-stained overalls, and nobody will care that they’re a famous artist and you just forgot to do laundry last weekend. This low-key Japanese spot on the Lower East Side would be great for a weeknight dinner with a friend, and it’s also moderately healthy.
Oka is a casual Izakaya in Kips Bay/Murray Hill where you can eat really good small plates like Japanese fried chicken and steak tartare while wearing stretchy clothes. It’s also located a short walk from the AMC, which means it makes for a one-two punch that’s definitely better than the pizza delivery and Netflix you had planned for tonight. And if you pick the right outfit (i.e. sweatpants), it can be just as comfortable.
Dokebi is a good place to stop into on your way home from the gym and down eight pieces of Korean fried chicken (for the protein) and maybe a rice bowl. They also have Korean barbecue and Japanese-style hot pot (shabu shabu) if you feel like making a night of it.
Taboonette is a tiny fast-casual Mediterranean spot that’s a great place to come by yourself after a workout. You can get some hummus, brown rice, and chicken shawarma, or you can go a little lighter with some salmon. This is also a classic example of a place that’s really only sort of healthy. The aforementioned chicken shawarma probably has enough calories to warrant a second workout, and the kale salad is maybe the oiliest we’ve ever had. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds.
Think of this as an indoor taco truck that happens to be located inside of Chelsea Market. It’s extremely casual, and you eat off paper plates. They also make one of the best fish tacos in the city. Order a few at the counter and eat standing up like a person in sweatpants would.
Saigon Shack114 Macdougal St
Saigon Shack is about two blocks from NYU, so you’ll never be the most casual one there. Unless you’re a student at NYU. In which case, you might be wearing flip flops and an NYU hoodie in the hope that people will start to think of you as a Mark-Zuckerberg type. Good luck with that. Come here for good, quick Vietnamese in a bright little room where no one will care what you’re wearing.
Ruby’s is a go-to place in Nolita for a quick, affordable meal, and it attracts a lot of young people. Many of these people will be wearing clothes they really can’t afford, but it’s also acceptable to come here looking like you just left a spin class. Ruby’s serves things like burgers, pastas, and salads, and it’s a good alternative to a place like Westville, if that’s what you’re looking for. Which, let’s face it, you probably are.
Tacombi Nolita is like a backyard hang, but indoors. There’s even an old Volkswagen van parked inside where they make their tacos. They aren’t the best tacos in the city, but they’re solid (try the barbacoa), and this is one of the cheaper dining options in the area. It’s also a fun space. Stop by with a few friends.
Gotan is technically a coffee shop, so it isn’t at all formal. For a coffee shop, however, you can get some surprisingly good food here. Some of which might be exactly what you want after a morning or afternoon workout (they serve a variety of “health” bowls and salads) - just note they close at 6pm. It’s a nice space, and they make a fried chicken sandwich. We challenge you to find another coffee shop with a fried chicken sandwich.
At Dizengoff, they make meals out of hummus. It isn’t the first place to do so, but it might have the best hummus in NYC. And you can get it at a counter in Chelsea Market. Order a plate of it with some fancy toppings (or whatever sort of meat they have on special), and park yourself on a stool. Then do 20 sets of fork lifts.
Purbird is a casual little place in Park Slope with excellent, affordable comfort food. It focuses on grilled chicken, and you can get it in a few different forms (as a burger, in a wrap, or as an entree alongside some of their bread). They have some worthwhile sides including jalapeno mashed potatoes and some of the best mac & cheese we’ve had.
Beyoglu is a Turkish restaurant, and many of the dishes at this casual spot involve protein (shrimp, beef, yogurt, etc.). So not only is this a place where you can eat in your gym clothes, it’s also a place where you can get some food that’ll help you maintain all those muscles you already definitely have.
Sao Mai isn’t fancy or trendy, but that just means you can show up here in sweats. You won’t spend a lot either. Although the menu is pretty huge, so you could definitely do so if you wanted. The pho is why you come here. Other solid choices include crispy calamari and their salad with watercress and beef.
This is a sit-down restaurant from the people behind the Little Beet fast-casual chain, and it’s only a little less casual. The food is more ambitious than the stuff you find at the fast-casual places, but the atmosphere isn’t stuffy. Most of the menu is pretty healthy, and you can easily eat a vegetarian meal here, but they also have a burger and some pasta. And everything here is gluten-free.
Your friend convinced you to try that JumpRopeBodyFit class on ClassPass and the teacher yelled at you with an extremely shrill voice the entire time. You need to feed yourself well, and would be wise to consider Coppelia, 24-hour Latin diner on 14th Street. It’s extremely casual, but serves dishes a little more interesting than your standard diner eggs, pancakes, and a kind-of-weird Cobb salad. Huevos Rancheros for dinner are a good idea.
Westville basically invented the “restaurant you can eat at in your gym clothes” concept, and has started a small empire on the concept. The vegetable market plates always work if you’re taking the health thing seriously, and the burgers and sandwiches work if you’re not.
If it’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re already hangry, Penelope is not your spot. The best brunch place in Murray Hill, predictably, is full of every resident of Windsor Court. But on weeknights, it’s a good move for an easy and fulfilling but still very casual dinner.
Seamore’s can adapt for a real night out with a few drinks, but can also work without judgment when you haven’t showered or are just doing that “haven’t showered” look. Is that still a thing? Either way, Seamore’s serves the kind of fresh, wholesome food you could eat every Wednesday night for the rest of eternity.
By CHLOE is vegan, but unlike other meat-free spots out there, this place actually makes tasty food you actually might want to consume several times a week. We’re not entirely convinced that makes it all that healthy from a caloric standpoint, but you can probably convince your friends otherwise.
We once called soba the Solange of Japanese noodles. Not quite as well-known or obsessed over, but still objectively awesome. This is a funky, quirky spot, and it’s possible to construct a meal that’s at least sort of healthy.
Soba-ya is a soba restaurant, but our favorite thing to eat here is actually a rice bowl - go for the spicy salmon or salmon sashimi versions. And feel free to go in your comfy pants.
Should you find yourself in the East Village looking for a Casual Carb Situation (trademarking that), consider directing yourself to the dumplings at Mimi Cheng’s. It’s a nice place to hang, and the dumplings are great - go boiled chicken if you want something a little lighter. Go fried pork if you don’t.
Greenwich Village is kind of like EPCOT of fast casual restaurants: there’s pretty much every possible permutation. One of our favorites? Tortaria, a Mexican spot specializing in sandwiches. It’s an extremely low-key spot, but they do have a full bar.
Let’s try a mental exercise: imagine there was a place that served affordable, healthy, satisfying sushi that you knew would never end up tasting like it had been sitting out for three days. Where the spicy tuna was never at risk of being stringy and the yellowtail was never a little too hard. Such a place exists, and here’s how they do it: they don’t serve tuna or yellowtail at all. Beyond Sushi is vegan, and once you get over the general blasphemy of that fact, it actually turns out to be really, really good.
You decided to go to a class at Yogaworks, and the person in front of you farted. You’ll survive, but you also need to eat something tasty, and possibly have a cocktail, just to shake it off. Direct yourself to Lovely Day, a Thai-ish spot in Nolita. The offerings are pretty simple here - pad thai, a few currys, a not-particularly-Thai-but-still-enjoyable fried chicken dish - but all of it is consistent and satisfying.
Greenpoint Fish and Lobster is part restaurant, but also part market, which we’re pretty sure makes it fine to wear whatever you want here. Sit at the bar and eat some of the better lobster rolls and fish tacos around.