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The Ride-Along Report: First Takes From Last Night’s Dinner

PHOTO: Adrian Gaut

As you might imagine, we at The Infatuation go out to eat almost every night. To answer your FAQs about that: No, we don’t usually go as a group, because we try to divide and conquer. No, the restaurants don’t know we’re coming. Yes, we use fake names. Suggestions for those are welcome. No, we don’t have rules about ordering a specific percentage of the menu - we just order a little more than seems responsible. Yes, we pay for it all ourselves. Does that cover it? Good.

Once we’ve successfully slept off the previous day’s meat sweats, we’ll be putting our first impressions on the places we’ve been in this post. It’ll be updated as often as we eat in new places. And the best new places will end up on the Hit List as we go.

If you like following along here, you’ll probably also enjoy following our live Restaurant Review Ride-Alongs on Instagram on @infatuation_nyc and @infatuation. They’re like the write-ups below, but with more (possibly poorly-lit) pictures of everything we ate and amateur artistic scribblings.

2/16/2018 Update

What It Is: The main, ground-floor restaurant in the bottom The Freehand Hotel

Perfect For: See And Be Seen, Date Night

The Freehand Hotel hasn’t been open long, but it’s already the sort of place where you’ll run into someone you used to date, your old boss, a person you follow on Instagram, or all of the above. There are a few different restaurants and bars in the hotel, and we recently stopped by the ground-floor restaurant, Simon & The Whale - and were quoted a two-hour wait. We were too hungry to wait that long, so we came back another night (and waited 45 minutes). To eat, we had the bacon zeppole, arctic char tartare, pork collar Milanese, and a few other things - and the food was great all around. The space is also dark and very well-designed, and people are probably going to start asking if you’ve eaten here yet.

Verdict: This place gets crowded, but it’s a fun spot, and the food is worth traveling for. And now it’s on our Hit List.

Sugar Freak

Astoria
37-11 30th Ave

What It Is: A Cajun/Creole restaurant in Astoria

Perfect For: Big Groups, Birthdays

Sugar Freak is a Cajun/Creole restaurant a block off the stretch in Astoria known as Little Egypt, and when we checked it out recently the big, packed space felt like a New Orleans-themed party. Big groups have crawfish boils and cornbread spread across their tables, beads hang from the light fixtures, the music is loud, and the draft cocktails are strong - like the one that’s equal parts fruit juice and rum. We tried a couple po’ boys, which don’t have quite enough seafood in them, and some seafood buckets, which come with very good crispy, spicy fries. The portions are all big, and almost everything on the menu is under $20.

Verdict: This is a fun group dinner spot we’d recommend if you’re in Astoria.

2/12/2018 update

Annicka

Greenpoint
544 Manhattan Ave

What It Is: A new restaurant that’s partly vegetarian/vegan, but also serves steaks

Perfect For: Date Night, Vegetarians, Eating At The Bar

This new bar/restaurant is in the bottom of a Brooklyn apartment complex, but it’s much more charming than that fact would lead you to believe. We checked it out recently and were impressed by the space: it’s big and well-designed, with a circular bar in the middle, and an open kitchen at the back - all of which generally contributes to the impression that there’s a lot going on here. This place is run by the people behind Greenpoint Beer & Ale (a brewery) and North Brooklyn Farms (an urban farm underneath the Williamsburg Bridge), all their alcohol is made in New York, and a lot of their produce is sourced from their farm. Which brings us to the menu: it’s about 70% vegan and vegetarian, and 30% meat and fish. In other words, people with different dietary needs can eat happily here. We tried a charred sweet potato with black tahini, and some black rice with squid and clams. Both were interesting and very good, and we’ll be back soon to try more.

Verdict: This is a new place that actually feels different from most other new American spots. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

MAP

What It Is: A small cocktail bar behind an unmarked door on the second floor of Freemans

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, First/Early In The Game Dates

Freemans is at the end of an alley on the LES, and it has multiple dining rooms filled with taxidermy, in addition to an upstairs that looks like the living room of a rich person’s hunting lodge. And now they also have Banzarbar - a speakeasy-type room behind an unmarked door on the second floor. We recently stopped by, sat at a candlelit table along the wall, and had a few of the signature cocktails, which were very good. And, since we were hungry, we also ordered “The Kraken” - a whole two-pound, tempura-fried octopus. Despite looking like a battered sea monster, this massive portion of octopus was actually pretty good, and so were the potatoes that come alongside.

The Verdict: A solid date spot for high-end cocktails and snacks in a unique space. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

Good Move

Greenpoint
167 Nassau Ave

What It Is: A little taco spot in Greenpoint

Perfect For: Dining Solo, Takeout

Good Move is a place you should be aware of if you either a) live near Greenpoint or b) feel the need to try every new taco spot that opens in this city. We checked this place out recently, and were glad we did. The space is bare bones (with just a small bar, a few tables, and Weezer blasting on the speakers), but they serve a full menu of cocktails along with some very solid tacos. We’d recommend the fried fish and al pastor.

Verdict: Good move is indeed a good move for tacos, though not an essential one if you don’t live nearby.

What It Is: A wine bar and restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Dinner With The Parents, Date Night

The Marshal is one of our go-to spots in Hell’s Kitchen, and Dianne & Elisabeth is the wine bar and restaurant from the same people, on the same block. When we checked it out recently, it felt like a cool downtown spot where you could bring your parents or a date - except it’s on 10th and 45th. The space is divided into two parts: a bar area where work friends meet to drink wine and eat fancy corn dogs, and a dining room where dates and small groups eat reasonably-priced mains like cod and pork shoulder. We were also actually able to hear the person across from us, despite the Lana Del Rey remixes coming from the speakers.

Verdict: A great utility spot to know about for last-minute dinners and after-work drinks in Hell’s Kitchen.

2/9/2018 Update

What It Is: An omakase sushi restaurant on the Upper East Side

Perfect For: Date Night, Unique Dining Experience

If you’re into the idea of eating sushi that’s been blowtorched and possibly topped with truffle, and are comfortable paying around $100 for it (but not $200 or $300), you may want to check out Sushi Ishikawa. This relatively new Upper East Side restaurant does omakase that starts at $85 for 12 courses, which include a bunch of sushi topped with interesting ingredients as well as some sashimi-ish small plates. It’s definitely not the place for raw fish purists, but it is a place for a pretty good time. Make sure to sit the bar.

The Verdict: Check it out if you’re a committed explorer of high-end sushi.

What It Is: A neighborhood French bistro on the Lower East Side

Perfect For: Date Night

It’s always useful to know of a good restaurant where you can get a table last-minute - and that’s exactly why you should be aware of Les Enfants de Boheme. We recently stopped in, hung out at the bar, and ate very good steak tartare - and it made us wonder why this place isn’t busier. It’s a charming neighborhood spot on the LES where you’ll probably hear people speaking French, and it’s perfect for when you have a dinner date that you forgot to plan.

Verdict: When you’re wandering around on the LES on a Friday night and have no idea where to eat, come here.

What It Is: An East Village pub serving Korean bar snacks and share plates

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Eating At The Bar

We sat down at Space Mabi, a one-room Korean pub in the East Village, while it was still Happy Hour, and got to try some $3 glasses of soju (they also offer $5 beer and $6 wine) while listening to Korean rap. This place is a coffee shop during the day, and serves salads and rice bowls at lunch, but at night, it turns into a bar with a disco ball and some Korean bar snacks and share plates. All of the portions are pretty large, and we’d definitely get the shrimp and scallion pancake again. Most people seemed to be using it more as a drinking spot with snacks than as a dinner destination, and that’s how we would too.

Verdict: A good spot for when you definitely want some drinks and probably want to share some snacks too.

2/5/2018 UPDATE

Meme's Diner

Prospect Heights
657 Washington Avenue

What It Is: A modern diner in Prospect Heights

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Brunch

Your neighborhood might have some kind of diner, but chances are, it’s not one you want to use for a casual date night, a not-hungover brunch, or a dinner with your parents. But that’s exactly what MeMe’s is. If we lived in Prospect Heights, we would be here regularly, and because we don’t, we’ll travel for it. The space is smallish, with a wraparound booth and a little bar, and they serve great renditions of stuff like meatloaf and chicken cutlet along with well-made cocktails like negronis and palomas. We’d highly recommend the patty melt, which comes with crispy potatoes, as well as the fried giardiniera, which made us wonder why more people don’t pickle-then-fry things. Also, get some pie or cake - we took home a slice of the peanut butter and chocolate pie and it was easily the best decision of our week. We’ll be back soon to check out MeMe’s for brunch.

Verdict: This is a fun new spot we’d send just about anyone. We added it to our Hit List.

Miznon

Chelsea
435 West 15th Street

What It Is: A casual Israeli spot serving pita sandwiches in Chelsea Market

Perfect For: Lunch, Cheap Eats

If you’ve been to Tel Aviv or Paris, someone has probably told you to try Miznon. Or at least they should have. This place specializes in putting delicious things into delicious pitas, and now they have their first U.S. location in Chelsea Market (they’re also in Vienna and Melbourne now, if by any chance those are more convenient for you). The pita fillings range from crispy rib eye to corned beef to eggs or ratatouille, and they’re all really good. The whole roasted cauliflower is also better than cauliflower has any right to be. The space isn’t anything fancy and is best used for a quick lunch, but they do have a bar that would also work for a casual dinner.

Verdict: These are good sandwiches, and we sincerely hope more of these open in the U.S. It’s now on the Hit List.

What It Is: A bar, cider brewery, and tasting menu restaurant in Bushwick

Perfect For: Big Groups, Guys Night Out, Unique Dining Experience

After each course of our meal at Brooklyn Cider House, a converted warehouse in Bushwick, our waiter/cider guide brought us to the barrel room, where he opened the spout on one of the giant cider tanks and we “caught” more cider to drink with our next dish. This restaurant/bar/brewery serves a Basque-inspired prix fixe, which costs $37, and includes dishes like spicy chorizo and a very good bone-in ribeye, with optional unlimited cider (read: not-optional) for an additional $15. If you generally don’t think you’re a cider fan, know that the dry and funky ones here are a bit different from the Angry Orchard that’s been sitting in your fridge for the past two years. The tasting menu is a three-hour commitment, but it’s a good move for a unique date spot or a fun night out with a big group. And if you’re not ready to dedicate that kind of time, know you can also check it out for small plates at the bar.

Verdict: A unique and surprisingly affordable way to spend a night. We added it to our Hit List.

Have & Meyer

Williamsburg
103 Havermeyer St

What It Is: A tiny Italian wine bar in Williamsburg

Perfect For: Date Night

Every once in a while, we discover a place that makes us wonder why we hadn’t eaten there sooner. Have & Meyer, a small Italian wine bar in Williamsburg, is the latest one to make us feel this way. The space feels like an old, tiny library filled with wine bottles instead of books - but the most impressive thing here is the wine list. They pour over 70 natural wines by the glass (30 of which are orange), and the people working here made us feel like regulars from the minute we sat down, making recommendations and opening fresh bottles to make sure we had the wine we wanted. The food menu is short, but has everything you need: cheese and charcuterie, homemade pastas, and gelato. If you haven’t been to Have & Meyer yet, find a date and bring them.

Verdict: Come here and drink wine before more people realize how cool this place is.

7.6
MAP

What It Is: A Mediterranean small plates restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen

Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Weeknight Dinner

Kashkaval Garden is a very comfortable Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, and for that we credit its neighborhood feel, and also its fondue. This is a Mediterranean small plates spot on 9th Avenue where you can share Turkish flatbreads, skewered meats, and wine. If you spend time in Hell’s Kitchen (or often appease your uptown friends by meeting them halfway), Kashkaval is a great option for dates or catch-up dinners.

Verdict: A useful neighborhood restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.

1/29/2018 UPDATE

Due West

West Village
189 W 10th St
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What It Is: A cool West Village wine bar with good small plates

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Date Night

We first tried getting into Due West, a new West Village wine bar, on a Saturday night. We did not succeed. So we headed back on a weeknight, and made it in without a wait. Aside from a big birthday party at the bar, it was full of people who looked like they might be named Allegra or Alfons, sitting in groups of twos and threes in blue velvet booths. This is generally the kind of place where meeting for drinks could turn into dinner - we liked the burger and the fried chicken bites (i.e. very good chicken nuggets). It would also work for a date with someone who makes electronic remixes of Death Cab For Cutie songs, or the subsequent catch-up with a friend so you can talk about your failed DJ date. Just know that it gets pretty loud in here.

Verdict:Due West is a great place to meet someone for drinks that might turn into dinner in the West Village. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

Photo: Oleg March
7.8
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What It Is: A vegan restaurant in Williamsburg serving fancy-ish comfort food

Perfect For: Vegetarians, Date Night

We checked out Modern Love when it first opened, but went back to try it again before the review. It’s a little bit like a Brooklyn Dirt Candy - an upscale vegetarian restaurant with food worth traveling for. Modern Love’s menu is filled with comfort food, like poutine with mushroom gravy and a pinto bean burger with fried tempeh that looks like bacon. In other words, don’t expect to leave here feeling particularly healthy. That said, we really like the food here, especially the BBQ cauliflower wings and the tofu curry. The large, modern space would work well for date night or a group dinner - just know it gets busy and there isn’t much of a bar area to wait, so we’d make a reservation.

Verdict: Vegetarians will want to travel for this place, and non-vegetarians will be very happy here too.

1/24/2018 Update

What It Is: The brightly-colored Japanese restaurant in the same building as The Grill

Perfect For: See and Be Seen, Corporate Cards

The Lobster Club is the third and final new restaurant in the Seagram Building in Midtown, along with The Grill and The Pool. The food is Japanese, the seats are bright pink and green, and the atmosphere is sort of “if Austin Powers actually had good taste.” While everything we tried was good, we liked the cooked food, like the wagyu and uni starter or dishes from the teppanyaki grill, more than the sushi. Although they serve things like a sushi roll topped with foie gras and truffle, it’s a more relaxed experience than The Grill, and it feels like a place to hang out, rather than to celebrate something - other than having the kind of money that would allow you to hang out here. Stop by the bar if you want to check it out without committing to dinner.

Verdict: It’s fun, and the food is good - and for that, it makes our Hit List. You’ll probably have to make your own call about whether this is the kind of place you want to spend your time and money.

Greca

Tribeca
452 Washington St

What It Is: A Greek all-day cafe in the far northwest corner of Tribeca

Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner

Greca is located in what might be the quietest few square blocks of Manhattan - the area right by the Hudson that we like to think of as the boonies of Tribeca. They serve things like sandwiches on bagel-like breads, soups, egg dishes, and they also have a “feta bar” where you can eat - you guessed it - bowls of feta. The space feels sort of like a big loft apartment mixed with a Le Pain Quotidien, but with much better food.

Verdict: It’s a great spot to know about if you’re in the area and need a place to hang out for an hour over some good food.

Photo: Isaac Batbayar and Dimitrios Manousakis

1/22/2018 update

Studio

Gramercy
23 Lexington Ave

What It Is: An all-day restaurant in the bottom of a new hotel in Gramercy

Perfect For: Date Night, Girls’ Night Out, Guys Night, Big Groups

The Freehand is a hotel chain in LA, Chicago, and Miami, and they just opened their first NYC location at 24th and Lexington. We checked out the all-day restaurant that’s now open on the second floor, called Studio, and tried the burger, some dumplings, and a few other things - all the American/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food was solid. But what we were most impressed with was the atmosphere. It’s a dimly-lit space with big booths and little tables surrounded by armchairs, and it’s the sort of place where you want to hang out with a few friends while you pretend that it’s your apartment.

Verdict: It’s a good place for a fun night out in Gramercy. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Roman and Williams design

Soogil

East Village
108 E 4th St

What It Is: An upscale-ish Korean small plates restaurant in the East Village

Perfect For: Date Night, Small Plates

Soogil is a dark room in the East Village where you can watch the chef (who used to work at Daniel) make Korean small plates behind the bar in view of the whole restaurant. The menu is broken into three categories - garden, land, and sea. We tried almost everything on the menu, and generally enjoyed the garden section stuff the most. The glass noodles with bulgogi was the best thing we ate here, and the soft tofu over shaved brussel sprouts was excellent as well, although it’s our duty to tell you that a few of us also needed to grab slices of pizza afterwards. Make a reservation (we walked in and had to wait for a while), and bring some soju or wine - they don’t have a liquor license yet.

Verdict: A good new East Village date night option. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

West-Bourne

SoHo
137 Sullivan Street

What It Is: An all-day cafe in Soho with a California theme

Perfect For: Coffee And A Light Bite, Lunch

West-Bourne calls itself inspired by “1960s Los Angeles” and occasionally uses a tilde (that’s one of these ~ ), but neither of those things are particularly important. What is important is that this new cafe serves good food in a very casual atmosphere all day, on a block in Soho past West Broadway but before Sixth Avenue. It’s one of those situations where you order at the counter, but then they bring you the food - stuff like salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches - on a nice plate. Come for a solo lunch, a quick breakfast meeting, or an afternoon coffee where you might want some food.

Verdict: It’s a cool casual spot that’s useful in Soho. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A casual Korean tapas spot in the East Village

Perfect For: Affordable Group Dinner, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Birthdays

Turntable Chicken Jazz’s East Village location has the same kind of perpetual-birthday-party feel as the original Midtown spot (think a Pitbull playlist and a wall covered in vinyl records), but with funkier Korean-ish tapas. That said, when we went to Tapanju this week, it seemed like everyone was still sharing the same chicken wings and color-changing beer towers they’re known for at their Midtown spot. And you should do the same. The food isn’t the best, but the place is an overall fun spot for your coworker’s going away dinner that you planned last-minute.

Verdict: Good to know about for an affordable East Village partytime dinner.

1/17/2018 UPDATE

What It Is: A well-designed Italian spot with great pasta and seafood

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents, Girls Night Out

A new Italian place opening in NYC is sort of like a fish being born in the ocean. It’s nice, but it isn’t that notable. It turns out, however, that Scampi is. It’s a new spot near Union Square, and when we stopped by recently, it exceeded expectations. First off, the space is very well-designed, with high ceilings, gold accents, and some nice potted plants. Also, the food was great, and we especially like the mezzaluna with big pieces of guanciale. Overall, Scampi is great for a night with friends, parents, a date, or someone you’re indebted to because they held the subway door for you.

Verdict: All of your friends will want to eat here. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

8.3
MAP

What It Is: A restaurant in a basement where you eat a seven-course menu and listen to vinyl

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents, Unique Dining Experience

We’ve been wanting to check out Tokyo Record Bar since we first heard about it. It’s a tiny restaurant/bar in a basement where you pick a few songs that you’d like to listen to (on vinyl), then eat a seven-course tasting menu. We finally stopped by the other night, and we weren’t disappointed. It was almost like interactive theater, with all 20-odd diners helping to build the playlist. The food itself isn’t mind-blowing, although some of it is very good, and, at $50 for seven courses, it feels like a good deal. Go ahead and make this your new fifth date spot, or keep it in mind for whenever you might have friends visiting.

Verdict: An excellent new option for a fun and different dinner experience. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A new French wine bar in the West Village with affordable food

Perfect For: Date Night, Action at the Bar

We checked out St Tropez, a new French wine bar in the West Village, and ended up hanging for a couple hours, eating most of the very good share plates on the menu. The best dish we had was the octopus, which is one of the better ways to spend $12 in the West Village. Also, unlike many similar spots around town, this one isn’t solely good for date night. The one-room space was packed with groups of two and four, and it felt much more lively than your average wine bar. Just know that it’s new, and they’re still ironing out some operations - we had to wait a little while for our table.

Verdict: One of our favorite new date spots around. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Miss Ada

Fort Greene
184 Dekalb Ave
8.4
MAP

What It Is: An Israeli restaurant in Fort Greene

Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Weeknight Dinner

We liked Miss Ada when it opened a few months ago, but we recently went back for dinner and were somewhat blown away. While we had initially been excited about this place’s outdoor space, we can confirm that the Israeli and Mediterranean food here is worth traveling for, even when the walk from the subway has you checking WebMD for symptoms of frostbite. We sat at the communal table in front of the open kitchen, and tried most of the menu, including some fantastic lamb shawarma over a huge portion of hummus. The food comes out very quickly, so stagger your ordering - but we never felt rushed by the very friendly staff.

Verdict: It’s worth coming to Fort Greene with a date or small group to eat this Israeli food. We’ve added Miss Ada to the Hit List.

MAP

What It Is: A ’70s-themed bar on the Upper East Side with couches and bocce ball

Perfect For: First/Early In The Game Dates

We’re always looking for good bars on the Upper East Side, because, well, there aren’t many good bars on the Upper East Side. Jack & Franny’s, however, is a good bar. It’s a new 70’s-themed spot with a few couches, a bunch of booths, and a bocce ball court in the back. They also have cocktails on tap, with names like “1st Of All, Wow” and “Boulevardi Hayyy.” We tried a whiskey one, and it was great. We also liked that it was wasn’t too busy (it seems like no one really knows about it yet). Jack & Fanny’s already feels like it might be our new go-to bar uptown.

Verdict: Our favorite new place to drink in the area. We’ve added it to the Bar Hit List.

Harvey

Williamsburg
96 Wythe Avenue

What It Is: A hotel restaurant with a great space and a boring menu

Perfect For: Wasting Your Time And Money

Harvey is the new restaurant in the bottom of the Williamsburg Hotel, and the first thing you notice about this place is how nice the dining room is. We stopped by for dinner and were impressed by the high ceilings, big circular booths, and the live band playing in the corner. Unfortunately, the menu was boring (pizza, brussels sprouts, etc.), and what we tried wasn’t great. For a hotel restaurant in Williamsburg, Leuca is a better option, and it’s only about two blocks away.

Verdict: There are many restaurants in Williamsburg, and you can skip this one.

1/8/2018 UPDATE

7.7
MAP

What It Is: The first U.S. outpost of a famous Naples pizza spot

Perfect For: Big Groups, Lunch, Weeknight Dinner

Naples, Italy is probably the only city where the ‘best pizza’ debate is even more ferocious than it is here in New York. So it says a lot that Sorbillo is considered by many to be one of the best pizza places there. After a bunch of lead-up, Sorbillo has finally opened its first outpost outside of Italy on Bowery. We made an initial visit where we tried a ton of different pizzas, and can say that the offerings here are very good. We’ll have to revisit some other favorites before we officially rank it, but it’s certainly up there with some of the best Neapolitan pies in NYC. The particular pizza here is super thin, such that the middles are almost soupy, and you’ll want to use a knife and fork to eat it. They also serve some pastas, salads, and things like meatballs, but pizza is the main event. It’s a sit-down place, and feels genuinely Italian, and not in a touristy Little-Italy sort of way.

Verdict: It’s good pizza. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Boutros

Brooklyn Heights
185 Atlantic Ave

What It Is: A Middle-Eastern/Italian/American neighborhood spot in Brooklyn Heights

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

At this Middle Eastern/Italian/American place in Brooklyn Heights, you’ll eat things like labneh crostini, kale tabbouleh, and pizza with mozzarella and aleppo pepper. It’s an interesting combination, and we enjoyed all of our food, although we wouldn’t say it’s destination-worthy. If you happen to live in the area, however, it’s good to know about. Bring some people who want to try something new or stop by with a date when you forgot to make a reservation and need a place that’ll have a table last-minute.

Verdict: Good to know about if you live in the neighborhood, but you don’t need to travel for it.

Mood Ring

Bushwick
1260 Myrtle Ave.
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What It Is: An astrology-themed bar in Bushwick

Perfect For: Dancing, Big Groups

Mood Ring is what would happen if the 1989 art director of Tiger Beat Magazine (with a dark past) decided to open up a bar in Bushwick. It’s an astrology-themed spot with a rotating horoscope cocktail of the month and a hazy dancefloor area in the back that we’ll just call the laser room. Aside from the drink of the month, they have a list of other cocktails, standard beer, and a few house shots (like the “Bodega,” which is Arizona Iced Tea infused whiskey). It’s a fun and ridiculous spot, and currently very popular amongst people who graduated high school after 2006.

Verdict: Worth the trip to Bushwick if you’re looking for a fun new bar. We’ve added it to the Bar Hit List.

What It Is: The upscale American restaurant at the base of the Wythe Hotel, with a new chef

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

Reynard has been around since 2012. So in Williamsburg years, it’s ancient. But they brought in a new chef recently and made some menu changes a few months ago, so we dropped back in to check it out. We liked the food we tried, like merguez flatbread and squid stuffed with ’nduja, better than what we’ve had here in past years - although everything on the menu seems to cost about $5-$10 more than it should. Reynard is from the same people behind Diner and Marlow & Sons, but the atmosphere here is much more night out with the parents than neighborhood hang.

Verdict: Keep it in mind for your next fancy-ish night out in Williamsburg.

7.4
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What It Is: A higher-end hot pot place in Chinatown

Perfect For: Unique Dining Experience, Big Groups

Much like Korean barbecue, hot pot is best when you go with a group. We came with a crew to Tang, and wound up ordering all four combos, which included ribeye, sea bass, pork shoulder, and about 40 other things that we cooked in the broth in the middle of the table. The ingredients are high-quality, but it was a little pricey, and you’ll also have a better experience if you’re an experienced hot pot person who knows how long certain things take to cook. Squid, for example, or a piece of swamp eel.

Verdict: Fun for groups, but not making it onto the Hit List.

La Mercerie

SoHo
53 Howard St

What It Is: A French cafe inside an expensive furniture store just above Canal Street

Perfect For: Spending Money On Things That Aren’t Food

La Mercerie is a new daytime cafe inside a fancy furniture store in Soho. If this sounds like the sort of place where you can eat a $5 croissant while you shop for $500 blankets, that’s because it is. Just don’t try to get lunch here yet, because, at the moment, they aren’t selling anything but baked goods. And flowers. And really expensive furniture.

Verdict: Too soon to say. We’ll be back when they start serving lunch.

La Loncheria

Bushwick
41 Wilson Ave

What It Is: A Mexican restaurant in Bushwick

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Outdoor/Patio Situation

La Loncheria has the potential to be successful in Bushwick: it’s in a good location (on Wilson near subways and bars), it has a back patio setup for the summer, and the prices are reasonable. The ceviche and steak tacos we ate were decent, but the only people in there when we went were the tequila delivery guy and some of the staff’s family members. That said, we hit this place within a week of its opening, so we’ll have to check back in to get a better picture.

Verdict: Too soon to call.

12/11/2017 UPDate

What It Is: The second location of one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in NYC

Perfect For: Group Dinner, Casual Weeknight Dinner

The only real downside of the original La Contenta is the fact that it’s a tiny space - but now there’s a big, second location in Greenwich Village (where French Roast used to be). It isn’t quite as charming as the original, but they serve the same excellent food and even do Happy Hour at the bar.

Verdict: Great for a group dinner in Greenwich Village. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A Williamsburg location of a legendary Queens Thai spot

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner

SriPraPhai is a longtime Queens establishment, and they just opened a new location a couple blocks from the Bedford L in Williamsburg. We tried it in its first week, and can already say this is some of the best Thai food in the area. The menu is somewhere around 10 or 15 pages, covering everything from salads with fried watercress and sausage (both are excellent) to drunken noodles and pad thai to curries and whole fish. In other words: bring reinforcements. The space feels like it could have been your prom dinner location, with two floors and a prominently-displayed fountain, but the prices are super reasonable.

The Verdict: Already some of the best Thai food in Williamsburg. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

7.3
MAP

What It Is: A tiny seafood restaurant with an intimate seating setup

Perfect For: Date Night

There used to be a place called Semilla, and it was where you went if you wanted to eat a $75 vegetable-heavy tasting menu in Williamsburg. That place closed, however, and in its place is a seafood restaurant (from the same owners). The only seating is at a little u-shaped bar, and it’s actually a pretty cool setup - sort of like a communal table that isn’t the worst. In terms of food, it’s mostly small plates like ceviche, oysters, and clams casino, although they also have a few larger things like uni pasta and a big seafood boil. Stop by for a more interesting date night or a glass of wine and a few oysters on a weeknight.

Verdict: A good new date option in Williamsburg. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Tetsu

Tribeca
78 Leonard St
7.6
MAP

What It Is: A less-expensive (but still expensive) Japanese place from the guy behind Masa

Perfect For: Date Night

This is the new Tribeca Japanese place owned by the chef from Masa, a restaurant in the Time Warner Center that costs $595 per person. Tetsu definitely doesn’t cost $595 a person, but it’s also not cheap. The menu includes salads, skewers, noodles, handrolls, and pieces of sushi, which are enjoyable across the board. The space is big and dark, with two long bars ideal for posting up with cocktails and some raw fish. More than a destination restaurant, it’s a cool date option for those who live in the area and are comfortable dropping a not-small chunk of change on a Tuesday night.

Verdict: Worth checking out if you spend time and money in Tribeca. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Howlin' Taco

Williamsburg
817 Metropolitan Ave

What It Is: A breakfast taco pop-up (with limited hours) inside a bar in Williamsburg

Perfect For: Breakfast, Cheap Eats

This place is currently operating as a pop-up in a Williamsburg bar called Reclamation, and when we say operating, we really just mean that they have a little stand next to the bar with two hot plates and a crockpot. Given that one of us is from Texas and that we’re always looking for good breakfast tacos in NYC, we needed to check it out. We were impressed by their commitment to the craft, especially the fact that they’re making their own tortillas - although each taco has a bit too much tortilla and not enough of everything else (egg, cheese, potato, chorizo, bacon). Whether or not you need to come here probably depends on whether or not you feel a breakfast taco-shaped hole in your life.

Verdict: Stop by if you’re passionate about breakfast tacos, or you live nearby.

Santa Panza

Bushwick
1079 Broadway

What It Is: A casual, pizza-focused Italian spot in Bushwick

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, First/Early In The Game Dates

This has been on our list of places to check out for a while now, and we finally got on the J Train and went for dinner recently. We liked the pizza with gorgonzola and speck, although there are plenty of less adventurous options as well. We wouldn’t go too far out of our way to get here, but if you live in Bushwick and need a potential date-night spot with exposed brick and candles on the table, it’s a great place to know about.

Verdict: Good pizza in a charming atmosphere that’s worth checking out if you live in Bushwick, but it’s not making it onto the Hit List.

Tonchin

Midtown
13 W 36th St

What It Is: A casual ramen spot near MSG

Perfect For: Dining Solo, Casual Weeknight Dinner

We’re always on the lookout for places near Madison Square Garden that aren’t Quiznos. So we recently checked out Tonchin, and found that they serve some pretty good ramen. The original tonkatsu version is intensely porky, but, if you’re a fan of pork, you’ll probably be into it. Other things like the chicken buns potstickers are fine, but you can also feel free to skip them. Just stop by and grab some noodles the next time you’re seeing the Knicks and don’t know where to eat in the area.

Verdict: Keep it in mind for an actually good meal when you’re near Madison Square Garden/Penn Station.

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