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

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.

6/18/2018

What It Is: A taco stand on the water in the new Domino Park in Williamsburg

Perfect For: Day Drinking, Outdoor/Patio Situation

If you’ve crossed the Williamsburg Bridge recently, you’ve probably noticed that some new picnic tables and a huge sign that says Tacocina have popped up out of nowhere. This is an order-at-the-counter Mexican spot on the water from the people behind Shake Shack, and apparently we’re not the only curious ones, because we waited over an hour in line to order tacos and a couple of small plates. Once we finally got our food, the cheese chicharrones ended up being the best thing on our table.

The Verdict:** We probably wouldn’t come back here just for the food, but we plan to spend weekend afternoons drinking margaritas and eating chips and guacamole here. We’ve added it to the Summer Hit List.

Photo: Peter Garritano

What It Is: An Italian restaurant/bar with bocce courts and outdoor seating at the north end of Union Square Park

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Date Night

When we first heard about a new indoor/outdoor place in Union Square Park with bocce ball courts and pizza, we were skeptical. It sounded a little gimmicky, like something for tourists. Then we went to Bocce USQ, and we now regret the fact that our office isn’t closer, because the open-air bar with a few bocce courts is perfect for an after-work drink. It was extremely crowded when we stopped by, but we still got some seats at the bar and tried both the pizza and the frozen negroni. They were great. Just be sure to make a reservation if you want to eat at a table.

The Verdict: If you live or work around Union Square, this is now your best option for eating and drinking outside. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Gachot Studios

Klom Klorm

Bushwick
181 Wyckoff Ave

What It Is: A casual neighborhood Thai restaurant in Bushwick

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Dining Solo, Affordable Group Dinner

When we walked into Klom Korm on a packed Sunday night, we learned several things: that grilled sweet corn with coconut milk is the only appetizer we want to eat this summer, that the phrase Klom Klorm means “tasty” in Thai, and that our waitress is going to the same concert at Brooklyn Steel as we are next week. Come to Klom Klorm for comfort food (like curry or pad thai noodles) or something you might not have tried before (like watermelon with dried fish flakes on top).

The Verdict: If you don’t live in Bushwick, it’s the kind of neighborhood spot you’ll wish you had near you.

Dez

Nolita / SoHo
227 Mulberry St

What It Is: A fast-casual Middle Eastern spot in Nolita

Perfect For: Lunch, Quick Eats

People (like us) who work in Soho know that changing it up at lunch usually means trying something from the seasonal menu at Sweetgreen. So when the new fast-casual spot from the people behind By Chloe opened nearby, we wanted to stop by. We really liked the mezes - like the beet hummus and honey roasted carrot - but the portion sizes for the bowls and pitas were a letdown given the prices. Dez does have some nice sidewalk seating out front, but we’d rather just go around the corner to Taim and take it to a park bench.

The Verdict: If the prices were about 1/3 lower or the portions were about 1/3 bigger, this would be in our lunch rotation.

What It Is: A cash-only Nepalese restaurant in Ridgewood with great dumplings and a backyard

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Meal, Outdoor/Patio Situation

While In Kathmandu is a Nepalese place in Ridgewood that we’ve been meaning to check it out for a little while now, mostly because we wanted to eat their momos. Momos are Nepalese dumplings, and the ones here come in a pool of spicy tomato sauce. We stopped by for dinner and got the ones with the pork, and this is now officially a place where we’d like to eat once a week.

The Verdict: If you live in the area, this should be one of your go-to spots when you either want to get dumplings or eat outside. So, all the time.

The Springs

Greenpoint
224 Franklin St
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What It Is: A bar in Greenpoint with frozen drinks and a huge backyard

Perfect For: Day Drinking, Outdoor/Patio Situation

The Springs is a bar in Greenpoint that gets its name from the fact that it’s Palm Springs-themed. If you’re wondering what that means exactly, it mostly just entails a big backyard, large white couches, and frozen beverages. It was surprisingly easy to get a table outside on a recent early evening, and we also noticed a bunch of dogs that we wanted to steal. We can’t say what this place is like late at night, but it’s ideal for a group hang when the sun’s out and you want to bring your pets.

The Verdict: Stop by if you’re looking for a bar outdoors in Greenpoint that’s less hectic than Brooklyn Barge.

What It Is: A quiet, upscale French bistro in the West Village

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

Bistro Pierre Lapin is one of many new French restaurants that have opened lately, and unlike Frenchette and La Mercerie, there’s not much special going on here. We went for dinner recently, and it felt like going back in time to the early 2000s when being fancy and French was enough to make a new place interesting. The atmosphere was pretty formal, with white tablecloths, servers in vests, and napkins folded like little tents on each table. Even though the burger and avocado vichyssoise were both perfectly fine, dinner was pricey, and it all felt just a little too stuffy.

The Verdict: You can skip this place.

Oxomoco

Greenpoint
128 Greenpoint ave

What It Is: A new Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint from the people behind Speedy Romeo

Perfect For: Date Night, Group Dinners

We checked out Oxomoco, the new Mexican place from the people behind Speedy Romeo, on its third night, and it was already slammed. We waited over an hour (on a weeknight) out on their front patio, which was at least an enjoyable spot to drink one of their very good cocktails. The interior is even better-looking, with high ceilings and plenty of hanging greenery, but we were less impressed with the food. Many of the dishes we tried (guacamole, a tostada, a wood-fired caesar, and a few different tacos) were way too salty. And we enjoy salt. But if you’re going to charge $16 for guacamole or $18 for two tacos, they better be really great. And these aren’t quite there yet.

The Verdict: This is a great space, with food that still needs some work - but it has enough potential that we’ll be back to try it again soon.

What It Is: A new Italian restaurant in the West Village

Perfect For: Date Night

With a name like Harwood on Hudson, we sort of expected to walk into a country club or upstate inn. But when we went on a recent Friday night, it was more exciting than that, with a 7/10 volume level and people drinking cocktails. The Italian food was both good and pricey - we especially liked the rigatoni and strawberry cobbler.

The Verdict: There are better options for expensive Italian food in the West Village, but if you’re looking for a new place for date night in the neighborhood, this place definitely qualifies.

6/7/2018

What It Is: The summertime pop-up restaurant in the courtyard of the High Line Hotel

Perfect For: Outdoor/Patio Situation, Drinks And A Light Bite, Date Night

We like being outside, and we like eating oysters, so we’re always looking for places where we can sit outside and eat oysters. The Golden Hour - the new outdoor pop-up in the courtyard at the High Line Hotel - is currently one of our favorite spots to do this. We came by the other day and ate some shellfish at a table beneath a big umbrella, and you should do the same before more people know that this place exists and it becomes difficult to get into. And feel free to bring your dog.

The Verdict: If you want to feel like you’re on vacation, but you don’t currently have time to leave the country, come here. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Photo: Kate Previte
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What It Is: A giant indoor/outdoor tiki-themed cocktail bar in Midtown

Perfect For: Drinks & A Light Bite, First/Early In The Game Dates, Outdoor/Patio Situation

Carbone, The Grill, Dirty French, Sadelle’s - we like all these places a lot, and the people behind them just opened a tiki-themed rooftop cocktail bar in Midtown. Like those restaurants, The Polynesian is a great time, and kind of looks like somewhere Jack Sparrow would frequent if he ditched the pirate stuff and got a job in finance. We hung out on the outdoor wraparound patio, drank cocktails served in skull-shaped glasses (that were on fire), and ate bar snacks like shrimp dumplings and some mini bacon BBQ burgers that are way better than the $31 kobe beef sliders you’ll eat on other rooftops. This place is giant, with plenty of indoor space too, so even when people find out about it you should be able to get a seat at a two-top or booth with table service.

The Verdict: This hotel bar near Port Authority is worth a trip to Midtown. Yes, we just said that, and we’ve also added it to our Bar Hit List.

Okozushi

Williamsburg
376 Graham Avenue

What It Is: A tiny BYOB sushi place in Williamsburg serving $25-$45 set meals

Perfect For: Unique Dining Experience, BYOB

Okozushi is a new place from the same people behind Okonomi (a tiny Japanese spot in Williamsburg) and they only serve set meals of Kyoto-style pressed sushi. There are three to choose from (ranging from $25-$45), and we recently sat at the bar and ate the $45 one, which included tuna sashimi, a couple of hand rolls, and eight pieces of sushi. This would have felt like a good deal if there had been more than one type of fish involved, but there were not - Okozushi features one type of fish a night. Sure, each piece had a few different toppings (like blue cheese and shiso) but it still got a little boring.

The Verdict: This place is unique, and we liked the tiny space. We’ll be back to try it again once they’ve been open a little while longer.

Magic Hour

Midtown
485 Fashion Ave
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What It Is: An indoor/outdoor rooftop cocktail bar in Midtown

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Outdoor/Patio Situation

Magic Hour calls itself an “urban amusement park,” and if you have no idea what that means, neither did we. So we went to check it out this roof of the Moxy Hotel Times Square, and witnessed the following: a spinning carousel in the middle of the dance floor, servers carrying big bottles in one hand and sparklers in the other, and mini golf - but instead of typical obstacles like windmills and clown faces, here we had to avoid big, pink animals doing things we’re not going to talk about here. We tried some bar snacks like pork belly bao and Korean chicken wings, but this is not a place to come for food. It’s a place to buy $250 large-format cocktails served in glittering disco balls.

The Verdict: If you have clients or rich cousins you want to entertain, they might think Magic Hour is great. Or they might ask you to take them somewhere without giant pink animals.

Taqueria Diana

Williamsburg
367 Metropolitan Ave

What It Is: A casual Mexican spot in Williamsburg with a long mezcal menu and some outdoor seating

Perfect For: Outdoor/Patio Situation, Quick Eats

Taqueria Diana’s newest location on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg serves giant burritos and loaded nachos like their original spot, but unlike the East Village location, we’ve never seen this place crowded. On a recent Friday night, we ordered at the counter downstairs, and had no trouble getting one of the tables on the upstairs outdoor patio. We wouldn’t hang out here and drink expensive mezcal (they have a lot of those), but it’s open till 1am every day, so it’s a good option for a burrito and a beer on your way home.

The Verdict: Come here for some quick and filling Mexican food and $3 Tecates.

5/31/2018

Elsewhere

Bushwick
599 Johnson Ave
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What It Is: A music venue in Bushwick that hosts dance parties on its roof

Perfect For: Dancing, Birthdays, Big Groups, Outdoor Patio Situation

Last Saturday, it was supposed to rain. Fortunately, it didn’t - and we spent a few hours dancing on the roof at Elsewhere. This place is a big music venue in a warehouse space in Bushwick, and they just opened up their rooftop with views of the surrounding neighborhood. It’s essentially just a huge patio/dance floor with a bar and an elevated DJ booth in the corner, and with all the fresh air and loud music, it feels sort of like a party on the deck of a cruise ship (in Bushwick).

The Verdict: At some point this summer, you should dance outdoors here. We’ve added Elsewhere to the Bar Hit List.

What It Is: The East Village location of a famous pizza place on Staten Island

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Classic Establishment

When we heard that Joe and Pat’s on Staten Island - one of our top 20 favorite pizza places - opened their first-ever Manhattan location, we had two immediate thoughts, in this order: 1) mmm vodka pizza and 2) will it live up to the original? Good news: the pies in the East Village are as delicious and crackery-thin as they are in Staten Island. It’s a bit more expensive than the original restaurant, but there’s a full bar and the vodka pie is like an excellent edible tie-dye shirt made of sauce and cheese.

The Verdict: If you don’t live there, you no longer have to take the Staten Island Ferry to get some of the best pizza around. We’ve added it to our [Hit List](Hit List.

Photo: Michael Ezra

Di An Di

Greenpoint
68 Greenpoint Ave

What It Is: A casual Vietnamese restaurant in an attractive Greenpoint space

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

When new restaurants open in Greenpoint, you usually don’t encounter too much of a wait. But when we showed up at Di An Di - a new Vietnamese spot - a week after it opened, it was a different story. We waited over an hour, and the good news is it was worth it. We ate grilled pork summer rolls, sesame chicken salad, a Vietnamese “pizza” with a grilled crispy rice paper crust, and one of the best bowls of pho we’ve had in NYC. We’re already trying to figure out when we can go back and eat it again.

The Verdict: We haven’t been this excited about a new Vietnamese restaurant since Hanoi House. It’s now on the [Hit List](Hit List.

The Bari

NOHO
417 Lafayette St

What It Is: An upscale spot in Noho serving Korean and Japanese food

Perfect For: Corporate Cards, Lunch

We knew we’d end up spending a fair amount of money at The Bari before we even looked at the menu. A big restaurant in Noho next to The Public Theater that looks like the business-class dining room on an interstellar spaceship can’t be cheap. But the Korean and Japanese dishes, like bone marrow with kimchi and uni bibimbap, seemed exciting enough to give this place a try. While we enjoyed some things (the milk bread crusted pork rib), most of the food was pretty bland.

The Verdict: If you’re going to spend this kind of money, there are other spots we’d recommend nearby instead.

Clinton Hall

Williamsburg
247 Metropolitan Avenue
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What It Is: A beer garden at the base of a new hotel in Williamsburg

Perfect For: Outdoor/Patio Situation, Sports!

We like the original FiDi location of Clinton Hall, an indoor/outdoor beer garden with sports on TV, so we checked out the newest location at the base of the Pod Hotel in Williamsburg. Even though it has the same long list of draft beer, multiple screens showing sports, and solid bar food, this one feels more like a Buffalo Wild Wings. The bright space has tables that look like they were just unboxed from Ikea, and an outdoor area that feels like the courtyard of an office building.

The Verdict: There are plenty of better places in Williamsburg to drink interesting beers and watch sports.

Arlo Rooftop Bar

SoHo
231 Hudson St
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What It Is: A bar on top of a hotel in Soho

Perfect For: Wasting Your Time And Money

Last summer, the rooftop at the Arlo Soho was a beach-themed place called Harold’s Surf Shack, and it was one of our favorite spots for a low-key drink outside. Now, however, it’s called Arlo Roof Top - and it’s unfortunately become more of a typical club. The lawn flamingos and kiddie pools are no longer on the outdoor terrace, and, on our latest visit, there was a line to get in despite the fact that the place was half-empty. Also, the music was bad.

The Verdict: There are other rooftop bars where you can and should be drinking downtown.

5/24/2018

What It Is: A casual neighborhood sushi place on Bowery

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Dining Solo

Locating your nearest good, casual sushi place in this city is as important as locating the nearest emergency exit on a plane, and Shinsen in Chinatown is a new one to add to your list. When we went on a Tuesday night, there were only a few people in the modern space, but the service was friendly, and everything we ate - from the oyakodon (a chicken and rice bowl) to the 10 piece sushi plate for $29 - was fresh and excellent.

The Verdict: A great sushi place to know about for a casual date or a solo meal, but you don’t need to stop what you’re already doing with your life to try it.

What It Is: An all-day cafe in Carroll Gardens with a small, random menu

Perfect For: Coffee & A Light Bite

We were looking at the menu of the recently-opened Madcap Cafe online one day, and thought, “Huh, this place sounds interesting. We should stop by.” So we did. We showed up for dinner at around 7:30pm, and there were only a few other people inside. The space is small, with a few tables and a bar, and we ordered roughly a third of the little all-day menu. This included the “vegan nachos” (which are really just sliced vegetables with dressing), some perfectly good fried dumplings, and a chicken flatbread that we’d like to eat once a week.

The Verdict: Other than that flatbread and friendly service, there isn’t anything too remarkable about this place. iI you live nearby, try it out for a snack, a cup of coffee or both.

Terre

Park Slope
341 5th Ave,

What It Is: A casual Italian spot in Park Slope with a long wine list

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Drinks And A Light Bite

Terre serves 100 different natural wines by the glass, which is kind of exciting. When we recently made it into this new Park Slope Italian spot for dinner, we tried some small plates and pastas, and we liked the tagliatelle ragu with beef and pork. There are plenty of Italian places in the area with better food, but we would come back to Terre for their huge wine and charcuterie selections. Make sure to take a seat at the narrow bar up front, rather than the very quiet dining room.

The Verdict: If you focus on the unusual wine list and bit charcuterie selection, then Terre works well as a low-commitment date spot.

5/16/2018

Broken Shaker

Gramercy
23 Lexington Ave
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What It Is: The new rooftop bar on top of the Freehand Hotel in Kips Bay

Perfect For: Date Night, Impressing Out-Of-Towners, Outdoor/Patio Situation

When we went to go check out Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel, there was a line to get inside. But it was warm out, and we had some things to read, so we decided to wait. And, 40 minutes later, we finally made it into the elevator. Was the wait worth it? Yeah, it sort of was. Rooftop bars tend to be crowded, clubby, and overpriced - but Broken Shaker wasn’t too packed, the views were very nice, and it felt less like a typical rooftop bar and more like a big, cool bar that just happened to be on top of a building. It felt like a casual 1970s beach house party in someone’s penthouse apartment, and we’ll most likely be back several times this summer.

The Verdict: As annoying as it will inevitably be to get in here, we’ll be coming back to Broken Shaker the next time we feel the need to be on a rooftop. This is going on our Bar Hit List.

What It Is: An Italian restaurant in Williamsburg with high ceilings and a big back patio

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents

Every once in a while, we find a place that makes us wonder why didn’t know about it sooner. The latest example is Ammazzacaffe. It’s a good-looking space with high ceilings, big windows, and a secretly large backyard where we plan to eat again soon. We had the mafaldine with pork ragu, and when a stranger beside us leaned over and asked if it was like comfort food, we thought, “That’s a weird question.” Then we told this person that the pasta was, in fact, like some very good comfort food.

The Verdict: Bring a date the next time you need to impress someone with a place that most people don’t know about.

Clay

Harlem
553 Manhattan Ave

What It Is: An American restaurant in Harlem

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents

Clay is a grown up-feeling New American/farm-to-table restaurant in Harlem, and it’s a place that does everything pretty well. There are nice salads, satisfying pastas (we particularly liked the garganelli with kale and sausage), and well-executed entrees like a duck leg confit. They also have an extensive wine list, good cocktails, and very friendly service. And the space is nice too - it feels sort of like the earth-toned living room of a successful person on a TV show. If you’re uptown and looking for somewhere new to try, definitely add Clay to your list.

The Verdict: It’s been around for over a year, so it won’t make the Hit List, but we’ll be adding it to other guides.

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What It Is: A big bar in Meatpacking serving pizzas and $10 cocktails

Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Big Groups

We arrived at The Woodstock around 9pm and had no trouble getting in. The 1960s-themed space with original Salvador Dali paintings was actually pretty empty, and we didn’t even have to wait for the pool table. Eventually, this new bar in Meatpacking fills up, but still feels relaxed when you hang by the communal tables, sip $10 cocktails, and snack on Neapolitan pizzas throughout the night. If the loud, dark bar up front isn’t your scene, there’s also a living room area with chairs and leather couches towards the back.

The Verdict: A fun bar for big groups with surprisingly affordable drinks and food considering the space and location. This is going on the Bar Hit List.

What It Is: A Chinese spot in the East Village specializing in large format seafood boils

Perfect For: Adventurous Eating, Big Groups

We liked the large format seafood boils at this one-room spot just off Cooper Square - they were heavily spiced and seemed like a lot of food at only $15 per pound. The various kebabs and noodle entrees were also good, but our favorite thing here was the Chinese-style jambalaya. The shareable bowl of fried rice was crunchy, rich, and loaded with crawfish meat. Le Sia is walk-in only, but it’s pretty inexpensive and a great spot for groups, so long waits are to be expected. But, it’s next door to McSorley’s in case you want to grab a beer while you wait. Fair warning: Le Sia provides bibs and gloves for their guests, but a couple people at our table still would have needed to change if they planned on going out after dinner.

The Verdict: A fun place to come with a group of friends who like to try new foods and don’t mind getting messy.

Bar Salumi

Gowanus
548 4th Ave

What It Is: An Italian small plates place in Gowanus

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

We stopped by Bar Salumi on a Thursday night after several days of suppressing pent-up excitement about their charcuterie options (because there are over 15 things you can put on your meat and cheese board here). When we left, we were a little let down. We liked the meat and cheeses a lot, but we needed to order an extra side of focaccia because the oversized crumb that came with the charcuterie board simply wasn’t going to cut it. And the rice and pasta were alright at best.

The Verdict: If you need a place in Gowanus for a drink and some charcuterie, Bar Salumi works for a date or a casual hang. But we wouldn’t suggest having a full meal here.

5/10/2018

What It Is: A beloved pizza spot that just returned to NYC (after a stint in San Francisco) in partnership with the people behind Wildair & Contra

Perfect For: Date Night

Roughly eight years ago, there was a pizza place in the East Village called Una Pizza Napoletana. But then the owner moved his operation to San Francisco, where he made some of the best pizza in the city. Now, this place is back in NYC, in a somewhat industrial-feeling Lower East Side space that used to be Whynot Coffee. And the pizza is very good. They don’t offer a lot of toppings, but the margherita pizza is a great example of what a margherita pizza should be, and the crust is worth having on its own. There are also some interesting small plates from the Wildair people (who are partners in this place), including some beef crudo that may actually be better than the pizza. Right now, they don’t have a liquor license, so what should be a lively bar area is pretty dead, and it still feels like they’re somewhat in a soft open phase. Waits can also be unpredictable. We’ll definitely be back.

The Verdict: We’re putting this place on the Hit List, but unless you are a pizza fanatic or you’ve been counting down the days until Una Pizza’s return, we’d suggest you wait to come here until they have a liquor license.

Lowerline

Prospect Heights
794 Washington Ave

What It Is: A tiny restaurant in Prospect Heights with New Orleans-style creole food

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Happy Hour, Dining Solo

Maybe it was the 82 degree weather, or the fact that we were right by Prospect Park, but after we left a little Prospect Heights spot called Lowerline, we felt like we had post-vacation blues. We sat at the bar, where the owner shucked oysters in front of us and told us about growing up in New Orleans, and we discussed our shared interest in the “Voodoo” flavor of Zapps. We tried a shrimp po boy and gumbo, both of which tasted great and reminded us of meals we’ve had when visiting Louisiana.

The Verdict: Whether it’s just for the Cajun food or a Prospect Park one-two punch, Lowerline is worth traveling for. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Chicha

Bushwick
198 Randolph St

What it is: A good-looking Nicaraguan restaurant in Bushwick

Perfect For: Date Night

There are a lot of good bars and restaurants around the Jefferson stop of the L train, and more keep opening - like Chicha, a Nicaraguan restaurant with high ceilings, a blue-and-pink pastel color scheme, and a long bar where we recently had dinner. The menu is mostly small plates like pork belly, grilled vegetables, and a few different versions of quesillo - a.k.a. tiny corn tortillas with melted cheese that you can eat in about a bite. Everything we tried was pretty good, but the best things here (currently, at least) are the cocktails. They’re tiki drinks, with garnishes like pineapple foam, and you’ll want to drink several.

The Verdict: Chicha feels like it has a lot of potential, but we’d suggest you stop by for dinner once they’ve had a little more time to work out the details. In the meantime, come drink tiki cocktails here.

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What It Is: A place in Gowanus where you can drink beer while you learn how to throw an axe

Perfect For: Birthdays

Walk into Kick Axe Throwing, and the first thing you have to do is sign a waver. This is a bar/venue in Gowanus where you drink beer and learn how to throw small axes, and, while we didn’t actually read the waiver that we signed, we assume it said something like “I agree to not get mad if this doesn’t end well.” You pay a per-person fee of $35, then go to one of the many small indoor target ranges where you get 70 minutes to play axe-throwing games while being monitored by a trained employee who’s there to make sure you don’t do something stupid. You can try walking in, but if you’re set on spending your night throwing axes, you probably want to reserve online in advance.

The Verdict: A fun thing to do with a group, and recommended for anyone who wants to throw sharp, heavy things on their birthday.

Rooftop Reds

DUMBO
299 Sands Street
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What It Is: A big rooftop wine bar in the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Perfect For: Big Groups, Birthdays

Google Maps said we had arrived at our destination, but we looked around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and only saw warehouses and construction sites. We told a security guard that we were looking for a bar called Rooftop Reds, and he pointed us in the direction of Building #275 towards the back of the grounds. After walking up a slightly creepy warehouse staircase, we found a very fun wine bar that’s also one of the most unique rooftops in the city. The huge space was full of people playing cornhole, laying on hammocks, and drinking at picnic tables with great views of Manhattan. Besides the wines that all come from their vineyard upstate, they also serve beer. There are food pop-ups alongside events like wine tastings and movie night, but for the most part, you can bring your own food.

The Verdict: A very fun spot for big groups without the crowds of most rooftops. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

Olmsted

Prospect Heights
659 Vanderbilt Ave
8.9
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What It Is: One of our all-time favorite Brooklyn restaurants that just started serving brunch

Perfect For: Brunch, Outdoor/Patio Situation

Olmsted recently started serving brunch, and we had heard that the walk-in waits had been hours long. This place is one of the highest-rated spots on our site, but still - nothing is worth waiting hours for on a Saturday. Or so we thought. After trying it ourselves, we can tell you that Olmsted’s brunch is an exception to that rule. The food - like duck liver mousse, BEC egg rolls with sweet and sour dipping sauce, maple flatbreads with duck sausage and scrambled duck eggs - is about as inventive as what you’d find here at dinner, and it’s all phenomenal. When you’re done eating, make sure to get another cocktail and take it outside to the back, which feels like an SNL sketch of a Brooklyn backyard - complete with its own quail coop, garden of microgreens, and crayfish farm in a bathtub.

The Verdict: Try making a reservation for brunch here - but if you can’t get one, it’s worth waiting for.

4/30/2018

What It Is: A neighborhood Italian place in Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents, Dining Solo

Lately, people have been saying we should check out Camillo in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. And since we’re team players who are open to any suggestion, we stopped by for dinner. The space is charming and comfortable, with exposed brick walls and a nice bar in front where you can eat a full meal, and the food itself was pretty good. We wouldn’t say it’s necessary for you to drop everything and eat here tonight, but if you’re nearby and you want some Roman-style pizza and a large board of bread and cold porchetta, by all means get a table here. It’s definitely a family-friendly spot.

The Verdict: We like Camillo, and you should check this place out if you live nearby.

Upnorth

Bushwick
17 Wyckoff Ave
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What It Is: A Canadian-themed cocktail bar in Bushwick

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

Bushwick bars are usually either divey or aggressively themed, but Upnorth is neither of those things. It is, however, a Canadian spot, and you might get that sense from the incredibly nice bartenders. One of them gave us an excellent recommendation for a cocktail that we wouldn’t have ordered otherwise. There’s also poutine, a few Canadian beers, and some charming ram taxidermy on the walls, but when it comes down to it, Upnorth is just a great simple bar in the middle of Bushwick’s busiest area (right off the Jefferson Avenue L). We had a burger and some poutine with smoked meat and mushrooms and everything was solid. We’ll be back, mostly so we can substitute tots for the fries in the poutine.

The Verdict: We have a feeling this place is going to get pretty busy, so come for Happy Hour with a date or some friends before everyone else finds out about it. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

9.0
MAP

What It Is: A classic NYC pizza spot in Midwood, Brooklyn.

Perfect For: Classic Establishment, Cheap Eats

For the past few months, we’ve been working on a ranking of the best pizza in NYC. This has required a lot of time time and energy, and there have been moments when we’ve wondered if we ever wanted to eat pizza again. Having recently returned to Di Fara, however, we can confidently say that we still enjoy pizza. We stopped by the other day, and the pizza here is as good as always. It also wasn’t too crowded (around 6pm), and we ordered a square pie, a round pie, and a calzone. The square was probably our favorite, although it was roughly as dense as the core of a planet, and, as much as we wanted to, we couldn’t eat more than a few slices. We also really liked the classic round pie, and the enormous calzone was similarly very good. It had about one cow’s worth of cheese.

The Verdict: Di Fara still very much deserves its 9.0 rating. It’s an NYC classic.

Tomiño

SoHo
192 Grand St

What It Is: A Spanish restaurant and tapas bar in Soho

Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Small Plates

We recently dropped by Tomino, a new Spanish restaurant in Little Italy with a big bar area that works for casual drinks and snacks. They also have a big dining room at the back of the space where you can get large format dishes like lobster paella, but after trying this place, we recommend sitting at the bar or the tables on the street out front and just having some Spanish wine and tapas, like the octopus and the eggs with pork spiced pork. Nothing here will blow your mind, but it’s a decent option for some affordable wine and a small bite.

The Verdict: We wouldn’t recommend coming for a full meal, but the bar and outdoor tables work for drinks and a light bite.

Andante

Williamsburg
255 Berry Street

What It Is: A quiet ramen spot in Williamsburg with leopard-print bowls

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner

At this point, ramen places in NYC are about as common as laundromats and bodegas that also sell large quantities of flowers. But we still wanted to check out Andante, because they serve a bunch of different types of broth, and also have leopard-print bowls. So we got a quick dinner there, and it was good. There isn’t anything too new or revolutionary about it, but we enjoyed our spicy miso ramen, and we liked the fact that they pump soothing classical music into the little space. If you’re in Williamsburg and you want something quick and casual, check it out. It shouldn’t be too busy.

The Verdict: If you want a good, quick bowl of noodles, eat here.

Bar Tano

Gowanus
457 3rd Ave

What It Is: A casual neighborhood Italian restaurant in Gowanus

Perfect For: Eating At The Bar, Date Night, Casual Weeknight Dinner

Most neighborhoods in NYC have a casual Italian place like Bar Tano, but Gowanus just happens to be the one lucky enough to have this particular version. It’s a great spot for just about any situation. When we came here around 7pm on a Monday, the bar was completely full of people drinking Happy Hour specials and sharing pastas and bruschetta. There were people on dates, a woman from the bartender’s yoga class, and groups of friends catching up over some drinks and burrata. And it just happens to be very close to The Bell House, if you need a place to eat or drink before the comedy podcast show you have tickets for.

The Verdict: A good option to know about if you’re spending time in Gowanus.

Photo: Carol Dronsfield

Good Behavior

Nomad
44 W 29th St
MAP

What It Is: The rooftop cocktail bar on top of the Made Hotel in Nomad

Perfect For: Outdoor/Patio Situation, People Watching

We’ve been checking out a bunch of new outdoor drinking and eating spots in preparation for this year’s Infatuation Summer Guide, which recently brought us to Good Behavior on the roof of the Made Hotel in Nomad. The tropical-themed indoor/outdoor space is very small, and it’s mostly just a dancefloor with a DJ on one side and a bar on the other, plus a couple balconies with enough room for a handful of people to drink tiki cocktails overlooking the Empire State Building.

The Verdict: Unless you really want tiki drinks on a roof with a view of the Empire State Building, you don’t need to come here. Check out a less-claustrophobic outdoor bar instead.

4/16/2018 update

Levante

Long Island City
26-21 Jackson Ave

What It Is: A Neapolitan pizza spot in LIC

Perfect For: Dining At The Bar, Serious Take-Out Operation

If you’ve been watching our Instagram stories or reading this Ride-Along Report lately, you know we’ve been deep in research for our ranking of NYC’s best pizza. Which is what led us to Levante, a new-ish LIC spot that people have been telling us to try. It’s a modern space serving a long menu of Neapolitan pizzas, along with pastas, salads, and other Italian food. But we’re here to tell you about the pizza: we tried a margherita, a burrata and mushroom one, and a spicy salami pie. And all of them were good - although certainly not worth traveling for. At the moment, they also don’t have a liquor license.

The Verdict: If you live in LIC, stop by for pizza at the bar. But you don’t need to travel for it.

What It Is: A hotel restaurant in LIC with pizza, pasta, and a burger

Perfect For: Date Night

Beebe’s is another LIC spot we recently checked out, and it’s another spot that serves pizza. Although unlike Levante, this place is brand new, it’s in the bottom of The Boro Hotel, and it’s a place we’d send most people for dinner tonight. The dining room is spacious and casual, with a bunch of two-person tables and an open kitchen at the back - and, when we stopped by, it wasn’t too busy. We ate some very good pizza and meatballs, had a few negronis, and made a mental note to come back here the next time we’re in LIC.

Verdict: If you’re near LIC and you want to sit down and have a pizza, go to Beebe’s. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

What It Is: A big restaurant/club on the Lower East Side where you’ll see large groups of people taking shots and picking at food

Perfect For: Wasting Your Time And Money

We’re currently working on a guide to the least-worst party restaurants in NYC, so we decided to have a full dinner at Vandal. This place is from the same people behind Lavo and Tao (which should give you a good idea of what goes down here), and the menu is similar to that of a school cafeteria where you might get pizza one day and stir fry the next. We had a few things, like tortilla soup dumplings and steak tartare that was spread on a big pretzel - and none of it was the worst food we’ve ever had, but we didn’t like paying money for it. The space was mostly filled with large tables of people taking shots, and, while it looked like most people were having fun, we’re going to do our best to never come back.

Verdict: This is a theme park for adults with corporate cards. You should avoid it, but if someone drags you here, just eat a pepperoni pizza.

Coco Pazzo

SoHo
160 Prince St

What It Is: An all-day Italian restaurant in Soho

Perfect For: Date Night, Lunch

We went to Coco Pazzo for lunch shortly after it opened, and it was good. But we wanted to head back there to see what goes on at dinner. This is the new Soho version of an Upper East Side Italian restaurant that was popular in the 90s, and on our last visit, the dimly-lit dining room was packed. We tried some seafood appetizers, pastas, and a three-pound roasted chicken that they carved tableside. The four-cheese rigatoni, which is basically what happens when an Italian chef makes mac and cheese, was great. But we also waited an hour between courses and some of the other dishes were pretty bland.

The Verdict: This is a solid place to eat Italian food in Soho, but it’s not exciting enough to make it on our Hit List just yet. We’ll be checking back on it soon.

MAP

What It Is: A casual LES cocktail bar with dumplings and hot dogs

Perfect For: Early In The Game Dates, Eating At The Bar

We aren’t sure if the name is a reference to the song by The Cure or the 1999 movie starring Hilary Swank, but, either way, Boys Don’t Cry is mostly just a normal bar. It’s a little room on Orchard Street (next to Scarr’s Pizza), and it has a long bar and a couple of booths. They do, however, serve some dumplings (from Nom Wah), and we had some alongside a cocktail. We also like the fact that there’s a TV behind the bar for watching sports when you don’t want to talk to whoever you’re drinking with.

The Verdict: A nice place for a casual cocktail on the Lower East Side, but nothing special.

4/9/2018 Update

Frenchette

Tribeca
241 W Broadway

What It Is: An upscale French bistro in Tribeca

Perfect For: See And Be Seen, Date Night, Birthdays

Sometimes, you walk into a place and think “I’ll probably see a famous person here.” Right now, that’s what it’s like at Frenchette. This restaurant just opened in Tribeca, and it’s kind of like a smaller, more stylish Balthazar. There are big leather booths and murals on the walls, as well as some ceiling fans (because every old-school bistro needs a ceiling fan). The food is French, and we had some very good steak and duck here, as well a bowl of buttery eggs with escargot on top (that tasted a little like movie-theater popcorn). The bar area up front was also pretty busy, and looked like it was packed with well-dressed people who work in the area.

The Verdict: Book a table here before it gets too hard. And be ready to spend a little money. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Straylight

Chinatown
32 Mulberry St
MAP

What It Is: A subterranean cocktail bar under Juku in Chinatown

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

Walking into Straylight feels like you’re being led down into a crime boss’ lair. It’s the subterranean cocktail bar under Juku - and to get in, the hostess opened a door and led us down a bright white stairwell with pink fluorescent lights, and then opened another door and sat us at a small candlelit table under a ceiling that looks like stained glass. We tried some unusual cocktails, like one with sushi rice and another with smoked pork skin, and ate all of the Japanese bar snacks - the best thing was the breaded meatball sliders on milk bread.

The Verdict: If you’re okay spending $20 on cocktails, then Straylight is a unique spot to impress someone. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

What It Is: An Italian-American counter spot in Bushwick

Perfect For: Serious Take-Out Operation, Lunch

This is basically just three guys making excellent homemade pastas and Italian sandwiches in a little counter spot on Wilson Avenue in Bushwick. When we went, they told us they’ve been slammed with take-out orders since they opened (approximately three days prior). You could technically sit on a stool here and enjoy your homemade rigatoni and the Fall Out Boy playlist they blast, but it seems more useful as an excellent new takeout Italian option for the neighborhood.

The Verdict: Congratulations residents of Bushwick, you have a great new comfort food take-out option.

What It Is: A tiny taco spot hidden in the back of an East Village cocktail bar.

Perfect For: Late Night Eats

The Garret East is one of our go-to bars in the East Village, and they recently opened up a little taqueria in the back of their space. Seeing as how we like both drinking and tacos, we decided to check this place out - and it was pretty cool. The tacos are solid and come with a lot of meat (to the extent that you might need a fork), and they’ll bring your food to you anywhere in the bar.

The Verdict: You will most likely see us eating late-night tacos here again in the near future. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Blanca

Bushwick
261 Moore St

What It Is: A tiny tasting-menu restaurant hidden in a room behind Roberta’s

Perfect For: Special Occasions, Unique Dining Experience

If you’ve lived in NYC for more than two weeks, you already know Roberta’s. But you might be less familiar with Blanca, the 12-seat prix-fixe restaurant that’s in its own separate room on the Roberta’s property, removed from the main restaurant. Here, you sit in plush leather barstools overlooking the kitchen, you watch at least four chefs preparing your food (one of whom is selecting the playlist in real-time, as he “reads the crowd”), and you’ll probably drink with the sommelier after she convinces you to do the wine pairing. There’s no pizza on the menu - in fact, you won’t even see a menu. Your courses just start arriving one after the other, and after eating here recently, we can tell you that all 16 of the dishes we tried - from caviar with pinenuts to uni cavatappi to beef with persimmon - were outstanding. All in all, this is one of the greatest eating experiences we’ve had in NYC, and we’d highly recommend you try it at least once.

The Verdict: If you’re looking to throw down for a very special occasion meal, you can’t do much better than Blanca.

4/4/2018 update

What It Is: A little pizza place open late night in Bushwick

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Late Night Eats

We’re currently working on a ranking of the best pizza in NYC, and we’ve had this place on our list to check back in on (thanks, in large part, to many reader emails and DMs and letters delivered by owls). So we stopped in the other night, and it turns out those people were right. We like the pan-style pies here (they’re sort of like a better version of Pizza Hut), and the little space is cool. You order the bar, and you can hang out for as long as you want. It’s also open until 4am every night except Sunday.

The Verdict: One of our favorite pizza places in Bushwick. Keep this place in mind if you’re out and hungry at 2am. And stay tuned for our upcoming guide to The 20 Best Pizza Places In NYC to see if it makes the list.

Photo: Noah Devereaux

What It Is: A slightly more upscale Korean barbecue spot in K-Town

Perfect For: Big Groups, Birthdays

Sam Won Garden is the oldest and largest tabletop barbecue place in South Korea, and they just opened their first location on 32nd Street. It has three floors and 175 seats, and when we came by for dinner the other night, it was pretty busy. We got seated all the way up on the third floor, and proceeded to eat some brisket fried rice and a kimchi bacon pancake and the beef sampler for two, which comes with ribeye, strip steak, and a few other cuts. And everything was very good.

The Verdict: Solid Korean barbecue and great for groups.

MAP

What It Is: A hidden cocktail bar in East Williamsburg

Perfect For: First/Early-In-The-Game Dates, Date Night

You’d have to be looking for Featherweight in order to find it. It’s right on Graham Ave., but there’s no signage except for a feather illustration on the door. Which might be why the little space feels like a members-only club. One with fancy drinks but a laid-back feel, and friendly bartenders who will make something you feel like drinking, or in our case, let you try any of the specialty liquors you’re curious about. We were here at around 8pm on a Friday, when every seat was full, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it gets slammed later on at night.

The Verdict: This is the kind of cocktail bar where you’ll want to become a regular.

Photo: Melissa Holm

What It Is: A cocktail and oyster bar with live music on the Lower East Side

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

Sometime after walking past the raw bar and cellist, and before drinking a Ms. Jackson (a mezcal cocktail), we decided that Bar Belly would be rejoining our casual date night rotation. This place used to be Leadbelly, and from what we can tell, Bar Belly is almost identical. We sat at one of the small tables towards the back of the narrow cocktail bar, and tried lamb meatballs and octopus as the cellist and two guitarists played in the middle of the space. Also, the oysters are great, especially when they’re $1 at Happy Hour (5pm-7pm).

The Verdict: A good new date spot on the LES. We’ve added it to our Bar Hit List.

MAP

What It Is: A Caribbean-themed cocktail bar attached to Pearl’s in Williamsburg

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

To get to Clyde’s, you walk through Pearl’s (a Caribbean restaurant in Williamsburg) and go through the doorway with hanging beads next to the kitchen. There you’ll find a narrow bar serving Caribbean-ish cocktails, and a food menu identical to Pearl’s. We tried a few rum-based drinks and ordered some food, and the whole experience really just made us wish we were having these things in Pearl’s backyard in the middle of summer.

The Verdict: The outdoor area is the real selling point of Pearl’s, and unless you’re a huge Major Lazer fan (Clyde’s is part-owned by one of the DJs), we probably wouldn’t come to Clyde’s just for the drinks.

3/26/2018 update

PQR

Upper East Side
1631 2nd Ave

What It Is: A new Roman-style pizza place on the UES

Perfect For: Lunch, Quick Eats

A guy who’s apparently very famous for making pizza in Rome just opened a place called PQR on the Upper East Side, and it’s already one of the better pizza spots in the neighborhood. The slices here are rectangular Roman-style ones, and they come with everything from pumpkin to porchetta (although the one stuffed with porchetta is really more of a sandwich). We had the pumpkin one fresh out of the oven, and it convinced us that pumpkin is, in fact, a valid pizza topping.

The Verdict: You don’t need to make a special trip to PQR, but if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely grab a slice.

Davelle

Lower East Side
102 Suffolk St

What It Is: An all-day Japanese cafe on the LES

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Unique Dining Experience

As we walked into Davelle, the chef behind the bar waved at us with one hand while blow-torching some oden with the other. Oden is basically a small bowl of broth with your choice of ingredients like fried tofu, boiled egg, or sausage with Japanese mustard. We ordered about five per person (each is around $4), and liked the mushrooms and fried octopus best. We were also kind of blown away by how much uni was in the $13 sea urchin rice ball. This is a tiny spot that’s open all day, but it’s best for a dinner when you want something low-key but interesting.

The Verdict: This is a great spot for a unique weeknight dinner. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Photo: Garam Song

Coco Pazzo

SoHo
160 Prince St

What It Is: The new Soho version of an UES Italian restaurant that was big in the 90s

Perfect For: Lunch

The original Coco Pazzo was on the Upper East Side, and it was a place people loved in the 90s. It just reopened on Prince Street, so we stopped by for lunch and had a couple of pastas, a surprisingly enjoyable quinoa salad, and a sandwich on very good focaccia. And during the day, all of those things (besides the pastas) are available for takeout at the pastry counter in the back of the restaurant. At night, the menu gets a bit fancier, with lots of seafood appetizers and meat-centric entrees. We enjoyed our lunch in the light-filled dining room, and we’ll be back to eat dinner here soon.

The Verdict: A solid new option for Italian food in Soho.

What It Is: A new spot in Greenwich Village that specializes in spicy ramen

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Lunch, Date Night

When we went to Karakatta, we saw an actor from The Usual Suspects ask his college-aged offspring if “this is the kind of ramen the kids eat at school?” Normally the answer would be “No Dad, that’s instant ramen. You’re ruining my life.” But Karakatta’s excellent ramen and proximity to NYU might be changing that answer to the affirmative. We tried both spicy and non-spicy ramens, and can tell you that you should be ordering the ones with hot pepper icons. We can also tell you that you should be getting the pork buns, which are some of the best we’ve eaten.

The Verdict: Great ramen that’s worth feeling a little like you’re in an NYU dining hall. We’ve added it to our Hit List.

Emmett's

SoHo
50 Macdougal St

What It Is: A Chicago-style deep dish pizza place in Soho

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner

Emmett’s is a Chicago-style deep dish place, and, since we’re working on a ranking of the best pizza in NYC, we thought it was time to check it out. Although before consuming deep dish here, we had a hot dog, an Italian sausage, and a thin-crust pizza covered in ranch. And the thin crust pizza was probably the best thing we ate. As for the deep dish, the crust itself wasn’t anything special (sort of like a stale shortbread cookie), but we’d eat it again if it were put in front of us. Will it make our final pizza list? Probably not, but it’s hard to be upset with a large serving of melted cheese.

The Verdict: The closest you’ll find to Chicago-style pizza in NYC.

3/21/2018 Update

8.6
MAP

What It Is: A tiny French restaurant serving bistro food and natural wine

Perfect For: Date Night

To the person who wrote us the following email:

“Subject: Le French Diner, LES Orchard St

Body: Run, don’t walk, it’s a gem. Sent from my iPhone”

Thank you. We took your advice, and now we agree. This restaurant is a tiny little place on Orchard Street that looks like it could have been a taco stand in a past life, and serves really excellent French food while a French hip-hop soundtrack plays in the background. Most of the seats are at the counter, where you can watch cooks prepare fantastic octopus or steak, and over which there’s a short menu and wine list written on a chalkboard. Expect a full review on this restaurant sometime very soon.

The Verdict: Come here with someone you really like and want to share a bottle of wine with.

Rose Gold

Bushwick
2 Knickerbocker Avenue
MAP

What It Is: A basement bar in Bushwick where you can dance at 2am

Perfect For: People Watching, Drunk Hookups

We don’t hang out in dark basement bars every night, but when we do, we prefer that they have disco balls and fog machines. Rose Gold has both, and when we stopped by recently, there was a DJ playing something that sounded like electronic disco. This is the new bar below the seafood restaurant Cape House, and it’s just one small room with a few seats along the wall and a dance floor that takes up most of the space. It was pretty quiet when we were there, but if you go later in the night (around 1am) you should find a bunch of people that you can dance next to. They’ll probably be Bushwick residents, and many of them will be wearing Vans.

The Verdict: By the summertime, this will probably be a place where your friends tell you to meet them at 3am. It’s going on our Bar Hit List.

What It Is: A small Greek wine bar in the East Village

Perfect For: Early In The Game Dates

We recently drank some Greek natural wines at The Athenian, a 10-seat wine bar in the East Village from the same people as The Immigrant. We also tried some small plates like eggplant salad on pita and scallops over butternut squash. We like the long list of affordable wines by the glass here, but we probably wouldn’t come back for the food.

The Verdict: This is just a normal little wine bar where you can have a quiet drink with someone.

3/12/2018 update

8.4
MAP

What It Is: A new restaurant in Hudson Yards from the team behind two of our favorite restaurants

Perfect For: Date Night, Special Occasions

Legacy Records is the new restaurant in Hudson Yards from the people behind Pasquale Jones and Charlie Bird, two places we really like. And it turns out that this place is great as well. We came for dinner recently and ate everything from tuna belly and prosciutto to some duck pasta and a piece of ribeye. We also finished our meal with some cones of gelato - and, like everything else, they were very good. The service was also great, and it’s an impressive space with high ceilings, a horseshoe bar, and a few alcoves that are perfect for groups. There’s also free candy in the bathroom. So if you have something semi-special to celebrate, make a reservation now - because they’re going to be tough to get.

The Verdict: Top-notch food, great service, and an impressive space. Pricey, but worth it. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

La Mercerie

SoHo
53 Howard St

What It Is: An all-day cafe in a fancy furniture store in Soho

Perfect For: Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee & A Bite

For a few months now, La Mercerie has been open and selling $6 croissants. It’s a cafe in the front of a high-end furniture store in Soho, and they just started serving lunch and dinner. We stopped by recently, ate some steak tartare, smoked salmon blinis, and a “petite ribeye” - and, while it was wasn’t cheap, the food was excellent. The place looks like a spread from an interior design magazine, so expect to find a room full of people who appreciate velvet banquettes and probably know the dates of fashion week. You should also expect there to be a wait if you don’t have a reservation.

The Verdict: Come here for breakfast, lunch, or a snack the next time you need to impress someone in Soho. It’s on the Hit List.

7.4
MAP

What It Is: An Indian spot that replaced Paowalla in Soho

Perfect For: Big Groups, Date Night

The big wood-burning oven in the middle of Bombay Bread Bar is painted like a tiger head, and everyone in the restaurant can watch as the chefs throw different types of bread into its mouth. These naans and rotis are the focus at Bombay Bread Bar (which is in the space that used to be Paowalla), a new Indian spot in Soho. We recently sat in the back dining room next to walls with floor-to-ceiling pop art murals, ordered all of the breads on the menu, and used them as vehicles for the sauces in plates like three chili chicken and mushroom upma polenta, which tastes like cheesy grits topped with mushrooms. Generally, we’d recommend you go heavy on the small plates here, since the entrees were a little pricey for the portion size.

The Verdict: This place would be great for a group dinner or more casual date. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: A 10-seat East Village spot specializing in Taiwanese beef noodle soup

Perfect For: Dining Solo, Quick Eats

After three previous attempts to get into Ho Foods and being quoted one to two hour waits early on weekday nights, we finally got into the 10-seat space after only 30 minutes (but were seated at a table sitting face-to-face with a stranger). The Taiwanese beef noodle soup is a 24-hour broth with wheat noodles and slices of beef, and we added tendon and extra marrow. If the crowds lessen a bit, this will be a solid addition to the quick and affordable dining options in the neighborhood, but until then, you don’t need to rush here and/or wait too long for this soup.

The Verdict: This is very good soup, but it’s not worth an hours-long wait.

MAP

What It Is: A small bar in Bushwick where you can eat nachos and ma po chili

Perfect For: Late Night Eats

The area around the Jefferson stop of the L train is currently one of the best places to drink in Bushwick. It’s filled with bars, most of which are great, and the latest addition is Hard Times Christmas at the Sunset Bar. It’s in the little space that used to be Montana’s Trail House, and we recently wound up eating a deep fried hot dog topped with ma po chili there. It was good - and it also made us feel like we needed to run several miles or at least do some Zumba. So if you’re drinking in the area and need some late-night food (or a beer-and-shot special), this place will get the job done.

Verdict: Finish your night in Bushwick here, sitting at the bar with few hot dogs in front of you.

What It Is: A counter-service Filipino restaurant in the East Village

Perfect For: Group Dinner, Casual Weeknight Dinner

Mama Fina’s is a new Filipino restaurant on Avenue A between 10th and 11th streets in the East Village. The main draw here is the very filling and very good Filipino food like pork sisig, taro leaves with coconut milk (called Laing), and steak with garlic rice. We went ahead with many of the items marked “must-try” on the menu, and we can confirm that those dishes are indeed the things you should be trying - they were great. That said, the atmosphere doesn’t make as much sense - it’s counter service, but also looks like a place where highly-regarded knights would eat during the Renaissance period.

The Verdict: The Filipino food makes Mama Fina’s worth knowing about for a casual group dinner in the East Village, but you don’t need to go out of your way for a meal here.

What It Is: The American restaurant in the West Village space that used to be a legendary speakeasy

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents, Impressing Out Of Towners

The original Chumley’s was a speakeasy that opened during Prohibition, and the West Village bar was a great a place to hang. Then the building fell apart, they had to close it, and Chumley’s reopened last year as a restaurant. The first time we stopped in, we weren’t huge fans. But we recently went back, and we can now confidently tell you that it’s fine. The food is on the heavier side with stuff like cassoulet and steak tartare, and it’s all pretty decent - but, for the prices, it’s hard to justify a night out here. The burger is $29, for example, and it comes with more bone marrow than you’ll actually want. Although we do like the space. It’s sort of like a dark, old-school country club, and there are pictures of authors everywhere. There also happened to be an in-house historian walking around quizzing people on literary portraits, and we correctly named both Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer.

The Verdict: The space is cool and the food here is good - but it isn’t quite good enough for how expensive it is.

3/5/2018 update

La Goulue

Upper East Side
29 East 61st Street

What It Is: The revamp of an old, upscale Upper East Side French spot

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

On our first visit to La Goulue, we saw the following: a very famous 86-year-old writer, a small dog, and a woman someone at our table thought was Barbara Walters (it wasn’t). That should tell you a bit about what you need to know about La Goulue: it’s an older crowd, and it’s about as uptown-y as you can get. The restaurant was closed for about eight years and is now open in a different location on 61st Street, and what’s also worth knowing about this new reboot of a classic French bistro is that the food is very good. The menu includes things like a great steak tartare, fresh salads, and well-executed grilled fish. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it is a nice option for an upscale meal near Central Park.

The Verdict: If you were someone who was aware of and enjoyed this restaurant eight years ago, you’ll still like it. Otherwise, it’s a somewhat formal, though not exactly stuffy French restaurant.

Patent Pending

Nomad
49 W 27th St
MAP

What It Is: A speakeasy behind a coffee shop in Nomad

Perfect For: Date Night

Patent Pending is a coffee shop in Nomad that turns into a speakeasy around 5pm. It’s a dark little space with a bar and a row of booths, and it feels like a cave full of candles, where there are also good cocktails. It was pretty packed when we stopped by, and they only take reservations for large parties, so you should have a backup bar in mind in case there’s a wait.

The Verdict: A great new place to drink, as long as you can get in and don’t mind paying $17 for a cocktail. It’s going on our Bar Hit List.

What It Is: The restaurant in the bottom of the Life Hotel in Nomad

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

If, one day, we rank all the hotel restaurants in NYC, Henry will probably be somewhere in the middle of the pack. We recently had dinner there, and it wasn’t bad. Our pizza was perfectly fine, and we had a good piece of pork - but none of it was especially interesting. It’s of like the hotel-restaurant-equivalent of The Smith. But seeing as how it’s only a few blocks from MSG, it’s a good place to know about.

The Verdict: Solid-enough food, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to eat here.

Gibson + Luce

Nomad
19 W 31st St
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What It Is: A small cocktail bar in the basement of the Life Hotel

Perfect For: Date Night

Below Henry, there’s a cocktail bar called Gibson + Luce. It’s in the basement of the Life Hotel, and when we came for a drink the other night, it was pretty slow. The cocktails were pretty decent, although the bartender’s blowtorch went out, so he had to use a candle to light our garnish on fire. Also, the music was a little loud. Other than that, your parents would probably like this place.

The Verdict: A good spot for a nice, low-key drink near MSG.

Mr White

East Village
123 Saint Marks Pl

What It Is: An upscale new Southern spot on St. Marks in the East Village

Perfect For: Eating At The Bar, Guys Night Out

Mr. White looks like the ground floor of a mansion in New Orleans. There’s a dining room with plush seats and a fireplace, a raw bar in the back, and lots of gold trim and chandeliers. In other words, it’s not your move for a casual dinner - and for right now, the food isn’t good enough for us to recommend this place for a big night out either. We liked some of the Cajun-Creole food and definitely recommend the jambalaya, but other dishes like the smoked duck and brisket weren’t great.

The Verdict: It’s still new, but at this point, we can’t think of an occasion when we’d recommend this place.

2/26/2018 Update

What It Is: A Greenwich Village spot specializing in mixian (rice noodles) from the Yunnan province of China

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Dining Solo

South Of The Cloud’s bright space just north of Washington Square Park was crowded when we got there, but we were seated almost immediately - there’s no alcohol (they’re waiting on their liquor license) and food comes out very quickly, so people aren’t lingering. The menu includes five types of mixian - rice noodles from the Yunnan province of China - which come out either dry or in a four-hour chicken broth. We liked almost everything we ate here, and left very full for about $20 per person. Definitely get the spicy bites of fried pork shoulder and the cold noodles with minced pork.

The Verdict: Check this place out for an affordable lunch or dinner in Greenwich Village. It’s now on our Hit List.

What It Is: A Sichuan restaurant in Bushwick

Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Weeknight Dinner

General Deb’s is from the same people behind Faro, an open, airy Italian restaurant nearby. But unlike that place, General Deb’s is small, dimly-lit, and has maybe one more table than there should be. And when we stopped by, it was also packed with people sharing wontons in chili oil, pickled vegetables, and noodles. Most things on the menu are both very good and pretty spicy (although the wontons could have used a little more chili oil), so if you enjoy the slow burn of Sichuan peppercorn that sometimes makes your glass of water taste like it’s vibrating, you’ll like the food here.

The Verdict: A great new spot for a casual date in Bushwick. It’s now on our Hit List.

Photo: Michael Tulipan

Razza

New Jersey
275 Grove St
8.9
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What It Is: A wood-fired pizza spot in Jersey City

Perfect For: Big Groups, Vegetarians

We recently took the Path train two stops to Jersey City to check out Razza, which focuses on using local ingredients to make some really excellent pizza. This place isn’t very big and doesn’t take reservations, so we ended up waiting for about an hour (there are a bunch of bars within a block or two). But the wait was worth it for the wood-fired pizzas with fluffy crusts, crisp bases, and relatively light toppings - you can put away a whole pizza yourself without feeling nearly as full as you would after a pie at Emmy Squared or Paulie Gee’s. And you will. Our favorite was that night’s special pie - the funghi with four types of mushrooms. If you’re someone whose blood pressure rises when people start debating the best pizza in the city, go to Razza, because this place belongs in that conversation.

The Verdict: This pizza is more than worth the short trip to Jersey City.

Aroqa

Chelsea
206 9th Ave

What It Is: A modern Indian restaurant in Chelsea

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents

The first thing we saw when we got to Aroqa, a modern Indian restaurant that opened last year, were multiple people drinking cocktails out of bowls with edible flowers on top and smoke coming out the bottom. Then we ordered some “chicken chops,” and a server brought them out on what looked like a tiny bar cart, set them on fire, and walked away. We then briefly tried to blow out the fire, but failed at this, and just waited for it to go out on its own. (It took about a minute). And the chicken was actually pretty good.

The Verdict: Aroqa is kind of gimmicky, but you can use it for a fun night in Chelsea, and maybe even a date night, if your date is impressed by fire.

Photo: Gion Studio
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What It Is: A clubby cocktail bar at the top of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Perfect For: See And Be Seen

We like good cocktails, and we like nice views, so we decided to check out Brooklyn Heights Social Club. It’s a bar at the top of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge run by the people behind 1 Oak and (the original) Beatrice Inn, and, like those other spots, it’s definitely a scene. The drinks all cost around $20, it gets dark and loud around 7pm, and you can expect a crowd of well-dressed people. We didn’t stay too long, but by the time we left, it pretty much felt like any nightclub you might find in Meatpacking. Although there are some very nice views of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.

The Verdict: This place is crowded, expensive, and clubby - but it if you go on the early side, it can be a fun drinking experience (although not quite Hit-List-worthy).

Photo: Oleg March

2/16/2018 Update

8.3
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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.

The 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.

The 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.

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

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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.

The 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.

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

2/9/2018 Update

7.8
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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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

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

8.0
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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.

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

Have & Meyer

Williamsburg
103 Havermeyer St
7.8
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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.

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

7.6
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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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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
7.1
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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.

The 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.

The 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.

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

1/17/2018 UPDATE

6.0
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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.

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

8.3
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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.

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

7.1
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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.

The 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
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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.

The 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.

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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.

The 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.

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

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