You seem blue. Is it because your diet is boring? Or are you choking on something? Hopefully it’s the first thing. We can help with that. This is our guide to the restaurants where you can find unique food (alongside stuff your more boring friends will be happy with, too). At any one of these places, you can get as adventurous as you want.
You should know, however, that these restaurants are actually worth your time. We wouldn’t send you somewhere we wouldn’t eat ourselves. None of this food is gimmicky or gross, and all of it is at least worth a try. Now get out there, and give one of these places a shot. It’s about time you lived (a little bit more) on the edge.
At Takashi in the West Village you can choose from over 15 cuts of beef to grill at your table Korean-barbecue style. If you want to step outside your comfort zone, try one of the three kinds of cow stomach. Or maybe go for some “testicargot” (“cow balls escargot style”). The beef here is high-quality, there are a couple of raw options, and there are even things for unadventurous people (skirt steak, for example). But you’ll have the beef cheek and achilles tendon, won’t you? The calf brain cream is optional extra credit.
Where to start with Shopsin’s? Their menu is four pages long and has 600+ items (with over 50 sandwiches and nearly 200 soups). And the crazy thing is, you’ve probably had most of the ingredients on the menu. But unless you drink a Red Bull laced with Ambien before you cook dinner, you probably haven’t tried them in these combinations. Most of the dishes at this little stall in the Essex Street Market are Shopsin’s originals. Take the “Blisters on my Sisters” - they’re pretty much huevos rancheros, but they come with things like fried spaghetti, prune gravy, and kimchi. Or maybe you want some pancakes with chorizo mac & cheese and nutella pecan fluff. Pick something that sounds terrible, then close your eyes and eat it.
Some restaurants take great care when plating their dishes. Mimi does not. They cook fancy French food, then throw it on a plate, and a server in a t-shirt brings it to your table. The menu changes frequently, but they usually have stuff like veal tartare or boudin noir (French blood sausage), and there will probably be something on the menu you’ve never had. Mimi tends to be dark inside (with good music playing), so this isn’t a bad place to impress a date. Stick around late-night for a sandwich with french fries in it and a piece of cake served with a small bottle of rum.
This one could go on any number of lists: Where To Eat Good Tacos, Where To Eat In A Place That Feels Like A Bodega, How To Survive When You Run Away From Home And Get Off A Bus At Port Authority, etc. But we haven’t made any of those lists, so that doesn’t really matter. Come here for a taco selection that doesn’t pander to boring people and get a taco with a cow’s tongue in it. Don’t worry, it won’t look like a tongue (they chop it up). And if that doesn’t do it for you, just get the one with goat meat. Surely you must like goat meat. Or is this not a list for adventurous eaters?
The thing about Jeepney is, you can eat an unhatched chicken there. And now that we say it, sure, that doesn’t sound (especially) appealing to us. But that unhatched chicken is an Asian delicacy called balut, and a lot of people say it tastes like not-bad soup. Crack open a balut egg at this East Village Filipino gastropub, and you’ll find a tiny chicken inside. Eat it (bones and all), and you’ve officially earned yourself one of their beef/sausage burgers or some pork shoulder with coconut milk.
Maybe you thought it was just a name. Not the case. The Black Ant serves ants. They serve ant salt on their guacamole and they serve grasshoppers in several different dishes. This is not what you expect from a somewhat-upscale East Village restaurant that’s reliably noisy on Friday and Saturday nights. Granted, it’s easy enough to avoid the bugs altogether - but the grasshopper-crusted shrimp taco is part of why you come here. And if you order a mezcal, don’t ignore the salt that comes with it. There are ground-up worms in there, and although you can’t taste them, they’ll make you forget for a moment that you sit at a desk all day daydreaming about moving to Vermont.
Do you like to play things pretty safe? We support you, but also believe you too can find ways to make a tiny step outside your comfort zone. One spot to do it is The Four Horsemen, which specializes in natural wines and interesting food. If you come here, you’ll at the very least try a wine you’ve never had before (you might even learn a thing or two from the very friendly wine people who work here), and you’re almost just as likely to eat something a little bit different (but yes, still very safe). Think grilled fish collar, head-on shrimp, beef tartare, and basil ice cream. Low risk, high reward.
Pig and Khao is a Thai/Filipino fusion place where you can get pig head and curried monkfish. Anyone can eat here, however. It’s a crowd pleaser. Say you’re with someone boring, but you, personally, are itching to eat something you won’t yawn through. You can have the aforementioned pig head or octopus with black vinegar butter, and your dining partner can have the ribs. Afterwards, you can both sit on a couch at the nearby Welcome To The Johnson’s and drink beer from a can (because at a certain point you hit your adventure quota).
Maybe it’s your turn to plan your monthly friend group hang and you’re feeling the pressure to one-up last month’s dinner at Katie’s house (when she made sushi for everyone and no one got sick). Mission Chinese is a little adventurous in the sense that you can drink a General Tso Old Fashioned while you sit in a room that feels like a 1970s lounge. But the real adventurousness comes more from the fact that you’ve probably never eaten spicy-as-hell Kung Pao pastrami, or an absurd large-format chicken stuffed with sausage, raisins, soft cooked eggs, and cheese. If you’re feeling really wild? Order the (admittedly $150) steak that comes out with full-on theatrics, involving the pouring of at least four full cups of butter all over it. Put it this way: no one will remember Katie’s krab stick California roll after this.
Noreetuh does things a little differently. Here, Hawaiian food is just a launch pad. In one dish, they replace the traditional spam with cured cow tongue. And if you’ve never had monkfish liver (one of the best things on their menu), you can get it here with pear and passionfruit. This is a slightly upscale modern Hawaiian restaurant in the East Village, and we’re willing to bet that something on this menu will count as adventurous for you. If it’s the spam ravioli, so be it.
Txikito is a cozy little tapas place in Chelsea. The vibes are intimate and romantic - and if you go there with a totally-platonic friend, you run the risk of complicating things. That said, the food is hit and miss - but when it hits, it hits hard. Try the chorizo sandwich, the lamb meatballs, and, if you want to get a little outside your comfort zone, snack on some pigs feet and tripe. But if you want to save your money for wine and just eat a bowl of squid ribbons, no one’s going to stop you either.