“I said I’d get lunch with a former co-worker and now it’s too late to bail, where should we go?”
“I need a casual date spot where we can walk in tonight at 7:30 and not spend much money.”
“Where should I get brunch? One of my friends wants steak and eggs and another one just listened to a Michael Pollan podcast.”
Westville is an easy answer to all of the above. In fact, it’s an easy answer to lots of the questions we get. It’s consistently busy, but you rarely need to wait. You can make a healthy meal out of vegetable sides, or get a bacon cheeseburger with a side of mac and cheese. And the food is good, but almost everything is under $20. Westville is useful, but Westville also gets old. So when you want to try something different - but not that different - here are 17 other spots to keep in mind.
For a neighborhood with so many nighttime spots that ensure cottonmouth and a longing for blue Gatorade, the LES doesn’t have many places to get a casual, healthy breakfast or lunch the next day. One solid option is Good Thanks, an all-day Australian cafe serving granola bowls with things like algae, collagen, and mixed fruit. If you’re not interested in ingredients that sound like they belong in a biology textbook, there are also plenty of other options (like a chicken caesar salad and a raw tuna bowl), as well as wine and beer if you need a little hair of the dog.
Eating with a vegetarian on the Upper East Side doesn’t need to mean choosing between Chop’t and a place with a $24 plate of foraged root vegetables. Candle Cafe falls somewhere in between. This vegan spot serves an eclectic menu ranging from a standard mezze plate with hummus to lasagna made with artichoke pasta. Keep it in mind for lunch or brunch when you want something other than a cobb salad or vegetable frittata, or for a casual weeknight dinner (they have a full bar).
Maybe you need to tell your significant other that you’re going on an open-ended surfing expedition in French Polynesia - or maybe your best friend just got back from a long vacation of his own and you have a lot to fill him in on. The Little Beet Table, which kind of feels like a more casual ABC Kitchen, is a straightforward and reliable option. The completely gluten-free menu has salads, beef and veggie burgers, and steaks (both beef and cauliflower), and it’s short and simple, so you can devote your full attention to catching up and/or trying not to sound as excited as you actually are about going to Tahiti.
You know better than to be democratic about choosing restaurants for big group dinners (it got awkward when Ryan asked Taylor to provide a doctor’s note for her celiac intolerance). So don’t ask anyone else’s opinion - just tell them all to meet you at 12 Chairs. It’s an all-day spot in Soho that serves a long menu of Middle Eastern dishes, ranging from salads to lamb kebabs to vegetable couscous. Two things that nobody can complain about: everything on the menu is under $20, and they serve breakfast all day.
If Westville moved to the east side of Prospect Park and adapted its menu to fit in with the rest of the food in the area, it would be something like Risbo. This counter-service place serves simple-sounding proteins and vegetable sides, but adds Mediterranean and Caribbean touches like housemade harissa, sides of hummus and couscous, and plantains. The bright space has a bunch of potted plants and a neighborhood feel to it, and the prices - like $20 for slow-roasted pork and five sides - make it a good option for an affordable, healthy weeknight dinner.
Ruby’s is an Australian cafe, but it’s useful for a lot more than a flat white from a barista wearing a beanie and a baggy T-shirt with partially rolled-up sleeves. The Kips Bay space (which has more seating than the constantly packed Nolita location) works for a breakfast bowl after 9am kickboxing, a smoked salmon salad during a casual lunch meeting, or burgers and wine with friends before a night out.
Choosing a place for a weekday lunch meeting can be tricky. You need to be able to leave in a rush if your boss calls an impromptu all-hands in 15 minutes, but you also want food that’s better than Au Bon Pain. Made Nice checks both boxes. It’s fast casual, but the seasonal menu includes upscale dishes like kelp noodle salad and a grain bowl with roasted chicken thigh and crispy chicken skin. Assuming you don’t have any SOS texts from your boss, stick around and get some soft serve with shortbread and honey for dessert.
Whatever else you order at Westville, you should always get a few market sides to share. And usually, you’ll end up realizing you would’ve been better off just making a meal out of those. At Gather in Park Slope, that’s exactly what you’ll end up doing, because market sides make up the whole menu. Everything is under $7, so try a bunch of different things - like curried cauliflower and farro, roasted beets and carrots with goat cheese, and lamb meatballs with turmeric tahini - and get another order of whatever disappears first.
Like Westville, Seamore’s has expanded to six locations on the back of serving simple, mostly-healthy food to crowds of people who like being able to show up with bedhead and old New Balances. Seamore’s does vegetables, salads, sandwiches, and a good cheeseburger, and the main difference between Westville and Seamore’s is just that Seamore’s has a general focus on fish (with options rotating based on what’s fresh).
Community Food & Juice is a great weekend brunch option, but the waits tend to be about as long as a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. The good news is that this Morningside Heights spot is just as enjoyable at lunch and dinner, when they serve salads and grain bowls, but also burgers and a brick chicken over couscous doused in jus. Also keep it in mind for weekday breakfast, when you can get the really good blueberry pancakes and huevos rancheros without having to wait.
It wouldn’t surprise us to hear that Westville opened a location in East Williamsburg, then changed the sign to say “Concord Hill” but kept everything else the same. In other words, Concord Hill is about as similar to Westville as another restaurant can really get. Come here for brunch with a group when some people are nursing a hangover and others want to keep it light - or for a cocktail and a vegetable-focused dinner.
When you don’t feel like looking at restaurant menus and Whole30-approved ingredient lists side by side, you’re always safe suggesting Peacefood. This casual, all-day spot on the Upper West Side is entirely vegan, but that doesn’t mean it’s only good for people who want a green smoothie in food form. The big menu ranges from good-for-you options like grain bowls with mixed vegetables to less healthy alternatives like loaded nachos with guacamole and (fake) cheese. And in case you want a green smoothie in smoothie form, they have those, too.