Best of Manhattan 09: Eats & Drinks

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Posts.


Best Line That’s Worth the Wait: Num Pang Sandwich Shop
21 E. 12th St. betw. University & 5th Aves., 212-255-3271
Wait, another Asian sandwich place? Really? Yeah, and this one usually has a line stretching as far as University, with discerning and creative types. This little haute-Cambodian sandwicherie serves up a crazy good combo of fancy pork belly, foie gras and catfish on a thick, toasted baguette (give us pickled ramps anyday). Luckily the price is a bit steep for the students, so at least everyone waiting is, for the most part, tolerable, plus they have a cute second-floor spot with spray-painted cocks cover the grimy windows that overlook a parking garage. Remember: cash only and anything and everything is great. So stop holding up the line!

Best Pizza Where You’d Least Expect It: Saraghina
435 Halsey St. at Lewis Ave., Brooklyn, 718-574-1988
If this culinary gentrification continues apace, perhaps we’ll change the age-old slogan from “Bed-Stuy: Do or Die” to “Bed-Stuy: Pizza Pie.” Since opening in a former garage and storefront on a sleepy stretch of Stuyvesant Heights earlier this spring, breezy, beach-chic Saraghina has won over our cheese-and-tomato-crazed taste buds with Neapolitan-style pies blistered to a pleasing crunch in a wood-burning oven. And because man can’t live on bread and cheese alone (but oh, how we try!), Saraghina serves up a rotating selection of shareable small plates, from shaved-fennel salads to grilled octopus, a delicate oceanic delight best devoured in the verdant back garden.

Best Reason to Truck to Astoria: Studio Square
35-33 36th St. betw. 35th & 36th Aves., Queens, 718-383-1001
We have to give it to Queens, as far as biergartens go, this place owns ‘em. Though over the years we’ve come to face the Bohemian Beer Garden as a foe—a place we’re forced to go celebrate the birthdays of people we either don’t like very much or must drink with in order to continue sleeping with. So, thank goodness for Studio Square! The gigantic space, with plenty of indoor and outdoor room to drink and munch on sausages and burgers, manages to stay much less crowded than its predecessors and offer slightly more urbane fare, like sangria by the pitcher and a delicious pulled pork sandwich. If you’re looking for the basics, they’re here too: Studio Square has 18 beers on draught (all at $18 per pitcher) and a damn fine burger and fries. If they keep making ‘em like this, we might actually consider moving here.

Best Dumpling Shack to BYOB: C&L Dumpling House
77 Chrystie St. betw. Hester & Grand Sts., 212-219-8850
Most Chinatown dumpling slingers serve their pork-and-chive packets in dismal, grease-stained huts with lights cribbed from an interrogation room. Not so at C&L. In this bright, friendly dumpling purveyor, there’s no need to dine and dash. Clean tables ring the room, giving us every reason to linger over C&L’s boiled-to-order seafood (mmm…shrimp) or gingery pork dumplings. But here’s the best part: Bring in a couple of cold Tsingtaos, and the genial owners will crack the beers and even pour said suds into plastic cups. It’s kingly service at pauper prices.


Best Bar To Use The Tired Speakeasy Theme: Cabin Down Below

110 Ave A. at E. 10th St., 212-614-9798
The end of the i-banker as a power in nightlife has not ushered in a decline of the speakeasies, but it has made them less exclusive. PDT, Death & Company and Milk and Honey are still all routinely overflowing with patient 20-something guide-book readers looking to drop big money on dopey drinks. If you want to go someplace that really might not let you in, Cabin Down Below is a better bet. Once you walk into the pizza joint that sits on top of it, look toward the unmarked door and try to get a reaction from the street-clothesed bouncer. With any luck you’ll be in, but we’re not so sure about your friends. In any case, leave your thirst for especially fancy mixed drinks at home and don’t ogle the movie stars.


Best Low-Rent Drinking Loophole: Char No. 4’s Kentucky Gentleman

196 Smith St. betw. Baltic & Warren Sts., Brooklyn, 718-643-2106
For high-rolling whiskey and bourbon aficionados, there’s no more pleasant way to pickle your liver than spending an eve at Southern-fried Char No. 4, sipping single-barrel Four Roses and 27-year-old Parker’s Heritage. Sadly, though, our blood-bank bucks only go so far. So instead of peeling off a sawbuck for a bolt of bourbon, we instead order a buck jolt of Kentucky Gentleman. “That stuff is poison,” the bartender said one night, pouring our blended amber hooch into a curvaceous glass, the same vessel employed for pricier booze. “Then make it a double,” we replied, peeling off another crumpled dollar.

Best Place for Late Night Snacks: Sunny and Annie’s
94 Ave. B at E. 6th St., 212-677-3131
Despite all the ballyhoo about the East Village’s demographic shift, when we’re east of Avenue B a late-night snack usually means a bag of Wise Bravo tortilla chips and a bottle of orange Tropical Fantasy. At Sunny and Annie’s Deli, though, you can knock out your munchies with grub that’s more satisfying and fun to order. Try asking for a “John Kerry” sandwich (lemon chicken, peppers and a riot of other veggies) after a night out—we’ve never failed to make friends that way. The best of the hundreds of sandwiches might well be the “P.H.O Real,” an Asian-fusion roast beef sandwich, though the options are endless—including soups, pastries and all of the usual gourmet-deli items—so whatever you want is at your fingertips.

Best Sloppy, Skyscraping Sandwich to Feed You and Your Three Favorite Construction Workers: The Bomb at Sal, Kris and Charlie
33-12 23rd Ave. at 33rd St., Queens,718-278-9240
Too often, deli heroes are sloppy, inelegant constructions concocted from limp lettuce, F-grade lunch meat and spackle-like mayo. Our hunger is cured, but an hour later our stomach feels like it was sucker-punched. Not so at Sal, Kris and Charlie, Astoria’s self-proclaimed king of sandwiches. From late morning to afternoon, cops and construction workers queue up for the “bomb.” Seven bucks buys a baseball bat of crusty bread layered with a barnyard of sliced animals, cheeses, peppers and a slick of oil and vinegar. Eat one, and you won’t feed again for two days.

Best Bar in a Neighborhood We Can’t Stand: 675 Bar
675 Hudson St. at W. 13th St., 212-699-2410
With squawking European tourists on the wane, some of us have been braving the Meatpacking District as of late, but the nabe’s hormone-pumped feel still gives us the creeps. So it was nice when we found 675 Bar tucked beneath an Italian restaurant and across the street from the sleekly monstrous Gansevoort Hotel. Its vintage vibe, set off by a hodge-podge of rec-room archetypes—foosball table, easy chairs—is welcoming enough to keep us around for drinks and snacks, and the lack of a velvet rope, guest list or other lame neighborhood tradition is nice enough to even make us forget what looms above.


Best East Village Bar to Get Trashed and Evade the B-and-T Hordes: International Bar

120 1st Ave. betw. St. Marks Pl. & E. 7th St., 212-777-1643
Entering the East Village come weekends is like wandering into Dante’s Eighth Circle of hell, in which hair-sprayed ladies and six-pack men lick, suck and swallow their way into new, louder personalities that we’d like to pop in the mouth. Thank heavens for the neighborhood’s sole refuge, International Bar. In the dark, railroad-car confines, we love plugging metal into the juke and popping a squat at the bar—there’s often a seat, no matter the night. And then we order the combo that’s as deadly as fugu: a can of Schaefer and a two-ounce blast of sweet well whiskey, priced at $4. One special inevitably leads to four, until we slide off our seat and stumble home, as happy as we are sloshed.


Best Headstone for the Corpse of the Bowery: DBGB Kitchen and Bar

299 Bowery at E. 1st St., 212-933-5300
Celebrity chef Daniel Boulud may not be the first inspiration-starved millionaire to burnish up his Bowery project with the memory of punks, but his antiseptic new bistro, DBGB (an awkward pun on CBGB’s,) definitely makes him the No. 1 offender. Standing on the corner of the Bowery and E. First Street, it perfectly embodies the death of the punk rock idyll and the wide cursive script painted around its steel-framed gray windows quite literally gives the restaurant the look of a cemetery—or an up-market option in a Rochester Mall. We’ll take dinner at the Mission over this any day.

Best A.M. Eye-Opener: Moto’s Breakfast Beer
394 Broadway at Hooper St., Brooklyn, 718-599-6895 
When we’re hungover to the heavens, brain jackhammering skull and tongue like sandpaper, we hunger for the hair of the dog. Instead of grasping for a Bloody Mary or a namby-pamby mimosa, we cart our bedraggled corpse to old-time Moto and croak, “Give us the breakfast beer.” A Guinness pint is poured, slow and creamy, while a barista pulls an espresso that’s dumped into the beer’s inky depths. The coffee bonds with the rich, chocolaty coffee, creating a mood-elevating eye-opener. With each slurp our skull ache lessens, our slitted eyelids open wider, and then we feel stout enough to order a second round, sending us back down last night’s doomed, drunken path.

Best Bar in a Hotel: Breslin Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel
20 W. 29th St. betw. Broadway & 5th Ave., 212-679-2222
The Breslin restaurant from foodie whisperers Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield hasn’t opened just yet, but the bar in the lobby of NoMad’s hottest hotel is already a hit. Start off on any of the couches or easy chairs that pack the space and admire the oddly ‘90s décor while you wait for a server to swing by and imagine you’re in a ski chalet, student union or your very own hunting lodge. The drinks are moderately priced and generally tasty, and having a photo booth inside the lobby—a photo booth that takes credit cards!—doesn’t hurt one bit. Sure, the cultish Stumptowners with their bowties and circus barker moustaches might dart in and out of the room, but have enough Flatiron cocktails—made with Rhum Clement, basil and bitters—and you’ll hardly notice.


Best Deep-Fried Animal for Breakfast: Fried Chicken at No. 7

7 Greene Ave. betw. Cumberland & Fulton Sts., Brooklyn, 718-522-6370
Keep your eggs Benedict and your Belgian waffles! If we’re peeling our bodies from bed and dragging our buns to brunch, we’re ripping into flesh. And for us, no meat is finer than the fried chicken at Fort Greene’s No. 7. We favor sitting in the restaurant’s artfully distressed rear, beneath a sun-drenched skylight, and ordering a half bird. In minutes, we receive four fat pieces of clucker, which we drench with the house hot sauce—careful, or your sinuses will leak like a faulty faucet. Then we dig in with caveman grace, ripping off chunks of succulent white meat and skin as crunchy as crackers. It’s the breakfast of champions.

Best High Class Spot for Cheap Booze and Snacks: Pranna
79 Madison Ave. at E. 28th St.,212-696-5700
There was a time when the promise of a free personal pizza could get us to go just about anywhere. In those days, tossing down a few bones for a Yuengling and getting a complimentary pie seemed like the height of cosmopolitan life. No more! Now we head to Pranna, the airport-hangar-sized pan-Asian eatery that has a happy hour special of a draught beer and a piled-high plate of tasty naan bread for a measly $5. The bread gets refilled with each drink you order, and the beer does a nice job cooling off the fiery sauces that come along for dipping. As long as Pranna’s around, we’ll never be suckers for free pizza again—hot dogs, though: that’s a different story.

Best Beer Festival to Remind You Why Drinking too Much Beer Is a Bad Idea: Captain Lawrence’s anniversary party
Each May, we board the Metro North train bound for Pleasantville, New York, with the best intentions: This year, we tell ourselves, we will not drink until we turn into human Jell-O. Upon arrival, though, we abandon all promises and run into Captain Lawrence’s brewery as crazed as kids in a candy store. We double-fist Liquid Gold, and smooth-drinking Freshchester Pale, before tearing into BBQ pig. With the entrance fee ensuring unlimited beer, there’s no reason to apply the brakes to intoxication. Before the afternoon car-wrecks to a close, we’re greasy and groggy, our verbal skills reduced to one word: more. We forget the rest, but the bruises linger for weeks.


Best Sweets to Obsess Over: Momofuku Milk Bar Cookies

207 2nd Ave. at E. 13th St., 212-254-3500
We’re normally loathe to praise any part of the David Chang empire; it’s sad to see the path that Chang, the once-lovable chef who is now just as well known for his bad attitude as much as his pork buns, has gone on. That said, dude knows his cookies. With his pastry chef Christina Tosi at Milk Bar’s helm, the shop dishes out some of the best cookies we’ve ever had. At $1.85 each, we can’t find better baked goods anywhere—especially when we think of the extraordinarily rich chocolate-chocolate and the tongue tittilating “compost cookie” with pretzels, chocolate, potato chips, coffee, butterscotch and oats.

Best Frankenstein Assemblage of Meats: Rye’s Meatloaf Sandwich
247 S. 1st St. betw. Roebling & Havemeyer Sts., Brooklyn, 718-218-8047
If Noah were starving on his ark, he’d likely survey his animal menagerie and concoct a sandwich a little bit like the splendid monstrosity served at Williamsburg’s Rye. In the vintage room, chef Cal Elliott transforms ground pork, veal and duck—cooked in its rich-as–Bill Gates braising juices—into a half-pound tombstone of heart attack. The meat is snuggled inside a crusty roll, crowned with golden haystack onions, pickles and a layer of creamy, zesty horseradish frisée. It’s a science-defying sandwich breed as heretical as it is delectable.

Best Argument for Tequila: Mayahuel
304 E. 6th St. betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.,212-253-5888
Tequila has suffered too long from novelty T-shirts and the people who wear them. But these days, the agave-based spirit is as worthy of respect as single malt whiskeys, and it gets it at Mayahuel, a tiled basement den courtesy of the folks who brought you once-hot cocktail spot Death & Co. With a selection of tequilas from blanco (new) to anejo (aged over a year) and cocktails that showcase them, Mayahuel indemnifies tequila for the asses who slam it.

Best Fried Chicken That’s Not Made by a Hyped Chef: Mitchell’s
617A Vanderbilt Ave. betw. Bergen St. & St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn, 718-789-3212
Slobber over David Chang’s overpriced Old Bay–seasoned fried chicken; we’ll gladly stuff our gut with the sweet iced tea and pan-crisped birds at Prospect Heights old-timer Mitchell’s Soul Food. We exchange $8.50 for a portly, succulent breast and gnaw-worthy wing, alongside a crumbly, buttery square of cornbread and two heaps of sides (get the collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese) as fine as anything prepared north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Still hungry? Snag a slice of whatever frosting-topped cake is sitting behind the counter.

Best Execution of the Worst Bar Idea: The Ainsworth
122 W. 26th St. betw. 6th & 7th Aves., 212-741-0646
One thing New York probably doesn’t need is a massive Atlantic City–style sports bar. But The Ainsworth, open since September in Chelsea, defies that logic. All gussied up like a Victorian saloon, albeit one graced with 40 anachronistic large-screen TVs, the availability of 100-ounce beers guarantees that the scene remains decidedly un-Chelsea and populated by thick-necked dude-brahs. This is never pleasant, but there is a reason to keep The Ainsworth in mind for your drinking needs: There’s a surprisingly good dinner menu featuring a lobster Cobb salad, kielbasa and a winning goat-cheese-and-mushroom pizza. Go ahead and wash it down with that giant beer, we won’t tell.

Best Place to Dress Like Santa and Slurp Pho: Nha Trang
87 Baxter St. betw. Walker & White Sts., 212-233-5948
Every December, we shove a bottle of Jameson down our pants, pull on our St. Nick costume and maraud the city streets during the annual Santacon drunkathon. But since we start hitting the sauce at 9 a.m., we’re schnookered by 5. To remedy double vision, we repair to Chinatown’s Nha Trang for steaming tureens of fragrant pho, piles of candy-like pork chops and translucent spring rolls filled with oversized shrimp. “Santa sure likes Vietnamese food,” our server said last year, surveying the carnage. “It’s a delicacy we don’t often find at the North Pole,” we said, proceeding, at the manager’s request, to snap pics of grinning busboys sitting on our contented laps.

Best Way to Turn Into a Sticky Mess: Jam Cocktails at Madam Geneva
4 Bleecker St. at Bowery, 212-254-0350
As far as gimmicks go, it seemed like a good one: At Madam Geneva, the hidden backroom at British Colonial–style Double Crown, the signature drinks are jam-based, ranging from tart and floral (grapefruit, elderflower) to fruity and spicy (Asian pear, maple syrup, ginger) to pungent (quince, clove). A healthy jigger of gin is muddled with lemon and sugar, then served over crushed ice with a spoonful of homemade preserves perched atop the rim of the glass. Exciting? Only if you hold stock in a Wet Naps firm. The cocktails are more repast than refreshment, with thick clods of jam glopping to the bottom of the glass and our fingers as sticky as a bear with its paws in the honey jar.

Best Bastardized Culinary Creation: Italian tamale at Tortilleria Nixtamal
104-05 47th Ave. at 104th St., Queens, 718-699-2434 
New York City’s a culinary melting pot, a point underscored at Corona, Queens’ Tortilleria Nixtamal. The Mexican canteen—which specially makes its tortillas with fresh masa—crafts super-duper tacos and pork-packed pozole soup, but its piece de resistance is its Italian tamale. Sausage, peppers and onions sourced from local butcher Franco’s are mixed with tomato sauce and mozzarella, then folded into lard-touched masa. The gloriously affordable (just $2!) tamale is served steaming, a mess of oozy cheese, savory meat and tender grain. It’s fusion food at its finest, and least expected.


Best Attempt to Make Hot Dogs Even More Unhealthy: Bark’s Lard-Basted Frankfurters

474 Bergen St. betw. Flatbush & 5th Aves., Brooklyn, 718-789-1939
In an effort to increase the caseload of Brooklyn’s cardiologists, chefs Joshua Sharkey (Cafe Grey) and Brandon Gillis (Franny’s) recently unveiled Bark, a hotdog emporium with $3 beers, egg-biscuit breakfast sandwiches and an artery-slowing secret weapon: Each pedigreed, griddle-cooked pork-and-beef wiener is basted with smoked lard butter. The fattening slather imparts a rich nuance, like a campfire run amok. Still, no matter how many house-hewn veggies (like sauerkraut or pickles) cap the frankfurter, it’s impossible to forget that each bite will shave weeks off your lifespan.

Best Cocktail Sourcing: The Summit
133 Ave. C betw. E. 8th & E. 9th Sts.,no phone
On a strip of Avenue C untouched by fine cocktails, Greg Seider’s list at The Summit needn’t be as good as it is, but it is. While the easily amused saunter over to PDT to marvel as men in armbands bandy about oversized ice cubes, wiser winos migrate east to try the shiso leafs in Charmane’s Star, one of the “alchemist” cocktails at Summit, which are homegrown on Seider’s roof. And that’s not all—the cinnamon-infused agave is homemade from imported Vietnamese cinnamon, and the juices are all fresh squeezed. Sure, Seider is known for creating cocktail menus for more tony spots, but we’re daring folk. And when we want a fancy drink, we want to be mere blocks away from the possiblity of being shot with a BB gun.

Best Bar Idea with the Worst Execution: Superdive
200 Ave. A betw. E. 12th & E. 13th Sts., 212-448-4854
Tableside keg service, democratic access to the soundtrack, mix-your-own cocktails—what could go wrong? In a word, everything. The ideal form of Superdive—which brings what we can only imagine to be the worst of the Midwestern college town drinking experience to the East Village—is bespoilt by human nature. Douchy dudes drink until they get shouty and shovy and play hip-hop ironically at unsafe levels. Mix that with girls who are impressed, and you’ve got a problem. As Sartre said, hell isn’t Superdive. It’s other people.

Best Spot to Overdose on Korean Chicken and Cheap Soju: K Town
34 W. 32nd St. between Broadway & 5th Aves., 212-643-2603
Koreatown is as gaudy and exotic as it is overpriced, with happy hour all but banned in this block-long realm of kimchi and karaoke. That’s why we’re giddy as school gals that we stumbled into the underground glory that is the techno-thumping K Town. Until 10 on weekdays (9 on Friday and Saturday), the gabby lounge discounts frosty bottles of soju to $10, while frozen mugs filled with Coors Light and Killian’s cost $3. Pair the beverages with a leaning tower of fried chicken, and meet your affordable, finger-licking Friday night.

Best Bánh Mì in a Non-Chinatown Neighborhood: Nhà Tôi
160 Havemeyer St. betw. S. 2nd & S. 3rd Sts., Brooklyn, 718-599-1820
By law, bourbon must be manufactured in Kentucky to bear that name; accordingly, and irrationally, we feel bánh mì sandwiches must hail from Chinatown. But Nhà Tôi (Vietnamese for “my house”) has blown that assumption to smithereens. Situated blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge, the tiny takeout nook serves bánh mì as unorthodox as its digs. The pho features soup ingredients (Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, cucumber and beef short rib) on a baguette, while our fave is braised beef: a weighty belly bomb composed of tender cow shards interspersed with cooling pickled carrots and hot peppers. Is it classical Vietnamese? No, but it’s a new classic.

Best Unexpected Burger: Sel de Mer
374 Graham Ave. betw. Conselyea St. & Skillman Ave., Brooklyn, 718-387-4181
Under the painted gaze of bearded French sailors, Jeff Slagg serves mostly seafood at the newly opened Sel de Mer. But beneath the mussels mariner and above the fishcakes on the menu, Slagg’s slipped in a bit of prairie bounty. His burger, thick to the point of meatball, comes topped with gouda, red onions, pancetta, slightly sweet house-made pickles and sandwiched between an English muffin like a fat guy in a little coat. And despite being out of its element—previously the best burger in the nabe was at the nearby White Castle—the burger puts DuMont’s to shame.

Best Expected Burger: Minetta Tavern
9 Minetta St. betw. 6th Ave. & MacDougal St., 212-475-385
By last count, nearly one million words had been written on Pat La Frieda’s Black Label burger at Keith McNally’s newest you’ll-never-get-a-table restaurant, The Minetta Tavern. But the burger, made with a proprietary blend of dry-aged prime rib, strip and sirloin, stands plump under all the praise and cooked onions that are heaped on it. At $26 it’s pricey, but its most impressive feat is that it feels worth it, if, of course, you can get in. And who are you kidding?

Best Iced Coffee Worth the Trek to the Middle of Nowhere: Fort Defiance in Red Hook
365 Van Brunt St. at Dikeman St., Brooklyn, 347-453-6672
Despite Red Hook’s culinary resurgence, we’ll be damned if we’re spending hours on mass transit (or water taxi) to reach this desolate seamen’s neighborhood. However, St. John Frizell’s equally fancifully named café-cum-drinkery, Fort Defiance, serves one of the city’s finest java coolers. For just two smackers, we can sit at the bar and sip a soaring glass filled with square Kool Draft ice cubes and Counter Culture coffee, a brew as cold and dark as Sarah Palin’s heart. The drink is by turns a cool-me-down and a pick-me-up, giving us the energy to figure out how the heck we’re getting home.

Best Bar for Unemployed Alcoholics to Gain Sustenance:The Mark Bar
1025 Manhattan Ave. betw. Freeman & Green Sts., Brooklyn, 718-349-2340
While the recession has cost hordes of New Yorkers their jobs, there’s no need to line up for the soup kitchen. At Greenpoint’s woodsy, welcoming Mark Bar, jobless dipsomaniacs can stretch their $405-a-week unemployment check with the Economic Bailout Happy Hour. From 4 to 8  daily, drafts, wine and both well and call cocktails are cut to $3. The deal gets even better at 6, when pizza and plates of cold cuts are offered for the low fee of free. At prices like these, you can afford to make drinking your full-time occupation.

Best Uptown Dinner and Drinks on the Cheap: Vero
1483 2nd Ave. betw. E. 77th & E. 78th Sts., 212-452-3354
If you don’t know where Vero is, you could easily walk right past this tiny wine bar, which is flanked by the massive patio areas of two looming neighboring eateries. But do stop by. What Vero lacks in size and stature, it makes up for in service and satisfaction. On any given night, you might find the restaurant’s platinum-Mohawked manager behind the bar pitching in and making your drink wait as short as possible. Best of all, on Monday nights, the restaurant’s gourmet paninis come free with the purchase of a drink. Think prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella and basil aioli, portobello mushroom with spinach and olives or roasted tomatoes or smoked turkey with fontina, pesto and beefsteak tomatoes. Yum.

Best Alternative to Another Meal at Freeman’s: The National
8 Rivington St. betw. Chrystie St. & Bowery, 212-777-2177
The strip of Rivington between Chrystie and Bowery used to be the province of Freeman’s. If you wanted to eat, you’d content yourself to be smushed in at the bar awaiting your chance to eat artichoke dip and a pork chop under the disdainful eye of a flannel-clad, manorexic Paul Bunyon. No longer. Julie Dickstein and Jeremy Hogeland’s newly opened The National serves better food (check the jerk pork ribs) with less taxidermy and shorter waits.

Best Bar to Bring a Columbia Student on a Date: Amsterdam 106
938 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 106th St., 212-280-8070
Beer lovers who know their IPAs from their APAs, or who want to savor the “hints of cherry and black currant” in Wolaver’s Brown ale will thrill to the treasures on tap at Amsterdam 106. Last we visited, there were 25 beers on tap and the roster changes daily, even if the beer menu is printed weekly. This collection of impeccable beers is kept in perfect condition—at a modest cellar temperature that retains all flavor. Especially helpful are the menu notes, telling you not only about what tastes to anticipate, but also the ABV (alcohol by volume) of each brew. There are some heavy hitters here, notably the stouts, and Amsterdam 106 smartly serves these in smaller 12-ounce glasses rather than the standard pint. One example is the Southern Tier Crème Brulée Imperial Milk Stout, which has 10 percent ABV. This “deliciously creamy” dessert beer tastes astonishingly like its namesake. At the other end of the beer spectrum are plenty of trendy Indian Pale Ales (IPAs), such as Arcadia IPA, a refreshingly crisp and medium-bodied beer from Battle Creek, Michigan. While you sip your pint or 17-ounce Growler in this attractive, tin-ceilinged bar room, you can order from an extensive menu that includes all manner of mussels, great bar snacks and more.

Best Burger to Temper Midtown Rage: Anthos’ Lamb Burger
36 W. 52nd St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves.; 212-582-6900
Sometimes at work, we fantasize of inserting our sharpened No. 2 pencil—yes, we’re in a profession that requires us to use graphite—into our boss’ eye socket. Before our homicidal thoughts become reality, we abscond our desk for the soothingly decadent comfort of Anthos’ marvelous lamb burger. There’s nothing bashful about this pretty patty, studded with crushed garlic and sweet pepper and wrapped in luscious caul fat before it’s char-grilled, painted with feta-cheese sauce and planted on a sweet brioche bun. Each jaw-drenchingly juicy bite diminishes our homicidal urge, turning us as docile as, well, a lamb.

Best Move to Keep Us Fat and Happy: Pies and Thighs
166 S. 4th St. at Driggs Ave., Brooklyn,no phone
It used to be that the best fried chicken in New York was available only from the back of a bar under the Williamsburg bridge. Then, suddenly last January, it vanished and the trendily be-potbellied denizens of Williamsburg were forced to grace elsehwere for delicious skin and greasy meat. Now the repository of crispy crunchy poultry has resurrected after much delay at Pies and Thighs’ new location on the corner of South 4th and Driggs with a backyard and actual seating. Rumors place the opening date at Nov. 1, and we’re planning on being first in line.

Best Worst Name for a Bar That Serves Fab Food and Microbrews: Safe Haven Bar & Grill
689 6th Ave. at 20th St., Brooklyn, 718-369-4567
We’re sure the owners had the best intentions—what with draft lines filled with assiduously sourced microbrews and tasty overstuffed sandwiches—but then again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. “Could they have picked a more loaded name?” our friend said, ticking off all the unfortunate associations. Safe Haven allows women to abandon their infants. It’s also an organization that helps homeless families. And an online forum for self-injurers. “Nothing says getting drunk like ditching your newborn,” we said, ordering another delicious beer.


Best Place to Meet Busty European Immigrants: Deno’s Party House USA

393 8th Ave. betw. W. 29th & W. 30th Sts., 212-695-1814
Long-suffering Rangers and Knicks fans requiring liquid anesthetization, alongside construction workers and tie-loosened suits, congregate at this Garden-area lair of dubiously legal iniquity. Deno’s chief selling point is chesty, bikini-clad bartenders with Iron Curtain accents, who gyrate to bass-heavy Top 40 tunes while flashing dentally brightened smiles. Sure, the imported ladies’ best assets aren’t pouring pints of Bud or two-ingredient cocktails, but they’re a far prettier sight than suffering through another sub-par sporting event at MSG.

Best Way to Spend a Hundred Bucks and Still Leave Hungry: Txikito
240 9th Ave. betw. W. 24th & W. 25th Sts., 212-242-4730
There are two places the term “smaller is better” should never be uttered: the bedroom and the dinner table. This maxim is proven false once more at Chelsea’s Txikito (pronounced chic-kee-toe), a tapas restaurant that specializes in unsung Basque cuisine and fleecing us for all we’re worth. Yeah, wife-hubby duo Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s menu is packed with whimsical nibbles (we adore the open-faced arraultza sandwich, topped with sofrito, chorizo and quail), but the bite-size bites could leave a mouse famished. And though the prices seem innocuous, $8 a pop quickly adds up to serious scratch. Just remember to save some pocket change for a post-dinner slice of pizza.

Best—and Only—BYOB Tibetan Joint Beside the Train Tracks: Top Café Tibet
1510 Cortelyou Rd. betw. E. 15th & E. 16th Sts., Brooklyn, 718-941-2725
If a Tibetan restaurant is a relative rarity, then a BYOB Tibetan eatery situated outside a subway station, deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, is a freaking Halley’s Comet occurrence. Such is the genius of Top Café Tibet, a cheery railroad apartment of a restaurant (decorated with Dalai Lama images) churning out belly bombs like steamed momo (dumplings, available in beef or veggie) and the fluffy, baseball-size paysar, packed with piquant beef and a boiled egg. The food’s best drizzled with Top’s fiery homemade pepper condiment, which sets tongues aflame and necessitates a cool beer sourced at the adjoining, connecting deli specializing in, mystifyingly, European imports.


Best Post-Work Midtown Bar That Tourists Won’t Dare Enter:Jimmy’s Corner

140 W. 44th St. betw. 6th Ave. & Broadway, 212-221-9510
When released from our office cages, we crave an anesthetizing drink on the double. Instead of streaming downtown, we stick around Times Square, descending into a den where no Applebee’s-loving tourist dare tread: Jimmy’s Corner. The dim dive is lined with loads of boxing memorabilia, courtesy of owner and trainer Jimmy Glenn. We grab bar stools and pints of bodega-cheap brews as cold as the Arctic, bobbing along to ‘60s soul ditties as we drink ourselves into new, improved personalities, far from tourists’ flashing cameras.

Best Up-and-Coming Ethnic Sandwich: Roti Rolls
Roomali, 97 Lexington Ave. at E. 27th St., 212-679-8900
Move over, Southeast Asia! After sampling the colonial-influenced sandwiches of Thailand and Vietnam, our prediction for the hottest new Asian sandwich will come from South of the Himalayas. Among the fresh hot wraps in chewy paratha bread  are recognizable meats 

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