Eats & Drinks

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Best of Manhattan, Eat & Drink, News Our Town, News Our Town Downtown, News West Side Spirit, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, Special Sections, West Side Spirit.


Best Bagels
Mile End, Mile End Sandwich
mileenddeli.com
H&H is dead. We’ve all grieved its passing, and rightfully so, but it’s about time to move to the final stage of mourning—acceptance—and crown a new bagel empire to take its place. More dedicated writers than us have tried and failed to crown an objective champion in this contentious battle, because every individual’s bagel needs are intensely personal. That’s why we’re not even going to wade into the New York bagel battle; for us, Mile End’s Montreal-style beauties are where it’s at. They’re smaller, denser and sweeter than the dough monsters this town has become overrun with—one of these never needs toasting to improve its texture. The salt of lox plays off that honeyed sweetness perfectly, but it’s a truly satisfying meal on its own, with just a little cream cheese. Go ahead, start sending your letters.

Best Bar/Restaurant in a Hotel
NoMad
1170 Broadway, 347-472-5660,
thenomadhotel.com
Located in the “it” hotel of the moment, the NoMad Hotel, the aptly named NoMad comes courtesy of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park fame, so it’s fitting that the red-and-black interior, service, and Swiss and French-inspired fare are all flawlessly executed. Unfortunately, all that quality buzz comes at a price, and with appetizers priced at up to $24 and entrees priced at up to $78, it’s a high one. Alas, that is the price of dining next to the likes of Katie Holmes and President Obama.
Best Bar for the First Date
Peels
325 Bowery, 646-602-7015, peelsnyc.com
First dates are tricky. You don’t want to pick an overly trendy or overly foodie spot lest you come off as trying too hard, nor do you want to pick a place that’s too affordable or, given the risk that your date could turn out to be a dud, too pricey. Peels is that rare gem that offers a menu of comfort-food classics at moderate prices and an always-hoping scene that’s neither too pretentious nor so loud that conversations are impossible. Better yet, Taavo Somer (of Freeman’s fame) offers the likes of fried chicken and red quinoa salad in a room set under what is arguably the most complexion-flattering lighting in all of New York City.

Best Bar for Microbrews
Idle Hands Bar
25 Ave. B, downstairs, idlehandsbar.com
It can be hard to convince non-beer-loving friends to accompany you on your latest saison scavenger hunt. That old saw about beer being an acquired taste? Only true of the good stuff. Try to get someone who’ll guzzle PBRs all night long to venture into hoppier territory, and watch the night dry up before your eyes. That’s why Idle Hands is the perfect bar for cross-cultural drinking. Their taps rotate weekly, showcasing hard-to-find seasonal brews sourced locally and from around the country, and 50 cans and bottles on hand at all times. But they also feature one of the most extensive bourbon lists in the city (80 and counting, including their very own Evan Williams barrel) and play varieties of rock music you don’t ever hear without digging deep into the Internet jukebox. The bartenders will offer suggestions without a whiff of judgment; they’ll even make a vodka-soda without batting an eye. It’s like the U.N. of booze—bringing people together, one drink at a time.

Best Breakfast
The Breslin
16 W. 29th St., thebreslin.com
First, let’s be clear. This is breakfast we’re talking about, not brunch. There are a thousand nice brunches in this city, and 10 times more that rate at passable or waste of time. But a real breakfast? You know, served before 9 a.m., on weekdays? That’s a rare gem. That’s why we love The Breslin. It’s secretly a hotel restaurant, which means it’s open from 7 a.m. for business travelers off to a full day in the office, but it’s cheffed by April Bloomfield, the nouveau-Brit champion best known for Village gastropub The Spotted Pig. Breakfast runs the spectrum from a refreshingly light grapefruit with ginger and mint to hearty meals like poached eggs with curried lentils and yogurt or a full English breakfast. Whatever you do, don’t skip the baked goods—Bloomfield’s pastry chef makes miracles with butter and sugar, turning classic British treats like hot cross buns and cinnamon toast into manna from heaven.

Best Coffee
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
18 W. 29th St., stumptowncoffee.com
Now that the joke of the hipster coffee shop (Fedoras! Tasting notes! Those hilarious brewing contraptions!) has faded into cliché, it’s about time we all settled down and realized one very basic fact: All that seemingly excessive care makes some damned good coffee. Case in point: Stumptown. This Portland import is ripe for jokes just by its provenance; add in the baristas’ requisite headwear and the carefully rough-hewn dark wood interior, and it’s all you can do to stop your eyes from rolling. But have a cup. Their espressos are thick and rich, expertly pulled from their own Hair Bender blend, but the real revelation is the regular joe. French press-brewed from a different bean every day, this cup is sweet and fruity, hearty and aromatic without needing a drop of milk or sugar. You’ll find you only need a small cup to get you going in the morning; looks like the last laugh’s on those suckers chained to their vat of Starbucks.
Best Coffeehouse
Blue Bottle Coffee
450 W. 15th St., 510-653-3394,
bluebottlecoffee.com
Originally hailing from the Bay Area, this fast expanding mini-coffee empire still stays true to its original mission of delivering high-quality coffee, all of which is less than 48 hours out of the roaster so that it can be enjoyed at its peak flavor. To boot, all of the coffee is made from organic, pesticide-free, shade-grown beans, and the space’s streamlined seating area and décor make it the perfect spot to take a breather as you wait for your coffee (which can take a good five minutes to be prepared) and pastries. As an added bonus, the crowd at this coffee shop—heavy on fashion and design types—is always impeccably dressed.

Best Comfort Food
Congee Village
New York has been overrun by down-home faux-Southern just like mama (whose mama, exactly? Not mine) used to make “comfort food” restaurants that are so predictable you could set your watch by their menus. Mac and cheese. Burgers. Fried pickles. So on. While we love a good gut-buster every once in a while, there’s nothing particularly comforting about rolling down the street clutching your belly. Comfort, to us, comes in the form of something simple, warm and soothing, the kind of food that gives you the strength to go back out into the world. That’s what congee does. The Chinese porridge is simple in the extreme—just rice cooked down with lots of water until it gives up its shape and becomes a silky soup, doctored up with whatever meats you like and served with enough sliced ginger and scallion on top to clear any head. It sticks to your ribs in a way that’s not overwhelming—just like millions of mamas used to make.

Best Cupcakes/Sweets
Sant Ambroeus
259 W. Fourth St., 212-604-9254,
santambroeus.com
An oldie, but a goodie, Sant Ambroeus constantly delivers the most exquisite sweets in New York City. While there are a number of New York City spots to pick up butter-cream-heavy confections of delight, none melds sweet perfection with refined sophistication the way that Sant Ambroeus does. Whether you’re going for chocolate mousse cake, a hazelnut sponge finished with hazelnut butter cream, gelati, a selection of cookies or one of their fruit tarts, it’s impossible not to be completely at peace knowing that every calorie was well worth it.

Best Diner
Coppelia
207 W. 14th St., coppelianyc.com
New York City’s diner tradition is a grand one, from the 20th-century invention of the “quick lunch” restaurant to the wave of Greek immigrants who took over the scene in the ’50s and forced an institutional diversity in an era of less-than-tolerant Anglo-Saxon homogeneity. While there are still hundreds flourishing (many with the same Greek owners) across the five boroughs, many are now trying to do it different and better. Unfortunately, fancying up diner classics doesn’t make the cut; the only new diner worthy

of the name is the 24/7 Cuban-American Coppelia, where Latino comfort food meets New York classics in mac and chicharrón, burgers with yucca fries and all-night steak and eggs with rice and beans. Oh, and a dulce de leche milkshake. Bonus: Cubans know their coffee—none of that weak diner stuff here.

Best Deli
Katz’s
205 E. Houston St., katzsdelicatessen.com
Sometimes the classics are classics for reasons that are no longer relevant: institutions that have coasted on their reputations for decades, buoyed along by tourists who visit once, are disappointed, but tell all their friends about it anyway. Those friends go when they’re in town because they don’t know they have options, and so on for years. Katz’s is not one of those places. Yes, the lines are atrocious. The When Harry Met Sally sign is kitschy at best, and the celebrity photos on the walls are from a heyday that hasn’t heyed in about 20 years. But there’s no arguing with the pastrami. Or the chopped liver. Or the pickles (full sour, half sour and green tomatoes, of course). Take a friend, sit at a table-service spot along the sides, order a Dr. Brown’s, a reuben and a chopped liver, and forget you’re surrounded by Meg Ryan enthusiasts.

Best Destination Wine and Liquor Store
Warehouse Wines & Spirits
735 Broadway, 212-982-7770
For over 30 years, Warehouse Wines & Spirits has been the ultimate liquor store to get the most bang for your buck. The store is stocked to the rafters with a dizzying selection of wine and liquor, with prices as enticing as the selection. They always have several great multi-pack promotions on the shelves. The staff knows their stuff and will always point you in the right direction. Stocking up is the thing to do there. In this economy, Warehouse Wines is the go-to shopping spot.

Best Dive
The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge
543 Eighth Ave., 212-244-9045
The word “dive” gets thrown around a lot these days. Too often, people use it to describe a bar that doesn’t serve anything fancier than Heineken, is poorly lit or has some ripped upholstery. A real dive bar has an element of danger to spice up the cheap, crummy drinks and dirt—the term, after all, is said to have originated from bars where patrons had to dive under the tables whenever trouble broke out. That’s where Wakamba wins. Not only are the beers cheap, there’s a good possibility that the next bottle the bartender pulls out of the ice could be broken. Not only is the place dingy, it’s decorated with the remnants of the ancient tiki fad, moth-eaten thatch hanging over the bar and red lighting adding that “Satan’s grotto” touch. You will get stared down and sized up by everyone in the room when you walk in. But they’ll leave you alone if you observe proper dive etiquette: Keep your head down, keep drinking and always be prepared to hit the floor.

Best Dumplings
Lam Zhou HandMade Noodle
144 E. Broadway, 212-566-6933
This subterranean hole-in-the-wall in the deepest recesses of eastern Chinatown seems like it doesn’t pull any punches. The name, after all, appears to say it all. And the noodles are great; in varying thicknesses, either pan-fried or in soup. But that’s not, in fact, all they do. The minute you walk in the door, the first thing you’ll likely see is not the eponymous noodles (those are pulled in the rear kitchen) but a woman seated at one of the Formica tables, filling dumplings and laying them out in ranks on an enormous sheet pan. And the waitress, before you order anything else, will make sure you’re ordering dumplings. They come in one variety (pork and chive), and you want them fried, the underside seriously crispy while the top of the wrapper stays supple and the filling stays juicy. It’s a standout above all of the single-minded dumpling shops in town.

Best Expanding Restaurant
The Smith
55 Third Ave., 212-420-9800,
thesmithnyc.com
There are few spots in Manhattan that can deliver a killer scene minus exorbitant prices, so it’s little surprise that East Village favorite The Smith is continuing its expansion. After opening a Midtown sister location less than a year ago, the downtown hot spot has announced that it will be taking over the Upper West Side spot formerly known as Josephina. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and is expected to be as large as its Midtown location. Expect the same mild prices, comfort-food classics and bar snacks (think fish and chips and chicken and waffles). And, no trip to The Smith would be complete without a slice of their Birthday Cake, a yellow cake served with fudge frosting, vanilla ice cream and a candle.

Best Food Trend
Small plates
Tapas-style eating has been getting a lot of flak recently, with New York Times critic Sam Sifton leading the charge against “the myth of small plates meant for sharing.” We love Sifty, but this is one point on which we’re going to have to disagree. For the chronically indecisive, the miniature of appetite or the purely gluttonous, the wealth of new restaurants who put just as much care and attention into small, three-bite plates as oversized entrees is an answered prayer. Can’t decide between the lamb terrine and the prawns? Get both! Want to have both a salad and a pasta but don’t want to have to leave most of both on the plate? No problem! Want to try one of everything because each dish looks better than the last? Do it. Finally, a cause both overeaters and undereaters can get behind.

Best French Fries
The Harrison
355 Greenwich St., theharrison.com
When all you want is a serious bowl of fries, The Harrison looks like the absolute wrong place to be. The elegant Tribeca restaurant is candlelit and twinkling, all cozy nooks and white tablecloths. Steered there by a friend, your first thought is likely to be “I’m going to have to order a steak to get these fries, aren’t I?” But never fear. The Harrison is run by Jimmy Bradley, of Chelsea’s Red Cat, a longtime gallery-goer’s favorite for intensely friendly, comfortable fine dining. And those fries are featured all by themselves—“schmaltz fries with malt aioli,” to be precise. They’re double-fried in duck fat and canola oil; thicker than we usually like, the process makes them as dark and crispy as shoestrings, with an added creamy potato interior. And the side sauce is an unholy marriage of the best in European accompaniments—British malt vinegar and Dutch mayonnaise—that is intensely sweet, tart and complex. Sitting at the bar with these and a beer from their surprisingly extensive list is the absolute right place to be.

Best Frozen Yogurt
16 handles
2600 Broadway, 646-422-7022
16 Handles is the ultimate frozen yogurt shop with a social consciousness, serving the best yogurt with delicious toppings and sauces. It’s a great place to hang with friends, family or on your own, and with 16 flavors and over 50 toppings, the options are endless. Plus you can flaunt your yogurt creation and feel good about that huge dish of deliciousness by knowing that every purchase supports their mission of being green and giving back to the community. They also do private parties!

Best Italian Restaurant
Dopo Teatro
345 E. 62nd St., 646-484-6548
With so many Italian eateries in New York City, it can be difficult to find an “authentic” one—offering 100 percent home-cooked food and an ambience that transports diners to Italy, if only for an hour or two. Dopo Teatro East, which opened on East 62nd Street between First and Second avenues at the end of June, does just that. The manager, Albi Mecaj, and chef, the Italian-born Salvatore DiBella, are very attentive to diners and help them to pick the exact kind of meal they are looking for, from the main course to the beverage to the dessert.

Best Line Worth the Wait
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
328 E. 14th St., 212-228-2004, brandonlinker7.wix.com/artichokepizza
No city has people more time-crunched than New York, so if you’re going to give a spot that’s playing hard to get your time and money, you best be sure it’s worth the wait. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza is one spot that’s sure to never disappoint. Even in a city where pizza places are a dime a dozen, this frill-free joint’s mouthwatering pizzas are worth the wait, which can often stretch down the block. Luckily given that celebrities like Sophia Vergara have been known to queue up alongside us plebeians, waiting for that delicious slice of artichoke pizza can be all the more worthwhile.
Best Meal for $10 or Less
Kalustyan’s
123 Lexington Ave., kalustyans.com
The curry hill spice shop has been the stuff of legend for years. Need a pound of Thai bird chilis? They’ve got it. Looking for black garlic, red quinoa or fresh green turmeric? Easy. While it’s easy to get lost in the main-floor cornucopia, carry on upstairs, where behind a deli counter sit buckets of olives and fresh cheese, piles of samosas and six trays of some of the best Middle Eastern food around. There’s always mujadarra, an intensely flavored pilaf of caramelized onions, lentils and rice; depending on the day you’ll also find buttery eggplant salad, stewed curried chickpeas and more. A platter of three choices plus salad, pita and olives will set you back $7—grab a mango lassi from the fridge behind you for dessert and perch at one of the tin tables by the window, looking down on the neighborhood like its king. You’ll be eating like one.

Best Pizza
Patsy’s Pizzeria
2287 First Ave., thepatsyspizza.com
People will tell you that the only real New York pizza is found in Brooklyn, in the outer reaches of Staten Island or in Queens. Manhattan, they say, has been overrun by upstart Neapolitan-style restaurants, where toppings like arugula and burrata trump pepperoni and mozzarella; where a small pie feeds one, not six, and costs twice as much. We will contend that this is not necessarily a bad thing, and that there is room in our hearts and our borough for many different pizzas. But when you want a simple slice, big enough to fold in half with a crust supple enough to bend without snapping, there’s nothing like Patsy’s. It’s the coal oven that does it, delivering spots of deliciously bitter char without baking the crust to a crisp, countering the sweet tomato sauce and slightly salty dry mozzarella just right. There are no bad slices of pizza, but this one is better.

Best Place to Become a Wine Expert
Casa Oliveira Wines & Liquors
98 Seventh Avenue South, 212-929-0760
Located in the heart of the West Village, one block south of the Christopher Street/Sheridan Square subway station, Casa Oliveira offers free tastings on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. The store carries a full selection of wines and liquor. All white wines, champagne and other sparkling wines are available chilled. They open daily at noon (1 p.m. on Sunday), and are open on Friday and Saturday night until 11:30 p.m.

Best Place for Breakfast with the Crew/Best Fried Clams and Calamari
Jeremy’s Ale House
228 Front St., 212-964-3537
Jeremy’s has the coldest beer and freshest seafood, at prices everyone can afford. Its fried clams and calamari have consistently been voted the best in town. When you’re there, you also have to try the seafood stew. The bowl is big enough for two and is only $12.95. Early risers or all-nighters can try their Monday-thru-Friday eye-opener from 8 to 10 a.m. The staff is friendly, and the informal atmosphere and nine flat-screens make it the perfect place to watch your favorite sporting event.

Best Place for Late Night Snacks
H-Mart
25 W. 32nd St., hmart.com
So you’ve been lured into another K-Town Tuesday night of boozing, karaoke and self-esteem destruction. You’ve finally found your way out of the bar, skipping one last round of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and are tottering unsteadily toward the Herald Square subway station when you realize you’re going to need some starch in your system now to avoid another hungover commute in the morning. That’s where H-Mart comes in. Going to a restaurant is too daunting a task; besides, most of your friends are still at the bar communing with their inner Bonnie Tylers. At this, the only Manhattan location of this Korean supermarket chain, let your inner 8-year-old revel in the wide variety of insanely flavored snacks and sodas, plus a small but well-done selection of prepared foods like kimbap, sticky rice cakes and japchae, stir-fried clear noodles. Take your tako chips (yes, that’s octopus flavor) on the subway and start soaking up the soju. Just don’t fall asleep and miss your stop again.

Best Pub Food
Peter McManus Café
152 Seventh Ave., 212-929-9691
This Classic New York Institution has been slinging food and drinks the same way since 1936. Great cheeseburgers and corned beef sandwiches highlight the menu, all with the same smiling service. Open till 4 a.m., it’s a great place for lunch, last call and any situation in between. A must visit in Chelsea.

Best Whole Pie
Lombardi’s Pizza
32 Spring St., 212-941-7994
In 1905, Lombardi’s became America’s first pizzeria, and to this day it is regarded as not just culturally significant but one of the best pizzerias in the country. Their traditional pie is a mouthwatering blend of fresh mozzarella and a special San Marzano tomato sauce topped with romano and basil, spiced to perfection. You can’t buy a slice here, but that’s OK, because when you taste it, you will want to eat the whole thing!

Best Wine Store on the Upper West Side
Martin Brothers
2781 Broadway, 212-222-8218
In 1985, brothers Orlirio and Roberto Martin converted Las Antillas Market to Martin Brothers Wines and Spirits. After 26 years, Martin Brothers still resides on the corner of Broadway and 107th Street, managed now by second-generation Martins, daughters Carrie and Elizabeth. They offer outstanding customer service and a selection that has not been matched on the UWS, plus loyalty to their neighborhood and all who shop there.

Best UES Wine Shop
Vinyl Wine Shop
1491 Lexington Ave., 646-370-4100
Vinyl Wine features an extensive selection of off-the-beaten-path wines and craft spirits that you won’t find at most other shops. They’re known for a laid-back atmosphere where wine geeks and newbies feel equally welcome. So stop by, taste some wine, and listen to whatever they’re spinning on our old turntable that day. Free deliveries go out daily to most areas of the Upper East Side and East Harlem.

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