THE RESTAURANTS, COFFEE SHOPS & BARS
Box Kite Coffee
128 W. 72nd Street | (212) 574-8203
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cubbyhole on the Upper West Side (there’s an East Village location too), Box Kite is a place where coffee lovers can unite. The friendly baristas chat openly about their caffeinated passions, and indulged us in the same. While narrow and spare, the space isn’t one that’s rushing you out the door as soon as you have your order. USB wall charging outlets and slow-drinking indulgences like the miraculous, taste-the-rainbow Unicorn encourage you to sidle up and stay a moment.
239 Centre Street | (212) 226-0700
SoHo’s twee, toile-decked café is something out of a French country daydream, its imported farmhouse tables and decor an inviting departure from the activity beyond. Though Maman’s increasingly recognizable blue-and-white cups have become an Instagrammer’s go-to, serious coffee from Toby’s Estate and a Michelin chef-driven menu help this spot transcend the hype.
164 Mott Street | N/A
When sunny Aussie café culture meets a whitewashed, exposed brick oasis, good things happen. At least that’s what we could deduce from Mott Street’s exuberant Two Hands. Coffee artistry (and a rather impressive succulent collection) abounds here, feeling more like a treasured daily ritual than a mere caffeine pit stop.
441 E. 12th Street | firstname.lastname@example.org
This pretty corner café with a European vibe is a very pleasant place to stop for a midday cappuccino break. At once feminine and classically “New York”, you’ll want to join the swarm of regulars perched on tufted armchairs, lost in a book or a dainty cup of joe.
BREAKFAST & FIRST THINGS
35 E. 18th Street | (212) 475-5829
Step into Jean-Georges’ modern barn brunch heaven, as refined as it is rustic. Chandeliers and pendant lamps toss soft light on displayed baskets overflowing with a farm’s bounty. Elegant ranunculus and antique fine China share real estate with corrugated cardboard coasters, kraft paper mats and corners of tangled branches, giving the room an enchanted forest quality. And then there’s the food: fluffy fried oysters on a bed of spicy butter-whipped eggs, crisp micro greens with chile-dusted shrimp, simple snap peas, pea toast atop crusty sourdough, frothy cocktails and coffee in heartwarming mini-pitchers. Needless to say, we can’t wait to get back.
170 Elizabeth Street | (212) 730-1950
Make the pilgrimage to Elizabeth Street’s quiet, tree-lined stretch for this fresh bagel mecca. With combos like spicy hummus and eggplant, Burrata and pesto and Meyer lemon cream cheese with salmon salad, anyone would be a happy camper. But then you focus on the bagels – honey water-boiled rounds of perfectly proportioned dough – and you realize the rest is merely the schmear on top.
24 5th Avenue | (212) 868-2424
Morocco and Key West ran off to Paris at Claudette, a perfect Saturday afternoon of a place in the heart of The Village. With white-fleured ceilings and our three favorite words, “Rosé on Tap”, as our foundation, we lingered and luxuriated over perfect cocktails from rattan bar stools, admiring the unequivocally cheerful tiled walls.
38 Macdougal Street | (212) 475-7500
It only takes a moment to become smitten with Hundred Acres, falling under its sweet farmhouse spell almost immediately. Brunch standbys get a refresh (see: cast iron griddle ricotta pancakes, trout roe-topped deviled eggs, and heirloom tomato bakes), and it gets tough to decline a second (or third) beverage when it’s as good as a Grapefruit Cooler.
Balthazar Bakery & Restaurant
80 Spring Street | (212) 965-1414
There’s a reason that this legendary brasserie lives on: it is undeniably excellent every time. What’s even more impressive is that the takeout specialties at the Poilâne-esque bakery manage to equal the mastery of the seated petit dejeuner at the restaurant proper.
DRESSED DOWN COOL
345 Park Avenue South | (212) 686-1006
You walk into a preserved lemon-lined foyer, and you instantly know you’re somewhere special. Whimsical Wayne Pate illustrations and superb interior stylings aside, it’s the wildly successful delivery of cuisine with “familiar rusticity” that still has us craving our vivid food memories. With one of us having hailed from the very town for which Chef Justin Smillie named his culinary homage, we can enthusiastically attest to his spot-on translation of the citrus groves and hazy foothills of childhood recollection. But dishes like a chicken sandwich with hot horseradish mustard, farro + chickpea salad and spicy soppressata pizza take our comfort fare favorites to decidedly loftier heights. The combination is irresistible, and one not to be missed.
38 E 19th Street | (212) 677-2233
We continue to be amazed at Jean-Georges’ deft mastery of widely different cuisines, presenting them in wholly original (and delicious) ways. Not only do ABC Cocina’s seductive margaritas and tasty takes on guacamole or tacos rival anything we’ve had in L.A., but every decor detail and service beat has obviously been carefully considered. The result is a softly industrial space that succeeds in being both satisfying and fun.
18 Greenwich Avenue | (212) 647-1818
A quick climb up to Rosemary’s rooftop garden flush with mustard greens, fragrant mint and ping pong radishes tells you all you need to know about the heart of this wonderfully familial trattoria. Embracing its “in the middle of it all” locale, this is a place for meeting old friends and making new ones. Easily shareable foccace, cheese plates and caponata help that endeavor along, as does a beautiful, Italian-based wine list.
35 E. 21st Street | (212) 913-9659
We remember the days when it was said that there was no decent Mexican food to be had within the Five Boroughs, and can safely say that such statements have evaporated with Cosme’s explosion onto every friend or critic’s “best” list we encountered in our trip’s lead-up. Though we are well-versed in all manner of traditional Latin ingredients, it was the subtlety in Chef Enrique Olvera’s poetic interpretations that floored us. It doesn’t hurt that the gallery-lit room is the perfect space in which to savor and sip one’s mezcal.
47 E. Houston Street | (212) 219-7693
A diminutive dining destination on an unvarnished Nolita stretch, Estela looks like your standard teeming bar scene at first blush. Closer inspection reveals a thoughtful wine and cocktail list, however, and perhaps even more impressive, an undeniably delicious collection of hearty, flavorful bites. Once we snagged a hot seat at the bar, we commenced pairing Oaxacan Holidays with ricotta dumplings and went on a foodie journey that never took a wrong turn.
42 Grove Street | email@example.com
We’re certainly not the first to discover Buvette or her infinite Parisienne appeal, but even we are surprised at how unabashedly, authentically enchanting Jody Williams’ gastrotheque continues to be. A petite cavern for sharing cassoulet and confidences, it is as much an emblem of its cinematic West Village corner as it is its French provenance. Our beliefs about Buvette are threefold: she is one of New York’s best, she is always worth the wait and her holy tarte tatin should never be declined.
110 Waverly Place | (212) 777-0303
As with all venerated institutions, the question of Babbo’s continued relevance is one we’re game to answer in the affirmative again and again. A between-brownstones façade on Waverly, this is the kind of NYC landmark we love to visit. Rock, classic and otherwise, blares from the good-natured speakers and whatever else you may have heard, the pastas are what you reserve your back-up stomach for. Chianti-stained pappardelle ragu with short ribs so delicate they fall off the bone is as excellent as a sea urchin special. And if the main courses weren’t such stars, desserts such as olive oil cake, Samoa chocolate cheesecake and a trio of fluffy cookies may threaten to upstage them.
54 East 1st Street | (212) 677-6221
As a Blood, Bones & Butter buff, you can feel as though you’ve known chef Gabrielle Hamilton for years. So finally ducking beneath her trademark pink awning into the space she so vividly conceived on the page, and to find it thriving fifteen years on, feels like something of a triumph you were rooting for all along. A Dolly Parton lilt sings soprano to a bassline of clinking coupes, while delectables like shrimp toasts and 3 Rum Punch appear in perfect time. The overall feel is one of somewhere special, the overall experience one to remember.
181 Thompson Street | (212) 254-3000
This retro temple of good old red sauce Italian cooking feels like a star-powered tribute to Il Mulino (another Gather soft spot). Walking a smart duality of both old school and new, Carbone mines standbys like spaghetti vongole and veal parmesan and serves them up in a place that’s equally appealing for date nights or group dinners, birthday parties or celebratory drinks.
42 E. 20th Street | (212) 477-0777
It’s difficult to decide whether the warm sophistication of the Dining Room or the walk-up refinement of the bar is more delightful, since Gramercy Tavern does both so well. A bucolic theme suffuses the space in familiar comfort, and the food, always inventive, has never left us anything but happy and full.
NIGHTCAPS & DESSERTS
35 E. 76th Street | (212) 744-1600
Not only are the namesake storybook artist’s most whimsical creations everywhere you look, but they seem to infuse the very air with a nostalgic, feel-good charm. The city’s most original nightspot practices throwback chic of the rarest order in its Old Cubans and Passion Royales, in its ‘bar snacks’ and venerable nightly jazz musician lineup. It is both a stalwart resistor to frivolity and the gentlest reminder that a proper night on the town can still be unforgettable.
55 Irving Place
A flat-out cool interpretation of a time traveler’s speakeasy, Dear Irving is just as fun and whimsical as you think it’s going to be. Our particular group was enamored of the grapefruit-loaded Vice Versa, a killer mezcal-driven Paloma and the surprisingly smooth-drinking Hero of Little Venice on the night in question, but we suspect you can’t really go wrong here.
High Line Hotel Courtyard | (212) 929-3888
Reminiscent of an irresistible Italian rooftop, Alta Linea is all about unabashed aperitivi enjoyment, a pastime we can wholeheartedly get behind. Set along The High Line Hotel’s picture-perfect garden, coupes of ‘originals’ with names like Lovely Day ensure you’ll have nothing less than just that.
The Bar at Baccarat New York
28 W. 53rd Street | (212) 790-8800
If a dose of bombshell old New York glam is what you’re looking for from your digestif scene, this is where you’ll find it. Grand, glossy and bedecked in Baccarat chandeliers (naturally), this is a great place to rev up a girls’ night out or to celebrate something wonderful, and the view from the Tuileries-inspired terrace is truly a sight to behold.
The NoMad Bar
1170 Broadway | (212) 796-1500
Full of nooks, crannies and cozy enclaves made for tucking in, The NoMad’s bar spaces are some of our favorite spots to hole up. Sassy-good cocktails like The Forbidden Dance and Red Light play nicely with elevated bar food fare (especially the inexplicably good pot pie!)