It’s happening. I am actually putting pen to paper – er, keyboard – and writing down my restaurant recommendations. Since moving to Manhattan, I’ve been the source for friends, family and colleagues in search of the perfect date spot, family dinner or brunch with friends. Give me a neighborhood, preferred cuisine and atmosphere, and I’m off on a tangent. It’s one of my most favorite activities; I get to rant about food and make people happy.
I should also note that I have a weirdly specific memory when it comes to food and can probably tell you exactly what I ordered at each location. I won’t bore you – but feel free to inquire!
So – for those of you who’ve asked for it, my restaurant guide is HERE! I’m kicking things off with the utterly charming West Village. Picturesque brownstones, cobblestone side streets, and really freakin’ delicious food. Note that I really had to limit myself – there are just so many good spots. These are my tried and true favorites!
- L’Artusi | Always my first recommendation for dinner. Ambiance is classic and modern, not edgy, and you cannot find more flavorful, well-made pastas in the city. It won’t break the bank, with pastas coming in around $18-$20 and meats and fish below $30. Ingredients are fresh and you can taste the quality. Good luck reserving on OpenTable – but don’t worry, you can usually snag a table as a walk-in, or eat at their beautiful bar! Menu tip: Order the Kale salad. I know. I know. But trust me – they sprinkle magic on this super simple dish. Attire: I’d go a step above jeans.
- Injera | I do realize that Ethiopian food is not for everyone. If it’s for you: go. I had a few Ethiopian experiences prior to visiting Injera. They were fine. I felt…adventurous and confused. But the moment I walked into Injera, I knew it was different. The owners make you feel like you’re part of the family, and the family is cool. The interior is dark and sexy and they have live jazz music a few nights a week. Oh, and did I mention it’s hands down the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had? Menu tip: I’m not too helpful here, I’ve only ever ordered the vegetarian combination as an entree. But everything is perfect, and the sambussa is divine. Attire: Dressy jeans. It’s a lounge-like vibe.
- The Clam | If you’re not into the namesake, I’d recommend you skip this spot. But if you love clams and shellfish, move this to your number one must-try. Incredibly flavorful dishes with creative twists and delicious cocktails. Also, they do the veggie sides really well (cauliflower with spiced yogurt, lookin’ at you), which means a lot to me. Menu tip: Fried Clam and lobster sliders? Yes. Please. Attire: Dressy but nothing crazy.
- Fish | No frills seafood. The menu is big and mostly affordable, but if you’re dining with someone who doesn’t enjoy seafood, skip it. It’s for seafood lovers like me who just want a big ol’ pile of shellfish and a cold beer. Also, anywhere that allows peanut shells on the floor (at the bar) is okay by me. So, I guess that also means you should skip if you have a peanut allergy. Menu tip: Clam chowder. Fried clams. Mussels. It’s all so good. When you move to “The Works” on the menu, things get pricier – so I stick to the stuff above it. Attire: Nobody cares.
- Taim | This – and 12 Chairs – is as close as it gets to Israel in NYC. Taim gets busy at lunch – but pushing through the crowds to get your freshly fried falafel and disappearing into the first bite feels like Tel Aviv for me. Menu tip: Red falafel platter if you’re into spice. If you’re into gas (but also really tasty food), order the sabich. Attire: Just pretend you’re in Tel Aviv. Let me translate: Birkenstocks, jean shorts and some attitude.
- Alta | A little pricey, but reliably exciting and flavorful food makes it worth the trip. The ambiance is transformative and the tapas menu has enough bites to please everyone at your table. Menu tip: Fried goat cheese with lavender honey. Need I say more? Attire: dress to impress.
- Meme Mediterranean | Nothing says West Village to me more than eating outside at a sidewalk table on a warm evening at Meme Mediterranean. Understated elegance is their strength; order a few things to nosh on and you’ll be amused at how Instagram-worthy your tabletop will appear. Meme seems like the kind of place that was cooking with all of the now-trendy ingredients before it was cool. Menu tip: I never pass up fried artichoke and they do it well here – but you really can’t go wrong. Attire: a step above jeans.
- Mole |Because sometimes you need to consume a bowl of guacamole and a margarita as your meal – and the best way to do so is on a crisp fall evening while people watching at the corner of Jane and Hudson.
- Palma | Good, clean Italian. High quality ingredients. A little on the pricey side, but a great escape from the city.
- Murray’s Cheese Bar | How can a restaurant born from a cheese shop ever be bad? Picture: a glass of wine and a beautiful cheese board perfectly paired with all kinds of mystical honeys and spreads.
- Turks and Frogs | Escape to this nook in the winter, order a bottle of wine or hot mulled wine, and thank me for introducing you to the coziest, non-sceney wine bar around.
- Pizzetteria Brunetti | You can get life-changing pizza in Manhattan, but if you’d rather not wait 2+ hours for a Neapolitan-style pie, make a reservation (yes they take them!) at Pizzetteria Brunetti. If it’s warm, sit in the back garden. Order the funghi e cipolle pizza and call it a day.
Sweet Nightcaps (because every meal should end with a stroll – and something sweet):
- Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
- Maison Kayser (yes, I know it’s a chain but it is really that good)