VMAN's Guide To Dining Out In NYC

VMAN's Guide To Dining Out In NYC

In the city of endless options, where new restaurants are coming and closing every day, choosing where to eat (and more importantly, where to drink) can be a major headache. Don't worry, we've got you covered

In the city of endless options, where new restaurants are coming and closing every day, choosing where to eat (and more importantly, where to drink) can be a major headache. Don't worry, we've got you covered

Text: Michael Russo

Let’s be honest: you haven’t been getting out as much as you ought to.

Don’t get defensive. We’ve all been there – startled awake on a Saturday morning, a half-eaten container of Pad Thai teetering at the edge of the mattress, Netflix barreling unapologetically into the third season of that show all your friends are watching… you know, the one with that guy in it? Yeah, that one.

It was a rough winter, and maybe spring hasn’t been all that great, either. But you live in New York!  A privilege for which the rent on your studio apartment far exceeds the mortgage payment on your childhood home. Why not double-down on years of reckless, irresponsible decision-making and treat yourself to a proper night out?

Of course, you don’t want to go to any old restaurant. You’re sick of trolling Open Table on Friday afternoon, picking at the scraps of played-out Meatpacking supper clubs and midtown tourist traps reserved almost exclusively for parental visits—no, you’d rather leave your friends wide-eyed in amazement as you casually extoll the virtues of the chef’s tasting menu at that impossibly chic bistro with an unlisted phone number and a six month wait list.

CHECK OUT VMAN’S SPRING 2016 GUIDE TO DINING OUT IN NEW YORK →

LILIA

SPAGHETTI WESTERN

Six months is beginning to feel like a modest proposition for dinner at New York’s hottest restaurants these days—a verity cast into sharp relief by the introduction of Momofuku Nishi, the latest installment in David Chang’s stampede-inducing stable of restaurants. Chang, after all, is the master of the never-ending wait list. But Nishi, which opened to mixed reviews, has proved no match for the buzz that’s propelled Lilia, the celebrated Italian outpost of chef Missy Robbins, to the fore of the city’s culinary scene. This has been a particularly tough table for months, even for the well-heeled Williamsburg crowd: friends solicit one another for an introduction to a hostess in the same manner that one might enquire after a serviceable weed dealer in a new city; Google alerts are set, in vain, to announce openings on the restaurant’s online reservation system, which is stubbornly booked solid even as new dates are released.

All of which begs the question: is any food worth this level of jockeying? Once you’ve taken a seat in the restaurant’s airy, industrial dining room and sampled the kitchen’s coastal Italian dishes, there isn’t much of a question at all. The offerings are light, crisp, zesty: grilled scallops burst forth with the delicate flavor of a yogurt broth, grilled squid is tender and kissed with fresh lemon, and pastas—particularly the rigatoni diavolo and the ricotta gnocchi, tossed in a mouth-watering broccoli pesto—are guaranteed to vanquish even the most itinerant gluten-free diner.

Momofuku Nishi (232 Eighth Avenue, Chelsea; 646-518-1919)

Lilia (567 Union Avenue, Williamsburg; 718-576-3095)

BARANO

DON'T SAVE US FROM THE FLAMES

The wood-burning grill is rightly enjoying a star turn of late. At Barano, chef Al Di Meglio (best known as mastermind of cult favorite pizza joint Rubirosa) has crafted a menu to evoke his familial roots in the South Italian isle of Ischia: signature dishes like lamb leg and chicken are spit-roasted and finished on the grill, as are the pizzas, which are crafted from a slow-fermented dough that takes on the delicate texture of a flaky pastry. The elegant dining room is apportioned into intimate nooks and glimmers under a canopy of deco fixtures, the handiwork of Brooklyn-based design team Home Studios. Pasquale Jones, meanwhile, offers its own extensive menu of wood-fired fare—char-grilled cauliflower, cuttlefish, and specialty pizzas like little neck clam and black trumpet mushroom—in a modern dining room that thrums with energy, fueled by a boisterous soundtrack and a go-go clientele that’s likely to show up again for brunch the next day with nary a wink of shut-eye.

Barano (26 Broadway, South Williamsburg; 347-987-4500)

Pasquale Jones (187 Mulberry Street, NoLiTa; 917-472-7230)

LE TURTLE

SWEET SEDUCTION

Speaking of soundtracks—who is rocking the decks at Le Turtle? Someone buy this guy a drink, whoever he is. For my money, this remains the coolest, funnest (and—dare I say it—the tastiest) restaurant in New York right now. The vibe is exuberant, the décor bordering on tacky—think David Lynch, stranded in South Beach—all neon and white tile and plywood, pink mohair and gold foil and poured concrete. Servers in moss grey monkey suits squeeze past a bar thronging with bright young things, and those who wish they were bright young things, and for a moment the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if the kitchen can dish up a meal commensurate to the spectacle. It does. Highlights include the waygu beef, kohlrabi bisque, and the improbably named lollipop kale; and if none of this is sounding particularly French, let that be a testament to the uninhibited New Wave vision of co-owners Taavo Somer and Carlos Quirarte.

Le Turtle (177 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side; 646-918-7189)

EMMY SQUARED

INVASIVE SPECIES

Let’s get back to pizza, shall we? One of the more refreshing trends afoot in New York dining (to this Midwesterner, at least) is the incursion of mouth-watering regional pies from Detroit and St. Louis – just to drive the final nail (or two, or three, or four) into the coffin of that summer diet. I’m speaking, respectively, of Emmy Squared in Williamsburg and Speedy Romero on the Lower East Side. Emmy Squared’s pizza menu consists entirely of rectangular pan-style pies with a fried, crispy crust; highlights include the mushroom-covered Angel Pie and the eponymous Emmy, topped with mozzarella, banana peppers, onions, and ranch. So addictive is this pizza that after three visits, I have yet to venture to the downstairs bar, where I’m told the burgers are equally tantalizing. Speedy Romero’s LES signature, the Saint Louie, is piled with Italian meats and chilis, topped in a creamy Provel cheese (a St. Louis specialty shipped in by co-owner and chef Justin Bazdarich), and baked in—what else?—a wood-fire oven. It’s also open late, a welcome development for those willing to suffer the indignity of traversing the Lower East Side after midnight on aFriday.

Emmy Squared (364 Grand St, Williamsburg; 718-360-4535)

Speedy Romeo LES (63 Clinton Street, Lower East Side; 212-529-6300)

MIDNIGHTS

NIGHT BITES

Supposing pizza’s not your thing, the kitchen at the endlessly buzzed-about The Lucky Bee is open late on weekends—which, realistically, might constitute your only shot at landing a table for the foreseeable future. Brooklyn-bound revelers will be pleased to discover Midnights, a fantastic and aptly named cocktail bar and restaurant that’s stumbling distance from the Bedford L stop. The dinner menu, served until 10:30pm, includes oysters, sashimi, mussels and a savory short rib rendang; but the real treasure here is the late night menu, served until 3am on select nights, and features a selection of culinary offerings (duck fritters, Maine crabcake, buffalo tempura cauliflower) that far outpaces the competition. If late night isn’t your thing, there’s also a spacious backyard deck that seems ready made for marathon brunches—talk about knowing your market.

The Lucky Bee (252 Broome Street, Lower East Side; 917-262-0329)

Midnights (149 North 6th Street, Williamsburg; 718-384-6961)

Credits: BARANO, EMMY SQUARED, MIDNIGHTS: PHOTOS COURTESY ALEX STANILOFF

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