East Village

Au Za’atar

Fig Crostini, Au Za'atar

Au Za’atar has already gotten a lot of press for a little restaurant in the East Village. This may be because a) it may be the only Arabian-French bistro in the city, and b) it is a new family-run restaurant on Avenue A, where just a block away a neighborhood pub was recently supplanted by the glowing specter of a 7 Eleven. (more…)

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Narcissa

Back Dining Room, Narcissa

Narcissa is the new restaurant in an odd, L-shaped space that they said couldn’t be saved. When Sam Sifton reviewed the old tenant Faustina here in 2010, he praised Scott Conant’s food but said “no matter the meal, you will eat it uncomfortably…in what is unmistakably an institutional setting.”  (more…)

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Alder

When Wylie Dufresne’s 71 Clinton Fresh Food opened in 1999, it was notable – and notorious – for luring wealthy uptown diners to the Lower East Side, then the land of artists and immigrants. Blocks away from early hipster hangout Max Fish, Clinton Street was clogged with black Town Cars loitering outside while their well-heeled charges dined inside, drawn by news of Dufresne’s molecular gastronomy.  (more…)

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Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue

“The best barbecue comes from someone’s backyard,” D. said, recounting childhood times in Georgia when he and his dad would track down the local guy with an outdoor pit, ring the front bell and exchange money for a styrofoam container of pulled pork or ribs. This might be a little too Texas Chainsaw Massacre for me, but the point still stands. I have been in the big backyard that is Smorgasburg on the banks of the East River, waiting in line with dozens of other people for a taste of Mighty Quinn’s barbecue there. Follow the scent of wafting smoke and queue up for some very good ‘cue.  (more…)

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Fonda

For chefs and diners, Mexican is often the food of compromise. It may be challenging to round up a gang for a meal of foie gras doughnuts in Bed Stuy, but I never have any problems getting anyone to go out for margaritas in Manhattan. And if the Mexican restaurant in question also happens to serve excellent food, everybody wins.  (more…)

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Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter

Remember when dinner and a drink in the East Village would set you back less than $20? Despite the number of more expensive places opening up in the neighborhood, one new restaurant has nostalgic appeal not just in the comfort food but in the price: Southern-themed Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter on Avenue C.  (more…)

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Minca

Exterior 2, Minca

Everyone has a favorite ramen place, but the one that comes up over and over again among downtown denizens is Minca. This tiny East Village spot has less than 20 seats, but on most nights they’re full of people slurping down noodles.  (more…)

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Empellon Cocina

Guacamole, Empellon Cocina

Empellon Cocina is not a Mexican restaurant.

If you’re looking for a big, messy plate of chicken enchiladas for cheap, head elsewhere. The East Village may be Mary Ann’s territory, but at Empellon Cocina, chef Alex Stupak doesn’t do enchiladas – or messy, or cheap. What he does do is use Mexico as a jumping off point for incredibly creative, globalized cuisine.  (more…)

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Edi & the Wolf

Interior Edi & the Wolf

We weren’t sure what to expect from Edi & the Wolf, a new Austrian place that opened on Avenue C. The stein-pounding din of Zum Schneider across the street? The restrained elegance of Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Wallsé?

Neither, as it turns out. Edi & the Wolf introduces New York diners to a different breed of Austrian restaurant, the type that’s usually attached to a wine cellar and serves typical Austrian fare like schnitzel and spätzle. It’s the brainchild of Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban of Seäsonal, an Austrian place that was overlooked by many New York critics until it earned a Michelin star(more…)

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Brindle Room

Though it’s a noble goal, authenticity isn’t always what you want when seeking out imported regional specialties. Take saucissons bourguignons. Few New Yorkers would likely complain that there isn’t enough tripe in French sausages here. Just pork and beef is fine, thanks.

Interior, Brindle Room

Likewise, though authentic poutine has its devotees in Quebec, you might not want to recreate it exactly. Fast food fries slathered in mystery-meat gravy and piled with heaps of cheese that’s a cross between regular and cottage cheese is an acquired taste, even in a drunken state at 1am – which is generally when poutine is consumed in Montreal, under the fluorescent lights of a take-out shop. (more…)

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Xi’an Famous Foods

Ever get a yen for a cold, spicy salad made with…lamb face? Chances are you haven’t, but once you’ve had this and some of the other unusual offerings at the new Xi’an Famous Foods on St. Mark’s place, you may start to crave it.

Buckwheat Cold Noodles, Xi'an Famous Foods

A welcome addition to a street that’s already rife with Asian food places, Xi’an Famous Foods ups the ante by upping the spice content, a lot. One bite of cold buckwheat noodles ($5, item A3), above, and you may start to cry – for a good reason. The amount of fresh horseradish is intense, counterbalanced by cilantro, bean sprouts and sesame oil. As with the fat, hand-pulled noodles that go into many of the dishes here, the buckwheat noodles are made fresh every day. (more…)

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Lunch: Ippudo

The most popular restaurant in my neighborhood is one I haven’t been able to visit until now. Every time I walked by Ippudo, it was mobbed, the plate glass window full of the forlornly hungry faces of gastro tourists and dedicated locals. Waits were usually an hour or more, which meant we usually walked away shaking our fists and saying, “It’s just soup, people! Get a grip!”

Akamaru Modern Ramen With Egg, Ippudo NY

In cases like this, you usually try to console yourself by getting the same dish in a nearby alternate restaurant. But now that I’ve actually been able to eat at Ippudo, I can report that it can be revelatory – and not nearly the same as your average ramen place around the corner. (more…)

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The Redhead

The Redhead has been playing hard to get for some time now. Though she lives right near by me, every time I stopped by for dinner, she was booked, with waits of an hour or more. Ever since Bruni gave her a star – an honor that many similarly casual spots don’t earn – the Redhead’s dance card has been full.

Low Country Shrimp, the Redhead

The only answer is to persevere, because this is one small, inexpensive, urban-rustic place that merits the hype. Unlike so many other places that are carefully set-designed to look like a diamond in a rough but are really just rough, the Redhead has real polish in the food and service. (more…)

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Lunch: Dos Toros

No matter how much New Yorkers try to claim their city’s superiority in various areas—culture, music, fashion, 24-hour delivery of anything you desire—there is one category in which we must concede defeat: availability of good, authentic Mexican food. California has always had us beat in this department. It’s not that we are unaware of the problem. It’s just that, like many great quandaries of the day, we don’t know how to fix it.

Dos Tors, Interior

Fortunately, two brothers from San Francisco, Leo and Oliver Kremer, arrived in the city determined to recreate Mission-style Mexican here in New York. The new Dos Toros taqueria near Union Sqare provides a much-needed upgrade to the Mexican food situation in Manhattan, which, unlike Brooklyn and Queens, hasn’t benefited from the recent uptick in good taquerias. (more…)

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Lunch (and Late Night): Luke’s Lobster

One advantage of lobster rolls is that no one can dismiss them as the next burger/pizza/fried chicken: everyone already said that a couple years ago when Ed’s Lobster opened. Defying food trendiness, lobster rolls have remained popular and even inspired an online frenzy when Luke’s Lobster opened last week. Why? Because when well made, lobster rolls are darn good – and provide some justification for living up nahth, as they’d say in Maine.

Lobster Roll, Luke's Lobster

Started by 25-year-old Maine native Luke Holden, Luke’s Lobster adds some interesting new elements to the New York lobster roll scene. (more…)

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