An ever-evolving list of places I love in NYC. Restaurants open, close, and change menu items all the time, so please use this as inspiration rather than gospel. Want more objective NYC considerations? Try Eater (I’m particularly fond of their Heat Maps and seasonal Best Of maps) or Grub Street or The New York Times for restaurant reviews.
For even more recommendations, including newer favorites (like Win Son, Di An Di, Little Tong, The Fly), check the “NYC” (1, 2, 3…) saved Instagram Stories on @debperelman.
Related: In December 2017, I wrote down everything and everywhere I ate for a week for Grub Street. You can read it here.
And to answer a very frequently asked question, “What restaurants are kid-friendly?” All and none. Aside from the common sense of not taking your kids to heavily tweezer-ed 10-course tasting menus where they say “Chef prefers…” a lot, skipping the cocktail bars with small plates menus, and presuming your kids aren’t human tornadoes at restaurants, I think most restaurants have the potential to be kid-friendly. Go as soon as they start serving dinner and you won’t be the only person there with kids. If you’re unsure, just call them and ask how they feel about kids. If they’re unfriendly about it, well, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway. And ask if they have a kids’ menu; often they’re not published, but they have a few adapted dishes or portion sizes that could make your life easier.
A sporadically updated list of my favorite tasty things in New York City:
Baar Baar | East Village | absolutely incredible cocktails and Indian food; I dream about the dahi puri and the lamb ribs; we mostly get small plates and go for date nights
Café Altro Paradiso | West Soho | from the chef behind Estela, an Italian restaurant; I can never resist the stracciatella (inside-out burrata), the octopus is the best I’ve ever had (don’t think you’re an octopus person? you haven’t had theirs yet), and if you ask nicely, they’ll make half-portions of the pastas (so you can order more, yess).
Cervo’s | Lower East Side | tied with Bar Baar as our current favorite for date nights, this is an oyster and seafood bar (but the piri piri chicken is fantastic, too) with wines and flavors from Portugal and coastal Spain; don’t even think about skipping the crispy shrimp heads or the butterflied prawns
M. Shanghai | Williamsburg | my favorite soup dumplings, vegetable wontons in spicy peanut sauce, beef in “awesome” sauce and string beans, anywhere
St. Anselm | Williamsburg | everything comes off a grill and is exquisite; we’ve never had a bad meal
Joe’s Pizza | Greenwich Village, East Village and Williamsburg | every New Yorker has a favorite slice; this is mine (however, see below: Scarr’s)
Lan Zhou | Manhattan’s Chinatown | a Chinatown staple for hand-pulled noodles and perfect-every-time fried dumplings
Maison Premiere | Williamsburg | great place for celebrations of the oysters and champagne variety and more; a little bit Paris, a little bit New Orleans
Mimi Cheng’s | East Village | just dumplings, which are all excellent and made with quality ingredients; my favorite are the chicken-zucchini
Motorino | Multiple locations | when ramps are in season, I always get the ramp pizza, recreated here but (shh) I think the starters (fennel and orange salad, grilled artichoke, roasted peppers, octopus) are the stars of the meal
Scarr’s Pizza | a newer pizza slice place that’s giving my decades-long favorite (Joe) a run for their status; it’s okay, I can love two
Sullivan Street Bakery | Chelsea | If you know Jim Lahey’s name from so many celebrated recipes here (no-knead bread, this astoundingly good zucchini pizza), you need to go to his cafe, where there are more good things (including all of his pizzas and breads) to eat than I can count.
Via Carota | West Village | from the chefs behind Buvette and I Sodi, this is a top 3 restaurant for us; we’re obsessed with every single dish on the changing verdure menu, chicken liver toasts, and cacio e pepe. we often skip the pasta and split an entree or two, which are all tiny; they make a mean Negroni
Dante | NoHo/West Village | circa-1915 cafe that’s Italian aperitif heaven, plus they have small plates too
June | Cobble Hill | natural European wines and locally-sourced small plates, I love the decor too
Ruffian | East Village | great wine selection, changing menu, and a really passionate stuff, many whom are Tabla (Deb’s longtime favorite NYC restaurant that closed in 2010) alums
BAKERIES, SWEET STUFF and ODDS-AND-ENDS
Breads Bakery | Union Square | insane hamantaschen selection, famed chocolate babka, almond croissants
Davey’s Ice Cream | Multiple locations | best pistachio I’ve had outside Italy, chocolate almost truffle-decadent and my husband’s favorite cookies and cream
Doughnut Plant | Lower East Side | my favorite: the crème brûlée; husband’s: valrhona chocolate
Ess-a-Bagel | Stuy Town/Peter Cooper | our favorite NYC because the seed application alone is legendary; they recently reopened after a very dark year where they’d lost their lease. My advice? Their lines are staggeringly long on the weekends. Order yours for pickup (they don’t deliver, anyway) and there will be a shorter (but not nonexistent) queue for it.
Fresco Gelateria | East Village | ludicrously good homemade croissants, ferrero chocolate/hazelnut gelato and the nicest service in town
Orwashers | Upper East Side | 99 year-old bakery with awesome black and white cookies, homemade bread, doughnuts filled to order with your choice wonders
GROCERIES and SPECIALTY STORES
All The Greenmarkets | Union Square + Grand Army Plaza especially | there’s a reason why NYC Greenmarkets are so special: every single thing, including the flour for bread, is grown within a 100-mile radius of NYC; you’d be crazy to come to NYC in the summer and not walk through Union Square piled high with everything fresh and delicious on earth at least once
Buon Italia | Chelsea Market | Italian specialties, but mostly I load up on my favorite pasta, Setaro, which is inexpensive to boot
Despaña Foods | Soho | imported Spanish specialties including amazing selection of sherry vinegars, jamon, tinned fish + great simple tapas and sandwiches
Kalustyan’s | Kip’s Bay | stock up on every spice on earth, the most enchanting baklava selection, the mujadarra and vegetable soup from the prepared food fridge are longtime favorites of mine
Murray’s Cheese | Greenwich Village and Grand Central | famous for a reason; not to be missed if you love cheese
New York Cake and Baking Co. | Madison Square/Chelsea | if you’re a baker, it’s not to be missed.
Pickle Guys | Lower East Side | have been there since before pickles were hip; old-school Jewish pickles and more; amazing fresh horseradish for Passover, really nice staff
Saxelby Cheese | Chelsea Market | 100% American farmstead cheese, mostly from the Northeast; a unique selection!
Bonnie Slotnick | East Village | possibly the greatest place on earth for a cooking lover, Bonnie sells used cookbooks and is an encyclopedia of cookbook knowledge; she is almost always there and one of the nicest people in New York; the shop recently relocated from its longtime home in the West Village
Kitchen Arts & Letters | Upper East Side | a cookbook store with passionate staff
* I kind of hate having to say this at all, but just wanted to footnote that I still have a ‘no free stuff’ policy on Smitten Kitchen. Everything listed on this page is a reflection of something we sought out on our own, and paid for with our own pocket change. And the kids’. We shake them down for loose change all the time.