Oooooh, there are so many to choose from! My favorites are always changing, but here’s how I’m feeling right now. (Also, if not otherwise mentioned, sitting at the bar is my very favorite thing in any restaurant. It’s rare that I prefer a table.)
Five Points has been open forever (Probably more like 10 or 15 years, but I can’t remember it not being part of my NYC experience.), and for good reason. It was one of the first restaurants to embrace the local and seasonal concept (the same owners would go on to open Cookshop), and the food is delicious, reliable, and reasonably priced. It’s always buzzy, but you can make a reservation - or almost always walk in with minimal wait. Every meal is tasty, but they’re best at brunch, when they use the wood-fired pizza oven to bake eggs.
Unless you live there, TriBeCa is generally agreed upon to be a major pain in the ass to get to. However, for Locanda Verde, I will ride the C and walk five blocks in the cold. The brunch menu is heavy on bread (it comes with nearly everything) and eggs - but still skews Italian as opposed to French or American - and the big TriBeCa windows let in lots of lovely light.
Owned by the same group and chef as Locanda Verde, Lafayette is supposed to be a sort of all-in-one grand cafe, complete with its own rotisserie, bakery, and full restaurant. I like it best (by far) at lunch, when the space is gorgeous and the food (especially the charcuterie selection, the steak tartare, and the frisee aux lardons) is at its best. Perfect for a ladies’ lunch. Also, the canneles from the bakery are some of the best in the city. (This is one place where I prefer a table, as the bar is in the back of the restaurant and is quite dark.)
Mile End Delicatessen
Get the Grandpa, or the chicken salad sandwich with gribenes, or the burger, or…just go. Go, and order it all.
This is just a little neighborhood bistro in SoHo, but it is fast becoming one of my very favorite places. The food (especially the burger, the chicken, and the ratatouille, which is served with a poached egg) is consistently delicious, and the staff are wonderful. Great, affordable wine list, good cocktails, convenient to many trains and lots of shopping, but not overrun with SoHo tourists or assholes. It is a must.
ANOTHER Carmellini spot (I can’t quit him), the Dutch is new American with a southern twist. I’m especially addicted to the oysters, the sushi, the hangar steak with kimchi fried rice, and, new to the menu, the skate schnitzel. I also love their bartenders, who are super knowledgeable about food AND booze. They make great cocktails here.
I spend a lot of time in Brooklyn, and most of that in Prospect Heights. James is one of my top two spots there (the other follows), and for good reason. The cocktails (you’ll notice a trend) are fantastic, and the food is reliably delicious. I especially love their kale salad, their burger, and any seafood starter on offer.
This offshoot of the Franny’s empire just opened in the original Franny’s space, and it’s fantastic. Go eat alone at the marble bar (and be sure to order a Chemist in the Rye), or make a reservation (heavenly for those of us who don’t like traveling from Manhattan to wait for an hour) and order everything, but especially the fried egg with quince, the taleggio with hazelnuts, the lamb chops scottaditto, and the browned butter nut tart.
Because I trust her in all things.