I lived in New York City for 4 years after college, and even though I moved to Chicago two years ago, I still miss New York all the time. Here are some of my favorite spots from my time living in the city:
–Eleven Madison Park – undoubtedly one of the top 5 restaurants in the city, and my favorite in that echelon. Excellent experience, cool menu concept, fantastic service, very cool grand space. Not cheap, obviously. They also do a great lunch which is cheaper and easier to get into.
–Babbo – an oldie but still very very good. The restaurant that really put Mario Batali on the map. Actually not crazy expensive, but hard to get into.
–The Modern – restaurant located right in the museum of modern art – very cool spot, obviously, and the food is great.
Solid places that are probably a step down but are really good:
–ABC Kitchen – latest restaurant from Jean-Gorges. A bit trendy, but delicious and fun.
–Locanda Verde – Andrew Carmellini’s Italian place in TriBeCa – great spot, though it might be a better call for brunch actually come to think of it.
–Minetta Tavern – Great old-school French style brasserie kicked up a number of notches…hard to get into but delicious.
Places that are very worth checking out and are a touch cheaper than the others up there:
–The Breslin – Located inside the Ace Hotel, which is a really cool space; April Bloomfield place, meaning it’s rather rich and over the top but delicious.
–Momofuku Ssam Bar or Noodle bar – David Chang. Enough said.
–Fatty ‘Cue – Zak Pelaccio’s Asian-inspired bbq place
–Alta – Tapas place in a beautiful setting that has been around for a long time…but is still really solid.
–Maialino – Italian spot owned by Danny Meyer. Boomtown.
–Blue Smoke – My favorite bbq place in the city (also a Danny Meyer spot)
–Rubirosa – Updated version of the classic little Italy italian spot. Very tasty.
–Hecho en dumbo – Upscale mexican that is pretty good
–Barrio Chino – Another upscale mexican that is quite good
–Tamarind – Upscale Indian spot that is tasty tasty
–Kin Shop – Upscale thai spot that is legit
–Perilla – New American spot that is very good
Cheaper ethnic restaurants / late night spots:
–Otto – Batali’s entry-level Italian spot…quite cheap and good, with an excellent wine list. fun spot.
–Grand Sichuan – awesome authentic sichuan restaurant (especially the east village location)
–Mamoun’s – cheap hole in the wall falafel place – good late night spot
–Caracas Arepas – venezuelan arepas spot in the east village. awesome.
–Veselka – 24 hour polish diner in the east village – great last night spot
–Pommes Frites – excellent french fries. also great late night.
–Joe’s Shanghai – good spot for soup dumplings, if you’re into that kind of thing
Top cocktail spots:
–Pegu Club – the original fancy cocktail spot
–Death and Company – Pegu and Death & Co are the two best cocktail spots in the city, in my opinion. Wide variety of inventive cocktails, good settings for both, though Pegu is big and Death and Co is very small.
–Cienfuegos – owned by the Death and Co folks, the drinks here tend to be more punch or rum focused but still great – there is also Mayahuel, which is the same for tequila/mescal.
–Ward III – cocktail spot in TriBeCa that is also excellent.
–The Campbell Apartment – actually inside of Grand Central Station, an old-style classic cocktail spot. A bit touristy, perhaps, but still solid.
–PDT – cocktail spot hidden behind a phone booth in a hot dog restaurant…call for reservations during the day
–Ace Hotel – the bar at the Ace Hotel, which is basically a massive vaulted lobby, is always a good scene.
-The bar at the Mandarin Oriental – the Mandarin Oriental overlooks Columbus Circle into Central Park, and is definitely one of my favorite spots in the city. Actually the bar itself isn’t worth the price of drinks, but if you can get a seat in the lounge area it’s really nice.
-The bar at the ink 48 hotel (Press Lounge) – this place is really far west, but has in my opinion the best view of Manhattan from within the city itself
–Casulela – wine bar in Midtown West that is excellent and tasty.
–Terroir – there are 3 locations in the city, all are good
–8th Street Wine Cellar – Good little wine bar that’s close to Alta and is a good pre-Alta spot
Other interesting spots:
–The Rusty Knot – a bit out of the way over on the west side highway, but a sort of ironic take on a nautical themed bar. I’m a fan
–Fat Cat – a combination bar / jazz venue (live jazz every night, cover $3) / game room (they have pool, ping pong, shuffleboard, chess, etc) – big underground place, a bit rundown/divey but has a lot of character. Beer/wine only. One of my favorite spots in the city.
–Blind tiger ale house – Down in the village, amazing beer selection. Close to two great pizza places, John’s of Bleecker Street (solid, traditional pizza) and Keste (more “modern” pizza).
–The Magician – a real dive bar in the LES. One of my favorite bars (cash only though).
–Arlene’s Grocery – half live music indie rock bar and the other half is a classic LES music bar – $5 for a shot of jack and a pbr. Plus The Strokes got their start here.