*Taboon: Middle Eastern. 773 10th Av @ 52nd; 26/21/$52; 713-0271; Flat out awesome place; To die for Fresh bread; Festive atmosphere; Oasis; Relaxed setting. Stone oven prepared foods; Tsatsiki & hummus are unreal. Sauteed Calamari; The breads are delish; Osso Bucco, short ribs, halibut; Sea Scallop appetizers; Menu is extremely eclectic and worth a try. You will love it. Oxtail cigars; Grilled Calamari. I absolutely love this place; Great cocktails as well. www.taboononline.com/
*Queen of Sheba: Ethiopian. 650 10th Av @ 45-6th; 24/16/$32; 397-0610; www.shebanyc.com; Great portions of flavorful dishes to share of the classic Ethiopian injera bread; Iffy service made up for by top quality cuisine; Trendy scene; I suggest getting the combo plates for main courses: Taste of Sheba for meat dishes and Sheba Vegetarian as all the food is great! Amazing to experience good Ethiopian food – can’t recommend it enough. Better than Indian food!
Nomad: African. 78 2nd Av @ 4th St; 21/20/$33; 253-5410; www.nomadny.com; Cool, almost spiritual décor inside; North African, French cuisine; Great spices; Tasty – unique food to try. Bargain- try couscous royale entrée. Most dishes served in Tapas style – small plates; Features a pretty back garden and recent menu improvements add Spanish entrees as well. Grilled Calamari salad; Lots of expensive meat entrees under $20. Algerian/ Morroccan. Try the Trio Dip;
Zerza: Moroccan. 304 E 6th @ 1-2nd Av; 22/19/$37; 529-8250; www.bestmoroccan.com; Authentic food, attentive service; Meticulous care put into the cuisine & served beautifully. Lamb & chicken tanginess. Belly Dancers on Saturday; Small plates of Moroccan food. Long, narrow bi-level space on Indian alley; Fairly exotic décor; Happy Hour and Hooka available; Great bang for the buck. Excellent location with lots to do afterwards.
Awash: Ethiopian. 338 E 6th @ 1st-2nd Av; 23/15/$24; 982-9589; http://awashny.com/; Tasty platters of flavorful food combined with the traditional Bread; Eat with your hands; Extremely cheap and a great experience. Easily the best genre of African food and they nail it here. Great to share. Food richly spiced. Injera bread is light and flavorful. Order 2 meat and 3 vegie dishes for 2 for $29. Lots of other combo offerings.
Kafana: Serbian. 116 Ave C @ 7th-8th; 24/20/$29; 353-8000; www.kafananyc.com; Wildly popular and probably the best Balkan restaurant in the city; Tasty regional pork dishes stand out; One of only a few Serbian places in area; Try 2-person mixed grill; Balkan cuisine has arrived at last; Small, cozy living room setting; Get the Sopska salad; Cheese and Spinach pies; Cash only; Meat-centric menu – dirt cheap. What a hidden gem.
Cafe Mogador: Moroccan. 101 St. Mark’s @ Av A-1st; 23/17/$30; 677-2226; www.cafemogador.com; Neighborhood mainstay; Young, hip scene; Garlic-laded entrees; Mussels with shallots & olive oil; Dirt cheap as well; Cous-cous and lamb tagine (long simmered stew) stand out; Simply put: incredibly well prepared & authentic Moroccan cuisine at Rabat level prices; Been around nearly 30 years. Super popular. Brunch served.
Balade: Middle Eastern. 208 1st Ave @ 13th St; 23/20/$36; 529-6868; www.baladerestaurants.com/#about; Traditional Lebanese spot known for mouthwatering mezes and mixed grills; Lunch, dinner and brunch; On healthy side, lots of salads and soups to pick from; Over 20 different Mezes (small plates) including Hummus, Grilled Halloume Cheese; Phyllo filled with Mozz and Lebanese Wings. Try a Shawarma platter or Lamb Chops.
Ponty Bistro: Senegalese. 218 3rd Av @ 18th-19th; 22/17/$39; 777-1616; www.pontybistro.com; French inspired northern African cuisine; Value prices and extremely unique cuisine; Two for 1 house Martinis including Lychee martinis; Breakfast & Brunch also served; $25 prix fixe menu; Very friendly service and certainly worth a try to have a cuisine rarely found in NYC. Escargot, French Cheese Puffs, Wings, Grilled Bronzino. Brunch served.
Almayass: Armenian-Lebanese. 24 E 21st St @ Park; 25/21/$58; 347-773-4893; http://www.almayassnyc.com; Very popular, highly rated and always reliable; Servers are excellent and will assist with menu; Original location is a top place in Beirut; As authentic as it gets; Gorgeous and ‘cool’ interior; 3 course lunch prix fixe for $27; Try the Lentil soup; 7 kinds of Hummus; Endless menu; Armenian tasting menu for 2 available for $68 total; Bronzino; Cocktails are $15; Expensive for genre but worth it.
Ilili: Lebanese. 236 5th Ave @ 27th; 25/23/$47; 683-2322; www.ililinyc.com/; One of the better restaurants of its genre offering small and large plates best designed for sharing; Date-friendly, sexy décor; Lounge feel; Huge menu of truly authentic preparations; Prix-fixe available for lunch or dinner; Lamb Makloubeh and Duck Shawarma are a must as are Brussels Sprouts. Trendy, date friendly décor. Style all the way – great service too. Brunch served. Try the Hummus, Tuna Tartare, Moussaka, Burrata. Huge menu. Get several small plates…
Ravagh Persian Grill: Persian. 1135 1st Ave @ 30th; 24/17/$36; 861-7900; http://ravaghrestaurants.com/; Wildly popular mini-chain with two other Manhattan locations (see website); The original, located here, serves authentic fare at reasonable prices; Succulent kebabs, large portions, delicious rice options; Try the hummus, grilled eggplant, mouthwatering combo kebabs (tons to pick from), stews, Bronzino, Brook trout or shrimp.
Barbes: Moroccan. 21 E 36th @ 5th Av-Madison; 21/18/$43; 684-0215; www.barbesrestaurantnyc.com; French-inspired Moroccan fair (both cuisines on menu); Complicated dishes that show care and effort- and great flavor; Cool date scene- sexy décor; Lots of Tangines, Brouchettes and Couscous dishes on menu; Lunch and Brunch also available; NYC’s melting pot witnessed again. Let the staff guide your selections.
Naya: Lebanese. 1057 2nd Av @ 55th-56th; 24/18/$31; 319-7777; www.nayarestaurants.com; Fresh, modern design and good service; All white interior – mini booths; Wine $9-$12; About 30 appetizers, mostly a variety of “Mezze” and there is such a mouthwatering assortment to choose from; See website; Lamb, beef, chicken and fish entrees including Striped Bass and incredible mixed grills. Amazing falafel. $6 beers. Huge menu.