(Houston to Canal; Bowery to Clinton; NOLITA as well)
Uncle Boons: Thai. 7 Spring @ Bowery; 25/21/$50; 646-370-6650; www.uncleboons.com/; The new Thai hotspot; Vibrant flavors and seriously spicy food; Fun bar scene and modern setting; Excellent service; Try the Golden Curry. They have a dozen or so small plates you can sample and then a menu of charcoal grilled entrees to die for. The Red Snapper is excellent as are the boneless beef ribs. 1 Michelin star.
Vandal: American. 199 Bowery @ Spring-Rivington; 23/24/$58; 400-0199; www.vandalnewyork.com/; From owners of Stanton Social, this is their more lounge-heavy American Tapas restaurant; Amazing, popular bar scene; Wonderful small plates to share; Raw bar features salmon poke, Oysters, Seafood tower; Main menu has Soup Dumplings, Sea Bass Tacos, Seared Tuna & more. Quite a scene and very date or group friendly.
Metrograph Commissary: American. 7 Ludlow @ Canal-Hester; 20/24/$54; 660-0312; Designed to evoke Old time Hollywood; Sofas and couches; Two bars; Great for Sunday Brunch; You have a meal and see an old film; Dinner theater in part; Dinner options include Burrata, Seared Tuna, Sea Bass and Steak Frites. Fun to go and hang out for just a drink as well. Menus are all limited in choice.
Cata: Spanish. 245 Bowery @ Stanton; 23/22/$55; 505-2282; http://catarestaurant.com/; All about the Tapas here – creative and traditional plates; Best to sit at the bar or the room with high tops; Open kitchen; Giant Gin & Tonic selection; Deviled Eggs; Garlic Shrimp; Grilled Clams, Prawns, Oysters or Octopus; Grilled Sea Bass; Lamb Meatballs; Ham & Cheese sandwich; Paella with chicken, sausage & shrimp.
The Boil: American/Cajun-Creole. 139 Chrystie @ Broome-Grand; 26/16/$45; 925-8815; www.theboilny.com/; Get down and dirty at this New Orleans theme house of food; They bring out the Crawfish, King Crab, Snow Crab & Dungeness Crab by the pound; Eat with your hands; All spice levels available; Apps include Soft Shell Crab, Catfish sliders, Lobster Roll for $18, Crab Roll and Gumbo. They have a raw bar too. Cash only.
Freemans: American. Freeman Alley off Rivington @ Bowey; 21/22/$48; 420-0012; www.freemansrestaurant.com; Savory American fare; They feature an excellent wine and cocktail list; Grilled sea scallops; Five Cheese Macaroni; Arctic Char; Lamb Shank; and Filet Mignon all stand out; They have a famous appetizer you must try- the Artichoke Dip which is raved about; Very trendy spot. Looks like a hunting lodge.
Peasant: Italian. 194 Elizabeth @ Prince-Spring; 25/24/$58; 965-9511; www.peasantnyc.com; Unique menu and amazing setting; Opera-set open kitchen; Romantic and sleek; Outstanding wine bar downstairs; Rustic & urban chic; Wood burning oven; Their bread is fantastic; Signature dish is suckling pig; Seafood salad, Pizza Margherita w/ Mozz; Spaghetti scampi; Grilled Sea Bass; Lots of specials. Burrata, Clams.
Pho Grand: Vietnamese. 277C Grand @ Eldridge; 21/14/$25; 965-5366; www.phograndny.com/; Extremely authentic restaurant with large menu featuring soup, pork, and prawn dishes; Exotic spices and combinations; Dirt cheap for lunch or dinner. Go Pho it! Terrible joke – but great authentic & often overlooked location. So inexpensive, especially for lunch. Over 120 items on the menu.
Macondo: Latin; 157 E Houston @ Allen-Eldridge; 23/19/$41; 473-9900; www.macondonyc.com; Spanish/ South American fusion; Small plate format – street food; Has a great bar scene and tasty drinks; Great for dates or a later evening scene; Weekend brunch featuring Bottomless mimosas for $9; Very affordable menu; Try the delicious lamb burger. Good service and setting seal the deal. Ultra casual keep in mind. Latin Taperia.
Red Compass: Georgian. 154 Orchard @ Stanton-Rivington; 23/18/$45; 473-9100; www.redcompassnyc.com; Not Georgia – Georgian! Old world décor; It is more of a wine bar with lots of small bites for sharing; Frequent live music; Try the cheese platter- full or half portion; Many of the options on the menu are traditional entrees – chicken, salmon or other meat based. Best thing on the menu is the Cheese Bread!
Contra: New American. 138 Orchard @ Rivington-Delancey; 25/20/$60; 466-4633; www.contranyc.com/; Features a nightly tasting menu; Welcoming staff and casual setting – but ideal for a date; Menu is set- $74 a person and wine/cocktails are $13-$16; Menu is usually 6 courses including 2 desserts; An extra $8 or so to add a cheese course. For the very adventurous! No substitutions whatsoever.
Kiki’s: Greek, Mediterranean. 130 Division @ Orchard; 25/18/$44; 646-882-7052; www.yelp.com/biz/kikis-new-york; No Rez, no website small Greek spot that is very popular; Get there early or long waits ensue; The menu is filled with well-priced Greek classics including Moussaka and Spanikopita; I’d order 3-4 items if you are a couple and share; Everything is taste – and they do a great job. Service is mixed.
Café Katja: Austrian. 79 Orchard @ Broome-Grand; 24/18/$34; 219-9545; www.cafe-katja.com; Known for nearly perfect sausages & fine wine and beer; Cozy setting, this authentic, friendly and affordable Viennese spot is a star. Wildly popular and strongly reviewed on Yelp; Get a .5 Liter stein of Hofbrau; Thing to get here- pretzel and sausage; Ideal for a mid-afternoon weekend drink/ light meal; Super friendly staff; Brunch served. Has burgers, Goulash, and sampler platters.
Barrio Chino: Mexican. 253 Broome @ Orchard; 24/20/$39; 228-6710; www.barriochinonyc.com/; Just incredible food at reasonable prices; Try the enchiladas verdes and be sure to order a margarita or caipirinha; Cantina setting – great bar scene and cool spot to hang; Lunch and brunch served as well; You can fill up on the salsa and chips – be sure to order Guacamole; Not a huge place – gets crowded.
Nom Wah: Chinese/ Asian Fusion. 22 Orchard @ Hester; 25/21/$58; 219-8785; http://fungtu.com/; Artful dishes and excellent service; Delicious cocktails ($12); Upscale Chinese and best in Lower East Side; Nice setting but they even have booths available; Try the braised beef cheeks; Roasted Duck; There is a $60 6 course tasting menu; Menu is unfortunately quite limited but it is worth a splurge.
Balvanera: Argentinean. 152 Stanton @ Norfolk-Clinton; 26/20/$55; 533-3348; www.balvaneranyc.com/; Former Nobu chef Fernando Navas creates this masterpiece that does large and small plates; Rising star and service makes you feel like family; Date friendly for sure; Lunch and dinner and great happy hour 4-7pm daily; Burrata, grass fed steak, Octopus, Striped Bass. If you are unsure – come for Happy Hour & enjoy the low-priced bites.
Kuma Inn: Filipino. 113 Ludlow @ Delancy-Rivington; 24/15/$35; 353-8866; www.kumainn.com; Small but unreal food and very affordable; Foodies heaven; Located on 2nd floor. Small plate format; BYO policy; Essentially Pan-Asian small plates. Strong service and bargain costs; About 25 or so different Tapas style dishes to choose from. Small corkage fee. Friendly chef/ owner. Share a selection of items for dinner!
Beauty & Essex: American. 146 Essex @ Stanton-Rivington; 23/26/$63; 614-0146; http://beautyandessex.com/home/; Hidden entrance in pawn shop ; Resto-lounge; Glamorous setting ; Bi level space; Free champagne in ladies room; Think chandeliers galore; Exotic, fancy cocktail list; Small plates – try the Salmon cerviche; Tuna Sashimi; Tuna Poke wanton tacos; Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup Dumplings; Lobster salad; Baby Back Ribs and the Burger; Order 4-5 small plates and enjoy! Similar set up to Stanton Social.
Pig and Khao: Thai / Filipino. 68 Clinton @ Stanton-Rivington; 25/16/$40; 920-4485; http://pigandkhao.com/; Be adventurous and you’ll be rewarded; Dishes designed for sharing; I’m daring but I shy away from the “pork head”; Try the Red Curry, Shan Noodles, BBQ Ribs, Seafood Sinigang – Cod, clams, shrimp; There is a 5 course tasting menu for $45. Honestly – the food is not Americanized at all and you’ll need an open mind.