Our last three months living in New York as locals were spent revisiting our favorite restaurants while also discovering new ones. We truly lived each and every one of our last days as New Yorkers with a new lens; a deeper appreciation for all that this vibrant city offers and a refreshed perspective of profound gratitude for all the memories we made here over the last twenty-three years. For the past few months, I was on a mission to revisit all of my absolute favorite spots in the city while also finding some new gems.
Below I have compiled my personal "Best of NYC restaurants". Keep in mind that I focused on places I have visited repeatedly over the last two decades and made sure to visit at least one more time before leaving. Places like Masa, Per Se, and all those Michelin-starred restaurants are not included on this list. There are endless restaurants that are beyond incredible in New York City that are not on this list. This list is simply mostly a collection of my personal favorites that I have frequented often and that I will miss dearly.
We have countless wonderful memories at this NoHo institution. Fourteen years ago we lived a couple of blocks from Gemma at The Bowery Hotel and would regularly make visits here for brunch. We frequented so often that we became great friends with the General Manager, Karim, who ultimately moved to Toronto. We visited Karim in Canada during the great solar eclipse of summer 2016. This restaurant not only delivers consistently delicious Italian food and celebrity sightings, but we also made a friend here who watched our children grow up over many years. I loved this spot so much that I use to fantasize about naming our not-yet-born daughter Gemma. Incidentally, we were eventually blessed with a daughter and decided against naming her after our favorite local restaurant. Regardless, she too became a regular customer.
El Vez (Battery Park)
I won't even attempt to count the number of times we have dined at El Vez. We have visited dozens of times for Sunday brunch with our family and dozens of times with friends for dinner and drinks. In fact, we have eaten here so often that our boys are quite sick of this restaurant and balk at any suggestion to dine here. Personally, I could never get enough of their delicious margaritas and likely the best vegetarian nachos you will find anywhere on the planet.
Rosie's (East Village)
Rosie's is another one of my go-to Mexican spots in Manhattan. Their Rosie's Margarita is an unbeatable smoky and spicy concoction of perfection. The cocktails served at Rosie's coupled with their homemade tortilla chips are pure bliss. This is the kind of place you order a pitcher with your pals on the patio, kick back, people watch, and enjoy life.
Gigino at Wagner Park (Battery Park)
If you're looking for a gorgeous view, a large grassy field where your kids can run around while you have an attempt at an uninterrupted grown-up conversation, and an unsurpassable
sunset, Gigino is your place. They have a huge outdoor seating area, an extensive wine menu, and pretty good Italian food too. The real draw here is the view and the outdoor space where young children can run around freely in the midst of the city. I always feel like I'm on vacation when I dine here even though it's just a five-minute walk from my apartment.
Gitano, Garden of Love (SoHo)
You'd never know that within the wooden construction slabs that encase this restaurant lies a taste of Tulum complete with palm trees, sand, cushioned sofas, blaring music, and even a disco ball. The instant warm weather hits I always think "make a reservation at Gitano!"The vibe is very scene-y with a bouncer at the entrance and modelesque hosts and hostesses who escort guests to their tables. Despite the man at the door and the bounding models, there is an awesome casual vibe that permeates the cool space. This is the kind of place that you hunker down and linger at for as long as you wish under a palm tree with a cocktail in hand and not an inkling of stress entering your mind. Gitano is the ultimate urban oasis.
There is no better place in the world to devour freshly made bagels with deli favorites like salmon, egg salad, tuna salad, etc. I won't even attempt to figure out how many times I have dined at Sadelle's. Although I love to frequent the establishment for breakfast or brunch I am also extremely impressed by how they transform for dinner service when they light up the restaurant with candles and serve outstanding Russian-inspired food. Day or night, I just adore this place. We even made sure to make reservations at their Las Vegas establishment while we were in town although sadly, they don't serve the "Sadelle's Tower" at that location. Order the tower and find yourself newly impressed by how many bagels you are actually capable of eating.
I have been a customer here for over a decade. We use to live nearby and I would stop in regularly for lattes and a pain au chocolate to kick off my day. My family would also visit often for brunch while we were living in the neighborhood. Once we moved out of NoHo we found ourselves craving for their delicious brunches and continued to patronize this wonderful French bistro. Balthazar consistently delivers a delicious brunch in a lively atmosphere with great service.
Pastis (Meatpacking District)
Another wonderful brunch spot, also French, also a favorite. Despite its popularity, Pastis struggled over the years and even closed down for a while. New Yorkers were thrilled to hear that the restaurant was coming back to the city. I was surely one of those celebrating their comeback. I've always loved the authentic French bistro vibe here and the innovative menu (where else where you find a heart of palm salad with artichokes and olives?). Its Meatpacking district location makes for a prime afternoon of brunching, shopping, and soaking some art at the nearby Whitney Museum.
Ok. I am noticing a pattern here that I actually have never noticed before- the Frenchies steal my palate for brunch spots! Lafayette is yet another favorite brunch destination of mine that also happens to offer French cuisine. Most notably they bake a coconut, banana, chocolate croissant that should totally be illegal because it is so addictive. The interior design here is super cute, the food is delicious, and there is always a fun crowd.
By now we have established that the French certainly win my heart for the best breakfasts/brunches in New York City. Ladurée holds an especially special place in my heart because our middle son and I use to visit this delicious restaurant weekly while we waited for his sister to finish her gymnastics class. We would load up on their scrumptious macarons accompanied by dreamy cups of hot chocolates. We have also celebrated Mother's Day here and I have equally great memories of catching up with my girlfriends at this elegant eatery. Each visit is consistently très magnifique.
The Fulton (Seaport District)
There was no turning back once The Fulton opened within walking distance from our apartment. I just love this place for so many reasons. The cocktails are always spot on. The views are unbeatable. The seafood is so fresh and the various preparation of the dishes are always perfect. I have come here with girlfriends, or with my husband for a date night, and even with my kids. This restaurant can easily be one of the best seafood restaurants in Manhattan. I will miss having it in my backyard dearly.
Liberty Bistro (Battery Park)
Whether you have a business meeting, a date with a pal, a need for some solo time with an epic view, or a nice lunch with the fam, Liberty Bistro will not disappoint. Both their outdoor space and indoor space are stunning, making this a year-round destination for me. The indoor vibe is very "Havana/Miami" while the outdoors feels like you are dining in a Provence garden.
When my friend introduced me to this place years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Laotian food was not in my dining repertoire and boy was I happy to have welcomed it into my life. For those of you who have never eaten Laotian food, Khe-Yo is a great start. This award-winning restaurant is a great meeting spot for lunch or dinner, although it is a lot more lively in the evening. The food is always fresh, always spicy, and always incredibly delicious.
Crown Shy (FiDi)
It's hard to leave a neighborhood that overflows with incredible food options within walking distance. Crown Shy is the crown of the Financial District and delivers impeccably prepared American food consistently. Their menu changes seasonally and offers a wide range of veggie, seafood, and meat dishes with innovative twists that keep me coming back for more. Their cocktails are equally outstanding and extremely creative. Expect an exemplary meal here every visit.
Rosemary's (West Village)
I have so many wonderful memories at Rosemary's and many of them are of the incredible meals I have experienced here. The Italian restaurant serves seasonal ingredients that grow right on their rooftop garden! The plates are small and perfect for sharing. Also, those who enjoy eating a vegetarian diet, have tons of options here. This place is fun, lively, and consistent.
Molly's Cupcakes (West Village)
Would you believe me if I told you I have likely downed one hundred or so cupcakes here? Ok, so they were minis, but I would definitely put money on the fact that I have eaten at least one hundred of these precious cupcakes at Molly's. My three children use to attend a school across the street and we would make regular visits to Molly's after school. When the kids were younger, they just loved the idea of customizing their cupcake and icing flavor combination, created on the spot. Even more so, the self-serve sprinkles bar was their idea of heaven. We would enjoy a mini-cupcake doused in sprinkles while playing one of the many board games at the shop. Even now that our children have grown, they still love making visits to this cupcake shop that was a big part of their childhood.
Fraunces Tavern (FiDi)
This bar is housed in one of the oldest surviving buildings in Manhattan where George Washington gave a commemorated speech to his soldiers during the American Revolution. My husband and I are obsessed with this bar, but not the main, loud, frat-house-like part of the bar. Instead, we aim to snatch one of the two tables in the tiny whiskey bar that leads to the main area. During the winter, the two tables, equipped with leather armchairs, are split by a roaring fireplace. The drink menu has a very impressive collection of whiskey and the bartenders always serve a generous pour. The ambiance is masculine, sexy, and irresistible. Fraunces Tavern's Whiskey Bar is one of NYC's best-kept secrets.
Dead Rabbit (FiDi) How lucky am I to have "The World's Best Bar" just one block away from my apartment? Dead Rabbit is no joke. The mixologists here take their jobs very seriously. The drink menu is a hardcovered book with over fifty pages of cocktail options grouped by alcohol types. The first floor is a more casual taproom with draft beer and food. However, it's The Parlor Room that has captivated me all these years. Intimate, romantic, and where all the mixology magic takes place, you'll want a seat on the second floor. Luckily, Dead Rabbit started accepting reservations recently. Beforehand it was walk-in only with average wait times of over one hour. Fortunately, I made friends with the awesome staff who always saved me a table for me and my guests. This is absolutely my favorite bar in Manhattan and where we always take out-of-town guests for a nightcap.
The Lovelace (FiDi)
As I write this article, I want to pinch myself! How am I leaving a neighborhood that has all my favorite New York City bars? I can literally walk to all three of the listed bars in under two minutes. The Lovelace is a swanky bar with a prohibition-era vibe. On specific days they have live music which really sets the tone for a perfect night out. Their old-fashioned is one of the best you'll ever sip, the staff has always greeted us so warmly, and I will just miss this place so much!
The Beekman Hotel (FiDi)
I am kind of obsessed with The Beekman Hotel since its inception. This trendy hotel boasts a super stylish lounge, The Bar Room, that I have visited on countless occasions. Couches flood the dimly lit space that sits below a stunning atrium in the historic building. We have also eaten at the hotel's restaurant, Temple Court, and enjoyed some wonderful nights in the lower level Alley Cat for late-night drinks. I love this hotel so much that I've even booked staycations here, most notably with my daughter where we had an unforgettable pillow fight in their beautifully designed rooms. There are lots of memories waiting to be made here, most of mine were made right in the center of the hotel at The Bar Room.
Harriet's Roof Top
Just over the Brooklyn Bridge, in DUMBO, lies the most incredible rooftop bar in New York City. Harriet's Roof Top, at The 1 Hotel, is my ultimate favorite place for magnificent views and great vibes. While their food is "ok", their cocktails are usually spot on but really who cares what anything tastes like with views this great? There is always music pumping, a fashionable crowd of visitors, a beautiful breeze, and all the ingredients you'll need to fall madly in love with NYC.
Everyone knows that New York City has a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from. New things open up regularly. My husband and I go out for dinner often and I don't think we have even made a dent in the restaurant scene over the twenty-three years' worth of dining we enjoyed here. One of the best qualities of this city is the endless excellent options for everything you desire. Especially when it comes to cuisine. Before moving out of the city, we not only wanted to revisit our favorite spots but we also wanted to make sure to discover some new ones. Below are the best restaurant discoveries we made before bowing out.
Luthun (Union Square)
Each dish served from the tasting menu at Luthun is exceptional The chefs are true culinary geniuses who have masterfully captured brilliant combinations of ingredients that are executed as works of art. I couldn't stop photographing my food while fighting the guilty feelings of destroying the artistic creations before me. Everyone at the table literally oohed and aahed with each bite. I left not only extremely satisfied but also inspired. Everyone needs to dine here once in their life. Add Luthun to your bucket list. Now.
The Vestry (SoHo)
This seafood restaurant is new to the food scene and I am certain it will quickly become a New York City sensation. The indoor space replicates a ski-lodge feel with faux fur covers draped over the chairs. The service is very formal with a very attentive staff doting on your every need. They seemed to still be working out the kinks when we visited as it took over two and a half hours to get through our meal, the kitchen and bar moved at an unbearably slow pace. Apologies and a free round of drinks by management made up for the long delays but honestly, the food is so superb it was hard to be mad at all. We ordered nine dishes off Vestry's menu and were blown away with each bite that was purposefully built to be packed with freshness, creativity, color, and innovative ingredient combination. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to dine here before leaving the city.
Miznon (Hudson Yards) Eyal Shani is one of my all-time favorite chefs. Some of my most memorable dining experiences have been in his Tel Aviv restaurants. Port Said, North Abraxas, and HaSalon are highlights of our travels in Israel so when the famous chef opened up Miznon right here in Manhattan, I jumped on the opportunity to check it out! Except, sadly, the Chelsea Market location was always packed, with a long line that I refused to wait in. I almost gave up until I learned that another Miznon location opened in Hudson Yards which is way less crowded. There are no ordinary pita sandwiches served at this eatery and each concoction is totally worth the hype and raving reviews. I couldn't leave NYC without hitting this place at least once and I am so glad we made it happen. Miznon has ruined my chance of ever enjoying a pita sandwich elsewhere ever again.
Frevo (West Village) Yet another welcomed addition to the New York food scene, Frevo offers a theatrical experience from the moment patrons enter. Guests arrive at an art gallery and are escorted to a large painting that serves as a hidden door that leads into the small and intimate restaurant. The kitchen serves an eclectic six-course tasting menu with seasonal ingredients, powerful presentations, and the ultimate results in flavor.
Olio e Piu (West Village)
I truly wish I discovered this place sooner. I stumbled upon it when we strolled through the neighborhood and I was immediately captivated by its lively porch in the middle of a beautiful garden setting. If we continued living in NYC, I know this is the kind of place we would return to again and again. The Italian menu delivers a delicious brunch in a vibrant setting. On a clear, sunny day, Olio e Piu is one of those places where you'll find yourself having a "real New York moment".
Restoration Hardware Rooftop
I also wish that I discovered this gorgeous rooftop restaurant sooner as this too would be a place I would revisit again and again. The décor is stunning, the food is quite good, and the outdoor roof deck boasts gorgeous views of the city. Restoration Hardware Rooftop does an outstanding job with this new venue concept. I'm crossing my fingers that they open up a rooftop restaurant in their San Diego location. They can count me in as a lunch regular if they do.
Let me know if you check any of these restaurants out and how your experience goes. I'd love any opportunity to discuss my old and new favorite restaurants in New York City. In fact, I'd love any chance to speak about the place I called home for over two decades.