In the spirit of recommendations, I'd like to post a short-list of some of my favorite restaurants in NYC. So often, visitors ask me where to eat and I usually struggle to drum up a response because despite my 3-year tenure living in the Big Apple, I spend very little time here on average.
But, I do have a few tricks (restaurant recommendations) up my sleeve:
I admittedly almost never venture out for breakfast. Brunch so hard, that ish cray. I'll keep working on this one.
There can only be one. Bottomless sangria INCLUDED in the cost of your entrée (which will likely run you no more than $18-$25). Need I say more? Calle Ocho is a "Nuevo Latino" restaurant in the Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side. The food is great, which in my opinion, is an anomaly for a restaurant that also offers bottomless beverages. You typically get one or the other, but not both. The sangria is good, although I'd caution anyone who has a natural urge to treat bottomless sangria the same way that they would treat bottomless mimosas: take your time, pastor. Because of all of the above, you need to book your reservations about a month out. Else, if you're comfortable waiting for a table, expect either an early arrival on your end or a lengthy wait on theirs.
Out of respect, I must mention the home of all lit brunches. Woodland is a young, cultured favorite not far from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Bottomless truly means bottomless here: never have I ever seen a waiter/waitress refill my glass so quickly. The food is pretty good, nothing astonishing, but nothing traumatizing. What you really go for is the music and the fun. I can never get enough of the spirit of Woodland - the old school R&B, the reggae and soca, the Afrobeats, the hip hop and rap - mixed in with the dining experience. As with most restaurant experiences in New York, it's worth the wait.
My friend Liz is a huge Ponty's enthusiast, and after visiting the establishment with her, I can understand why. Ponty's has certainly re-defined the brunch benedict. I'm a Maryland girl and I trust Ponty's, in New York, with a crab benedict. That's how you know (for those who are unfamiliar, Maryland has the crab dish game on lock, thankyouverymuch). The lobster benedict is also a winner. If you're looking for a new brunch place to try in Harlem, add this to your list.
I have to mentally stop myself from stopping by this place every time I'm in Harlem solely because I would turn into a piece of fried fish if I went as often as I have the urge to go. The restaurant is known for their chicken and waffles, but, I always go for the catfish and waffle combo. There is love and black history in every single bite, I'm telling you. They also plate two full pieces of catfish, so, I almost always take leftovers home with me. Comparison is the thief of joy, but, I must say, I greatly prefer Amy Ruth's to Sylvia's, it's revered soul food counterpart. In the spirit of open-mindedness, I'll encourage you to try both and let me know if you agree.
If ever you needed a good biscuit: chile, look no further than Harlem. Modern, but with a Southern twist. This comfort food spot is black-owned, so, it's an initial yes from me, dawg, based on that fact alone. But the food is good, good, not "support just to support" good. I went with the catfish and grits for brunch and I was not disappointed. Small, yet mighty, BLVD Bistro is a pretty tiny space, so anticipate a wait (worth it, trust me).
Quality food, quality drinks, cute, quaint location. East Village is already home to an unlimited number of amazing dining establishments, and this Cuban restaurant is no exception. I will say, there might be an underlying advantage to visiting with a larger party. I took a college friend of mine after she moved to the city and we were astonished by the hour long wait, if not longer, that we were met with even with a reservation. The food was worth it, but larger parties did tend to get seated more quickly during our wait. Something to note to prepare you: go early, the vittles are worth it.
Aesthetics: check. Food quality: check. Location (for me, a Midtown Mami): check. My girl gang and I visited this restaurant for a farewell brunch on a sunny spring day. We sat outside, enjoyed mimosas (pomegranate for me, and oh, how lovely), and cruised through a number of sweet and savory dishes. I went with a pasta dish, the gramigna, if I'm remembering correctly. Highly recommend this restaurant for a small get-together, a professional meet up, or a family meal when mom or auntie is in town.
The Blue Box Cafe
Because Breakfast at Tiffany's IRL. It was everything I ever dreamed that it would be. My favorite part of my meal was the poached salmon. I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to poach salmon just like it ever since. In case you haven't seen the pictures just yet, you'll never beat the aesthetic either. If you're interested in dining like Audrey, you'll need a reservation and a reservation-making strategy. Slots open exactly one month in advance through the Resy app. If you open the app around 9 AM the month before your desired reservation, you should be able to grab the time slot of your choice with relative ease. These go pretty quickly, though, so be on your Ps and Qs about it and have the foresight to plan out your date in advance.
I'm bad with lunch just like I'm bad with breakfast. Allow me to report back on this one, too.
Before moving to New York, I fantasized about being one of those people who has a restaurant or cafe that they frequent so often that the owners and employees know them by name. While I'm not on a first name basis with anyone at Stella, they do at least recognize my phone number when I call at this point. Stella is my go-to whenever I need to take a NY-newcomer to dinner or exchange a rainy day brunch plan for something a bit closer to home. Stella hits two birds with one stone: the restaurant lives inside Macy's, "The World's Largest Store," in Herald Square, so, visitors can say they've been. This Macy's is also home to my favorite Christmas display and shop in the whole wide world. You can't go wrong with any of their pasta dishes or mocktails, so, if you have any dates with Santa this winter, make sure you add this restaurant to your Nice List.
If you haven't noticed by this point in the list, I love pasta. If I could eat it for every meal of every day, I just might. L'Amico is another walkable Italian-influenced favorite for me. Any pasta with truffle is generally a win. They also make great pizza. Anyone that knows me will probably be shocked that I'm even including that recommendation as a non-pizza lover, but, I actually ordered a pizza in rare form when my best friend dragged me out of my apartment to come here on my birthday this year.
Talk about a meal with a view. The restaurant sits right on the water in Dumbo (where Brooklyn at?). I went on a best friend date here awhile ago, and I'm not sure any feeling I've encountered in NYC can rival that of the shock that I felt after walking into this restaurant and seeing a framed image of Mrs. Carter on the wall. In that moment I knew that the meal, too, was about to be in formation. 10/10 would recommend on the pasta front. If I'm remembering correctly, I went with a beef-laden dish. The wine selection was also amazing. I enjoyed a tall, refreshing glass of red with my meal. Highly recommend this restaurant for a date locale: self date, friend date, romantic date, and beyond.
Delectable eats pictured below. I enjoyed both my pasta and the fried rice balls that preceded it as an appetizer. I found Massoni on the Seated app when my buddy, Shannon, was in town. I wanted to take her somewhere cute, but within walking distance of my apartment. Massoni is one of the million restaurants in the city that are housed in/adjacent to a hotel. The aesthetic is very "old age Campbell's soup can Warhol print," very fun to walk into. As far as the Seated app goes: if you don't have it on your phone, you're losing. "Free money" is my favorite phrase, and with every Seated reservation you make and complete, you get your choice of an Amazon, Starbucks, or Uber giftcard in various denominations. No catch. Get it while it's still gettable (gotable? Neither are words, so, what the hay....)
If you gained nothing else from this post, please download the apps mentioned above (Resy and Seated). You deserve to eat good food and to earn rewards while doing it. Additionally, unless you love waiting in hour-long lines, check out the NoWait app. There are a number of restaurants in various cities that will allow you to add your name to the list (like a reservation, but, same-day only) so you can wait from the comforts of your home, or wherever else you might choose to do so.
I love a good foodie bonding moment, so let's talk food and fun in the city on Instagram!