Why it’s worth it: 1. The pan-fried lamb dumpling shooters. 2. The bathrooms. 3. No reservations needed. Need we say more? Read on.
Vibe/layout: Anchored by a ship length communal table, RedFarm is a bright and cozy 82-seater filled with modern farmhouse decor. The easygoing space also features booth seating and a full bar in the rear. Although the bathrooms, and specifically the futuristic Japanese toilets, are a talking point (I mean the lid automatically opens when diners open the bathroom door), the dishes still take center stage. I must note that if I were Ed Schoenfeld, the owner, I would be as proud of the cuisine as I was of the bathrooms.
Ideal meal: The pan-fried lamb dumpling shooters served with miso tofu-seaweed broth (4) ($14) are a completely mind-blowing experience. Their delicate texture and well-executed pairing leave you craving more.
Why it’s worth it: For an elegant and vibrant small plate menu with global influences and designed for communal consumption, one should head to Pearl and Ash.
Vibe/layout: Pearl and Ash occupies a long, sexy and relaxed space on the ground floor of the Bowery House and features a causal wine bar with backless stools, as well as an open kitchen, which faces a communal table, bare wooden tables and benches dressed in blue velvet. The asymmetrical wooden box-wall design separates this ‘straunt’s design from the rest in its flight. The wood compartments host trinkets, dried flowers and candles, which illuminate the all black and dimly lit room.
Ideal meal: Four dishes for two hungry people is the perfect amount; therefore, our top four recommendations are below:
Vegetable: long beans, kale, peanut, bbq sauce ($9)
People behind the ‘straunt: Fluent with spices and Asian flavor, Chef Richard Kuo, a Taiwan-born Australian, logged time at Corton and wd~50 before starting his first solo ‘straunt, Pearl and Ash.
Conversation starter: The building in which Pearl and Ash resides was first opened in the 1920s as a “flophouse” or cheap hotel, called the Prince Hotel. Although the Bowery House has since transformed the upper levels of the building into an upscale hostel, there were still guests paying $10 a night to sleep in the cubicles on the second floor in 2013.
‘Straunt tip: Check out the latest exhibition at the New Museum on Thursdays from 7-9 for pay-what-you-wish entrance and then dine at Pearl and Ash.
Address: Nolita, 220 Bowery (between Rivington & East Houston)
Why it’s worth it:Trattoria Il Mulino is the twelfth addition to Il Mulino New York’s global network of elite dining venues. This ‘straunt is the more casual, affordable and louder sister to Il Mulino New York, and is therefore an ideal intimate Italian ‘straunt for your next small or large dining party, date night or girls night out.
Vibe/layout: This spacious 140-seat ‘straunt baits a young demographic, and is unique in boasting an industrial chic atmosphere. Decked out with industrial accents, including concrete walls, exposed piping and light bulbs and a large NYC-themed mural by Vancouver artist, Tim Barnard, this ‘straunt offers an intimate dining setting for both small and large parties. The front section features tables for two, while the back section presents a sleek and sexy bar, which offers wood-fired pizzas as part of its late-night bar menu, and circular and rectangular dining tables for larger parties.
Ideal meal: Ricotta meatballs ($17) to start and ravioli ($26)
‘Straunt tip: Grab dinner at Trattoria Il Mulino and then check out nearby speakeasy, Dear Irving.
Why it’s worth it: Il Buco has it right; it’s slinky and seductive while still maintaining a charming accessibility and air. The seasonal food is extremely fresh and executed with skill and perfection. In short, Il Buco is perfect for a date night, ladies night out, after-work drink or family gathering.
Vibe/layout: This charming rustic Italian ‘straunt comprised mostly of wood and brick throbs with energy. The dimly lit main dining room has pottery-laden shelves, scattered with wine bottles, and copper pots hanging from hooks or stuffed in the corners. The eclectic wall art and light fixtures transform the rather cramped room with low ceilings into a fabulous authentic Italian ‘straunt. The wine cellar is more relaxed and private, and reminiscent of a room that you would expect to find in the basement of an old Italian estate.
People behind Il Buco: The owners, Donna Lennard and Alberto Avalle, first opened the hole-in-the-wall (Il Buco literally means the hole in Italian) as an antique shop in 1994 and gradually transformed it into a full-fledged restaurant.
‘Straunt tip: Enjoy a delicious, romantic and relaxed dinner at Il Buco and then check out the Invader’s graffiti on the side of The Wren, where you should grab a drink.
F.Y.I.: Reservations are a must, especially on the weekends.
Address: Noho/Greenwich Village, 47 Bond St (between Bowery & Lafayette)
Why it’s worth it: Bobby Flay’s “New-Mediterranean” Noho hot spot has received rave reviews, and we’re here to add to them, but in our own special way of course. Here’s the low down: if you want spectacular appetizers (bar selection) in a trendy, intimate and energetic ‘straunt, go to Gato. We’ll be honest: the portions are small, but they are bursting with flavor!
Vibe/layout: The front of this bustling ‘straunt boasts a U-shaped bar counter for walk-ins, while the back dining area is dimly lit and set with spare wooden tables. The high ceilings compliment the brick and dark varnished wooden walls and colorful geometric floor tiles, making this ‘straunt perfect for an intimate date or a friendly dining experience.
Ideal meal: Bar (choose 3): Artichoke heart, lamb tenderloin, eggplant ($17); Vegetable: Crispy potatoes (poached egg, smoked paprika, Parmigiano) ($12); Entrée: Kale and wild mushroom paella (crispy artichokes, eggs) ($28)
The lamb tenderloin, crispy potatoes and kale entrée are must orders; the flavors are bold and assertive and are perfect for splitting between two.
Address: Noho/Greenwich Village, 324 Lafayette St (between East Houston & Bleecker)
Why it’s worth it:Jeffrey’s Grocery is enjoyable and bumping at any time of day and is the perfect place for your next date, dinner with your parents or solo-dining experience.
Vibe/layout: Although this ‘straunt can get loud and rowdy at times, it sill feels like a charming, intimate, neighborhood diner, featuring a handsome wooden L-shaped bar that seats a dozen overlooking a minuscule kitchen, while high communal tables and smaller dining tables add an additional dozen seats. This homey corner space exudes a worn rustic-chic ambiance with high pressed tin ceilings, wooden floors, exposed brick and cookbooks scattered on distressed wood shelves.
Ideal meal: Crispy salmon ($25) – The salmon filet comes in a corn broth with shrimp and a ton of vegetables. Trust us, order it.
‘Straunt tip: Grab a drink at The Garret (speakeasy above Five Guys), feast at Jeffrey’s Grocery and then enjoy some ice cream from Big Gay Ice Cream to end the evening.
F.Y.I.: Gabriel and Gina Stulman, Jeffery’s owners, are also the couple behind Joseph Leonard (across the street) and Fedora (close by). When Jeffrey’s Grocery first opened, it was a kitschy little cafe that also tried selling groceries. Since then, they ditched the faux store-front, upgraded the chef and made the most out of the space.
Why it’s worth it:Marta, Danny Meyer’s new trendy rustic Roman pizzeria inside the Martha Washington Hotel, serves Italian appetizers in a way that can’t even be imagined. Marta is a hot spot for grabbing drinks with friends or a celebratory dinner with friends or family.
Vibe/layout: This two-leveled ‘straunt has a mezzanine with a bird’s-eye views of the main dining room below, which is anchored by an energetic open kitchen featuring two wood-burning ovens and an open-fire grill and surrounded by a big marble bar. Marta exudes warmth and communal energy, and boasts soaring ceiling and wooden tables.
Ideal meal: Polpettine di tagliatelle (fried pasta “meatballs,” tomato, pecorino – think fried mac and cheese balls) ($9) & Suppli alla terrazza (green risotto, mozzarella – think risotto mozzarella sticks) ($6) to start; Capricciosa pizza (mozzarella, artichokes, prosciutto, olives, egg) ($15)
F.Y.I.: Danny Meyer, the restaurateur behind Union Square Cafe, Maialino, Shake Shack, etc, has teamed up with his Maialino chef, Nick Anderer to enter into the pizza game.