Chalk Point Kitchen & Handy Liquor Bar (Soho)

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  • Why it’s worth it: The perfect day in Manhattan consists of brunching and shopping…in Soho of course. If you’re looking for a pretty restaurant serving pretty food to pretty people, and more specifically, a charming, market-to-table venture, with an adjacent vintage cocktail bar, we’ve got you covered: Chalk Point Kitchen.
  • Vibe/layout: This 70-seat ‘straunt bolsters the country-in-the-city scheme, in an airy and lush space with white-washed wooden plank walls lined with vintage mirrors and tchotchke-packed shelves. The farmhouse feel of CPK complements the locally sourced and organic menu; however, the most defining aspect of CPK is its downstairs bar, the Handy Liquor Bar, which is a classic, sophisticated and timeless cocktail bar with a fun twist: a fireplace and every 90s childhood game you can think of… yes we’re talking Hungry Hungry Hippos and Operation.
  • Ideal meal…brace yourself: Start with smashed avocado on toast ($6) & homemade blueberry muffins ($6); feast on the banana croissant french toast ($11); wash it all down with the  Collect Pond ($13), a refreshing mixture of pear vodka, St. Germaine, apple juice and ginger beer
  • F.Y.I.: The full-fledged piano bar below CPK, the Handy Liquor Bar, is named after Thomas Hardy, one of the first expert barmen in the US in the 1800s.
  • People behind the ‘straunt: Nightlife operator Matt Levine (Sons of Essex) and Michelin-starred chef Joe Isidori (Arthur on Smith) teamed up to open CPK, one of our favorite brunch spots in the city.
  • Address: Soho, 527 Broome St. (between Sullivan & Thompson St)
  • Price: $6-$21

Chalk Point Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Gato (Noho)

Gato Noho

  • 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)
  • Prices: $12-$39

Gato on Urbanspoon

Friday Night Dinner at Natural Gourmet Institute

Good Food for a Good Cause: A Friday Night Dinner to Remember

Natural Gourmet Institute

  • Why it’s worth it: Every Friday night, Natural Gourmet Institute is transformed into an intimate dining room, in which the Chef’s Training Program students and instructors prepare a three-course vegan Friday Night Dinner. The meals are innovative, delectable and exquisitely prepared. Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to be invited to this wonderful culinary experience and the menu for our fabulous dinner was created by Chef Barbara Rich.
  • Vibe/layout: The cozy, candlelit dining room houses several communal tables that foster friendly conversation and culinary appreciation. Don’t come here to be antisocial; come here to embrace wonderful food with wonderful company.
  • Menu for the 10/10 Friday Night Dinner:
    • Antipasto: A whole Portobello mushroom cooked perfectly with pine nut ricotta; cherry tomato-basil salad with mixed greens & white balsamic vinaigrette
      • The white balsamic vinaigrette puts any store-bought dressing to shame. Period.
    • Secondo: Three-grain risotto & tempeh sausage; butternut squash, pearl onions & broccolini with parsley pistou
    • Dolce: Chocolate terrine; almond custard; raspberry coulis & ginger crisps
  • ‘Straunt tip: The curriculum is based off of the founder’s seven core principles: the food should be seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh and delicious. And that’s just what it is.
  • Address: Flatiron, 48 West 21st St #2 (between 5th & Ave of the Americas)
  • Prices: $48.99 (Use code TheStraunt and get 15% off – valid through 10/31/14)

A little something extra:

  • After dinner, Chef Barbara and the culinary students who prepared the meal came out for a post-dinner Q&A. Overall, I was very impressed by the deliciousness of the vegetarian meals that seamed so complex but used such simple ingredients. Not to mention that the white balsamic vinaigrette and the chocolate terrine blew me away!
  • With that said, if you are looking for something different to do on a Friday night in NYC, especially if you have a vegetarian friend or family member, we highly recommend checking out the Friday Night Dinners at Natural Gourmet Institute. The menus change from week to week, based on the ingredients that are in season. Not to mention… 10% of the proceeds from each dinner are donated to a charity.

Natural Gourmet Institute on Urbanspoon

The Smile (Noho)

The Smile

  • Why it’s worth it: Tucked away a few steps below street level, you’ll find The Smile, a hybrid general store and cafe; however, no one goes to The Smile to shop; they go to eat in the artfully rustic atmosphere.
  • Vibe/layout: With the music low and the tone conversational, this dimly lit, wood-ceilinged space emits a charming and tavernesque feel that is perfect for a meal with friends, family or a date. In addition, this ‘straunt is great for GF and vegetarian foodies!
  • Ideal meal: Moroccan lamb meatballs to start ($9) and spaghetti & heirloom tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella & basil ($15)
  • People behind The Smile: The owners, Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman, are the duo behind the Jane hotel ballroom and Westway and the chef, Melia Marden, is a Harvard grad and also the daughter of the art-world power couple Brice and Helen Marden.
  • Address: Noho, 26 Bond St (between Bowery & Lafayette)
  • Prices: $7-$24

The Smile on Urbanspoon

Tipsy Parson (Chelsea): Belly Filling Goodness

Tipsy Paron Chelsea Southern Food

  • Why it’s worth it: Tipsy Parson is an adorable and charming Southern gem buried in the big city, perfect for friends, family or a date!
  • Vibe/Layout: This long, narrow ‘straunt has a beautiful marble-and-dark-wood bar taking up much of the space in the front, with a candle-lit dining room with smaller wooden tables and booths in the back. The small details of this establishment, including the bookshelf wallpaper and cushion window seats near the bar and the dark wooden tables set with mismatched flowered china, old-fashioned silver and farmhouse dish towels as napkins in the back, are what give Tipsy Parson its vintage charm.
  • Ideal meal: Corn dogs ($9), mac n cheese ($8), St. Louis pork ribs ($14, comes with 2 sides)
  • Straunt tip: Grab a drink before or after at the nearby speakeasy, Bathtub Gin, or the hidden bar below Chelsea Market, The Tippler!
  • F.Y.I.: Partners and owners, Julie Wallach and Tasha Gibson designed the space, worked on the build-out themselves and provided many of the featured knickknacks. This is their second ‘straunt, after Little Giant.
  • Address: Chelsea, 156 9th Ave (between 19th & 20th Sts)
  • Prices: $6-$34

Tipsy Parson on Urbanspoon

Caracas Arepa Bar (Williamsburg & East Village)

If you’re like me, when you hear “Caracas Arepa Bar” you probably wonder “what is an arepa and do I want to go to a place that has little else on the menu?” Well… an arepa needs to be experienced, not explained, but I’ll do my best and say it’s a Venezuelan corn muffin, crisp on the outside and steamy-soft in the middle, stuffed with any of the following: pulled pork, beef, avocado, black beans, plantains, etc… And if that doesn’t get you excited, consider this: the most expensive arepa is $8.

Caracas Arepa Bar Williamsburg, East Village Venezuelan

  • Why it’s worth it: Let’s just say.. when you Google arepa, Caracas is the second listing (first is Wikipedia)
  • Vibe/Layout: The decor of this small and cozy ‘straunt is warm and hip, with old mismatched wall and ceiling panels, semi-old or worn down looking furniture and cool fixtures which add a Venezuelan flair. Light Latin and Spanish music play in the background of this ‘straunt, which has a small bar, high top seating and amazing outdoor picnic-table seating.
  • Ideal meal: Yoyos ($6) & Tequenos ($8.75) to start & then La del Gato ($7.25)
  • Straunt tip: Grab din & sangria at Caracas and then check out the speakeasy, Larry Lawrence next door!
  • Address: Williamsburg, 291 Grand St (Roebling & Havemeyer Sts); East Village, 91 E 7th St (7th St and 1st Ave)
  • Prices: $4.75-$16

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon