I GREW UP in Manhattan restaurants. Both of my parents worked full time, all the time, and would bring me to their business dinners before I was fully verbal, with the solemn instruction that I eat what everyone eats, or risk being relegated to “the kids’ table.” There never was a kids’ table, of course. Le Cirque hasn’t built that yet.
This was where I learned to lemon my oysters and slurp up the brine, how to give a firm handshake or double kiss on the cheek, how always (always!) to say please and thank you so much and may I. Restaurants housed my happiest memories — celebrations and milestones all shared across the city’s tables. Among our favorite spots that remain to this day: Omen Azen (Kyoto style), Tocqueville (where I, saucer-eyed, discovered the tasting menu), Japonica (sushi), Basta Pasta (Italian via Japan), Cafeteria (if a nightclub and a diner met), El Cantinero (Mexican, with a patio for fajitas alfresco), Cowgirl (née Cowgirl Hall of Fame, for Southwestern in the West Village) — the list goes on.
Now, I have my own spots, for my own memory-making. Low on hype and high on quality, they draw local crowds, some trendier than others, sure. Most have been around for a while, some are newer — yet old and solid in soul, already with a sense of staying power. The twist? A Manhattan girl to my core, I can be found most nights across the pond — at a joint called Wei’s in East Williamsburg. Serving Shanghainese food until 2 a.m., under the warm light of red lanterns and the soft pulse of disco music, Wei’s is the closest thing I have to church — crystal shrimp dumplings as communion. What is Manhattan if not a vibrant door to countless other worlds?
TxikitoInnovative Basque flavors
Pinch ChineseCantonese with an award-winning wine list
ClaudAn intimate Euro-inspired restaurant and wine bar
Fish CheeksFlavorful Thai in a big, vibrant space
KafanaHearty Serbian fare in a lively setting
RakuUdon soups that are better than medicine
Commerce InnA transportive American tavern
Cho Dang GolA Koreatown institution
Il Posto AccantoAn Italian gem with Departures history
The Bar at Eleven Madison ParkExcellent cocktails and a laid-back take on the restaurant's menu
Book ClubA homey cafe nestled in a bookstore
Le FournilA piece of Paris in the East Village
Reception BarSoju cocktails in a minimalist space
ParcelleThe best wine bar in New York
Mr Fong’sChinese-inspired cocktails and snacks
Le DiveFrench tabac, NYC style
Sophie Mancini Writer
Sophie Mancini is a New York based writer. Under the New York Times’ creative agency, she helped lead the relaunch of Departures Magazine, where she then went on to become the food editor. Her background spans editorial, brand, and books.