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Guides

A Manhattanite’s Guide to Dining in New York City

Raised around the city's tables, our editor shares her most beloved spots to eat and drink.

Photo by Giada Paoloni
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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?

Photo by Teddy Wolff

Restaurants

Txikito

Innovative Basque flavors
This recently reopened Basque spot is helmed by one of the most gifted chef duos in New York: husband and wife team Alex Raij and Eder Montero. Located in Chelsea, the newly renovated space is a marble-accented, blond-wood-paneled dream. The menu is an aria —... This recently reopened Basque spot is helmed by one of the most gifted chef duos in New York: husband and wife team Alex Raij and Eder Montero. Located in Chelsea, the newly renovated space is a marble-accented, blond-wood-paneled dream. The menu is an aria — singular, perfectly dialed, where Basque flavors are both honored and built upon. The octopus carpaccio is the best in town, lithe as petals. The olive oil-poached cod reflects Chef Raij’s fascination with pil pil, a traditional emulsion sauce. My favorite part of their beverage menu is the beautifully curated selection of vermouth and their gorgeously balanced cocktails. If you find yourself in Cobble Hill, in Brooklyn, be sure to check out my other all-time favorites — their sister restaurants, Saint Julivert for seafood and La Vara for southern Spanish cuisine. They’re next door to each other, on a lovely, leafy street.

Pinch Chinese

Cantonese with an award-winning wine list
My first meal back after traveling is always at Pinch. It’s Cantonese and known for its awarded wine list. I love getting a seat at one of the high tables near the floor-to-ceiling front windows for lunch. This food is hauntingly craveable — home to my... My first meal back after traveling is always at Pinch. It’s Cantonese and known for its awarded wine list. I love getting a seat at one of the high tables near the floor-to-ceiling front windows for lunch. This food is hauntingly craveable — home to my favorite soup dumplings, with thin, delicate dough hugging savory pork explosions, and shiitake and truffle mushroom dumplings, equally high in craft and comfort. Other items not to miss: their house-special shrimp, all of their cold-eradicating soups, spicy marinated cucumbers, dan dan noodles, and my love language, pea shoots — deep emerald, juicy, and laced with garlic.

Claud

An intimate Euro-inspired restaurant and wine bar
I spent one of my most perfect New York nights at Claud, an experience shared by many. Opened by Momofuku Ko alumni, their newest concept has that special sauce — a buzzy, beautiful French-inspired spot made to last. Thoughtfully rooted in elegant bones, proper... I spent one of my most perfect New York nights at Claud, an experience shared by many. Opened by Momofuku Ko alumni, their newest concept has that special sauce — a buzzy, beautiful French-inspired spot made to last. Thoughtfully rooted in elegant bones, proper hospitality, and exquisite craft on the plate, this place already feels like a classic. My highlight dishes span bright razor clams with apple and horseradish to comforting red shrimps in olive oil and garlic. A few menu items have already become iconic in the restaurant scene: their mille-feuille, a heavenly pile of flaky pastry, cheese, and jammy tomatoes; chicken liver agnolotti, a creamy, nutty, decadence; and their devil’s food cake for two — the best chocolate cake in the city. Try sitting at the gorgeous green-gray marble bar, if you can.

Fish Cheeks

Flavorful Thai in a big, vibrant space
There are places you go with a group where the restaurant is just background — and then there are places where, after every bite, someone’s spewing expletives of pleasure like, “How is this always so [bleep]ing good. …” Fish Cheeks, a Thai staple on... There are places you go with a group where the restaurant is just background — and then there are places where, after every bite, someone’s spewing expletives of pleasure like, “How is this always so [bleep]ing good. …” Fish Cheeks, a Thai staple on Manhattan’s swanky and beautiful Bond Street, is the latter kind of restaurant. It’s home to the best wings in the city: their Zabb Wings, fried with a dry seasoning of chili lime and makrut lime leaf — but they do bombastic flavors just as skillfully as their softer, simpler takes. There’s nothing on this menu I wouldn’t order. One item to call out because it looks humble on the page, but comes to life in the mouth: their sauteed cabbage, with garlic and fish sauce. Simple but sexy.

Kafana

Hearty Serbian fare in a lively setting
For a step into an older and more soulful world, Kafana is a real gem. It’s Serbian, dim, brick-lined, with subtly vaulted ceilings. Serbian memorabilia line the walls and the tiny bathroom is stocked with Serbian drugstore products. On Fridays, a live band... For a step into an older and more soulful world, Kafana is a real gem. It’s Serbian, dim, brick-lined, with subtly vaulted ceilings. Serbian memorabilia line the walls and the tiny bathroom is stocked with Serbian drugstore products. On Fridays, a live band performs old Balkan songs, as diners wail along between mouthfuls. On Sundays, the staff and its regulars often sing too. The last time I was there, they brought me a glass of Rakija, a Serbian brandy, aromatic and high proof — a common thank you at the end of meals there, alongside an apology for the noise. “Sundays are family nights!” they explained. Dishes are unpretentious and generously portioned, spanning heavy meat dishes such as braised lamb shank to fresh, simple salads such as their šopska — tomato, cucumber, onion, and feta. Their assorted cheeses come with a heavenly compote; their warm, baked beans could resuscitate a frozen heart. The wine menu is extraordinary, stocking a sophisticated selection of Balkan treasures. Cash only.

Raku

Udon soups that are better than medicine
My favorite casual lunch or dinner spot when I’m feeling unwell — Raku’s udon soups are like medicine. They have two locations in the city, a smaller, more in-and-out spot in the East Village and a larger, sunnier one in SoHo. I love going with a friend and sharing... My favorite casual lunch or dinner spot when I’m feeling unwell — Raku’s udon soups are like medicine. They have two locations in the city, a smaller, more in-and-out spot in the East Village and a larger, sunnier one in SoHo. I love going with a friend and sharing two soups, a lighter and a heavier, like the sansai with mountain vegetables and mushroom tempura paired with their gyunan, laden with washugyu beef — or the tantan, topped with spicy miso pork. Their broths are rich and healing, their noodles thick and bouncy. Cash only.

Commerce Inn

A transportive American tavern
Owned by the quietly reigning queens of the West Village, Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, this is typically not the first spot people claim as their favorite within the couple's portfolio. But it is mine. It defines that sum-of-the-parts spirit of a truly... Owned by the quietly reigning queens of the West Village, Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, this is typically not the first spot people claim as their favorite within the couple's portfolio. But it is mine. It defines that sum-of-the-parts spirit of a truly immersive restaurant, where everything — from the experience of walking down its street, to the feel of its menu — transports. Located on a historic street, the restaurant is a Shaker-inspired early-American tavern, where items from pickled oysters to molasses and pork-belly cooked beans are imbued with the merry, honest spirit of a Louisa May Alcott novel.

Cho Dang Gol

A Koreatown institution
This K-town treasure specializes in tofu, made fresh daily, and stews, served bubbling in hot stoneware alongside bright bowls of banchan (the Korean side dishes served with your meal). All meals begin with a complimentary tofu starter — creamy, light, like... This K-town treasure specializes in tofu, made fresh daily, and stews, served bubbling in hot stoneware alongside bright bowls of banchan (the Korean side dishes served with your meal). All meals begin with a complimentary tofu starter — creamy, light, like ricotta in texture. Their pancakes — I recommend the seafood and the fish — provide a nice, starchy accompaniment to their soupier mains. Don’t miss their spicy kimchi tofu stew.

Il Posto Accanto

An Italian gem with Departures history
Italian expats living in New York are known to make a weekly pilgrimage to this restaurant, so I decided to go for lunch one day. It was then that I learned that the restaurant has a long history with this magazine. There is a table marked with a gold... Italian expats living in New York are known to make a weekly pilgrimage to this restaurant, so I decided to go for lunch one day. It was then that I learned that the restaurant has a long history with this magazine. There is a table marked with a gold plaque reading “Richard David Story’s Table” — Story being Departures’ long-standing editor-in-chief. It turns out, he, and this magazine, loved this restaurant. And now, so do I. A dedicated band of regulars frequent this spot, staying for hours on the weekends and plowing through Il Posto Accanto’s extensive menu of Roman trattoria style classics. A true local gem.

The Bar at Eleven Madison Park

Excellent cocktails and a laid-back take on the restaurant's menu
There are few restaurants more iconic than Eleven Madison Park. From exquisitely innovative cuisine to paradigmatic standards of service, their full-dining experience is New York's quintessential expression of fine dining. However, I... There are few restaurants more iconic than Eleven Madison Park. From exquisitely innovative cuisine to paradigmatic standards of service, their full-dining experience is New York's quintessential expression of fine dining. However, I recently discovered the pleasures of their more laid-back, but no less upscale, bar experience — an intimate room off to the side of their soaring main dining hall. Here, one can experience Chef Daniel Humm’s plant-based creations (the world’s first to gain three Michelin stars) in a shorter, more relaxed tasting menu, alongside the bar’s remarkable cocktail program, of course.
Photo by Louis Hansel

Cafes

Abraço

A community hub for your morning coffee
Open since 2007, this place has become an institution and a community hub. The outdoor seating is always buzzing come spring. Their beans are house-roasted, and their olive-oil cake, also made in-house, is a classic.

Book Club

A homey cafe nestled in a bookstore
A true place to congregate, this bookstore has a cafe-style counter in the front, where locals work remotely with coffees by day or post up with books and a glass of wine by night. The cafe’s outdoor spaces feel homey — little tables set up out front and a... A true place to congregate, this bookstore has a cafe-style counter in the front, where locals work remotely with coffees by day or post up with books and a glass of wine by night. The cafe’s outdoor spaces feel homey — little tables set up out front and a patio in the back. On rainy days, settling into one of their armchairs with a hot drink and a good book is a nice way to spend an hour or two.

Le Fournil

A piece of Paris in the East Village
In a soaring old space, this Parisian-style bakery is like a piece of Europe in the East Village. Their baked goods are a delight, from sweet to savory. A particular favorite of mine is their tomato tart, jammy and aromatic with excellent olive oil. Go in the morning, when their pastries are just coming out, and sit outside with a coffee.

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Photo by Teddy Wolff

Bars

Reception Bar

Soju cocktails in a minimalist space
Serving artfully-composed soju-based cocktails in a minimal, high-design space with lots of pretty, circular shapes and muted tones, Reception Bar is a quiet treasure. Every drink feels deeply considered, from their piquant Ginger Goblin (Hwayo soju,... Serving artfully-composed soju-based cocktails in a minimal, high-design space with lots of pretty, circular shapes and muted tones, Reception Bar is a quiet treasure. Every drink feels deeply considered, from their piquant Ginger Goblin (Hwayo soju, ginger, Korean pear shrub, eucalyptus bitters, white pepper) to their sultry Smokes (made with pine-smoked lapsang soju). Balanced and delicate, their cocktails remind me of tea. Their small snack menu is also a hidden treat, serving plump mandu and garlic knots from Scarr’s, the fun, buzzy pizza spot nearby, served with white kimchi — as every garlic knot should be.

Parcelle

The best wine bar in New York
Parcelle is the best wine bar in New York, hands down. I did a longer piece on them, and their genius, hard-working owner, sommelier Grant Reynolds, a while ago. The space has a lovely emerald color scheme and Gio Ponti flair. Their wine program, with the right... Parcelle is the best wine bar in New York, hands down. I did a longer piece on them, and their genius, hard-working owner, sommelier Grant Reynolds, a while ago. The space has a lovely emerald color scheme and Gio Ponti flair. Their wine program, with the right amount of light and bright wines for easy by-the-glass sipping, is meticulously curated alongside their well-paired stellar food offerings such as crab fried rice, chunks of parm, anchovies, etc.

Mr Fong’s

Chinese-inspired cocktails and snacks
I’ll love this gritty and spirited bar until I die. It has a touch of irreverence; they classify themselves as “a salad bar” in their Instagram bio. Popular with the downtown set (or just those who look that way), this Two Bridges neighborhood favorite is home... I’ll love this gritty and spirited bar until I die. It has a touch of irreverence; they classify themselves as “a salad bar” in their Instagram bio. Popular with the downtown set (or just those who look that way), this Two Bridges neighborhood favorite is home to strong, Chinese-inspired cocktails and snacks. My loyal order is a salty plum old fashioned and their Malaysian beef jerky — a tangy, salty pile of tender strips and pickles. Come in the evenings, with someone you’re totally enamored of, or a big ol’ group. The dim-lit, high-ceilinged space always seems to hold the right energy for an intimate drink for two, or a large and rowdy hang.

Le Dive

French tabac, NYC style
New York's take on the French tabac, Le Dive is a bar that’s more like a brasserie. Their food menu is restaurant-like in size and substance, and enormously tasty. Their mushroom pâté — creamy, meaty, nutty — is impossible not to love, as is their more old-school... New York's take on the French tabac, Le Dive is a bar that’s more like a brasserie. Their food menu is restaurant-like in size and substance, and enormously tasty. Their mushroom pâté — creamy, meaty, nutty — is impossible not to love, as is their more old-school fare: tuna niçoise done right, a lacy bibb salad of tender delicata squash and aged goat’s-milk gouda — all pleasantly and unfussily executed. This is my favorite spot for apéro hour, due to these massive windows from which daylight pours inside. Come the warmer weather, their outdoor seating stretches out into a commune. A perfect afternoon can be spent enjoying one of their lovely natural wines, served in charming little glasses, while nibbling on a plate of charcuterie with friends. Some call this spot “sceney.” And, yes, there’s a fun see-and-be-seen aspect. But last time I was there, I sat next to a father whose two daughters were crawling up his head. Le Dive is for all.

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AMERICAN EXPRESS® CARD MEMBER ACCESS

Global Dining Access by Resy

Unlock access to unique experiences and sought-after restaurants across the globe, when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile. Terms apply. Learn more here, and visit resy.com or the Resy iOS app to get started.

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Our Contributors

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.

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