Tip Sheet: New York

Counter culture

Once upon a time in New York, the closest you could get to eating foie gras at a counter was ordering liver and onions at Empire Diner. Fine dining, as it was called, took place at a table that had to be booked in advance. Not so these days. In top restaurants all over the city, some of the best seats are at the counters—and we don't mean bars—where you can eat, drink, and be served just as well as you would at a table. And don't worry about reservations; counters are a walk-in's privilege.

Chef Marco Canora likes his food pristine and his staff on their toes. "Work to my left, I'll slide, you'll follow" is one snippet of dialogue you'll hear at this four-seat counter. No less entertaining is Canora's piquant roast Chatham cod and pumpkin tortelli. Dinner, $110. At 403 E. 12th St.; 646-602-1300.

Nab a seat at this communal counter facing the dining room and its paintings of figs, olives, and tomatoes. There's plenty of space for knees and packages (this is Blooming dale's ter ritory), along with fine Mediterranean salads and tartines. Dinner, $60. At 808 Lexington Ave.; 212-207-4555.

One side of this big, beautiful white marble counter has a view of the boutique; the other side faces 60th Street. The best of the inventive dishes: the pear, bacon, and crispy brussels sprouts salad. Lunch only, $80. At 10 E. 60th St.; 212-223-2288.

The marble counter here is small and the fried oysters are fabulous—crispy, succulent clouds of seafood on a bed of homemade tartar sauce. $ Dinner, $80. At 18 Cornelia St.; 212-691-8211.

SPICE MARKET At last, a place for handbags: The cutouts beneath this kitchen counter are perfect for stashing. All the better to concentrate on the family-style dishes turned out by the Jean-Georges-picked chefs; we love the ginger fried rice topped with an egg. Dinner, $100. At 403 W. 13th St.; 212-675-2322.

$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.