Sometimes, carefully crafted cocktails, juicy steaks and groundbreaking desserts are worth the hunt. Dare to go underground with me, through hidden stairwells and pawnshops to get to the buried treasure that is a full stomach and a good story.
Below are my secret New York City restaurant recommendations for you, your friends, family and maybe some people that you want to trap there forever so no one will hear them scream – what? Nothing.
Expensive date night
Employees Only: With “psychic” emblazoned in small neon letters near a nondescript doorway, this place is incredibly easy to miss – and I think that’s the point. Once you do actually find the door, be sure to order the Ginger Smash cocktail and Bone Marrow Poppers appetizer right away. Then, revel in the lavish 1920s atmosphere, and of course sneak a very quick peek at the hot hipster bartenders in lab coats while your date is in the bathroom (JK, SCOTT, JK). Not only was the entirety of the experience fun and delicious, the Venison Chop and Seared Rib-Eye were some of the most delicious meats I’ve ever eaten.
To get a table, make a reservation by phone between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Ladies late night snacks and drinks
Beauty & Essex: Thereisfreechampagneinthebathroom, thereisfreechampagneinthebathroom. It’s totally unnecessary, but…THERE IS FREE CHAMPAGNE IN THE BATHROOM. Never before has a tiny bladder been more advantageous. Besides the restroom benefits, this place is pretty great. I mean, where else have you seen Grilled Cheese Smoked Bacon Tomato Soup Dumplings? Grab those to share along with the Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos and gossip all night with a Beauty Elixir Cocktail (Oxley gin, cucumber, strawberry and sparkling rosé) or The Woodsman (Woodford Reserve bourbon, allspice dram, maple syrup, lemon, muddled pears), or both. You’ll have such a good time that you’ll forget you originally entered the restaurant through an amazingly fancy Lower East Side pawnshop.
Drinks with out-of-towners to show them how cool you are
Manhattan Cricket Club: Tucked in the back of Burke & Wills restaurant on 79th street is a secret green leather door leading to a fancy speakeasy bar. Mixologists that prefer to be just called bartenders mix a mean Old Fashioned. Yes, the drinks can be expensive, but the vibes are worthwhile – there are giant comfy leather couches, gilded wallpaper and live jazz on Mondays, making you feel like you really are in a 1920s speakeasy. I actually grabbed a half-priced drink at Burke & Wills’ happy hour one night (along with many $1 oysters) and went upstairs to enjoy it. The staff here is what makes you feel like you belong in this upscale hidden gem.
Brunch with the family
Le Train Bleu: I know arguing is one of MY family’s favorite pastimes, how about yours? Well with Le Train Bleu, you’ll definitely get a rise out of everyone, as you search for this place diligently within Bloomingdale’s, while everyone grumbles passive aggressively that you don’t know what you’re doing and how much they hate walking. But then, you will take them to the front of an old train car that is a French bistro in the middle of one of the most well known department stores in the world, and they will shut up because you just blew their MINDS. The food is simple, but well prepared and delicious, and everyone will love it cause they didn’t expect it. You are the new family hero.
Go to the 6th floor, and then be sure to ask staff for directions so you don’t get lost and make everyone want to kill you.
On my wishlist:
Freemans on the Lower East Side (restaurant in the back of a creepy alley)
Bohemian: by referral only. Possibly too pretentious.