when and why to go: When you want to feel transported in time and place. The street outside is a quiet, cobble-stoned wonder. This kitchen of this small restaurant churns out some ridiculously good food. Get the meat and cheese plate and when the weather is good, eat in the backyard garden. Good for girlfriends and date night alike. The first time I ever ate here is, to this day, one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.
when and why to go: Anytime. Truly. It’s totally worth it. Unmarked, this restaurant isn’t terribly easy to find, but that’s part of the appeal. The menu consists of small plates (Spanish/Mediterranean) and this is the perfect spot for date-night, or an evening with the gals. It is warm and intimate without fuss. It is absolutely one of my favorite Manhattan haunts.
when and why to go:At the end of the night when everything else is closing and you want one more glass of wine and a small plate of food. The guys behind the bar are quite cute in their suspenders and page-boy hats. Get either of the pesto dishes–they won’t disappoint. But do know–it can get pricey, quite quickly.
when and why to go: Whenever and always. I can’t say enough about this West Village haunt. I rarely choose to go out for Italian food, but I’ll always suggest this spot. It is small and warm and always an event. It’s great for girlfriends, parents, or even a date. And then there’s the fact that it’s reasonably priced (by New York standards). It is, absolutely, one of my favorite spots to introduce to friends who have lived in the city for years and years, but have somehow never been.
the spot: BARRIO CHINO
the neighborhood: Lower East Side, Manhattan
when and why to go: When you want the best margarita that Manhattan has to offer. I have made a practice of going in search of the best and most-spoken-about margaritas in this city, and it is my personal (and humble) opinion that barrio chino’s jalepeno infused margarita is that best I’ve ever had–anywhere (outside of Manhattan, even). It is spicy with a brown sugar rim and thus satisfying like none other. This place, and that particular margarita, were introduced to me by two different men–and it’s not an understatement when I say, best thing those guys ever did for me. Beyond the margarita, get the guacamole, chips, and assortment of salsas. (Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite go-to spots). Added bonus, the famous BABYCAKES is across the street if sugar-free-gluten-free is your thing.
when and why to go:For the best pizza New York has to offer. This place is a trek. And it looks like a hole in the wall. But the pizza is good (SO GOOD!). The same guy makes all of the pies and he's been doing it forever and it's worth it, in every way. I'm also pretty sure it's BYOB, but you should check me on that. Also, know that wine stores in the neighborhood only serve kosher wine, so don't expect the usual selection.
when and why to go:For small plates of Mediterranean food. It is very, very good. Very, very fresh. And very, very well-priced. Great for after work (don't get me started on the six dollar glasses of wine at happy hour), or later in the evening (post theatre, perhaps).
the neighborhood:West Village (super far over West Village)
when and why to go:This is my go to spot when I want a calm relaxed drink and I don't want to have to fight the crowds. There is a small outdoor space in the back and it's quite sweet with twinkly lights and wicker chairs.
when and why to go:When you want good, FRESH Thai food for a really reasonable price. So, you know, basically, whenever. Though, they do have an incredible lunch special. Take in the MET, walk west across the park, and head here.
when and why to go:This is one of my favorite restaurants in all of New York. It's good for dates, good for family, good for friends. The food is fresh, Southern-inspired, and not terribly expensive. I've never gotten tired of going. I would suggest getting the Pecan Pie French Toast with a side of sausage at brunch. For dinner, the cheese plate and fried chicken.