This is hands-down our favorite area of the city–not just because there’s a great restaurant or bar every half block, but because we’ve seen a great part of the city transform and continue to change while keeping its character.
It’s on the border of SoHo, which has really become a giant shopping mall (but still has some great restaurants and a gem of a hotel).
Bypass the gigantic H&Ms (they really need two in one neighborhood?) and ample Dunkin’ Donuts—here’s a snapshot of hotel and restaurant recommendations:
It’s been around for awhile now (15 years?), but it still set the bar for hotel-as-hangout. It’s comfortable with great service, and the common areas are still a bustling place to meet for drink. The rooms are comfortable, eclectic, and come with a Teddy bear. (Be careful, though–you don’t know where that bear has been.) Make sure to request a corner room with windows.
A little spendy, but a special hotel all around. The service experience is top from beginning to end. It’s a little hard to get to by car, because it’s just barely within the above “shopping mall,” but on foot it’s a breeze. And who really wants to drive in Manhattan anyway?
This is a new one in LES with Dirty French (a Torrisi group version of a French bistro) on the first floor. We stayed here too early after opening. It has a ton of potential, but the list of things they hadn’t worked out yet was comical. It’s got a great LES location, and many rooms have balconies with great city views.
Sixty LES (Thompson hotel)
Neither are favorites compared to the ones above, but they’re at better price points.
Here’s where it gets fun. I’ll start with just a big list and some editorial comments, followed by a few sample eating and drinking agendas:
- Saxon + Parole: Our favorite bar and oyster spot
- Gato: Bobby Flay’s new restaurant
- Lafayette: Andrew Carmellini does French, complete with a bakery/coffee counter. Don’t miss it for breakfast/brunch
- Acme: Across from Lafayette, creative food, small spot
- Bar Primi: Andrew Carmellini’s pasta bar
- The Wren: Drinking spot only, with great cocktails and vibe
- Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria: An inspiration for market-meets-restaurant
- Il Buco: Fantastic classic Italian, the sister restaurant to the above
- Bowery Meat Company: Next-gen traditional steakhouse
- L’Apicio: Great space, another Italian-ish (what isn’t these days?)
- DBGB: Daniel Boulud. Enough said.
Border of SoHo:
- Estela: Wine list is exceptional, and great little eating bar. Known as a great restaurant, too
- Musket Room: Michelin star
- Cherche Midi: Balthazar’s new French spot. Enough said
- Pearl & Ash: Beer and wine only, creative small plates
- Parm: From Major Food Group, this Italian spot gets its cred from Rich Torrisi. Like a diner for the Little Italy set
- Rubirosa: Pizza. Pizza. Pizza
- Balaboosta: Good dining choice in SoHo with a homey Middle Eastern vibe
- Peasant: An oldie but goodie, Italian from a wood burning oven
- Public: Great space, eclectic menu
- The Dutch: Andrew Carmellini’s oyster bar/restaurant
- Navy: Newer restaurant by the Smith & Mills guys (which, by the way, is a great vintage bar in Tribeca)
- Charlie Bird: Fun branding, great food, unbelievable wine and wine glasses (all Zalto at $50 + a pop)
- Osteria Morini: More modern Italian by Michael White
North of Houston a touch:
- Sadelle’s: Torrisi’s new bagel spot
- Carbone: Torrisi’s finer Italian dining
- ZZ’s Clam Bar: Torrisi’s teeny tiny seafood spot
- Lupa: Classic Mario Batali
Alphabet City down into LES:
- Prune: Been around and high on the list forever. Small storefront that opens to the street
- Dirty French: New French place in the Ludlow hotel by Torrisi (are you seeing a pattern here?)
- Ivan Ramen: Famous Ramen expert from Tokyo
- Mission Cantina: Danny Bowien goes south
- Birds & Bubbles: Champagne and fried chicken
- Schiller’s: Balthazar’s concept. Great bar
- Freemans: A classic bar
- Root & Bone: Best fried chicken and sides in Alphabet City
Agenda #1: Our go-to plan
Start with a drink at Saxon + Parole (and oysters, if you’re a fan). Try their house cocktails (a favorite is the sparkling negroni).
Head to either Musket Room, Estela, or Gato for a drink and an app at the bar.
Food (dinner-ish) at Cherche Midi for steak frites (or other French favorites). Their dessert is exceptional. The other option is Bar Primi if you want pasta.
End at the Bowery Hotel for an after-dinner drink. (This would work with any agenda. By which we mean: Go there.)
Agenda #2: Stay on one street
Start with a drink at Wren.
Head to dinner at Il Buco Alimentari (first floor or bar, not upstairs) or Il Buco.
Get dessert/after dinner drink at Lafayette.
Agenda #3: The quick eclectic, grazing
Start with a drink and app at Dirty French.
Head to Ivan Ramen for some light noodles.
Continue on to Mission Cantina or Birds & Bubbles (depending upon mood).
Go to Schiller’s for after-dinner drinks (or more food. You’re on vacation).
Agenda #4: The relaxed
Start with oysters and drinks at The Dutch or the teeny-tiny-but-cool ZZ’s Clam Bar
Head to Charlie Bird for dinner-ish.
Agenda #5: SoHo, one street, old-school
Start with drink at the Daily Bar.
Get a drink and app at Public.
Head to Peasant for Italian out of a great wood-burning oven.
Agenda #6: The undecided
Start with a drink at Freemans Alley.
If you like it, stay. Or head to Pearl & Ash for a drink (wine/beer only) and app.
Agenda #7: The walk-it-off
Start with a drink/app at the bar at Bowery Meat (newer) or at the tiny Prune.
Walk the long blocks to the best fried chicken, Root & Bone.
Walk off the fried chicken. May take a while. Like all the way to Harlem and back—and there’s a lot more to eat along the way, so stay tuned.