RUB, 208 W. 23rd St. (tel. 212/524-4300; www.rubbbq.net). Co-owner Paul Kirk brings his Kansas City pit prowess to New York, with mouthwatering results. Try the Taste of the Baron, a little bit of everything for a big crowd.
Best for Breakfast
Good Enough to Eat, 483 Amsterdam Ave. (tel. 212/496-0163; www.goodenoughtoeat.com). They’ve been lining up on Amsterdam Avenue every weekend for over 20 years for chef/owner Carrie Levin’s bountiful home-cooked breakfasts. But why wait in line? You’re on vacation; go during the week.
Best for Brunch
Norma’s, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, 118 W. 57th St. (tel. 212/708-7460; www.normasnyc.com). Though I am not a devotee of brunch, I make an exception for Norma’s. Skip the traditional breakfast items and go for creative interpretations such as the asparagus-and-seared-rock-lobster omelet.
Best Jewish Deli
Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 E. Houston St. (tel. 212/254-2246; www.katzdeli.com). This is the choice among those who know their kreplach, knishes, and pastrami. No cutesy sandwiches named for celebrities here, just top-notch Jewish classics.
Burger Joint, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, 118 W. 57th St. (tel. 212/708-7414; www.parkermeridien.com). Who woulda thunk that a fancy hotel such as Le Parker Meridien would be the home to a “joint” that serves great burgers at great prices?
Best Pizzeria Old Style
Patsy’s Pizzeria, 2287 First Ave. (tel. 212/534-9783; www.patsyspizzeriany.com). This great east Harlem pizzeria has been cranking out coal-oven pizza since 1932. You can also order by the slice here, but only do so if the pie is fresh out of the oven.
Best Pizzeria New Style
Trattoria Zero Otto Nove, 2357 Arthur Ave., the Bronx (tel. 718/220-1027; www.roberto089.com). The best pizza in the Bronx uses ingredients from local Arthur Avenue establishments cooked perfectly in a wood-burning oven, resulting in an authentic Neopolitan pie.
Best 20th-Century Steakhouse
Frankie & Johnnie’s, 32 W. 37th St. (tel. 212/947-8940; and 269 W. 45th St., tel. 212/997-9494; www.frankiesandjohnnies.com). Whether you choose the former speakeasy that is the original location in the Theater District or the newer branch in John Barrymore’s former town house, your steak, particularly the house sirloin, will remind you why Frankie & Johnnie’s has been around since 1926.
Best 21st-Century Steakhouse
Porter House New York, 10 Columbus Circle (tel. 212/823-9500; www.porterhousenewyork.com). New steakhouses sprout every year with much hype; this one in the Time Warner Center, helmed by chef Michael Lomonaco, distinguished itself far ahead of the pack of new steakhouses.
Best Mutton Chop
Keens Steakhouse, 72 W. 36th St. (tel. 212/947-3636; www.keens.com). Of course, it might be the only restaurant in New York that offers a mutton chop, but that’s not the only reason to head to Keens. The other “chops” are first rate, and the rooms—there are several—are like museum pieces without the stuffiness.
Best Greek Restaurant
Kefi, 505 Columbus Ave. (tel. 212/873-0200; www.kefirestaurant.com). In a new and expanded space and now taking reservations and credit cards, Kefi is not only the best Greek restaurant in Manhattan, but also one of the least expensive. You won’t believe basic Greek taverna food could be so good.
Best Japanese Izakaya
En Japanese Brasserie, 435 Hudson St. (tel. 212/647-9196; www.enjb.com.). Like a Japanese pub, this izakaya features a staggering selection of sake and shochu while you can munch on small plates like house-made warm tofu prepared three times each evening and short ribs grilled on a hot stone.
Best for Families
Virgil’s Real BBQ, 152 W. 44th St. (tel. 212/921-9494; www.virgilsbbq.com). In Times Square, Virgil’s, in a sense, is a theme restaurant, the theme being barbecue, but they do an excellent job of it. It’s loud, colorful, and has great options for children.
Best Cheap Meal
Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway (tel. 212/799-0243). Though the $4.45 Recession Special—two hot dogs and a fruit drink—is almost a $1 increase from last year, it’s still a bargain. But is it any good? Witness the lines out the door every day for lunch.
Best Ice Cream
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Fulton Ferry Landing Pier, Brooklyn (tel. 718/246-3963). The perfect reward after a brisk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Rich homemade ice cream, with a view of the Manhattan skyline -- it’s a tough combination to beat.
Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway (tel. 212/932-2052). They’re not huge like some bagels these days, but they are always hot and baked to perfection.
The Best Unforgettable Dining Experiences
Aquavit, 65 E. 55th St. (tel. 212/307-7311; www.aquavit.org)
Though its new digs are not nearly as charming as its former town house setting, the service and the food are as good as ever.
Oceana, 1221 Sixth Ave. (tel. 212/759-5941; www.livanosrestaurantgroup.com)
Now in a huge Rockefeller Center location, Oceana not only got bigger, it got better. The assortment of seafood, offered raw or prepared best simply, is as fresh as you will find anywhere in the city.
Big Wong King, 67 Mott St. (tel. 212/964-0540)
Come here for the true Chinatown experience. You’ll share tables with Chinese families, order bowls of congee with fried crullers, plates of stir-fried vegetables, and platters of roast pork and duck—all served by brusque no-nonsense waiters. I guarantee it will be unforgettable.
DiFara Pizza, 1424 Ave. J, Brooklyn (tel. 718/258-1367)
Spend an hour in nondescript, often grimy DiFara and watch as Domenico DeMarco slowly, laboriously makes one pizza at a time until finally he is making yours, and you have the supreme privilege of tasting the most sublime pie you’ll ever have.
The Best New Restaurants
Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich St. (tel. 212/925-3797; www.locandaverdenyc.com).
Formerly the chef of A Voce, Andrew Carmellini found a home in the Greenwich Hotel’s Locanda Verde. The restaurant’s sheep’s milk ricotta with herbs is one of the city’s absolute must-haves.
Keste Pizzeria & Vino, 271 Bleecker St. (tel. 212/243-1500; www.kestepizzeria.com).
The authentic Neopolitan pizzeria abides by the standards of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (the Association of Neapolitan Pizza), with mouthwatering results.
Prime Meats, 465 Court St. (tel. 718/254-0327; www.frankspm.com).
The newest venture from the owners of Frankie’s Spuntino, this Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, meat palace features many locally sourced ingredients, including vegetables straight from local farms, as well as local and imported meats, prepared to perfection.
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