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March 16, 2009

Recession Eats: New York Is Still Dining

Minetta Tavern, an oldie but goodie revamped and just reopened by restaurateur Keith McNally.
Photo: MugurM on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Ondine Cohane

I just spent two weeks in New York and, as always when in town, I ate up a storm. The city is truly a foodie paradise, and I am happy to report that despite the recession, new eateries are opening their doors at a good clip. I was struck by how crowded the best spots were, especially downtown in neighborhoods like the West Village and the Lower East Side. "If your 401K can take such a nosedive so quickly, maybe it's better to invest in a good meal that you can actually enjoy" seemed the unspoken sentiment. Most of the places that I ate weren't exorbitant, though, and the dishes were mostly unfussy, concentrating on tasty ingredients that spoke for themselves. Read after the jump for my list of the best places I dined, where I want to eat next, and a few of my perennial favorites.

* The three-month-old 10 Downing is NYC's current darling for good reason. The Brussels sprouts mixed with anchovies, breadcrumbs and garlic and topped with a poached egg, and the gnocchi with butternut squash made me swoon, although the acoustics were terrible--if you are looking for a quiet tête-à-tête, head elsewhere. Check out the reviews from Frank Bruni and Adam Platt to work up your appetite; then book well in advance.

* I consider myself a pizza expert at this point (or, should I say, I eat as much pizza as possible in the name of research). When I heard about the brick oven pies at the recently opened Company, cleverly coined co. pane, I immediately went to check it out. My favorite samplings were the flambé with béchamel, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions and lardons (although my Tuscan friends who are pizza purists would have been shocked) and the straight-ahead Margarita. Yum.

* Though Eletteria's location on 8th Street seems an odd choice, I enjoyed the innovative and eclectic menu (not to mention the wine list). Among the highlights: cavatelli with octopus, cranberry beans and Szechuan pepper and the simple but delicious rice cakes with lentils, tomato and ginger. Beforehand I had a drink with my friend and CNT Senior Editor Kate Maxwell at Bobo. Don't miss their Pisco Sour.

* I wasn't able to go as it only opened on Tuesday night but next time I am in town Scuderia is high on the list. The brainchild of Leyla Marchetto (who, funnily enough, did a stint at Condé Nast Traveler), it seems to have all the ingredients for a bustling delicious neighborhood trattoria--having enjoyed many an excellent meal at her dad's inimitable Da Silvano, I imagine the same success for Leyla.

* Nearby, Minetta Tavern is another must-stop for the next eating pilgrimage (it opened the same night as Scuderia). The latest from Keith McNally (he of Balthazar and Pastis fame), it promises great bistro fare in a West Village icon--think classics like côte de boeuf in an atmospheric setting of vintage murals and banquettes.

* I also can't wait for the unveiling of the Monkey Bar in the Hotel Elysée. Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair editor-in-chief and maestro of the Waverly Inn, Jeff Klein, the hip hotelier of New York's City Club and Sunset Tower in Los Angeles, and Jeremy King, who has made the London's Wolseley an institution, have joined their formidable forces to reinvent this Midtown eatery and bar. In a few weeks, the results will be unveiled, and I wager that the place will become the watering hole of the city's glitterati. I hope I will be able to snag a table!

* As for some of my other, not new, favorites: I had a lovely ladies' lunch at Café Cluny (I can't get enough of the salmon tartare with Old Chatham sheep-milk yogurt and chive and beet potato chips). I found shelter at the Little Owl during the city's big snowstorm a couple of weeks ago; the place is so cozy and I loved dishes like the Arctic char. I greatly enjoyed the incredibly fresh sushi at Sushi Yasuda, even though the servers manage to make you feel like a culinary dunce. I drank a Bloody Mary that was a meal all in itself at the always buzzing Spotted Pig, accompanied by an order of their excellent deviled eggs. And talking of oeufs, the organic soft-boiled eggs and soldiers that I always order for breakfast at Balthazar are one of the city's greatest pleasures as far as I am concerned.


Brilliant roundup! Thank you, thank you. I live here in New York and haven't been able to check all of these out yet, but look forward to using this as my 'tick sheet' for the next few weeks! Scuderia is great delicious fun though, must say. Their papardelle with braised beef cheek is out of this world. 15 East (near Union Square) is another amazing new sushi find fyi; it's like a mini implanted Tokyo treat as opposed to most of the other offerings this side of the Pacific! Cheers...

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