Amelia was right: picking a place to eat in New York City can be more challenging than picking a mate with which to procreate for life. There are so many! They all look so cute! If I eat at the one with the decorative tins full of flowers, will I regret the missed mason-jar-full-of-tequila across the street?
But as is often the case with abundant choice and the anxiety it incurs: if you can narrow down the pool from which to pick, you can quell the panic that comes with it. And if you can quell the panic, you can make a decision based not on distortion but rather, on merit. Like it is a basketball team, my friends. And you? You are the referee. (What?)
Enter this: a 4-part series chronicling five restaurants across the four corners of New York City (plus two beyond the bridges and tunnels that demarcate our rent fees!) to trust as your personal, handpicked-and-tried (Drinks were drunk! Taquitos were consumed!) Zagat guide-in-theme. Today, we tackle a portion of lower Manhattan east of Broadway.
So you’re having dinner with a whole bunch of girlfriends, don’t want to make a reservation, see anyone you know outside of the inner circle or get judged for asking, “Extra guac, please?”
Try La Palapa at 77 St. Marks Place. And the cool thing about this place, which can be pretty dark inside but offers solid half-in-half-outdoor seating at the front end, is that the guacamole dish is so big you probably won’t have to ask for extra. The margarita pitchers are not exorbitantly sized, which is either a downfall or win depending on whether you’re comfortable ordering one for just yourself. And, the fish tacos taste like zesty grilled fluff rolled into an ocean of carefree gluten. Don’t get dessert, but only because you are in the East Village and Big Gay Ice Cream Shop is one block east while DF Mavens, a coconut-based ice cream shop, is one block west. #Blessed.
Your parents are in town, you haven’t seen them in three months, you’re not paying for dinner and you want to prove that you’re 10 degrees cooler than them, solely because of your impeccable new restaurant knowledge and choice.
Try Seamore’s at 390 Broome Street, brought to you by the kind folks who bequeathed to us The Meatball Shop. If you’re into ceviche, appreciate the notion of a gin mojito, don’t mind — and in fact relish — communal seating and like the idea of sitting in a restaurant that looks like a curated Instagram account, you will shit yourself on immediate contact. And then you will feel great about that bile release because the food is that good. There is also a daily soft serve on tap for dinner, which comes in a cone to you at your table. Eat that while your mom is picking up the bill.
It’s been a long week, you’ve had four dinners at Jack’s Wife Freda and you’re ready to try something different. Something that will either blow you away or suck you the F in.
Try Noreetuh at 128 First Avenue. If I’m being really honest with you, I have not tried this place but accordingly to Cristina, our ad sales wizard, it is “really funky.” According to the Internet, it is Hawaiian — sorry, elevated Hawaiian — cuisine. I don’t know what that means other than maybe bbq’d pineapples, but if that’s all, that’s enough. Let’s head there together?
You have just one task to complete on your evening agenda and it is to get wasted.
If you’re wearing high waist linen shorts with a striped shirt, leather jacket, clogs and a topknot above your head, try Leadbelly at 14 Orchard Street. Ask for the cucumber martini but substitute the vodka for tequila and shed your layers of self consciousness because the people populating this bar are so cool you feel like a fraud. Also! There’s popcorn. #Blessed x 2.
If you’re wearing anything else, try Sweet and Vicious at 5 Spring Street (by Elizabeth St.): drinks in mason jars, happy hour specials and a backyard garden that feels like home. Once you’re wasted, you will invariably realize that the other thing on your agenda was dessert. Morgenstern’s is but a mere block away, friends.
You’re leaning in like any good female aged 24-36 in 2015 does and choosing a first date spot for a one-on-one you have planned tonight. You anticipate that your choice will reflect whether or not you are a suitable partner and in thinking through the character traits that make you special, you decide spontaneity, willingness-to-get-down and how well you can eat (waffles!) on your feet are key factors.
Try a food truck…any food truck. I did this once and poof! Three years later: married.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis