Food & Drink

  • Best (Dead) Insects

    Taka

    One day I spotted them on the menu, an occasional special at TAKA—grasshoppers. I pondered, Is it a metaphor? Will it be some dish constructed of seaweed to look like grasshoppers, or like the cocktail of the same name, something that is simply an intense shade of green? I ordered. What showed up was a small bowl containing what looked… More >>
  • Greasiest Breakfast

    La Bonbonniere

    For hundreds of years, LA BONBONNIERE has been serving the breakfast needs of Villagers, though there's nothing French about it but the name. A diner-style breakfast menu features sunny-side-up eggs, sodden but tasty bacon, griddle cakes, and French toast (oops! another French thing). The biggest decision: white or whole-wheat toast. On fine days, the tables spill out onto the sidewalk,… More >>
  • Best Omelet

    416 B.C.

    Perched on a promontory overlooking the hubbub of Canal Street, 416 B.C. is Manhattan's only Bulgarian restaurant. Among lots of great menu items, the kavarma omelet stands out—an enormous egg-wrapper that, crepelike, enfolds the national spin on goulash, an oily pork stew sweetened with plenty of peppers and onions. Also superlative is kyopolu, a complex puree of roasted vegetables, including… More >>
  • Cheesiest Fondue

    Artisanal

    The seven-fondue assortment at ARTISANAL (don't be deterred that the name spells out "Art Is Anal") is the best in the city, and nothing tops their 100 Cheeses Fondue, a frequent special that combines the rinds of multiple white cheeses into a creamy and sharply flavored mother lode. Forget the "grande" size; the $22 "petite" is plenty for a table… More >>
  • Magnificent Mustard Soup

    NL

    Mustard soup may not be the kind of potage you dream about, or even the kind you might invent in a nightmare, but once you try NL's mustard soup, your ideas about soup will never be the same. It's made with several kinds of mustard mixed with a dash of cream, and the interplay of sharp and mellow flavors will… More >>
  • Best Cow Cod Soup

    Daphne

    DAPHNE Mahoney is a Jamaican force of nature who has been serving up tastes of home for years. If you're lucky—call to make sure—you can catch a taste of cow cod soup, one of the nostrums that Jamaican men swore by long before Viagra was invented. Don't ask about the ingredients, just sip, savor, then go out and "Get Up,… More >>
  • Friendliest Pho

    Pho Tay Ho

    Like ramen, great pho depends on a wonderful broth, in this case one based on beef scraps and bones long-boiled, then perfectly clarified at PHO TAY HO. It also depends on split-second timing as thin-shaved beef of diverse sorts (including tendon, muscle, eye of round, tripe, etc.) is deposited and begins to cook as the soup arrives at the table.… More >>
  • Most Incendiary Mouthful

    El Maguey Y La Tuna

    I'm not sure if you're a fan of the Mexican tripe soup called pancita, but EL MAGUEY Y LA TUNA serves the hottest version I've ever encountered. The brick-red broth boasts at least a half dozen dried chiles, creating a taste so fiery that you'll need to allocate three bottles of Negra Modelo for a single bowl of soup. As… More >>
  • Most Happening Indian Bread

    Santoor

    You can't get any further east and still be in New York City. In the Glen Oaks neighborhood, SANTOOR is a determinedly full-service Indian restaurant aimed at many South Asian constituencies. Malabari paratha is the city's best Indian bread, a buttery and multilayered production that flops seductively across the hand and functions perfectly in the capacity for which Indian bread… More >>
  • Best Brik

    Epices Du Traiteur - CLOSED

    A brik is a Tunisian pastry that wraps a savory stuffing in uncountable layers of flaky dough that's like a thicker version of filo. The most common filling marries potatoes with canned tuna and tops them with a raw egg, which becomes only partly cooked as the pastry is fried. Bite into it and yellow oozes out. Nevertheless, briks are… More >>
  • Excellent Empanadas, South American

    Mi Bolivia - CLOSED

    The Bolivian twist on the empanada is known as the salteña, and it boasts a braided spine, a crisp and achiote-tinted crust, and a filling that's much juicier than a regular empanada's. As such, it should be eaten with a fork to avoid dry-cleaning bills. There are only two Bolivian restaurants and one deli in town, as far as I… More >>
  • Best Bastilla

    Sago

    Why can't any Moroccan place in town make this pie the way it's supposed to be made—with pigeon (OK, call it squab if you're squeamish about New York's flying rats)? Most of these eateries go for bland chicken breast instead, and it's a disaster. At least SAGO has the good sense to omit flesh entirely, and this vegetarian version—layered with… More >>
  • Jammingest Jamaican Roti

    Sun Shine Kitchen

    Jamaicans don't cotton to the Trinidadian roti, preferring to eat the curried meat or poultry filling plain or jazzed up with spicy shredded cabbage and other vegetables. SUN SHINE KITCHEN really is just a Plexiglas kitchen with no dining room, so you have to sit on the nearby A-train stairs in order to dine. Nevertheless, the goat roti is the… More >>
  • Best Roti in an Unexpected Place

    Terry's Gourmet Deli

    Once a week, do what I do. Go to TERRY'S GOURMET DELI and ask the jovial counter guys (who hail from Trinidad) to make a chicken roti with two spoonfuls of the excellent homemade Scotch Bonnet hot sauce. I carry mine surreptitiously into the Union Square Cinema and pick a movie, the badder the better. I wash it down with… More >>
  • Best Roti in an Expected Place

    Roti Shack

    Whenever I'm in Flatbush, I demand a roti. Though I try to oscillate between the different versions available there—Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Guyanese—my heart belongs to the Trinidadian, soupy with curried potatoes and punctuated with chickpeas. My fave at ROTI SHACK is goat, followed by conch (not always available) and chicken. Also check out the snacks on the counter, like poulourie… More >>
  • Best Potato Pizza

    Sullivan Street Bakery

    Squarish slices of spud pizza have become something of a fad among downtown bakers. No cheese, no tomato sauce, but plenty of herby, oily flavor. The Golden Oven Award goes to SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY, the outfit that makes a good deal of the bread you eat in fancy restaurants. You'll recognize the bread immediately when you shop at their retail… More >>
  • Superior Staten island Pizza

    Denino's

    Before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge united Brooklyn and Staten Island, the island's pizza bakers labored in isolation, generating a unique type of pie with a crust somewhere between Neapolitan and Sicilian. Cooked at a lower temperature, the thicker crust can be loaded with a lusher dose of ingredients. The best example of this sort of pie is found at DENINO'S,… More >>
  • Wildest Vegetarian Slice

    Viva Herbal

    Against all odds, it works. Here's the list of ingredients of the slice known as Zen at VIVA HERBAL: green-tea-herbed miso-tofu, green-tea basil pesto, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and roast garlic on a spelt (nonwheat) crust laced with green tea. A symphony of sharp and mellow flavors—proving that vegan cuisine can be as delicious as any other.… More >>
  • Best Slice, Hands Down

    Patsy's

    It's a trick question, since most of the old-guard, coal-oven Neapolitan pizzerias in town will only serve entire pies. The recently deceased journalist Jonathan Kwitny claimed it had something to do with the mob forcing inferior cheese on neighborhood slice joints while exempting whole-pie places. Who knows? But PATSY'S in East Harlem serves a fantastic plain-Jane slice in its northernmost… More >>
  • Best Use of Chickpeas

    Ferdinando's

    FERDINANDO'S is Brooklyn's oldest focacceria, a Sicilian snack shop that specializes in oil-slicked vegetables, stewed seafood, and tiny sandwiches on round rolls. One of their best products is the panelle special, made with chickpea fritters that show the influence of North Africa on Sicily piled on one of the aforementioned rolls and then heaped with clouds of the freshest ricotta.… More >>
  • Premier Pan Bagnat

    Payard Patisserie & Bistro

    Bravely flying its anchovy from a toothpick like a pennant, PAYARD PATISSERIE & BISTRO's pan bagnat is a brilliant evocation of Provençal's favorite sandwich: a flying-saucer roll split down the middle and stuffed with a perfect salade niçoise featuring creamy tuna salad, purple onions, lettuce, tomato, radishes, and lots of other goodies surmounted by sliced boiled eggs. You won't walk… More >>
  • Superior Sandwich

    Marquet Patisserie

    Yes, the premade sandwiches at the counter of MARQUET PATISSERIE are fine, but skip them and ask the clerk to have the kitchen make one fresh. Request the garlicky French salami known as rosette de Lyon on country bread—a chewy white loaf with a formidable crust—with lettuce and tomato, and stipulate mayo on one side and mustard on the other.… More >>
  • Best Roast Beef hero

    Clemente's

    Forget the lettuce, forget the tomato, and, especially, forget the mayo at CLEMENTE'S, an ancient Brooklyn hero shop that begins with a good Italian loaf, piles on the tender roast beef, still barely pink in the middle, then opens the gravy spigots and flows the good brown stuff all over the meat and bun. The sandwich verges on the fork-friendly,… More >>
  • Tastiest Toasted Cheese

    Pastis

    Look to the French to "kick it up a notch." The croque monsieur at PASTIS is a thing of beauty, starting with an orotund slice from a Balthazar loaf layered with good ham, Gruyère, and clouds of béchamel, then slung under the broiler till the open face is bubbly brown. Fold it over and try to eat it—I usually end… More >>
  • A+ Almojabana

    Mosaico

    What's almojabana? A Colombian cousin of the bouncy Brazilian cheese breads called po de queijo. You can get it in two sizes at MOSAICO, an upscale pan-Latin lunchroom that always has a few things I crave on its rotating menu (the meal-size tamales and pressed sandwiches are always tasty). The almojabana is a little more crumbly than its Brazilian counterpart,… More >>
  • Best Salad Bar

    City Bakery

    There was the distinct sound of gasps and a holding of breaths when CITY BAKERY packed up and moved a few months ago to a new location. Thankfully, all the good stuff is still available, with a few new items—some good, some inspired but ultimately unsuccessful clunkers. The salad bar—mainly cold and room-temperature stuff—has been extended, and remains the best… More >>
  • Best Shopper's Salads

    Café Beyond

    Let's not lie—you know that you're cruising the aisles at Bed Bath & Beyond looking for another single in hopes of trading up to king-sized sheets. Now there's CAFÉ BEYOND, a place to sit in between reconnoitering that offers simple, better-than-expected food. Get a container of greens, large or small, mesclun or spinach, then add the ingredients of your choice,… More >>
  • Best Luncheon Surprise

    Gramercy Tavern

    The offerings of the GRAMERCY TAVERN are legendary, and there's always a wait for reservations, so the cognoscenti head for the first-come, first-seated, no-reservations lunch in the tavern section of the restaurant, where the fortunate snag a table in the window. The menu changes constantly, but offerings like a vegetable sandwich that plays on the meatiness of a portobello mushroom… More >>
  • Best Cheap Chinese Lunch, Queens

    Jade King

    The decor is minimal, but you're not at the JADE KING to savor the surroundings, you're there to chow down on the cheap and cheerful fare that draws a lunchtime crowd. Forget the wonton soup on the $4.75 lunch menu and begin with a hot-and-sour soup that actually lives up to its name. Then move on to one of the… More >>
  • Best Cheap Pasta Lunch, East Side

    Caffe Buon Gustpo

    I almost didn't notice it, squeezed mid-block between apartment buildings and shops, but a small terrace with a few chairs and tables signals CAFFE BUON GUSTO, the East Side branch of a minichain purveying pasta with flair. The surroundings are simple, but with just enough decorative touches to make you feel you've wandered into a trattoria on a Roman side… More >>
  • Best Burger,Queens

    Bosna-Express

    Trust Bosnian immigrants to give us our best hamburger. Located on a shady corner under the moribund M train, BOSNA-EXPRESS is a carryout window that specializes in great grilled meats and homemade yogurt. Pljeskavica is a one-pound, belt-busting beef-lamb patty that's served up on a massive roll made right on the premises and dressed with yogurt and chopped vegetables—the perfect… More >>
  • Boldest Brisket

    David's Brisket House

    Running from Bed-Stuy to Crown Heights and beyond, Nostrand Avenue is one of the city's great food streets. One of its oldest establishments is DAVID'S BRISKET HOUSE, which has morphed over the decades from a corned-beef-and-pastrami deli into a full-service coffee shop while miraculously retaining its hot-meat roots. The brisket sandwich with gravy is a monument to the gloppy sandwich,… More >>
  • Best Burger, Brooklyn

    Peter Luger

    When it arrives, it doesn't look too impressive—the seeded bun, barely big enough to contain the meat, is squished, and when you lift the lid, the burger is dressed with a single slice of raw onion. No lettuce, no tomato. But when you bite into the burger at PETER LUGER (lunch only), the rush of flavor is like you've just… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    Nathan's

    Somehow, the combined stink of suntan lotion and salt spray improves the taste of hot dogs, and when I'm anywhere near Coney Island, I can't resist dropping by NATHAN'S for a frank or two. The oddly cut fries are another asset, but nearly everything else on the overreaching menu bites. The Nathan's franks purchased from the franchise locations around town… More >>
  • Most Picturesque Burger Joint

    Willie's Burgers

    You'd think the nonfranchise burger restaurant would be a thing of the past. But the southeast corner of Eighth Avenue and West 145th Street hosts an aged yellow lean-to known as WILLIE'S BURGERS. Don't believe all the signs stenciled on the front offering jalapeño burgers, fried fish, and a dozen other things, most of them unavailable. Instead, order the cheap… More >>
  • Oddest Fast Food

    Hero's

    Who could have predicted that the true sweet potato (not to be confused with the painfully orange yam) would be reinvented as the basis for a new sort of fast food? Yes, it's good for you, but it also tastes good. Contrary to its name, which suggests long sandwiches of bad luncheon meat, HERO'S specializes in sweet-potato permutations. The spud… More >>
  • Best Wurst

    Forest Pork Store

    Until recently, Ridgewood was New York's premier German neighborhood. Now all that's left of it are the butchers, and the best is FOREST PORK STORE. Savor the smoky aroma as you swing through the plate-glass doors, and be regaled by more types of wurst and bologna than you've ever imagined. Also, don't miss the double-smoked bacon. After you make your… More >>
  • Best Sausage

    North Carolina Country Store

    Though we're partial to hot dogs at Nathan's Coney Island and Papaya King, first prize goes to Brooklyn's amazing NORTH CAROLINA COUNTRY STORE, where the products for sale run to country hams, boiled peanuts, liver pudding, fritter mixes, and other down-home faves. Drawing you ineluctably to the back of the store, a gal at a pair of griddles cooks up… More >>
  • Mightiest Maws

    Poor Freddie's Rib Shack

    The gleaming and up-to-date premises of POOR FREDDIE'S RIB SHACK are run like a military camp, and it's best to observe the rules, like "No Waiting on Anybody" as you queue up to enjoy the decent fried chicken and ribs (skip the catsupy sauce), much-better-than-decent yams and cornbread, and over-the-top-good hog maws, little gray snippets of skin, meat, and integument… More >>
  • Best Mixed Grill

    Cent'Anni

    Mixed grill has long been a menu item that all too often turns out to be a burnt offering of a strip of bacon and a piece of sausage. CENT'ANNI offers the perfect updating of the concept—a platter heaped with pieces of fork-tender rabbit, lamb, homemade sausage, quail, and smoky pancetta along with a garnish of roasted peppers and grilled… More >>
  • Best Feijoada

    Via Brasil

    One of the first restaurants of Little Brazil, VIA BRASIL still keeps folks coming back, despite its glitzy refurbishment a few years ago. They return for the warm welcome and for food like the big-enough-for-two portion of feijoada, which is available every day. The cauldron of meat and beans, the fluffy rice, the orange segments, and the well-cut couve, or… More >>
  • Prettiest Pot Pie

    Alley's End

    Among its meat-bearing entrées, ALLEY'S END offers a single vegetarian choice—a luscious pie that comes in a stiff pastry that looks like a pillbox hat. Poured into this pastry (the pie is never really baked, as far as I can tell) is a profusion of excellent fresh vegetables, laced with chives and dotted with tiny olives to tweak the flavor.… More >>
  • Finest Fried Chicken

    Margie's Red Rose Diner

    Margie has been frying chicken at this location for 11 years, and next door for 33 years before that. Which explains the wonderful collection of '60s soul hits on the jukebox. The chicken is fried in the best Georgia style, with a mere dusting of flour and salt on the intact skin and a very careful immersion in fresh oil… More >>
  • Best Rotisserie Chicken, East Side

    Pio Pio

    The Queens Peruvian chain PIO PIO recently established a beachhead on the Upper East, invading the space once occupied by Manhattan's own failed favorite, El Pollo. The chicken at the new location is superb, densely matted with spices, even if the hot sauce ("aji"—supposed to be the sound of a stifled scream as you burn your mouth) has been diluted… More >>
  • Best Rotisserie Chicken, Uptown

    El Conde

    The chicken at EL CONDE isn't much to look at, but I dare you to find better anywhere on the island (Manhattan, that is). This Dominican joint specializes in steaks, but I can't resist getting chicken—crisp-skinned, garlicky, and salty in optimum proportion. And the staff is just plain friendly. For fishetarians, there's an excellent octopus salad.… More >>
  • Best Rotisserie Chicken, Brooklyn

    Kikiriki

    Sunset Park has become the rotisserie center of the world (a title Jackson Heights previously held), and once again the Peruvians are in the driver's seat. In this case, Peruvian Chinese, a bona fide national minority that put lo mein and other stir-fry on the South American menu. At newcomer KIKIRIKI, the chicken is one of the biggest and moistest… More >>
  • Best Butter Chicken

    Shaan

    Chicken makhani, when done right, is a dish to savor: pieces of yogurt-marinated tandoori-cooked chicken in a tomato-based sauce that is rich with butter and often topped with slivered almonds. It is unfortunately a dish that has been so badly interpreted in so many Indian restaurants that at times it seems a real butter chicken is hard to find. I… More >>
  • Rockingest Ribs

    Beppe - CLOSED

    We New Yorkers must hang our heads in shame when it comes to barbecues. We have so few, and most of them are awful. So unless you go to Pearson's, you've got to look elsewhere for great ribs, and forgo that most perfect form of cooking them—barbecuing. It was with trepidation that we ordered the "Tuscan cowboy ribs" at BEPPE,… More >>
  • Loveliest Lamb Testicles

    Café Shishkebab

    The barbecued sweetbreads are way better than the testicles—which are a bit rubbery and frozen tasting—but, hey, I got your attention, didn't I? CAFÉ SHISHKEBAB is a serviceable Uzbeki café featuring budget charcoaled shish kebabs, very good bread lubricants like baba ghanoush and hummus, and killer french fries. The chicken tabaka, a garlicky bird crushed flat, is also the best… More >>
  • Best Boudin Blanc

    Cornelia Street Café

    Forget about the phallic sprig of rosemary that garnishes so many of Gotham's dishes; at CORNELIA STREET CAFÉ, the food is notable for its taste—not for looking as though it's been fussed over by 1000 tiny elfin hands—and the boudin blanc's the best. Densely toothsome with just a hint of fennel, it goes perfectly with the accompanying slaw of thick… More >>
  • Best Dominican Pork Truck

    Dominican Pork Truck

    Those of us who comb the boroughs know there's no better quick bite than the DOMINICAN PORK TRUCK that opens every evening around sundown on the Manhattan side of the University Heights Bridge, which links Fordham Road with Inwood's 207th Street. The choice parts are displayed in a nifty glass case on the side of the truck, including ears, tails,… More >>
  • Best Midpriced Midtown Shabu Shabu

    Yodo of Japan

    You may not leave feeling like the empress of Japan after shabu shabu at YODO OF JAPAN, but you'll certainly feel like her favorite lady-in-waiting, and you'll have a few yen left over. The blond-wood and shoji-screen decor may be modest, but the assortment of veggies served with a heaping platter of thinly sliced beef rivals that of pricier places… More >>
  • Best Bunny Chow

    Madiba

    This South African fast-food miracle begins with an entire loaf of white bread. The loaf is hollowed out, a mellow vegetarian curry is sluiced into the open top, and then the lid is replaced. Presto! A favorite of the KwaZulu-Natal region, bunny chow is available only at Fort Greene's MADIBA, which is also the city's only South African restaurant. Also,… More >>
  • Best Deployment of Goose Fat

    Strip House

    Not because of the nudie decor, either! Located on the site of the former opera-themed Café Asti, STRIP HOUSE is a new steakery decorated like a house of ill repute. Not surprisingly, the fine-grained strip steak is the cut to get, though there are plenty of good fish on the menu for meat haters. But the one "don't miss" is… More >>
  • Best Wildly Expensive, but Awfully Good Rib-Eye Steak

    Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

    DEL FRISCO'S DOUBLE EAGLE STEAKHOUSE is one of the new breed of testosterone-infused carnivore palaces. Everything is larger than life at this Manhattan outpost of a Texas chain that makes a fine art of '80s excesses. But what wondrous excess it is. The rib eye is done to a perfect turn, with just enough chew to let you know you've… More >>
  • Meatiest Mutton Chop

    Keen's Steakhouse

    Trust the old-timer Keen's Chop House, which was uselessly renamed KEEN'S STEAKHOUSE, to have the best—and perhaps the only—real mutton chop in town. Though mutton conjures up images of feeble sheep barely able to climb the ramp to the meat cutter's ax, it actually refers to any animal over a year old, and the mutton chop in question is tender… More >>
  • Best Peking Duck, Queens

    Peking Duck Forest

    Now that the Chinatown in Queens rivals Manhattan's, no one questions that there's excellent Chinese food in the borough. Mention a restaurant beyond the pale in Forest Hills and eyebrows do go up, but rest assured, PEKING DUCK FOREST is the real deal. The pleasant yet unprepossessing place specializes in the imperial dish, and the duck of dreams is available… More >>
  • Best Korean 'Cue

    Korea Palace

    You know the drill: The server lifts the plate from the center of the table, fires up the barby, and everyone gets to grilling. Overlooked by many because of its location and brushed off as another of those midtown tourist traps, the KOREA PALACE merits a stop for its Korean barbecue. Whether kalbi or bulgogi, the meat is flavorful, the… More >>
  • Best Iberian Pig

    Meigas

    MEIGAS, a Hudson Square tapas bar-cum- restaurant purveys pig with a passion. The cochinillo asado con salsa de miel y vinagre de jerez (roast suckling pig with honey and sherry vinegar) is quite simply sublime, a massive chunk of fork-tender swine. Each piece has just enough aromatic fat topped with crisp crackling skin and honeyed flesh to savor. Yum! 350… More >>
  • Juiciest Jerk Pork

    Pearly's

    OK, so it's not done on a barbecue made from an oil drum and charcoal isn't involved. Still, contrary to expectation, PEARLY'S jerk pork is the best in Brooklyn. The pieces are large and succulent, rimmed with fat, and slightly gritty with generous quantities of jerk spices. And this tiny café is like a Jamaican clubhouse, with friendly guys sitting… More >>
  • Best Persian Kebabs

    Colbeh

    It almost didn't make it and was closed for a period after opening, but COLBEH is back on Main Street in Queens, serving up Persian food at prices that are unbeatable. Begin with one of the salads, then move on to the kebabs, moist chicken with a hint of char, or even flaky whitefish. They're served with a grilled tomato,… More >>
  • Best Koreatown Korean

    Kom Tang Soot Bull House

    KOM TANG SOOT BULL HOUSE—the place goes by several overlapping names and claims to be the oldest Korean restaurant in town—was recently refurbished, and now occupies an incredible three-story premises. Sit on the second floor by the big window for a thrill, and enjoy the most extensive Korean menu on the strip. The "Soot Bull" refers to the fact that… More >>
  • Best Meat-and-Starch Feed

    145 Luncheonette

    Ordering has become more complicated at 145 LUNCHEONETTE since they introduced the English translation of the Arabic menu, but the best meal is still the giant mound of scented rice topped with whatever kind of lamb they happen to be roasting at the moment. The starch component is amplified with a little potato curry dabbed here and there. Ask to… More >>
  • Leading Lamb Chop

    Speengar Shish Kabob House

    The gnarled, oddly cut chops (called "ribs" on the menu) at SPEENGAR SHISH KABOB HOUSE aren't much to look at, but you'll have difficulty finding more flavorful examples anywhere in the city. This Afghan stalwart uses halal meat, and you'll see, as you enter, a big open hearth and an open bag spilling irregular hunks of charcoal onto the floor.… More >>
  • Best Buffalo Wings

    Old Town Bar

    Since I couldn't cite OLD TOWN BAR in two categories in the same issue, it was a toss-up whether I would laud it for wings or fried onion rings—huge rounds hacked from a sweet, sweet onion of amazing girth, dipped in a batter that's light yet crunchily substantial. Bar food magic! Instead, I picked the wings, a bowl of fearfully… More >>
  • Best Tartares

    Orsay

    Allegedly first eaten in the Baltic provinces of Russia in medieval times, when the Tartars shredded beef with a knife before devouring it raw, the dish has become a classic offering. Nowadays, the tartare is as likely to be salmon or tuna as beef. At ORSAY, the glitzy new bistro that occupies the space that the oh-so-haughty Mortimer's used to… More >>
  • Best Turkish-Style Grilled Octopus

    Dervish

    If you're used to the slightly charred on the outside rounds that are purveyed in most Greek eateries sophisticated or small, you'll be thrilled at the offering at DERVISH, a new theater-district outpost of the food of the Ottomans. Here, the tentacles are stripped of their suckers and grilled, then peeled of skin to reveal sweetly tasty flesh with only… More >>
  • Best Coconut Shrimp

    Day-O

    Crisp-fried in a batter flecked with tender pieces of sweetish nut, the coconut shrimp are the dish to order at DAY-O, a West Village gathering spot. Settle in under the mechanically undulating palm trees and order one of the bathtub drinks that are house specialties, then sit back and get carried away with the mood of the islands.… More >>
  • Best Gambas Al Ajillo

    Marichu

    Shrimp with garlic are a Spanish restaurant standby. At MARICHU, the UN-adjacent spot, the Basque food of the northwestern section is highlighted. Start with a chilled glass of sherry and a handful of olives for atmosphere, then move on to the gambas, sizzling hot in an earthenware casserole that's got more than a hint of garlic for flavor. Smokers can… More >>
  • Best Brooklyn Catfish

    Night of the Cookers - CLOSED

    Sure, it used to be a bottom feeder that no one, except the cognoscenti and the unabashed poor, wanted to eat. Now they're farming them all over the Mississippi Delta, and catfish have gone upscale. Fried to fluffy perfection and served up with a side of collards, they're a Southern staple and one of the lures at NIGHT OF THE… More >>
  • Best Osaka-Style Sushi, Brooklyn

    Osaka

    The opening of OSAKA raised the bar on Cobble Hill sushi. There are the usual suspects, all done in capable versions, and an array of innovations like the Viagra roll of sea urchin wrapped around avocado and eel. The real reason to brave the crowds, though, is the awesome Osaka-style sushi—long, thin strips of fish overflowing the rice in tasty… More >>
  • Liveliest Lobster

    Nick's

    I know you wish you were sitting at a lobster pound in Maine, but the closest thing we've got is NICK'S, with a big wooden deck hanging precariously over Jamaica Bay. With the pungent smell of marine oil from the adjacent marina, it does a pretty damn good imitation of Maine. The lobsters are excellent, steamed to your order, and… More >>
  • Best British Fish and chips

    Telephone Bar and Grill - CLOSED

    The sea-and-spud combo at outpost of empire TELEPHONE BAR AND GRILL arrives in a sailor's cap of folded newspaper, piping hot, airily light, and with a bottle of malt vinegar for zip. A bite or two later, you'll be looking up, hoping someone will join you in a rousing chorus of "Knees Up Mother Brown."… More >>
  • Best Tuna Filet Mignon

    Halcyon

    Watch out Charley, tuna has been gracing our menus in virtually every category but dessert. At HALCYON, the tuna filet mignon craftily plays on the fish's meatiness and is cooked to your specifications, from sushi raw and only slightly seared to a pinky medium rare and, with the chef's registered dismay, a consistent well-done. It's substantial, satisfying, and you don't… More >>
  • Most Satisfying Shrimp

    Rencher's Crab Inn

    Though not particularly large, the shrimp at RENCHER'S CRAB INN—an old and forgotten institution in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill—stand with the best of 'em. Sold by the pound, they've been lovingly cooked in a Maryland-style red seafood boil, which means they taste of celery, cayenne, and brine, in that order. Miraculously, Rencher's hangs on through succeeding waves of gentrification and fast-foodization… More >>
  • Best Downtown Sushi

    Takahatchie

    Though wonderful places like Tomoe Sushi, Taka, and Hasaki vie for this coveted award, the golden chopsticks go to TAKAHATCHIE this year, long a hipster hang along the dry food gulch of Avenue A. Skip the elaborate nori rolls like dragon and spider, and go straight to the xeroxed daily specials, which often run to two dozen selections. The standout… More >>
  • Best Asian Riff on Chilean Sea Bass

    Can

    I'm not sure why CAN has been overlooked recently, but folks don't know what they're missing. The current chef has a deft hand with seasoning, and the ethereally light slabs of Chilean sea bass, which are sauced with a ginger and scallion sauce that is lighter than, yet as flavorful as, the Chinese favorite, are quite simply awesome. The other… More >>
  • Whiting Fried to Perfection

    Sheryl's Cafeé

    Harlem is fried whiting capital of the world, and you can get it on nearly every corner. Thus it can only be after great deliberation that I bestow the palm on SHERYL'S CAFÉ, a newcomer to the neighborhood, though it offers the kind of excellent Southern food that tiny Mama-run cafés have been producing in Harlem for 80 years, of… More >>
  • Best Greek Grilled Sardines

    Avra

    All too recently, the only sardines you could get in a Manhattan eatery were the ones that came in cans; suddenly, they're all over the place—skin flaky with char on the outside and sweetly tasting of the ocean within. Some of the best of the bunch are available at AVRA, a fledgling estiatoria that offers flopping fresh denizens of the… More >>
  • Prodigious Porgy

    Scouna

    Porgy, you is my fish. Hit Astorian newcomer SCOUNA to enjoy the best porgy and red mullet, fish beloved of Greek islanders who prefer them simply grilled with just a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt. Watch the steam table for special stew selections that change on a daily basis, and don't miss the skordalia, potatoes whipped… More >>
  • Best Midtown Moussaka

    Molyvos

    In the years since it opened, MOLYVOS, on the upper edge of the theater district, has become a standby for its pleasant service, its cosseted decor, and its unfailing good food. Save the grilled fish for one of the new breed of estiatoria and head straight for the moussaka—the flavorful slab is dense with eggplant and tomato and celebrates the… More >>
  • Most Rollicking Rollatine

    Frost

    Eggplant rollatine is a bellwether for Neapolitan cooking—it's so simple, yet difficult to get exactly right. The ricotta filling must be scintillatingly fresh, the thin-sliced eggplant successfully evacuated of its bitter juices, and the tomato sauce must sparkle, yet not overwhelm the other delicate flavors. No place does this dish quite like FROST, an obscure and self-effacing Williamsburg old-timer that… More >>
  • Best Red-Sauced Lasagna With Smoke

    Gradisca

    The laughing rotund lady on the business card must be a smoker or just a bon vivant. She's smiling like the members of the boisterous, buoyant, and young crowd that gather at GRADISCA for vino e cucina. Those in the know will order the substantial wedge of red-sauced lasagna that tastes like the Italian food we used to consume before… More >>
  • Best Upscale Broccoli Rabe

    Grappa Cafe

    The clean-lined dining room of GRAPPA CAFE is the perfect nook in which to savor a well-prepared broccoli rabe that is done to a turn with just enough sweet, plump chunks of sautéed garlic to highlight the slight bitterness of the veggie. This is a dish that manages to maintain a foot in both culinary camps—retaining its hearty authenticity yet… More >>
  • Best Italian Wine Bar

    Enoteca I Trulli

    If you're partial to barolos, barbarescos, proseccos, chiantis, and vin dolcis, be regaled by the selection at ENOTECA I TRULLI, where you can sample by "flights," each containing three two-ounce tastings of wines that have been matched for their competing characteristics. In between sips, enjoy the kind of wine snacks that Italians crave, including an impressive range of cured meats,… More >>
  • Best Italian, Arthur Avenue

    Roberto's

    Sojourners to Belmont—the Bronx's Little Italy—are faced with a bewildering number of restaurant choices, many of them mediocre. The best by a long shot is ROBERTO'S, where the usual red-sauce cuisine of the region has been replaced with a menu that reflects modern Italian tastes. Order from the specials chalked on the wall and discover things like herby roast rabbit,… More >>
  • Best Risotto in a Hurry

    Risotteria

    Select from 11 different types of salad dressing, several sandwiches, and a seemingly endless array of risottos at RISOTTERIA. There are three varieties of rice featured—arborio, canaroli, and vialone nano—and each brings to the risotto a different quality, ranging from creamy richness to silkiness. The menu selections offer ample opportunity for comparing, and the best part is that it's mercifully… More >>
  • Best Brooklyn Celebration of Rice

    Faan

    Newly opened and already hugely popular, FAAN (pronounced fy-an in Cantonese) celebrates the foods of Asia prepared with rice. The restaurant-cum-club serves everything from sushi to four different countries' versions of fried rice, and ups the ante with a decor that combines Zen-like simplicity with a sense of humor.… More >>
  • Most Nourishing Noodles

    Rae Rae Ken

    The humble ramen shop has resisted transplantation from Japan to New York, where soba and udon hog all the glory—until now, with the advent of RAE RAE KEN, a narrow East Village den with but a handful of stools and a small staff fiercely dedicated to perfecting humble noodle soups on these shores. Check out the broth bubbling on the… More >>
  • Best Sautéed and Dried String Beans

    Grand Sichuan

    If you're a lover of good Chinese food, run, don't walk, to GRAND SICHUAN's Ninth Avenue location. The 28-page-plus menu—offering not only a listing of dishes but also a treatise on the food of China—is not only entertaining and informative, it's a testimonial to the seriousness of the chefs. Virtually everything is tempting, but don't miss extending your order with… More >>
  • Best Bean Curd

    KB Garden

    The lunchtime dim sum action puts Manhattan's Chinatown to shame. Flushing's KB GARDEN is a massive banquet hall adjacent to a hotel, and I've never seen better dim sum wheeled by on metal carts, pristine in its freshness and with more varieties than you're likely to see anywhere else. The homemade soft bean curd is especially sumptuous, ladled wobbling from… More >>
  • Best Bammie

    Mo-Bay

    Bammie are the chewy white cassava cakes that one sees too rarely in New York Jamaican restaurants. What a surprise, then, to find an excellent rendition in Fort Greene's slightly upscale MO-BAY (the tourist nickname for Montego Bay), a small and handsome restaurant across from Fort Greene Park. The staff couldn't be nicer, and the jerk chicken (baked version), goat… More >>
  • Picture-Perfect Okra

    Curry Leaf - CLOSED

    A project of the Kalustyan's grocery people, CURRY LEAF is a bargain Indian restaurant, probably the best all-around place in Curry Hill. Okra do piaza is a dish of the unblemished vegetable cooked slowly and reverently so the pod's handsome structure is maintained, though the okra becomes tender and some of the slime vanishes. Cradled in a piquant tomato sauce,… More >>
  • Dandiest Dosa

    Dosa Hut

    South India's favorite luncheon dish, the masala dosa is the world's most perfect food, a healthy combo of potatoes, cashews, and fermented lentils and rice cooked up into a savory outsize crepe. That's why I go ballistic when places like Hampton Chutney Company feel compelled to fill this vegetarian delight with meat. It's worth seeking out DOSA HUT, located right… More >>
  • Best Court Street Tempura

    Inaka

    INAKA may not have the glitz of the sushi emporia that have sprouted over the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, but what this neighborhood standby lacks in trendy decor, it makes up for in the airy lightness of its tempura. The plump, virtually greaseless pieces of shrimp, chicken, and veggies that emerge from the kitchen, along with the genuinely warm… More >>
  • Best Queens Dining Palace Spread

    East Buffet

    Grand is the name of the game at EAST BUFFET, a monumental dining palace with waiters who communicate with walkie-talkies and its own Web site to lure the hungry in search of a seemingly unlimited selection of food. The ever replenished buffet has a staggering array of dishes ranging from smoked salmon and Cajun blackened salmon to dry fried string… More >>
  • Masterful Manhattan Thai

    Pam Real Thai Food

    I now have to retract my cruel condemnation of Manhattan Thai restaurants, ever since a couple of good ones have opened in Hell's Kitchen. PAM REAL THAI FOOD is true to its name, even featuring a handful of working-class dishes from northern Thailand (the cook is from Chiang Mai). Ask to have the food made spicy, and don't miss the… More >>
  • Best Ethiopian Chow

    Meskerem

    Though short on ethnographic decor, featuring none of those cute basket tables and stools, MESKEREM still leads the Ethiopian pack in the sheer exuberance of its food. My favorite feed there is the vegetarian combo, which includes puddles of spicy lentil and chickpea stews, mounds of greens, and the mustardy salad azifa arranged around an injera-shingled tray. Their liquor license… More >>
  • Best Budget Indian Fusion

    Raga

    RAGA is a mango-hued marvel a block away from Curry Row geographically but light years away in taste. The kitchen purveys inspired Indian fusion cuisine with a menu that changes according to the chef's whims and the season's fare. One day, mains like perfectly grilled lamb chops served with a zesty lemon rice and tender seared duck with a spicy… More >>
  • Superior Soul Food

    Manna's Soul Food & Salad Bar

    While it outwardly resembles the mediocre and occasionally infectious hot-and-cold spreads of midtown delis, the buffet at MANNA'S SOUL FOOD & SALAD BAR is worlds away. Its operatives keep all selections at peak freshness, and even the most mundane items have a special flavor twist: fresh green beans, for example, are cooked with onions and a shake of chile flakes.… More >>
  • Best Chocolate Cake

    Amy's Bread

    When was the last time you ordered a piece of chocolate cake, and it didn't come moussed, fudged, and coffeed—so repulsively rich you could barely make a dent? AMY'S BREAD café has come up with the kind of devil's food cake (chocolate cake, chocolate frosting) that angelic moms used to make: uncomplicated, deeply chocolatey, and eminently edible. Also recommended: sandwiches… More >>
  • Best Fried Ice Cream

    Sala Thai

    Sure, it's a gimmick, but it's one that works and offers an alternative to the green tea and ginger ice creams that are usually offered. At SALA THAI, the East Side standby, the fried ice cream is a tour de force, a batter-covered ball of vanilla deep fried till the coating is crisp and the cream inside still well chilled.… More >>
  • Prettiest Pistachio Ice Cream

    Arayssi

    We thought that nobody made a good pistachio ice cream until we found a great one in an unpredicted place. In addition to being the city's best Lebanese bakery, ARAYSSI makes a mellow pistachio ice cream littered with crushed nuts, sold in a quart tub, and quite a bargain at $4. The ice cream has a creamy yet crystalline texture… More >>
  • Best Mini Linzer Tarts

    Sweet Melissa - CLOSED

    SWEET MELISSA has become a neighborhood favorite, purveying treats to the sweet tooth of Cobble Hill. The bread pudding made with brioche is legendary, the scones make tea time sublime, but I'm most fond of the mini linzer tarts that I can snack on without feeling that I've been truly wicked. Each one is a mere mouthful of hazelnut-mined dough… More >>
  • Chewiest Churros

    Donut Plant

    The best place to buy churros, the elongated Mexican donuts sprinkled with granular sugar, is not the Eighth Avenue L station (though those are good, too), but the DONUT PLANT, where all the ingredients are organic. As if the churros are not lure enough, Kossar's, the bialy bakery, is just down the block.… More >>
  • Best Bread Pudding

    Maroons

    The bread pudding is tip-top at MAROONS, a funky Chelsea spot named for the enslaved Africans that took to the hills and founded their own nation. The chef knows how to take the traditional dish—derived from the economy of cooking with leftovers—and transform it into something sumptuous, and the addition of rum is just the right mingling of Jamaica, West… More >>
  • Canniest Cannoli

    Estrabar

    Of course, to even qualify for this prestigious designation, the shell must be filled right before your eyes just before the pastry is handed over the counter. The ricotta has to be fluffy, taste just-made, and be dotted with only a modest number of useless distractions like candied fruits and chocolate chips—the shell is responsible for providing the crunch, not… More >>
  • Best Subterranean Happy Hour

    Route 85A - CLOSED

    ROUTE 85A's two-for-one happy hour rocks (all beer and well drinks included; daiquiris especially recommended). So do the vintage Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga coin-ops. The bartender, too, will usually play your CDs if you ask him politely (but the jukebox has been improving, and dude's been on a solid Nuggets tip—yay!). Added bonuses: enormous, clean bathrooms and a daily trivia… More >>
  • Best Place to Gamble Legally

    Flight 151 Bar and Restaurant

    On Tuesdays, FLIGHT 151 BAR AND RESTAURANT offers "Flip Nights" for those who love losing money but can't afford the trip to Atlantic City. Grab a seat at the bar, and stare the dealer-bartender deep in the eyes as he tosses a quarter and decides your destiny (for the next five minutes, anyway). Call it correct and the drink is… More >>
  • Best Buy-Backs

    Blarney Cove - CLOSED

    A shelter from the buzz and bustle of 14th Street, the BLARNEY COVE has all the marks of a classic dive: cheap booze, total lack of decor, trivia machine, and a couple of old men sleeping at the bar at any given time. But the Blarney has an added charm. As the evening progresses, should you manage to impress upon… More >>
  • Best Bar For $2 Drafts

    Down the Hatch

    Be warned: DOWN THE HATCH will play Pearl Jam, and you may even get jostled by an NYU sophomore singing along to "Even Flow." Ignore this quirk and you get a basement bar that charms with its unpretentious attitude and prices. With more happy-hour specials than you can shake a beer stein at, it offers half-priced drinks every day, capping… More >>
  • Best Bloody Mary

    King Cole Bar and Lounge

    The old boys' club that is the KING COLE BAR AND LOUNGE claims to have created the Bloody Mary in the '60s, and although the drink dates back at least to Paris in the '30s, who's arguing? Here, the goblet actually looks like it's filled with blood, and the smoky and spicy flavor is nirvana. Plus it arrives with a… More >>
  • Tangiest Martini

    Church Lounge

    At the Tribeca Grand's cavernous CHURCH LOUNGE, you'll repent for ever being disgusted by the sight of Tanqueray Ten-drenched Maytag; the Ten Commandments martini ($13) is that heavenly. Yes, the bloated blue-cheese-stuffed olives that arrive floating in gin look about as good as they sound, but trust us, it's a pairing second only to pb&j. Unfortunately, ridiculous prices aren't the… More >>
  • Best Watermelon Margaritas

    Uncle Pho

    Being terribly aesthetically minded is one reason the watermelon margarita at UNCLE PHO will appeal to you: This bright pink beverage garnished with a voluptuous lime slice just screams The Official Preppy Handbook's color theme. It also takes the sting off a long day. It's "pleasantly dandyish," enthuses one customer. It's "not too sweet but smooth and boozy," says another,… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Fresh Samantha

    East Village Farm

    Throughout the city, the popular natural fruit juice Fresh Samantha has been known to fetch high prices—as much as $3.50 in some uptown epicureans and everywhere above $2. So imagine our chagrin when we found Fresh Samanthas for sale at the EAST VILLAGE FARM for, guess how much? Guess? Yeah, $1.59. Madness! Depression prices. However, we were a tad disappointed… More >>
  • Best Mojito

    Esperanto

    Once upon a time, on an island far away that time forgot, an elixir known as the mojito was created with the most natural of properties: mint leaves, sugar, lime juice, seltzer, and rum. When the natives experienced this mouthwatering concoction, their bearded chief saw no need for them to leave the island. Thus they drifted along for years, until… More >>
  • Brawniest Beer

    Zum Schneider

    ZUM SCHNEIDER is getting mobbed of late, but the open-air Bavarian forest is still worth the trip to Avenue C for its $5 steins of funky, hard-to-pronounce brews. Way bigger than a pint and with an alcohol content that'll knock you for a loop, they're one of the best deals in the hood. Other highlights: gratis chunky pretzels, long communal… More >>
  • Best Place to Have Exotic Beers Uptown

    Dinerbar

    When you feel your bipolarity is just plain misunderstood by mere monos, head to DINERBAR and satisfy both of your needs. Is it a diner or is it a bar? Do you want to choose, really? One thing is for sure: You and your doppelgänger will finally have a warm atmosphere for that much needed chat while avoiding the Friday… More >>
  • Best Sake

    Forbidden City

    Eastern chic meets East Village freak at FORBIDDEN CITY, where the sake overfloweth. Running water, gilded dragons, and blissed-out Buddhas lend themselves to the Benihana mystique, while the potent cocktails promise healthy doses of sexual fortitude. But our favorites are the dozen or so kinds of sake, poured into cube-shaped cups and generously sloshing into the surrounding bowls. The Kaori… More >>
  • Best Wine Bar

    Il Posto Accanto

    At IL POSTO ACCANTO—sister bar of the popular East Village eatery Il Baggato—the focus is on, you guessed it, Italian wines, whether by the glass, quarter- or half-carafe, or bottle. The full-bodied Chianti Classico (La Sala '98, $36 bottle) and olive-hinted Barbera d'Alba (Bric La Ginestra '97, $36 bottle) paired nicely with a salami-and-cheese plate ($14), but best of all… More >>
  • Best Run of $4.99 Chilean Merlot

    Warehouse Wine & Spirits and its Appently Endless Run of Carmen Merlot

    You tried clipping wine reviews and taking them to your local wine store. You got tired of being told that none of the wines reviewed were in stock. You gradually realized that for every pricey, dazzling wine on the market, you have a bill to pay at home. So you ought to know about WAREHOUSE WINE & SPIRITS AND ITS… More >>
  • Best Bar for Single-Malt Scotch

    D.B.A.

    Hands down, it's D.B.A., where chalkboards overhead display the handwritten names of a staggering 94 single malts, conveniently listed under regional headings (Lowland, Spey, Orkneys, et al.). Connoisseurs drool over the extra-aged spirits, like Macallan 20-year—not available at your ordinary pub—and the rare bottles coddled in "The Crypt." On the upside, there's a long, battle-scarred wooden bar and well-worn tables,… More >>
  • Best Shishas

    Rico Café - CLOSED

    Rock the casbah at RICO CAFÉ, where the Egyptian shishas ($7) get packed with banana tobacco. The eclectic storefront is a hodgepodge of exotic artifacts, mismatched chairs, and exposed brick. But what sets this place apart is its hospitality: Brightly colored sheaths fit for Tutankhamen were slipped over our heads, and when the funky Arabic sounds of al-jil got us… More >>
  • Best Home-Furnished Smoking Environment

    Ginger Man

    While most of the town's cigar bars will turn you away for misplacing your Bruno Maglis, there is at least one that lets the slobs roam free to choke on their own fumes. The GINGER MAN is full of good-natured ambience that puts the frat-boy bullshit of McSorley's to shame. As an added bonus, the back room is decked out… More >>
  • Best Bistro Bar

    Belmondo

    Smoke your Gitanes while looking bored and breathless at BELMONDO. Simple, open, and airy, this new provincial bistro is just as cool, but not nearly as pretentious, as its über-sexy namesake, French acteur Jean-Paul Belmondo. Go incognito with a Godard ($7)—a passionate mix of Absolut Kurant, Chambord, and pineapple juice. The cocktails taste best at dusk, when the soft glow… More >>
  • Best (and Only) Club Bar

    Centro-Fly

    Just because CENTRO-FLY wins the laurels by default (New York's other favorite nightclub, Vinyl, only serves up potables of the nonalcoholic variety) doesn't mean it doesn't work for them. Even if you can't get past the formidable bouncer guarding the first-class VIP lounge, there're plenty other prime, more egalitarian boozing grounds, including the space-age op-art room off the main dancefloor… More >>
  • Best DJ Lounge, Atmosphere

    Open Air

    Is that a wall of water, or are hipsters more transparent than we thought? No, it's just the smoky video projections that fill the cleverly divided space of OPEN AIR. The front room houses a packed bar, while the back lounge is tripped out with dissolving lights reminiscent of an Andromeda Strain seizure, mod sectional furniture, and a DJ booth… More >>
  • Best DJ Lounge, Music

    Ja Lounge

    According to its business cards, JA LOUNGE is "the lounge that house built." And true to its slogan, a recent weekend night found resident DJ Jon Ferrari—the poor man's Danny Tenaglia—dishing up pounding tribal, trance, and deep varieties. With its glass porch and linoleum feel, Ja Lounge is more like Mel's Diner with a nightly Twilo makeover. Fortunately, the excellent… More >>
  • Best Bar to See Open-Mic Bands

    Charleston Bar & Grill

    The cozy, family-owned CHARLESTON BAR & GRILL is perfect for the little band that could. Every Thursday, fledgling, shaggy-haired bands debut their cobbled distortions for their easy-to-please friends and a few curmudgeonly barflies. The low-maintenance red lighting, brick walls, and beat-up drum kits may remind you of when you had to sit around and boredly listen to your high school… More >>
  • Best Bar on the Beaten Track That Won't be Crowded on a Friday Night

    Library

    Trying to find a Manhattan bar that's not packed on a weekend night can be more challenging than whipping through Saturday's Times crossword. So it beats me why the LIBRARY, a bar nestled on a thoroughfare well trodden by Camper-soled hipsters, always has a welcoming booth open. My guess is that its packaging—although it tries hard with the horror B-movie… More >>
  • Best Jazz-Age Drinks

    Louis

    At LOUIS, the fragrant Beaujolais comes in tiny juice glasses, costs only $5, and is poured by some of the cutest, most down-to-earth bartenders in town. It's a shrine to Armstrong, so if the $7 glasses of French champagne and $8 plates of chèvre, olives, artichokes, crostini, and other refined flavors don't get you, Satchmo's trumpet ditties will. By all… More >>
  • Best On-The-Waterfront Bar

    Lillie's

    Adorable Lillie Haws, the young, blond, and pigtailed Tennesseean proprietress of LILLIE'S, opened this breathtaking, eponymous bar just this past March and has obviously put an assload of work into making it fabulous. Although the historical location dates back more than 70 years (customers used to be sailors and other Red Hook Pier locals), the space had been closed… More >>
  • Best Theater-District Gay Bar

    Hannah's Lava Lounge

    Rainbow-flag-waving HANNAH'S LAVA LOUNGE is loungey in the old-school, neighborly sense—meaning you'll feel at home no matter what your stripe. Shawn the bartender's a kick and a half, so grab a stool and let him regale you with cheap beer ($3.50 Budweiser bottles), or chat up the patrons, who tend to be young, old, male, female, single, married, and everything… More >>
  • Best Place to Drink After Gallery-Hopping

    Glass - CLOSED

    Artists and liquor go together like Dick Cheney and heart surgery, so it's no surprise that chic boozeries have sprung up in gallery-ridden Chelsea. One of the newest, and sleekest, is GLASS, designed down to the last door hinge by the same team who did the Nolita restaurant Bot. The interior, from minimalist bar to room-length banquette, consists of curvy… More >>
  • Best Bar to Avoid Times Square Tourists in

    McHale's Cafe

    On an unassuming corner of 46th Street, ancient red neon letters spell RESTAURANT; below, curlicued iron grills cover the windows. A chalk board advertising old American standards like steaks and chops hangs by the door to beckon topers into MCHALE'S CAFE, a weathered barroom very much of the old school. Dim orangey globes, in '50s-moderne metal sconces and under slowly… More >>
  • Best Re-Creation of St. Elmo's Bar

    Dorrian's

    Are you looking for Mr./Ms. Right in the incarnation of a barely legal, boozed-up prepster? Do you get excited and yell to your friends "rock on" when dated yuppie bands like Men at Work play on the jukebox? Do you know that "dropping the H-bomb" refers to when a Harvard grad mentions the name of his school as a pickup… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar on the Lower East Side

    Lotus Club

    Being lazy, I rarely venture far from home in search of alcohol. Being a creature of habit, I usually visit the same haunts until I'm sick of them. So it's only recently that I've discovered the LOTUS CLUB, where my friends who live south of Houston Street like to convene of an evening. By day it's a classic café, sprinkled… More >>
  • Best Bar Comeback

    Standard

    In the last century we saw empires decline and fall, but none have fallen to rise again so swiftly as the STANDARD, a three-year-old boîte initially frequented by smartly clad architects and designers, then overrun with New York-reading Euros who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to Tribeca. Happily, it's outgrown its awkward phase, and the walls (translucent… More >>
  • Best Free Movie Screenings Where You Can Get a Drink

    Void

    Let's face it, the novelty of smuggling alcohol into the movies wore thin on your girlfriend at about the same time she stopped reading YM. But you're not going to let that stop you from working on your buzz while watching your favorite movies on a date, right? Find your way to the lounge at VOID on Wednesday nights at… More >>
  • Best Place for Drinks After a First Date

    Botanica Bar

    You want someplace cool but not forbidding, neither empty nor too crowded. Then you remember the old standby: BOTANICA BAR. After a movie at the Angelika, you walk over to the subterranean saloon, a cavernous, low-key space that won't intimidate the doctor your misguided friends set you up with. Luckily, you don't have to make a doctor's salary to cover… More >>
  • Best Make-Out Bar for Gay Men

    XL

    With its frosted-glass facade and neon-flanked couches, West Side boy bar XL looks like a nightclub scene from some '80s Tom Cruise vehicle. "What hell hath brought this interior scheme to three dimensions?" you ask. The benefits of lounging in such odious surroundings soon become apparent, though, as you get cozier with your drinking partner. Sidle up on the suede… More >>
  • Best Bar for Adultery and Other Dangerous Liaisons

    Big Bar

    At times, the need for a hidey-hole arises—when meeting a friend's ex for a not-so-innocent drink, or dating an uncouth geek you'd rather not be seen with. Avoiding the crowd is easy at BIG BAR, a rare underpopulated East Village den. Four-dollar shots of Jägermeister help to lubricate an evening in its suggestively black-PVC-clad booths, dim red lights cast a… More >>
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