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Yes, this classic “ploughman’s lunch” featuring Stilton cheese, smoked salami, pickled beet salad, apple slices, and excellent rustic bread is available somewhere in the Seaport, and nothing could go better with a cold beer. (Try place No. 3.)
With its cobbled streets, tall ships, and 18th-century atmosphere, the picturesque South Street Seaport is a hard place to find something good to eat. Clueless tourists are sitting ducks when it comes to food, and many of the highest-rent and most-trafficked places depend upon them to sit down, order crap, and then pay through the nose for it.
Not so you, 4Knots attendee and savvy New Yorker. You want good food and reasonable prices — or even something much better than that on both counts. Here, then, is Fork in the Road’s list of the best places to eat in the Seaport and on its fringes. Don’t be surprised if some are unusual and off the beaten path.
10. Suteishi — Peck Slip, where Suteishi is located, seems a far cry from the Seaport’s maddening throngs, and the restaurant — open to the street to catch cooling breezes — excels at nori rolls and salads. No, it’s not the best sushi you’ve ever tasted, but in this context it will do just fine. 24 Peck Slip, 212-766-2344
9. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue — Yes, it’s a fast-food chain, and yes, you have to walk three blocks up Fulton Street to get to it, but believe me, you won’t regret it. Because L&L offers vernacular food from our 50th state, including long-smoked pork barbecue flown in from Honolulu, pork steamed in banana leaves (“lau lau”), Chinese charcuterie, Japanese teriyaki, and noodles with Spam, all accompanied by mayo macaroni salad. Weird, cheap, and good. 64 Fulton Street, 212-577-8888
8. Il Brigante — “The Brigand” is one of the city’s few restaurants from Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot and one of the country’s poorest regions. Il Brigante specializes in pizzas, which emerge from the wood-burning oven charred and smoky-tasting. Go for the simple and elegant margherita, or for the Calabria, which features hot soppressata and black olives. Among pastas, pick the baked “fussili silani,” which name-checks a rugged plateau in the Calabrian outback. 214 Front Street, 212-285-0222
7. Heartland Brewery & Barbecue — Better than average pub grub (smoked beef brisket, red gumbo, Texas chili, and St. Louis barbecued ribs), a location right on the Seaport’s main drag, plenty of outdoor tables, and a premises that retains the décor of a much older establishment are the lures of this branch of the local brewpub chain. 93 South Street, 646-572-2337
6. Mark Joseph Steakhouse — This refectory is strictly for high-rollers, a steakhouse founded by a renegade headwaiter from Peter Luger, offering steaks nearly as good as its inspiration, and all the steakhouse accoutrements, including a fine wine list. If you’re in the mood to splurge during 4Knots, this is the place. What to get? The porterhouse, of course. 261 Water Street, 212-277-0020
5. Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club — Capitalizing on the Water Taxi Beach phenomenon, this Seaport newcomer occupies the entire north terrace of the Pier 17 shopping mall. With its spectacular views, pool and ping-pong tables, and clubby atmosphere, it feels like a resort hotel — minus the hotel. Favorite feed: the flame-grilled bratwurst with kraut and a pretzel bun. 89 South Street, 212-896-4600
4. Cowgirl Seahorse — This goofy place is a compendium of all the ’80s downtown theme restaurants — places like Sugar Reef, Gulf Coast, Tortilla Flats, and, yes, Cowgirl Hall of Fame — that went before it, offering a greatest hits of those establishments, plus colorful cocktails. Stick with my recommendations, and have a very good meal: seafood gumbo, coconut shrimp, chicken-fried chicken, and the “ice cream baked potato.” Huh? 259 Front Street, 212-608-7873
3. Nelson Blue — The city’s only New Zealand bar and café enjoys a picturesque location on Peck Slip, the Seaport’s finest thoroughfare. Join the Kiwis at the outdoor tables and tuck into a wonderful egg club sandwich, or the omnibus platter of drinking snacks charmingly called “Cockie’s tucker.” What, no cock? 233-235 Peck Slip, 212-346-9090
2. Bennie’s Thai — This inexpensive place once again requires you to climb three blocks out of the Seaport up Fulton Street, but it’s well worth it. Bennie’s is one of the city’s top 10 Thais, a semi-subterranean place that offers colorful curries, authentic noodle dishes, and Isaan salads like pork or chicken larb — wrap the spicy ground meat in lettuce leaves and chow down. 88 Fulton Street, 212-587-8930
1. Acqua – When it opened over a decade ago, Acqua was one of the city’s first Italian wine bars, and the one that most perfectly evoked a Tuscan farmhouse. The food is still wonderful, including one of the city’s best Caprese salads; solid, well-sauced pastas offered in shareable portions; and wine available by the glass, bottle, and carafe-size allotments called quartinos, representing a quarter of a liter. And no place seems further from the touristic tumult of the Seaport. 21 Peck Slip, 212-349-4433