PRIME & BEYOND NEW YORK
Some amazing things have ferried over to New York City from the great state of New Jersey. If you snorted after reading that statement, I offer up Joe Pesci and Frank Sinatra as evidence of brilliance beyond our boroughs. Prime & Beyond New York is the brainchild of two Korean American brothers whose Fort Lee butcher shop blossomed into two magnificently low-key steak houses offering beautiful wet and dry aged cuts of meat that definitely hold their own against those old-town staples offered up at the Palm or Keens. Since setting up downtown this past summer, they’ve made quite an impression on the neighborhood. Neither Korean nor classic, this place is a worthy downtown dinner destination.
90 East 10th Street, 212-505-0033, primeandbeyond.com
If you grew up in the 1980s, you know just as well as I do that bootleg VHS tapes were a total rip-off. Anything that is a copy of a copy of a copy will eventually reach you as a blurry, half-dubbed piece of shit with barely any sound that cuts off just before the ending, leaving you with a stack of disappointments you find yourself unpacking with each new apartment. Nothing good can be perfectly replicated unless you are Shigemi Kawahara, a/k/a the Ramen King. His bustling East Village spot is no calorie-packed Yoshinoya. Ippudo is a brothy, pork-lover’s paradise offering some of the most tender ramen this hack has ever tasted. You can spend an entire night working your way through the appetizer menu and sipping on a multitude of good sakes. This joint gets busy, doubly so on a holiday like New Year’s Eve, so show up early and grab a draft of Sapporo while you wait for stragglers.
65 Fourth Avenue, 212-388-0088, ippudony.com
I always get way too drunk at P.J. Clarke’s on New Year’s Eve. In fact, some of my more epic arguments have been right on the steps of the Lincoln Square location, which is a great backdrop for any breakup or marriage proposal, depending on how your night has gone. This isn’t Mr. Clarke’s fault. He has been gone for some time now, and I don’t want to drag his proud Irish name through the mud. But what can I say that you don’t already know? The bartenders know your name by your third drink, the crooners on the jukebox never waver, and the raw bar is always brimming with the ocean’s bounty. If you’re feeling nostalgic, head over to the original at 919 Third Avenue and let the walls do the talking.
44 West 63rd Street, 212-957-9700, pjclarkes.com
A tried-and-true 24-hour Ukrainian diner in the heart of the East Village, Veselka is always open and willing to cater to your most urgent craving at 3 a.m. If you find yourself below 14th and above Houston after leaving an obnoxious house party that your girlfriend dragged you to this New Year’s Eve, there is no better place to find a reprieve before arriving home to your executioner. People like to say that Katz’s has the best Reuben in the world, but they can save that crap for the out-of-towners who insist on bragging to whoever will listen about the ingredients of a real egg cream. Veselka’s secret sauce might not be kosher, but it’s pretty goddamn good over hot krakowska and seven-grain bread. And make sure you bring some cold borscht home with you. Nothing cures a hangover quicker.
144 Second Avenue, 212-228-9682, veselka.com
A friend once compared meeting me with his first trip to an Ethiopian restaurant: You sit down, and the decorum is a bit alien but pleasant. You reach for the first course and aren’t sure how you feel about the texture. As the night goes on, everything gets way too spicy, and the drinks start affecting your speech. After settling the check, you walk away overwhelmed and a little offended by all the flavors you just experienced. Then, over the next few days, you’re confused because you find yourself craving injera bread and honey wine mixed with berbere spice. The next thing you know, you’re eating at Awash four nights a week and taking all of my phone calls. This uptown favorite will be open and serving dinner until 11 p.m. this New Year’s Eve.
947 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-961-1416, awashny.com
THE LATE-NIGHT TACO TRUCK ON ST. MARK’S
This street-prowling bad boy is our rough-around-the-edges, take-no-prisoners, late-night/early-morning gastric antihero. Whenever things start spinning out of control, and we find ourselves wishing we had switched to water hours ago, this Virgin of Guadalupe appears from the chaos and lifts us effortlessly out of bottom-shelf stupor. The food that comes out of this truck also has the ability to taste just as great coming out of the microwave three days later—it’s uncanny. So if your back is against the wall, and you’re starving in a crowd of drunken revelry, make your way toward the cube at Astor Place and keep your fingers crossed. The tacos are as authentic as they come.
Corner of Third Avenue and St. Mark’s
I like my restaurants to be approachable, affordable, and tastefully done, from the water glasses right down to the checkbook. If a hostess turns her nose up at my well-worn shoes, I know she won’t be around long in this economy. You should demand a sexy setting with a bare minimum of pretension if you’re going out to spend your hard-earned cash on dinner and drinks. Since 2009, Daniel Boulud’s Bowery centerpiece has given off that casual air while serving some of the most interesting variations on hamburger you’ll find in a Frenchman’s kitchen—but don’t stop there. If Matisse’s thing was painting, Boulud’s is sausage-making. Plates like the Boudin Basque and the Vermont give pork and duck new purpose. Don’t forget dessert.
299 Bowery, 212-933-5300, danielnyc.com/dbgb.html