NYC Guide: Restaurant Recommendations in NYC

My favorite foodie friend, Carolyn Stine, is here with the newest series on Elana Lyn— a roundup of restaurant recommendations in NYC! I always text Carolyn or look at her Instagram for recommendations, so I’m so thrilled that she’s sharing them on Elana Lyn!

Restaurant Recommendations in NYC

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El Rey —  So Much More Than a Coffee Spot

The Lower East Side is a trek. This is accepted and acknowledged by many a native New Yorker. I personally reside in Chelsea, so there had better be a very good reason for me to schlep down to the LES.

El Rey falls into the category of “a very good reason.” This unobtrusive little cafe is mostly known for its coffee and light breakfast by day. Not hating on that at all. In fact, I encourage you to go and try their breakfast. It’s just that dinner is so good, and so under the radar, that it deserves a bit more of the spotlight. The dinner menu is tiny (like the space) and consists of about a dozen options, all in small plates. Many of the menu items are vegan and vegetarian, but they taste unique and decadent all the same.

I dined there with a friend, and we had to try hard not to order the whole menu. These were my highlights: Vegan chiccharones locos with hot sauce, cashew crema, chamoy sauce (made from pickled red fruit, similar to a jam), and peanuts. Traditional chiccharones are fried pork rinds, so these were a bit more delicate. Also vegan. So that makes them healthy, right?  Shaved cauliflower with chickpea vinaigrette and sprinkled with sesame, with a poached egg hiding at the bottom of the bowl. Best. Surprise. Ever. This was my favorite dish of the evening.  Octopus salad with “black bean” puree and hominy — a close runner-up for favorite. I am kind of an octopus die-hard and order it whenever I see it, and this was delightful.

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Jeffrey’s Grocery —  File Under: Places You Want to Be a Regular

Whether you’re coming for afternoon oysters and champagne, a late night dinner, or drinks at the bar, Jeffrey’s Grocery is the neighborhood spot where you want to be a regular. My personal favorite is an early morning breakfast, before the rest of the city has woken up and the Sunday hoards have descended for brunch. I recently dined here with a close friend, and we waltzed in, sat right down, and had the place to ourselves.

Breakfast was simple: Despite being tempted by a duck confit and egg special (next time), we both went with the “beans n’ greens,” which is served in a mini cast iron skillet. Escarole, gigante beans, breadcrumbs, and parm came topped off with two beautiful poached eggs. Even though it was unpretentious, it was absolutely delicious. Order a side of the freshly toasted multigrain bread for scooping up the leftover yolk. Then come back every weekend until everyone knows your name. And invite me to come with you!

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Mighty Quinns BBQ — Wear Elastic Pants

It’s difficult to make a case for barbecue in NYC. Having eaten it in Austin, Nashville, and other more authentic locales, NYC BBQ seems like a wannabe, a small player in a big game. So when I try a new BBQ joint in our fair city, my expectations are normally not through the roof. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience at Mighty Quinn’s.

Let me preface this by saying you go here for the meat. Period. We sampled the pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and burnt ends, with the latter being the table’s top pick. Burnt ends are literally the ends, or tips, of the big pieces of brisket, and are insanely delicious. I highly recommend doubling up on these, and also getting the side of baked beans, which are cooked with burnt ends, making them ridiculously flavorful. My other favorite sides were the sweet potato casserole, which tastes like a heavenly dessert (think pumpkin pie), and the broccoli salad, which is studded with bacon and doused in buttermilk (can’t lose with either of those ingredients). Grab an Allagash White from the tap, queue up with the masses, and steal a seat at one of the long, picnic-style tables for this epic chowfest. And stretchy pants — don’t forget to wear your stretchy pants. An elastic waist is preferable.

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Babu Ji —  Colorful, Quirky, and Playful 

If you’re going to eat at one new restaurant this week, make it Babu Ji and make it SNAPPY. My favorite type of restaurant is one that has excellent cuisine but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this spot hits the mark time and time again. Decor: Colorful, quirky, and playful. You’ll find old Bollywood films being projected onto the walls, and with the tables packed in as tightly as they are, it feels like a communal party. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the giant, backlit beer fridge, which boasts an impressive array of craft beers to cool off your palette amidst the spice-heavy dishes. Get the beer.

I find that Indian food in NYC tends to fall into two distinct camps — the take-out options that come with way too much tikka masala that you feel in your belly for the next two days, and the fussy fine dining options, such as Junoon. While I indulge in both of those varieties from time to time (I normally have regrets the next day about the former), Babu Ji represents a refreshing middle ground. Everything is fresh, flavorful, and reads like haute cuisine, without the stuffy atmosphere or alarming price tag.

I recommend starting with the Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, which has a crispy exterior (read: fried) and was bathed in a tomato chili sauce and topped with crunchy sesame seeds. If meat is the name of your game, do not miss the tandoori lamb chops. These decadent grilled chops were served with a cooling yogurt raita sauce and topped with tiny slivers of fried cumin potatoes. In the curry world, we were advised to sample the roasted squash and coconut variety, which was surprisingly mild and sweet, and came topped with crunchy sliced vegetables. Finish your meal off with the house-made kulfi — a long popsicle made of cardamom, honey, and pistachio ice cream. Oh — and then go around the corner to Momofuku Milk Bar for a second dessert. Because that’s what we did. Regrets? ZERO.

Restaurant Recommendations in NYC

Avant Garden — A Veggie Lover’s Paradise

I am no vegetarian. Give me a bloody steak any day and I’m a happy camper. That being said, I adore veggies and make sure to eat my greens every day. Veggie-heavy menus have been popping up all over the city, and show no signs of slowing down. The advent of veggie-only restaurants, in a haute cuisine format, are gaining huge amounts of popularity. One of these such spots is Avant Garden in the East Village.

I recently dined here with a vegetarian friend, and both of us left fully satisfied and incredibly impressed. I think that people tend to stereotype vegetarian restaurants as purveyors of steamed veggies and soggy tempeh, as opposed to foodie destinations, and Avant Garden does a really great job of dispelling that typecast. The icing on the cake was that the dishes were as visually stunning as they were delicious.

Fennel hummus toast with oranges, olives, and walnuts —  a crostini on crack. Perfect for sharing with a dining partner, this toast was simple, fresh, and delish. Beet salad with kumquats, horseradish, sunflower seeds, and dill —  this dish gets my vote for best “eye candy” of the meal, and the beets were chopped up almost like a steak tartar, so the texture was unreal. Gnocchi with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, pear, and black garlic – gnocchi is always a good idea, but when combined with these seasonal fruits and veggies, it was a total home run. File under: Elevated comfort food. Maitake mushrooms with parsnips, broccoli rabe, cippolini onions, and apples — these mushrooms were so flavorful and meaty that they were almost reminiscent of a main meat dish. Again, the inclusion of fruit here added just the right amount of sweetness that went perfectly with the savory veggies.

What are some of your restaurant recommendations in NYC?

By Carolyn Stine: Carolyn is the Commerce Experience Manager at Club Monaco, but her heart (and stomach) lies firmly in the food and travel universe. Despite working on the digital side of the fashion industry by day, you can most frequently find her in search of the best new restaurant, knee-deep in planning a trip to a far-reaching locale, or at her local branch of the New York Public Library. Follow Carolyn’s adventures on Instagram at @carobaker1.

34 Responses to NYC Guide: Restaurant Recommendations in NYC

  1. I’m saving this post! I never know where to eat in NYC (because it seems like there is a good place on every corner) — and am always looking for recommendations. I definitely need to try these places — especially El Ray. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Vanessa!

      So happy you are saving this post! Definitely check out El Rey soon, it’s also fun because they have a tiny open kitchen in the back, so you can watch all of your dishes being prepared.

      Happy eating!
      Carolyn

  2. Jiawun says:

    They all look so delicious! I really do want to go to NYC one day just to try all the food! x

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Jiawun,

      Thanks so much, you should definitely come visit and eat your way through the city!

      Carolyn

  3. Sara Kate says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! With restaurants everywhere it can be so hard to find the perfect place. I’ve heard of Jeffery’s Grocery before and have heard nothing but great reviews.

    xo,
    Sara Kate Styling

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Sara,

      Highly recommend Jeffrey’s Grocery – I have eaten every possible meal there, and it never disappoints!

      Carolyn

  4. Laura says:

    This is so awesome! Need to pin this so I know where to eat in NYC!

    xo – Laura B.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Now I am starving! It all looks so good. I will have to keep this and refer to it next time I am in NYC!

  6. Kayleigh says:

    I love Mighty Qunn’s! I’ll have to add the others to my list of things to do when I move in a month! My favorites are definitely ABC kitchen and Hans Dynasty.
    http://www.kayleighskloset.com

    • Elana Lyn Gross says:

      LOVE ABC Kitchen! I’ll have to try Hans Dynasty. Thanks for the recommendation! xo

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Kayleigh!

      LOVE ABC Kitchen – have you been to ABC Cocina yet? If you’re a fan of Mexican food, I think that you will really like it.

      Carolyn

  7. Caroline says:

    Love this post! But blowing up my secret Sunday morning spot 😉

    xoxo

  8. Alex says:

    I am totally taking this advice and using it towards my next trip!!

  9. I’ll be visiting NYC for the first time in a couple of weeks (which is shocking since I live in DC!) so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ll definitely put some of your recommendations on my list!
    Kayla || Keynotes from Kay

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Kayla!

      That is so exciting! Enjoy every minute of your time in NYC, and I am sure you will eat well 🙂

      Carolyn

  10. Totally bookmarking this for my trip! The best thing about vacation is eating amazing new food!

  11. Lauren says:

    I haven’t gone to any of these! I love Stanton Social, the italian place in Chelsea Market (it’s called something with a g I think?) is also SOOOO good!

    xo
    Lauren
    The Fashionista’s Diary

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Lauren,

      Hopefully you’ll be able to check them out soon! Love Stanton Social – the French onion soup dumplings get me every time.

      Carolyn

  12. Savannah says:

    I haven’t been to NYC since I was 10 but I am DYING to go back. I’m saving these recommendations for later!

    http://thealwaysblog.com

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Savannah!

      It sounds like you’re overdue for a trip! Hope you get to visit soon and enjoy our cuisine 🙂

      Carolyn

  13. Avant Garden sounds perfect for a light lunch!
    Shaguna
    gold&hearts

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Shaguna!

      Avant Garden was truly fantastic. Not only was the food spot-on, but the space itself is so cozy and pretty! I don’t think that they serve lunch at the moment, but hopefully they will at some point soon.

      Carolyn

  14. Tiffani says:

    All of these have me drooling! We’re planning for a trip to NYC next spring, so totally going to Pin this to have it later for reference!

  15. Fantastic recommendations! Perfect for anyone visiting NYC soon. xx Merisa | Monogrammed Magnolias

  16. These all sound amazing! I’m moving there in a month so I’ll have to check them out!

  17. Carolyn says:

    Hi Alexandra!

    Definitely check these out, and good luck with the move!

    Carolyn

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