Many visitors to the Big Apple seldom stray from the city’s Midtown district or (or if they do, it’s not principally to eat). That’s not to knock its myriad attractions, famous restaurants among them, but there’s more to the Big Apple’s dining scene than the tried, true and traditional. The culinary dividends of venturing south of Times Square and even—gasp!—to its outer boroughs can be high indeed, if you know where to look.
In a city which has 18,500 restaurants (according to NYC & Company), there’s no excuse for not expanding your dining horizons. But the real secret to a memorable experience is to follow the buzz instead of the herd. In other words, shun the over-the-top, Las Vegas-sized restaurants (with the exception of the surprisingly sophisticated Buddakan) in favor of smaller but more interesting digs, whether that means up on Tenth Avenue or down in the far West Village
The food is Alpine hearty and the mood is New York light at Trestle on Tenth, where chef-owner Ralf Kuettel brings his Swiss-influenced American cuisine to an appreciative, insider Chelsea crowd.
There’s nothing like crispy duck necks with garlic and anchovy aioli or calves’ liver with rösti (Swiss hash browns), sage and caramelized onions to warm even the frostiest winter night. The butter lettuce with crispy bacon and buttermilk dressing appetizer is delicious, as is the thick and frothy Swiss hot chocolate served with a side of large, homemade marshmallows.
Creativity and tasty times are also on order at The Stanton Social, a wild and wooly restaurant in the Lower East Side where the mission statement is right on the menu: “Rather than offering individual starters and main courses, The Stanton Social serves dishes that are designed for sharing among friends and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal.”
Equal parts trendy eatery and feeding trough for the former assistant hedge fund manager set, those dishes include the likes of "Five Fragrance" baby back ribs with Asian slaw, French onion soup dumplings and a single-portion grilled cheese slider made with cheddar, house cured jalapeño bacon, fried green tomato and lemon aioli. Desserts—if you can survive the decibel attack until that point—include Godiva chocolate shots (with fresh marshmallows) and homemade sugar doughnuts with warm chocolate, caramel and wild berry dipping sauces.
If you can’t get a table at sexy Bar Blanc in the West Village, try Braeburn, where a contemporary American bistro aesthetic prevails: Stained walnut wood covers the floor and the windows of the entrance and the dining room is adorned with alder wood branches.
If it’s chicken pot pie night you’re in for a treat, and on any night, the apple cider donut holes are not to be missed. Though always buzzing with a hip international crowd, there often seems to be a table ready at Delicatessen, which of course is not really a delicatessen.
It is, rather, a sleek downtown cafeteria for the 21st century: expect the likes of Cheeseburger Spring Rolls (bechamel sauce is involved), grilled mahi mahi tacos, Prince Edward Island mussels and Grandma’s Meatloaf.
Delicatessen is at the northern edge of the Nolita district, next to Soho. At the southern rim there’s La Esquina, which celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito says is "a great example of the perfect restaurant, fun AND great food and service.” But don’t even think of snagging a table in the romantic underground grotto without a reservation. You could also try for a table at… well, check out the rest of our picks for the latest buzz.