BEST MANHATTAN BRUNCH
Penelope 159 Lexington Ave, penelopenyc.com. Penelope owner Jennifer and her crew like what they do, and they’re so good at it. Everything at this Kips Bay eatery tastes like it was created by your sweet, whimsical Aunt Mabel. Also, Penelope supports a variety of charitable organizations, including GLAAD, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Big Apple Dodgeball.
BEST BROOKLYN BRUNCH
Cheryl’s Global Soul 236 Underhill Ave, Brooklyn, cherylsglobalsoul.com. This Prospect Heights gem serves up a sumptuous weekend brunch that’ll have you drooling all over the menu. How about brioche French toast with caramelized apples and Chantilly cream? OMG. (Yep, we’re salivating, too!)
Champs Family Bakery 197 Meserole St, Brooklyn, champsdiner.com. This corner spot in Williamsburg ain’t just a bakery; it’s a full-blown vegan restaurant, perfect for converting your carnivorous friends or a low-key weeknight dinner date. It has a sexy, grungy, hipster vibe. We recommend ordering the Drunken Cowgirl or the seitan-based Philly Cheese Steak! Also, any of their cakes and pastries.
BEST COFFEE PAIRINGS
The Queens Kickshaw 40-17 Broadway, Queens, thequeenskickshaw.com. That’s right, this Astoria coffee shop-meets-gastropub makes a killer cup of joe, and then pairs it with grilled cheese. Or other tempting tasties. That’s pretty much all we need to know.
BEST SMALL PLATES
Alta 64 W 10th St, altarestaurant.com. If you’re craving a cozy fireplace, tasty tapas, luscious liqueurs and a little fancy time, this upscale Mediterranean wine bar is it. Make a reservation and when you’re there, try the Philadelphia Truffle Surprise. Don’t ask, just go find out for yourself!
BEST BODEGA SANDWICH
Hana Food 534 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, no website. It's only right that everyone be loyal to their own neighborhood corner bodega, but if there ever was a deli sandwich selection worth traveling for, this is it. These peeps take their craft seriously. It's totally vegetarian-friendly, and the hilariously R-rated sammie names will entertain you while you wait. Staff picks: the Virgin, the Monkey Brain and the Drunken A**hole.
BEST NON-BODEGA SANDWICH
The Grey Dog 244 Mulberry St (and other Manhattan locations), thegreydog.com. Soup and sandwich joints are as common in NYC as subway fare hikes, but they're not created equal. The Grey Dog offers all you could want in a quintessential metro lunch experience, with acutely well-done sandwiches, salads and small plates. If you’re feeling frisky, go for the prawn and popper taco.
BEST INDIAN SWEETS
Maharaja Sweets & Snacks 7310 37th Ave, Queens, mahrajasweet.com. Ever heard of jalebi, ladoo, halwa or jamuns? No? Then educate your brain and your taste buds by heading out to Jackson Heights for some of the most delicious, traditional Indian treats you will ever consume.
BEST NEW RAW BAR
Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Company 114 Nassau Ave, Brooklyn, greenpointfish.com. The best thing about this restaurant and retail fish market is that it’s all happening right in front of you. These pros believe that transparency and traceability are the keys to eco-responsible, high-quality seafood, so everything they offer is sustainably sourced. Order the oysters and pick up some butchering tips while watching the friendly staff at work.
BEST SWANKY SUSHI BAR
Masa 10 Columbus Cir, masanyc.com. Everyone needs a world-class, mega-star dining experience. Whether it’s to celebrate a promotion, impress a date or commemorate a special event, you’ve got to live a little—even if it means blowing your whole paycheck! Bust out that platinum Mastercard, make a reservation and get ready for artfully composed, elegant, exotic Japanese dishes that you won’t soon forget.
BEST LATE-NIGHT FALAFEL
The Halal Guys W 53rd St and Sixth Ave, 53rdand6th.com. We'll say it: these dudes make one halal of a falafel. Lolz! What other food cart do you know that has its own fan-created website, a Wikipedia page, and a line around the block? Best of all, they're open until 4am.
Fornino 187 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, fornino.com. Naming the best pizza in NYC is about as easy as getting a Starbucks barista to spell your name correctly. A Sophie’s Choice of sauce and dough, if you will! But when you taste Fornino’s wood-fired pies, you’ll understand why they earn top billing. Get the classic Margherita DOC or our personal fave, the Al Roker.
BEST AUTHENTIC TIJUANESE
Pinché Taqueria 333 Lafayette St, pinchetaqueria.com. This NoHo joint is very queer-friendly and has been churning out NYC's tastiest tacos, tortas, tamales and chilaquiles for years. Their daily specials truly are special. And the kitchen and dining areas were actually trucked here from their original home in Tijuana—can't get more authentic than that, eh?
BEST BUBBLE TEA
Saint’s Alp Teahouse 39 Third Ave, saintsalpusa.com. Since opening its doors in 1999, Saint’s Alp in the East Village has stayed true to its mission: “to provide the right bubble tea experience” for every patron. You won’t find many places that serve both hot and cold bubble tea, and their noodle dishes never disappoint either. Not feeling bubbly? Try the new milk tea flavors for winter—peanut butter and pumpkin spice.
BEST URBAN DINNER FOR RURAL TRANSPLANTS
Friend of a Farmer 77 Irving Place, friendofafarmerny.com. If you’re feeling homesick or nostalgic for your country roots, let this Gramercy Park spot transport you to a rustic farmhouse, maybe upstate or somewhere in Vermont, with its two fireplaces and emphasis on comfort food. It’s been way too long since you had a homemade pot pie.
Frankies Spuntino 570 Hudson St (also Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn), frankiesspuntino.com. Pay attention, fools, you’re about to learn! Spuntino, (n): an informal meal or snack, a casual Italian eatery. The city’s best Italian restaurant was born when NYC locals and childhood friends (and chefs) Frank and Frank reconnected after losing touch for 18 years and realized their foodie dreams. Go early for dinner, this place fills up fast.
BEST BROOKLYN BBQ
Fette Sau 354 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, fettesaubbq.com. When nothing but a big ol’ pile of saucy barbecue will do, get thee to Fette Sau. Eat with your hands at picnic tables in this converted garage and admire the diagrammed cuts on the wall. All the meat gets smoked in-house with their secret recipe dry-rub, and you’d be remiss to skip the Burnt End (of a brisket) Baked Beans.
BEST LEGIT THAI EXPERIENCE
Uncle Boons 7 Spring St, uncleboons.com. The brains behind this Bangkok-inspired Nolita eatery wield their culinary talents while holding strong to Thai traditions. After a dinner here, you could honestly say you’ve eaten blowfish tails, if that’s on your bucket list. We don’t typically push dessert, but the coconut ice cream is ridiculous.
Barney Greengrass 541 Amsterdam Ave, barneygreengrass.com. There are few things more satisfying than a good ol’ New York bagel, and at Barney Greengrass, they’ve been doing it right for almost a century. Nothing too fancy—your options are plain, poppy seed, onion, everything, sesame seed, pumpernickel, whole wheat, cinnamon raisin or bialy, but what they lack in bells and whistles they make up for in quality. This is a bangin’ bagel you won’t want to miss!
BEST LOBSTER ROLL
Surf Bar and Seafood Restaurant 139 N 6th St, Brooklyn, brooklynsurfbar.com. Williamsburg's kitschiest dive ain't lacking for atmosphere, the floor really is covered in sand. If the kooky fish tanks and grass skirts don't tickle your fancy, focus on the tropical cocktails and grub. Best grilled sardines and conch fritters you'll find this side of the Bahamas, and the classic lobster roll has earned city-wide accolades.
The Place 310 W 4th St, theplaceny.com. West Villagers won't shut up about The Place, probably because its Old World charm and elegant seasonal cuisine make for a supremely satisfying dining experience. The Place also donates 10 percents of its profits to children's and global green charities.
BEST FANCY THROWBACK
Stanton Social 99 Stanton St, stantonsocial.com. This sexy, vibrant, three-level space pays homage to the Lower East Side garment industry circa 1940s. Foodies will appreciate the eclectic small plates (French onion soup dumplings—do it!) and wine aficionados will like the vast selection of bottles to choose from.
Ramen Yebisu 126 N 6th St, Brooklyn, ramenyebisu.com. When your girl gets her inevitable winter cold, forget chicken noodle soup. Instead, score points with this famed Sapporo-style ramen. The salty seafood-based broth simmers for hours before hearty veggies and toothsome noodles join the party. It’s the perfect cure-all for sniffles and will impress even the most obnoxious foodies.
BEST LATIN AMERICAN MENU
Fatty’s Café 45-17 28th Ave, Queens, fattysastoria.com. Community hub Fatty’s recently relocated, but it hasn’t lost a step. Astorians love those Cubano sandwiches, empanadas, sweet plantains and Fatty’s mysterious special sauce. Don't neglect to inquire about the grilled cheese of the day.
BEST FRITO PIE
Cowgirl 519 Hudson St, cowgirlnyc.com. Obviously a bag of Fritos covered in veggie chili and all the fixins is nothing short of magical, but there are many other reasons to frequent Cowgirl. Owner Sherry Delamarter built this West Village spot into a community staple with an innovative menu, legendary margaritas and plenty of campy, Country Western sass.
BEST LOUISIANA REALNESS
The Delta Grill 700 Ninth Ave, thedeltagrill.com. Indeed, we’ve found “where Hell’s Kitchen meets the French Quarter.” Is it a wee bit hokey? You bet! That’s all part of its Southern charm and hospitality—and the authentic Cajun-Creole cuisine is the real deal.
Jimmy’s Diner 577 Union Ave, Brooklyn, jimmysdinerbrooklyn.com. Jimmy’s is a hipster hole-in-the-wall if there ever was one, but it’s amazing. Breakfast bowls, homemade tater tots, fried okra…yes. And when you’re done with those delectable, fluffy, cheesy grits, we do accept thank-you notes.
BEST COMMUNAL DIM SUM
Red Farm 529 Hudson St, redfarmnyc.com. This West Village joint has been serving up the city’s best dumplings for nearly five years now, at their long, signature communal tables. Some folks swear by the Pac Man dumplings, but it’s the shrimp and snow pea leaf combo that we can't stop gobbling. Someone help us!
Rosarito Fish Shack 168 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, rosaritofishshack.com. It's not the Ritz, but if you let the crusty Williamsburg exterior throw you off, then you don’t deserve the mouthwatering ceviche and fantastic tacos the Shack serves up on the reg. Don’t be shy if you need help with a drink pairing—the staff knows tequila.
BEST FOOD TRUCK
The Cinnamon Snail cinnamonsnail.com. Everything that comes off this food truck is basically crack; it's entirely vegan, organic and seasonally fresh. Here's a sample for you: fresh fig pancakes with pine nut butter and chamomile blood orange syrup. And that's just their take on pancakes!
The Little Owl 90 Bedford St, thelittleowlnyc.com. The Food Network has been known to keeps tabs on this precious West Village nook, whose Gravy Meatball Sliders prompted the raging nationwide debate, “Are meatballs the next burger?” Food for thought, literally. Let’s weigh in!
BEST HIDDEN TREASURE
Beauty and Essex 146 Essex St, beautyandessex.com. It’s disguised as a rustic pawn shop, but if you’re a savvy Sally in the know, walk through to the back room. Voila! You’ll find a beautiful restaurant and lounge, just the ticket for a surprising your girl with an impromptu dinner date. Plus, the food has earned quite the reputation around town.