The author of Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (Random) shares some of her favorite restaurants near (and not so near) the Javits Center. And if you're in the mood for some unpretentious, American home cooking, head down to the East Village, to Hamilton's restaurant, Prune, at 54 E. First St.
All addresses in Manhattan unless otherwise noted.
230 Ninth Ave. (24th St.)
So much fun and such good pizza!
200 Fifth Ave. (23rd St.)
Only the most fun new experience in New York City. Stroll, wander, drink, eat, sit, stand, run into old friends‚Äîit is like going to a festival in a smalltown square with cheeses instead of cotton candy, butchering instead of face painting, and a stunning array of dried pastas instead of a ferris wheel. Go in a good mood‚Äîif crowds turn you off, you will become cranky quickly.
243 E. 58th St. (between Second and Third Aves.)
Lidia Bastianich's East Side flagship restaurant. The Upper-ish East Side is not exactly my favorite neighborhood in New York City, but when I am seeking that perfect combination of luxury and specialness without the uptight, intimidating atmosphere of most high-end restaurants, I love to go here. The food‚Äîfrom many regions in Italy‚Äîis elegant, delicious, approachable, and interesting. Fortunato Nicotra‚Äîthe chef‚Äîcan seriously cook.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 E. 42nd St. (in Grand Central Terminal)
I will never tire of the magnificence of this old beauty. You have to order carefully--basically only oysters, pan roasts, chilled seafood--but it is eternally fun and quintessentially "New York" to go and sit at that cafeteria-like counter, knock back oysters, and look up at the vaulted ceilings.
229 W. 24th St. (on Ninth Ave.)
I'm not qualified to get in on any debate about authenticity in Chinese cooking, but feel perfectly qualified to say: this is utterly delicious food. So spicy and oily and perfumed and definitely not the place to order your Americanized chicken with broccoli. I love to get a mix of spicy, fatty things (dan dan noodles, double-cooked pork, ox tongue, and tripe) and a few cooling, clean, and tongue-soothing things (cold cucumber with scallion sauce, sauteed loofah, braised pumpkin with ginger and scallion, and cold tofu). You have to go with a group and eat communally.
72 W. 36th St. (near Sixth Ave.)
For those of us who still absolutely love meat. I cherish this old classic immensely. It's every single thing you want in a steak house, from the gin martini to the shrimp cocktail, the porterhouse to the iceberg wedge, in a setting that reminds you of life before Crate and Barrel, Cinnabon, and the Gap.
39 Downing St. (near Bedford St.)
When you've wearied of the small plates, rustic Italian, server-in-a-T-shirt trend and want a real grown-up meal in a restaurant where technique still matters (!!), go to Mas. Everybody who works here (kitchen and floor) knows what they are doing and that feels so good.
Ninth Avenue International Foods
543 Ninth Ave. (40th St.)
Not a restaurant but a great way to have lunch in one of the city's old, authentic "ethnic" shops. Some of the taramosalata, a hunk of feta, and a grape leaf or two in an old space that reeks of dried oregano is a pretty sweet way to spend your lunch hour.
The Red Cat
227 10th Ave. (24th St.)
This is a "real" restaurant disguised as a "neighborhood" restaurant. Well-made cocktails, good wines, very tasty and well-executed food (and consistent from visit to visit, most importantly). It also draws many amarro/i for after-dinner digestivo/i. I look forward to the obligations in my life that bring me to the West Side so that I can slip into the Red Cat for dinner.
261 Moore St., Brooklyn
Just arriving here is fun, before you even get to the meal. You make your way through empty industrial Nowhereville and arrive at what you think must be a mistake‚Äîa heavily graffiti'd sliver of a door with a battered ATM machine outside. Then inside? Packed with people; ambitious, well-executed food; and so completely worth the adventure of getting there.
243 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn
The food is excellent and honest and nicely portioned. The wines are absolutely right for the place. And the servers defy Brooklyn expectations of ineptitude. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, on-time, and accurate.
283 Amsterdam Ave. (73rd St.)
Cesare Casella's place near Lincoln Center. It's tiny and, to my eye, rather unattractive, but expert and delicious and simple. Call ahead to make sure there is space, and only go when you are in the mood for small plates and tastes.
355 W. 14th St. (near Ninth Ave.)
It puts you in the dead center of the Meatpacking District's insane scene, but you get to eat real food, good food, knowledgeable food, and you can watch the parade go by without having to participate in it.
205 10th Ave. (22nd St.)
Focused, simple, and direct Spanish wine bar that serves pintxos and tapas. I most like to go here alone on evenings when I just need a civilizing snack and glass of something, after an exhausting day and just before an early bedtime. If the Spanish roses are in season, drink them!
23 W. 32nd St. (near Fifth Ave.)
Delicious Korean BBQ, for sure, but also order the excellent spicy soups, the scallion pancakes, and other Korean entrees. New York is less and less a 24-hour town, but this place still is, and it reminds us all of why we still want to live here.