We love these community-minded spots for more than just their delicious food.
We've partnered with OpenTable to highlight some of our favorite restaurants across the country, from neighborhood gems making a difference in their communities to the inspiring spots we're excited to travel for. Like us, OpenTable is proud to support restaurants making a difference with their Open Kitchen initiative. Here, we share our picks for NYC.
While we're all about home-cooked meals here at Food52, we also try to take advantage of all the amazing dining out options that happen to be right here in our backyard. We've all got at least one down-the-block favorite or tried-and-true gem that we keep in our back pocket for when a friend needs a recommendation, or those days we feel like taking a break from our own kitchens.
We turn to these spots time and time again not only for their reliably good eats and cozy, welcoming atmospheres, but also for the work they're doing beyond the dining room. From a creative Mex-Californian joint that's making its kitchen a refuge for employees to a female-led Japanese favorite, many of the restaurants in this lineup support the communities they call home with more than just a good meal.
Without further ado, here are a few of the Food52 team's go-to picks in New York City. What's your favorite neighborhood restaurant? Add it to our list in the comments!
21 Greenpoint is a local restaurant I’d recommend for the atmosphere...and the off chance you might see Bill Murray there, as it's owned by his son. They source from local farms and do a $21 Sunday tasting menu made from scraps that might otherwise get tossed. — Alexis Anthony, Art Director & Prop Stylist
I love Bessou, where owner Maiko Kyogoku and chef Emily Yuen serve modern takes on Japanese comfort food. It’s named after the Japanese word that translates to “home away from home,” so it’s no surprise that I wish I could live there, eating their prawns in chili sauce every single day. — Ella Quittner, Recipe Developer & Food Writer
I love anything conceptualized by Claus Meyer, the Danish restaurateur with hands in altruistic projects like Melting Pot, Gustu, and here in New York, the Brownsville Community Culinary Center. His latest multi-purpose space is a great spot to stop in for a pastry, post up with your laptop and a light lunch, sample fancy new nordic cuisine, or attend a free community class like cookie decorating or wine tasting. — Cory Baldwin, Director of Partner Content
I used to work in one of those offices above Chelsea Market, and lunch at mŏkbar was a weekly situation. It’s led by one of the most driven, well-spoken chefs I know, Esther Choi, who’s doing so much work with her restaurants to bring Korean food to an American palate. — Eric Kim, Senior Editor
Eating at La Vara, which has donated proceeds to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the International Refugee Assistance Project, feels like you’re over at a fancy friend’s house who learned to roast a chicken in middle school and has since set her sights on more elaborate dishes. You can go for the seemingly comfortable (spiced fried chickpeas, tahini deviled eggs) or the more creative (noodle paella, lamb meatballs) and be wowed either way. — Mollie Doherty, Account Manager
When people ask for a fun and solid, family-friendly restaurant on the Lower East Side, I quickly offer up Speedy Romeo. Innovative wood-fired pizzas, pitch-perfect salads, and super nice service all around, it's the perfectly reliable spot everyone will love. PS: Get the K.C. Royale and thank me later. — Hana Asbrink, Senior Lifestyle Editor
The East Village is chock-full of cozy Italian trattorias, but I’ll always choose Lavagna, a neighborhood favorite since 1999, over the rest. With large windows that open up to sidewalk seating and a well-curated wine list, nothing beats their sweet fennel & spicy sausage rigatoni. The food highlights fresh, seasonal ingredients and there’s always a buzz of conversation making it a perfect atmosphere for friends or family. — Ashley Hutchison, Account Coordinator
One of my favorite things about my apartment is its proximity to AOC East. With stellar live music throughout the week (you can always catch me there on a Friday evening), this cozy little spot is the best place to share a bottle of wine and their mussels bathed in butter, white wine, and herbs. Occasionally, they even offer a French Wine 101 class with a tasty cheese pairing. — Erin Alexander, Assistant Editor of Partner Content
Morgan's is the kind of neighborhood spot you can go back to over and over again. With a diverse menu of both barbecue and drinks (not to mention, seven different types of macaroni and cheese), it's got something for everybody. Oh, and don't sleep on the smoked wings. — Dave Katz, Video Editor
This place is fall-on-the-floor good—a hearty, warming, filling, super-modern take on ramen. That’s because it’s run by Ivan Orkin, a New York-born, French-trained, formerly Japanese-residing chef. Since I’m vegetarian, ramen can often be, at best, a little bland, and at worst, a porky risk, but that’s definitely not the case here. — Brinda Ayer, Books & Special Projects Editor
Pilar is a super cozy Cuban spot right in the heart of Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn. It’s the perfect spot for a dinner date or dinner with friends. All of their food is packed with flavor, plus they have so many beers on tap that you really can’t go wrong with anything that you order! — Rebekah Daniels, Account Manager
I've raved about this place, which is newly headed by a female chef who wants the restaurant to be a refuge for her team, to anyone who'll listen. I've been for dinner and brunch and both times the food has been extremely flavorful and the staff incredibly warm. Like, let-my-friends-and-I-camp-out-for-hours warm. Definitely order the Velvet Rope cocktail, an amazing mezcal-focused drink that I still dream about. — Katie Macdonald, Assistant Editor
If you want to feel like the charming, effortlessly cool—yet humblingly clumsy—star of a movie about quirky 30-somethings in Brooklyn, go no further than Locanda Vini e Olii, where everything is delicious and locally sourced. Get the guitar strings alla buttera. (Cough, cough—two orders.) — Ella Quittner, Recipe Developer & Food Writer
In partnership with OpenTable, we're excited to share our some of our favorite tried-and-true restaurants that are doing right by the community. For more delicious recommendations around the country, check out our locals-approved picks for the Bay Area and New Orleans. But before you plan your big night (or breakfast, lunch, or brunch!) out, don't forget to make a reservation using OpenTable—there's nothing worse than putting your name on a two-hour waitlist.
Photo by Sam Valadi/Flickr.