Travel

13 New York City Restaurants That Are Tried & True Neighborhood Gems

We love these community-minded spots for more than just their delicious food.

Sponsored
December 27, 2018
Photo by Sam Valadi/Flickr

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

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

Bessou

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

Norman

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

Photo by Norman

mŏkbar

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

La Vara

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

Speedy Romeo

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

Lavagna

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

AOC East

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 Brooklyn Barbecue

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

Ivan Ramen

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

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

Photo by Pilar

Lalito

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

Locanda Vini e Olii

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

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“The location of most of the restaurants is not included in the blurb. I want to know where a place is before a continue reading. Next time. Otherwise interesting picks. ”
Comment

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.

12 Comments

Jillm December 31, 2018
I love the recommendation of $21 for food that would be trashed. SMH
 
Perri December 30, 2018
Thanks to Food52's Erin Alexander for this latest installment. I appreciate new suggestions in NYC, and will add these to my list! I can visit the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island on other culinary excursions, and if the location/address wasn't provided in the article, I'll let my smartphone do the work to locate for me using the name of the restaurant. Thanks again.
 
Kevin T. December 29, 2018
I do not see a good showing of neighborhoods.. I only see Manhattan and Brooklyn places, and most are in Brooklyn. You need to get out more and see other parts of NYC. Since NYC does include 5 boroughs not 2... The article is a failure for that fact alone.. If you do not know NYC then you should go back to school..
 
Perri December 29, 2018
Rude. Just plain rude.
 
Kevin T. December 30, 2018
Thanks for backing me up Perri.. It is very rude not to include all bouroughs.
 
Perri January 2, 2019
I was definitely referring to you, Kevin.
 
[email protected] December 27, 2018
The location of most of the restaurants is not included in the blurb. I want to know where a place is before a continue reading. Next time. Otherwise interesting picks.
 
SarahM December 28, 2018
Same same!
 
Perri December 30, 2018
I understand what you're trying to convey, Judith, but in the era in which we live, don't we have ample means to look up an address? This just seems a bit nitpicky... At least you weren't rude like the person above.
 
Elisabeth M. January 3, 2019
Perri, Were you mentioned or did you write the article? You seem very defensive - inappropriately so - unless you have some hidden interest.
 
Kristi M. January 3, 2019
I agree! It is weird to have an article about neighborhood spots and not mention the neighborhood...it’s all about the neighborhood!
 
Robyn January 6, 2019
If you click on the restaurant an Open Table link opens with the address, map, etc...