Why Come Here? Fun meal with friends before a night out in the West Village
Right Amount for 2: 2-3 small plates, 1 large plate
You’ve got a group of friends looking for a night out in the West Village. Dinner, drinking, whatever happens, happens. You need a place that’s lively, has a strong cocktail list and food that appeals to a diverse group and won’t put you to sleep. Enter Yerba Buena Perry. The swanky Cuban decor, Latin music and some cocktails from the Little Branch team get your night started right. You won’t go wrong sipping on the Poquito Picante (featuring the always delicious triumvate of gin, jalapeno and cilantro). And the menu, with a formidable selection of small bites and ceviches to start off you off and some meaty large plates to finish, offers something for all comers.
Those are the reasons you come to Yerba Buena Perry. The food itself, while still good, seems to have declined somewhat over the years. Given the fairly high prices, I can’t recommend a trip for the food alone (although if you’re willing to come during the week, a deal from Savored to cut up to 30% off can help with that). Below are my thoughts on what we had:
Why Come Here? A quintessential West Village brunch
I would like to start off by saying I have only been here for brunch. But with it’s upscale Parisian café feel of bright lights, white walls and no seat more than 10 feet from a window it seems impossible to imagine eating any other meal here.
And for that meal, it may be the quintessential New York place. The menu won’t blow your mind with creativity, but then again do you really want it to first thing in the morning (or early afternoon)? It features the classic selection of egg dishes, french toast, salads and sandwiches we all know and love with just enough of a twist to keep the both your inner foodie and meat-and-potatoes uncle pleased. Combine that with the lively, bright atmosphere and windows overlooking a quaint (by New York standards) intersection and you’ve got pretty much everything you could hope for in a brunch spot. Unfortunately, the masses have figured this out too and waits during peak times can reach an hour. Luckily it’s almost always been less than the hostess quoted.
In terms of the food, my egg yolk intolerance has hampered my ability to sample many brunch items in recent years. However, there is one dish I highly recommend:
The Breakfast Sandwich The right balance of bread, egg, avocado and spicy mayo makes it the perfect start to the day even if you opt for just egg whites. And thankfully it’s much lighter than most of the coma-inducing breakfast sandwiches this town if full of.
Why Come Here? Satisfy your beer and sausage craving
Have you ever wanted to drink beer out of a 2 liter boot? Lederhosen can make your dream come true. But what separates this German Bierhaus from others around the city. First, it’s in the West Village, not Brooklyn or Astoria. And second, while there is no beer “garden” per se, the back room does contain wooden benches and a wonderful mural of the German countryside. It being December now, that may make it the closest you’ll come to drinking outside in NYC any time soon. Finally, unlike many other German restaurants about town, the food is actually quite good and cheap ($5 sausage sandwiches and most sides are $3). Below are my thoughts on the food we washed down our beers with:
Delicious German Pickle I’m not sure what’s German about it since it looks like every other sandwich pickle in New York. It is quite a good version though with crisp cucumber and the right amount of vinegar.
Bauernwurst and Bratwurst Sandwiches The sandwiches are topped with red cabbage, sauerkraut onion and mustard on a toasted bun, all of which were fantastic but left the two meats tasting indistinguishable. Both were meaty and juicy bases for the topping and I recommend adding a side of mustard for optimal enjoyment.
Why Come Here? Attractive crowd, hot spot, solid cocktails and sangria
Right Amount for 2: 4 small plates
Barraca comes from the team behind trendy LES spots Macondo and Rayuela and has several things going for it. The cocktails and Sangria are phenomenal. The waitstaff is good looking, attentive and friendly (a rare trifecta). The space is dark and sexy and occupies a prime corner location on relatively quiet Greenwich Avenue with plenty of windows to gawk at passersby.
These are the qualities some seek out in a restaurant and those are the people Barraca was built for. However, if you’re a foodie or Spanish cuisine aficionado, Barraca will leave you disappointed more than pleased. Despite numerous dishes that sounded great on the menu, nothing was executed at an especially high level. We tried something from most categories (except for the flatbreads) and left unimpressed from a food standpoint. Avoid paella, which has to be ordered for at least 2 (at a cost of $50) and neither of the ones we tried were anything special. Below are my thoughts on what we had:
Pimientos De Piquillo (piquillo peppers stuffed w/ oxtail stew and creamy piquillo sauce) The oxtail had all the richness you hope for, but the creamy piquillo sauce was more “creamy” than “piquillo.”
Mollete De Cordero Con Manchego Y Ali-Oli De Piquillo (sandwich w/ pulled lamb, manchego cheese and a piquillo ali-oli) This is one of the “good on paper” dishes I was talking about. Unfortunately, the bread was too starchy and the lamb was on the fatty side.
Paella Negra (squid ink infused rice, artichoke, monkfish, squid, and shrimp with ali-oli) The assortment of seafood was fresh and well prepared, but it was lacking in spices and the rice just didn’t have that crispiness you want in your paella.
Paella Con Vegetales (artichoke, snow peas, broccoli, english peas, zucchini, scallions, shitake and garbanzo beans) This legitimately tasted like rice and vegetables someone would cook up in a cafeteria.
Why Come Here? Innovative, Latin-inspired cuisine, Southern European hospitality, Great date spot
Right Amount for 2: 1-2 apps & 2 entrees or 3 apps and 1 entree
Shortly after entering Comodo, I knew I was going to like the place. As is often the case in New York, our table wasn’t ready when we arrived. However, unlike most places we weren’t doubly punished by being pressured into buying an extra $13 drink at the bar. Instead, owner Tamy Rofe offered us each half a glass of Malbec to enjoy for the 10 minute wait. A small but comforting gesture that set a congenial tone for the evening. Perhaps the fact Comodo began as a supper club run out of a TriBeCa apartment is what allows it to keep a “mi casa, su casa” feel more commonly enjoyed while dining in Italy than SoHo. Whatever the reason, the dim lighting, friendly service and approachable menu make it sure to become a hot date spot in the SoHo/West Village area. I recommend getting here before the critics blow it up and grabbing one of their 8 or so tables becomes near impossible.
The menu and wine list are limited, which isn’t terribly surprising given the entire place is likely under 1,000 square feet. The food has Spanish, Brazilian and Mexican influences, matching the upbringing of co-owner and chef Felipe Donnelly. This provides for an interesting mix of dishes that are comforting without the gut-busting feeling that term often entails. Below are my thoughts on the dishes we tried. For more photos and reviews, please check DishEnvy.
Coffee Rubbed Cochinita (Pork Shoulder) I realized coffee and pork should get together more often. It’s tangy, meaty, citrusy delight with creamy mashed potatoes to refresh your palate after each bite.
58 MacDougal Street (W. Houston & King Sts.)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Not your typical wine bar, nice selection of half bottles and munchies
If I had to classify Swine as something, I’d probably call it a wine bar. But to say it’s just another of the quiet, dimly-lit wine bars filling the West Village would be unfair. Swine definitely puts the “bar” in wine bar. It’s got some grunge factor going for it and it’s more what you’d expect to find in (gentrified) Brooklyn than the Village. There’s even a pinball machine in the upstairs bar.
The food, as you’ve likely deduced, is heavy on the pork and charcuterie, although there are some decent veggie options too. But I wouldn’t recommend coming here trying to make a meal. While the food is decent enough, the portions are too small for the price. If you want a meal of small plates, head two blocks north to Caliu for better food and prices. But if you’re just looking for to have a little wine in a less pretentious setting and need some munchies, Swine will do the trick. The by the glass selection is a little small and white heavy (strange given the menu), but there are a decent number of half bottles if you’re not looking to down a whole one.
Below are my thoughts on the dishes we tried. For more photos and reviews, check my DishEnvy page.
Pork Belly This was best thing I ate here and at $10 the best value too. You get a nice (if small) slab or pork belly that’s flavorful without being too fatty. The sweet chili glaze and spicy cabbage provide a nice balance.
Why Come Here? Sample Uni at its best, munch on incredible Japanese small plates
Soto is located on a bustling strip of sixth avenue in the West Village, yet you could probably walk by it every day thinking the white wall with no sign was another day spa. Instead, it covers one of New York’s top Japanese restaurant. The interior continues the bright white in a way that may lead you to believe you’d entered a fro yo shop if it weren’t for the sushi bar on the left (although that could be a great concept).
The food is equally intriguing, with few dishes other than the sushi resembling anything you’ve likely eaten before. The chef is renowned for his use of uni (the velvety orange roe of the sea urchin) which appears in a number of dishes and is often acclaimed as the city’s best. If you’ve had this gooey blob server to you at mediocre sushi restaurants and barely touched the stuff, then we share something in common. But do yourself a favor and try it here. Soto has the absolute best stuff that lacks the unpleasant bitter, fishy flavors you find in lower quality versions and it makes for a phenomenal topping to many dishes (particularly the lobster).
Soto’s menu is also unusually heavy in an ingredient I find far more appealing: truffles. I’m not sure I’ve seen these guys appear on a Japanese menu before, but I now know I’d like to see more if it. It especially worked in creating decadent flavors with the uni, as in the four-star lobster uni dish seen below.
Overall, although the menu is unusual, most ingredients will be familiar to the casual Japanese restaurant diner making it far more approachable than a Kyo Ya or Rockemeisha Izakaya. The plates are small, particularly for the prices (expect to order 3-4 $12-25 dishes per person) but then again the fish is flown in five times a week and definitely represents some of the world’s best. Below are my favorite from the night. For a full rundown of what we ate and more photos, please check my DishEnvy page.
Uni Cocktail-Murasaki, California If you’re here for the uni, this is the way to dive right into it. It’s literally a lump of the stuff with some light soy sauce in a martini glass. It’s rich and creamy and I thought had a hint of coconut.
Seared Scottish Salmon Melt-in-your mouth salmon is topped with black truffle salt and a pleasant tinge of sesame. One of the more straight forward dishes on the menu, but so well done it must be tried.
Cyu Toro Tar Tare It’s like a little cake with the toro on bottom, a creamy avocado frosting and bits of salty caviar on top. Great texture and flavor combination – one of my favorite dishes of the night.
357 Avenue of the Americas (W 4th & Washington Pl)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Good food that will keep your vegan/gluten-free friends happy
Sacred Chow isn’t the type of place I’d normally pick for dinner. It’s 100% vegan, kosher and many dishes are gluten free and my meals are rarely any of those things. But you may have friends who do abide by these restrictions and you may at some points even want to dine with them without the guilt of taking them somewhere they can only order one or two things off the menu. If that’s the case, Sacred Chow is a strong option with a casual setting and a variety of interesting vegan options at pretty reasonable prices.
There’s a pretty large, tapas style menu which is nice as you can try different things and not feel bad if a flavor or texture doesn’t agree with you. My favorites are below, with more photos and reviews available on my DishEnvy Page.
Why Come Here? Affordable West Village hot spot, roof-to-table dining (sort of), rustic atmosphere
For those unfamiliar, Rosemary’s is a new Roof-To-Table dining hot spot in the West Village. Yes, they have a large garden on the roof which you can visit. And you’ll have plenty of time to visit it too while you’re waiting for your table. We arrived with a party of 3 on Monday a little after 6 PM and waited an hour and a half for a table, despite being told it would just be “a few minutes.” Luckily we were early enough to snag a seat at the bar, which was completely packed (including the standing tables) with a typical West Village crowd by 6:30.
Other than the frustrating waits, Rosemary’s has all the makings a go-to spot. The casual farmhouse atmosphere is charming, even while teaming with people. The menu is wine bar-esque, with a large selection of small plates and a few pastas and secondis. A decent sized wine list prices all bottles at a mere $40. Our server was very helpful in explaining the menu and setting us on course to order the right amount of food. And as a final treat there is a kumquat tree as you exit, where you can pick your own and eat it. Just be sure to let it ripen first, unless you’re looking for a sour patch kid, extra sour.
Here’s a rundown of my favorites from the menu. For more reviews and photos, please check out my DishEnvy page.
Why Come Here? Phenomenal inventive sandwiches, quick lunch in the West Village, show off your knowledge of hidden spots
Better Being Underground (“BBU”) is the kind of place you’d never find if you weren’t looking for it. In fact, I probably walked past it 50 times before a friend told me there was a great sandwich place there. The only signage leading to the door, which is under a set of stairs leading to a townhouse, is a subway-style sign that says “Better Being Underground” and points down the stairs to the screen door entrance.
The casualness doesn’t stop there (the only thing they take seriously here is the food). The space looks like you wandered into an industrial kitchen (apparently it’s related to a catering company). The menu changes daily, prices are only available on a blackboard behind the counter and items generally sell out through the day and are subsequently crossed off. The menu is posted daily on their blog: http://betterbeingunderground.wordpress.com so get there early if you see a new sandwich you really want to try. It’s only open Monday-Friday, from 12-3.
I haven’t tried any of the soups or sides, but the sandwiches – while pricey for a casual spot - are phenomenal, inventive and use top notch ingredients. They also are served with your choice of chips or apple and a very refreshing pickle. Below is a list of what I’ve had so far, but I’ll be coming here often so check my DishEnvy page for updates.The St. Luke Crispy and moist fried chicken, tangy pickles on a buttery brioche. I go with the chipotle sauce, which is smokey but not too spicy.
Kale Salad For some reason salads are denied playful names here, but I love how the butternut squash counters some of the bitterness of the brussels sprouts and kale in this one. It’s a great mix of flavors, even if it’s a little pricey at $10.50.
Better Being Underground
55 Leroy Street, Basement (b/w 7th Ave. & Hudson St.)
New York, NY