Why Come Here? Have your opinion of falafel changed forever, one of NYC’s best sandwiches
Years ago, I was highly skeptical that falafel had any business in a carnivore’s pita pocket. Every time I had tried the ball of spiced, mashed and fried chickpeas, I found it either too soggy, too dry and just plain lacking in flavor. Why would anyone substitute this for juicy shwarma or chicken kebab I wondered. Then a friend introduced me to Taim, and my mind was blown.
Taim is a kosher, vegetarian Israeli restaurant focusing on the falafel. The name means “tasty” in Hebrew, although that’s an understatement for how good their falafel really is. It’s one of those game changing renditions that makes it feel unfair to refer to it by the same name.
Taim’s falafel comes in three types: green (cilantro, parsley & mint, my personal favorite), red (roasted red pepper) and harissa (Tunisian spiced). The balls are made fresh – which it’s now clear is the only way to eat falafel – leaving them crunchy on the outside and moist inside. You can get them as a platter with salad, but I must highly recommend the sandwich which is perfectly topped with their spectacular hummus, tahini sauce and Israeli salad. Not matter how much you think you don’t like falafel, you need to give it a try.
Taim currently has two locations, plus a truck. The original is in the West Village and justifiably received a 9/30 in decor from Zagat. It’s basically a food counter with seating for four so have another place to eat in mind when venturing over (the steps across the street are popular). The NoLiTa location is slightly larger seating maybe 15 and adds some wood paneling so you don’t feel like you’re eating in a commercial kitchen.
Falafel Sandwich All the ingredients from the falafel to the hummus, [tahini] to the pita itself are fantastic and in perfect portion. If you feel the need to add something, I recommend their pickles or housemade hot sauce.
222 Waverly Place (Perry & 11th Sts.)
New York, NY
Check Website for Locations
Why come here? Modern, affordable Italian in the West Village
Right Amount for 2? 1 Appetizer and/or salad, a pasta and an entree
According to MenuPages, there are 113 Italian restaurants in the West Village although it often feels like there could be that many on Seventh Avenue alone. Most of them serve some mix of mediocre fried calamari, doughy pizza and standard red sauce pastas and are reserved for B&T groups looking to make same-day party of eight reservation in “The Village.” So I’ll excuse your yawns when you heard Pagani opened on the corner of 7th & Bleecker. But this newcomer brings a much needed upgrade to the strip and should move to the top of your list for a lively, causal meal in the area.
Brought to you by Massimo Lusardi of Uva fame, Pagani brings the trendy casual vibe you search for in the West Village, yet is somehow missing from the surrounding moderately priced Italians. The blonde wood and smokey tiled bar area is fairly large and open, making it pleasant place to enjoy one of their delicious artisan cocktails while waiting to be seated. The waitstaff is young and playful, shunning the tired formal, old-school Italian service model. The main dining area is fairly small and intimate, with a semi-private area in back in case you’re rolling deep.
Matt Barrett formerly of Babbo delivers a menu that may not set the foodie world ablaze, but contains a nice selection of well executed dishes. Between the pastas, salads, fish and meat even the friend who can never “find anything she can eat” will be satisfied. Of the six items across the menu everything was solid with prices coming in at a reasonable $15-22 for entrees. The wine list also contains a refreshingly large selection of wines under $50, instead of the token one or two typically found nearby. My top picks are below:
Ravioli Cacciatore The chef’s play on chicken cacciatore contains perfectly cooked chicken and pasta in a tangy, meaty sauce. It’s a on the smaller side, but perfect if your saving energy to go out afterwards.
289 Bleecker Street (@ 7th Ave)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Top notch bagels and lox
New York is associated with many iconic dishes: pizza, cheesecake, fried chicken & waffles. But perhaps no food is more quintessentially New York than the bagel. Yet while few would dispute that New York is its King, finding a really good bagel here remains no easy task. Thankfully for those of us in the West Village / Chelsea area, there’s Murray’s.
Aesthetically, Murray’s looks like just about every other New York bagel shop / deli. A long counter with the big board of meats and cream cheeses behind it and in front a few tiny tables and chairs with no decor whatsoever. But what goes on behind that counter is pure food magic. They make the bagel that’s everything a bagel should be: crispy on the outside, chewy without being tough within. Toasting such a work or art is not only not necessary, it’s not an option. So please don’t embarrass yourself by asking.
Equally impressive are the sheer number of offerings. Murray’s has about 20 types of bagel, including my personal favorite: the elusive whole wheat everything. Then there’s the collection of smoked fish, another New York icon. Murray’s brings in the best from throughout the city and has a selection of over 10 styles of smoked salmon alone. While it’s fun to sample the different varieties from around the world (particularly when you order from here every weekend), my favorite for a bagel remains the standard mildly smoked Eastern Nova Scotia variety. The dill Scandinavian and peppery Pastrami serve as top change of pace options.
I’m not going to get too far into dish recommendations as everything is meant to customized and you won’t be disappointed with any of the bagels, cream cheeses or salmon. However, for those who like to be told what to do, my go to order is below:
Why Come Here? Strange but delicious fish-focused small plates
Right Amount for 2? 3 pieces of sushi (each), 3-4 other items
Chez Sardine is the latest addition from West Village master restaurateur Gabe Stulman who has done great things with Fedora, Perla, Joseph Leonard and Jeffery’s Grocery. Chez Sardine is an Americanized Izakaya, which is essentially a Japanese tapas bar (for the traditional version, check out Rockmeisha). I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else do this per se, but playful small plates in a casual setting is something New York has gotten pretty familiar with. The inside does maintain a Japanesey feel with a sleek design, the typical light wood paneling, pictures of fish and a classic rock soundtrack (ok, maybe that’s not Japanese). The place is pretty tiny and does take some reservations, so if you don’t have one, you’re probably waiting two hours. Surprisingly once you sit though, you’re not packed like “sardines” as tables are reasonably spread out by West Village standards (aka more than 3 inches).
The menu comes in sections that include snacks, sushi, small & large plates and Miso Maple Salmon Head. Despite some weird sounding combinations, nearly everything hit the mark, but make sure you dig deepest into the sushi and Salmon Head sections. While the fact that only two items are over $20 may give you the impression you’ll escape without a hefty tab, keep in mind you’ll need a reasonable stack of dishes to fill yourself up. It feels like a cool local spot you’d like to frequent for some small bites and drinks, especially late night. Unfortunately, the popularity and prices take that out of the equation for most of us. But it’s still a great addition to the neighborhood.
My top picks are below. You can find all my reviews and photos on DishEnvy.
Miso Maple Salmon Head The miso maple glaze isn’t too sweet and is definitely plate-lick worthy. Why the head of a salmon though? I can’t answer that, but they do say the cheeks are the best part. Dare you to eat the eye!
183 West 10th Street (@ West 4th St)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? A great neighborhood spot for upscale, innovative Thai
Right Amount for 2? 1 app, 2 entrees
I’ve touted Kin Shop as one of my favorite restaurants since starting this blog, so it’s about time I put together a formal review. My love of Kin Shop can be summarzied by its combination of three of my favorite restaurants themes:
1) Upscale Casual Yes, everyone’s doing it right now, but why shouldn’t they be? Who doesn’t want a nice meal out without feeling like they’re in the waiting room for da club or dining in an eighteenth century palace? With Kin Shop, you get a sleek white space, open kitchen with lots of bar seats that actually have backs! Bonus: you can usually snag without much of a wait if you’re too lazy to make reservations.
2) A Varied Menu with Reasonable prices. One trend, particularly popular in the “upscale casual” category, is the small menu. Now in many ways, it’s a good thing. I want the focus to be on what the chef things is best, not a Cheesecake Factory style list of every dish ever imagined. But in a go-to spot, you need some variety as well and that’s by definition lacking on ten dish menus. Kin Shop’s selection of selection of salads, veggie plates, noodles and curries however make it easy to get a totally different meal every time. And while it isn’t cheap, low 20s entrees is quite reasonable for this quality of cooking.
3) Real Thai Flavors. I’ve been to Thailand and as the scores of other people who also have will similarly complain, the food we get here ain’t the same. Now, Harold Dieterle is not trying to reproduce classic Thai dishes here. But the herbs and spices are legit and will make you feel more like you’re in a modern kitchen in Bankgkok than an American chef’s in New York. Another authentic touch: the tables come with dried chili powder and spicy fish sauce seen on nearly every table in Thailand yet seemingly deemed unsuitable for American use and rarely seen here.
Below are my favorite dishes:
Red Curry Roasted Duck Breast The duck cooked medium rare is juicy and delicious. The curry is flavorful with the right amount of spice. Wrap that up in a roti and it’s one of the best things you’ll ever eat.
Fried Pork & Crispy Oyster Salad Oysters and Pigs have been paired since Missy Piggy first dawned her pearls, but for some reason people didn’t think to eat them together. Thank you Harold Dieterle for putting two-and-two together and creating the perfect meaty, salty and sweet “salad”.
Fried Brussels Sprouts & Chinese Sausage This dish smacks all the taste sensors: bittersweet brussels, smokey sausage, sweet coconut chutney and tangy apple vinegar. If you feel the need for some greens while eating here, this is where you want to get them.
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