What’s your favorite restaurant in New York City?
It’s a question I’ve gotten countless times on my book tour, and one that I’m still more uncomfortable answering than anything about sex, periods or poop. And that’s because there are so many damn places to eat amazing food. I could fill a page with my favorite gluten-free avocado egg sandwiches alone.
This is the first installment of a 4-part (yes, 4!) Healthy Hedonist Guide to New York. I decided to divvy it up between Uptown and Downtown Manhattan, and North and South Brooklyn. It’s also a great logical way to break-up your trip if you only have 4 days to explore the city and want a taste of more than one borough.
As I’m sure you’ve probably noticed from your own habits and routines, the joints that Charlie and I frequent the most are not always the ones that are worth going out of your way for. But still, I felt it was important to only focus on places that have made repeat appearances on our social rotation. Since there are so many trendy flash-in-the-pan restaurants, and more cropping up each week, I mostly included our back pocket go-to’s—the classics that have stood the test of time.
Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick—the neighborhoods that make up the northern sliver of Brooklyn—were some of the first that I explored after moving to Manhattan after college. In many ways, it’s easier to get to and from Williamsburg, which runs off the L subway line, from downtown than it is from Southern areas within Brooklyn (where I currently live). And these days Williamsburg almost seems like an extension of Manhattan.
A friend of mine recently called it “Boomtown.”
Besides the graffiti and the used bike shops–the old hipster grunge that still shines through on some stretches of Bedford street–Williamsburg has the highest concentration of trendy restaurants and bespoke shops of anywhere in Brooklyn. Most of the residential buildings have been converted into glossy lofts. And now there’s even an Apple Store and a Whole Foods.
The YUP-sters (like me) have officially landed.
If you’re mostly sticking to Brooklyn on your trip, you can find a lot of famous Manhattan fast casual and mini chains in Williamsburg (Meatballs Shop, Sweetgreen, Milk Bar, by CHLOE). But as I mentioned above, I focused on some of the more neighborhoody spots that are worth crossing the East River for.
Stay tuned for the next three guides coming later this summer. And please let me know your favorite places that I missed in the comments section! Chances are I’ll need to add them to my summer to-eat list.
From one healthy hedonist, to another,
Diner // Lunch or Dinner
Owned by Andrew Tarlow (who also is responsible for the next two restaurants on this list), Diner slays with food and ambience. The latter is due to the fact that the restaurant itself is set in an old dining car from the twenties. The food, however, is far less dated, and includes a handful of seasonal dishes that elevate its greasy spoon origin story.
Marlow and Son’s// Dinner
Right next door to Diner is it’s slightly more upscale sister restaurant–a Yup-ster interpretation of a steakhouse in the best possible way. The front area is filled with general store provisions. And should you want to recreate the experience at home, you can now stop up the street at the butcher, Marlow and Daughters, for the locally sourced meats that make up the majority of the plates at the restaurant. This is a great option for a romantic meal with more vegetables on the menu than Luger’s on the next block!
Reynard // Dinner
This is the newest addition to Tarlow’s Brooklyn empire. It’s also the glitziest and largest, taking up most of the ground floor of the new Wythe hotel. The menu has the usual seasonal flare, and the space is vast and airy. Brasserie fixtures set in an industrial space. Save room for a nightcap upstairs and don’t leave without checking out the views from the hotel’s rooftop bar.
Pete Luger // Dinner
It doesn’t get more classic New York than this Brooklyn steakhouse. Ordering is very easy: you get the steak for two, which you soon realize is really for four, and then eat it all with the signature sauce. My stomach always hurts for days afterward. But every few years, it’s worth it. Note that this establishment is cash only. It’s not cheap, but it’s not fancy either. The blustery servers will turn tables like a champ.
Maison Premiere // Oysters + Happy Hour
Be prepared to wait in line for a stool at the bar of this extremely popular oyster spot. It’s best to go around happy hour—5pm. Their raw bar list is extensive, as is their cocktail menu, all expertly shucked and stirred to order.
Zizi Limona // Lunch or Dinner
For dreamy, creamy hummus, look no further than zizi limona. The bright festive decor with some sidewalk seating makes it a fun stop for lunch. And the falafel is gluten-free to boot!
Llama Inn // Dinner
This is a new comer on the scene, but definitely worth a stop for a nice meal of Peruvian small plates that won’t leave you having to roll yourself home afterwards. There are plenty of options here for gluttards. I highly recommend the skewers, quinoa, all the veggies, and most importantly, the pisco sours. They describe their decor as “urban hacienda.” Design nerds will be happy.
Roberta’s // Lunch or Dinner
Non-gluten-free pizza lovers: it’s worth venturing out to Bushwick to the famous Roberta’s. Back when I could eat it, this oven-fired pie was one of my favorites. But more so than the pizza (after all, there is so much of it in NYC), the setting is top notch. On a nice day, you can sit in the back garden. This is also where they record shows for the Heritage Radio Network, so you might just get a little food celeb sighting with your mozz. This is definitely my preferred NYC pizza experience to waiting in line with the tourists at Juliana’s or Grimaldi’s in DUMBO.
Bunker // Dinner
If you love Vietnamese food, bunker is the best that Brooklyn has to offer. It’s also very gluten-free friendly. The Ca Cha La Vong is my favorite, and they’ll dredge the catfish in rice flour and cook it in a separate pan. The papaya salad is also wonderful and they have a vegan option. FYI locals, you can also order from here on Caviar if you don’t want to make the trek to Bushwick!
Fans of Murray’s in Manhattan will feel right at home at this cheese shop right on Bedford street. The cheesemongers know their shit, and you’ll get a kick out of some of the descriptor cards.
Down the street from Marlow and Sons is a little market that sells sustainable meats and local veggies. They also have a few prepared food options if you’re packing a picnic.
Though not a food market, this kitchen boutique is just adorable. There’s a location in Manhattan as well, but I think the one on Bedford is more charming. It’s a great stop for a non-edible hostess gift.
Two of my favorite cooking schools are in Williamsburg. First, there’s Karen Mordechai’s Sunday Suppers, which always has fun events and curated dinners in their beautiful white loft space. Instagram aficionados may be familiar with her photography work. Brooklyn Kitchen has a long list of classes. You can also buy cookware in their front retail shop and sustainable meats from their butcher at The Meat Hook (which I suppose deserves to also be in the market section of this guide!).
If you want all the views, it’s worth getting a cocktail on the Wythe Hotel rooftop.
While I suppose you could bowl anywhere in the world, Brooklyn Bowl has great food (courtesy of Blue Ribbon) and also doubles as a concert venue at night. For a less glam experience, but very old school Brooklyn one, try The Gutter. It’s an experience within itself and they let you bring in any food you want.
To cross it off your Instagram bucket list, head to The End and get a unicorn latte. Their CBD latte is also delicious and mellowing.
Williamsburg is a great walking and shopping neighborhood. Stroll down Bedford Avenue, pop into thrift shops and newbie boutiques. I love the Package Free Shop, which carries products that help reduce waste.
For a real adventure further afield, take the train to Rockaway Beach where you’ll experience a little slice of summer in the city. Come June there are tons of delicious pop-up eateries and food trucks that come to play. The people watching is worth the semi-grimy sand. And there is surfing!
Any favorites that I missed? Let me know in the comments section!