One of the most frequent questions I get is, “I’m coming to New York! Where should I eat???!”
I usually end up responding to this query in an extremely enthusiastic/disorganized way and eventually get cut off by Instagram’s word limit because I’m waxing poetic about Rubirosa’s life changing pizza or trying to describe the hint of lemon in the birthday cake icing from Milk Bar. Doing this on the reg is neither efficient nor particularly helpful, so I thought it was high time I put together a list of my favorite NYC restaurants should you be interested in your weird blog lady’s recommendations now or in the future. Virtual chest bump.
I’m going to preface this post with an important disclaimer: The following restaurants are by no means the “best” (whatever that means), fanciest, or most critically acclaimed spots in New York City. They are MY personal spots. None of them are “new,” and almost all are in the West Village or Soho because I’m both a creature of habit and an exceptionally lazy human who doesn’t like to venture far outside her neighborhood. Cool? Cool.
Serena’s NYC Restaurant Picks:
Rubirosa. If we hang out on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with my love affair with this heavenly spot. They have delicious everything, but you need to go for the pizza, which is the best in NYC. Every Sunday at 5:15 p.m., Logan and I sit at the bar and share the Rubirosa Salad and a large half Rubirosa Supreme (pepperoni cups, mini meatballs, sliced garlic, and basil), half Tie Dye (vodka sauce with fresh mozzarella and pesto) pizza. And if we’re determining best friends based on sheer time spent together, then the Sunday bartenders, Mike and Jimmy, are our best friends. It’s my happy place and hands down my favorite restaurant in the city/anywhere. Run, don’t walk.
Red Farm. Joe Ng’s famous Chinese fusion spot is a close second to Rubirosa on my NYC hit list. I dream about the pork and crab soup dumplings, Katz’s pastrami egg rolls, and three chili chicken, and I want to bathe in their seasonal sangrias. Red Farm doesn’t take rezzies, and the restaurant is teensy—I’m talking one communal table and a handful of small tables—so be prepared to get there at 5pm or to put your name down and go out for drinks somewhere nearby while you wait. (They don’t have a bar for hanging.) Be warned, a visit to ze farm will likely make you wake up in the middle of the night to chug a gallon of water, and you’ll probably swell up like an Oompa-Loompa the next day, but it’s 100% worth it.
L’Artusi. This spot is my go-to for birthdays and all other celebrations. It’s cool, but not overly scene-y, and their shareable menu is great for groups. The pastas are particularly drool-worthy (and I’m not even a huge pasta person), the octopus is to die for, and they make truly excellent vegetable sides.
Carbone. When it comes to Italian steak houses, Carbone is in a goddamn league of its own. It’s got a somewhat old school menu (in a good way!), but the vibe is fresh. DO NOT SKIP THE SPICY RIGATONI VODKA, and if there were ever a place to say yes to the bread basket, this is it. They bring out this grandma-style focaccia that is one of the best things I have put in my mouth. Ever.
The Spotted Pig. This one’s a West Village staple because it’s reliably delicious, sure, but also because it’s really, really CUTE. The interior is super cozy, so I love it most in the fall/winter. And while it’s great for dinner, I kinda prefer it for brunch. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but you should probably get the famous burger, which comes topped with caramelized onions and blue cheese and is served with a mountain of crispy shoestring fries.
Minetta Tavern. I’m all about this vintage Soho haunt for a romantic dinner or when you’re looking to treat yo’self. (Logan actually took me there on our second date.) It’s relaxed but chic, and the menu is straight up comfort food of the highest caliber. You can’t go wrong with the black label burger, but don’t sleep on the mussels or the roast chicken with aligot (outrageously cheesy mashed potatoes). The Pasta Za Za is also pretty chronic. Celebrity sighting likely.
Jeffrey’s Grocery. This is my pick for a really fun casual spot. The dinner menu is good, but I’m all about Jeffrey’s brunch. They’ve got a killer raw bar, and their menu is small but mighty, offering funky and delicious spins on your standard brunch fare (think crab avocado toast, short rib chilaquiles, blood orange ricotta pancakes, etc.). The bloodies are loaded and served with a beer back, they’re heavy handed with a sparkling rosé pour (which I appreciate), and the playlists are some of the best I’ve heard. I highly recommend lingering over brunch c-tails (and asking for the chewy molasses cookies they bring with check) until around 2:30 p.m. when they start cranking the 90s hip hop.
Roberta’s. This gem is actually in Bushwick (Brooklyn, baby), but I make the trek a few times a year for the unbelievable pizza. Their pies are smaller (arguably personal-sized?) and come topped with all manner of creative and delicious treats. It’s no longer printed on the menu, but be sure to ask for the “Bee Sting” pizza, which is topped with sopressata, fresh mozzarella, chili oil, basil, and a drizzle of honey. They also have some great salads and pastas. The fine folks at Roberta’s don’t take reservations, so if you come during normal dining hours be prepared for a loooong wait. I like to go during the warmer months because they have a cute little fire pit out back where you can hang and have a few drinks to pass the time.
Blue Ribbon Sushi (the one on Sullivan Street). There are endless sushi options in NYC, and while I love me some Nobu and Neta, I’m partial to this place for extremely fresh fish and delicious small plates created by sushi master Toshi Ueki. This is another spot that doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared for a little bit of a wait.
Café Clover. If you’re in the market for delightfully creative healthy food, this is the place. They have meat/fish options, but the menu is mostly plant-based, and I find myself attending a lot of girls’ dinners there. (Shocker.) I highly recommend the sweet potato carpaccio (if it’s in season) and the cauliflower steak.
Bluestone Lane. Looking for good coffee/specialty lattes (turmeric! matcha! beet!) and an awesome healthy breakfast/lunch/snack menu? This Australian café is my go-to. It’s been Instagrammed to death for good reason…
Momofuku Milk Bar. This place will forever and always be my favorite spot for all things sugar. Pretty much everything they sell is glorious, but the true gems are the birthday cake, birthday cake truffles, and cereal milk soft serve with cornflake crunch. (People love the crack pie, but I’m not a fan. Too sweet.) The birthday cake—the most magical funfetti cake you will ever taste—is the stuff crazy cake lady dreams are made of, and not only has it been my personal birthday cake every year since I moved to NYC, but it was also my wedding cake. If you don’t have a reason to get a full cake, make one up.
*Top image via Greg Bollaci.