Is there an expiration date on using my Vietnam and Cambodia trip as an excuse for delayed and/or abridged content? If so, I promise that this will be the very last time 🙂 March was not a huge month for NYC restaurant adventures for me, as I was away for the first nearly 10 days of the month, traveling through Asia. However, I did try a few new places that left a largely delicious impression on me, and which I am so happy to be sharing with you now. Read on for the best and the brightest of the NYC spots that I visited in March.
Queen of Sheba – Hello Ethiopian food, nice to meet you. This month, I experienced Ethiopian cuisine for the very first time, and it made me wonder how on earth I waited 31 years to try it. Not only was it delicious, full of warmth and new flavors, but there is a communal aspect to eating it that felt wholly unique. A sampling of dishes (ours included grilled lamb, cinnamon-y lentils, collard greens, and beets), are served atop injera, a thin, spongey bread, and all is scooped up with the bread and eat with your hands. Not only is Queen of Sheba intimate, affordable, and attainable without a reservation, but they also serve gluten-free injera, which can be hard to come by in NYC.
Brandy’s Piano Bar – An upper east side staple, this tiny piano bar is somewhat of an institution in my neighborhood. I’ve tried to do a drive-by before, and there was a line down the block, and thus I skipped it time and time again. Well, not this time. Live music starts promptly at 9:30pm on Saturday evenings, and so I showed up an hour beforehand and secured the best seat in the house. Note that there is a 2-drink minimum per person, and yes, you can submit song requests. Their renditions both of Billy Joel classics and of “Shallow” brought the house down, and the space’s small, intimate feel reminds you of being in a friend’s living room, albeit with a bar.
Bacaro – This dark, cozy, and let’s say it, sexy lower east side Italian restaurant has been popping up on my radar for years. It feels like a hidden neighborhood gem, and has two levels of nooks and crannies that are perfection for date night. They have a stellar wine list, and the menu items are excellent for sharing. The meatballs are tiny, spicy, and fried to perfection, I love the asparagus and baked egg with grana padano, and you can’t go wrong with any of the cheese.
Matchaful – Once a little matcha stand that I used to visit at Smorgasburg, Matchaful is now all grown up and residing in a space of its own in SoHo. Not only do they serve a killer conventional matcha, but they have an inventive menu filled with unique tea concoctions such as a rich, nutty tahini latte.
A La Turka – This is not a spot that would get points for ambiance, but after dining at this upper east side staple not once, but twice this winter, I can say that it’s officially a part of my neighborhood rotation. The more people the merrier when visiting A La Turka, as the portions are large and you’ll want to order it all. Not only do they have world-class hummus and babaganoush, but the chargrilled eggplant, lamb kebabs, and grilled octopus are on point.
Kaia Wine Bar – A South African wine bar with a friendly staff, lovely counter seating at the window, and a wine list filled with juicy Pinotages? You can count me in. This is another spot that I’ve now visited more than once, and has become one of my local neighborhood watering holes. It may not be worth going out of you way to visit from say, Brooklyn, but if you’re in the area, it should be on your list.