October, November, early December… all in one shot! This is officially the first iteration of my new way of sharing NYC restaurant reviews, folks. I’m condensing, curating, and editing down all of my monthly restaurant content to bring you this one shot (well, maybe a double shot) every quarter from now on. As always, you can follow along on my Instagram for that realtime, behind the scenes, here and now look at what I’m eating via #caros_eats and my stories (of course). But this will be my new-yet-familiar way of sharing all of the details that you can’t find anywhere else (plus bad jokes and puns – those aren’t going anywhere). Read on for my winter 2019 restaurant picks, reviews, and top tips.
Stamatis – Right off of the Ditmars stop in Astoria resides a most glorious mecca of Greek cuisine. You’re not coming here for the ambiance, you’re coming for the food, but the food’s so good that nothing else really matters. Get the tzatziki, peas and artichokes with dill, grilled squid, and whole fish.
Crown Shy – This may be the trendiest restaurant that I’ve visited in all of 2019, and the fact that it was just voted Infatuation’s top restaurant of the year makes my accidental timing all the better. When I heard that the Nomad Restaurant had a rival for the best chicken in NYC, I knew that I needed to substantiate this claim ASAP. Theirs, as has been oft-documented on Instagram, is a chicken for two served with that claw-like foot still intact, and it’s accompanied by a mayo-esque hot sauce that I could eat on anything. I still think Nomad’s chicken is better, but what I would really come back to Crown Shy for is their olive pull-apart bread that starts the meal. Their charred carrots with razor clams, octopus with morcilla sausage, and chicory and grapefruit salad were all lovely and delicious but not showstoppers. Overall, I think there’s better value out there (this place is not cheap), but if you’re downtown and (preferably) have a corporate card, this is a really great option that’s high on vibes.
Lively – Part coffee shop, part juice shop, part healthy treat haven. This tiny Brooklyn cafe is a most excellent place for a quiet, solo reading adventure during the week. Note that it’s not a place you’d come to work remotely, but more of a spot in which to seek solace, a good coffee, and a really fresh green juice.
Wayan – This darkly lit and decorated NoLiTa spot was my first encounter with Indonesian cuisine, and about it I have a lot to say. All of the food was fantastic – the octopus with maitake mushrooms, coconut and kaffir clams, and peppery lobster noodles I would go back for in a heartbeat. However, there was a part of me that longed for this food in a less fussy setting, with less of an emphasis on presentation, a la Kopitiam or Davelle. Still worth visiting 100%, but it won’t become a part of my usual rotation.
Au Za’atar – But riddle me this, does Middle Eastern food ever really get old? To me, it is an enduring love affair. I (finally) made my way to Au Za’atar for brunch, and it was wholly comforting and delicious. Nothing here reinvents the wheel, and that’s precisely what I enjoyed so much. Charred halloumi, batata harra, fattoush, and chicken kebabs sang with little effort, and it’s worth noting that it’s significantly easier to get in here than at nearby Cafe Mogador.
Ovelia – Greek food in Queens? Groundbreaking. But clearly, one Astoria Greek restaurant was not enough, and this spot is both essential and a great compliment to Stamatis (above). There’s a bit more of a vibe here than at Stamatis, and you go to each to order very different menu items. At Ovelia, you don’t want to miss the roasted chicken and Greek salad, and it goes without saying that tzatziki needs to be on the table. A little birdie tells me that the beets are pretty spectacular too, so I’ll be ordering those next time I’m there (which will most likely be next week, tbh).
Olmsted – I dined at Olmsted when they opened for dinner, and I adored everything about the experience, from the backyard garden to the truly inventive takes on, well, everything. When they launched their brunch service, I got one look at the menu and knew that I needed to go back. I must say, having had their brunch now, it is significantly more of an indulgent offering than dinner. I left needing a bit of a nap, in fact. But the breakfast egg rolls and the duck duo (duck sausage and scrambled duck egg with maple pita pockets) were truly spectacular. The squash bread and potato latke were perfectly good, but can be skipped if one needs to be alert for subsequent afternoon activities.
Sounds – A trifecta of home decor shop, coffee shop, and place of random tchotkes for sale that I didn’t know that I needed. You’ll want to swing by Sounds, grab an americano, and spend some time browsing their truly epic selection of all things. From coffee table books to adaptogen powders to fresh flowers to the most stunning of ceramics, this place is approachable, gift-worthy, Instagrammable, and just full of heart through and through.