Although it’s barely been two months since I published my early winter NYC restaurant round-up, I have simply eaten at so.many.restaurants. And not only that, but many so fantastic that I felt compelled to share as soon as possible so you can go forth on culinary adventures of your own, fully stocked with information. Even though it can be a (tad) bit chilly at this time of year, there is no better time to get out and try new places, especially during those coldest of cold days when so many opt to stay inside at home. Case in point: I went to Razza pizzeria in a snowstorm, and had to wait for less than an hour. That is UNHEARD of. Think: 3 hour waits as the norm. Anyways, whether you’re looking for a romantic date night, a spot to catch up with friends, or a quiet cafe you can chill in solo (my jam), I’ve got you covered this February and beyond.
Mombar – On a small stretch of Steinway Street in Astoria known as Little Egypt, there is an unassuming hidden gem that you do not want to miss. I actually thought it was closed when I first walked by it, as the exterior is a bit downtrodden and there were no indications of any life on the other side of the door. Mombar is owned by Moostafa, a man who both mans the kitchen and whose artwork, handmade furniture, and decorations adorn this small space. The food itself feels like a cross between Morroccan and Mediterranean; get a tagine, eat some lamb, or put yourself in Moostafa’s capable hands and tell him to surprise you.
Razza – This Jersey City pizza spot was billed as “the best in NYC,” so naturally… to Jersey I went. They’re all about local and seasonal ingredients at Razza, and are looking for quality in everything that they do. There’s no reservations and waits are borderline outrageous, but you can have a drink in the front while waiting, or put your name in and they’ll text you. Their freshly baked sourdough with homemade cultured butter is worth the trek alone, but their neapolitan-style pizzas are phenomenal. Get the burrata pizza. I still dream about it.
Mothership Meat Company – NYC BBQ has always been somewhat mediocre to me – give me some Texas BBQ any day of the week and I’ll cry “uncle.” And while I’m not doing a Franklin vs. Mothership comparison in this article, I will say that Mothership may be the best barbeque I’ve had in my fair city. It’s somewhere in the Dutch Kills-meets-Astoria hood, is not all that big, and has pretty low-key vibes, which is just what I want when approaching full meat-sweat status. Get the brisket, it’s on the money, and see what the day’s specials are. The sides didn’t wow me, but hey, they’re not the “mac n’ cheese” company. The meat’s where it’s at.
Fabrique Bakery – This tiny Scandi spot on West 14th Street is known for its cardamom bun, and I just so happen to be an enormous fan of cardamom. It’s true; I even put it in my coffee grounds when I brew at home. The bun is perfect – it’s lightweight, not too sweet, and literally dancing with cardamom flavor. I could eat this way too often, which is why it’s so fantastic that there’s over 70 city blocks between us.
Maialino – I had visited this incredibly beautiful Italian restaurant a few years back for a drink and a rather fancy snack, but had never had dinner at this veritable NYC classic until the very end of 2019. It’s located in the Gramercy Park Hotel, and normally my rule of thumb is “don’t eat where you sleep”… but Maialino is a special place, and it defies all rules. Go here for the pasta, the ambiance, and the service… all are impeccable. I’m not kidding when I say that this was the best bucatini all’amatriciana I’ve ever had the pleasure of placing on my tongue. And please don’t miss their tiramisu for dessert. It is legitimately outrageous.
North Miznon – This UWS offshoot of the OG Israeli institution was majorly bustling when I brunched there on a Sunday. A reservation is a must, and you can roll in, sit down at a brown paper-covered table, and eat whole roasted cauliflower, shakshuka, and tahini with warm pitas to your heart’s content.
Hanoi House – When you and your friend who both went to Vietnam are craving pho, go to Hanoi House. Better yet, they make bun cha, which was one of my favorite dishes in Hanoi and is more challenging to find stateside. The portions are big here, so know that sharing is key and you’ll still have more than enough.
Simon and the Whale – Brunch at this beautiful spot in the Freehand Hotel may have been my most disappointing meal as of late. Let’s just say that our experience was so objectively challenging that the manager ended up comp’ing our entire meal, without being asked. My advice is, come for a drink, come for a coffee, but take your mealtime elsewhere.
Meme’s Diner – Finding a new spot that feels like a place you could frequent is always such an exciting feeling to me. Meme’s Diner, where I had brunch literally two days ago, fits this bill in spades. The cozy yet cool ambiance, the vibes of our fellow diners, the approachable yet well thought out food… it all worked. It also didn’t hurt that while we were waiting for our food, a little dish of favorite childhood cereals came over to our table to snack on (think Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch, and the like). The chili oil fried eggs with kale, greek yogurt, and seeds was both imaginative, comforting, and utterly delicious, all in one go.
Davelle – I had eaten at this LES Japanese restaurant for dinner years ago, but finally made it back for their much-lauded brunch in December. The chicken katsu curry and the berry toast are my picks – they serve these items during the week for lunch, too.
Crown Shy – I had written about Crown Shy in late 2019, when I went for dinner and was underwhelmed by what I ate and saw. I’m here to report that I much prefer their brunch to dinner. The vibe is more laid back, and the maple donuts with smoked pecans, house made yogurt with citrus and pistachio, ‘nduja flatbread, and the biscuit with softly scrambled eggs were fantastic. Go with a few others so you can share, but also know that this is not a cheap brunch option.