26 June 2012

NYC: New New York Nibbles

As with my favourite New York coffee bars, it's often difficult to resist revisiting places like Corner Bistro, Fanelli's and PJ Clarke's, but I did quite well at trying new restaurants on my most recent visit to New York. So much so, in fact, that I don't have room to write about them all here. Instead, I picked my top three places for lunch or brunch and my top five for dinner, all of which happen to be lower than 12th Street or in Brooklyn. All of the brunch spots happen to be in NoLIta because that's where our hotel was.

Brunch and lunch
Ruby's (NoLIta). In the heart of NoLIta, Ruby's is a tiny but friendly Aussie cafe, which does great sandwiches, salads and burgers. I tried the Bondi Burger--grilled chicken in ciabatta with chilli mayo and salad--and it managed to be just filling enough for lunch on a sweltering day. The coffee in Ruby's is also supposed to be good, although I haven't tested it out yet. 219b Mullbery Street nr Spring. Website.

Public (NoLIta). We thought about going to Public for dinner one night but after looking at the menu, we decided that brunch would be more fun. Luckily, perhaps, we showed up at 2.30 on Saturday--late in the brunch shift--which meant we got a sunny table on the balcony-like section of the restaurant's Elizabeth Street front. I opted for a posh fry-up, involving scrambled eggs, bacon and tomatoes on sourdough, but most of the other dishes were more creative (black pudding waffles with red wine poached pears and whipped foie gras butter, for example). A lovely place to linger on a sunny Saturday. 210 Elizabeth Street bet. Prince & Spring. Website.

Brunch at Bread

Bread (NoLIta). Decorated in white, grey and silver, Bread, on Spring Street, serves a range of salads and Italian sandwiches. We went for brunch and Belgian waffles with maple syrup, fresh berries and cream was clearly the way to go. Not to mention a tall glass of strawberry lemonade. The omelettes sounded good too but I was in the mood for something unhealthy (again). 20 Spring Street nr Mott.

Saxon & Parole (NoHo). This restaurant, which offers "grilled meats and aquatic delights" pretty close to our hotel and we walked past it many times before finally deciding to go there for our last supper. Inside, Saxon & Parole is light and airy--there are more casual booths near the bar and more formal, white-clothed tables out back--but we sat on the pavement terrace to watch NoHo go by. The cocktail menu is more vegetable- than fruit-based but there were lots of tempting choices and the bar itself looked very impressive. I had to have a burger and it was a great one, perfectly medium rare and with tasty cheese, maple bacon and shoestring fries (I opted for my fried egg on the side). The puddings were pretty interesting too: we shared a sort of caramel popcorn trifle dish, which was really tasty. A woman at the next-door table said that the bathrooms were, like, the most romantic ever. I wouldn't go that far but they were pretty nice, even if I did almost fall down the stairs because the lighting was so low. The restaurant is named after two racehorses, in case you were wondering... 316 Bowery at Bleecker. Website.

Popcorn pudding, the bar and the burger at Saxon & Parole

Smith & Mills (TriBeCa). Smith & Mills was recommended indirectly by a friend of a friend and I'm glad I knew what to look for because I probably would have walked right past its unassuming frontage. Inside, though, is a lovely, intimate neighbourhood restaurant with a handful of tables and a cool bar. We were lucky to score a table on a scorching Wednesday night, and were very happy to cool off with a refreshing cocktail (I had a rather patriotic Pimm's Cup). A lot of the menu sounded great but I couldn't resist the sound of a burger with white cheddar and home-made chips (i.e. crisps) and it didn't disappoint. Nor did the lemon cheesecake we shared for pudding, which contained a number of different fruity condiments. 71 North Moore Street nr Greenwich. Website.

Cheesecake and the bar at Smith & Mills

Five Points (NoHo). "Every neighborhood needs a place with a good bar, a serious kitchen, and zero pretensions," the Five Points website declares, and maybe it does fit the bill for NoHo. The restaurant has a slightly southern feel and I ordered the Amish chicken, which was juicy and delicious. We also shared some pork scratchings, which were not what I was expecting (i.e. this). The cocktails were good too, although I should have probably stepped out of my comfort zone and tried one of the more interesting gin-based drinks rather than the less adventurous raspberry-vodka-etc. 31 Great Jones Street nr Lafayette. Website.

Cocktails and pork scratchings at Five Points

Walter Foods (Williamsburg). I have been meaning to visit the Brooklyn outpost of Balthazar for quite some time now--not helped by the fact that I had the address of the place completely wrong. I'm glad we made it, though, because the southern-influenced food was really good. I had a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and coleslaw; the pork was particularly excellent, as was the friend chicken I managed to sample. I was far too full for pudding but the special of the day happened to be a chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake, so how could I say no? We sat in the lovely, quiet courtyard out the back, but on a less clement evening, the restaurant itself would be a fine place to dine. 253 Grand Street at Roebling. Website.

The Spotted Pig (West Village). A self-styled West Village gastropub, with more than a hint of English influence (faggots and PG Tips on the menu), The Spotted Pig isn't great for vegetarians but offers a range of meaty dishes for the carnivores among us. Surprise, surprise, I had a burger (minus the roquefort; they don't do cheddar), which was probably the best of the holiday, perfectly juicy and medium rare. The fries were a little salty, but very moreish and nothing that a good cocktail (Sorrel Punch with gin, in my case) couldn't wash down. 314 West 11th Street @ Greenwich. Website.

Cocktails and the burger at the Spotted Pig

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