10 Restaurants Guaranteed to Impress Your Coolest Out-of-Town Friends
Hosting guests in the city can be a stressful affair—and that stress doubles when those guests are self-proclaimed “foodies” who only want to hit up what’s new, cool or under the radar. So where do you take them…especially if you’re trying not to spend a fortune? Here, ten restaurants guaranteed to impress even the most discerning visitor.
RELATED: 8 Places to Eat in Flushing Chinatown
Where Chinatown meets the Lower East Side is an unassuming storefront covered in Chinese characters, which you might walk right by if not for the crowds hovering outside. Chances are you’ll have to wait for a table (don’t stress, just order a margarita next door at Forgetmenot), but it’s worth it because Kiki’s is the sort of place that makes you feel cooler just by walking in. If you’re with a group, the mixed grill—a heaping portion of loukaniko sausage, lamb chops and bifteki on french fries and pita—is always a good idea. And an order of the grilled octopus needs to be on your table.
130 Division St.; 646-882-7052
There’s nothing new and trendy about this East Village trattoria and wine bar, but its charm is timeless. The main dining room feels a bit like a cozy Tuscan farmhouse with its exposed brick walls and rustic wooden tables, while the kitchen serves a rotating menu of daily specials. But you can expect to see crowd favorites like spaghetti al limone drowning in shaved Parmesan, and tortellini stuffed with porcini mushrooms.
156 E. Second St.; supperrestaurant.com
Kings County Imperial
The ambience at this “modern Chinese haunt” feels sort of like a retro diner: a modest bar, a few red leather booths and, at the Williamsburg location, a small garden through the back doors. But you won’t find patty melts here: Instead, feast on mock eel (fried shiitake mushrooms tossed in soy glaze), seriously buttery shrimp toast and delicate soup dumplings.
Locations in Williamsburg and the LES; kingscoimperial.com
Your visitors are probably planning to eat pizza while in town, but if they’re open to branching out from classic New York–style slices, take them to Violet. The new spot, from the Pizza Loves Emily crew, specializes in Rhode Island–style grilled pies, which are delivered to your table along with a pair of kitchen shears. Our favorite of the flatbread-like creations is topped with broccoli and pistachio pesto, but we also love the interesting small plates, like the grilled shrimp served over cornmeal johnny cakes and the “stuffies”: clams loaded with linguica, pretzel stuffing and a dollop of uni.
511 E. Fifth St.; violeteastvillage.com
Just steps from Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gran Electrica boasts a huge backyard garden framed by ivy and string lights, perfect for brunch on a sunny day or dinner on a pleasant evening. We’ve never had a cocktail here we didn’t love, like the jalapeño-infused grapefruit margarita. Everything on the menu—from the carnitas tacos to the masa piled high with duck confit, cabbage slaw and cotija cheese—manages to taste light and fresh. After you’re sufficiently full, stroll around the Brooklyn waterfront and take in the sweeping Manhattan views.
5 Front St., Brooklyn; granelectrica.com
Planning a night out in the East Village? Start at Thursday Kitchen, which serves Korean-European fusion in easy-to-share dishes. Load up your table with the sweet-and-spicy popcorn chicken, kimchi paella and edamame dumplings drizzled in truffle oil. And to drink, everyone needs a boozy, glow-in-the-dark Capri Sun–style cocktail.
424 E. Ninth St.; thursdaykitchen.com
This new all-day Japanese café is about the size of a studio apartment, which just adds to its cool factor. There are maybe three small tables, but we suggest grabbing seats at the bar, ordering a bottle of sake and sharing a bunch of small plates, like chicken katsu and deep-fried croquettes bursting with a cheesy mashed-potato filling. Whatever you do, don’t miss the uni tomato spaghetti: chubby udon noodles served with a generous portion of creamy sea urchin.
102 Suffolk St.; davellenewyork.com
Le French Diner
Chances are, you’ve passed this hole-in-the-wall on Orchard Street without even noticing it. But once you step inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Paris. The well-curated wine selection is mostly French and the food is unpretentious but exceptional. Think dishes like chewy escargots buried beneath a layer of garlic and parsley, crispy duck leg confit with braised endives and the cult-favorite grilled octopus.
188 Orchard St.; lefrenchdiner.com
OK, we know this one’s obvious, but if you’re looking to show an out-of-towner a quintessential New York dining experience, this NYC institution delivers. If it’s a nice day, opt for a wooden picnic table in the giant outdoor space and share a few pies—bubbly, charred crust topped with ingredients like arrabbiata sauce, ricotta and pork sausage. While you’re here for the pizza, you should also treat yourself to some stellar charcuterie and antipastos.
261 Moore St., Brooklyn; robertaspizza.com
Her Name Is Han
This cozy K-town space has been a regular in our rotation since it first fed us its “Korean soul food” in 2016. There’s homemade soju infused with grapefruit and kiwi (don’t think, just order it), pork belly served with kimchi and pickled okra, chewy rice cakes you could easily confuse with potato gnocchi, and bubbling stews filled with mussels, crab legs and dumplings. All the plates are great for sharing, which works to your advantage because you’ll want to try everything.
17 E. 31st St.; hernameishan.com