A Guide to NYC Restaurants: From Bars to Osterias

May 31, 2015

Ah, the age old question; what do you want to eat? Many a relationship have been ended because of this question. I’ve witnessed fights break out on busy New York streets over this question. I’ve almost given up and gone home on account of this question. And nowadays, it is made ever so difficult because of the variety of amazing foods available in New York City. No longer can you just go to a bar or a restaurant. Now there are things called gastropubs and trattorias. What the hell is a gastropub, you might be asking. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you, and maybe save a relationship along the way.

Bar/Saloon/Tavern

A bar can also be called a saloon or a tavern. Some are very old, some are very new. They can come in a literal ton of shapes and sizes, from gay bars to sports bars, biker bars to wine bars. When you whittle away all these traits (most of which are dependent upon what clientele the bar serves) you have an establishment whose express purpose is to serve alcohol. There is a bar top and maybe some booths. You can seat yourself or maybe stand. Most only open after 12:00 PM and in New York, stay open till 4:00 AM. They may or may not have food, and if they do it is usually the type that goes great with heavy drinking; salty, fried, finger food.

White Horse Tavern: 567 Hudson St. New York, NY (212.989.3956.)

Pub

Pubs are of British and Irish descent, among other such cultures. Nowadays they can also call themselves taverns as well. They serve predominantly beer, cider or wine and rarely have any specialty cocktails. They’re the kind of bar you belly up to, sip a frothy beer, and have a chat with the bartender. If food is served, it is filling and comforting, with a larger menu than a regular bar. The music is usually unobtrusive, if there is any, being as pub actually stands for “public house” and is meant to be a place to relax with your booze for a fair amount of time.

McSorely’s Old Ale House: 15 E 7th St. New York, NY (212.473.9143.)

Diner

Diners exist for a few reasons; the morning after holidays, when you’re hungry in a pinch, and when you’re smashed and need some greasy grub at 5:30 AM. They are hard to miss, as they almost always have “Diner” in the title. Usually staffed by peppy old women and college kids, you can expect an all-too diverse menu and huge portions. Pro Tip: never have pasta or fish in regular diners. Diners are best for waffles, pancakes, grilled cheeses, and bagels. Occasionally you’ll find a diner selling modern twists on classic dishes, but these usually aren’t the all-nighters.

Bridgeview Diner: 9011 3rd Ave. Brooklyn, NY (718.680.9818.)

Food Trucks

There are some things that you should only eat from a Food Truck; tacos, ice cream cones and halal. You can find them almost anywhere in the city, especially around parks, Wall Street, schools and busy intersections. Some need to be tracked down via twitter, and those are usually the best kept secrets. Expect to wait on line and get very messy, but deliciously full.

Calexico: Various locations, see website.

Valducci’s Food Truck: Location varies, follow via twitter.

Delicatessen

Delis are a New York staple, and are historically rich in culture. Immigrants would go to delis because they were the only places to get food from their home countries. Some of the best places to grab a sandwich are Brooklyn delis. They sell cold cuts and sandwiches, as well as any side you could want with it; potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw, pickles, etc. Delis also sell prepared foods, breads, soft drinks, and much more. At the same time though, places like the famous Katz’s Deli don’t sell prepared foods, just incredible sandwiches and other dishes. While some delis have a more laid back feel, you better go into Katz’s with an idea of what you want. They are always crowded and the line is always moving.

Katz’s Delicatessen: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY (212.254.2246.)

Carnegie Deli:  854 7th Ave, New York, NY (212.757.2245.)

Bistro

Bistros were originally small, unpretentious Parisian eateries. Typically they are small cafes, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the waiters almost always wear black aprons (in trying to keep with the Parisian origin, I guess). You will find these items on every Bistro menu; French Onion Soup, Moules or Steak Frites, and a Croque Monsieur or Madame. Bistros are nice for an elegant lunch while reading a book.

Le Bonne Soupe: 48 W 55th St. New York, NY (212.586.7650.)

Gastropub

If you translate this literally, it actually means stomach pub…who wants to go to a stomach pub? The prefix is actually in reference to the term “gastronomy” which is “the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food”. Therefore, a gastropub is a pub that serves high-quality food and drink. You won’t just find a cheeseburger here, but a perfectly made, dry aged burger on an artisan bun with special sauces and interesting flavor combos. They also probably offer flatbreads, deviled eggs, and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches to have with a large selection of beers and wine.

The Spotted Pig: 314 West 11th St. New York, NY (212.620.0393)

Tapas Bar

Tapas is great the first few times you have it and then it kind of gets redundant; serrano ham, manchego cheese, tiny meatballs, bacon wrapped dates, ripping hot shrimps, and crusty breads. In Spain, Tapas is free. In America, Tapas is over priced. The dishes are so flavorful though, it just gets a little old after a while. Tapas is great for a first date; you get to share food in a romantic environment, and they usually cram so much seating in tapas bars that you’ll most likely be cozied up to each other.

Boqueria: Various locations, see website.

Enoteca

Enotecas aren’t as common in America but they are rooted in tradition. The word means “wine library” and was meant to be a place were locals can come and sample local wine for a fare price. It’s essentially an Italian wine bar. Some serve unique Italian food; sweet breads, whole lamb heads, and pigs feet, along with other “normal” food options. In keeping with tradition, ask the waitress to pair the right wine with your entree, since wine is an important part of an Enoteca.

Enoteca Maria: 27 Hyatt St. Staten Island, NY (718.447.2777.)

Estiatorio

Estiatorios are greek restaurants serving food traditionally cooked in the oven or on the grill. They emphasize fresh fish, spreads (such as hummus) as well as appetizers called mezedes. The term “Estiatorio” is used more over in Greece, and rarely do you see it here. More common are Tavernas, which are smaller Greek cafes. Not to be confused with a tavern, these are unpretentious eateries serving casual greek food; a toned down version of an Estiatorio.

Estiatorio Milos: 125 W 55th St. New York, NY (212.245.7400.)

Osteria

You won’t find chicken parm or eggplant rolitini at these upscale Italian restaurants. These menus are small and whittled down to their specialities. Most menus have a great selection of pasta dishes, a cured meats and cheese section to go with their selection of wines, as well as a small antipasto and entree section. My suggestion? Go for the pasta. The majority of osterias take great pride in their hand-made pastas.

Lupa Osteria Romana: 170 Thompson St, New York, NY (212.982.5089)

Trattoria

Less formal than an osteria but more formal than a regular Italian restaurant, Trattorias are casual but still inventive. The portions are larger than an Osteria, as well as the menus. In less formal trattorias, they can be considered Italian-American. You’ll find everything there; pizza, chicken, fish, pastas, risottos, salads, sandwiches, veal, lamb, beef, and desserts. More upscale places like al di la in Park Slope serve traditional, rustic Italian dishes, the kind of food you would find in Italy.

al di la Trattoria: 248 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (718.783.4565.)

So there you have it. This is obviously the type of restaurant, not the cuisine. If you would like me to write a guide to the various cuisines in New York, please leave a comment below and I would be happy to do that. If I have missed any, please let me know! And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up with my food adventures across this great city.

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