Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
This week on Ask the Critic: Taking Mom out for brunch on Mother's Day, and eating alone around New York City.
I discovered that I really like dining solo, can you please give me some options for lunch, brunch, and dinner?
First tip: Choose a restaurant with a bar, preferably one on the larger side, but not one with a particularly bar-like crowd. It gives you more opportunity for people-watching and interaction with the bartender, and there's always something going on to watch.
Even better: Restaurants with bars that look into the kitchen. I'd happily eat alone at Harold Dieterle's Kin Shop, where from the back bar you can watch the cooks fire dishes and toss roti on the plancha.
I've had great meals alone at the bar at Buvette, Jody Williams's French wine bar and restaurant; since many of the dishes come in small portions, you can try a few things. I enjoyed the bartender's company at L'Apicio, where the bar is slightly set off from the cavernous main restaurant (although I've heard the place gets packed during prime time; consider off hours.)
While there aren't too many these days, old-school lunch counters are intended for solo diners. I'm a big fan of Stage Restaurant in the East Village, for excellent corned beef hash or a pastrami sandwich that won't break the bank.
For more casual lunches: Places you can grab a quick lunch are accustomed to solo diners; in my work neighborhood, Chinatown, I find that no one bats an eye if you sit down alone and order. Try Noodle Village or Great NY Noodletown. You'll be seated quickly, and served quickly; if you arrive at peak hours you might share a table with another group—but that's just an opportunity for a solo diner to make a few friends.
Mother's Day Brunch
What's an amaaaaaazing restaurant for Mother's Day brunch with my boyfriend's parents? I've considered Maialino, but honestly I'd like to think of something more off the beaten path.
Background: in previous years, we've been to Prune and ABC Kitchen for Mother's Day brunch and both were big hits. His parents love slightly more traditional restaurants with impressive wine lists (his dad is a very serious wine aficionado), although they enjoy more casual places: they love places like Annisa, Esca, and Union Square Cafe, but we've also taken them to Egg, Anella, and dim sum in Chinatown.
If they liked Egg—rustic, Southern, gut-busting—consider Char No. 4 in Carroll Gardens, for biscuits with house-smoked ham and bacon gravy, or a mean chopped pork sandwich.
If they liked Anella—charming, neighborhoody, genuinely likable food—consider Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park, for brunch-y classics in a warm, welcoming space.
If they liked Union Square Cafe—polished, sophisticated, an accomplished restaurant that pays a lot of respect to brunch—consider The Dutch or Locanda Verde, both Andrew Carmellini restaurants that are just impressive in the afternoon as they are at night.
And if they like Annisa and dim sum, consider a place that splits the difference on the fancy-to-less-fancy brunch spectrum: Talde in Park Slope. (I've never had too much of a wait at brunch, but you may want to get there on the early end.)
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