As much as Geoffrey Zakarian is in the spotlight—judging on "Iron Chef" and "Chopped" while also running two high-profile New York restaurants—he and his wife Margaret Zakarian like to keep it low-key in Midtown East. While it's not the culinary mecca of New York, the couple (who are also partners business) have discovered solid standbys for every meal throughout the day. Sure, they will splurge with nice cocktails at Daniel, but their neighborhood favorites are more under the radar. Here are the Zakarian's favorite eats in Midtown East.
Pizza: Belmora Pizza is a hole-in-the wall New York City pizza joint right on 57th between Lex and Third. Just simple cheese and sauce is the best way to go. It's classic Italian in many ways, but it truly is more classic New York.
Burger: The National's Ugly Burger of course! Even though it's our own, we can't get enough. It's not over-the-top, but the ingredients include various pickles—red onion, jalapeno, cucumbers—with gruyere and a signature sauce.
Bar: Although technically an Upper East Side address, we feel that it is still part of midtown. The bar at Daniel never disappoints with expert hand-crafted cocktails. We go for a drink and usually end up staying for dinner right there in the bar. Always such a treat.
Coffee: When we feel like a proper espresso or cappuccino, there is really only one place: Bottega del Vino. It's just perfection any time of day for our caffeine fix.
Pastries: The large selection of expert macarons at Macaron Cafe on Third Avenue in the 40s is certainly a draw, but we appreciate very much that they stock and serve Mariage Freres tea from Paris.
Falafel: Lunch often times is a quick bite at Banzo Bar near our office. Great falafel. Fast and fresh.
Food Court: Just a few steps across the east/west dividing line of Fifth Avene, we feel so fortunate to have the Plaza Food Hall in our neighborhood. The grouping of food vendors is unparalleled : Lady M, Payard, Pain D'Avignon (which bakes fresh and on premise throughout the day), Vive La Crepe, Luke's Lobster, No. 7 Sub, Tartinery...it's just incredible food craftsmanship.
Take out: We really can't get enough of Naya. It's a Lebanese place on Second and 56th and the food is very authentic. We like to cook Lebanese ourselves, but it is hard to beat the ease of just ordering it up.
Japanese: The kids really like Gyukaku on Third and 50th. It is a second floor space that you would most likely never check out unless someone told you to go there. You grill all your own food at this Japanese barbecue, and they even have make-your-own s'mores for dessert.
Fine dining: Felidia is one of the best Italian restaurants in all of New York. They don't need extra press because it is always full, but the food is so delicious and the service is always spot on. This is one of our go to restaurants in Midtown. Always a treat and we love taking people to this under the radar gem.
Date night: When we squeeze in time for a date, we love to go casual, but, of course, the food has to be spot on. For this kind of a meal, we head to La Mangeoire, where master chef Christian Delouvrier cooks a superb roast chicken for two in a country French setting.