Lucky Rice's Danielle Chang's Favorite Nolita/Downtown Restaurants
While Danielle Chang, the founder of Lucky Rice, eats in Chinatown all the time—it's blocks away from her home in Nolita—she's often on the go searching for the best Asian food. After all, it's part of her job as she helps promote Asian cuisine throughout the country (Lucky Rice is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year). But since moving to New York in 1990, Chang is just as up to snuff on the city's restaurant scene. Here are her favorites in and around Nolita.
Pizza: I know it sounds piggy (but I am the year of the pig!), but I can finish a medium pizza at L'asso in one seating. The reason for ordering a medium (and not a small) is that with a medium, L'asso allows you to split the pie. I usually go with half Blush (vodka sauce, yum!) and half prosciutto/arugula. San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and extra virgin olive oil.
Burger: DBGB is my local outpost for Daniel Boulud's food. I love Daniel but don't always want to go to the Upper East Side. When it comes to burgers, it's always more is more for me. I had the Frenchie last time and it definitely was not a classic In-N-Out burger.
Brunch: Public on Elizabeth Street is my go-to for brunch. I love how the light streams into this former warehouse space. I usually get the Fry-up, which comes with two fried eggs, slow roasted tomatoes and buttered mushrooms. My favorite part: a brunch cocktail. Make mine the Red Snapper with Bombay Sapphire East gin, which makes it extra spicy.
Bagel: Russ & Daughters. Legendary, and worth the wait.
Coffee: Gimme Coffee on Mott Street right next door to the Elizabeth St Garden. This is the perfect place for a pick-me-up when running errands around town.
Pastries: Ceci Cela. It's tough on the wallet because I live so close by. This is my local bakery and frequent (daily?) breakfast stop. Their double-baked almond croissants taste straight from Paris, and their almond pear tarts are my favorite for dinner party hostess gifts.
Take-out: Gourmet Garage. This is my favorite grocery in New York, and I've been shopping here since I first moved in 1990. I've spent a small fortune and lifetime in this store. But I also love it for their take out: best crunchy Carolina-style fried chicken, fresh sushi and a soup bar with all my favorites (it makes my day when I see chicken dumpling soup and tomato with rice).
Date spot: The Bowery Hotel is always romantic, especially during the winter when the fireplace is going. I love sitting in their greenhouse bar. It's perfect for cocktail hour. I'm a fan of hotel bars in general. The Crosby is also date-worthy.
Kid-friendly: Mercer Kitchen is oddly remarkably kid friendly. Thankfully my kids are old enough now to enjoy dining out (and behave themselves), but when I go out with parents with kids, this is our neighborhood spot. There are elevators for strollers, an open kitchen for entertainment, space for exploring and enough kid-friendly food to please everyone.
Mexican: La Esquina, especially late night. I'll just get tacos (carnitas) to go, or their chicken tinga hits the spot after sipping tequila downstairs...
French: Balthazar. The French brasserie I can no longer find in Paris is just around the corner from me! Even though this place is jam packed with tourists from day into night, they treat their local customers with loyalty, so I'm always seated quickly. So it's truly my neighborhood spot that I can drop in on anytime. I'm a fan of their bouilliabaisse, which is unfortunately only served on Fridays.
Falafel: Hoomoos Asli. I always get their large combo plate so I can choose four of the best looking salads at their counter. Last time I was there, it was Israeli salad, babaganoush, tabouli and spicy tomatoes. Their chicken schnitzel is also surprisingly good.
Sandwich: Not sure this counts as a sandwich, but I love Hampton Chutney for their dosas. I always order the masala deluxe and add whatever seasonal vegetable (butternut squash or portobello mushrooms) to the spicy potato mixture. The dosa doesn't travel well, though, so it's best to eat it as soon as it's ready.
Bar: I've been a fan of the Shark Bar (now known as Spring Lounge) on Spring and Mulberry for decades. It's actually a great place to hang out at in the late afternoons. The corner seats make for a sunny and relaxed spot to hang out at when everyone else is still at the office. Avoid coming in here on weekend nights, though, as it turns into a dive bar for drunk out-of-towners.
Noodles: Cocoron. I'm a sucker for noodle soups, and this soba spot is perfect for slurping a bowl of buckwheat noodles. I love their stamina noodles, which come with a rich, satisfying chicken broth and shiitake mushrooms.
Thai: Pok Pok Phat Thai. My life has changed for the better since they started delivery to my neighborhood. It lives up to the hype. I get their pad Thai with the prawns, which are always fresh and crunchy.