17 years after opening, Balthazar hasn't changed much—not its food, scene, or crowds. So where should you go when a visit is stymied by a long wait? Take a look around you—there's plenty of good food close by.
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. Here are her favorites in and around Nolita.
Despaña clearly cares about great ingredients. When they come on plain salads, even in small quantities, it makes all the difference.
Two simple butter cookies, lightly dusted with powdered sugar, and a thin spread of sweet raspberry jam in between. That's it—no fancy tricks, no secret weapons. Late afternoon on a cool foggy day, it's all I need.
Little Rascal is completely unpretentious and extremely welcoming, and the care put into its food goes above and beyond for a place that likely makes most of its profits off of its booze.
Your average pumpkin ice cream is a middling way to really enjoy what pumpkin has to offer. That's not true at A. B. Biagi in Nolita.
When it comes to breakfast there's savory and sweet, and usually ne'er the two shall meet. Not so with Ceci-Cela's Spinach Pie ($3).
For a change-up from Mile End's smoked meat, consider this salami and mustard sandwich on a kaiser roll.
The Spanish menu created by Mexican chef-consultant Ignacio Carballido (Cafe El Portal and Casa Mezcal) at Peix Bar de Mariscos is simple to the extreme—most dishes are nothing more than pristine seafood, a bit of olive oil, and some good technique—but compelling. It's easy to respect a chef who has the sense to let the ingredients do most of the work for him, letting their own creativity ride in the passenger seat.
Pastry Chef Jennifer Yee's Accro du Caramel mousse cake ($6) is so light that I'm not sure what keeps it from floating off the plate and into the air. This small, beautiful pastry is all about subtle flavors and matching soft textures. But the first thing you'll notice is the technical precision: it looks like the components were cut using lasers.
When I asked you about burritos in New York last week, this was the one I had in mind. Nolita's Cafe El Portal makes a good burrito. Actually it makes one of the better burritos I've had in New York—which is not the same as great—but it comes with a price, $10.50 if you go with the pork filling. Is it ever okay to pay double digits for a burrito?
While this slender Brazilian cafe in Nolita probably won't make it into our regular lunch rotation, its crisp pork and cheese Calabreza sandwich ($11) makes for a decent, if Nolita-pricey lunch.
This new gelato shop is spinning ice cream that compares to the city's best.
I've got to admit it: I did not like Uncle Boons the first time I went. At least, I thought I didn't. The staff was friendly as could be, the space was fun, I even made friends with some folks at the bar, but the food just seemed... off to me.
Things started fine with a Lon Jai ($10), a Thai version of a michelada that looks like a glass of sriracha with a peppered rim. The cold Singha beer bubbles up through the hot sauce and then—what's that?—coriander wafts up to your nose along with something more mysterious and musky. "It's salted pickled lime juice," the bartender tells me, as he puts a plate of their chopped lamb salad in front of me. Laab Neuh Gae ($14) comes on strong out of the gate, with an unmistakable lamb-y aroma and richness that makes you wonder, is lamb really the best choice for laab? It tasted heavy, fatty, not refreshing, until... wait a minute... Okay, suddenly I got it. Those slices of cucumber and pickled onion aren't just garnishes—their bracing sourness allows you to focus on the flavor of the lamb, not the fat. The dish, surprisingly, worked.
Get all three components in one bite for maximum satisfaction; that dense and creamy chocolate ganache is no slouch.
There aren't many places in New York where you can find baked Alaska, much less one that alone, can justify (many) returns. Enter DBGB.
Like everyone at Serious Eats, I dig Taïm's falafel. But it's their salads that I really love: bright orange carrots with cumin, earthy crimson beets, sultry eggplant mush—these are things I would like to eat more of, all the time please. Enter the Hummus Sandwich ($6).
In 1997, Balthazar opened its doors on Spring Street. Downstairs in the basement, a corner was set aside for a little bread-making operation. On the first day, every table was decorated with a basket containing house-made breads: a baguette, a whole wheat, a rye, and so on. Fifteen years later, nearly identical loaves are still sold by the Balthazar Bakery, which has grown to be one of the city's biggest and most consistently excellent artisan bakeries.
Don't wait to head down to Parm for their Thanksgiving hero, as it will only be available until the end of the week. At $14, it's definitely expensive for a sandwich that you won't want to share with anyone, but it's everything Thanksgiving should be.
The dark, intimate space at La Esquina is a place to ease up and forget the anxieties of the week—and it's vegetarian-friendly, too.