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John McDonald is one of the most neighborhood-conscious restaurateurs we know. There was a time when all of his ventures—Lure Fishbar, B&B Winepub (a.k.a. Burger & Barrel), MercBar, and City magazine—were located just steps away from his Soho loft. Even Tasting Table, the website he co-founded, is right under his nose in the neighborhood. This September, he'll take a culinary (and physical) leap in opening Greenwich Village Mexican restaurant El Toro Blanco. But Soho will always have a place in John's heart—and his stomach.
Pizza by the slice: Ben's is still the go-to spot for a straight-forward slice. I stick with plain cheese, heavy on the red pepper flakes for heat.
Pizza pie: Soho doesn't have its own version of Co. or, say, Keste, but I happen to think the pizza at Mercer Kitchen is pretty solid. Either the Fontina with Black Truffle, or their seasonal pizza, which is always excellent.
Coffee: La Colombe is a must for serious coffee lovers. I almost always get a cappuccino, or sometimes do a basic cup of coffee and add heavy cream.
Sandwich: I've been going to M & O Market and Deli for ages: it's a no-frills, awesome sandwich. Their back deli counter has a daily carving board that features either fresh roast beef, turkey or pork and makes the ultimate sandwich on soft Portuguese-style rolls. If you get there early enough, they often have fresh-baked cookies.
Juice: For fresh-pressed juice, you need to visit Melvin's Juice Box. My two favorite juices are Catch a Fire and the Usain Bolt. Toss in a jerk chicken sandwich to go if you want something solid.
Cocktail bar: Pravda has a great room and fantastic cocktails. I skip the cocktail spots that take 20 minutes to make a single drink.
Date night: The champion for date night is still Raoul's. It's the right size, dark, sexy, and always has a great crowd. If I've been there a hundred times, I'd say that I've had their Steak au Poivre a hundred times.
Late-night eats: For medium-to-late-night dining, it's Balthazar. For a super late-night meal, post-2 AM, it's Blue Ribbon without fail. I'm always amazed at how crisp and attentive those servers are that late in the shift. I'm a fan of their chicken barley soup and the Paella Royal. With that grouping, you must order the Pu Pu Platter.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: One of my favorite spots for dinner is Peasant. Anyone that loves spicy food should order their Pizza Peperoncini e Soppressata. It's done with hot chili, and when you bite into one of those little guys, it's just awesome.