As the Village Voice's chief food critic, Robert Sietsema has been eating his way through New York since 1993. He's made a name for himself by highlighting outer borough restaurants and cuisines long scorned by other critics, that the general public might not know about or otherwise have missed. He has written multiple books, including The Food Lover's Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York, and was kind enough to share some of his not-so-well-kept secrets in his own West Village neighborhood.
Pizza, slice: The fresh mozzarella "grandma" slice at Joe's, or one of the thinner-crusted, cornmeal-dusted personality slices at Two Boots West, say the 'Cleopatra Jones,' with crumbled sweet Italian sausage, roasted yellow and red peppers, and near-caramelized purple onion. One slice is enough to call lunch.
Pizza pie: One of the city's most venerable coal-oven pizzerias, John's, is located right on Bleecker Street, and the thin-crust, modestly strewn, slightly charred pies will send any pizza lover to heaven. Or you could pick the Neapolitan-revival place across the street, Keste, which does a very good imitation of the pizzerias of Naples, authentic in nearly every way except in its pricey wine list.
Burger, fancy: The one-pound prime steakhouse burger at Old Homestead, though I'd have it at lunch when it's slightly cheaper, and share it with a friend.
Sandwich: That's easy: Faicco's chicken parm hero, with plenty of tomato sauce.
Coffee: The West Village is the city's greatest neighborhood for independent coffee shops owned by people who have strong opinions about how coffee should taste. Joe the Art of Coffee is great, but often crowded, so for chillness you might find me at Mojo Coffee.
Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with (very sagey!) breakfast sausage and whole wheat toast, which they butter for you, at La Bonbonniere, a Greek coffee shop with a fancy name that's been serving breakfasts to Villagers since before the Civil War.
Dive bar: Not too much in the way of real dive bars 'round here, but WXOU Radio does a pretty good job of delivering no-frills liquor in a subdued setting.
Nicer wine, beer, or cocktail bar: Gottino is a great wine bar, with all sorts of Italian choices and one of the best bar snacks in the world: a whip of salt-cod covered in olive oil, presented in a mason jar.
Falafel: Taim, of course, near the paradoxical corner of West 4th and West 11th, and offering falafels in three flavors.
Chinese takeout: For old-fashioned carryout Cantonese, the kind you can barely find in Manhattan any more, check out Christopher's Golden Woks, but don't you dare order any of the newfangled Thai offerings.
Late-night eats: Gray's Papaya, now that they've belatedly introduced a chili-cheese version of their signature frank, is the place I'd go, on a corner that hops 24 hours, where you can still feel the ghost of Jimi Hendrix.
Date night: Aria Wine Bar has a very high romance level in the air, and an almost even number of boys and girls on the prowl, a role that used to be fulfilled by Doma.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: EN Japanese Brasserie (try their Japanese-American take on fried chicken), and Perry St (if you can afford it, try the crispy poached egg with caviar and vodka cream) are two upscale spots that characterize the best the neighborhood has to offer, adventuresome places where the food never disappoints and the staff coddles you.
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