Team Serious Eats goes far and wide when we eat out for work, but when we're "off duty," you're more likely to find us closer to home at bars. Where do we eat when it's just for fun? Here are our favorite tried-and-true local restaurants.
Max Falkowitz, Astoria
Greek food is everywhere in Astoria, and everyone has their favorite place to go. Telly's Taverna is mine. Skip the grilled fish and stick to the salads, gigante beans, and simple vegetable dishes for best results. My favorite part? They give you free loukmades, honey-topped doughnuts, every night but Saturday. Other favorites, depending on the mood: E Taverna and Gregory's 26th.
For more upscale meals I hit MP Taverna, where Michael Psilakis does a gorgeous lamb shank and a surprisingly delicious bulgar salad. More often than not, delivery these days comes from Palestinian shawarma shop Duzan. The chicken shawarma's the thing, but all the salads and dips—particularly the foul—are well worth an order.
Niki Achitoff-Gray, Bushwick
If not for the consistently long waits, I'd probably spend all my time eating at Roberta's and Momo Sushi Shack. But I'm especially vulnerable to hanger, so I'd have to say that Tandem is where I wind up most often. It has solid, affordable brunch and dinner menus, a laid-back atmosphere, good music, a friendly staff, and, best of all, it's around the corner from my apartment.
If I'm totally honest, while the food is quite good, it's actually the excellent Bloody Mary selection that ensures my fidelity. Especially the Garden Bloody Mary: horseradish-packed heat, the vegetal sweetness of beet-infused vodka, and a smoky rim of paprika, all set off by a garnish of bright pickled vegetables.
Jim Lehnhoff, Carroll Gardens
Court Street Grocers will always have a very special place in my heart because they were the first conveniently located place in New York that served Taylor Ham. Since I'm from New Jersey, that goes a very long way. They also make my favorite Italian combo.
Leang Chaing, Clinton Hill
Urban Vintage is a fantastic cafe where I love to get work done. They have great pastries from Balthazar which are incorporated into pressed croissants and grilled cheeses. They also have Nutella lattes if your brain requires more calories, you know, for concentrating. Conveniently right across the street is Marietta, which has a great value burger—it starts at $7 but I recommend doubling up the patties for more heft and adding accouterments like pork cheek terrine. Marietta was created by the same owners as Peaches Hothouse, so their fried chicken with togarashi mayo is also great if you're in the neighborhood and too lazy to make the trek down to Bed-Stuy.
Ben Fishner, East Village
Lately, my go-to is Local 92. The food is top-notch, and the menu's big enough that I can't see myself getting bored with the options. And when we're ordering in, we call Westville East an embarrassing amount. They might not have the most exciting menu in town, but just about everything is good there, and it's one of the few places where you can get a satisfying delivery meal that's heavy on the vegetables. On the other hand, they also have a great, underrated burger.
Robyn Lee, Greenwood Heights
For cheap, fast take-out, my favorite spot is Taksim Square 2. I haven't tried a lot from there, mostly their $5.95 platters of kofte kebab and chicken doner, which come with rice, salad, and a small round of homemade Turkish bread topped with sesame seeds. For not take-out, I'm all about El Tenampa for tacos and cemitas filled with lengua, cabeza, suadero, or buche.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Harlem
In the few months it's been open, Barawine has quickly become my go-to for a casual but delicious meal with a glass of wine at a reasonable price. It has elegance and charm without feeling like it's trying too hard, as some of the newer Harlem restaurants do, and actually has food quality to match. I love sitting at the communal table by myself and just watching the different groups of people come in. (No matter who they are, it's almost guaranteed they'll order the mac and cheese, and rightfully so. The stuff is awesome.)
For brunch or a good sandwich at lunch, it's Maison Harlem over on St. Nicholas. The French-owned bar and restaurant has the best french fries you'll find in the neighborhood.
And okay, perhaps I'm a bit biased here seeing as I had a big hand in the menu and kitchen design and hand-selected the bottles they stock in their vintage soda collection (you know any other restaurant in the city that serves Cheerwine, Big Red, and Vernor's Ginger Ale?), but the burgers at Harlem Shake have a crisp brown crust that can be smelled from blocks away. And good news: the veggie burgers and salads are more than just an afterthought.
Paul Cline, Park Slope
Most of my go-to neighborhood spots veer into bar territory. I often find myself at Dram Shop for the burger and Pork Slope for the wings. They both have kitchens that stay open late, decent food, decent beer, and they're close enough to "on the way home" that I can convince myself that they're actually on my way home.
Ed Levine, Upper West Side
At RedFarm, Telepan, and Ouest, I know there's a good chef in all those kitchens who hires crews that can execute the food. All those guys have been cooking a long time, some only in one restaurant at a time, and they're very consistent. You can have a meal that's as light or heavy as you want, and I also like that at Ouest and Telepan I can have a conversation with my tablemates without screaming.
Leandra Palermo, West Village
I find myself at Spunto more than anywhere else.You can always sit down, it's reasonably priced, and the thin crust pizza and salads are delicious and easy. Doma Na Rohu on the corner of 7th and Morton is the perfect New York cafe. We lack good easygoing low-key bars in the West Village, so if i want an inexpensive glass of wine and awesome beer, with jazz and good lighting, I go to Doma. Little Branch is still the best cocktail bar I know, and if i want to drop bills on a cocktail, it's my first choice.
Westville on Hudson and Spring also fits the bill of low-key, reasonably priced and approachable—a great place to take out of town friends who are experiencing sticker- and scene-shock of New York. For a sweet treat, it's Victory Garden for goat's milk soft serve or Rocco's for cookies (to-go, as the lighting in there hurts my soul).
I still hit up Bleecker Street Pizza constantly, and La Lanterna di Vittorio is my hidden gem. The front is a cafe while downstairs is a legit sit-down restaurant, but the key is to go to the enclosed garden area in the back and order well-priced wine and shockingly good personal pizzas. (Wow, I guess I eat a lot of pizza.) For a really solid brunch I go to Cornelia Street Cafe, which stands out in an area notorious for $12 yogurt and granola parfaits.
Jamie Feldmar and Tracie Lee, Williamsburg
I am almost physically incapable of walking past Saltie, Caroline Fidanza's postage stamp-sized sandwich stop/bakery, without stopping in for something—the creamy soft-scrambled egg and ricotta Ship's biscuit sandwich, served on a square of salt-studded homemade focaccia; the artful pile of hummus, pickled vegetables, and flatbread they call the Clean Slate when I'm feeling virtuous; or a lavender shortbread or chocolate pistachio nudge cookie when I'm not. Their daily rotating specials, like cock-a-leekie soup or sauteed seasonal vegetables crowned with a fried egg, are worth a look if you can manage to tear yourself away from the regular menu. — Jamie Feldmar
I don't eat out in my neighborhood (Bed-Stuy) much—there's only so much Chinese take out one can eat. When I do happen to be out in Williamsburg, my go-tos are Samurai Mama and Bozu. The quality is always high and the dishes are consistent, the staff is friendly and helpful, and I can count on a good selection of vegetarian dishes for any dining companions. The specials are also something to look out for! — Tracie Lee
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