Balthazar, Keith McNally's brasserie and bakery, is one of New York's most New Yorkish restaurants. 17 years into its life as Nolita's all-day food destination, it hasn't changed a bit—not the food, the scene, or the crowds.
Where should you go when a visit is stymied by a long wait? Well, take your time at the host stand to make a reservation for next time, but then look around you. There's nothing quite like Balthazar, but the neighborhood has plenty of alternatives.
The Closest Call
Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette is so entrenched in the Balthazar spirit you could call it the restaurant's blue-hued younger sibling. It's plenty busy in its own right, but you can always call ahead and see if there are seats, and outdoor tables are a tempting offer once the weather warms. We're most impressed with the bread and pastry; like Balthazar, Lafayette has an adjunct bakery. For a more casual take on the bistro, don't miss Lucien just north of Houston, which is nearly as old as Balthazar and serves a winning steak frites.
Also nearby-ish is a smaller restaurant that got a lot of love from critics last year: Le Philosophe. Truth be told we haven't ventured in yet, so we'll hold off on a pure recommendation and just let you know that the well-regarded bistro is another option for a Balthazar-esque Frenchified meal.
Classy Close By
Neither of those restaurants are right around the corner from Balthazar. But if you're willing to switch cuisines for a closer plan B, you have options. Osteria Morini, Michael White's casual Italian spot, is one of our favorite places for lunch meetings in Soho, and the excellent pasta and ice cream are worth a trip all their own.
Balaboosta's another great place for lunch—this fantastic Israeli restaurant does inventive cooking like fried olives with labne but also nails simple lunch salads, sandwiches, and soups. If you're looking for a bar to wait out your Balthazar table instead, hit up Lure for its oyster happy hour. It's a hopping, scene-y place, so getting in at the bar for some snacks is your best bet should you head there for food.
Stepping Back From the Buzz
For a more low-key meal, try Peix Bar de Mariscos, a cute Spanish tapas restaurant with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Or go for Emporio, a wine bar with solid pizza and a mean porchetta sandwich. And if all else fails, just around the corner from Balthazar is Taim, home to the killer falafel sandwich that'll fill you up and get you on with your life, popular brasserie be damned.
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