Hubby and I are having a last-minute long weekend in Mahattan this Friday to Monday. We're staying in the meatpacking district, and are likely to spend most of our time in the West Village and LES. Friday night we'll line up for the Fatty Crab on Hudson, but we have no reservations for Saturday and Sunday dinners -- we'd really appreciate hearing about your "neighbourhood favourites/secrets" -- smallish places with consistently delicious food. For example, we really enjoyed the Little Owl in the West Village. We're happy to eat at the bar or tables, and we like a broad range of experiences (taverns, French, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, local, modern, etc) and we're fine to line up if worthwhile. Lunch tips appreciated too. Thanks so much, and happy to return the favour if you're ever in Toronto!
There are so many places to eat in the areas you mention. Lining up for Fatty Crab is not anything i would do. Recette is one of the better places in the W Village, a great place for dinner. D'Andrea for Italian food on W 13th St. Paradou ( meat packing) for the foie gras tasting. Po for the chef tasting or pastas. Pearl Oyster Bar is a good place to have some seafood and chowder. Morandi you can get a decent lunch. Takashi for some Japanese grilled meats. En Brasserie on Hudson St for a nice atmosphere and some good small Japanese dishes.
This is a tough question for the West Village, especially, since most great places are smallish with consistently good food, yet aren't really off the beaten Chowhound path. A few places that are slightly less trendy and don't get as much coverage on this board, which I happen to really like, include: Buvette, Soto, L'Artusi, Hakata Tonton. The Mexican-style tamales from the El Idolo truck parked on 14th and 8th Ave. most evenings (except Sundays, I think) are often very good. Better known neighborhood places that are favorites of mine include Joseph Leonard, Recette. Joseph Leonard serves some surprisingly stellar oysters for a non-seafood restaurant. Go early to avoid the crowds, sit at the bar and eat some of their pickles out of the jar to whet your appetite for the tasty cocktails and beers. The bar tenders are all really down to earth and nice.
Some very trendy restaurants you can't actually reserve unless you have a group, so you'll be able to get in after a wait. Good ones of this category include Tertulia (very trendy) and Blue Ribbon Bakery (practically a neighborhood institution it's been around for so long).
For lunch, my newest discovery is the $15 prix fixe at Spasso. This is a two course meal that includes an antipasti or salad (my shaved vegetable salad was great) and a pasta or sandwich. I thought the quality of the food was great for the price.