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Three Nights in the East Village

  • m

Coming to NYC for three nights at the end of January (from Toronto). Staying at the Standard East Village.

Looking for recommendations for dinner - obviously food is key but also hoping to find small neighbourhood spots with warm and buzzy atmosphere.

Love small plates and open to any cuisines but would especially love suggestions for Asian, Mexican, Italian and any nice cocktail spots.

Thoughts on Degustation?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. Momofuku Ssam is one of my favorite restaurants. I know you're from Toronto, but it's really, really good. Good cocktails at the restaurant and also next door at Booker & Dax. Buzzy but not especially warm.

    You might be interested in Empellon Cocina. Ambitious, creative cooking from a former Alinea pastry chef. Good cocktails too. Buzzy but also not especially cozy.

    For something more neighborhood-y and cozy, Prune, Pylos, maybe the bar or the pass at Hearth (best gnocchi I've ever had).

    Motorino is also one of the best pizza places in town and in the East Village.

    You might also want to hit up Luke's for a lobster roll or Mighty Quinn's for BBQ. Perhaps lunch? I'm guessing you don't have those easily accessible at home. Maybe also fried chicken at the Redhead.

    PDT, Mayahuel, Death & Co., Pouring Ribbons, Golden Cadillac, and Amor y Amargo are all in the EV. Depends what you're looking for. See my post here:

    1. I haven't been to Degustation in awhile. It used to be great but they changed chefs many times. I am thinking of trying it again soon. I think it's worth a shot. Also their other restaurant Jack's Oyster Bar, a few blocks away is good.
      Lavagna for Italian
      Bugs for Japanese Home Cooking
      Misoya- for ramen
      Zaab Elee for Thai
      Blue Ribbon Chicken- fried chicken
      Mighty Quinn's for BBQ
      Cafecita: for Cuban food
      Kyo Ya: Japanese Kaiseki
      Yokocho: yakitori, Japanese
      Kanoyama: sushi
      Luke's Lobster - lobster roll
      Porchetta- pork sandwich, or crispy pork bits and potatoes

      8 Replies
      1. re: foodwhisperer

        Jack's luxury oyster bar has been closed for months. Alas. One of their former chefs was at degustation a couple of months ago.

        1. re: Polisax

          Wow, The place used to be real good. Also, when their restaurant in Ct. closed , Jack's wife was supposed to run JLOB. I thought that was in the summer, but apparently it was before that. Is it possible that they opened a new restaurant in that location?

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            jack told me that it was a problem with the lease... I think it would only be renewed at a much higher price. I miss the place -- it was a great location through several different chefs. Jack is really talented at finding really good young chefs and keeping them for a while.

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              incidently, for the OP, I would agree with Ssam (though it is loud and very variable in quality), and Empillon cocina (which is really very original as a mexican place) but would suggest looking at some Izakawa places which can be fun and interesting (and also pretty variable). I like Wasan and Bohemian (what would you call that?), and Hakata tonton (which is a pork restaurant with lots of other things).. not sure if these things are found in toronto but they are interesting. then there are the neo scandinavian places like Skal and Luskus and Aska which are not in the EV but are a happening in NYC and, if I were visiting the city, would want to know about.
              And, if I were visiting, I would want someone to tell me about the roast chicken at NoMad.

          2. re: foodwhisperer

            If you are willing to venture a little out of the EV to the LES, I'd suggest Rayuela:


            Lavagna is one of our favorites. They also have a good wine list.

            Haven't been to Kyo Ya (thanks, Kathryn) in awhile.

            We've been to Degustation many times. Not recently, so I defer to others.

            Also, like Pylos (Greek). We used to go more often when it was easier to get a reservation.

            SO has been to Hearth several times. It's not really a destination place. Nearby Terroir (small space and younger crowd) is good for a glass of wine and some apps:


            SO really liked Apiary. I have not been yet:


            I've been to Perbacco (Italian) a few times recently. I like their dessert, chocolate slider. It's a brioche filled with chocolate mousse. There are dipping sauces and julienned apple sticks (a take on french fries). I'd go to Lavagna over Perbacco.

            Dirt Candy (vegetarian):


            I haven't been in awhile and defer to others who've been recently.

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                Cafecito's food is not good at all. It is next to my house, so i'd like it to be good but i find it very bad (even Rinconito, the dominican cafetĂ­n) is better. Is there a specific dish you like there?

                1. re: LRS

                  I wasn't impressed the times I went, either. I didn't even like the mojito they made for me - way too sweet. So I've been surprised to see them repeatedly recommended on this board, but since it's been a few years since I last went, I haven't said anything.

              2. Foodwhisperer and Kathryn have you covered, but Ill add:
                Hecho En Dumbo
                Le Philosophe
                Pig and Khao
                Uncle Boons

                all close to the EV, and easy from The Standard.
                And Northern Spy Food CO, actually in the EV.

                1. Jeepney
                  Hot Kitchen

                  1. Went to Degustation recently and was very impressed, especially for the price. I'd highly recommend.

                    Went to Malai Marke (Indian) the other night for Indian and it was phenomenal! However, the atmosphere might not be what you're looking for.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: liza8402

                      Good call on Malai Marke. I've been there several times, and every single thing I've ordered there has been really tasty.

                    2. Kathryn covered most of the bases. I also very strongly second the Momofuku Ssam recommendation. You are also right down the block from Ippudo, if you like good ramen.

                      I would also not hesitate to recommend, in the relative vicinity, Goat Town, Miller's Near & Far and Pig & Khao.

                      Pouring Ribbons is by far my favorite cocktail bar, but the EV has plenty. If you go into the LES, Attaboy is a treat too.

                      1. I'm going to third Momofuku Ssam and second Kanoyama.

                        Any interest in oysters & beer? If so, try Upstate. Love that place and meant to go back on our most recent trip, but ran out of time. I don't know if I'd call it buzzy, but it's definitely warm and neighborhood-y.

                        1. Took me 10 mins to read this thread. 9 of those day dreaming about the Ssam sausage/rice cake dish.

                          I don't have much to add except to second Malai Marke, Blaboosta, and Porchetta

                          For Italian I would consider Osteria Morini nearby

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              2nd Tinks. My best new find of the last 6 months.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  The Pizza is much improved. One of my favs

                            2. Thank you so much for all your advice! I promise to report back!

                              1. I suggest also considering Alder - seems like it mostly fits the bill in terms of what you're looking. I also strongly agree with those who suggested Momofuku Ssam and Empellon Cocina.

                                1. Lots of great recs here. l'd add brunch at Yerba Buena, and definitely try Gaia Cafe: not vibe-y, but just outstanding home-cooked ltalian. l've found it best to go there around 3pm.

                                  13 Replies
                                    1. re: squid kun

                                      Not true, she decided to reopen. (I think she was pissed off for a day and then changed her mind.)

                                      1. re: loratliff

                                        l cannot express the depth my relief. l'm gonna go there today to tell her how worried she made me. And, y'know, eat something.

                                        1. re: howdini

                                          I still haven't been, but I've heard it's good... What do you like to get?

                                          1. re: loratliff

                                            omg, it is SO good! You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu: the sandwiches are fabulous, made with the best ingredients [imported charcuterie and cheeses] piled high on her homemade bread, and all are $5.00[!!!], her arugula salad with pesto and cherry tomatoes is simple but deft; her homemade pastas with sausage; lasagnas; beans and sausage...it's all outstanding, and ridiculously inexpensive.

                                            The specials can be sublime: she occasionally does a gnocchi romana [made from semolina] in tomato sauce that l dream about, her pizzas are excellent, filling, and $8.00; the list goes on and on.

                                            Really, there aren't enough superlatives in my vocabulary for Gaia. She is very sweet, but at rush hours can become quite frazzled and harried, which is why l recommended going at around 3pm. That she has a lot of trouble finding good help is the one real problem with the place: she wants things just so, and many of her hires have been, shall we say, not very smart or good workers.

                                            You should absolutely go, you won't be disappointed.

                                            1. re: loratliff

                                              Open, thank goodness! Had the special Toscano panini: Porchetta, Italian artichokes, tomatoes. Simple, delicious.

                                              1. re: howdini

                                                OK, I know where I'm having lunch tomorrow. CC accepted or cash-only?

                                                1. re: loratliff

                                                  She's got one of those iphone card swipe thingies, but l'm not sure if it's cc or just debit.

                                                  The panini was fab, but l'm sorry l was too late for one of the other specials: spinach and ricotta ravioli in a bolognese sauce. l've had her bolognese before: needless to say, it's superb. l guess that's the devil's bargain at Gaia: if you go on the later side, you won't have to wait for a table and she won't be so harried, but you run the risk of missing out on specials. l haven't tried getting there before the lunch rush, because l'm constitutionally unable, but that may be a good bet, too.

                                            2. re: loratliff

                                              So she changed her mind twice? She'd also said she was done in December ... http://www.boweryboogie.com/2013/12/b...

                                              1. re: squid kun

                                                Just called, got an answering machine. l'm gonna head over there in a few minutes to see what's up. Hoping for the best...

                                                  1. re: loratliff

                                                    Ah, thanks. I misread it. Anyone else had service issues like these?

                                          2. This is a long overdue report but just wanted to thank everyone so much for all the great suggestions. We had a fabulous visit and made it to a handful of great spots.

                                            We loved our meal at Degustation. It was all that I had hoped it to be in terms of a cozy but buzzy atmosphere. Everyone was super friendly and low key which was just what we were after. We did the tasting menu and it was delicious and perfectly balanced and we left wanting to go back again the next night! Each course was very inventive (6 in total) but also really showcased the ingredients (including a fabulous roast carrot course) and all in all it was a great success and very well priced.

                                            We had a quick lunch in Soho at the Mercer Kitchen which was perfect in terms of what we needed at that moment - comfort food and a relaxed atmosphere. Special note on the yummy mac and cheese and calamari. Hit the spot!

                                            Brunch at NoMad was a highlight. Great room and our server was very friendly and really went above and beyond. I had the chicken sandwich which lived up to all the hype. The Bloody Mary was fabulous. The only down side was that when we arrived the dining room was empty but they still made us wait 20 mins!!!

                                            Although we have a Momofuku Noodle Bar in Toronto I have yet to go so was excited to try the original. It was a highlight! Far more low key than the one in Toronto. The food was just as I had hoped/expected. We had two steamed buns (the mushroom and shrimp), shared a ramen and the chicken wing special. The atmosphere was buzzy and our server was just as excited as we were which was an added bonus considering I am sure he gets eager patrons every single day!

                                            We hit Russ & Daughters which was so unique and original and I love hidden gems like these. Had a bagel and creme cheese and coffee to get our morning started. It was perfect.

                                            Our other two dinners were organized by others - Le Charlot - great room and buzzy with solid French food. Cafe D'Alsace was the second - was not as good as Le Charlot and although I had been before I felt it had gone done hill.

                                            In terms of cocktails...it was a bit tricker. We tried PDT and got there as soon as it opened. It was a zoo already and resembled a frat house so we moved on to Pouring Ribbons which was perfect. Great atmosphere and very friendly bartenders - we sampled two cocktails each and could not have been happier. We also tried to make it to Attaboy but after leaving our number and hearing nothing after two hours we gave up :) Next time!

                                            That pretty much sums up our three days in NYC. Such a fabulous city and already looking forward to my next visit (in May - which I am about to post again on with two quick questions).

                                            Thanks again!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MMM

                                              Thanks for reporting back, MMM.

                                              We need to try Degustation again :)