Lore-choked McSorley’s and the White Horse Tavern may get the attention,
Cafe | 188 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
On some nights men nearly outnumber the gals at this easygoing lesbian bar.
Folk and bluegrass lovers show up for the live music, while neighborhood
families fill up on ribs and fried chicken. The Southern cooking is complemented
by down-home touches such as 1940s farmhouse furniture and a big metal tub
filled with Red Stripe and Brooklyn Lager. Lest you forget this a women’s
meeting place, Tilt-a-Girl mixers are held on Tuesdays.
Originally part of a
Tokyo-based chain, Basta Pasta draws a predominantly Asian clientele to the pink-linened
dining room, facing an open kitchen. Seared foie gras perched atop a brilliant saffron
risotto cake mimics a luxe piece of sushi (it’s too small but dazzling). Mussels, clams,
shrimp and squid are bathed in tomato sauce and piled over spaghetti; lobster salad with
snap peas and a lemon aioli is charmingly springlike, and a nice preface to heftier entrées
like grilled sea bass or braised short ribs. Service is gracious and personable, and
thank-yous from the staff abound.
At this sprawling brasserie, looks matter. Rotisserie chickens spin in a giant
hearth; the curved, glass-enclosed kitchen demands attention; and streamlined light
fixtures create a clubby feel. Chef Franck Deletrain’s menu is heavy on surf and turf for
the expense account crowd. Nods to Morocco include a just-sweet-enough chicken b’steeya
with a hint of orange-flower water and garnished with spiced candied almonds. Raw-bar
choices are popular, as are meaty crab cakes and the butter topped filet mignon. Many of
the showy desserts are crowned with arabesques of spun sugar. A more casual meal is
available at the moodier adjoining Beer Bar.
You’re in serious sweet-tooth territory. Upper West Siders and tourists mob this café,
especially on weekends. Brunch is served until 4pm daily, and light sandwiches and salads
are always available. But the real draw is the sugary siren song of display cases packed
with cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and more. Art Nouveau posters, exposed-brick walls and
French windows attempt European flair, though many of the desserts are unabashedly
American, from apple brown Betty to chocolate-covered Oreo cheesecake. It’s no surprise
that scenes from the syrupy Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks comedy You’ve Got Mail were
trendy than the newer Bao and Boi, Cyclo is hardly a pho-slurper’s hole-in-the-wall.
Soothing pale hues and unobtrusive New Agey music allow quiet conversation, and the food is
mellow too: Papaya salad is more peppery than spicy, its piquancy balanced by salty dried
beef strips. Fresh DIY summer rolls require a deft hand (to manipulate the
sugarcane-skewered grilled shrimp with the accompanying pile of vegetables, herbs and
fragile rice-paper wrappers), but the results are worth the effort. Chilean sea bass,
cooked in a clay pot with creamy bean curd, eggplant and lemongrass, is hearty without
The cacophonous, multilevel space almost feels like a glorified chain
restaurant (it is, sort of—there’s an uptown location). But Docks is a notch above places
that serve bottomless baskets of popcorn shrimp. This is a candlelit, white-tablecloth
affair (with a buzzing bar scene). Oysters are from Maine and British Columbia. Fried
scallops and fish are surprisingly light (the accompanying shoestring fries, however, can
be overdone). The creamy, tart key lime pie is ideal for cleansing a breaded and battered
Chopsticks? Broccoli in the curry? These are red flags to purists—but it would be
a mistake to write off sleek little Galanga. Ambient drum ’n’ bass and menu oddities like
lychee fried rice, merely veil the real deal. Tell your server that you want spice, and
there’ll be no pandering. The seafood salad of mussels, shrimp and squid is dressed with
just the right amount of sugar and lime, a perfect foil for the slow, creeping heat.
Curries, too, are appropriately rich with coconut milk and properly topped with the
shredded wild-lime leaves that are all too often omitted in Thai restaurants.
This midtown bistro
is full of French country charm (red-and-white-checked tablecloths, exposed beams,
waitstaff with accents). The clientele is perhaps less authentic: shoppers, out-of-towners
and solo-dining old-timers. Cheese fondue, quiche, crêpes and omelettes are satisfying, but
the raison d’être is, of course, the namesake bonne soupe. Whether you’re in the
mood for classic cheese-topped French onion or smooth and creamy tomato andalouse,
you can get your bowlful à la carte, or as a prix fixe meal with bread, salad, an
unmemorable dessert and even a glass of house wine for just $13.95.
The staircase opens
into a cavernous subterranean brasserie that almost resembles a Cold War–era movie set.
Everything is just so: a cement ceiling, riveted metal, stainless-steel toilet seats.
Stylish couples and the Soho working class sit in curved red banquettes and leather
armchairs, sipping from colorful martinis. The bloomin’ onion on the menu may give you
pause, but your fears will be laid to rest by snacky Soviet fare like spinach and cheese
piroshki and blini with a choice of fish. Smoked sturgeon scattered with dill and
accompanied by a dollop of crème fraîche is a toothsome choice. Caviar is, of course, found
in various guises, including an unorthodox application atop smoked-salmon pizza. Sturdier
eaters can choose chicken Kiev or beef goulash. The bracingly bourgeois molten chocolate
cake is hard to say nyet to.
colored by squid cooked in its own ink, is a typical Venetian dish, and it’s frequently a
special here. But the lively, playful space—designed by architect Adam Tihany—is your first
clue that Remi isn’t too bound by tradition. Chef Francesco Antonucci’s cichetti (Italian
tapas), presented in whimsical angular plates, include fried stuffed olives and marinated
octopus. His tuna-filled ravioli is a classic, and gnocchi with baby goat is spiked with
olives and artichoke hearts. Semifreddo and gelato grace the dessert menu, but why be
predictable? Choose the chocolate-banana tart.