New York City
I first met Jeff at a party, and I was a bit star struck but said his last name wrong. “It is GORD-IN-IER”, not whatever I said. Embarassing. Anyway, I have followed Jeff’s writing and recommendations for years. He recently recommended a great place near our apartment on the Upper West Side of New York, which never happens. Putting it kindly, our neighborhood is not known for its restaurants. I got Jeff’s new book “Hungry”, loved it, and thought maybe he has forgiven me for our awkward first meeting and will give us his list? He obliged, and here we are.
The chef Pierre Thiam, who grew up in Senegal, is one of America’s foremost authorities on and advocates for the delectable cuisines of West Africa. His new spot, Teranga, anchors the Africa Center in Harlem, and it’s a serene, friendly, sun-flooded sanctuary for a leisurely lunch of fufu and fonio. Pro tip: Do not skip the extra sauces, kani and rof and shito, which amplify the impact of each bite.
Harlem | 1280 5th Ave (nr. E 109th St), NYC 10029
Yes, I am one of those insufferable Californians who’re always complaining about the mediocrity of Mexican food in New York City. But when I want it done right, I make a beeline for Atla. All I have to do is gaze at the online menu (the work of chef Daniela Soto-Innes), and the words themselves make me ravenous: herb guacamole, duck wings, chicken soup, lobster tostada, fish Milanese with cucumber.
NoHo | 372 Lafayette St (at Great Jones St), NYC 10012
Maybe it’s because I grew up going to the beach (in New Jersey and Southern California) but my favorite restaurants often tend to specialize in seafood. Occupying a romcom-adorable corner in Brooklyn, and offering a menu full of anchovies and mackerel and mussels and gooseneck barnacles, Saint Julivert Fisherie (which is owned by married partners Alex Raij and Eder Montero) is like a seaside clam shack crossed with a San Sebastian pintxos haven.
Cobble Hill | 264 Clinton St (nr. Verandah Pl), Brooklyn, NY 11201
That David Bowie used to hang out here (his album covers garland the walls) would be enough for me. The soulful red-sauce cooking is another plus. But the real reason I go back to Ballato again and again is that owner Emilio Vitolo and his family greet their regulars with an outpouring of warmth and joy that simply cannot be faked. This
may be the most New York restaurant in New York.
SoHo | 55 E Houston St (nr. Mott St), NYC 10012
King is a shrine to simplicity. And as we should all know by now, simplicity is a lot harder to achieve than it looks. (I remain haunted by a carta di musica appetizer that I recently wolfed down at lunch at King: fava beans, ricotta, olive oil, and mint on a cracker.) King’s menu, from the British-born duo of Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer, tends to be blessedly short, so you might feel inclined to order every single item. That would not be a mistake.
SoHo | 18 King St (at 6th Ave), NYC 10014
You don’t want to go to Cote alone. You want to put together a big group. You want to have something to celebrate uproariously, because Cote is a party. The glorious excess of a Korean feast draws additional fat and firepower from the glorious excess of the classic American steakhouse, and the result is a carnivorous bacchanal that will leave you blurry with bliss.
Flatiron | 16 W 22nd St (nr. 5th Ave), NYC 10010
This one’s a splurge, yes. And scoring a seat at the chef’s counter won’t be easy. But if somehow you manage to land a reservation at Atomix, go. Do not botch this opportunity. Owned and operated by chef Junghyun “JP” Park and his wife, Ellia, Atomix represents the next wave of cooking-as-art in America. The menu changes with the seasons, so I won’t highlight a particular dish. I will promise, instead, that whatever you eat will not be soon forgotten.
Kips Bay | 104 E. 30th St (nr. Park Ave S), NYC 10016