What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
This story begins four years ago. Just after graduating from college I took a month-long backpacking trip around a number of European cities. One of the many stops was in Madrid and on that leg of the trip, my buddy Evan and I stopped for a budget-friendly tapas and beer-filled lunch at the now shuttered outdoor Plaza Santa Ana location of 100 Montaditos. Seeing as we were traveling on the cheap, their dollar beers and mini sandwiches known as montaditos were a perfect fit for us. And would you look at that, I even managed to scrounge up some old photos from that first trip.
Have you ever wanted to eat Indian food in a velvet-walled subway car? No? The thought has never crossed your mind either? Well, I didn't even know that was an possibility before I ate dinner at West Village's Ghandi Cafe. This narrow hole-in-the-wall is a really strange place. It's situated right off the corner of Bleeker and 6th Avenue and it would be all to easy to walk right past its dingy facade. I wasn't kidding about the velvet walls either. It really does look like a dressed-up subway car with a zany mish-mash of decor accents like tulip-shared sconces, English Premiere League flags, chandeliers, mirror-paneled walls, and Christmas lights.
This isn't the first time I've written about this stretch of NYC on 8th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway. More and more interesting eateries keep popping up like the Persian coffee shop Cafe Nadery and the upscale date night destination Greenwich Project. Nestled amongst the many restaurants on this burgeoning food mecca is Sticky's Finger Joint. This small shop has been open for well over a year, but I finally got around to stopping in. I don't know what held me back all this time. Maybe it was the less than friendly and downright befuddling behavior I had read online about the owner.
Finding under-the-radar, cheap, quality Italian date night spots in NYC ain't easy. I've got a couple places tucked away in my back pocket with delicious, reasonably priced pastas such as Batali's Otto which I've already written about, but it doesn't always fit the bill. The biggest issue with Otto is that their wine list is on the expensive side which can add up quick on a date. And then there's Fiat Cafe which is awesome, but not always easy to grab a table at due to its compact size. That's why I'm happy I've found the hidden in plain sight Greenwich Village gem Da Marcella.
New Yorkers fucking love brunch. Not only do New Yorkers love brunch, but they love to drink cocktails aggressively while they're at it. It's a quintessential part of NY culture, to go out partying 'til 4 AM, wake up disturbingly hungover the next
morning afternoon and rely on the old hair of the dog trick to get through the torturous pain that comes with a brutal hangover. And that's why All You Can Drink brunch was born, to solve this distinctly New York-y problem, but not all AYCD brunch spots are alike. Some brunches are super expensive, others have mediocre-to-poor food, others have crappy generic cocktails, and others are just too damn crowded to tolerate. When I'm in the mood for an awesomely excessive AYCD brunch, my go-to is Yerba Buena on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.
I've been pumped for the West Village arrival of Lumpia Shack from the moment I heard about the impending expansion. I've loved Filipino food for quite some time as you may have seen previously on Winston Wanders, but my passion has grown substantially while dating my quarter-Filipina girlfriend and eating with her Filipino family. More Filipino food in my life is definitely a good thing.
It's not always so easy finding a good date night spot in NYC. Often times at the popular places it's tough to get a table without a long wait, or the menu is super-pricey, or the restaurant focuses more on ambiance than the food itself. I've certainly found some great (and unusual) places along the way, but sometimes you want a place that has the ambiance, good drinks, and upscale but accessibly comfortable food. That where's the newly opened Bleecker Kitchen & Co. comes in. In my opinion, it is a great addition to the NoHo dining landscape which could always use a reasonably priced, quality date night spot.
*Editor's Note 6/4/15: Perla has completely overhauled their menu, decor, and have lowered the price point substantially since posting Drop everything, I've got a new favorite restaurant in NYC. On the day we visited, Amy and I were in a celebrating mood. She had just started a new job and I've was just about to begin a new job of my own. On this occasion we were looking to treat ourselves right, to splurge on something extra special. After seeing numerous end-of-2013 lists that included the nearby and recently opened Perla, I knew I wanted to try it out and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to do it. We made a reservation only a few days in advance and were able to snag seats at the chef's counter for a Sunday evening at 6:30. It was a bit earlier than we usually dine, but what the hell, it was a Sunday night anyway.
Sushi is one of those things that nearly all New Yorkers love. There's such a vast difference in quality between the cheap stuff and the expensive stuff that it's often hard to find really great, fresh sushi without feeling like you won't be able to pay your rent. If you want impeccably prepared fish without breaking the bank, look no further than Tomoe Sushi on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village.