The area known as Nomad (North of Madison Square Park) is my home turf and very near and dear to my heart. I got married in an event space at 200 Fifth Avenue which is now occupied by Eataly (first dance was right about where the pasta is sold!) and Dave and I always had a goal of living near Madison Square Park.
Thankfully, several residential properties came online, a neighborhood was born, and we have now lived here for the past eight years. Turning the “Field of Dreams” quote around, the area has more than proven that “they will come, if you build it.” From the meandering paths and spaces of the Park to the original Shake Shack and the seemingly viral sprouting of condos, hotels (Ace and The Nomad; coming Virgin!) cafes, and shops, this is a neighborhood in full sprint to becoming as much a destination as the Meatpacking District and High Line have become over recent years. A district within footsteps of a few Danny Meyer restaurants (Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino) as well as Craft and ABC Kitchen was never a dining desert, but the blocks above 23rd Street are now teeming with great food for all moods, tastes, and occasions. Below I list some of my favorites, my go-tos, and a few newer choices that are sure to move into heavier rotation.
I don’t know how they do it (butter? Lots of butter?), but I have NEVER had a less than satisfying meal at the Park Avenue South staple. From the crowd-pleasing Spinach dip starter to fresh sushi, salads, burgers, and roasted chicken, everything just WORKS here. The food is savory, service attentive (but never quite sure who exactly is your wait person). Try for a reservation, or expect to wait 10-40 minutes at this always bustling location. Great for families, and also great to sit at the bar and eat with your main squeeze (or solo while taking in a game on one of the bar area TVs).
378 Park Avenue South (@East 27th Street)
The latest edition to the family of “Smith” restaurants in Manhattan (#4), you’ll find an impressive offering of dishes to cover the day – from breakfast to lunch and even dinner. The space has a large food hall feel, and the ample dinner menu features standards like The Smith Bar Steak, Brick-Pressed chicken, Mussels, and of course a killer Burger. Not to be overlooked are the daily specials which include Spaghetti & Meatballs on Sunday; Fish and Chips on Tuesday or the hearty brunch selections (Vanilla Bean French Toast, Simple Scramble).
1150 Broadway (@West 27th Street)
I wrote about this stylish new comer in June (link here)and the glow hasn’t worn off. All-around pleasing on my many visits here to date, the main room’s cozy confines (and view into the open kitchen) create an ideal refuge for cold-weather dining. I’m hooked.
127 East 27th Street (between Park Avenue South and Lex)
There are so many satisfying choices at this Italian market-cum-dining emporium. Regular readers know my abiding affection for this local gem from a previous story. Buon appetito!
200 Fifth Avenue (@23rd Street)
For Serious Foodies/Couples Night out
With a kitchen lead by the uber-talented chef Justin Smillie (who previously turned out sumptuous offerings at Il Buco Alimentari), this instant classic opened to great fanfare in late 2014 and has been abuzz ever since. The rustic charms of this bistro’s décor- from an inviting bar with “front of the house” seating to the main room’s banquet-centric seating- sets the stage for the satisfying range of delectables offered for brunch, lunch, or dinner. My favorites include the Il Buco Alimentari-inspired Roasted Short Rib for two, and the deeply satisfying Fried Chicken Sandwich from the lunch menu. Never an easy table to score, the place went “A-list only” for a spell when the Obamas dined here in 2015. Barry knows good food- make Upland part of your rotation.
345 Park Avenue South (@East 26th Street)
Park Avenue (Winter)
This long-time midtown classic with the seasonally changing dining room, menu, and name migrated south in 2014 to its current location – a crossroad suddenly boasting an embarrassment of culinary riches (Upland, Covina, and Hillstone are all within one block).
No time of year will leave you less than impressed and fully sated. Expect an inventive menu reflective of the calendar served with presentation flair (ex- Spring featured an appetizer of 4 button-sized cheeseburgers, each at the end of a satay skewer wedged into a small birch base. Showing off? You bet- and it worked!) The full menu is available at the bar, which features an equally impressive roster of seasonal potions and elixirs.
Park Avenue South @East 26th Street
One of the first new restaurants to mark the area’s culinary ascent, the sexy ambience and decadently-rich food here is second to none. I love a drink at their “Library” to set the evening on course, then transfer the tab a table in the velvet-laden main dining room. Though many savory offerings populate the menu, the must-have dish is the foie gras and black truffle whole- roasted chicken for two. Presented table side out of the oven, this carmel-brown bird is then carved and plated along with roasted carrots. All one can say is WOW.
1170 Broadway (@West 28th Street)
OMGya could easily be the Nom de plume of this omakase sushi winner. A top 5 NYC sushi restaurant (a bold call- but name me 10 better and I’ll be there) is the Zen patriarch to rising star partner restaurant Covina (also located in the Park South Hotel and operated by budding food-empire stars Tim and Nancy Cushman). Dropped into an area surprisingly short on sushi, oya amazes with inventive raw and seared delectables rivaling Sushi of Gari, Neta, and Shugo (several of my top sushi faves). File under “you get what you pay for”, every satiating mouthful more than justifies the expense-account level final bill. Indulge in an ethereal meal here, and get that pesky real estate broker dying to list your condo to take you back for round 2 (or 3 or 10).
120 East 28th Street (between Park Ave S/Lex)
Great Food, Cool Vibe
The Nomad Bar
An addition to the Nomad Hotel’s series of clubby chambers, the Nomad Bar is accessed via separate entrance on West 28th street. It’s a great place for your favorite adult elixir and boosts a short but impressive menu featuring a hearty burger, bacon wrapped hotdog, and chicken pot pie. On Sunday nights the space transforms into “Mama Guiadara’s,” a red-sauce Italian restaurant offering a 4 course supper and classic crowd pleasers like Chicken Parmigiana. NB- reservations for Mama Guidara nights are tough to score so check the website often. We got lucky with a spot later in January so will have more to report on this soon.
NB, Entrance is on West 28th Street between 5th Avenue & Broadway, not through the hotel.
Vin Sur Vingt
Vin Sur Vingt is a stylish French Wine bar where classic wines are the perfect compliment to such menu favorites as onion soup, oysters, tartines, and cheeses. The atmosphere is convivial and cramped, the lighting bright to suggestively turned down, and the helpful staff keeps the crowd well sated amidst the bustling clamor of glasses, plates, and lively conversation. Put this in your rotation- it’s the type of place you’ll be back to again and again.
1140 Broadway (between W. 26th/27th Streets)
Self-described as a “Japanese Gastropub/ Tapas Restaurant”, Izakaya pleases with a large menu and an impressive roster of Japanese sakes and brews. This yakatori joint boasts such Japanese faves as dumplings, skewers, and sushi in a narrow, cave-like spot on the suddenly hot West 26th Street (Hill Country, Maysville, La Pecora Bianco). There’s something for everyone here, and the tapas- portioned sharing plates will ensure a table crammed with empty plates and full bellies.
13 W. 26th Street (Broadway and 6th Avenue)
Chop Shop II
This new outpost of eponymous Chop Shop (in Chelsea at West 25th and 10th) is the fast mover (up!) on our local dining chart. I think of Chop Shop II as an upscale, inventive dim sum- offerings include Salt and Pepper Shrimp, Chicken Lollipops and Pork Belly Buns. The boys in the family dig the wok and fried classics- OK, so do the ladies. Plates are picked clean of food within minutes, making way for the next wave of rice, noodles, and maybe a plate of orange beef? Hands down crowd pleaser, and the price surprisingly approachable.
41 West 24th Street (Broadway and 6th Avenue)
Now that London- based Wagamama has arrived in NYC (after first, Pilgrim-like, landing in Boston), we’re wondering what took so long. Rich ramens, teppanyaki, and rice-based bowls dominate the menu at this outpost at the NW corner of Madison Square park. Only a month into its run, expect a wait as it’s already been discovered (it’s hard to hide on the Empire State Building-to- Eataly tourist stretch of Fifth Avenue). Once seated and order placed, your food comes quick, keeping “hanger” (hunger-induced rage) largely nonexistent here. Good addition to the area, especially as the cuisine fills a void after the ’90s run of such noodle emporiums as Republic.
210 Fifth Avenue (25th/26th Street)
What are your favorites?