food 05.6.03

Cornelia Street

Cornelia Street is always a good answer, at least when the question is 'where should we eat tonight?' This small, West Village block is New York's Best Little Restaurant district.

Named in 1794 after Cornelia Herring, whose grandfather owned the farm where the street came to be, it has been home to W. H. Auden, James Agee, and Cafe Cino, which was the first theater dubbed (by the Village Voice) as off-off Broadway. The stellar group of restaurants that now occupy this small strip of land share a couple of things in common: they are all moderately-priced and, in true Village style, the quarters are quite close. But you will eat well.

18 Cornelia
Le Gigot, 212.627.3737, is everything a French bistro should be (albeit in miniature): cheerful, bustling and restorative. The restaurant's namesake leg of lamb is, too, a model of its kind.

18 Cornelia
Pearl Oyster Bar, 212.691.8211, has, among other first-rate seafood offerings, a perfect Maine lobster roll. And here's the best news: they're expanding next door. Look for the end of mini-Pearl in about a month.

20 Cornelia
If Home, 212.243.9579, were a movie star, it would be Jimmy Stewart. Warm and inviting in a heartland kind of way, it's been a hit since it first opened 10 years ago. Owners David Page and Barbara Shinn have long been proponents of Long Island wines, which are the mainstay of their wine list. In fact, they have their own vineyard there now, but wines won't be released until next spring.

28 Cornelia
Palma, 212.691.2223, may not have the highest profile on the street, but it would be a mistake to overlook it. Their cacciucco, a seafood stew, is worth a detour, as is the rest of the Italian cooking. Out in the back, a surprise: an 1810 farmhouse, complete with working fireplace, where you can have a private dinner party.

29 Cornelia
Cornelia Street Cafe, 212.989.9319, is the eminence gris of the block (it's been around since 1977), but keeps its youthful appeal with no-nonsense Mediterranean food, fairly-priced, and with its popular cabaret. For a list of who's performing: www.corneliastreetcafe.com

31 Cornelia
, 212.645.2189, isn't your best choice for a leisurely, quiet and leg-roomy meal but even in its post-Batali life, it's serving pastas and other Italian fare that keep the place packed.
We've been waiting patiently for sauces to make a comeback and we now have a glimmer of hope. Snackbar, 111 W. 17th [6th/7th] 212.627.3700, opening next week, will have ten sauces on the menu that can be paired with New York strip steak or grilled fish. The place is owned by Kris Boughalem and the executive chef is Nick Tischler, a James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee.


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