Every Person in New York
|In this series, MUG looks at neighborhood restaurants that have reliable food, where you don't have to book four-weeks-to-the-day ahead, where they're happy to see you, and where you'll get decent value for your money.
Jubilee, 347 E. 54th [1st/2nd] 212.888.3569
Average entree: $24
A French bistro that's been around long enough for the Gauloises to stain the ceiling, theoretically anyway. Escargots, steak frites, and other necessities, but especially popular for their mussels, in preparations you'd yearn for, and some you probably haven't (see: Auvergne-style, steamed with blue cheese). Chacun à son goût.
Teodora, 141 E. 57th [Lex/3rd] 212.826.7101
Cuisine: Northern Italian
Average entree: $23
The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is one visitors often bypass but which boasts foods such as Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar from Modena, prosciutto from Parma, to name a view. Teodora, tilts this way, along with dishes from Lazio, having two original owners from this axis. Therefore: excellent, authentic meals, pastas certainly, especially striccheti: bow-tie pasta with shrimp, zucchini, and Pecorino.
Zarela, 953 2nd [50th/51st] 212.644.6740
Average entree: $19
Zarela Martinez has long been an overachiever's overachiever. She's run this terrific restaurant since 1987 (following success at Cafe Marimba), written cookbooks, teaches cooking, and is the mother of Aarón Sanchez, a fine chef in his own right (proving the manzana doesn't fall far from the árbol). The restaurant maintains its festive atmosphere and commitment to true Mexican fare after all this time.
Cafe Pedlar , 210 Court [Warren] 718.855.7129
Average entree: $6
Pedlar is a way-station for Stumptown coffee and baked goods from Frankies; go for the fabulous olive oil cake or the filone French toast.
Char No. 4, 196 Smith [Baltic/Warren] 718.643.2106
Average entree: $20
Yes, you could go to Char No. 4 and never touch solid food: there's a big enough selection of bourbon, rye, and Scotch to last not only through this recession, but through the next four or five of them. Dinner, if you go that route, will pair nicely: lots of Southern-style apps and entrees and no shortage of pork.
Hibino, 333 Henry [Pacific] 718.260.8052
Average entree: $17
While it doesn't have the high profile of some sushi slingers, Hibino does yeoman's work with raw fish and—a nice surprise—with obanzai, which are small, Kyoto-style plates.
Keens Steakhouse, 72 W. 36th [5th/6th] 212.947.3636
Average entree: $45
An intact survivor from 1885, to which bits of history and lore are attached. Keens was started by famed tragedian (is that word still in use?) Albert Keen, was stormed by Lillie Langtry when women weren't welcome (she wasn't served but later sued and won), is a resting place of tens of thousands of clay pipes, among much else. Still a delight in its idiosyncratic way whether you're in the mood for its storied mutton, steak, a single malt, or a lovely evening of time travel.
Kum Gang San, 49 W. 32nd [Bway/5th] 212.967.0909
Average entree: $18
And speaking of idiosyncratic, let's just turn all the cards over and call Kum Gang San wacky. Good wacky: the white piano floating on the 'mountainside' along one wall of the restaurant is something you just have to experience. Fortunately, you can experience it and still eat well with a selection of panchan, barbecue, scallion pancakes, casseroles, and much else for a deeply satisfying Korean meal.
Szechuan Gourmet, 21 W. 39th [5th/6th] 212.921.0233
Average entree: $14
It's a little depressing to note the 'most ordered items' on the restaurant's website and see things like General Tso's chicken and lo mein. That's not the point the of the place. Eat from the Szechuan section of the menu and you'll get terrific food, liberally spiced, practically addictive.
Previous Neighborhood Faves
Soho, Murray Hill, Park Slope
East Village, Woodside, East 90s
Gramercy Park, West 90s, LIC
West 40s, Ft. Greene, W. Village
West 70s, East 70s, Tribeca
Lower East Side, West 100s, Corona
East 40s, Chelsea, Brooklyn Heights
Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.