Restaurants with Great Communal Tables & Bars
Valentine’s Day sucks if you don’t have a date. And this year, Valentine’s Day also happens to be on a Saturday. If you want to go out, but don’t want to deal with a cheesy prix fixe or rose-topped tables, a seat at a communal table or a deep bar is generally a sound, reservation-proof choice. In fact, if you’re single, please grab a seat at that communal table and then tell us what happens @goop #goopinlove and we’ll regram our favorites.
Mimi Cheng’s179 2nd Ave., East Village | 212.533.2007
For years, the Lower East Side has played host to the New York dumpling craze, of which we were avid participants from the start. However, every time we picked up those steaming pockets of goodness from a LES hole in the wall that started it all (which shall remain unnamed), in the back of our heads we worried about the provenance of the ingredients. They were so good, but at what cost? Then, Mimi Cheng’s came along and began serving up delectable Taiwanese-style dumplings made with antibiotic-free, local meat and fresh veggies. And, their hole in the wall is beautiful, whitewashed and dotted with bright yellow stools. For a fun date night, sign up for a Monday evening dumpling making class.
Okonomi150 Ainslie St., Williamsburg | 718.302.0598
We love this pretty little spot for Japanese home-style breakfasts and lunches. It’s worth waiting for a seat, as the chef sets the menu daily, and then serves the beautiful offerings on traditional ceramic dishes. On Mondays and Tuesdays the team behind the legendary Yuji Ramen (two ex-Roberta’s alumni) set up shop as a special treat. The fresh seafood—all of it sourced locally, never imported from Japan—is a major part of the pre-set Sansai meal, which can include anything from egg omelets to uni noodles and always miso soups and rice.
Pok Pok NY117 Columbia St., Red Hook | 718.923.9322
People are crazy for this Thai via Portland import: Andy Ricker’s fresh takes on Thai classics are seriously good (and run on the hot side), from the signature charcoal roasted hen with lemongrass to the sweet, spicy salads. There’s also an awesome Thai-inspired cocktail menu (the Pok Pok Bloody Mary with Thai chilies is a serious kick in the ass) which you can explore on depth from the comfort of a seat at the bar.
Prova184 8th Ave., Chelsea | 212.641.0977
The specialty here is Neapolitan-style pizza—look closely, and you’ll see the counter is made of pizza peels. Decor-wise, this is the essential pizza joint, except there’s also a full-functioning bar serving up killer cocktails and over 40 Italian beers. The menu is split into two sections: Classica (Napoletana with organic tomatoes and anchovies) and Nuova (sea urchin and pecorino-topped Urcina). All are fired inside a custom-built Stradivarius oven, resulting in perfect pies every time. There’s also a selection of imported pastas, cheeses, salumi, and a deep Italian wine list.
Red Farm2170 Broadway, Upper West Side | 212.724.9700
Chef Joe Ng is doing wonders in a great second floor space in the West Village (upstairs from Red Farm’s newer sibling, Decoy), and a second outpost on the Upper West Side. Red Farm’s menu focuses on fresh greenmarket product, artfully prepared fish, and delicious dim sum (including less familiar creations like Katz’s pastrami egg roll). From the dim sum selection, the Pac Man shrimp dumplings are as delicious as they are Instagram-worthy and the duck spring rolls are not at all greasy and taste surprisingly refreshing. We’re more than willing to endure the substantial wait (no reservations here) for a bowl of the Lobster Long Life noodles and the veggie fried rice. They put together prix-fixe menus for large groups in private spaces at both locations.
Roberta’s261 Moore St., Bushwick | 718.417.1118
Roberta’s has been warmly flourishing for years. Camouflaged by an industrial, kind of uninviting exterior, this gem of a spot offers a succinct menu includes a few wonderful pizzas, plus seasonal veggies and pasta dishes. There’s an indoor, primarily communal seating area where you can watch the pizza-making go down in the open kitchen. The vibe is casual and the ambiance always lively, as it routinely draws big crowds. While you can expect to wait, it’s a good place to have a drink.
Diner85 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.486.3077
Operating out of a renovated 1920s train car, this quirky little spot from Andrew Tarlow has served Williamsburg since the late 90s. In the past 20 years, it’s lost none of its appeal, thanks to a seasonal and daily menu of American classics, from one of the best burgers in Brooklyn, to a solid roast chicken on any night of the week. The atmosphere gets downright rowdy the later it gets with scores of hipsters rolling up for late-night eating to a soundtrack of old-school hip-hop. The restaurant sticks to a strict no-reservations policy, so expect to wait for a seat. Luckily, you can get a strong drink at the bar to tide you over or head next door to Marlow & Sons for a glass of wine.
Empellón Al Pastor132 St. Marks Pl., East Village | 212.367.0999
There is nothing fancy or gimmicky about chef Alex Stupak’s third south-of-the-border-inspired restaurant. What separates Al Pastor from Taqueria and Cocina are the modest prices and super approachable vibe—everything is served on paper plates, the seating is first-come, first-served, and tacos start at $4. The taco al pastor is stuffed with spit-roasted, chili-spiced pork and pineapple, and the guacamole is really good, too. Plus, there’s a giant mural on the ceiling that’s essentially the East Village equivalent of the Sistine Chapel—a must-see if you’re into gigantic llamas.
The Wine Room At Peasant194 Elizabeth St., Nolita | 212.965.9511
It's really easy to miss the stairs to the downtown space at Peasant. While the main dining room at this Nolita mainstay has a subtly fancy vibe, the basement is decidedly more cozy and relaxed. Rickety communal tables, rustic details, and candles are a little romantic, sure, but it's not at all cheesy. You still have access to the full menu—don't miss the seasonal pastas—as well as the standout wine selection.