210 Spring St., Soho
While the food here is spectacular and quite elegant, Aquagrill still, after all these years, manages to feel like a comfy neighborhood spot. Start with a martini at the bar, where you can watch your oysters (of which there are many, many varieties) being shucked. And then tuck in for dinner, where delicious, inventive seafood is paired with a diverse selection of wines.
80 Spring St., Soho
As the crown jewel of restauranteur Keith McNally’s downtown empire, Balthazar channels all the charm and style of a Parisian bistro—booths and antiqued mirrors included. Dining here feels like an event, and as such it draws big crowds for its Coq Au Vin, Moules Frites, and burger. We actually like its adjacent bakery best, where you can take perfect croissants, loafs of bread, and coffee to go.
Café Altro Paradiso
234 Spring St., Soho
Located in Soho, Café Altro Paradiso is the second restaurant from Ignacio Mattos (chef) and Thomas Carter (sommelier and front-of-house)—their first was the brilliant Estela in NoLita. This Italian restaurant is much bigger than tiny Estela, and less about the presentation and look of the dishes—though still focused on really good, un-fussy food.
181 Thompson St., Soho
This Italian spot on Thompson Street boasts Vito Schnabel's artwork on the walls, Zac Posen designed uniforms, a floor inspired by The Godfather, and a slightly more upscale version of the Italian-American fare you'll find at their other restaurants: It's pretty 1950's meets hipster chic. And like the good old days, the food is rich and luscious from lobster ravioli to rich sides like creamed escarole and corn tartufato.
5 King St., Soho
Apart from the tasty Italo-American dishes—a now famous uni pasta, homemade spaghetti (kids go nuts for it), perfect roast chicken—the music is what really sets this restaurant apart. Colorful old-school boombox prints decorate the walls, and Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, and Dre boom from the speakers, making the meal a good one for a big group (they actually have a private dining room if you're inviting more than ten people), rather than an intimate gathering.
408 Broome St., Soho
Both a shop and tapas bar, we head here for hard-to-find Spanish ingredients like Bomba rice, excellent Manchegos, smoked paprika, and an endless variety of delicious preserves. It's nearly impossible to walk away without snacking on one of their perfect tortillas. There's also a market in Queens.
508 Greenwich St., West Soho
Inspired by the word for everyday food in Swedish (husmanskost), the fare here is generally rooted in comfort and familiarity. That said, the two chefs are too pedigreed to keep it simple. Chef/owner Ned Baldwin used to be at Prune, while chef Adam Baumgart passed through the kitchens of spots like Le Bernardin, Fort Defiance, and Roman’s. You’ll find everything from a roasted peach and feta salad to little neck clams and a perfectly prepared burger.
Jack’s Wife Freda
224 Lafayette St., Soho
The husband and wife team behind this wonderfully buzzy spot are South African and Israeli respectively, and this unusual mix turns out to be a hit, as evidenced by the delicious, homey cuisine that comes out of the kitchen. Thanks to its bustling but laid-back vibe, it’s become more of a hang-out than a traditional restaurant: People linger from breakfast until late at night. There's a second location in the West Village.
138 Lafayette St., Soho
A collaboration between restauranteur Stephen Starr (of Upland and Buddakan, among many others) and Chef Daniel Rose (you know him from Spring, one of GP’s favorite restaurants in Paris), Le Coucou’s menu is a lighter take on old-school French cuisine (duck breast, halibut in beurre blanc, lobster tail salad). Roman and Williams transformed the space on a once-seedy block of SoHo, injecting their signature glamour into the grand dining room. You’ll talk about the space, which is marked by overstuffed banquettes, gilded mirrors, a hand-painted mural, and an open kitchen, but you’ll also talk about the service, which is super attentive and buttoned-up. Interior Photos: Ditte Isager; Food Photo: Corry Arnold
Omen a Zen
113 Thompson St., Soho
While it’s nothing special when it comes to atmosphere and décor, this unassuming Japanese nook in Soho serves up delicious Kyoto-style food, including plenty of super fresh sashimi and small, flavorful cooked dishes. We’re partial to the Omen udon noodles, served simply with seaweed and hot or cold broth. This spot is a big hit among artists, actors, and creatives, who probably love the food as much as its hushed, relaxed vibe. We always order The Garden.
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