In December, I took a trip back to the U.S. for Christmas and New Year’s, dividing my time among New York City, Boston and its suburbs and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. As I am often asked for New York and Boston restaurant recommendations, I decided to share them here. This list includes primarily new finds, though I was unable to omit some of my old favorites.
New York – Restaurants
New finds! As with most New York restaurants, reserve ahead or be prepared to wait! Also beware that some restaurants in New York are cash only. I do not believe any of the below are, but keep some cash on you just in case. You may notice that although it’s been almost 5 years since I moved from 19th and 8th to Paris, I still tend to stay primarily around Chelsea and the West Village when back in town.
- Empellon, 230 West 4th Street (at 10th St.), 212-367-0999. Gourmet Mexican in a modern yet cozy setting. The porcini mushroom queso fundido and fish tempura tacos were pretty amazing.
- Tipsy Parson, 156 9th Ave (at 19th), Tel. 212-620-4545. A wonderful lunch/brunch spot with a mix of comfort food and gourmet and a delightfully eclectic yet cozy décor.
- Ippudo NY, 65 4th Ave (at 9th), Tel. 212-388-0088. Japanese Noodle House: I’m not a huge fan of noodles (unless in an Italian form), but I loved these ones. They don’t take reservations and the wait can be atrocious, so best only to attempt this one at off hours.
- Inside the Park at St. Bart’s, 325 Park Ave (at 50th), Tel. 212-593-3333. This spacious dining locale is actually in the Great Hall of what was once St. Bartholomew’s Church’s Community House. I had a delicious and very flavorful seafood risotto.
- The Grey Dog, 242 West 16th St. (between 7th & 8th Ave), Tel. 212-229-2345 (and several other locations as well). A great coffee shop, why was it not here when I lived at 19th and 8th?! Plenty of food options as well.
- The Meatball Shop, 64 Greenwich Ave (just south of 7th Ave) and other locations. The name says it all—everything meatballs, all kinds of meatballs, a number of different preparations—and save room for ice cream sandwiches for dessert! The setting is intimate and welcoming but prices are shockingly reasonable.
And some of my old favorites…
- Doma Café, 17 Perry St. (at 7th Ave), though apparently moving to Morton St. in March 2012?! Tel. 212-929-4339. This West Village café is still my favorite for breakfast, lunch, baked goods or just a warm rooibos tea, although the feel has changed a bit since dinner became table-service. Hopefully the move further south will not alter the cozy atmosphere!
- Cookshop, 156 10th Ave (at 20th St.), Tel. 212-924 4440. Cookshop isn’t cheap, but you will undoubtedly have one of the best meals of you trip here, with the freshest ingredients around.
- Casa Mono, 52 Irving Place (at East 17th St.), Tel. 212-253-2773. Casa Mono offers a lengthy list of traditional and more inventive, fusion-style tapas. Best to go with at least a few friends so you can try more dishes! This small restaurant takes reservations starting 1 month in advance—best to reserve early. Bar Jamón next door is a small and delightful wine bar with the same wine list as its sister restaurant, but with less expensive (and smaller portion) tapas and desserts.
- West 79th Street Boat Basin Café, Tel. 212-496-5542. If visiting in the warmer months (they reopen for the season in March), don’t miss this lively gathering spot (pups welcome too) in this open-air boat house with a large patio overlooking the Hudson River inside Riverside Park (just follow 79th St. all the way to the west). Prices are reasonable for hamburgers, hot dogs and other such casual fare. They do not take reservations. Be sure to enjoy (by foot, bike or rollerblades) Riverside Park before or after your drink or meal.
- The Red Cat, 227 10th Ave (at 24th St.), Tel. 212-242-1122. The Red Cat offers what could perhaps be described as gourmet, innovative comfort food. The New York Times’ Frank Bruni said it best: “By turns cozy and sexy, laid-back and fleet, the Red Cat is a restaurant Rorschach, different things at different times to different people… Its fluid, flexible nature is such that seems—and is—in equal measures a local joint and a destination… I always leave the Red Cat happy.” Just looking at the menu makes my mouth water.
- Fig & Olive, 420 W. 13th St. (between 9th Ave & Washington St.), Tel. 212-924-1200, firstname.lastname@example.org. There are four other locations as well but I love the Meatpacking District space as it offers a choice of atmospheres: there is a more formal dining space, a “café” area, a bar area and a communal table/tasting bar space as well. Each dish of their Provençal cuisine offering is prepared with a specially selected olive oil. The Fig & Olive salad is delicious.
- Rocking Horse Cafe, 182 8th Ave (at 19th St.), Tel. 212-463-9511. Upscale Mexican but not outrageous prices. Best frozen margaritas ever and a very addictive salsa. I always intend to branch out but just keep going back to that one-of-a-kind chicken burrito.
New York – Shops
- Maison 140 NYC, 140 9th Ave (at 19th St.), 212-255-0022, email@example.com. Perhaps not as exciting a store if you are traveling from France as the merchandise is made in France, but there are some great “French country” home décor finds if you are looking for souvenirs from France without the extra luggage charges! I love the guinea hens.
- Fish’s Eddy, 889 Broadway (at 19th St.), 877-347-4733. Dishes and kitchenware and a handful of other home accessories. The prices are good and I always find something unique and eye-catching. Good for retro and New York items. On this last visit, I picked up this cow cream pitcher for my house in Maine.
- Canvas, 123 West 17th St. (between 6th & 7th Ave), Tel. 212-461-1496. This new shop has a mix of vintage and modern, French country and rehabbed industrial furniture and other home goods and the staff is exceptionally friendly. Aside from the price, I’m a big fan of the domino gold cutlery.
- Adorama, 42 West 18th St. (between 5th & 6th), Tel. 800-223-2500. For the last 6 or 7 years I have always gone to B&H for camera equipment and I will continue to visit B&H for their incredible selection, efficiency, professionalism and low prices. But Adorama is a great alternative (somewhat smaller but also comprehensive, with highly professional equipment consultants and salespeople and the same low prices as B&H), especially if it’s easier to get to 18th & 6th than trek out to the no man’s land of 33rd & 9th. In December, I picked up this ergonomic camera strap designed especially for women, which I would highly recommend for SLR owners.
- Asian Bodyworks, 237 West 14th St. (between 7th & 8th Aves), Tel. 212-229-2508 (though walk-ins are welcome), open every day 11am – 11pm. If bone-crushing massages are your thing, this is the spot. And for only $48/hour, you can afford to treat yourself.
Boston – Restaurants
I stick mostly to the suburbs when visiting Massachusetts, but here are the Boston restaurants I visited on this most recent trip… feel free to ask for recommendations if you are visiting historic Concord & Lexington!
- Legal Seafood. Various locations but the original locations are in Boston. When visiting Massachusetts, you cannot miss out on the seafood (unless, of course, you are heading to Maine after…) Legal’s is about as fresh as it gets and always a varied selection.
- Gennaro’s, 5 North Square, Boston, MA 02113, Tel. 617-720-1050. A few doors down from the Paul Revere House, this Italian restaurant is in Boston’s Italian neighborhood, the North End. The two-floor space is stylish though cozy and inviting (in particular when decorated for Christmas) and the food (I always get pasta) is exceptional. On my next visit, it will be hard to decide between returning to Gennaro’s and trying Mamma Maria across the street, which specialized more in secondi piatti (though still has some pasta options).
And some of my old favorites…
- Union Oyster House, 41 Union Street, 617-227-2750. Tasty New England seafood classics in an historic building near Quincy Market. Dating from 1826, it claims to be the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S. And did you know that in 1796, the exiled future King of France, Louis Philippe, lived on the second floor of the building and taught French to earn his keep?
- 224 Boston Street Restaurant, 224 Boston Road, Dorchester, 617-265-1217. It’s a bit out of the way, but worth the trip. It’s easy to find parking outside, or it’s walkable from either the Andrew or JFK/UMass T (metro) stations. Nowhere else can you find such fresh and innovative and gourmet offerings for such reasonable prices.
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