Ignacio Mattos has cooked in Argentina with Francis Mallmann, in California at Chez Panisse, and, for many years now, in New York. He’s had some ups and downs, but Estela is so stunningly good up that it erases any mistakes. Estela is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, and one of the best. Delicious wines at good prices. He also now owns with his partner, Thomas Carter, Café Altro Paradiso, and Flora Bar, at the Met Breuer.
Cherche-Midi is a good Keith McNally place, not mind-shatteringly good, but very good. Reliable, classic French cooking.
Marcus Glocker is not quite flawless, but he’s close. His food is revisionary French, in the best sense of the term. On the former Tribeca site of Corton, and with Drew Nieporent as a partner, you can bet the wine list is superb.
A Lower East Side Argentinian place that sports a deeply delicious sandwich of pork, steak, avocado, and fried egg that's worth a special trip.
By my friend and former colleague, Justin Smillie. One of the best cooks I’ve known. Tireless, relentless, superbly talented, his pastas are very nearly definitely Italian, but there’s always something inside his vision that refines the dish even further.
Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria An alma mater of sorts, where I spent 3 years building and developing the salumeria, and helping create and refine the restaurant and shop. Without bias, one of the best restaurants in NYC. Its older sister, il Buco, which has flown under the radar for 20 years, serves excellent, idiosyncratic Italian food, one block away, at 47 Bond Street.
Cut-to-the-bone simple, one flight up on 52nd Street, Hide-Chan has the most inscrutable website ever created, but serves stunningly good ramen at a long bar and a few tables. A quick in and out for $15.
Perhaps as good as Hide-Chan, if less diverse in its tastes, but with a showmanship bordering on spectacle. Welcome to New York.
I like this place. Really a bar with food whose preparation is clever, simple, imaginative and delicious. What a way to deal with not having a kitchen! Tins of seafood from Portugal and Spain, and a few other simple preparations, in a basic but friendly East Village spot looking onto Tompkins Square Park. On its website it looks like more than it is, but it's a pleasant, enjoyable, tiny restaurant. Mos def have the Trout Rillettes, which it really isn't, but is exceptionally good!
1st Street, btwn 1st and 2nd Avenues
Always good, hard to get into now, not only because of wonderful food but also because of the success of her brilliant book, Blood, Bones, & Butter. Prune's sweetbreads with capers and brown butter are delicious, as is almost any fish dish. Sit on the open window on a warm summer night, if you can. Gabrielle Hamilton is the U.S. chef I most respect.
A newish place on Bowery, next to Pearl & Ash, that is very French without the typical French tropes. It boasts a 1600 bottle wine list – I can’t count that high – but the food is easier than that, and very well done. The American chef, Daniel Eddy, cooked at Spring, one of Paris’s hot new wave bistros, located in the 1st Arrondissement. So it’s that, but worth a determined try, if not a special trip.
7th St and 1st Ave
The cutest, littlest hole-in-the-wall café with no possible seating, by my friend Jamie McIntyre (from Oliveto, in Oakland). The best espresso in NYC.
6th Ave and 12th St
Sweet cafe by a Brazilian friend, Fernando Aciar. You'll not be able to look away from his mesmerizing, sparkling, beautiful green eyes.
And visit the High Line, a remarkable, overhead pedestrian park built on an abandoned elevated train line that ran through the Meat Packing District and into Chelsea many years ago, before the area was the sexy, trendy place it now is.