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Manhattan & NJ (Bergen County) Restaurant Reviews

Ian Hunter's Guide to Manhattan and Bergen County, NJ's Best Restaurants, Bars, and Gourmet Markets

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LOWER EAST SIDE   (Houston to Canal; Bowery to Clinton)
 

Uncle Boons: Thai. 7 Spring @ Bowery; 25/21/$50; 646-370-6650; The new Thai hotspot; Vibrant flavors and seriously spicy food; Fun bar scene and quirky setting; Excellent service;  Try the Golden Curry.  They have a dozen or so small plates you can sample and then a menu of charcoal grilled entrees to die for.  The Red Snapper is excellent as are the boneless beef ribs.  1 Michelin star.

 

Vandal: American. 199 Bowery @ Spring-Rivington; 23/24/$58; 400-0199; From owners of Stanton Social, this is their more lounge-heavy American Tapas restaurant;  Amazing, popular bar scene; Wonderful small plates to share; Raw bar features salmon poke, Oysters, Seafood tower;  Main menu has Soup Dumplings, Sea Bass Tacos, Seared Tuna & more. Quite a scene and very date or group friendly.

 
Metrograph Commissary: American. 7 Ludlow @ Canal-Hester; 20/24/$54; 660-0312;   Designed to evoke Old time Hollywood; Sofas and couches; Two bars; Great for Sunday Brunch;  You have a meal and see an old film; Dinner theatre in part; Dinner options include Burrata, Seared Tuna, Sea Bass and Steak Frites. Fun to go and hang out for just a drink as well.  Menus are all limited in choice. 

 

Cata: Spanish. 245 Bowery @ Stanton; 23/22/$55; 505-2282; All about the Tapas here – creative and traditional plates; Best to sit at the bar or the room with high tops;  Open kitchen; Giant Gin & Tonic selection; Deviled Eggs; Garlic Shrimp; Grilled Clams, Prawns, Oysters or Octopus; Grilled Sea Bass; Lamb Meatballs; Ham & Cheese sandwich; Paella with chicken, sausage & shrimp.

 

The Boil: American/Cajun-Creole. 139 Chrystie @ Broome-Grand; 26/16/$45; 925-8815; Get down and dirty at this New Orleans theme house of food;  They bring out the Crawfish, King Crab, Snow Crab & Dungeness Crab by the pound; Eat with your hands; All spice levels available; Apps include Soft Shell Crab, Catfish sliders, Lobster Roll for $18, Crab Roll and Gumbo.  They have a raw bar too. Cash only.

 

Freemans: American. Freeman Alley off Rivington @ Bowey; 21/22/$48; 420-0012; Savory American fare; They feature an excellent wine and cocktail list; Grilled sea scallops; Five Cheese Macaroni; Arctic Char; Lamb Shank; and Filet Mignon all stand out; They have a famous appetizer you must try- the Artichoke Dip which is raved about; Very trendy spot. Looks like a hunting lodge. 

 

Peasant: Italian. 194 Elizabeth @ Prince-Spring; 25/24/$58; 965-9511; Unique menu and amazing setting; Opera-set open kitchen; Romantic and sleek; Outstanding wine bar downstairs; Rustic & urban chic; Wood burning oven; Their bread is fantastic; Signature dish is suckling pig;  Seafood salad, Pizza Margherita w/ Mozz; Spaghetti scampi; Grilled Sea Bass; Lots of specials. Burrata, Clams. 

 

Pho Grand: Vietnamese. 277C Grand @ Eldridge; 21/14/$25; 965-5366; Extremely authentic restaurant with large menu featuring soup, pork, and prawn dishes; Exotic spices and combinations; Dirt cheap for lunch or dinner. Go Pho it! Terrible joke – but great authentic & often overlooked location. So inexpensive, especially for lunch. Over 120 items on the menu.  

 

Macondo: Latin; 157 E Houston @ Allen-Eldridge; 23/19/$41; 473-9900; Spanish/ South American fusion; Small plate format – street food; Has a great bar scene and tasty drinks; Great for dates or a later evening scene; Weekend brunch featuring Bottomless mimosas for $9; Very affordable menu; Try the delicious lamb burger. Good service and setting seal the deal. Ultra casual keep in mind.  Latin Taperia.

 

Red Compass: Georgian. 154 Orchard @ Stanton-Rivington; 23/18/$45; 473-9100; Not Georgia – Georgian! Old world décor; It is more of a wine bar with lots of small bites for sharing; Frequent live music; Try the cheese platter- full or half portion;  Many of the options on the menu are traditional entrees – chicken, salmon or other meat based. Best thing on the menu is the Cheese Bread! 

 

Contra: New American. 138 Orchard @ Rivington-Delancey; 25/20/$60; 466-4633; Features a nightly tasting menu; Welcoming staff and casual setting – but ideal for a date;  Menu is set- $74 a person and wine/cocktails are $13-$16;  Menu is usually 6 courses including 2 desserts;  An extra $8 or so to add a cheese course.  For the very adventurous!  No substitutions whatsoever. 

 
Kiki’s: Greek, Mediterranean. 130 Division @ Orchard; 25/18/$44; 646-882-7052; No Rez, no website small Greek spot that is very popular;  Get there early or long waits ensue;  The menu is filled with well-priced Greek classics including Moussaka and Spanikopita; I’d order 3-4 items if you are a couple and share; Everything is taste – and they do a great job.  Service is mixed. 
 
Café Katja: Austrian. 79 Orchard @ Broome-Grand; 24/18/$34; 219-9545; Known for nearly perfect sausages & fine wine and beer; Cozy setting, this authentic, friendly and affordable Viennese spot is a star. Wildly popular and strongly reviewed on Yelp; Get a .5Liter stein of Hofbrau; Thing to get here- pretzel and sausage; Ideal for a mid-afternoon weekend drink/ light meal; Super friendly staff;  Brunch served.  Has burgers, Goulash, and sampler platters. 
  
Barrio Chino: Mexican. 253 Broome @ Orchard; 24/20/$39; 228-6710;  Just incredible food at reasonable prices; Try the enchiladas verdes and be sure to order a margarita or caipirinha; Cantina setting – great bar scene and cool spot to hang;  Lunch and brunch served as well; You can fill up on the salsa and chips – be sure to order Guacamole;  Not a huge place – gets crowded.
 
Nom Wah: Chinese/ Asian Fusion. 22 Orchard @ Hester; 25/21/$58; 219-8785; Artful dishes and excellent service; Delicious cocktails ($12); Upscale Chinese and best in Lower East Side; Nice setting but they even have booths available; Try the braised beef cheeks; Roasted Duck;  There is a $60 6 course tasting menu; Menu is unfortunately quite limited but it is worth a splurge.
 

Stanton Social: American. 99 Stanton @ Ludlow-Orchard; 26/24/$60; 995-0099; Ultra cool, popular, hip spot;  Eclectic food; Trendy as hell; Young, good looking crowd, often celebs; American small plates and more; Food is outstanding and best if shared; Two levels;  Red Snapper Tacos; French Onion Soup. It does get loud and crowded so go during the week or earlier if you prefer a more intimate scene. Order a bunch of dishes; Great for a dinner party.  Brunch served. 

 

Balvanera: Argentinean. 152 Stanton @ Norfolk-Clinton; 26/20/$55; 533-3348;  Former Nobu chef Fernando Navas creates this masterpiece that does large and small plates; Rising star and service makes you feel like family; Date friendly for sure; Lunch and dinner and great happy hour 4-7pm daily;  Burrata, grass fed steak, Octopus, Striped Bass.  If you are unsure – come for Happy Hour & enjoy the low-priced bites.

 
Kuma Inn: Thai / Filipino; 113 Ludlow @ Delancy-Rivington; 24/15/$35; 353-8866; Small but unreal food and very affordable; Foodies heaven; Located on 2nd floor. Small plate format; BYO policy; Essentially Pan-Asian small plates. Strong service and bargain costs; About 25 or so different Tapas style dishes to choose from. Small corkage fee. Friendly chef/ owner.

 

Beauty & Essex: American. 146 Essex @ Stanton-Rivington; 23/26/$63; 614-0146; Hidden entrance in pawn shop ; Resto-lounge; Glamorous setting ; Bi level space; Free champagne in ladies room; Think chandeliers galore; Exotic, fancy cocktail list; Small plates – try the Salmon cerviche; Tuna Sashimi; Tuna Poke wanton tacos; Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup Dumplings; Lobster salad; Baby Back Ribs and the Burger;  Order 4-5 small plates and enjoy! Similar set up to Stanton Social.

 

Pig and Khao: Thai / Filipino. 68 Clinton @ Stanton-Rivington; 25/16/$40; 920-4485; Be adventurous and you’ll be rewarded; Dishes designed for sharing;  I’m daring but I shy away from the “pork head”; Try the Red Curry, Shan Noodles, BBQ Ribs, Seafood Sinigang – Cod, clams, shrimp;  There is a 5 course tasting menu for $45.  Honestly – the food is not Americanized at all and you’ll need an open mind.