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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)
 

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. 

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; 24/22/$54; 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.

  

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.

 

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.

 

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. 
  
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. 

 
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.