We asked eight local chefs to name their favorite Manhattan restaurants.
New York has no shortage of four-star experiences, but for many chefs, the standout is elegant Jean Georges, a twinkling, earth-toned destination near Lincoln Center. Some, like restaurateur Jeff Black, praise the service. But it’s celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s vibrant, modern French cooking—he’s known for using vegetable juices and vinegars rather than heavy butter—that makes it special for 2941’s Jonathan Krinn, who counts a signature appetizer—scallops with raisins and cauliflower—as an all-time great dish, and for Equinox’s Todd Gray, who orders slow-cooked Copper River salmon.
Other luxe favorites? Vermillion chef Anthony Chittum likes Mario Batali’s flagship Babbo for its fresh pastas and not-too-stuffy vibe. Johnny’s Half Shell chef/owner Ann Cashion singles out Chanterelle for such “exquisite” dishes as halibut with pig’s foot. Playful in the kitchen himself, Morou Ouattara of Farrah Olivia admires the avant-garde cooking—make-it-yourself noodles, foie gras with a liquid center—at WD-50.
Looking to eat well but not to linger? Ann Cashion grabs a bar stool at Pearl Oyster Bar. The no-reservations fishhouse serves lobster rolls, heaps of chilled littlenecks, and other New England classics. Or, if she’s with a wine aficionado, she goes to I Trulli to sample the cuisine of the Apulian region of southern Italy plus a few of the 500 wines by the glass.
CityZen’s Eric Ziebold heads for Mexican Radio for great east-of-the-Rio-Grande chiles rellenos and margaritas. Jonathan Krinn, who got his start in New York kitchens, craves the pan-Asian dishes at the chicly spare noodle shop Republic: “It’s really fast, and the food is really good.”
Breakfast and Brunch
For a taste and feel of Paris, check out the espresso bar at Payard Patisserie, where Todd Gray enjoys breakfasts of croissants and cappuccino; fabulous too are the pain au chocolat and brioche. Gray also recommends a West Side institution, Barney Greengrass, for the fried-egg sandwiches with Nova, pastrami, or corned beef. (We’re partial to scrambled eggs with sturgeon and smoked-fish platters groaning with sable, lox, and whitefish salad.)
When Eric Ziebold has a hankering for brunch at “a neighborhood place,” he heads to Prune for its selection of bloody marys. Among the variations of these eye-openers are the Danish, with fennel and marinated anchovies, and the Caesar, with pickled eggs. Offbeat eats include lamb sausage with oysters, a baked blueberry pancake, and eggs en cocotte. Another Ziebold favorite is the hard-to-find Cafe Condesa for huevos rancheros, poached eggs on fried cheese with poblano sauce, and cappuccino.
For the Broadway Bound
The theater district is packed with pubs, mediocre Italian bistros, and chain restaurants. What to do? Morou Ouattara applauds Blue Fin, a sushi hot spot in the W Hotel with windows looking onto the action in Times Square.
For wallet watchers, Gray recommends the quirky mini-pies and $5 beers at Pizza Bar. Seeking something fancier? He suggests L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. The setup is similar to José Andrés’s Minibar in DC. Diners sit at a bar while chefs prepare exquisite, French-accented small plates—sea urchin with cauliflower gelée, Kobe-and-foie-gras sliders—in front of them.
For overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, there’s nothing like Carnegie Deli, a favorite of Restaurant Eve’s Cathal Armstrong. It stays crowded and chaotic until the 4 am closing. Jonathan Krinn refuels on the comfort food at Chelsea’s Cafeteria, open 24/7, or on the pristine, traditionally presented raw fish at Blue Ribbon Sushi, open until 2 am.
Chicken hearts, beef tongue, and made-to-order tofu are just a few reasons that Ziebold, who once worked at Manhattan gastronomic temple Per Se, gravitates toward Yakitori Totto, a Japanese grill hidden on the second floor of a Midtown building. “It isn’t pretentious,” says Ziebold, who frequently shows up in jeans and eats by himself at the bar. “Just simple food done really well.”
Armstrong, a native of Ireland, frequently slips into of-the-moment gastropub the Spotted Pig for snacks like duck eggs with bottarga, potted pickles, and chicken-liver toasts plus larger plates of roasted-carrot salad and ricotta gnudi.
20 Chef Favorites in New York
Babbo, 110 Waverly Pl.; 212-777-0303; babbonyc.com. Entrées $29 to $70.
Barney Greengrass, 541 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-724-4707; barneygreengrass.com. Entrées $15 to $30, sandwiches $1.75 to $14.75.
Blue Fin, 1567 Broadway; 212-918-1400. Dinner entrées, $23 to $34.
Blue Ribbon Sushi, 119 Sullivan St.; 212-343-0404; blueribbonrestaurants.com. Entrées $10.50 to $38.50.
Cafe Condesa, 183 W. 10th St.; 212-352-0050. Breakfast and brunch entrées $2 to $10.
Cafeteria, 119 Seventh Ave.; 212-414-1717. Entrées $14 to $26.
Carnegie Deli, 854 Seventh Ave.; 800-334-5606; carnegiedeli.com. Sandwiches $5.95 to $24.95.
Chanterelle, 2 Harrison St.; 212-966-6960; chanterellenyc.com. Tasting menus $95 to $125.
I Trulli, 122 E. 27th St.; 212-481-7372; itrulli.com. Lunch entrées $28 to $36.
Jean Georges, 1 Central Park W.; 212-299-3900; jean-georges.com. Tasting menus $98 to $148.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Four Seasons Hotel, 57 E. 57th St.; 212-350-6658. Dinner entrées $26 to $49, tasting portions $12 to $27.
Mexican Radio, 19 Cleveland Pl.; 212-343-0140. Entrées $10.95 to $17.95.
Payard Patisserie, 1032 Lexington Ave.; 212-717-5252; payard.com. Pastries $2 to $6.
Pearl Oyster Bar, 18 Cornelia St.; 212-691-8211; pearloysterbar.com. Entrées $18.50 to $30.
Pizza Bar, 48–50 Ninth Ave.; 212-924-0941. Pizzas $10 to $15.
Prune, 54 E. First St.; 212-677-6221; prunerestaurant.com. Brunch entrées $10 to $18.
Republic, 37 Union Sq. W.; 212-627-7172; thinknoodles.com. Entrées $7 to $9.
Spotted Pig, 314 W. 11th St.; 212-620-0393; thespottedpig.com. Bar snacks $2.50 to $6, entrées $13 to $17.
WD-50, 50 Clinton St.; 212-477-2900; wd-50.com. Entrées $24 to $34.
Yakitori Totto, 251 W. 55th St.; 212-245-4555. Entrées $20 to $50.