Encompassing not only southern European countries but also those in Northern Africa, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, and the thousands of islands in between―the Mediterranean offers incomparable fish, produce and meat as well as extraordinary diversity in serving them.
These nine Mediterranean restaurants in New York are deemed exceptional by our inspectors. Ranging from family-style to elegant, they’re fit to accommodate a variety of reasons to dine out, seaside-style, in the the Big Apple.
Meadowsweet (Williamsburg)The inventive American menu here gets a lift from Mediterranean accents: fried artichokes served with a tangle of bitter-spicy arugula in a creamy vinaigrette are positively addictive. Crisped black bass with a parsley root velouté sings with a side of green apple cabbage, which is flecked with chunks of smoky bacon. There’s an impressive list of cocktails and wine; not to mention a globetrotting beer selection ranging from Austrian lagers to Japanese ales.
Cervo's (Chinatown)The staff here is welcoming and well-informed on how to pair the brilliant Spanish wine list with the Med-inflected fare, including flaky squid empanadas, plump with inky filling; or savory Serrano ham paired with tender butter beans and Meyer lemon. Don’t miss the mussels escabeche, floating in an irresistible olive oil-drizzled broth, perfect for dragging the house-made sourdough bread through.
Floret (Nolita)It would be a mistake to write-off this groovy spot as just another hotel restaurant, as it is in fact a fully formed dining room that simply happens to be in a hotel. Though the menu is unassuming—a few vegetable-forward appetizers, pastas, and proteins—the Mediterranean and Asian influences that inform the cooking are nothing short of delicious. Casual servers deliver confidently prepared winners, like grilled maitake with ramp purée, whipped ricotta, and fried bread.
Lola Taverna (Soho)This is not your average Greek restaurant serving the tired old clichés. Instead, the chef infuses a hint of whimsy into each dish and delivers on flavor and quality. Some standouts include spanakopita spring rolls, chicken gyro bao buns, and moussaka with lamb or vegetarian options. Come Sunday for the well-priced supper and half-price wine.
Shuka (Soho)Start with the delicious whipped feta with pistachio and dill; a bright fattoush salad; or roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with yogurt, mint, pickled sultanas, and Urfa peppers. For dinner, go for the hen of the woods mushroom lahmajoun, a flatbread laced with labneh, thyme, confit garlic, and harissa; or savory shakshuka, which stars a skillet of spicy lamb meatballs and poached eggs simmering with tomato, chickpeas, Swiss chard, and currants.
King (Soho)This kitchen brings a deft touch to their small, daily-changing menu, with ingredients pulled straight from the greenmarket. A tangle of warm tagliarini has gratifying bite, paired with a textured tomato sauce; while perfectly cooked lombatello (Italian for hanger steak) arrives chargrilled over twigs of rosemary, with braised rainbow chard and a lovely anchovy and oregano salsa.
Upland (Flatiron)Everything seems to click at Upland—the setting is urbane and cozy, with vintage floors as well as glowing jars of preserved lemons and backlit wine bottles lining the walls. A meal from this kitchen team might reveal sprouted fava-bean falafel paired with a tahini- garlic- and cashew-sauce; or estrella, star-shaped tubular pasta with hearty chicken livers and herbs. Yuzu soufflé with calamansi curd makes for a crowning finish.
Il Fiorista (Flatiron)Owners Alessandra and Mario De Benedetti, who recently relocated from Italy, have expertly blended their homeland's sensibility. A beautifully-executed squid ink pasta, anelli al nero, is studded with tender, briny calamari, chili, and fennel; while a roasted honeynut squash tart stays seasonal with chestnut purée and shaved black truffle.
LamaLo (NoMad)The spirit of this place has a casual, don't-mind-if-I-do vibe. Despite the laid-back ambience, reservations are advisable since tables fill early.
The menu is designed for sharing. Go for the daily spread—a parade of numerous dips, like smoky baba ganoush, lemony hummus, charred cabbage, spinach and artichoke dip and even a cauliflower-based riff on tabbouleh—all served with traditional lafta.
Pera (Midtown East)For flavorful Turkish food infused with contemporary influence, Pera serves to please. The menu always brims with simple, good quality and slightly renovated plates like warm hummus with pastirma; lentil and bulgur tartare; or watermelon chunks tossed with salty feta, tomatoes and olive oil. A forkful of their model and deliciously tender chicken adana with a side of addictively crispy fries has wide appeal and makes for a fitting feast—at all times.
Legacy Records (Midtown West)The dishes here are remarkable and treated with great care. The menu may meander the Med, but its soul is Italian. Crudi run the gamut—red snapper with cilantro-citrus emulsion and bay scallop are solid stunners. Torchio tossed with giant surf clam, saffron, and lemon balm has a terrific bite, but they save the best for last here, with an intriguing and seductive meringata with a boozy, black pepper-infused Venezuelan rum cake.
MP Taverna (Irvington, Westchester)Chef Michael Psilakis puts the "MP" in this taverna, serving his modern interpretation of Greek cuisine. Start with meze, like grilled octopus or an eggplant dip, before savoring mains like ricotta dumplings enrobed in spicy lamb sausage and sundried tomato. Desserts too flaunt a contemporary twist, as in the apple baklava Napoleon or chocolate halva brownie.Groups looking to feast may get the chef's whole roast animal, but call ahead as it takes time to prep.
Mint Premium Foods (Tarrytown, Westchester)The semi-open kitchen turns out a menu that meanders around the Mediterranean, resulting in hearty seafood, savory steaks, and charcuterie aplenty. Nibble on crispy falafel as you peruse the board for such indulgent specials as the grilled Porterhouse accompanied by a simple salad. English cheddar with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar is a popular proxy for dessert.
Hero image: Meadowsweet. Photo by Evan Sung, courtesy of Meadowsweet