The cold, grey months of January in New York City are often plagued with chills, wet weather, and early nights. However, it also brings the return of NYC Restaurant Week, on now through February 12th, which sees more than 500 restaurants offering diners discounted rates for lunch or dinner fare. And while the number may seem overwhelming, our intrepid team has edited it down to seven must-try spots. From Mexican and Greek, to Indian and Italian, we've got you covered. And for those in any Restaurant Week-induced food comas, check out our equally compelling list of nearby hotels.
Bar Tulix (SoHo)
Straddling the line between casual and haute Mexican cuisine, the Baja-inspired Bar Tulix is tucked along SoHo's heart, West Houston street. A seafood-focused menu lends easy dining for lo-fi weeknight outings or more grand weekend celebrations.
Inspector notes: "Guacamole is far from ho-hum, enlivened with roughly mashed creamy avocado jacketed by dabs of smoky-spicy salsa verde, serrano peppers, cool crema and cotija cheese. The refreshing shrimp tostada growls under the weight of more than a dozen plump poached shrimp tossed in mayonnaise, Clamato and pico de gallo. But, fork-shredding the much-talked-about short rib, then piling it on a tortilla with black beans, a roasted shishito pepper and a squirt of lime is as entertaining as it is delicious."
Bar Primi (NoHo)
Pasta lovers take heed—Bar Primi will have you coming back for seconds immediately. Beyond the plate, the fantastic wine selection and friendly service ensure customers can sit back and enjoy the excellent Italian (and Italian-American) food.
Inspector notes: "Start with meatballs, a far cry from the generic kind, stuffed with Fontina and braised until tender in a chunky tomato sugo. Pasta is always a go-to, especially the bucatini or carbonara dishes. Daily specials are also a delight, as is the simply delicious hazelnut gelato."
Stay nearby: Literally down the street from Bar Tulix and a brisk ten minute walk from Bar Primi, The Mercer continues to reign as the designated hang-out spot for artists. Now, this 19th-century Romanesque Revival building is home to one of the best first generation boutique hotels in SoHo. Fit with loft-style oversized windows and custom furnishing designed by Liaigre, it's no wonder that this Mercer Street hotel has a permanent spot on the radar of some of the world’s most style-conscious travelers. Rooms start at $725.
With a hefty pricetag of $5 million behind the construction at this gorgeous establishment, Tamarind's soaring interiors serve as the perfect stomping ground for the grandeur and affluent. Don't be too mesmerized by the sleek display kitchen though, because behind it is exceptional Mughlai food like sirkha gosht (lamb in a fiery chili and coriander chutney).
Inspector notes: "Malai halibut, roasted then blanketed in a coconut-ginger sauce with toasted cumin seeds, is a standout. While service is mediocre at best and the kitchen may fall behind at peak times, mains like kolambi pola (prawns in a coconut-and-chili curry) make up for any gaffes."
Stay nearby: Just a hop, skip, and two minute walk away, top off the extravagant interiors of Tamarind with the even more impressive Greenwich Hotel. Owned by Tribeca Film Festival co-founder and actor Robert De Niro, the impeccable design and construction comes from Grayling Design, one of New York's top firms. Steps from countless shopping and nightlife options, the luxe, minimal interiors serve as the perfect cherry on top to a night out in the big city. Rooms starting at $975.
Dagon (Upper West Side)
Dagon's bright, open space is equal parts warm and inviting, making it the ideal setting to dine and take in the scene at one of their oversized windows. The off-center bar and long counter are ideal for solo diners but the environment gets even livelier with large parties at this Middle Eastern-inspired hangout.
Inspector notes: "Fresh-baked breads, like kubaneh accompanied by creamy labneh, shouldn't be missed. Chicken liver mousse with mustard seeds and date syrup is a match made in culinary heaven; while short rib tagine with fluffy couscous makes for a flavor-packed feast."
Eléa (Upper West Side)
Whitewashed brick walls, weathered wood beams, and phenomenal lighting greet guests upon arriving at Eléa. While the decor is almost worth a visit onto itself, it's the delectable menu filled with classic Greek cuisine that makes this spot a must-try.
Inspector notes: "Imagine everything from creamy spreads with pita bread to fresh fish to get your taste buds going. Following suit, ingredients are given the spotlight in the likes of htipiti (feta with roasted chili pepper); taramasalata with cured ikura and pickled capers; as well as whole grilled tsipoura in a lemon, olive oil, and caper sauce. Finish with elmek, mountain tea-infused custard crème in shredded phyllo and topped with crumbled pistachio."
Stay nearby: If the Upper West Side with its myriad of museums, shops, and Central Park is your jam, then the Mandarin Oriental is the only name in town. A ten minute train ride from Eléa and Dagon, the hotel sits atop the $1.7 billion Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle making it the perfect stop for shopping and sweeping views of the Hudson River. Rooms start at $885.
Gotham (Greenwich Village)
For more than thirty years, chef Ron Paprocki brings his magic touch to Gotham combining a soothing environment with warm lighting and a personable team making this New York tried and true feel like home to every guest. The classic American cooking with Continental accents make Gotham the place to be for those wanting a taste of old-school New York.
Inspector notes: "Though far from avant-garde, beloved fixtures like tuna tartare, pâté en croute or roasted rack of lamb will never go out of style. The well-executed dishes showcase quality ingredients and eschew trendy presentations—and their size bears witness to the largesse of the kitchen. Rhubarb mille-feuille, layered with house-made whipped ricotta and rhubarb roasted, stewed, and prepared in thin chips, is a solid finale."
Kyma (Flatiron District)
While jetting off to Greece isn't a possibility for everyone, a stop to Kyma is a close (and delicious) second. The bi-level establishment's interior looks plucked straight from the Ionian seaside, while the panoply of spreads like pikilia trio with feta, hummus and taramasalata finish the job. Don't fill up though, because the rest of the menu consists of fresh-caught fish and short rib youvetsi.
Inspector notes: "Calamari stuffed with four cheeses and served over a Nafpaktos tomato sauce is a winner. Not far behind, find that phyllo-wrapped spanakopita delight with spinach and cheese. Ekmek kataifi featuring shredded phyllo and semolina custard is a fine way to end this Greek feast."
Stay nearby: Equidistant from Gotham and Kyma, the Walker Hotel Greenwich Village brings oodles of bohemian and eclectic flair. Contrasting the classic Georgian architecture are romantic interiors decorated with dramatic layers of velvet and bookshelves filled to the brim with works by local West Village writers. Rooms start at $251.
Hero image: Bar Tulix © Briana Balducci/Bar Tulix