Healthy and Not-so-Healthy Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar if You’re Visiting Manhattan
Hawaiian poke is a newish trend in New York City – it’s healthy, fresh, and relatively inexpensive. Try Pokeworks on 37th and 6th, next to a restaurant that’s anything but healthy, Chick-fil-a. You start by picking your fish – tuna, salmon, shrimp (or even chicken), add toppings like seaweed, pineapple, and garlic flakes, and create a personalized bowl that’s far superior to those quinoa or salad bar things.
Sushi Nakazawa and O-Ya – two splurge-y restaurants for sushi and fish. You can request no meat dishes and have an outrageous omakase (chef’s choice) meal. Sushi Nakazawa is on Barrow Street in the Village. O-Ya is in Murray Hill. Both feature superstar food talents, Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, a protégé of Japan’s acclaimed Jiro Ono and the O-Ya team from Boston, Tim and Nancy Cushman.
Chicken is high on everyone’s list for healthy foods. Le Coq Rico in the Flatiron District is Antoine Westermann’s tribute to the bird. He brings his French-Alsatian expertise from Paris to NYC with chicken sourced from the farms of New York. Roasted, it’s a healthy alternative to that breaded or fried version. I’d save my calories for Chef’s wonderful Ile Flôtante. For pure, unadulterated rotisserie chicken in a luxe setting, visit Rotisserie Georgette on East 60th Street, where the owner's many years of experience working with Daniel Boulud is in play at this sophisticated midtown restaurant.
When I'm craving something decadent, I love ordering fried chicken. It's not something I do every day, and I realize that's it's less-than-healthy, but it's always wonderful. My go-to is the tiny, quirky Birds and Bubbles on the Lower East Side. You go down a narrow metal stairway to a very narrow restaurant where Southern food is the star. Sarah Simmons, most recently of City Grit fame, has brought her North Carolina upbringing to NYC and paired her amazing dry-brined, fried chicken with Champagne. Who would have thought? It's pure brilliance.
I always like finding the small bistros that really make you feel at home. Little Frog sits quietly on busy East 86th Street, an authentic French bistro from people you should know from their time at Balthazar, and also from Minetta Tavern. Order all seafood – try their amazing oysters -- or splurge on the fab coq au vin, and you’ll have a wonderful cozy meal. It’s a quick walk from the new Second Avenue subway stop, too.
Indian cuisine has always been notable for offering wondrous vegetarian dishes, and NYC has a Michelin-starred one that takes Indian cooking to a new level. Tulsi, on East 46th Street, brings cooking from Goa, mixes it up with street food, resulting in a showcase of unusual takes on somewhat familiar dishes. Here, it’s worth saving room (and calories) for dessert as well. The creations from Chef Eric McCarthy (yes, that’s really his name and he IS from Goa) are anything but ordinary.
Finding a good restaurant after going to Carnegie Hall just got a little bit easier with the return of Jams to New York City. The original California cuisine restaurant of the 80s, Jonathan Waxman's Jams is now on the West Side walkable from the Theater District as well as Carnegie Hall. The airy room is a great choice for sampling their signature Jams chicken and pancakes with caviar and smoked salmon, both from the menu of the original restaurant.
For that special-occasion, serene but sensational dinner, book a table at Gabriel Kreuther. The former chef at The Modern, Chef Kreuther serves up a meticulous menu of Alsatian dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. If you don’t want to have the full set menu every night, there’s a separate bar with its own menu where you can order the tarte flambée, a pizza-like creation with sweet onions, smoked bacon and fromage blanc that put this chef on the map. The restaurant is an oasis across from Bryant Park and has an extraordinary wine list, too. Walk next door to the amazing new handcrafted chocolate shop.
And speaking about wine, how about a wine bar and a tapas bar that’s so small that you’re advised to arrive by 5:30? Desnuda on the Lower East Side on East 7th Street will thrill you with its tiny space and its chef’s prowess and creativity. Tea-smoked oysters are sensational -- it looks like they’re being cooked in a bong -- as are the ceviches.
If a scene is more your speed, head to the back of the NoMad, to the NoMad Bar in the city’s newly coined NoMad district (north of Union Square), where the bar is lively and the menu is pure comfort. In cold weather, the perfectly indulgent chicken pot pie with foie gras and truffles is a knockout, as is Chef Daniel Humm’s Humm dog, a hot dog unlike any you’ve had before. Trying to eat healthy? The carrot tartare, originally on the menu at sister restaurant Eleven Madison Park, is an exceptional vegetarian dish, with the consistency and ingredients of its meat-based counterparts sans the meat. Add a touch of caraway seeds, horseradish, apples and … because we’re talking about carrots after all. It’s pretty and delicious.
And, finally, one of the newest “hot” restaurants on the Manhattan scene is in Midtown, just behind Bryant Park. Coffeemania is NOT a coffee shop. Rather it’s a Euro-Russian-American eatery that’s chic and has unusual choices in both beverages and food. The menu is so creative that you can eat healthy (or not, as you wish). I love the hamachi tartare (very healthy) but also the bone marrow (definitely not healthy) and the warm borscht. Teas from around the world are as creatively curated as the wine list.