Roxanne's 30 restaurants

Everyone should have a friend like Judith. She regularly reads my blog (and posts comments!), she cooks beef bourguignon for her husband even though she's a vegetarian, she spends her days making sure New York City is fully prepared for any possible disasters, she shares leftovers of her favorite apple crisp, and soon she'll be treating Roxanne to a luxurious 30th birthday dinner.

To find a place fit for such an occasion, Judith commissioned me to come up with a list of 30 restaurants (in exchange for extra complimentary TLP comments I'm assuming). Turnaround time was tight, but as many of you know, I take great pride in my restaurant recommendations. Tonight, the birthday girl will log on to This Little Piglet and select the spot of her choice.

Happy birthday Roxanne! My list is in no particular order, but since it reflects some of my most memorable meals, I couldn't resist reminiscing. You and Judith might need a TLP guest post to tell us all about your fancy dinner à deux.

1. Hearth: I once had the most amazing coconut soufflé at this cozy East Village spot.

2. 5 Ninth: This charming 3-story brownstone boasts six fireplaces, a beautiful garden, and once upon a time served the most amazing short ribs with blueberries.

3. Saul: Daniel and I like to splurge at Smith Street's most elegant restaurant on special occasions.

4. The River Cafe: The prices are high and the portions far too teeny, but this Brooklyn barge is most certainly blessed with the best views of Manhattan.

5. The Grocery: It was here that Daniel's mother, visiting from Munich, officially fell in love with Brooklyn and its residents (the tightly packed tables encourage diners to gush to one another about the amazing food).

6. Al Di La: Judith and I both love the beet ravioli with poppy seeds at this popular Park Slope trattoria.

7. Blue Hill at Stone Barns: If you're up for a day trip, head to Pocantico Hills for farm fresh food in stunning surroundings.

8. Wd~50: If extreme cuisine is your type of thing, you'll love Wylie Dufresne's Clinton Street science lab.

9. Knife + Fork: An Irish chef whips up a creative 6-course menu (and unbelievable homemade bread) in this East Village kitchen.

10. Gramercy Tavern: Definitely one of my top 5 favorite Manhattan restaurants for a fancy fall dinner.

11. Mercer Kitchen: This SoHo spot's subterranean space feels like a delicious secret.

12. Il Buco: Some say it's the best Italian in the city. I disagree, but do love its collection of country antiques.

13. Felidia: I have yet to visit this midtown favorite known for top-notch Italian and a slightly stuffy setting.

14. Bar Americain: Bobby Flay's lively brasserie has soaring ceilings and comfort food favorites.

15. Union Square Cafe: Between the warm service and fresher than fresh ingredients, this place is pretty close to perfect.

16. Public: Judith and I are both big fans of the creative cocktails, though I've only had a few bites of the inventive cuisine.

17. Spice Market: It's sexy and sultry. You'll feel 21 all over again.

18. Peasant: With a wood-burning fire and rustic decor, this Nolita spot is perfect during cooler months (and their fluffy, pillow-like gnocchi is to die for).

19. 'Cesca: Prepare to swoon over the cast-iron lamps, plush velvet and southern Italian cuisine.

20. Morimoto: Daniel's cousin Julius recently spoiled us with the nine-course tasting menu (and we sat next to Matthew Modine). Judith visited the one in Philly during our Digital City days.

21. Fresh: I love the soothing shades of blue and unbelievable seafood at this Tribeca favorite.

22. Telepan: It's all local and farm fresh at this restaurant that likes to salute each season.

23. Perry St.: The chocolate mousse with candied violets was one of the prettiest and most delicious desserts I've ever eaten (and that's saying a lot!).

24. Mas: I've talked Judith's ear off about my favorite French farmhouse and even worked it into her wedding present.

25. Annisa: I've always loved the name of Anita Lo's soothing West Village restaurant. I love it even more now that I know it means woman in Arabic.

26. Jewel Bako: People bow down to this small sushi spot that's pricey, but worth the splurge.

27. 5 Points: Laid-back and elegant with a brunch many swear by.

28. Woo Lae Oak: Sip lychee martinis while grilling your own meat and veggies at SoHo's swankiest BBQ joint.

29. Giorgione: Their Italian food is some of my favorite and the crowd is always lively and loud. It's an especially fun place for birthdays. If you end up going, you'll find out why.

30. Wallse: The service might be snooty but I'm a sucker for spaetzle.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday ROXANNE, happy birthday to you!

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Anonymous said...

Lia, Thanks again for putting this together for Roxanne (and me). I can't wait to find out which of the TLP Top 30 she chooses. I also feel quite proud of myself for having dined at a number of these hot spots you've selected. I will have to tell you more about Felidia. I dined there years ago with my parents, their friends from Canada, and my ex, and despite the latter company, it remains one of my most memorable dining experiences.

Anonymous said...

Nice list of choices, Liz. You gave me a few good ideas for entertaining someone special, that is, other than me cooking at home for them. I was surprised by the "slightly stuffy" comment about Felidia, but you only need to go there yourself to see that it's not true. I love the restaurant. The food, service and just the whole experience are all devoted to make a guest feel comfortable. Sure it's not slick, but isn't there too much glitzy decor in this town's restaurants? Also, you can hear your companions speaking without having to cup your ear or ask them to shout.

Anonymous said...

Lia, I read your 30 recommended restaurants. I love it. This weekend Teddy and I were in the city (when I called you) and I would have loved to have had this list handy. Oh well, there's always next time.
Can't wait to see you next BGN.

Anonymous said...

Lia, thank you!!! What a sweet special surprise. I love it!! I can tell I'm going to have a hard time choosing one. So many delicious flavors...my mouth is watering just reading your thoughts! J, your the best. Thanks for creating the perfect present. I'm really looking forward to it!! Now, decisions, decisions.....

Lia said...

Judith, it was my pleasure! And now I think you need two guest posts: one about your dinner with Roxanne, and another about your experience at Felidia. The email you sent me about your meal there was so beautifully written.

Michael, a few people have told me that Felidia is a bit cramped and stuffy, but both you and Judith are making me think they might be wrong. I'm definitely moving it to the top of my must-try list and will post about it after I go! And I'm with you on the too slick spots that are all over this city. I prefer places that focus first on the food.

Lucy, I'm sorry you didn't have the list with you this weekend, but now you can print it out and take it with you everywhere you go! :)

Roxanne, You're so very welcome! I had a great time coming up with this list and am sure I'll use it a lot myself in the future. Make sure to let us know which spot you choose.

Anne Stesney said...


A high school classmate just contacted me and asked about NYC restaurants. I'm taking more than a few off your list! We have very similar tastes.


Lia said...

Anne, I'm glad my list will help you help your friend. Friends ask me for restaurant recommendations a lot, so now I'm just going to point everyone right here.

Lucie said...

I went to Stone Hill a year ago and it was one of the most delicious and fresh meals I've ever had started with a buttery salad of baby greens with a coddled egg from one of their brood. The highlight was the amuse, funnily enough; an aromatic celeriac soup in a triangular shot glass, spattered with grass-green basil oil. It was such an intense flavor - savory with that wonderful, subtle celery flavor and a bright wake-up from the basil oil. Yum yummmmm!

Lia said...

Sounds delicious, Lu! I've been to the Blue Hill in the city a few times but have yet to make it to Stone Hill. Maybe for my 30th birthday this year!


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