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Hidden Gems: 10 NYC Food Finds You Need to Know

By Kirsten Stamn
October 14, 2013

Sometimes it seems like the same group of restaurants get all the love. Well, that ends today. If you delve a little deeper into the city's eating and drinking scene, you’re bound to unearth plenty of hidden gems. From crave-worthy noodles in Chinatown to a super-chic cocktail bar on Restaurant Row, here are some joints that deserve a moment in the spotlight. Just a moment, though - if too many people found out about them, they'd stop feeling like your own little secret.

  • Hidden Artisanal Cocktails at Lovers of Today

    It’s a good thing this speakeasy-style bar - located in a hard-to-find basement just under Niagara in the East Village - is under the radar: its appeal comes from both its laid-back attitude and pint-sized charm (if you have trouble finding it look for the tykes painted on the wall outside the entrance). Escape the street-level madness and descend into a cocktail lover’s dream, where you can order unexpectedly excellent drinks (all made with housemade liqueurs) that have kitschy names like Waterloo Sunset and Satellite of Love. The über-cool kids may be going farther down the staircase to Cabin Down Below, but this subterranean space is this buildng’s true destinatoin.

    132 1/2 E. Seventh St.; 212-420-9517

  • Cult-Worthy Noodles and Dumplings at Lam Zhou Handmade Noodles

    You will very likely wander past this hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown, but don’t be fooled. Despite its rather industrial (to put it kindly) setting, this shop turns out some of the best dumplings and noodles in town. Plus, you get to watch the magical process of hand-pulled noodles being made, with one piece of dough getting stretched and viciously slapped against the table until it becomes a pile of perfectly uniform, gorgeous noodles. It’s not a place to linger, but if you’re looking for some of the best food in Chinatown - with dirt-cheap prices - you’ve hit the jackpot here.

    144 E. Broadway; 212-566-6933

    Photo: GoodiesFirst via Flickr

  • Cauliflower Pizza at Stella 34 Trattoria

    Head up the elevator right at the Herald Square entrance of Macy’s to the sixth floor to find, astonishingly, a spacious, luxe restaurant that serves inventive Italian. While the pasta and entrees are all tasty, don't miss the Cavolfiori: a sauceless pizza made with a base of incredibly creamy cauliflower puree, Meyer lemon, roasted cauliflower and a sprinkling of crispy breadcrumbs. It’s super light (especially thanks to the thin, airy crust, courtesy of the massive, screamingly hot wood-burning ovens), hits all the right spots and will be something you find yourself randomly craving in the middle of the night.

    151 W 34th St.; 212-967-9251

  • Everything at Royale and The Burger at Fanny

    At this Alphabet City burger mecca, there’s great cheap beer, a friendly crowd, a backyard patio and some knockout, affordable burgers. You really can’t go wrong. Oh, and did we mention they have pickleback shots with bacon?

    Also great: If you’re more inclined to hop across the river, French bistro Fanny (pictured) serves what may be our favorite burger in Williamsburg. While moules frites may seem like the more appropriate dish to order, skip the bivalves and get this juicy hunk of sirloin. And speaking of bacon, you can add some for an extra $1. Yes, please. 

    Royale: 157 Ave C; 212-254-6600
    Fanny: 425 Graham Ave.; 718-389-2060

  • Great, Non-Sceney Chinese at Yunnan Kitchen

    For those looking to avoid Han Dynasty and Mission Chinese’s crowds, Yunnan Kitchen is an amazing choice. Like its counterparts, it’s a modern, family-style restaurant, but serves flavorful, refined cuisine that’s liberally sprinkled with tongue-tingling Yunnan spices. If you’re looking to bring a group for authentic, unique Chinese, this is the place.

    79 Clinton St.; 212-253-2527

  • Beer Expertise at Cafe D'Alsace

    Attention brew snobs: Perhaps you didn’t know, but Cafe D'Alsace in the Upper East Side has their own beer sommelier. This means you get expert recommendations of countless beers that are, wonderfully, paired with the restaurant’s French fare. (But wine lovers shouldn’t fret - there's a fine selection of vino too.)

    1695 Second Ave.; 212-722-5133

  • Low-Key Italian at Gnocco

    There’s nothing better than tucking into simple, delicious Italian fare outside on a gorgeous patio, right? This is the case over at Gnocco, where the food is upscale yet unpretentious and hits all the right notes. Think decadent pizzas, fabulous wines and to-die-for desserts. A helpful hint: The place is named after a snack made of puffed, fried dough served with Italian meats, so you definitely don’t want to pass it up.

    Also great: Le Barricou over in Williamsburg has some stellar (and decently priced) pastas in a comfy setting.

    Gnocco: 337 E. 10th St.; 212-677-1913
    Barricou: 533 Grand Ave.; 718-782-7372

  • Hidden Cocktails at Bar Centrale

    Find the unmarked brownstone over on bustling Restaurant Row (aka West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth) and get treated to incredible cocktails. It’s definitely got a velvety, VIP feel with prices to match, so your best bet is to pop in early and order some small plates while downing your drinks.

    324 W. 46th St.; 212-581-3130

  • Sandwiches at City Sandwich

    This tiny hole-in-the-wall in Hell’s Kitchen makes an amazing 'wich with their just-out-of-the-oven buns made with Portuguese pao de agua flour, topped with the freshest ingredients from purveyors around the city. We love their Portuguese-Italian mash-ups, the fact that chef Michael Guerrieri is so friendly and that they have some of the best panna cotta in the city. A heads up: Since it’s so small, it’s best for takeout or delivery.

    649 Ninth Ave.; 646-684-3943

  • Incredible Bibimbap - in Midtown - at Ambrosia

    Head to the rather crazed-looking deli on 45th Street and beeline straight for the Korean counter in the back. There, you’ll find bibimbap, a Korean hodgepodge of rice, meat (get the bulgogi), pickled vegetable deliciousness, and a fried egg. Mix it all together with their tangy, spicy red sauce and you’ll become completely addicted, trust us. Plus, you get a free miso soup! All this clocks in around $10, and it’s definitely enough for two people.

    8 W 45th St.; 212-921-0024

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