10 Secrets of the New York Food Scene

By James Mulcahy  |  September 10, 2013

Shhh - we’ve got a secret. Actually, we’ve got 10 of them. The NYC food world is full of experiences as mind-blowing as they are hidden. Whether it's the info that will score you a table at an impossible-to-breach hot spot or the URL where you can book an epic tasting dinner from an up-and-coming chef, these are the tips that you should remember. Sure, you’ll definitely have a tasty experience but, more importantly, you’ll look really cool to your friends.

  • There Are Great Restaurants Above Herald Square

    When New York City residents think about Herald Square, it’s usually under the heading “stay away.” While the hubbub on the street level may justify this trepidation, diners will actually find a lot to love if they can stomach the streets and press the button for the top floor in two of the surrounding elevators. Stella 34 recently opened on the sixth floor of Macy’s, and despite having an awesome selection of pizzas and pastas from chef Jarett Appell, the joint has gotten little buzz because, well, it’s on the sixth floor of Macy’s. On the other side of the square, it’s Korean restaurant Gaonnuri that impresses, despite being on the top floor of a random office building (and you’ll forget about your strange setting as soon as you scope the awesome views of the Empire State Building).

  • Maison O Has a Secret Karaoke room

    Maison O is a super-hip sushi spot that just opened in the former Kenmare space, and the cool kids who used to hang at that space had one question when they heard about the relaunch: what were they going to do with the basement? It used to house the clubby lounge that kept the previous tenant alive long after the restaurant went on life support. That hot spot rankled neighbors though, so the folks behind Maison decided to keep things a little more low-key with a small, stand-alone bar and the venue's very own karaoke room. The space is dubbed Stardust Lounge and is sure to be packed once nightlife types find out about it. Oh wait - it's New York Fashion Week - that means they already have.

  • All Good Things Has a Mind-Blowing Tasting Menu

    If you do want to splurge for a tasting menu, skip the stodgy haunts that you have to book 30 days out and head to this TriBeCa restaurant, which offers six courses for $100 plus snacks in between. The reservations-only eatery is totally off the radar, which seems to be on purpose since NYC diners would freak out over chef Ryan Tate’s creative and elegant fare. How is everyone not talking about this place? We don’t know - but we will say you should get in first, because when it is discovered, you will be lucky if you can get a table even with 30 days' notice. Get info on reservations here

  • You Can Get Grimadi's Without Waiting in Line

    News flash for pizza fans - you can check out the pizza that has folks lining up day in and day out without the wait. Or without even leaving Manhattan. Sure, hanging out on the sidewalk at Grimaldi's may be "part of the experience" for out-of-towners, but New Yorkers can get their pies at the Limelight Marketplace, where a stand-alone branch opened a while back with little fanfare. It's open, and the checkered tables are usually pretty empty and there is never a line situation.

  • OddFellows Has Secret Flavors

    Foie gras ice cream, anyone? Those of you who are into the weird ice cream being scooped out at Sam Mason's new Williamsburg shop OddFellows should pay close attention to that Twitter feed. That's where the shop announces new flavors, including one-offs like foie gras, which was available for a hot second before the public caught on and the inventive treat promptly sold out.

  • While the Pop-Up Restaurant Is Over, the Pop-up Food Stand Is Not

    The era of the pop-up restaurant has passed now that the economy has rebounded and there aren't a bunch of empty restaurant spaces looking for tenants, even if they are temporary. Well, you might not be able to get a full tasting menu for two or three nights, but there are still quality pop-ups in operation and working out of bars. Donna in Williamsburg has Brooklyn Taco, Gilligans is dishing out quality pizza and seafood fare in the outdoor bar space on the side of the SoHo Grand, and there's a crêpe stand at Le Bain on the top of the Standard Hotel that will help keep you steady after downing too many pitchers of cocktails.

  • Le Philosophe Is the French Restaurant That Really Deserves the Buzz 

    The beginning of this year was all about nouveau French cooking, and one restaurant sucked up all the buzz. Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette is the hottest table in town for diners who enjoy a French bent, but Le Philosophe, a total gem just around the block from Carmellini's stunning behemoth, should be siphoning off some of this buzz. The unassuming Bond Street space doesn't have a celebrity chef or big names filling its booths nightly, but it does have awesome takes on French classics like lobster thermidor and frogs' legs. The food pairs with vino from a shockingly affordable wine list (we can't remember another place with excellent rosé for under $30), so you've got the French reservation that you should be making.

  • Flock Dinner Is the Best Off-the-Radar Culinary Experience

    Chef Corey Cova made a name for himself with his work at Earl’s Beer & Cheese and ABV, but his most exciting project isn’t his just-launched donut shop Dough Loco. He runs a supper club dubbed Flock Dinner and is churning out tasting menus that match some of the city’s high-end establishments in quality and level of execution. The dinners are intimate - when we went, there were only six diners in attendance - and held at unique locations (we won’t ruin it). While there are no meals currently on the agenda, bookmark this website and keep your eyes peeled. Seats to these BYOB shindigs are hard to come by, so if you see a date pop up, be sure to book it.

  • Hotbox Is New York City's Hottest Nightclub

    You don’t need a ticket to Sleep No More to enjoy the McKittrick Hotel. The venue has lured over the cocktail snobs with punch bowls at Gallow Green, and they brought in the jazz lovers with nightly sets at Manderley Bar, the lounge swathed in red velvet that serves as the center of the show. Recently, the operators of the space launched Hotbox, a stand-alone club on the top floor of the building that’s accessed via the entrance to Gallow. There’s been almost no promotion of the space, audience members are sent an e-mail the day before they experience Sleep encouraging them to make a reservation, but it’s also open to the general public. Go. Now. The Hotbox stage plays host to NYC’s hottest house band outside of the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Heathens is a soul and funk powerhouse, and this is one of the most fun dance parties in all of NYC.

  • The Bar at Eleven Madison Park Is Waiting for You

    You have to spend more than half of your rent money and book way in advance to experience Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, right? Wrong. The lounge at this classic Gotham eatery is the best-kept secret in NYC’s fine-dining scene for three reasons:

    1. It’s open for walk-ins,
    2. There’s usually space, and
    3. You can order dishes from the tasting menu à la carte.

    Sure, it’s still pricey, but you don’t have to drop $195 for the tasting menu. There are even a few tables if you don’t like sitting on a bar stool. Oh, and if you need any more convincing, the drinks are awesome and way less expensive than the wine pairings everyone is sipping on in the dining room. Need we say more?