I recently moved. The apartment where I’d lived for three years was in a part of Manhattan I like to call the “Middle Village.” It’s south of Union Square near Broadway – so it’s not the West Village, whose unofficial boundary is 5th Avenue, nor is it the East Village, with its crowded college-town vibe.
I liked the Middle Village so much, I didn’t want to leave. When an apartment I’d been coveting opened up, I made an offer, signed on the dotted line, packed my things... and moved across the hall.
Laugh if you must. Yet this new space, only a few feet from my old one, has prompted me to explore my neighborhood with fresh energy. Here’s my updated Middle Village hit list, which has made me so glad I changed my address.
FOR DRINKS: Corkbuzz
There are all kinds of ways to experience this terrific wine bar – at a small table in the front or a communal table in the back – and you can even take a class. The vast list runs the gamut from idiosyncratic to baller bottles.
The Champagne Campaign begins at 9 p.m. with the ringing of a bell; after that, all bottles of bubbly are 50 percent off. Even if you’re not hungry, there’s housemade ricotta and grilled chicken.
FOR CLIENTS: Shuko
The superb, 20-seat sushi bar, hidden behind a heavy door that’s easy to miss, has two Masa alumni as chefs, Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau. It also has two menus.
The more expensive sushi kaiseki is US$175 and is the move to make. It includes a changing daily selection of sushi and sashimi – there’s often an uni tasting, and if you’re lucky, lobster with truffles. The wine list goes deep on good riesling and Champagne.
FOR EXPENSE ACCOUNTS: Beatrice Inn
Down a flight of stairs in a quintessential West Village townhouse is Angie Mar’s temple to beef. Her whiskey-infused tomahawk rib-eye has become legendary in the city: It’s aged for 160 days and has a bottle of French single-malt whiskey poured over it every week (market price).
The burger is aged a mere 45 days and topped with red wine onions (US$38); the flambéed duck for two with cherry jus is dinner entertainment (US$120).
FOR BRUNCH: Loring Place
Chef Dan Kluger made a name for himself at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen. His first solo place is more spacious than most West Village restaurants and great at all times of day.
Wood-oven pizzas and short ribs are fan favorites, and the engaging, unconventional brunch menu includes cheddar waffles with eggs and smoked ham, a crispy oyster omelet with hot sauce, and crunchy cinnamon-crumbed French toast.
FOR HANGOUTS: Nix
James Truman has created a cozy, stylish space with a menu based entirely on vegetables. Yet you wouldn’t know it – dishes range from healthyminded mushroom dumplings with scallion oil to the very indulgent fried-cauliflowerfilled buns. There are a few banquettes sprinkled around the room that are good places to camp out.
FOR DATES: Don Angie
From the couple who created the chicken parm pizza at Quality Italian comes a high-energy restaurant that cleverly tweaks the food of Southern Italy. Absolutely get pasta, whether it’s a meaty lasagna for two or the stunning buffalo milk caramelle, which looks like candy and is stuffed with ricotta. The sexy dining room has black-and-white floors, deep blue banquettes, and a scenic view of the West Village.
AN OUTLIER: Estela
Perhaps the coolest restaurant in New York, its long, narrow space boasts a marble-topped bar with expertly made cocktails and a smart wine list. But the reason you have to eat here is that chef Ignacio Mattos’s food is stunning in its simplicity. Dishes such as pillowy ricotta gnudi and beef tartare studded with crispy sunchokes are bringing in repeat business.
ANOTHER OUTLIER: Spaniard
It’s been around for only a year, but it feels like a neighborhood institution. There’s a menu of drink-friendly dishes like a juicy patty melt with dry-aged beef and cheddar, plus the best onion rings in town. But the focus is strong drinks, specifically whiskey, and there are dozens of options, under categories including Scotch, Irish, rye, and bourbon.