Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
53 Great Jones St, betw Bowery and Lafayette.
I love this place - everything from the rustic split-level space with market in the front, open kitchen and dining space in the back, to the delicious hearty Italian fare. The chef Justin Smillie has a serious resume, working with Jean Georges and Waxman before opening The Standard and Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. For me, best dishes are the crispy artichokes, the gem lettuce and anchovy salad, bottarga spaghetti and the sea salt caramel gelato.
Saxon + Parole
316 Bowery, at Bleecker.
Finally made it here and loved everything about it - the cocktails, the fresh oyster selection, and that duck. The atmosphere is very casual/cool and I'll definitely be back.
9 Great Jones, nr Lafayette.
Even if this kind of precious, high-minded food is not your thing (menu is organized according to "Raw" "Cooked" or "Soil"), come in to check out the thoughtfully curated artwork and the speakeasy bar downstairs. It's New American, Nordic-inflected fare from Copenhagen's most celebrated chef Mads Refslund (of noma), and dishes might include whole grains with clams and scallops, or farmer's egg with sea urchin and cauliflower (after JG started this trend, reloaded egg shell has almost become a classic appetizer for restaurants like this).
dbgb Kitchen and Bar
299 Bowery, betw Houston and 1st St.
Daniel Boulud's bustling New American brasserie boasts an impressive collection of copperware donated by all the best chefs in the world...that and the classic desserts are the highlights for me. The menu is a bit on the heavy side, with the tasty house-made sausages taking center stage. But while I was underwhelmed on a recent visit, the classic Baked Alaska and the delicious Grand Marnier souffle are reasons enough to return.
Red Hook Lobster Pound
16 Extra Place, enter through E 1st Street betw Bowery and 2nd Ave.
The Manhattan outpost of one of the city's best lobster rolls (sorry, still think Luke's reigns supreme), its advantages over nearby Luke's includes a quiet sun-bathed patio at lunchtime and a liquor license, with beers on tap and Bloody Mary's coming soon.
47 Bond Street, betw Bowery and Lafayette. 212.533.1932. www.ilbuco.com
Big sister to il buco alimentar e vineria (above), this simple, elegant Italian has been around forever, but still has a loyal following for its varied menu of tapas and appetizers assembled from meticulously-sourced, seasonal ingredients.
6 Bond St, betw Broadway and Lafayette. 212.777.2500. www.bondstrestaurant.com
Japanese/Sushi. Still a hotspot after so many years, the downstairs lounge is the place to be. Branches in Miami and LA.
430 Lafayette St, betw 4th St and Astor Place. 212.505.5111. www.indochinenyc.com
Pan-Asian Vietnamese. Still a hotspot since opening in 1984, it's fairly good Vietnamese in a colonial setting of potted palm trees and wicker seats.
Great Jones Café
54 Great Jones St, betw Bowery and Lafayette. 212.674.9304. www.greatjones.com
American - Southern. Open by Phil Hartman (Two Boots) in 1983, still popular for homestyle fare and relaxed, fun vibe.
On the radar
Carmellini's newest place in the old Peel's space, this is for pasta lovers.
380 Lafayette, cnr of Great Jones. 212 533 3000
Another installment from Andrew Carmellini, reviews are rather mixed (both media and personal friends are split here) but I'm going to get there at some point since I love everything else he's done (The Dutch, Locanda Verde).
31 Great Jones St, nr Lafayette. 212.253.5700. www.fivepointsrestaurant.com
New American. Sister restaurant to Cookshop, the brunch is considered a well-kept secret.