Fusion. Think London's Providores in Manhattan. Having worked under acclaimed Kiwi king-of-fusion chef Peter Gordon (who was a consultant for Public in the past) at Providores and Sugar Club, Brad Farmerie spins creative Australasian fare (Tasmanian seatrout with pickled daikon, NZ venison on coriander falafel) in industrial chic surrounds. Popular for brunch, there's also a bar next door (The Daily), and the same owners (AvroKO) run Saxon+Parole and Madam Geneva.
Parm / Torrisi
248 / 250 Mulberry St, just south of Prince St. /
Somewhat confusing, these adjacent dining boites offer the same exact menu by day, then Torrisi hosts the ever-popular daily changing tasting menu for dinner (which I might actually finally get to try, now that they are apparently taking reservations), while Parm runs nightly specials. The daytime food is definitely good, from the house brined-and-roasted turkey breast sandwich and chicken parm to the side of spicy rabe. The same team is also behind the wildly popular finer-dining rebirth of Carbone in Soho.
Little Cupcake Bakeshop
30 Prince St, cnr of Mott.
These are easily the best cupcakes in the city - the cake is always light and fluffy, while there is just the right amount of not-too-sweet-and-cloying frosting. There's a huge variety, but my favourite has to be the Brooklyn Blackout - for chocolate lovers, no other chocolate-y cupcake will do! They also have plenty of cookies, cakes and pies too.
Modern Med/Middle Eastern. From the owners of West Village favorite Taim, it’s the same innovative, tasty, fresh, mostly vegetarian Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fare in a spiffy, Market Table-like space (read: simply furnished with enormous windows and a cozy, candlelit vibe by night).
408 Broome Street. 212.219.5050
One of my favorite spots period - it's an adorable Spanish food shop and cafe with a nice selection of tapas and bocadillos for eating in their bright, cozy space. But the best part is their jamon carving class - though pricy (it's $400/head), they teach you how to carve a ham, which you take home, and it also includes a wine and cheese tasting while you carve.
20 Spring St, nr Mott. 212.334.1015
Itailan/Cafe. Ironically, this cafe-cum-bar seems forever packed with model types from the bar staff to the customers (I was actually originally introduced to this place by my guyfriends). It’s a trendy place and a great option anytime of the day, from a panini lunch to a cozy glass of wine in the evening.
242 Mott, nr Prince. 212.334.9552
French/Moroccan. Cult Nolita spot (and a favorite among hipsters, celebrities and people-watchers), it serves great coffee, simple tartines and cooked egg dishes for breakfast and has a couple sidewalk tables. There's a second outpost in the Jane Hotel in the West Village.
Russian/Bar. This subterranean, barrel-vaulted Russian speakeasy is still one of my favourites for cocktails since coming for the first time in 1998. It's supposedly a caviar bar with a proper menu, but the strong cocktails mixed by tenders in labcoats are the main draw. Yet another hit from Keith McNally (Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta, Schiller's, Lucky Strike).
La Esquina Brasserie and Tequila Bar
Latin American. On street level, you're faced with a unremarkable looking taqueria (with pretty decent food) with a huge marquee; make your way through the kitchen and you'll spot the bouncer guarding the secret door to the louche subterranean brasserie and tequila bar underneath. Not a drop-in kind of place unless you're famous, bookings are required.
Pizzeria. Laying claim to America's oldest pizzeria, it originally opened in 1905 at 53 Spring and after a 10-year hiatus between 1984-1994, reopened on its current site at 32 Spring. Owner Gennaro Lombardi has been credited with teaching John Sasso of John's, Lancieri of Patsy's, and Anthony Pero of Totonno's, and some (LIKE ME) consider this to be the best pizza in the city. Known for their clam pie, all the varieties are good, and there's also an open-air patio out the back for larger parties. Sadly, no reservations.
Latin American/Mexican. Modeled after the famous Cuban hangout Cafe Habana in Mexico City, it's the "other" place in the neighborhood that vies for the hipster/celebrity crowd. Good anytime of the day: heuvos rancheros for breakfast, Cuban style roast pork for lunch and then mojitos and pork chuleta with chipotle pepper sauce for dinner. Huge crowds on the weekend, so if you're really craving a Mexican-style corn or Cuban sandwich, go next door to Habana To Go.
On the radar:
Tacombi at Fonda Nolita
267 Elizabeth Street.
Mexican. Funky-looking spot, recreating the look of a famous beachside taqueria in Playa del Carmen, with a very straightforward food and drinks menu. Tacombi = taco + Combi, the iconic VW van.
7 Spring St.
Thai. Husband and Thai wife team, the menu has interesting twists on the familiar, such as glass noodle salad with garlic and soy frogs' legs or seared chicken liver with pineapple curry and roti, as well as charcoal grilled meat and seafood.
198 Mott, between Kenmare and Spring St.
Breads are legendary, as are the made-to-order sandwiches.
Italian. Chef/owner Frank DeCarlo (formerly partners with John LaFemina) goes back to basics with rustic fare cooked on an open-fire, and people love it.