Where to Eat in New York City: Dinner

Rob and I were in New York for a week and our goal was to try something new for every meal. The one exception to this rule was my must-never-ever-miss Levain Bakery. As a cookie snob, I must tell you that the box of Levain goodness I cradled on the plane was more exciting than owning two one unicorns. Though I still like Levain, Two Little Red Hens has won my heart by a mile.

Below are the restaurants I recommend for dinner in order of excellence. There are an overwhelming number of places to eat in New York City so this is just we tried. I'm also including one disappointing meal at the bottom since it's a well-known spot.

The Spotted Pig / West Village

Hands down the best dinner we had in New York.


The burger seems pretty stripped down on paper, that is until you see, smell, and taste Chef April Bloomfield's delicious work. Recreating The Spotted Pig's burger is on my wishlist and Serious Eats has a great article on the subject here.

Now for the gnudi with basil pesto. Ridiculous. If gnocchi and a pillow had a baby it would be this dish. Gnudi means "nude", so these morsels are basically the filling of stuffed pasta without the pasta wrapper. Here's a helpful Chowhound thread on the topic if you're like me and had not heard of this food before.

Looking at the screen right now makes me want to swim in the brown butter and cuddle with those little dumplings. A recipe for Chef April Bloomfield's gnudi can be found here.

Reservation Tip

The Spotted Pig doesn't take reservations but they do have a dinner list that opens at 5pm - you have to sign up in person. I stopped by around 5:15pm and put my name down for 7:30pm. When Rob and I arrived later that night there was a table waiting so the system seems to work pretty well. I highly recommend going out of your way to put your name on the list as The Spotted Pig is popular and the wait can be up to 2 hours.

ABC Kitchen / Gramercy Park

ABC Kitchen was probably the trendiest restaurant we ate at. The decor is a hip mix of modern and rustic, with mismatched china patterns on the table to complement the cool black and white glass prints on the wall. ABC Kitchen prides itself on farm-to-table dishes and a display in the dining room features some of the day's local fare. It's a nice touch.

The service and meal both lived up to reviews. My one complaint is that during the peak dining hours I felt like the teacher from Charlie Brown while trying to have a conversation. The volume settled down after a while but sign language skills are a plus.


Rob's roasted suckling pig with smoked bacon marmalade was outstanding. Anything that combines sweet, savory, and bacon makes me food drunk. I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't order the same thing. Though my mushroom and egg pizza was delicious, I have my eye on the pork for our next visit. The small plates change seasonally and everything we tried was very good.

Reservation Tip

Definitely make a reservation. ABC Kitchen is on practically every "where to eat in New York" list so it's always crowded.

John's of Bleecker / West Village

Full disclosure is that John's of Bleecker was playing killer 80s music so I can't be sure that The Talking Heads didn't sway my feelings about the pizza. 80s forever.

We stopped into John's before seeing Natalia Clavier sing at Joe' Pub (great venue). John's is a popular coal-fired pizza spot that has excellent pie and a casual vibe. I was under the impression that coal-fired ovens were no longer legal (and had to be grandfathered in), but that's a myth. Scott over at Serious Eats gives a nice history of the coal-fired oven in this article.


Pizza is the star of the show so we didn't try anything else on the menu. Our pie of choice included an assortment of mushrooms, sausage, peppers, and pepperoni on each half. A whole lotta yum. The house red wine (served in a carafe) is a little warm during the summer months but perfectly drinkable.

Reservation Tip

John's of Bleecker doesn't take reservations. Generally speaking, as long as Rob and I got to a restaurant before 7pm we rarely had to wait very long if at all. New Yorkers seem to start their evening later than us Cali types. That being said, about 20 minutes after we sat down there was a long line outside so maybe we got lucky.

The Redhead / East Village

Rob and I saw The Redhead on Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives (this restaurant is none of the three), and then read that it serves some of the best fried chicken in New York City. They had us at "best fried". The service was very good and the restaurant has a relaxed and intimate feel. Definitely a local's spot.


The fried chicken was delicious as was the blueberry shortcake/biscuit dessert. Our minds weren't blown by the meal, but the overall experience was really enjoyable. If we lived in New York The Redhead would be on our list.

Reservation Tip

The Redhead doesn't take reservations and is relatively small. We slotted them in on a Tuesday to avoid the crowds, and even with that (and arriving early-ish) we barely snagged the last table. Expect some sort of wait.

Keste Pizza & Vino / West Village

We ate late one night and were craving pizza (again) so we headed back down to the West Village. Keste is "fancier" than John's of Bleecker while still being casual - a good date restaurant.


Excellent service and pie. We tried the Salciccia Rosse and Pizza del Re and enjoyed them both. The tiramisu was also pretty rockin'.

Reservation Tip

I don't believe Keste takes reservations. We went relatively late and had no trouble getting a table, but given the location I would assume this place fills up quickly during normal dining hours.

And then there was ...


Oh, Babbo.

Rob and I are crazy for Babbo's Los Angeles half-sister, Mozza, so we had high hopes and saved this meal for last. sigh

The restaurant is lovely and the service was excellent. That being said, this was the least enjoyable food we had while in New York. Preparation (watery polenta, anyone?), flavor, and presentation were way off the mark. Neither of us liked a single dish so we passed on the dessert menu and went to a cupcake shop up the street. In our family, passing on a dessert menu is like saying "no" to a Levain Bakery cookie. I'd like to assume Babbo is going through a phase, maybe a new chef? Given its current state, I would suggest saving your money.

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