The Z-List

Annisa Squid

Updated: October 2nd, 2019

The motivation behind this post can be found here so I wont go over it again.  Its essentially just another top 50 list, except that its unlike any other.  Only rule as explained in the previous post is $10-100 per.  Meaning nothing that would cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea).  Here we go, in no particular order.  Big Mazal Tov to the winners!


The granddaddy of New York’s haute Israeli/Mediterranean, or “MiddleTerranean” as they coin it.  Located on a lonely corner of Hell’s Kitchen, close enough to the theaters, but far enough from the theaters!  Taboon means oven in Arabic, and that striking Taboon oven is the main greeter on arrival.  A fine Focaccia, Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) just some of the goodies coming out of that magic oven.  Try the specials or classics such as the Heraim, Branzino, or Chicken Taboon with Israeli Couscous.  And if you leave without properly ending with the Silan, you will leave without properly ending.  773 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen) 

Ssam Bar

This one is a no-brainer pick.  “Momofuku cool” was probably invented by someone sitting at one of those communal tables next to a tower of napkins.  Perfect place for first and last date, since on both the goal is to see the other side sweat.  A playful, brilliant, meat and veg heavy menu that features seasonal veggies to go along with classics like the pork buns, country hams, and one of my personal New York faves, rice cakes with spicy pork sausage ragu, broccoli, and Sichuan peppercorn.  You can wait for your table at fuku owned Booker and Dax next door, and have dessert across at the Milk Bar in this all Momofuku corner of East Village.  207 2nd Ave (East Village)

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken


I imagine the Italian Tennessee Williams who is a big foodie, saying something along the lines of:  There’s Parma, Bologna, and Rome.  Everything else is Cleveland.  Often overlooked however is the culinary paradise between the first two, Modena, the main inspiration for Rezdora (Meaning female head of household, not Grandma as other publications say).  While many restaurants in NYC claim to do Emilia Romagna cooking, none are as daring, and authentic as Rezdora.  Try the Tagliolini al Ragu, and pretty much anything on the menu.  27 E 20th St (Flatiron)


Where to go for Steak?  A common question on Trip Advisor.  Cote is the unconventional sexy pick these days.  Its one of those enthusiastic recommendations but not quite a concept I frequent.  A “Korean Steakhouse” which is essentially an elevated Korean BBQ managed by Michelin crowned people.  Here you want to get the Butcher’s Feast, right after you take selfies with the red light district of meats downstairs.  16 W 22nd St (Flatiron)

Pinch Chinese

Take a break from Armani Exchanging in Soho and relax in this quirky elevated Chinese. Its an offshoot from Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese Dumplings chain.  The Dumplings reign supreme alright but dont miss out on the ribs, Dan Dan Noodles and the sensational “Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant”.  Not to mention the great lunch specials (that sweet cauliflower!)   A serious looking crew behind the glass (like watching surgeons doing brain surgery) is balanced by jokes all over the place.  From the bathroom where uncle is watching to make sure Employees wash their hands, to the menu where you may find Yelp quotes as item descriptions.  177 Prince st (Soho)

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant


Hail to the pig.  I’m discovering more and more Roman eats and dishes all over town these days.  But when its time to recommend just one, Maialino, the always buzzy trattoria inside the Gramercy hotel, is still the safest.  The menu constantly changes, but classics like the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe are constant and as good as anything you will find this side of Trastevere.  Thats partly because chef Nick Anderer spent a significant amount of time in Rome learning the craft with the best of them.  The table is still a relatively hard get after all these years, and its also popular for breakfast, lunch and brunch.  This Piggy (Maialino means Pig) got your entire day covered.  2 Lexington Ave (Gramercy)

American Cut

Picking a good steakhouse in NYC can be as difficult as picking our next president.  This is always one of the most common questions asked on Trip Advisor forum (somewhere between “How much should we tip” and “How illegal are the illegal apartments in NYC anyway”).  Since so many of the steakhouses are essentially doing the same thing while sourcing their meat from the same places, I lean toward the establishments that do things a little different.  What I love about AC is not just the freakishly outstanding cuts like the bone-in dry aged, Pastrami spiced Rib Eye, but the rest of the menu.  Not only you get fantastic appetizers, but they also feature some of the most brilliant sides in the business like the Brussel Sprouts infused with spicy Bang Bang sauce from half sister Khe-Yo.  363 Greenwich St (Tribeca), 109 E 56th St (Midtown East)

Tone Cafe

This Brighton Beach inclusion may surprise some, but I frequent it too much not to include it.  Its the sum of all parts in this case.  A bakery producing incredible, crispy Georgian bread, and a delicious array of Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread).  A place where I occasionally stop by for my favorite soup to go (the best Kharcho in Brighton Beach – yes, I tried many).  And most of all, this is a very solid Georgian restaurant helmed by a talented chef, and the best place to try the Adjaruli Khachapuri (below).  While in Manhattan, this is a hip, ultra instagrammable dish, in this part of Brooklyn, its called Wednesday.  265 Neptune Ave, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

tone cafe - ajaruli khachapuri

The Marshal

In a sea of Thai, Ramen, Mexican and Tarot card readers in Hell’s Kitchen, the most refreshing opening the past few years has been one offering exceptional good ol’ American cooking.  I don’t agree with the “New American” tagline (I’m looking at you Zagat), unless “New” stands for Farm to Table.  Relationships with over a dozen farms and skilled cooking allows The Marshal to offer solid Meatloaf, roasted Chicken, Mussels (some of the best we’ve had in NYC) and much more.  The menu also features a a huge array of seasonal sides, and some of the best bread and butter in the business.  Its a small neighborhood place, so make sure to reserve.  628 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen)


Cedric Vongerichten (the son of Jean-Georges) latest in food heaven NoLita is a Tour de Force.  Aided by his Indonesian wife Ochi, Wayan dishes out all sorts of refreshing bold flavors.  The menu features Indonesian inspired recipes utilizing French techniques.  Try the Satays, Sashimi, Clams, Yellow Chicken, and do not leave without slurping on those sick Lobster Noodles.  One of the most exciting new openings of 2019. 20 Spring St (NoLita)  

Kashkar Cafe

This is where you get your Uyghur fix!  A gem like no other on this list, but you will need to schlep there.  Kashkar is located in Brighton Beach, a predominately Russian neighborhood except that its becoming less and less Russian and more Uzbek, Georgian, Kazakh.  And its reflected by the dining options all over.  Uyghur is an Ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia including Uzbekistan where Kashkar’s cooks/owners are from, and as far as I know Kashkar is one of the first if not the first Uyghur restaurant in NY.  One of the specialties here is the chewy hand pulled Lagman noodles that you can have as soup or dry with meat and veggie stews (try the Geiro).  The Kebabs are always good, and if you like your plov toasty (like socarrat), try it here.  Then try to figure out how to pronounce Uyghur.  Part of the fun!  1141 Brighton Beach Ave (Brooklyn)Kashkar lagman

Pig and Khao

More like Pig and Wow, what took me so long.  “Top Chef” Leah Cohen continues to dazzle with brilliant Southeast Asian creations, adding dishes seemingly by the day.  Classics like the Sissling Sisig (third generation Sisig with pork head and egg), and Khao Soi are there to stay.  But on a recent visit, its the newer stuff like a spicy Thai mushroom salad, Malaysian fried chicken, and corn that left me speechless.  Because I was eating non stop.  But what I like about this place is that after all those years, Mrs Cohen is still there taking care of business, instead of taking care of 5 businesses as so many celebrity chefs do.  68 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Somtum Der

Isan by way of Bangkok.  New York has seen a Northern Thai renaissance of sorts the last few years led by this freshly Michelined Somtum Der.  Quite possibly the strangest Michelin Star in history once you consider Somtum’s casualness and low prices (Bib Gourmand is more like it).  But the place does rock with its bold, unbashful flavors.  Dishes like the fried chicken, marinaded grilled pork, and just about the entire fried rice lineup will make you happy (and sweat).  But the namesake Somtum, spicy Papaya salad is unmatched in NYC, and not for the faint of heart.  Colorful, sexy place for colorful sexy readers.  85 Avenue A (East Village)Somtum Der - Goi Hed

Osteria Morini

Michael White’s Osteria Morini would probably make my top 10 list.  Sure Mrs Ziggy would tell you that its loud, the tables are too close, and the seats sometimes make her look short.  And to that I’d say, let Mrs Z start her own blog, and she is in fact short.  But she forgets all about it once we get the food, not to mention that most of the places on this list suffer the same fate on the noise and comfort level. Out of all the Italians on the list, I actually find Emilia Romagna-esque Morini the most well rounded.  Some of the best Salumi in town.  Great Antipasti led by the squid (the breaded version is now an occasional special), and the meatballs.  A fine 60 day aged rib eye.  And the always dependable pastas like the Stracci with braised mushrooms and the Tagliatelle with ragu (the closest we’ve had to the real thing in Bologna).  218 Lafayette St (SoHo)

Cull & Pistol

I put on my helmet and designer protective cup and brave the crowds to eat in this Chelsea Market boat to table.  The seafood menu constantly changes.  But the high level cooking and freshness is constant, partly due to the seafood short commute, sister Lobster Place next door.  Try the lobster roll (done with a lot more love than next door).  Spanish or Portuguese octopus however they make it that day.  Whole Dourade is fried to Thai style perfection.  And if they have it, you must try the insanely good Ecuadorian prawns.  The oyster bar, and its happy hour is another draw.  Chelsea Market (Chelsea)

Cull & Pistol Lobster


Scampi is the Bomba!  Bomba is the simple Calabrian Chili paste that transforms every dish at Scampi including the namesake.  Its PJ Calapa’s first solo after making a name for himself with Bouley, Nobu, and Michael White’s AltaMarea group.  The dish to get is so good, they name the restaurant after it.  The simple but potent Mafaldini Scampi.  But its important to not overlook the Razor Clams, Langoustines, and the rest of the pastas.  30 W 18th St (Flatiron)

Ivan Ramen

I’m no longer in speaking terms with them after Ivan inexplicably removed my Whitefish (turned Salmon) Donburi from both LES and Slurp Shop locations.  “Hi”, “Bye”, thats  it.  And contrary to the name and the Tokyo fame, I dont even go here for the Ramen.  So while I would still urge you to try the cleaner, purer ramen, at the flagship LES, I would also go for the creative goodies on the menu like the pickled daikon, meatballs, and triple pork triple garlic Mazeman.  Ivan, an import from Tokyo by way of Long Island, got something special in the LES and Hell’s Kitchen (Gotham West Market).  25 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Gloria (closed)

A solely Pescatarian neighborhood joint and the most refreshing opening in Hell’s Kitchen since Gotham West Market and the Marshal.  The historically dreadful spot on the corner of 9th an 53rd contributed to the freshness.  The days of walking by fast so the dude from the previous Indian incarnation wont see me are long gone.  Its run by Contra and Le Bernardin alums but feels more like a baby Bernardin.  Try the Octopus, Tartare, crab, and the glorious Skate Wing.  401 W 53rd St (Hell’s Kitchen)

Gloria Shrimp

Bar Pitti 

I pity the fool that overlooks this Italian West Village gem.  A sprawling sidewalk is prime real estate in the warmer months, with great food throughout the year.  Forget the menu, and order like a regular from the specials board.  You may see the Pappardelle with rabbit or wild boar ragu, or pasta with summer black Truffles.  On a recent visit I had a fine Tortellini al Sugo that rivaled one I’ve had in Florence.  If you must order from the menu, make it the Burrata.  The very Italian staff may disappoint those looking for an all American service.  But you know who doesnt care about that?  Celebrities, who flock the place like there’s no tomorrow.  268 6th Ave (West Village)

Ugly Baby

The best name in NYC serves some of the spiciest dishes out there.  The name serves as an anti-jinx agent – babies are commonly called ugly in Thailand so not to attract ugly spirits.  Too late for me.  Its BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty due to its uninterrupted, merciless, delicious heat.  The Khao Soi is legendary and got quite the following (owner owned a restaurant called Khao Soi prior), but today people also flock for the Duck Laab, Skewers and a lot more.  407 Smith St (Brooklyn)

Ducks Eatery

How ‘about some proper American food for a change in this ocean of world cuisine.  What happens when you combine unconventional NOLA with unconventional BBQ?  An ugly duckling serving killer ribs, rice and beans, chicken wings, and one sick smoked goat neck.  Or head one block over to baby sister Harry & Ida’s for a pastrami sandwich that will rock your socks off.  Or do as I did one day.  Do both!  Ducks – 351 E 12th St.  H&D – 189 Avenue A (East Village) 

Ducks Eatery - WingsSantina

Reason #243 that there’s no such thing as Italian food.  Its impossible to classify, and Italians will be the first to tell you that it really doesnt exists.  But we have to refer to them somehow.  Coastal Italian is the best way to classify Santina whose menu primarily centers around fish and veggies.  Try the Cecina, a crepe made from chickpea flour, popular along the Ligurian Sea coast.  You choose the “topping” like tuna or lamb tartar, and you are free to abuse it any way you like (I try to make an airplane, then form wraps).  The Squash Carpaccio is Killa!  One of my favorite veggie dishes in the city.  Next door to the new Whitney, under the south end of the High Line, one might think “Tourist Trap”.  Not this one.  820 Washington St (West Village)

Uncle Boons

With a name like that, how can it not be good.  Have you heard of a place that starts with Uncle or Mamma that sucks?  I didnt think so.  Uncle Boons has the most picturesque website, but not the most picturesque rooms.  At least not comfortable and cozy looking.  But the same can be said about Pure Thai Cookhouse and many of the city’s premier Thai.  The dingiest the look, the better the food.  Other than the desserts, I like just about everything on the menu.  Try the Rotisserie Half Chicken, frog legs, beef ribs, seafood in broth and call me in the morning.  Reservations can be tough, so put your name down and take a walk in Little Italy.  Count how many Ciaos you hear from the fake Italians trying to lure you in.  7 Spring St (Nolita)

Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”

While so many Italian establishments bill themselves as “Tuscan”, “Roman”, “Venetian”, and eventually get sucked into a multitude of multi-regional offerings, Pistoia only knows what to do one thing; Pistoian food!  The family owns a restaurant in Pistoia, near Florence, Tuscany, and for the most part replicating some of the same Tuscan specialties in Alphabet City.  Good luck finding Picci and Pappa Col Pomodoro (A Tuscan classic of stale bread in tomato soup) on the same menu anywhere in NYC.  From the staff, to the menu, and wine, its as authentic as it gets in NYC.  The youngsters of East Village have little clue on how lucky they are.  647 E 11th St (East Village)Fiaschetteria Pistoia prosciutto

San Rasa / Lakruwana / New Asha / Randiwa

Sri Lankan on the island of Staten is one reason to stick around after taking the ferry (99% of the tourists dont).  Maybe its the only reason.  Sure Staten Island boasts some great pizza and the famous nonnas of Enoteca Maria.  But if there’s one area that it got unquestionably covered is Sri Lankan, thanks to its large Sri Lankan community.  Influences from India and colonial powers like the dutch helped generate something of a cross between Indian and Thai.  Quite a delicious cross.  These day we are partial to Randiwa for dinner and New Asha for lunch.  But you cant go wrong with any of them

The NoMad Bar

One can argue that this is really the true gem of the NoMad hotel.  Other than the location, and the name, the two NoMads dont really have that much in common.  This bar has a lot of things going for it, starting with its striking modern, classic NY look and feel.  The mixology is some of the most creative you will find in NYC (try the Start Me Up).  But to me its all about the food that redefines bar cuisine entirely.  The burger is perfection, one of the best in NYC.  Carrot tartare, Bay Scallops and quite possibly the best Chicken Pot Pie you will ever eat are some of the other highlights.  No reservations.  During the week it can get Meshugenah, but not so much on weekends in this rare case.  1170 Broadway, entrance on 28th (Nomad)

NoMad Bar Carrot Tartar


Soulayphet (Phet) Schwader and Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo is the place you bring a spice loving foodie on a first date.  Chances are you’ll get lucky that night with an assortment of Laos inspired bold flavors in a buzzy, sexy atmosphere.  They start you off here with a bang.. bang bang sauce, a fiery concoction of lime, chili, and fish sauce.  Along with the complimentary sticky rice it sets the tone for a spice extravaganza.  The complex Jurgielewicz Duck Salad, the quail of dreams, the crunchy coconut rice balls, like a Havah Nagila in your mouth.  And if they happen to have the half sister American Cut inspired Pastrami spiced Rib eye that night, might as well buy a lotto ticket.  157 Duane St (Tribeca)


Last year I didnt add this eclectic Austrian to the list partly due to the location.  But now I realize that its the location that makes it so good.  You can pretty much draw a line separating Brooklyn’s gentrified with the not so gentrified half and you’ll find Werkstatt positioned right in the middle.  You can couple it with a visit to Historic Prospect South, Prospect Park, or Brooklyn Museum.  Some flock for the Schnitzel, Goulash, and “Best Pretzel in NYC”, but these days I go for the numerous fish specials like Skate wing.  Its a severely underrated neighborhood joint that should be the envy of every neighborhood.  509 Coney Island Ave (Brooklyn)Werkstatt Pretzel

Hunan Slurp

Our most important Chinatown doesnt look and feel like a Chinatown.  East Village, one of the last neighborhoods in Manhattan where mom, pops, and even accountants can open shop, is home to some of our Chinese elite.  And Hunan Slurp opened by an artist turned restaurateur (interior clearly shows) is leading the charge.  While they are known for their rice noodle dishes (the slurping sounds you’ll hear), come for just about everything else.  Possibly one of the best whole fish dishes on the island.  Inventive stuff like the Hunan Salad.  And classics done right like the stir fried Cabbage, and the signature Hometown Lu fen.  112 1st Avenue (East Village)  


Bushwick is the Big Bang Theory of NYC neighborhoods.  I rarely make the effort to visit, but when I finally, do I wonder why.  There is all sorts of interesting dining in Robertaville these days, and Faro with its well deserved Michelin may be leading the pack.  I’ve only been once as of this writing, but I have full confidence in this ingredient driven, seasonal farm to table Italian in a Bushwicky industrial space.  The pastas especially are standouts.  436 Jefferson St (Brooklyn)

Jun-Men Ramen

One of my newer faves, little Jun-Men is quietly doing all sorts of wonderful things in Chelsea.  Every time I eat here, I discover something new.  Last time I discovered my Achilles Tendon (as it started to bother me), followed by some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in recent memory (two weeks these days give or take).  Before that it was the fried rice, and before that the mesmerizing uni mushroom mazeman.  And the ramen here, not too shabby.  I’m partial to the Kimchi Ramen with bits of juicy Pork Shoulder.   From the outside the place looks like a nail saloon, but from the inside it looks like a modern nail saloon with an open kitchen.  Anyone knows a good Podiatrist?  249 Ninth Ave (Chelsea)

Jun-Men Ramen UniBowery Meat Company

Every time I sneeze, I get hiccups, and a new steakhouse is born in NYC.  The competition is quite fierce these days, and so you need to do something unique to stand out, like this modern steakhouse in the Bowery.  It got a little bit of NOLA in it (broiled oysters), a little bit of Italian in it (sick Duck Lasagna for “2”), a little bit of burger in it (fan-freakin-stastic cheeseburger), and a lot of great steak.  Try the Bowery Steak, a ribeye cap rolled into a hockey puck shape.  Arguably the best part of any animal, and something you wont find in any steakhouse.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Justin Bieber9 E 1st St (East Village)


This is quite possibly the best Momofuku today not named Ko, headed by ex Ko virtuoso Josh Pinsky.  There’s all sorts of nonsense out there about Nishi being uncomfortable, marred by identity issues, and owned by an owner everyone loves to hate.  But at the end of the day, David Chang is just a boy, standing in front of a city, hungry for deliciousness, which he delivers time and time again.  This is essentially a mini Ko, with some dishes resembling their smaller counterparts like the Bay Scallops or the roast pork.  Other dishes like the Butter Noodles (FKA Ceci e Pepe) and the outrageous Clams Grand Lisboa show the same whimsical mastery as in Ko.  232 Eighth Avenue (Chelsea)

Nishi Beef Carpaccio


This is the Bar Pitti of Midtown, but different in some ways.  A small Trattoria hidden somewhat on 39th off 9th, popular by locals and tourists alike, but especially popular by Italians.  I frequent this place often, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t hear patrons speaking Italian.  Unlike many of its competitors nearby, it feels like home, a sense of belonging.  Mercato is one of the few in the city that specializes in dishes from Italy’s southern regions and Sardinia, like the Malloreddus, Sardinian Cavatelli.  Other dishes like the Trenette al Pesto, the fresh Spaghetti, Gnocchi with the meaty ragu, and the daily specials like the other Cavatelli will keep you asking for more.  I do, all the time, but they dont understand me!  352 W 39th St (Hell’s Kitchen)


Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) homey Filipino BBQ on picturesque Smith st.  They dont make ’em like this anymore.  Underappreciated places like this exists in NYC no doubt (perhaps in Queens), but I just dont know any.  Not the glitziest decor around, with much of the focus on what goes on your plate.  The Chicken Adobo is getting better with age (well it is an overnight chicken after all), and the Fish Inihaw is soundly in the must category for us each time.  And those wings and that sauce belong in a competition somewhere.  271 Smith St (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)


Like Bruno Pizza, Marta is not your uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria.  This is more like cousin Nick, as in Maialino’s Nick Anderer.  There has been a wave of fancy pizzas opening in NYC in the last few years but none I feel are quite like Marta at the Martha Washington hotel.  As with Bruno, you can have a fine meal here without even touching the pies (I’m looking at you rabbit meatballs, and then I slaughter you, chicken).  But skipping the cracker like Roman pies would be a monumental mistake.  I sat there when they first opened and watched Nick throw out pie after pie until they got it right, and that Patate Carbonara is one of the glorious products of that hard work.  29 East 29th Street (Flatiron)Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Jeju Noodle Bar

With this latest Korean inclusion, I’m risking having too much Korean on the list.  This may be a reflection on my taste or the current state of NYC dining, but at the same time, they all so very different.  Jeju is stylish, fun and now that they dont take reservations, more accessible.  While the kitchen specializes in Ramyun, the Korean Ramen, its best to order it as part of the Tasting Menu, one of the better values in town.  679 Greenwich St (West Village)

Hometown BBQ

There was a time when finding good BBQ in the city was as difficult as watching a constipated baby.  Those days are officially gone.  Those that still say that need to come out of the their shell, and go straight to Red Hook.  It took me a while to warm up to Hometown, but now I cant get enough of it.  Hometown’s quick and growing fame reached a point of a major destination stop and ‘Franklin-esque’ weekend lines.  The spare ribs, and the legendary brisket are unmatched.  But what sets Hometown apart is the craftiness and execution of the normally secondary items like the super moist chicken, and the addictive Italian sausage.  454 Van Brunt St (Red Hook, Brooklyn)

Hometown BBQ Chicken


Now THIS is a PIZZERIA!  Unlike places like Bruno Pizza and Marta, Capizzi is all about the simple, no fuss, individual pies.  Raw material is top priority here making every ingredient count.  Consider the pepperoni that will make you go “Feh” at every subsequent pepperoni elsewhere.  Its sliced nice and thick, with some kick to it.  Same attention to detail with the rest of the ingredients.  But what I like most about Capizzi, is the space.  Unlike the more famous competitors in the area like Don Antonio and John’s, this has all the making of an old fashioned Staten Island style pizza parlor.  And speaking of SI, there’s now a new bigger Capizzi sister in SI on Hylan blvd.  547 Ninth ave, Hell’s Kitchen

Minetta Tavern

Out of all the city’s old-timers, this is perhaps the most distinct.  Minetta doesn’t look like much from the outside on busy Mcdougal, but once you get through those red curtains, its like stepping back in time.  There aren’t many restaurants out there that are consistently mentioned in various “Best” lists.  The Black Label burger set the trend for fancy aged beef burgers, and the Cote de Boeuf is still one of the most sought-after meats out there.  Even if you skip all that and have other  menu classics like the Pasta Zaza or the Oxtail terrine, chances are high for a fine meal.  113 Macdougal St (West Village)


It took me 4 weeks to train my Google to stop showing me results for Ilili (Gourmet Lebanese) whenever I searched for Lilia.  Bad Google, Bad!  But once everything sorted out, it was all systems go.  Lilia is across the pond (not that one, another pond) in Williamsburg’s former auto shop district so a lot more local than tourist.  Missy Robbins, Barack Obama’s favorite chef in Chicago (when he was a senator) dishes out freakishly good pastas like the Cacio e Perect Malfadini and Agnolotti.  The vegetables all over the app section featuring the best of Union Square Market.  Great simple meat dishes, and all sorts of “Little Fish” and “Big Fish” hugging the menu.  She must be a PJ Harvey fan.  Or Dr. Seuss?.  567 Union Ave (Williamsburg)

Lilia Agnolotti

Tia Pol

West Chelsea is known for some of the city’s best Spanish Tapas joints.  And Tia Pol, one of the originals, is leading the pack.  You can probably play Six Degrees of Tia Pol, with the number of related Tapas spots in the area and all over town.  This is the perfect spot to bring your Mother in Law as its dark and noisy.  Especially if you MIL is into squid ink rice, best I’ve had in this city.  Octopus salad, Patata Bravas, shrimp with garlic are all dependable, and so are the Bocadillos (sandwiches) for lunch.  This is as fun as it can get in Little Barcelona (it will catch on).  205 10th Ave (Chelsea)  


When life gives you chicken, you make Korean Chicken Wings.  This fun Hell’s Kitchen Korean is popular with Broadway show goers, tourists, and locals alike.  Once you find the menu (hint:  its in the drawer on your lap), go with the classics like the sliders, tofu, and the wings.  And then cautiously proceed to the Bibim-bap, fried rice with egg, and whatever else chef Kim got in store that day.  I like to bring out of town visitors here, vegetarians, and also out of town vegetarians.  Always a good time at Danji.  346 W 52nd (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Cookhouse

I almost did, but can’s leave out my most frequented.  A super casual deep hole in the wall on “Little Bangkok” 9th ave.  If you blink you may miss it.  I used to go here when they were called Pure Thai Shophouse until two lawyers from Chipotle showed up demanding a name change (long story).  There is no curry of any color on this menu, but a nice selection of regional specialties like the Ratchaburi with pork, crab and dry handmade noodles made in the “shophouse” like corner inside.  The ribs are usually a hit.  Papaya salad, jungle curry fried rice, and the always reliable fiery pork with curry paste.  And as with any place, if there’s one dessert on the menu, get it.  Coconut sticky rice with pumpkin custard, like the gift that keeps on giving   766 9th Avenue (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Via Carota

A turbulent start is turning into a very smooth ride.  This is quickly becoming a local West Village institution and one of my favorite Italian in town.  No reservations is fine with me, being early lunch as my normal go to.  The same menu for lunch and dinner is greatly appreciated (and somewhat rare), and the many daily specials keeps the juices flowing even more.  Although many of staples like the Cacio e pepe, chicken, and the sick Funghi with smoked Scamorza makes ordering specials here virtually impossible.  51 Grove St (West Village)


Needless to say I’m a fan of everything Momofuku, with three Momofukus on the list as of this writing (Oct 2019).  It fits my taste buds like that favorite pair of shoes that you cant wear every day, and get really excited when you do.  Kawi, arguably the best thing to eat at Hudson Yards is one of Chang’s most ambitious project.  Executive Chef Eunjo Park designed a playful but smart menu that quickly established itself as one of the city’s best.  Only problem is that its inside a mall.  Get the Cod, Wings, Ribs, and most importantly Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes.  20 Hudson Yards

2nd Ave Deli

What happens when you flood this page with Jews doing Asian food (Ivan, pig and Khao…) but no Jews doing Jewish food? You get Jewish guilt the size of a New York Matzoh ball.  While tourists flock from midtown to downtown (Katz’s) for that elusive pastrami, we sneak into midtown for the same quality in a much more relaxing setting.  Abe Lebewohl’s legacy lives on!  162 E 33rd St (Murray Hill)

2nd ave Deli Pastrami


This ingredient focused, Italian influenced ole’ timer continues to impress.  Marco Canora seems to have found the right formula, creating a menu that is essentially for everyone… Meat freaks, health conscious, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, accountants, every one really.  Some of the old classics like the Rigatoni and Gnocchi, and the impressive Spatchcock chicken are joined by new classics like Cecina and Rabbit.  And that wine bible is still perhaps the NYC wine list to beat  403 E 12th St (East Village)

Chote Nawab

Confession time.  I’m a little less enthusiastic about this Curry Hill pick since the ownership change.  The menu is the same though spice levels took a hit it feels, and in some case missing all-together, hence off the menu.  Like the Kori Gassi my favorite curry dish here is not available at the moment due to issues with getting the proper spices from India.  But there is still plenty to love here like the Bindi, Biryani (get the shrimp), and Chettinad.  While they no longer contain the old heat levels, the flavors are still there.  And the lunch specials are still hard to beat.  115 Lexington Ave (Kips Bay)

19 Cleveland

My guess is that the Israeli team that named this gem in Sabra Village are not fans of Tennessee Williams who once famously said:  America has only three great cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.  Or maybe that was the aim since the result is not the best Israeli food in the city, but something that is very good at what they trying to do.  A casual, fun establishment that serves some of the best hummus and Falafel in town.  After all, there guys already proved it over and over again at my favorite Falafeleria in town, Nish Nush.  19 Cleveland Pl (NoLita)

19 Cleveland - Hummus

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “The Z-List

  1. Kt

    “Its another one of those date spots that attracts sexy professionals, so you can just imagine why I feel so comfortable here.”

    Lol Ziggy, you crack me up. This is a fantastic list, thank you so much for all the meals you had to endure so we could benefit. Although damn you for makingme drool so excessively as I read it.

  2. WeQueen

    Re Babbo: “the other guy….. Joe Bastianich, Lidia’s boy??

  3. Love, love, love, love this!!!

    You are just too good Ziggy – big thanks!

    Happy holidays to you and your family. 🙂

  4. I really hate finding online food resources like this only after having finished visiting a destination. Will start planning our next trip to NYC and will make use of this extraordinary guide. Many thanks to the author. This is quite a special food report.

  5. Erica

    Thanks Ziggy-bookmarking all on Google Maps. Don’t know when my next New York trip will be, but at least Im armed with good advice!

  6. Hi Ziggy,
    Just to say Sue gave me at heads up for your blog and it’s so helpful. WE took you at your word and headed out to check out San Rasa in Staten island. We loved our lunch, thanks for an excellent recommendation and as you said i reason to get off the ferry in Staten Island, though we did walk through an historic district with some older homes too!

    • The crazy thing is that I read your comment while we were having dinner at San Rasa. So glad you enjoyed. Thanks for writing

  7. Ttrockwood

    This is a such a great resource!!
    It’s only thanks to you that I have been able to find new favorites near the wasteland of the garment district where (unfortunately) i have worked for many years. The Marshal and Mercato have quickly become favorites thanks to you :)) and in turn I’ve recommended them to friends, coworkers, and anyone else- not easy to find charming independently owned reasonably priced yummy places in that area.

  8. Appreciating the hard work you put into your site and detailed information you present.

    It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that
    isn’t the same outdated rehashed material. Great read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  9. Pingback: Highlights of my Last Trip to New-York City: Exploring More of the NYC Local Life – COOKING TRIPS

  10. Tanya

    How come The NoMad and all the Chang places are out?

    • Ttrockwood

      Ssam bar and nishi are listed, both are chang places. Nomad bar is listed as well

      • Tanya

        Yes, I read the post too fast, ttrockwood. Not ALL the Chang places are out. But I’m wondering why Ma Peche and Fuku+ have been removed. The NoMad Bar is still listed, but not the Restaurant anymore.

    • Ok, lets come down everybody and not panic ;). I had Ma Peche and Fuku+ listed as one place before (they are in the same space) which I replaced with the much better Nishi. I will explain all the reasoning tomorrow.

  11. Ttrockwood

    Biang is turning into one of my go to spots in the e village- I discovered the spinach dumplings and can’t not order them now. Too bad it’s so budget friendly that the college kids in the area flock to it as well, my last visit it was crazy loud.
    Years ago i was at tia pol at least once a month- el quinto pino fills that spot now but I’m long overdue to revisit the OG

  12. Angie

    Thanks for the great list!! How does one decide as a newcomer to NYC for a anniversary dinner!

    • JennyR261

      Go to Nishi, no Taboon, no Minetta Tavern, no Rubirosa ..but really it depends on what ambience and cuisine you like, and your budget…yeah yeah, I know this list has a budget range…..

  13. thewizardofroz

    The NoMad Bar is no longer serving the chicken pot pie. However, a version sans the foie gras and truffles is now on the menu at Made Nice (the company’s fast casual spot). Even without the high end ingredients, it’s seriously delicious.


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