Best birthday restaurants
Celebrate with great drinks and the best food on communal tables.
Tue Feb 9 2010
Grass-fed burger with assorted sides at Back Forty
Pork and preserved-egg congee at Congee Village
A mixed tray of ribs chicken, game hen and sausage at Hill Country
Grilled octopus with romesco and green-bean salad at Locanda Verde
Fried calamari with marinara sauce at the Smith
Grass-fed burger with assorted sides at Back Forty
Chef-restaurateur Peter Hoffman (Savoy) is behind this seasonal-eats tavern, where farmhouse chic prevails in the dining room (vintage tools adorn the walls) and on the menu. Gastropub fare-like the pleasantly gamey grass-fed hamburger or pork jowl nuggets, frozen in a crisp jacket of batter-is uniformlysolid. Desserts uphold the pub end of things: Conclude with a creamy stout float. 190 Ave B between 11th and 12th Sts (212-388-1990, backfortynyc.com). Average main course: $16.
There is comfort (and folk-medicinal healing properties) in congee, the Cantonese rice porridge that is the focus at this multilevel, always-packed LES standby. Choose among 29 versions-like the sliced pork with preserved egg, or chicken with black mushrooms, cooked over a low fire until bubbling. The rest of the expansive menu yields such finds as tender razor clams in black-bean sauce and impeccably fresh crabs. 100 Allen St between Broome and Delancey Sts (212-941-1818, congeevillagerestaurants). Average main course: $12.
The name of this glutton-friendly smokehouse from Joe and Kim Carroll (Spuyten Duyvil) translates to “fat pig” in German. Hog-happy highlights include a deli-style 'cue station featuring glistening cuts of beef and pork by the pound. Stick to staples like smoky espresso-and-brown-sugar-rubbed ribs, and the less-than-orthodox pastrami. The sides and desserts leave something to be desired, but the bar makes up for it with an encyclopedic bourbon menu and ten tap beers available in gallon-size jugs-perfect for sharing at a communal picnic table. 354 Metropolitan Ave between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-963-3404). Average main course: $18.
This seasonal, eco-friendly spin-off of Nolita's Cafe Habana functions as a lively gathering place for Fort Greene's hipster set. Join the bumping, fashionable throng on weekends to munch mayo-slathered grilled corn, garlicky Cuban sandwiches and refreshing mango-and-jicama salad amid an outdoor clothing and antiques market. If you down too many fried plantains, hop on a stationary bike and mix your own smoothie in the human-powered blender. 757 Fulton St at S Portland Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-858-9500, habanaoutpost.com). Average sandwich: $7.
The guys behind Hill Country are about as Texan as Bloomberg in a Stetson, but the 'cue deserves Lone Star cred all the same. Sausage imported from Kreuz market in Lockhart, TX; slow-smoked slabs of tips-on pork spareribs; and two brisket options-lean and “moist” (read: fatty)-are not to be missed. Desserts, like jelly-filled cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, suggest some kind of Leave It to Beaver fantasy, though June Cleaver probably wouldn't approve of the two dozen tequilas and bourbons on offer. 30 W 26th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (212-255-4544). Average pound of meat: $18.
Owner Robert De Niro swapped his train-wreck trattoria, Ago, for this blockbuster replacement helmed by chef Andrew Carmellini (A Voce). Carmellini's bold family-style fare is best enjoyed as a bacchanalian banquet. The chef's ravioli-as delicate as silk handkerchiefs and oozing pungent robiola-won't last long in the middle of the table. Locanda is the rare Italian restaurant with desserts worth saving room for: Try the rich, crumbly pistachio brown-butter cake. 377 Greenwich St at North Moore St (212-925-3797, locandaverdenyc.com). Average main course: $21.
The young clientele, lengthy bar and dark wood banquettes suggest that this NYU-area brasserie would be equally at home on the Upper East Side. Comfort food works best here: The top-notch burger oozed rich juices, calamari “Brooklyn style” showcased crisp squid rings with a chunky marinara sauce, and the wine list offers affordable vinos by the glass, carafe or “big carafe.” Enjoy a throwback to your youth with the downstairs photo booth. 55 Third Ave between 10th and 11th Sts (212-420-9800, thesmithnyc.com). Average main course: $16.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten
Among the revelers draining foamy steins around Radegast's colossal communal tables, you won't see many having dinner. But there's a full menu at this soaring biergarten, and it's not just those sausages-blistering links of bratwurst; smooth weisswurst-crackling on the garden's grill. The ambitious bill of fare includes a classic schnitzel featuring mild fried veal. The beer list is a draw too. A mostly Mitteleuropean collection of 13 brews-like lemony Hacker-Pschorr Weisse-makes it easy to see why many never make it past the libations. 113 North 3rd St at Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-963-3973, radegasthall.com). Average main course: $16.
The crowds pack in for expertly crafted Turkish cuisine from eccentric chef Orhan Yegen. Plates fly from the kitchen at an impressive pace: an appetizer of ethereal tarama (red caviar spread) topped with slices of smoked salmon seems to arrive seconds after ordering. Entres soon follow, including manti-delicate beef dumplings resembling tiny tricorne hats in a tangy yogurt sauce-and chunks of juicy grilled lamb served with a homemade tomato-based hot sauce, so good it should be bottled and sold. Desserts, like a deep bowl of gratined rice pudding, are big enough to share. 928 Second Ave between 49th and 50th Sts (212-583-1900, sip-sak.com). Average main course: $17.
Swizz Restaurant & Wine Bar
You can skip the cheese at Swizz, but we don't recommend it: The restaurant specializes in fondue and other cheesy Swiss specialties like a hearty raclette (melted cheese served over boiled potatoes with black pepper, pickled onions and gherkins). A downstairs wine cave is home to many $22 bottles of wine-and doubles as a party room for up to 18 guests. There's also plenty on the menu for those who don't do fondue, such as veal in a creamy mushroom white wine sauce, or simple seafood and pasta dishes. 310 W 53rd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-810-4444, 1291swizz.com). Average main course: $20
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