Bro town goes highbrow: Murray Hill, NoMad and Midtown East get a makeover

New York City’s fratboy central—Murray Hill, NoMad and Midtown East—goes high-end, with stylish new restaurants and bars.

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  • Photograph: Loren Wohl

    Kimchi-brisket fried rice at Hanjan

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Kajitsu

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Maysville

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Queens Park Swizzle at Middle Branch

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Penicillin at Milk and Honey

  • Photograph: Daniel Krieger

    The NoMad

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Korean BBQ taco at Salvation Taco

Once dominated by the fist-pumping postfrat set, the Natty Light–soaked nexus of Murray Hill, NoMad and Midtown East has become a surprisingly reputable area this year, thanks to buzzy restaurants and high-minded cocktail joints. A mature makeover’s been in the card for some time with locals seeking solace from the nabes’ boozy temples of beer-stained button-downs and Macklemore sing-alongs. Folks like Sasha Petraske and April Bloomfield have dutifully responded, branching out from jam-packed hipper ’hoods—the West Village, the Lower East Side—to find a wide-open market with room to grow.

A. Hanjan

A few blocks from bustling K-town, home of lunch-break barbecue and bibimbap, Hooni Kim (Danji) gives Korean fare the upmarket treatment at this high-end joomak (tavern). The Michelin-starred toque, who finessed his skills at Daniel and Masa, splits the menu in two: on one side, traditional Korean (cod-roe stew, scallion pancakes); on the other, modern reinventions (pork trotter braised in star anise and rice wine; freshly killed chicken fried and imbued with garlic). The bar’s stocked with a healthy list of soju, though neighborhood brewhounds craving something foamy can seek solace in a pint of makgeolli, creamy fermented rice beer. 36 W 26th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (212-206-7226)

B. Maysville

There’s no shortage of Southern joints in the area—jock magnets Duke’s and Brother Jimmy’s—but if you want class with your Kentucky-fried fare, head to Sean Josephs’s nouveau-Southern spot, an offshoot of Brooklyn’s whiskey-boosting Char No 4. Chef Kyle Knall (Gramercy Tavern) puts an elegant spin on the BBQ-and-bourbon model, bypassing the ubiquitous brisket for beef tartare, duck confit and foie gras. Sport-jacketed gents clinking Scotch glasses at the bar are a far cry from the ball-capped Pi Kappas pounding Jägerbombs around the corner. 17 W 26th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (646-490-8240)

C. The NoMad

Bill and Hillary Clinton chatting over bone marrow and fennel-flecked lobster isn’t a typical sight in the finance-bro–heavy border of the Flatiron District and Chelsea, but it is at the NoMad, the opulent hotel restaurant-bar offering posh duck-skin-topped carrots and bottle service in a library. With Eleven Madison Park maestros Daniel Humm and Will Guidara at its helm, and EMP cocktail mastermind Leo Robitschek pouring a beverage program as nuanced as the elegant fare, it’s not surprising that the luxe lounge attracts both neighborhood denizens and well-heeled heads of state. 1170 Broadway at 28th St (347-472-5660)

D. Milk and Honey

When Sasha Petraske decided to relocate his game-changing cocktail den, the sports-bar-saturated Flatiron District wasn’t the first nabe on everyone’s tongue. Bringing its oft-imitated, never-duplicated brand of haute mixology north, the Art Deco bar stirs another menuless lineup of meticulously crafted cocktails. The new M&H may be more accessible than the reservations-only original—walk-ins are welcome, club sandwiches are served—but even with the everyman changes, it gives the Flatiron some much-needed edge. 30 E 23rd St between Madison Ave and Park Ave South (no phone)

E. Salvation Taco

The decor—colored Christmas lights, Ping-Pong tables—may evoke that Cancun spring break you can’t quite remember without Facebook’s help, but the fiesta fare doled out at this Murray Hill cantina has an upscale bent, thanks to the powerhouse duo of April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman (the Spotted Pig in the West Village, the Breslin in Midtown West). The Taco Bell trappings of sketchy ground beef are subbed out for more exotic choices, like crispy sweetbreads, Moroccan-spiced lamb and roasted cauliflower swathed in curried crema. Even a margarita gets a chefly update with a zippy guajillo chili salt rim. 145 E 39th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-865-5800)

F. Middle Branch

In the popped-collar landscape of Murray Hill, there’s very little sense of decorum—bar fight here, sloppy drink spilling there—but leave it to cocktail high priest Sasha Petraske (Milk and Honey, Little Branch) to instill a code of conduct in the region. No fighting, no name-dropping, no hooting or hollering—none of the ’hood’s toga-party pastimes can be found at this jazz-infused gin joint. Instead, an after-work crowd slips into crimson banquettes for pre-Prohibition quaffs—like a smooth rendition of a Sazerac—that wash away memories of those Red Bull vodkas you guzzled nearby. 154 E 33rd St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-213-1350)

G. Kajitsu

It’s no herculean feat to find a cheap ramen joint in the postgrad mecca of Murray Hill, but house-made soba crowned with shaved black truffles? That’s only at Kajitsu. Recently relocated from the East Village, the minimalist, Michelin-starred den—a cult favorite among top-notch toques like David Chang—displays a root-to-leaf devotion to produce, influenced by the monk-approved shojin-ryori (vegetarian) tradition. With ornate dishes like pristine, panko-fried bamboo shoots and tender yuba (tofu skin) delicately wrapped around fava beans, you won’t miss those budget noodle bowls one bit. 125 E 39th St between Park and Lexington Aves (212-228-4873)

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1 comments
Tania
Tania

Something a little easier to get to them the East Village or West Village