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Soho restaurant guide: The best places to eat now

The Soho restaurant scene is constantly shifting—our critic-approved selection includes trusty favorites and the latest hot spots.

Photograph: Dominic Perri
Ravioli with egg yolk and spinach at Osteria Morini

Spanning everything from iconic brasserie Balthazar to more recent arrivals like Andrew Carmellini’s instant classic The Dutch and Michael White’s popular Bolognese tavern, Osteria Morini, the Soho restaurant scene is thriving. Whether you crave Jamaican jerk chicken or a standout lobster roll, you’ll find it here. There are also plenty of cheap eats and great brunch places.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Soho, New York

Balthazar

Critics' pick

Not only is the iconic Balthazar still trendy, but the kitchen rarely makes a false step. At dinner, the place is perennially packed with rail-thin lookers dressed to the nines. But the bread is great, the food is good, and the service is surprisingly friendly. The $99 three-tiered seafood platter casts the most impressive shadow of any dish in town. The frisée aux lardons is exemplary. Roasted chicken on mashed potatoes for two, délicieux. Skate with brown butter and capers, yum. Don’t hate the patrons because they’re beautiful; just join them.

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Soho

Blue Ribbon Sushi

Critics' pick

Whether you settle on a $4 bowl of make-it-yourself miso soup and some California rolls, or opt for the top-of-the-line $125 chef’s choice sushi platter, you’ll find the service equally friendly and enthusiastic at this below-street-level Soho fave. The cooked dishes (like the miso-cured aged black cod) are worthy alternatives to the sushi, which, short of dining aboard a fishing vessel, is as fresh as it gets. Order a serving of the flawless green-tea crème brûlée to end your night on a high.

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Soho

The Dutch

Critics' pick

From the moment it opened, Andrew Carmellini’s rollicking Soho eatery seemed destined to join the ranks of neighborhood classics like Balthazar and Blue Ribbon. The virtuoso chef offers diners an exuberant gastro-tour of the American melting pot, making stops in the barrio (supple and spicy tripe with avocado, diced radish and Fritos), New England (gorgeous picked crab in horseradish-infused tomato water) and even the Mexican border (a genuine 30-ingredient red mole). That all of it tastes good—and, somehow, works well together—explains why reservations are hard to come by. Wait it out over a newfangled riff on a classic cocktail and exceptional bar snacks, including fat-fried oysters on house-made slider buns. And save room for fine updates on classic desserts, such as a creamy lime-custard pie tricked out with a spritz of Maldon salt and passion-fruit syrup.

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Soho

Ed's Lobster Bar

Critics' pick

For me, summers tend to revolve around a religious devotion to shellfish. I take regular pilgrimages to the shacks of Maine, Cape Cod, eastern Connecticut and Massachusetts’ North Shore. After visits to various seafood shrines, a Holy Trinity has emerged of all things good and unkosher: clam chowder, fried clams, lobster roll. Ed’s Lobster Bar, started by the longtime sous chef at Pearl Oyster Bar, nails all three, making any peripheral flaws fade away like a receding tide. Ed McFarland (yes, the “Ed”) is rolling with the downtown-shellfish-shack formula pioneered by Pearl, and mimicked by spin-offs (Mary’s Fish Camp) and imitators (Ditch Plains) alike. That would mean cramped quarters, no reservations and a studied informality. In Ed’s case, the look is clean and whitewashed, with painted brick and wooden walls, plus a gorgeous 29-seat marble bar, which runs the length of the bowling-alley-wide Soho restaurant.

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Nolita

Lure Fishbar

Critics' pick

The retro yacht interior at this sexy subterranean restaurant might make you forget you’re docked in Soho. Hit the sushi bar to compare the flavors and textures of premium catches, or grab a table for a more extensive meal. Lure’s greatest achievement is its treatment of the classics. Dishes that have become rote at so many fish-focused eateries—seared yellowtail glazed in dashi, a lobster roll stuffed with sweet meat—are executed here with the dazzling skill usually reserved for more ambitious menus.

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Soho

Miss Lily's Favourite Cakes

Critics' pick

The downtown flock colonized this buzzy Caribbean spot from the day it opened its doors, and it's been radiating heat ever since. But it’s not all scene and no substance. The gorgeous staff is warm and accommodating, and chef Bradford Thompson, a James Beard Award winner, brings real chops to Jamaica’s trademark dishes. Bypass standard-issue party grub like “jaquitos”—bland mini tacos—in favor of spicy, shell-on Middle Quarters pepper shrimp. Satisfying main courses, like remarkably tender goat curry and tasty but subdued jerk chicken, showcase Thompson’s knack for elevating island comfort foods. A rotating cast of cakes—which sit on a stand by the kitchen as if they were at a roadside diner—include a homey toasted-coconut variety slathered in sticky vanilla icing.

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Greenwich Village

La Sirene

Critics' pick

Fishing nets and posters of the Côte d’Azur may not entice you into this French bistro, but the exuberant cooking of Marseille-born chef-owner Didier Pawlicki should. The chef lavishes his mussels with curried cream and apples, and his garlicky, ruby-red slices of rare hanger steak are served with a sensuous trio of sides (carrot puree,
potato gratin in a cheesy veil, and a pot of zucchini flan). A dessert of fluffy profiteroles had us moaning—very French indeed.

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Downtown

Osteria Morini

Critics' pick

Chef Michael White (Alto, Marea) is one of New York’s most prolific and successful Italian-American chefs, and this terrific downtown homage to a classic Bolognese tavern is the most accessible restaurant in his stable. The toque spent seven years cooking in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, and his connection to the area surfaces in the rustic food. Handmade pastas—frail ricotta gnocchi in light tomato cream, fat tortelli bundles oozing an absurdly rich mix of braised meats—are fantastic across the board. Heart-stopping meats, meanwhile, include porchetta with crisp, crackling skin and potatoes bathed in pan drippings. With so much butter and cream, you might skip dessert, but don’t miss head barman Eben Freeman’s riffs on classic aperitivi.

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Nolita

Comments

3 comments
Tami
Tami

Tell me about a restaurant called balabusta; i think on or near mulberry st.