Best cozy restaurants
Hearty food in snug surroundings.
Tue Jan 12 2010
David and Laura Shea met at the Culinary Institute of America and spent a few years in Chicago, before returning to New York to open Applewood in Park Slope. The charming eatery has country style and organic produce—two things that make city folk happy. Tables are adorned with bundles of fresh herbs, there's a working fireplace, and many ingredients come from an upstate farm. The menu changes seasonally, but expect rustic dishes. 501 11th St at Seventh Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-788-1810, applewoodny.com). Average main course: $20.
The tiny, rustic space, with its cork ceiling and antique yellow stucco walls, is a little piece of the countryside in the West Village, where seasonal fare is consistently excellent. 359 Bleecker St between Charles and W 10th Sts (212-929-4774, augustny.com). Average main course: $23.
The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps may help explain why a 14-year-old restaurant is still tough to get into on a Saturday night. Seasonal produce shapes the menu by executive chef Ignacio Mattos (Chez Panisse, the Spotted Pig). Dunk the warm country bread in Umbrian olive oils produced exclusively for Il Buco, and enjoy one of the city's best wine lists. 47 Bond St between Lafayette St and Bowery (212-533-1932, ilbuco.com). Average main course: $28.
Cult restaurateur Gabriel Stulman (Market Table) tends to this warming spot like an old-fashioned tavern keeper. Joseph Leonard could have been nothing more than another low-key neighborhood haunt. But when paired with good, simple food—like a pork shank with arugula, capers and lemon; crisp on the outside, tender and fatty within—an endearing reception goes a long way. 170 Waverly Pl at Grove St (646-429-8383, josephleonard.com). Average main course: $18.
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The ceiling and walls are hung with smokers' pipes, some from such long-ago Keens regulars as Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt. Beveled-glass doors, a working fireplace and a forest's worth of dark wood suggest a time when "Diamond Jim" Brady piled his table with bushels of oysters, slabs of seared beef and troughs of ale. The menu still lists a three-inch-thick mutton chop (imagine a saddle of lamb but with more punch), and the sirloin and porterhouse (for two) hold their own against any steak in the city. 72 W 36th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-947-3636, keenssteakhouse.com). Average main course: $32.
Marlow & Sons
Billyburgers craving fresh oysters and bold cocktails hightail it over to this spot that playfully serves as an old-time oyster bar and restaurant. Seated in the charming front caf, diners wolf down seasonal dishes from the frequently changing menu. In the back room, an oyster shucker cracks open the catch of the day, while the bartender churns out the kind of potent drinks that helped make the owners' earlier ventures (Bonita and next-door Diner) neighborhood successes. 81 Broadway at Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-384-1441, marlowandsons.com). Average main course: $22.
Keith McNally's lovingly restored Minetta Tavern may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial New York, and the food is as much of a draw as the scene. Excellent, meaty mains include a blackened veal chop surrounded by crisp sweetbread nuggets. Minetta's prices are reasonable, with the notable exception of a $26 Black Label burger. But the sandwich—as tender and fatty as foie gras—is worth every penny. 113 MacDougal St between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts (212-475-3850, minettatavernny.com). Average main course: $24.
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The open kitchen at Peasant is straight out of a fairy tale—a magical brick workshop where chef-owner Frank DeCarlo presides over a crackling fire. You can barely read the all-Italian menu in the dim, candlelit dining room, which is just as well: The waitstaff provides each table with detailed recommendations. Fittingly, rustic dishes are best. 194 Elizabeth St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-965-9511, peasantnyc.com). Average main course: $25.
Trestle on Tenth
The airy bar, brick-lined dining room and cozy back garden are for those in the know, who enjoy exquisitely prepared modern-American cuisine that gets its nouvelle accents from Swiss owner-chef Ralf Kuettel. Be sure to sample the changing wine selection—Kuettel used to manage the Chelsea Wine Vault. 242 Tenth Ave at 24th St (212-645-5659, trestleontenth.com). Average main course: $21.
See also: Ralf Kuettel of Trestle on Tenth defends fondue
Vinegar Hill House
Chef and co-owner Jean Adamson, who worked at LES success story Freemans, offers a constantly changing menu of fatty comfort foods in a cozy, tavernlike restaurant. It's Freemans light, and we're okay with that. 72 Hudson Ave between Front and Water Sts, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-522-1018, vinegarhillhouse.com). Average main course: $16.