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The Little Shop
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

The best NYC restaurants hidden in weird places

At the best NYC restaurants in weird places, eat a meal behind a hardware store or in a swanky skyscraper

By Dan Q Dao, Bao Ong and Time Out contributors
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If the rise in speakeasy bars’ concepts and Instagrammable eateries tells us anything about today’s dining culture, it’s that the off-the-plate experience is just as important to diners as what they’re eating. And although nothing is truly hidden anymore, enjoying secret menu items or eating in quirky themed restaurants can make for a fun and memorable meal. We’ve rounded up our favorites here, from a Michelin-starred fine dining gem in a Fidi food market to a vegetarian restaurant hidden beneath a Hindu temple in Flushing, Queens.

RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best restaurants in NYC

Best NYC restaurants in weird places

La Milagrosa
La Milagrosa
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

1. Mezcaleria La Milagrosa

Restaurants Mexican Williamsburg

The front says bodega, but the back says mezcal-and-ceviche party. That’s right, you’re strolling through the freezer door to reach this South of the Border gastropub in Williamsburg. The third brainchild of Felipe Mendez (La Superior, Cerveceria Havemeyer), the agave-soaked drinking den offers a tantalizing selection of house margaritas, like guava or tamarind, so you’ll be primed to go when the DJs—and the glimmering disco balls—start spinning.

Photograph: L’Appart/Cheyenne Cohen

2. L’Appart

Restaurants French Battery Park City

This white-cloth, Michelin-starred charmer, inspired by the design of an elegant apartment (hence the name), is behind a hefty door inside the Fidi market Le District. The 10-table restaurant, helmed by Daniel alum Nicolas Abello, pulls produce and proteins from nearby vendors for a seasonal, nine-course spread of fancy French plates. In the past the menu has included Ora King Salmon from New Zealand with yuzu caviar. 

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Gaonnuri
Gaonnuri
Photograph: Loren Wohl

3. Gaonnuri

Restaurants Korean Midtown West

This one stands above Koreatown’s dizzying array of dining options—literally. Gaonnuri is a skyscraper restaurant that proffers traditional Korean plates alongside stunning city views. The memorable menu ranges from classic japchae (a dish of stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables) to tofu stews and Korean BBQ, making it hard to decide which is better: the food or the vantage point. To see for yourself, enter through a nondescript office building and take the elevator to the 39th floor.

4. Bar Centrale

Bars Lounges Hell's Kitchen

This tiny unmarked bar and eatery is a hush-hush fave in Hell’s Kitchen’s Restaurant Row. Set in a converted apartment, the restaurant serves the pretheater crowd staples like oysters, spoonbill caviar and lobster-crab rolls, along with heartier fare like fried chicken, shrimp-and-mushroom dumplings and vegetarian samosas for good measure. As with those hot-ticket shows on the Great White Way, seats are hard to come by. Reserve accordingly.

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Bohemian
Bohemian
Photograph: Danny Yu

5. Bohemian

Shopping Specialist food and drink Noho

Tucked behind a butcher shop on Great Jones Street, the time-honored Japanese restaurant is a pioneer of the hidden dining scene. Access is granted by referral only, and once you have your reservation, you must use the intercom to get into the loungelike spot for the critically acclaimed plates of melt-in-your-mouth sashimi (bluefin tuna, toro) and equally tender cuts of beef.

6. Ganesh Temple Canteen

Restaurants Indian Queens

Opened in 1993 to prepare the traditional Hindu food offering, or naivedyam, this Flushing cafeteria became so popular among culinary devotees that it moved from a temple basement to the nearby community center for more space. Nowadays you can get your fill of South Indian favorites—dosas, uttapam, various masala offerings—year-round.

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The Little Shop
The Little Shop
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

7. The Little Shop

Another newbie, the Little Shop is a bar-in-a-bodega concept where you can stockpile Fruit by the Foot and Haribo in the convenience store up front, then amble back to the vibrant cocktail den. Expect floral wallpaper and antiques in the bar proper, which pours sake, brews, wine and cocktails. Psst: Sip the Double Hot Chocolate, made with ancho-infused coconut milk.

Karasu
Karasu
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

8. Karasu

Restaurants Japanese Fort Greene

Tucked behind a door in the back of their Fort Greene restaurant, Walter’s, lies this windowless Japanese speakeasy, moodily set with midnight-blue walls, wooden kumiko screens and shelves of 1950s jazz records. At a curved marble-and-mahogany bar, the bartenders turn out modern Japanese cocktails in vintage glassware, as well as a curated selection of Japanese sake. Izakaya share-able plates are available as well. 

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dinnertable
dinnertable
Photograph: Courtesy of dinnertable

9. dinnertable

Restaurants American East Village

You’ve no doubt heard about the speakeasies-inside-restaurants craze—you know, spots that are now not so secret, like PDT, the cocktail den hidden in the hot-dog joint Crif Dogs, or Karasu, the Japanese izakaya within Walter’s. This adorable eatery reverses the concept: The restaurant is inside the bar. To reach your destination, walk through the Garret East—maybe stopping for a drink on the way—and gorge on shareable small plates like huevos chamucos (dill wasabi eggs, Spanish sturgeon caviar) and pork belly with yuzu-laced clams.

The Last Word
The Last Word
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

10. The Last Word

Bars Cocktail bars Astoria

Sure, this is more of a cocktail bar, but the on-point oysters and its location behind a former hardware store merit its place on the list. A collaboration between Padraig O’Brien (the Raines Law Room) and Tommy Demaras (Maiella), the watering hole is within the long-shuttered store Square Hardware. Pass through the red- velvet curtains to find a 1920s-inspired space, and try the inventive Trinidad Sazerac with rum.

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