Food & drink

In the handsome Deco room, Artisanal carries on the grand café tradition. Great acoustics muffle the roar of the crowd enjoying Terrance Brennan’s quality bistro fare. The oft-ordered fondue reflects the restaurant’s cheese focus: More than 250 varieties are offered to taste and take home. 2 Park Ave at 32nd St (212-725-8585). Mon–Fri 11:45am–10pm; Sat, Sun 11am–10pm.

A Voce

A Voce
When chef Andrew Carmellini hits his marks, he produces some awesome dishes. Diners in the big, loud glass cube—decorated with stainless steel, lacquer and Eames swivel aluminum chairs—are treated to such delicious starters as duck meatballs, featuring foie gras centers and a dried-cherry glaze. Secondi might include braised veal with polenta, while tiramisu with Meyer lemon crema and limoncello is a citrusy twist on the traditional dessert. 41 Madison Ave, entrance on 26th St between Madison Ave and Park Ave South (212-545-8555). Mon–Fri 11:45am–2:30pm, 5:30–11pm; Sat, Sun 5:30–11pm.

Blue Smoke
St. Louis native Danny Meyer’s barbecue joint tops the short list of Manhattan’s best ’cue contenders, with traditional Texas salt-and-pepper beef ribs, Memphis baby backs and Kansas City spare ribs on the menu. The atmosphere is sports-heavy and includes a prominent bourbon bar and galvanized-metal buckets for your bones. 116 E 27th St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-447-7733). Mon, Sun 11:30am–10pm; Tue–Thu 11:30am–11pm; Fri, Sat 11:30am–1am.

About as provincial as a ride on the 7 train, Country is a hit with city slickers. Designer David Rockwell has restored the original beaux-arts style of the space, uncovering architectural gems such as a tiled floor and a Tiffany-style green-and-white glass dome. An informal café and bar is located in a subterranean space, but the serious cooking takes place upstairs. You’ll be offered four or five options for each round of the four-course, $85 prix-fixe menu, featuring the likes of a dazzling shellfish velouté starter, and a veal entreé full of delicious bite-size morsels, including dried sweetbreads, veal cheeks and veal breast. Carlton Hotel, 90 Madison Ave at 29th St (212-889-7100). Tue–Sat 5:30–10pm.

At celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s culinary blockbuster, Craft (43 E 19th St between Broadway and Park Ave South, 212-780-0880), food lovers compose their own dishes from basic menu categories. At Colicchio’s less formal Craftbar, the concept and the mood are not so rigid. Pair foie gras with figs, octopus with chorizo, skate with tomato conserves and sweetbreads with vanilla beans. Desserts are nowhere as rich as the main courses, but the far-ranging wine list suggests elegant semi-sweet quaffs to close a memorable meal. 900 Broadway between 19th and 20th Sts (212-461-4300). Mon–Wed noon–10pm; Thu, Fri noon–11pm; Sat 10am–11pm; Sun 10am–10pm.

Eleven Madison Park
Chef Daniel Humm, winner of a 2007 Eat Out Award, has replaced the rustic New American menu at Danny Meyer’s vast Art Deco jewel with one that’s more refined and far-reaching. His lofty intentions are clear from the first bites: Creative hors d’oeuvres include a truffle-scented goat-cheese galette and a cornet of sweetbreads, which set the tone for the rest of the meal. Diners can choose between a three-course, four-course or prix-fixe menu. 11 Madison Ave at 24th St (212-889-0905). Mon–Thu, Sun 11:30am-2pm, 5:30–10pm; Fri–Sat 11:30am–2pm, 5:30–10:30pm.

Flatiron Lounge

Flatiron LoungeRed leather booths, mahogany tables and globe-shaped lamps amp up the vintage vibe at this Art Deco space with its 30-foot 1927 bar. Co-owner Julie Reiner’s notable mixology skills have made the place a destination, and her Beijing Peach (jasmine-infused vodka and white peach puree) is not to be missed. 37 W 19th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-727-7741). Mon–Wed, Sun 5pm–2am; Thu–Sat 5pm–4am.

Fleur de Sel
Chef-owner Cyril Renaud favors simplicity over splash and tradition over trend, which is evident in his intimate, understated restaurant. If dreamy paintings of Brittany (by Renaud himself) don’t give away his origins, the menu will. Halibut comes with endives, bacon and a balsamic reduction. For dessert, crêpes are folded around caramelized apple slices and topped with Devonshire cream. 5 E 20th St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-460-9100). Mon–Sat noon–2pm, 5:30–10:30pm; Sun noon–2pm, 5–9pm.

Gramercy Tavern
The handoff from founding chef Tom Colicchio to Michael Anthony (Blue Hill at Stone Barns) carried the rarity of a papal succession, yet the farmhouse-style setting, with its intoxicating smell from the wood-burning oven, is still here. Colicchio and his hearty, meat-heavy fare are not, however; delicate constructions of vegetables and fish dominate the main dining room’s mandated $82 three-course prix fixe. 42 E 20th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-477-0777). Mon–Thu noon–2pm, 5:30–10pm; Fri noon–2pm, 5:30–11pm; Sat 5:30–11pm; Sun 5:30–10pm.

D.C. restaurateur Philippe Massoud’s stylish Lebanese eatery wouldn’t be out of place in cosmopolitan Beirut: Wood-paneled walls, pocked with windows and mirrors, create the impression of a giant kaleidoscope, and the menu is flush with elevated takes on the familiar. Lean lamb kebabs were near perfect, and a beautiful chankleech cheese-and-tomato salad was chopped fine with scallions, thyme and oregano—though the small portions left us craving more. 236 Fifth Ave between 27th and 28th Sts (212-683-2929). Mon–Wed 11:30am–2:30pm, 5:30–10:30pm; Thu, Fri 11:30am–2:30pm, 5:30–11pm; Sat 5:30–11:30pm; Sun 5:30–10pm.

i Trulli
The Marzovillas—founders of this restaurant/wine bar (plus the wine store across the street) deliver the rustic cuisine of Puglia with flair. While the prices and ambience are hardly humble (the back patio is one of the city’s best outdoor dining spots), the kitchen keeps the food simple. Dora Marzovilla makes a terrific veal-and-spinach-filled ravioli with Sicilian pistachio sauce. In the airy wine bar, 100 selections cover the full spectrum of Italian producers, and 14 different flights allow for sampling by region or by varietal. 124 E 27th St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-481-7372). Restaurant: Mon–Thu noon–10:30pm; Fri noon–11pm; Sat 5–11pm. Wine bar: Mon–Thu 3–11pm; Fri 3–11:30pm; Sat 5–11:30pm; Sun 5–10pm.

Les Halles
Though Anthony Bourdain is just the “chef-at-large” at Les Halles these days, his meat-oriented philosophy still permeates the place, from the butcher shop inside the restaurant to steak knives that appear at every place setting. With classic French fare like steak tartare and crêpes suzette prepared tableside for a largely out-of-towner crowd, it’s practically a theme-park restaurant, but steaks, sausages and chops are solid. 411 Park Ave South between 28th and 29th Sts (212-679-4111). Daily 7:30am–midnight.

Alex Ureña has left nouveau Spanish eats behind with the successful reopening of his formerly eponymous eatery. He gave it a makeover, too: Muted lighting and a chocolate brown color scheme suit the spot’s more traditional tapas. We loved white asparagus, a textural contrast with a satiny egg poached in truffle oil, and slow-roasted chicken layered with jus, sweet corn, oyster mushrooms and a truffle-perfumed artichoke puree. Chocolate-stuffed doughnuts were a gratifying, cinnamon-scented finale. 37 E 28th between Madison and Park Aves (212-213-2328). Mon–Thu, Sun noon–3pm, 5–10:30pm; Fri, Sat noon–3pm, 5–11:30pm.

Steve Hanson’s grandiose marble-walled meat parlor is as classic as it is crowd-pleasing. Steaks arrived cooked precisely how we ordered them, though Luger fans may pine for its drenched-in-fat porterhouse. An irresistible “big-kid” ice-cream split with bourbon-soaked bananas is one excess we’d return for. 381 Park Ave South at 27th St (212-824-2600). Mon–Wed 11:30am–11pm; Thu, Fri 11:30am–midnight; Sat 11am–midnight; Sun 11am–10pm.

Belgian cuisine had its New York moment a few years back, but this pubby restaurant signals a revival. The bare-bones dining room features a pressed-tin ceiling and a long bar where patrons sip Belgian beers from custom-logoed glassware designed for specific brews. Chef Ryan Skeen offers shareable plates that showcase an eclectic range of dishes, including carbonnade—caramelized beef cheeks slow-cooked in dark beer. 111 E 29th St between Park and Lexington Aves (212-685-5585). Mon–Wed noon–3pm, 5–11:30pm; Thu, Fri noon–3pm, 5pm–1am; Sat 10:30am–3pm, 5pm–1am; Sun 10:30am–3pm, 5–10:30pm.

Rickshaw Dumpling BarAt Kenny Lao’s dumpling bar, six different dumplings, each inspired by an Asian cuisine, are matched with their own dipping sauce: classic Chinese pork and chive with a soy vinegar, for instance, or Thai chicken with peanut satay. If you want a full meal, pair your dumplings with a big bowl of noodle soup, then finish with a dessert dumpling of molten chocolate in a mochi wrapper. 61 W 23rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-924-9220). Mon–Sat 11:30am–9:30pm; Sun 11:30am–8:30pm.

Shake Shack
Danny Meyer’s wildly popular Madison Square Park concession stand is justly mobbed in summer. Sirloin and brisket are ground daily for excellent patties, and the franks are served Chicago-style on poppy seed buns with a “salad” of toppings and a dash of celery salt. Frozen-custard shakes hit the spot, and there’s beer and wine to boot. Madison Square Park, 23rd St at Madison Ave (212-889-6600). Daily 11am–9pm.

Upstairs in the dome-shaped restaurant, diners in designer duds feast on upscale Indian food with a Western influence. Chef Floyd Cardoz mixes fennel seed with familiar rosemary and tarragon to create tastes that are at once unique and recognizable in his ever-changing tasting menus. Greenmarket foods like watermelon are used in curries, and foie gras may be paired with plums in the summer and apples in the fall. At ground level, you can munch on small plates and sip the signature lemongrass-infused Tablatini in the packed Bread Bar. 11 Madison Ave at 25th St (212-889-0667). Restaurant: Mon–Thu noon–2pm, 5:30–10pm; Fri noon–2pm, 5:30–11:30pm; Sat 5:30–11:30pm; Sun 5–9pm. Bread Bar: Mon–Thu noon–11pm; Fri, Sat noon–11:30pm; Sun 5–10pm.

Fusion reigns at this bright, modern restaurant: Even traditional coconut chutney is transformed into a mayonnaise-based dip for plump cod-and-crab cakes. Tender venison chops have a spicy, fruity sauce of cranberries and chilies. An adjacent tearoom serves sandwiches on Indian breads and 16 kinds of tea. 41 E 22nd St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-674-7400). Mon–Thu, Sun 11:30am–3pm, 5:30–11:30pm; Fri, Sat 11:30am–3pm, 5:30pm–midnight.

230 Fifth This rooftop bar dazzles with spectacular skyline views, but the indoor lounge—with its wraparound sofas and bold lighting—should not be overlooked. 230 Fifth Ave between 26th and 27th Sts (212-725-4300). Daily 4pm–4am.