I’m back with another neighborhood guide in New York City. I never paid attention to how many neighborhoods make up NYC until I started my neighborhood guides, whew! These two in particular are among my top five favorite neighborhoods to hang out in, day or night. Whether you’re looking to impress your parents at a high-end, celebrity chef-owned Italian restaurant or celebrate a birthday with colleagues after work, the variety is wide. There truly is something for everyone, local or tourist, younger or older.
Named for being located north of Houston, this small neighborhood has a young, but not too young, kind of vibe. I worked in an office building at the corner of Astor Place and Broadway for two and half years and loved how central but not overcrowded it felt. Not to mention, a number of great restaurants and bars within a short walking distance for after work.
For spontaneous outings
- The Wren – As one of my most visited bars in New York City, The Wren was always a convenient place to meet friends whether it was after work, late night or for brunch. It can get very, very busy some nights, but otherwise it’s the perfect vibe of laidback, rustic and cool.
- B Bar – Another very popular spot located a block down the road from The Wren has the benefit of being much larger in size. It has different rooms with varying vibes, as well as an outdoor patio. This bar is ideal for larger group gatherings such as birthdays, going away parties or work outings.
For date night
- The Smile – This cozy restaurant is Instagram-friendly, serves healthy Mediterranean dishes, and has a trendy vibe attracting many celebrities and dates. *Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, The Smile has closed it’s doors.
- Il Buco – One of the best Italian restaurants in the city, they make their own bread and pasta in-house, and cure their own meats. It smells delicious and is full of people having a great time with a glass of wine in hand!
For a lively atmosphere
- Gato – This restaurant opened by celebrity chef Bobby Flay serves Spanish/Mediterranean fare in a big, loud space. They have fantastic specials, seafood and meats.
- Lafayette – This French brasserie and bakery has one of the best outdoor seating patios if you like people-watching on the street. They are often a part of Restaurant Week, which was the first time I dined there. I have since been back for breakfast, which was lovely and fresh!
Honorable mentions are Astor Wines & Spirits (they have the best selection!), ACME (they closed for a while due to a “culinary transformation” and are now back open), and La Colombe (for coffee lovers).
This quaint neighborhood in New York City is most often associated with Washington Square Park, NYU, and expensive brownstones. Beautiful to walk around, these streets are also filled with some of my favorite cafes, restaurants and bars that cannot be missed.
For a healthy day out
- by CHLOE. – The location on Bleecker Street of this popular, Vegan counter-serve spot couldn’t be more perfect. Stop in to grab a healthy bite to eat and take it to Washington Square Park to enjoy amongst the people watching. I was pleasantly surprised by how good their pesto meatball sandwich and beet ketchup was! If you’re in the mood for something sweet, their Vegan bakery, Sweets by CHLOE, is next door! Prepare for a line at peak lunch hours – you’ve been warned.
- Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company – This little shop is as quaint as they come – nice, friendly service, freshly brewed teas in interesting flavors and special salts and spices to take home for dinner or gift to your hosting friend.
- Ladybird – For a sit-down service Vegan spot where you can order fun things like fondue and an avocado cocktail, or incredible artichoke hearts, this is your place. *Editor’s note: Ladybird has since moved it’s location to East Village!
For catching up with the girls
- Claudette – Housed in an elegant cottage with Mediterranean-flare, this French restaurant can be described as lovely, warm and inviting. It’s a place to spend hours talking over delicious food and drinks. I particularly enjoyed their Truffle Hummus and a special lobster pasta!
- Mermaid Oyster Bar – I already covered The Mermaid Inn here, but this location is their oyster bar! It’s my favorite location not just because of their oyster-focus, but because it is on the picturesque, multi-colored Macdougal Street.
For authentic, high-end Italian food
- Babbo – Owned by prestigious chef Mario Batali, this was one of those dining experiences where my face lit up with every bite and I walked out with a huge smile on my face. Everything from the wine to the homemade pasta to the dessert was top-notch and worth the high price tag. They have a pasta tasting menu, which I was very close to doing, and am still curious to try someday soon.
- Lupa – Owned by Joe Bastianich, one of my favorite Master Chef judges and restauranteurs (see my post about his other restaurant Casa Mono here!), this popular Italian restaurant rivals it’s neighbor Carbone across the street. I never got a chance to go to Carbone as booking reservations requires thinking far in advance and commitment, but many people think it’s overrated and Lupa is just as good and not as expensive. I’ve also heard Carbone is the best place friends have ever eaten. Anyway, Lupa did not disappoint one bit. Professional service, delicious homemade pasta dishes and dinner specials that are not to be missed!
- Bar Pitti (no website) – Known for its frequent celebrity spottings and blackboard menu of daily offerings, this authentic, bustling Italian restaurant does not have a celebrity chef/restauranteur behind the name. Instead, it feels like you are in Italy with charming service, strong accents and huge portions. I would not recommend their burrata (for the price, I’ve had way better), however their pastas are some of the best in the city. It is cash-only, which requires advance preparation given the prices are not cheap! I made this mistake once and it was an adventure.
For after dinner entertainment
- Pegu Club – If you are a gin drinker or frequently order mule cocktails, you’ve probably seen the Pegu Club Gin-Gin Mule on a menu before. It’s award-winning and perhaps the best mule I’ve ever had (I’ve ordered…a LOT!). The atmosphere is very sexy, dark, luxe and lounge-y. It’s somewhat of a speakeasy, located on the second floor on Houston.
- Comedy Cellar at The Village Underground – It’s no night in Greenwich Village without seeing a comedy show. This is the place to go for comedy in the city, with many very famous drop-ins if you get lucky!
I love both of these neighborhoods and often feel that they are less touristy than some. Admittedly, it took me a while living in New York City to truly explore beyond Washington Square Park. I’m so glad I did, and I hope you do too!