It's not that you could starve to death in the strangely underdefined part of Manhattan between the East Village and midtown. There are plenty of foodstuffs to be had. But where can a person go to eat well? The pickings are slim, but not inconsiderable.
Make no mistake: this is the original New York gastropub, and you could make the argument that is defines the genre as well as anyplace anywhere. The beer selection in both the locations is outrageously wide, with literally dozens of exotic, expensive, and rare brews, both imported and domestic. And the food is far more ambitious and far more complex than anybody seems to realize, including both a full-bore barbecue program as well as a half dozen innovative game specials every day. There may be better restaurants and better pubs, but to me, this is the ultimate gastropub.
It's not technically the same as the many other Grand Sichuan restaurants in town, but the big menu, bold spicy flavors, and unusual dishes are on par with the best of them.
Of all New York's cheesesteak imports, Carl's tries harder for true Philly authenticity than any of its rivals, and succeeds. It's the most Philly-like cheesesteak in town. But that doesn't make it the best.
People will tell you that the new Second Avenue Deli isn't as good as the old Second Avenue Deli, but that isn't true. The first one was mediocre too. But it had the distinction of being authentic and venerable and, along of all its rivals, actually kosher. Its successor may not have the best corned beef, kishka, or pastrami in town, but it has soul. And soul is enough. Soul, and what is still probably the best chopped liver around.
What started out as a place best known for its Belgian beers and great burger now has taken its place as one of the city's premier purveyors of whole animal cooking. Their "large format feasts" are perfect big groups of carnivores, and there's a meat bar next door called Cannibal. And of course the Belgian beers haven't gone anywhere.
A cut above the usual Curry Hill offerings, this small Indian restaurant takes extra care with its dosas, curries, and other South Indian classics.
A Japanese restaurant roughly the size of an SUV, Momokawa boasts some really excellent shabu-shabu and other non-sushi Japanese specialties.
I can't understand why you don't hear much about Millesime; maybe it's the neighborhood. But the place is cozy, swanky and superlatively accomplished in the food department, serving refined and modern French food on a rarefied level.
The most remote but also the nicest of Tom Colicchio's restaurants in New York, this obscure restaurant features a commanding view of the river and some very interesting, and very good, electic farm-to-table food in the Craft style.