The west village is, arguably, the most desirable neighborhood in New York, and it should therefore come as no surprise that many of the best neighborhood restaurants in the city can be found there too.
An otherwise unremarkable West Village tavern, Tavern on Jane does have one secret: it serves a better hamburger than the overrated meat-lumps across the street at the Corner Bistro. Trust me.
Anita Lo's critically lauded Asian food takes aim for, and hits, the sensibilities of serious gastronomes. The food is mature, delicate, elegant, and not that much fun. The cooking is calibrated to be just so perfect in every bite, to look beautiful, to make sense (foie gras soup dumplings = east / west, luxury / poverty). But it comes in tiny portions and doesn't deliver the kind of whallop a certain kind of vulgarian (i.e. me) likes most at dinner. But it's a great place to take a lady of a certain age, or a visiting chef or food writer.
The Spotted Pig invented the New York gastropub, for all intents and purposes, and it's still the best, thanks to the brilliance and integrity of chef April Bloomfield.
A lovely, romantic restaurant that has only gotten better in its ten years on Bleecker Street. Understated and underhyped but first-rate.
New Yorkers who consider Blue Hill to be the ultimate expression of twee, refined locavore food have clearly never been to Mas (farmhouse), a very fine, very stylish, and very pretentious restaurant that nonetheless serves some of the best food in the city. The name is cringeworthy, and no one will be getting portions larger than what a well-behaved 9-year-old might expect, but for a certain kind of diner this is an ideal place to experience American food at its best and purest.
"Big Box" Japanese restaurants are generally low-quality, off-brand affairs, but EN is as good as it is big. Avoid the New York cliches (e.g. miso cod, etc. ) and ask for the actual Japanese standards at which the place excels.
The place that got the speakeasy trend started still has some of the best cocktails in town, along with a suprisingly original, Croatian-inflected menu courtesy of chef Julia Jaksic. The crowd gets oppressive though.
Joey Campanaro's little gem of a restaurant is still one of the preeminent examples of a great New York neighborhood restaurant. The room is supremely cozy and romantic and the food simple but flawless. The burger, served only at lunch, is one of the city's very best.
Super delicate, super stark Soto takes an especially high-minded approach to sushi: a combination of the characteristic stripped-down vision of perfect sashimi on the one hand and an almost kaiseki-like approach to small, exquisitely composed and plated dishes. The combination is a huge winner, and more than worth the considerable cost.
Pretty the much the perfect New York neighborhood restaurant. It's hidden away on a curving sidestreet in the west village; it has a perfectly preserved art deco decor; a great drink program; and, most important, one of the best chefs in New York, if not the country, in the criminally underrated Harold Moore. It can get noisy though, so come for an early dinner.
A timelessly elegant take on Austrian food, minus the butter and blandness, Wallse is one of New York's most understated great restaurants.
Korean grilling, for most non-Koreans, tends to appear mostly as little marinated pieces of steak cooked over gas grills. At Takashi, they are using gas grill -- there's nothing you can do about that -- but on the other hand the man does every imaginable part of the cow, including three different kinds of stomach. Talk about snout to tail! It's all good, too.