Because, really, what is better than cake? I know there those of you would want to see elaborate tuiles and liquid nitrogen flans or whatever, but really, deep in your heart, wouldn't you rather have cake? I know I would. And that's all I know.
This small specialty shop in the East Village isn't much to look at, but it's generally agreed that it produces some of the most intense chocolate desserts in town. Primarily, it's a cake shop, and indeed, it's hard to pick one cake from another in order of preference -- they're all made on an equally high level. But I find myself stopping in for a handful of truffles, the traditional soft, cocoa powder-rolled kind. They're a perfect treat, and ideal if you are not up to eating a whole cake.
Still, to my mind, the defining New York restaurant, Gramercy Tavern is the crown jewel in Danny Meyer's restaurant group, partially as the result of chef Michael Anthony's amazing greenmarket cooking, and partially because of its incredible service, great cocktails, and Nancy Olson's superb dessert program. One caveat: the front room is all air and color and excitement, and the back room is a drab dungeon.
Some people would say that Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, a quaint and picturesque throwback lunch joint hard by the Flatiron building, is overvalued because of its atmospheric value. Those people are idiots. It's not possible to overvalue Eisenberg's which is a lifeline to an older and better New York which is rapidly vanishing. The people are equally wrong who say that they make a great pastrami sandwich (they don't) or tuna sandwich (likewise.) They make a great Eisnenberg's experience. I only wish it were a private club, like Soho House, so that only those of us who love it would be allowed to go there. But, sadly, anyone can come and get a piece of chocolate cake (incredible), a cheap cup of coffee (not so incredible), or a glass of U-bet chocolate mik (incomparable.)
Bubby's is more or less the perfect neighborhood restaurant, with reasonably priced comfort food, scrupulously sourced, great coffee, and probably the best pie in New York. Being there is like visiting your friend's house and having his or her mom cook for you.
I don't mean to sound stuck-up, but pay no attention to what anybody here says about the Carnegie Deli. One guy complains because he didn't like the macaroni and cheese (!) and other because it's too touristy. Here the deal: the Carnegie Deli IS touristy. It IS expensive. You are not coddled by the wait staff. But it is the Federal Reserve of deli. You go in and order a juicy pastrami (code for fatty) and you will get greatness, every time, and in copious amounts. Don't get combination sandwiches, which are ludicrous, and don't get macaroni and cheese. Get pastrami sandwiches and extra bread. Eat. Take some home or share. And then thank your lucky stars that this place exists.
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.
Momofuku Milk Bar is a bakery with such a sky-high hype factor that it is easy to forget just how good it really is. A spinoff of the wildly overrated Momofuku restaurants, this small dessert outlet is best known for its "cereal milk" custard and "crack pie," neither of which are really that exceptional. (The latter is basically just butter and sugar.) But the cakes, which change from month to month, are uniformly brilliant and the perfect gift to bring to a party, or just to bring home.
A rare outpost of Norman cookery, this small bistro specializes in the regional specialty called galettes -- essentially crepes that can, and are, piled up in successive layers and frequently with something delicious in between them. Don't bother with the burger. The place is ten feet from Shake Shack and Schnippers. Go here for galettes. Trust me.