01 Jul My 5 Favorite Non-Touristy NYC Restaurants
I’m sharing my 5 favorite non-touristy NYC restaurants because I believe these 5 places don’t get the hype they deserve. Furthermore, I’m still feeling a bit bittersweet about moving away from the city I hold so near to my heart that I’m taking to the keyboard as a sort of therapy to help me cope with the change.
Restaurants in NYC can sometimes be your second home. They are where you go to meet your friends who live in Brooklyn when you live in Queens. NYC eateries are where you hang when you’re between auditions and have time to kill. They are where you go when you’ve been working with your husband for 60 hours a week and need to get away…
…yeah, I said it. Sometimes I needed a little ‘me’ time and would hurry off to my favorite restaurant to relax. Nick loved it when I went out – it meant he could watch hours and hours of Star Trek.
NYC’s amazing restaurants are that pit stop in your day or that destination at night. They are where you create memories with your friends and loved ones. They are essential to local life in NYC.
Now that we sold our house and we’re starting this new adventure we’re meeting a lot of new people. Every time we tell someone where we’re from their eyes light up and they want to hear all about what it’s like to live in the Big Apple. There is almost always someone who is planning a trip there in the near future and they ask, “Where should we go and what should we do?!” So, I stick to what I know and give them great places to get an affordable bite to eat with amazing ambiance, great bartenders, or interesting menu items. It pains me when I walk through Times Square and see people eating at Red Lobster and Olive Garden – not because I don’t love those cheesy biscuits or the endless soup and salad deal, but because there are SO many amazing spots that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
So, without further ado, my 5 favorite non-touristy NYC restaurants.
Nick and I spent that last 7 of our 13 years in NYC in Astoria, Queens.
We. Love. This. Neighborhood. If you’re traveling to NYC and flying in from La Guardia, it’s a great place to find an Air BnB and save money. You’re right on the N/W line that will take you into Manhattan in no time. You’ll also be close to my favorite wine and cocktail bar: Mosaic.
Mosaic can be found on a quiet corner in a residential section of Astoria, but it’s just about a 5-minute walk from the Astoria, Blvd stop on the N/W line. The owner of this spot is an Astorian himself and continues to pour is heart and soul into the decor, menu, and level of customer service he and his team provide. The bartenders love working there and know the patrons by name. They’re always on the hunt for amazing beers to have on tap and have an extensive bottle and can selection. They can tell you everything about each and every one of their 100+ beers in case you’re in the mood to try something new.
But if you’re just visiting, don’t worry. The team at Mosaic will love that you included their hidden gem on your vacation to NYC. In fact, tell them Sarah and Nick sent you. Mosaic was where we watched the HGTV series we were on with all of our friends. That’s right. They were so supportive they let us turn on Beach Flip — with the sound on — so we could watch it in good company. It was also where we spent our very last night before we moved – because we couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else. Make Mosaic a stop on your list of “places to see” while in NYC. You won’t be disappointed.
If you’re wanting to stay in Manhattan we love Mermaid Inn. There are two locations but the favorite is in the East Village. The East Village should be a neighborhood to hit up for any NYC visitor so you might as well sit down for a great bite to eat while you’re there! Not only is the food amazing but the Happy Hour is unbeatable. Stop by between 5pm-7pm and get to know NYC’s after work crowd. Enjoy fantastic ambiance in their outdoor garden while slurping down $1 East Coast oysters and enjoying $5 beers (that’s a bargain in NYC!)
Korea Town – or as New Yorkers affectionally call K-Town – is a lively area of NYC located on 32nd street between 5th Avenue and Broadway. There are several to-die-for restaurants in this area but my favorite is a 2nd floor dive called Pocha 32.
When I was still auditioning for theatre and just starting out my first business with professional organizing, I tended bar at a hotel to pay the bills. After we closed down for the night, most of us would be hungry or in need of a nightcap before heading home. K-Town was just 4 blocks away and most spots are open until 4am – so it waswhere we’d go to unwind from our shift.
Pocha 32 was everyone’s preference. We’d grab a table and immediately order the Watermelon Soju. They serve this cocktail in half of a watermelon shell. The fruit is pureed and mixed with plenty of soju, an ancient Korean rice or barley alcoholic beverage, with what has to be only a splash of sprite and what they call “sweetness”. You then can ladle a serving into a plastic bowl that you’ll bring to your mouth and enjoy. Be careful, this stuff tastes innocent but can get you buzzed pretty quick! Their menu is authentic and the food is amazing. My favorite is their ramen.
Before you head out, make sure you write a message on your chopstick wrapper and tie it to the green fishing net that is cast over all the walls and ceiling. You’ll definitely want to leave your mark on this amazing local hang.
Even as a New Yorker, I get overwhelmed with the dining choices. I have plenty of friends in the hotel and restaurant industry, so I am always asking my inside contacts for other great places to check out. The most knowledgeable, by far, is my dear friend Eugenia Primis, Travel Advisor with Evie Travel. She loves Shalel Lounge located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on 70th and Columbus – but she advises to look hard or you’ll miss it! “Dimly lit steps take you down to a romantic Moroccan Cave.” says Eugenia. “This restaurant has been around for years and is a local favorite of Upper Manhattanites, especially those looking for a romantic night out.” This truly hidden gem has fantastic cocktails and a delicious middle eastern inspired menu at a great price point.
Heading back to Queens so I can tell you all about Nick and my favorite restaurant in all of NYC. This was the last restaurant we visited before saying goodbye to NYC because we just had to have it one. last. time.
As soon as we sit down in this unassuming Venezuelan restaurant, we order Passion Fruit Sangria for the table. Yes, it looks like they dump a can of cocktail fruit into a pitcher of booze – but, regardless, it’s sangria magic. It’s not too sweet and not overpowering. It’s a perfect partner to an authentic arepa. I can best describe an arepa as a white corn cake that houses a number of fillings from avocado to sweet plantains with beans, meat, and plenty of cheese. Our favorite is the Arepa Pabellon. Bring your camera, the art on the walls is something you won’t want to forget!
Do you have a favorite NYC restaurant that doesn’t get enough hype? Share it in the comment section below!