Where to Get a Taste of Home Life in the City – Literally
Looking for some dining room inspiration? These New York City restaurants dish up their fare in the comfort of brownstones, townhouses, and even an old carriage house. From modern American to top-notch farm-to-table fare, home-cooked meals are being given new meaning here.
Bobo (181 W. 10th St.)
If any restaurant has a reason to celebrate this year, it’s Bobo. After turning 10 years old, it’s still as chic, relevant, and frequented by a who’s who crowd as when it first opened. So, in honor of a decade well spent, Bobo recently shut its doors in order to undergo a renovation, ensuring that it continues to age as gracefully as it has so far. Set in a West Village townhouse, Bobo has always been loved for giving its guests the feeling of dining in the home of a Parisian living in New York—heavily curtained windows looking out onto the streets, antique bric-à-brac and volumes on bookshelves, creaky old stairs leading up from the dim lounge to the dining rooms. Worry not; the makeover was to dust off and amplify such a cultivated feeling rather than diminish it, and the same goes for the the gorgeous plates of French fare. There’s chicken prepared in a red sauce from the Basque region, rabbit terrine with brandywine and pickles, and the most tender lamb shoulder for two. Could a 10-year-old be any more fabulous?
Tavern62 (135 E. 62 St.)Complete with two floors and a sunroom, Tavern62 is a proper Upper East Side home for chef David Burke’s playful approach to haute cuisine. Despite the name, the bar area downstairs is the only part of the restaurant remotely reminiscent of its namesake category of drinking establishment. Upstairs, meanwhile, is dark and handsome like a gentlemen’s club, with blue walls and backlit bookshelves.
The menu is filled with interesting twists: soba nori rolls with the gingery salmon; pretzel-crusted crab cakes; short ribs and prawns served together as an interpretation of a surf-n-turf with spicy polenta; “clothesline” bacon, in which strips of pork are served hanging from clothespins on a string. Part of Burke’s fame has been derived from his creative use of pink Himalayan salt bricks, which here are used as serving dishes as well as in the décor, built into walls in one of the rooms upstairs.
Blue Hill (75 Washington Pl.)
Farm-to-table dining has become so proliferous in New York that at times it feels hard to escape its grasp. At the very top of this field is Michelin-starred Blue Hill, which has been setting the benchmark for this category since 2000. In the 17 years since, chef Dan Barber has worked to ensure that his tasting menus served in the basement of a Greenwich Village townhouse are unlike any others not just in the city but in the world.
Produce on the fruit- and veggie-focused menus have been specially cultivated at a farm upstate, meaning that the wheat used in the bread, extraordinary beets and squashes for fall roasts, and so much else on offer is found here and only here. In the elegant dining room, impeccable service will often let you see this produce before it reappears cooked into a dish, making this a full, experiential feast. You can opt for the four-course Daily Menu with choices like eggs shipped down from the farm that morning cooked with almond and speck or pork prepared with tropea onions and romesco, or the six-course, pre-set Farmer’s Feast.
The House (121 E. 17th St.)
In Antebellum New York, when Union Square counted as the Upper East Side, a carriage house was de rigueur for the city’s upper echelons. Now, one such Early Romanesque brick structure near Gramercy Park has been restored into a tri-level restaurant that’s unarguably one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. Appropriately named The House, this restaurant garners as much love from its patrons as it induces with its lady charms, warming guests with its parlor replace, basking them in sunset glows pouring in through skylights and portholes, and seeing them wine and dine over candlelight into the later hours.
Fine vintages and spirits are served from two bars while the menu has every dish ideal for a date-night feast: oysters, cheese plates, and heirloom tomato salad; day boat scallops, local lamb, and short ribs au poivre; and Nutella fondue served with marshmallows and graham crackers for a tableside version of s’mores. It’s the type of place where good food and conversation see hours y by until the streets are empty outside, but equally lovely are appetizers and cocktails at the first-floor bar during the weekday Cocktail Hour, when tipples such as the J.O. Ward—a rye and Campari cocktail named after the house’s original tenant—all come at half price.