A Seat at Our Table

A Seat at Our Table With WSWD’s Secret Culinary Insider

Think NYC’s dining scene slows down during the summer? Nope!

Photo courtesy of Chalait

The restaurants and bars in NYC never take a beach break. In fact, this season is sprouting plenty of new delights of the edible and potable varieties. From limited-edition burgers and never-seen-before matcha bundt cakes to truffle-laced cocktails at just-opened rooftop bars, everything is coming up roses (and rhubarb!) on the food scene. Our secret culinary insider (if we disclosed her identity, we’d have to…eat you?) knows what’s new and hot, along with the tried and true, in every pocket of the city. Here’s a dozen dishes she ate this month.  

1. A loaf of bread, a stick of butter…and a soppressata sub

When’s the last time you ate in Little Italy? Exactly. Regina’s Grocery makes the case for a visit. The tiny new-school Italian deli—just 10 seats, plus two more outside—was recently opened by a mother and son to offer their well-sourced takes on classic sandwiches (all named for family members). Try my new go-to, the Uncle Rocco: tuna, smoked mozz, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, house-made hot pepper paste, arugula, and balsamic on a hero.

2. Burgers that play hard to get

Ever since Minetta Tavern launched its Black Label burger almost a decade ago, restaurants have seriously upped their beef patty games. It’s not only about having a killer burger; it’s about making it a limited edition. Chef Ignacio Mattos has extended his magical lunch burger to the dinner menu over at Café Altro Paradiso, though only at the bar. The small patty is goosed with fish sauce, rosemary, and chile oil and topped with a meltingly sweet/umami-y radicchio mostarda and Gorgonzola. If you didn’t know any of that, you would simply understand that this is a new level of burger heaven. 

3. Gotta-get gazpacho

You know how ice cream shops sell hot chocolate in the winter? Well, chef Marco Canora—the Hearth chef behind the popular bone broth takeout spot Brodohad a brilliant idea for what to serve in summer that’s not steaming hot: gazpacho! It’s hard to decide between the verdant green version—packed with spinach, fennel, basil, mint, and more, and blitzed with chicken broth and blanched almonds for protein—or the classic red, which is bolstered with beef broth and olive oil. 

4. Mucho matcha

The Instagram moments at Cha Cha Matcha are endless, but when it comes to best-quality matcha and delicious food, Chalait can’t be beat. And now it has opened a huge new location on Houston and Hudson that’s worth a thousand posts. Tuck in for a ceremonial-grade shot, a latte with house-made almond-cashew milk, a matcha Arnold Palmer, or, hey, a cup of Counter Culture coffee. And order the miso butter toast with poached egg and avocado, a Kyoto salmon bowl, and a slice of matcha–white sesame and ginger bundt cake. To take home: So many things, but let’s focus on the matcha chocolate bark for now!

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Photo courtesy of Chalait

5. You’ll want to get stuck at this office

Grant Achatz has become a culinary legend thanks to his Chicago restaurant, Alinea. But not everyone in NYC knows that he also has one of the city’s coolest, most forward-thinking bars in town, the Aviary. Well, lucky us: He also recently opened the Office in the Mandarin Oriental. The 35th-floor speakeasy took five years to bring to life, and it’s easy to see why, with its luxe gentlemen’s club feel and hyper-conceptualized cocktail and food menus. The drinks are pre-Prohibition in, um, spirit, but modern on the palate, such as the amaretto sour, which includes black truffle and smoked salt. There is a $265 tasting menu, as well as decadent snacking options, like rib eye tartare and a blackberry brown-butter cobbler. 

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Photo courtesy of David Lewis Taylor

6. A lunchtime deal in Dumbo

It can be tough to find a great place to eat lunch in Dumbo. Too bad Vinegar Hill House is only open for dinner…and a long walk away. Wait! It has opened VHH Foods in the cool new Empire Stores, a waterfront warehouse–turned–high-tech arcade. The all-day café transitions from cold brew and chocolate ricotta bread at breakfast to a salad/sandwich lunch (try the Thai peanut butter tartine) and full-service dinner. It also offers “park meals,” so you can take out, say, a smoked chicken with vegetables, pull-apart rolls, and cookies for four to the nearby park. Or just sit in the courtyard and feel sorry for Manhattanites.

7. Say ciao to a new Carroll Gardens bar

Love Campari and amaro, Negronis and Aperol spritzes? The new Carroll Gardens bar August Laura awaits. The slender, clubby space (and spacious terrace) serves classic Italian cocktails alongside newcomers. That could mean a Bicicletta or a Bellini—or a Lambrusco spritz or a take on an amaretto sour that’s actually cool. Add ballast with bar snacks like pretzels with onion dip or Italian sloppy joe sliders.

8. Summer fruits, by straw

Chocolatier L.A. Burdick is known for cute novelty chocolates—and decadent hot chocolate. This summer, his Soho location also serves up refreshing fruit coolers, made by the pastry chef, from such seasonal favorites as rhubarb, apricot, and strawberry. Don’t worry, you’ll still want the chocolate mousse.

9. A fresh look at an NYC classic

I Sodi is the perfect spot in many ways: quiet and intimate, boasting stylish regulars and a menu of Tuscan classics that are always perfectly executed. It’s a grown-up restaurant, for sure, but it also has its playful moments. Its Negroni menu has been around, but it seems more timely than ever. Sure, you can get a Sbagliato (Negroni topped with Prosecco) at chef-owner Rita Sodi’s nearby Via Carota, but here she offers seven options, including a Negroni Bianco, a Negroni made with richly flavorful Barolo Chinato liqueur, and another made with the bitter artichoke liqueur Cynar. Here’s the trick: This place is always packed, but you have a chance at the bar. Simply give them your name, go around the corner to Via Carota for a Sbagliato, and they’ll call you when your stool is ready. Don’t forget to order the lasagna. #WorthIt

10. Maison seconde?

Those who drink and date are familiar with the seductively gorgeous Williamsburg bar Maison Premiere. Now you should become acquainted with its sister restaurant, Sauvage. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the pretty French-inspired place serves what can only be called international hipster comfort food: a little French, a lot seasonal. Get to know someone while enjoying oysters and a cocktail, or have a third date over rabbit with smoked bacon and hen of the woods mushrooms.

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11. Museum-quality fare

Two reasons to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art this month: The dizzying and delightful Alexander Calder show (try to go when the sculptures are being “activated” by the staff) and evening drinks on the terrace. The museum is open until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday—and so is the eighth-floor Studio Café, with its killer 300-degree views of Manhattan and, if you position yourself just right, the sunset. Have a few cocktails, maybe a duck meatloaf banh mi, and feel like you’re drinking a Manhattan in a secret Manhattan.

12. A classic sundae, by way of Hanoi

With ice cream season in full swing, it’s time to try the most unusual sundae in town. Hanoi House, in the East Village, has earned a cult reputation for its che, a towering confection made with lychees, pandan and black grass jellies, candied ginger, sweetened condensed and coconut milks, and black sesame ice cream. It’s so good that it’s worth getting there early: Only 12 sundaes are served per night.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Yorkshire