A Seat at Our Table

A Seat at Our Table: September 2017

Which NYC restaurants will you find WSWD’s Secret Culinary Insider this month? In a trendy underground vinyl record bar in the West Village and Smorgasburg’s newest Tribeca location, for starters.

Now that we don’t have to worry about sculpting our bodies for the beach, we can dedicate our efforts to filling out our autumn sweaters. September is full of bubbly finds (just in time for boba’s awkward moment in the spotlight!), sweet licks for the tail-end of peak ice cream season, and a wellness appointment with one Dr Smood. Our Secret Culinary Insider knows what’s new and trendy, along with the tried-and-true, in every pocket of NYC’s restaurant scene. Here are a few dishes she ate this month. And don’t ask us to reveal her identity: If we disclosed that, we’d never get another dinner invite.

1. A Japanese–Tex-Mex Hybrid

Obsessed with Japanese breakfast? So are we. When you’ve done Okonomi (and you must—except on Wednesday, when it’s closed), it’s time to check out House of Small Wonder. The tiny warren, hidden behind corrugated steel on Williamsburg’s North 6th Street, has “traditional” breakfast options like croissant French toast, but it’s the Japanese dishes that are worth the trip. Tsukune don is a generous rice bowl topped with teriyaki-coated chicken meatballs and a soft-boiled egg; the sashimi zuke don offers marinated raw fish with avocado, rice, and egg; and the sake teshoku is salt-grilled salmon with rice, edamame, seaweed, and pickles. And if you want to get even more savory, try the Japanese–Tex-Mex twist that is the Okinawan taco fried rice. It’s been a hangover cure since the 1960s.

2. Lunch on the French Riviera…on the Upper East Side 

Tucked inside the Upper East Side’s elegant Lowell Hotel is the equally chic Majorelle, which is now open for lunch. The French menu leans slightly Moroccan—we’re partial to the cheese soufflé and the salad with braised carrots and oranges. Whatever you do, do not skip on the chocolate mousse for dessert. Note: It tastes even better while seated in the restaurant’s alfresco-esque, glass-roof garden dining room.

3. Healthy Brunch Dosas

We knew it wouldn’t be long until abcV answered the siren’s call for brunch service. This is not your typical bottomless mimosa and bacon place, however. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten looked to Asia when crafting the menu. Think: savory kitchari (a nourishing grain bowl) and dosas filled with everything from avocados and eggs to Swiss chard and za’atar. Top it off with a “vibration,” a house-made restorative tonic to cure what ails you.

4. Smart Food With Dr Smood

If you haven’t heard of Dr Smood—the (actually) healthy, organic, grab-a-quick-bite café—expect one to be popping up in your neighborhood soon. The company recently opened its third location in Soho and plans to show up on Orchard Street soon. Dr Smood serves everything from organic juices, coffees, and teas to salads and sandwiches made on its unique Performance Bread (millet flakes, spelt flour, water, and salt). We’re particular suckers for the house-made cashew and almond “mylks.”  And unlike other Soho cafés, this one actually has plenty of seating, WiFi, and charging stations, making it the perfect spot to post up for a work meeting.

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5. Curated Tunes, Izakaya-Style Eats

We’re told vinyl record bars are all the rage in Tokyo, and now we can experience the phenomenon locally thanks to the West Village’s new Tokyo Record Bar. This tiny underground spot (beneath our new favorite, Air’s Champagne Parlor) is doing things a little differently. For one, it has only 16 seats. It’s offering two seatings—6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.—for a very unique $50 seven-course izakaya tasting menu served alongside a customer-curated vinyl playlist. A bar-restaurant where we get to pick the tunes? Yes, please.

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Cosmo at Tokyo Record Bar; courtesy of Noah Fecks

6. Summer of Hell? Not at the Pennsy

A delayed Amtrak no longer means a dinner of Auntie Anne’s pretzels and a brown-bagged Coors Light. Enter the newly expanded Pennsy Food Hall and the recently opened Pennsy Beer Garden, conveniently located next to Penn Station. Grab a steak sandwich from Pat LaFrieda or a grilled avocado salad from The Little Beet. Wash it all down with a local brew while sitting at the outdoor picnic tables. Just don’t get too comfortable and miss your train.

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7. An Ice Cream Shop Catering to Harlemites

Harlemites won’t have to depend on Mister Softee for their nightly ice cream fix anymore. Local lovebirds Petrushka and Nick Larsen have opened up Sugar Hill Creamery, offering the neighborhood homemade dairy (and nondairy) treats including milkshakes, sundaes, and ice cream sandwiches. The menu is in constant rotation based on seasonal flavors, but we are currently loving the peach and the salted caramel crunch. With Red Rooster located right around the corner, plan to make a night of it in Harlem.

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Sugar Hill Creamery; courtesy of Evi Abeler Photography

8. Feeling Bubbly

Is it just us or is fancy bubble tea having a moment? Bar Pa Tea in Soho offers a healthy(-ish) version with tapioca pearls that are additive-free and a tea that is sweetened with pure cane sugar. Try the iced oolong matcha tea (with mini bubbles!) or go for a tea latte soft-serve and add the bubbles as a topping if you’d rather eat your drink. Meanwhile, at Canal Street Market, Boba Guys is committed to using local and organic milk to make its endlessly customizable teas. And it hand-makes almond jelly and grass jelly toppings.

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Photo courtesy of Boba Guys

9. Smorgasburg Swims Across the East River

If you haven’t braved a bridge to visit Smorgasburg yet, well, Smorgasburg has come to you. The essential outdoor food festival transformed a 23,000-square-foot Tribeca lot into a foodapalooza it calls Smorg Square. With more than 20 vendors, tons of seating, and a weekend night market, it’s the place to get a fun bite from Red Hook Lobster Pound, Destination Dumplings, Red Hook ballpark favorite Lupita’s, and more before shopping the 60-plus carefully curated vendors selling vintage and handmade items at the Brooklyn Flea across the street. Better yet: The full bar launches next month.

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Photo courtesy of Smorgasburg

Be the first of your friends to try out the trendiest new restaurants around the city, courtesy of us.