nyc-etc: hidden gems {eat}

January 25th, 2017
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Even more fun than finding a hidden shop? Discovering a tucked-away restaurant – down an alley, behind a kitchen or in the basement of a building. When I came across this article a few years ago I immediately bookmarked it for my weekly dinners with Chelsea – here are a few of our favorites!

hidden restaurants in nyc

Freemans

At the end of a Lower East Side alleyway (that boasts its very own street sign) sits a snug restaurant, modeled on the idea of a “rugged clandestine colonial American Tavern”.

freemans

It’s super cozy and the food is delicious – what more could you want from a hidden gem? Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

freemans

The Brasserie at La Esquina

This was fun. On a funky corner in Nolita sits a taqueria counter, attached to a small cafe serving brunch and small plates. But the Brasserie is where it’s at. To get there you enter the taqueria and give your name to whoever’s manning the door marked “Employees Only”. You’re then led downstairs to the basement, through the kitchen and into the Brasserie itself. The decor is, to quote New York Magazine, “a Mexican dungeon as styled for a Vogue shoot, complete with metalwork and distressed stone walls”.

la esquina

But, like, in a good way.

The food is what you’d expect – tacos, ceviche, margaritas – all fresh and done well. But let’s be real – it’s the experience we’re talking about here. We recommend. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Burger Joint

Burger Joint has been around for so long – and is so well known – that it hardly qualifies as a “hidden” gem any more. But walking through the shmancy Parker Meridian lobby, pulling back the Oz-like velvet curtain, and entering the wood-paneled, poster-covered, graffiti-laden joint never fails to thrill.

burger joint

burger joint

burger joint

The “menu” is no-frills. No veggie burgers. No gluten-free buns. No salad. Fries served up in a paper bag. Killer soundtrack. I love it. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Apres Ski Fondue Chalet at Cafe Select

Walk through the kitchen of the stylish Café Select to find the entrance to a teeny back room that is tricked out to look like a ski chalet.

apres ski

Snack-style food like zucchini chips and ricotta fritters are elevated to next-level delicious, as are standards like raclette and fondue. This is one of our very favorite spots. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Kuma Inn

kuma inn

Yes, this is the only sign/indication that there is a restaurant hidden inside. And up some stairs. And around a corner. But don’t be dissuaded. Chef King Phojanakong cooks up THE most delicious Thai-Filipino cuisine, served “tapas” style (which means you can basically sample almost everything on the menu). The room is cozy, service is super friendly and prices are downright reasonable given the incredible quality of the food. Facebook/Instagram

Sakagura

In yet another midtown office building basement is a real-deal Japanese restaurant and sake bar.

The spare, modern building lobby makes the restaurant – constructed mostly of warm wood and bamboo – feel even more like an escape from the city.

sakagura

And I won’t say that the bathrooms, housed in what looked like giant sake barrels, made my day. But I won’t say they didn’t. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

New Yorkers! Have I missed any places? Personally, I’m dying to try Pulqueria (tried it!) and the United Nations Delegates Dining Room.

Want more fun NYC haunts? Check out my Pinterest board!

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