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Image Courtesy of Upland NYC
Image Courtesy of Upland NYC

10 NYC Alternative Restaurant Recommendations

Picture of Katie Shine
Updated: 24 April 2017
It’s almost a new year, and it’s time to break out of the inevitable restaurant rut. Although you indubitably have your tried-and-true favorites on a Saturday night in New York City, it’s time to find a new favorite Italian spot for delectable homemade pasta or a new Sunday brunch joint for the best short stack and egg scramble (sans the two-hour line around the block). Take a leap of faith and find an alternative for your favorite New York classic.

If you’re a Becco regular…try ViceVersa

Intimate, cozy Italian restaurants line Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen with their advertisements for a memorable post-theater dining experience. For a four-star meal without the four-star prices, take a detour on residential West 51st Street to ViceVersa. Homemade pastas steal the show with their creativity and fresh ingredients. Whether you sample strozzapreti (‘priest strangler’ is the literal translation) with duck ragout and Gaeta olives, squid ink ravioli or chitarra spaghetti with crabmeat and capers, the result is pure heaven. Occupying the lower level of a townhouse, the tranquil and inviting locale offers a warm dining room and courtyard to sample your pinot grigio and panna cotta under the stars.

Vice Versa, 325 West 51st Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 399 9291

If you are craving Peter Luger…try Keens Steakhouse

Steakhouses in New York City can often intimidate the most experienced dining companion. However, a welcoming and quirky environment with a fascinating historical backstory can make everyone feel at home. Keens is no newcomer to the New York City scene of porterhouses and mutton chops, but this 130-year-old James Beard Foundation award recipient remains under the radar in the long-gone 19th century theater district of Herald Square. Sporting an interior of antique portraits and gleaming wood walls, the dining room and connecting casual pub contain an astonishing number of churchwarden pipes and theatre district artifacts to entertain customers. Come for the steakhouse staples of oysters Rockefeller and lamb chops and stay for the charm and time warp experience

Keens Steakhouse, 72 West 36th Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 947 3636


If your crowd is heading to JG Melon…try The Red Cat

Gourmet burgers are a dime a dozen in Manhattan, but an unpretentious neighborhood favorite with a Cheers familiarity is more difficult to come by. Legendary restaurateur Jimmy Bradley opened The Red Cat in bourgeois Chelsea over a decade ago and drew acclaim for emphasizing superb service and conversation-starting comfort food. The Red Cat will please your social acquaintances for brunch, dinner or even dessert, but its lunch menu is particularly renowned for its Instagram-worthy, mouthwatering ‘tasty burger.’ Crowned with Gruyere cheese and bacon, topped with house-made pickled onions and sandwiched between a toasted English muffin, this masterpiece will only be savored slowly, preferably with the wine you brought according to the BYOB policy. The Serrano ham and manchego cheese bocadillo and roasted beets are also to die for.

The Red Cat, 227 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 242 1122

Courtesy of Upland NYC

Courtesy of Upland NYC

If the line at Prune has you beat…try Upland

Upland may be a relative newcomer to Gramercy, but the new kid is doing well, with a summer visit by President Obama and family and a hype-worthy buzz perpetuating around its California-infused Italian fare. Upland is instantly recognizable for its thin crust pizza (‘nduja and stracciatella pizza cannot be missed), but Chef Justin Smillie and restaurant genius Stephen Starr are mercifully expanding their repertoire to weekend brunch. Hurry quickly — the ‘eggs in hell’ (smothered in fresno chili and oregano), simple fruit-adorned pancakes and porchetta and egg sandwich will have you coming back for brunch regularly.

Upland, 345 Park Avenue South, New York, NY, USA, + 1 212 686 1006

If you’re ready for a new Dominique Ansel-style treat…try Dough

The ‘cronut’ has had its fried dough heyday; it’s time for the ‘doughka.’ Not familiar with it” Take a visit to Dough Doughnuts, in either Bedford-Stuyvesant or the Flatiron District, to take a big bite out of the chocolate babka-doughnut hybrid. If frozen dessert is your Achilles’s heel, Chef Fany Gerson created one-of-a-kind doughnut sundaes with La Newyorkina specialty Mexican ice cream crowned by doughnut croutons. Traditional doughnuts come in the form of mocha almond, lemon meringue or the proverbial salted caramel. On your way out the door, make sure to peer through the baking windows to view the small-batch doughnut-making process.

Multiple Locations in NYC

Courtesy of Maison Kayser

Courtesy of Maison Kayser

If your sweet tooth veers towards Momofuku Milk Bar…try Maison Kayser

Parisian-inspired boulangeries are often disingenuous outside of the boundaries of France. Maison Kayser is a stellar exception with its flagship café on the Upper East Side. Sensory overload overwhelms patrons as they decide between pain de mie loaves, elegant fruit tarts, pain au chocolat, and beautifully frangible éclairs. Each item from the Viennoiserie and pastry selections is artfully and precisely crafted. The Adagio dark mousse confection with a passion fruit interior is a master class in pastry design.

Maison Kayser, 1294 Third Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 744 3100

If you favor Anejo…try Toloache 50

Upscale, inviting Mexican-inspired eateries are less common than Midtown dwellers would prefer. Among the Hell’s Kitchen Italian restaurants and Broadway theaters lies a Julian Medina-founded (of SushiSamba fame) institution specializing in authentic tacos. The de lechon will please carnivores with suckling pig carnitas and chicharron, while the chapulines will satisfy adventurous vegetarians with Oaxacan-influenced dried grasshoppers and salsa verde. Begin the meal with homemade rojo (spicy) guacamole and you will be wondering why Toloache has flown beneath your radar for so long.

Toloache 50, 251 West 50th Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 581 1818


If you brunch at Waverly Restaurant…try EJ’s Luncheonette

The quintessential luncheonette appeals to many New Yorkers with its wallet-friendly prices, comfort food classics and ‘around the corner’ vibe that reminds New Yorkers of home, wherever that may be. EJ’s Luncheonette has been drawing crowds for years to its Upper East Side and Upper West Side locations for its blue plate special favorites like filet of sole almondine and roasted turkey dinners, as well as eggs benedict offerings and chocolate chip pancakes on weekends. A sweet end to the meal is provided by Nutella and chocolate covered bacon milkshake options.

EJ’s Luncheonette, 1271 Third Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 472 0600

Courtesy of Mighty Quinn's

Courtesy of Mighty Quinn’s

If you cannot resist Hill Country Barbeque Market…try Mighty Quinn’s

Okay so maybe you already know of the legendary barbeque stalwart Mighty Quinn’s, but have you seriously tasted the burnt ends yet” The juicy, smoke-flavored crispy ends of brisket are heavenly and can be enjoyed ‘naked’ or on a sandwich accompanied by complimentary add-ons like pickled red onions and sides like sweet corn fritters and buttermilk broccoli salad. The mastermind creation of barbeque pit master Hugh Mangum elevates the cafeteria-style service with a chic rustic interior and craft beers from Allagash, Blue Point and Lagunitas. The burnt ends baked beans, smoked sausage and gargantuan ‘brontosaurus rib’ can be enjoyed at four prime Manhattan locations, as well as two spots in Brooklyn and one in New Jersey.

Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, 103 Second Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 677 3733

Courtesy of Gotham West Market| © Daniel Krieger

Courtesy of Gotham West Market| © Daniel Krieger

If you frequently visit Chelsea Market…try Gotham West Market

The public market is fast becoming one of the hallmarks of the 21st-century culinary world. Manhattan does not disappoint with crowd favorites like Eataly and Essex Street Market, but this Far West Side newcomer on 11th Avenue may be the one to beat. Gotham West entertains hungry foodies at any hour  — artisanal early-morning coffee at Blue Bottle, a midday Midwest-inspired spicy smokehouse burger (bacon, gouda and charred jalapeño mayo included) at Genuine Roadside and evening Spanish wine and tapas like patatas bravas and croquet de jamon at El Colmado. If dessert still calls your name, famed Brooklyn ice cream experts have an Ample Hills Creamery outpost here showing off flavors such as cake-studded Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Mexican Hot Chocolate in freshly baked waffle cones.

Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 582 7940


By Katie Shine

After years of reading about global destinations and studying abroad in Rome, Katie caught the travel bug and hasn’t stopped exploring new places since! When she is not traveling to Sonoma or Bavaria, she can be found in New York City discovering the best pommes frites, quirky bookstores and people-watching spots.