SoHo conjures thoughts of loft parties, quaint cobblestone streets and Midwesterners dashing in and out of Broadway stores, but it’s also a hub for dining. The neighborhood flaunts a host of fine-dining establishments, as well as a number of casual, cheapish eateries for when you’re maxed out on your credit card. From an iconic French bistro to a Chinese restaurant boasting some of the best jiggly soup dumplings outside of Chinatown, these are the top places to eat in SoHo.
The quintessential brasserie from prolific restaurateur Keith McNally, Balthazar remains enormously popular two decades after it first opened. The decor features the trademark glowing ‘McNally gold’ light, which flows over the red-leather booths and banquettes, usually filled with poshly dressed locals swirling red wine. Here, French bistro classics – snails, French onion soup, steak frites – are placed in front of you by smartly suited servers, making you almost believe you’re dining in France.
At street level, La Esquina is an unassuming café and taqueria offering the typical Mexican standards – mainly tacos, tortas and quesadillas. Downstairs is a pseudo-secret dining room with a nightclub ambiance, pricier fare, an array of agave spirits and a reputation for debauchery.
From the team behind the buzzy Estela and Flora Bar, Café Altro Paradiso leans towards Italian – but this is anything but an ordinary red-sauce joint. The menu changes often, but it’s dominated by small plates, pastas and larger entrées, which in the past have included dishes such as fava bean salad dotted with dates and ramps, and malfatti twirled with wild mushrooms and Parmesan.
Wine is a big deal at Charlie Bird, and its carefully selected offerings are served in elegant Zalto glasses with stems as slender as the beautiful people who frequent the place. The menu feels very much American, but it has a bit of Italian flair (there’s excellent pasta, after all). Try the farro salad (featuring ingredients that rotate with the seasons) or the famed Tuscan chicken liver swiped with rhubarb mostarda and lemon thyme.
A couple of years ago, Le Coucou was one of the buzziest NYC openings – and deservedly so. Le Coucou sparked New York’s poignant return to classic French dining, presented in a room that’s elegant yet decidedly unstuffy. Go for a killer date, or when you’ve come into a large sum of money, and don’t miss the quenelle de brochet with caviar, or the stunning three-dish tout le lapin (an entire rabbit).
Situated on tree-lined Sullivan Street, The Dutch feels vaguely like an upscale tavern. Noted chef Andrew Carmellini cooks up classic American comfort food for a celeb-heavy crowd. Notable dishes include the fried chicken, the lunch-only burger and many steak options.
Two chefs from London’s famed River Café crossed the Atlantic to open King, a tiny yet bright bistro. Their menu, which takes its influences from Tuscany and Provence, changes daily; you might encounter dishes like whipped salt cod with polenta and olives, or red wine-roasted guinea hen with spinach, lemon and ricotta.
Osteria Morini, one of the more casual restaurants from pasta wizard Michael White, celebrates food from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy in a rustic atmosphere with farmhouse-style furnishings. Start with plates of cheeses and cured meats, then continue with any of the handmade pastas (try the tagliatelle with bolognese or the tortellini with duck-liver mousse). Pro tip: the Monday late-evening $10 pasta special ranks among SoHo’s best deals.
A lively, low-key French bistro, Raoul’s is now more than 40 years old (it was around long before SoHo became cool) and is still as popular as ever. The steak au poivre remains a must-order. So, too, the elusive cheeseburger – only 12 are served per night, and only at the bar – bookended by a soft challah roll and crowned with ribbons of red onions, watercress and a melty wedge of cheese. While you shovel duck-fat fries into your mouth, keep your eyes peeled: Raoul’s has been a late-night celebrity magnet for decades.
Although each morning as tourists still elbow each other out of the way in hopes of securing Dominique Ansel’s famed Cronut, there’s much more to the SoHo bakery. Ansel, after all, is a mastermind when it comes to pastry. Try his torched-to-order frozen s’mores (vanilla ice cream and chocolate wafers enshrined in sticky marshmallow) or shot-glass-shaped cookies lined with chocolate and filled with Tahitian vanilla milk. Those seeking something more traditional should peer into his cabinet of classic French desserts for éclairs, Paris-Brests and madeleines.
Squeezed among the slew of charming boutiques near West Broadway is Pinch Chinese, a relatively small spot that’s made a name for itself with its soup dumplings. There are three versions available – pork, seafood and chicken – all plump and jiggling in hot soup. But the menu is not all dumplings. There are spicy dan dan noodles, slick with peanut oil and bits of pork, and wind-sand chicken, an Amish bird roasted and browned with a dousing of garlic.
Alidoro has been slinging mammoth Italian sandwiches for over 30 years in a teeny, no-nonsense shop on Sullivan Street. It’s expanded now to locations in Midtown and the Bowery Market, but the idea remains the same: choose from a roster of 40 sandwiches (such as the Fellini, layered with rings of soppressata, mozzarella, hot peppers and a tangle of arugula), or create your own, right down to the kind of bread. Pro tip: Alidoro is cash only.
Jewish fare is ubiquitous in New York, but no one dresses it up quite as much as the team at Sadelle’s. There are smoked-salmon towers, plush with all the necessary bagel accoutrements (including actual bagels, which arrive strung along standing, wooden poles), along with an inverted grilled-cheese bagel and sticky buns. Brunch tends to be a splashy scene, but you can also dash in for made-to-order bagels and lox sandwiches, or swipe a loaf of dense chocolate babka to go.
From the team behind Rosie’s and Vic’s, Shuka is the kind of place you wish was located on your corner. If the wonderful blue-painted exterior doesn’t lure you in, then the bright-pink beet hummus flush with hunks of pillowy pita will. Here, the kitchen focuses on Mediterranean-inspired fare: spinach pie stuffed with lemon, herbs and feta; lamb and chicken kebabs drizzled in spiced yogurt; and spit-roasted chicken shawarma.
A Japanese grocery store at heart, Sunrise Mart is home to a selection of freshly rolled, simple sushi dishes and neatly arranged bento boxes, as well as homemade soba noodles and steaming bowls of ramen. It’s frequently teeming with SoHo workers looking for a quick, cheap bite to eat, but there are plenty of tourists poring over the floor-to-ceiling collection of Japanese snacks and candy, too.
What was once Paowalla is now the Bombay Bread Bar, chef Floyd Cardoz’s ode to his native India. The space has been re-envisioned to reflect India’s personality: a vibrant, Bollywood-inspired mural covers the walls, and diners dip naan in chutneys atop tablecloths adorned with orange halves. The homemade breads are must-haves, but you’d be remiss not to sample the paneer pizza or the fall-off-the bone short rib nihari.
Our debut short film, The Soul of Soho, explores neighborhoods separated by oceans, history and culture but united by craft community and change. Neighborhoods bound by one name: Soho. Intimate portraits of city living in the Sohos of London, New York and Hong Kong reveal rich stories of the people who bring life to these iconic neighborhoods. Explore Soho here.