You’d think that in a city of over eight million people, you’d rarely, if ever, run into anyone you know—“you’d think” being the operative phrase here.
But even in a city like New York, with amazing restaurants on virtually every corner, it seems like everyone I know is still going to the same 10 or so. And if I had to guess, a restaurant or two just popped into your head as soon as you read that sentence.
What? I don’t make the rules.
Don’t get me wrong: Most of these spots are actually really great, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t go to a majority of them pretty frequently, too. But if you’re planning on showing up to any of them thinking you’re going to have a low-key night and stay under the radar, well, I’ve got news for you. Be prepared to run into your best friend from camp’s college roommate’s friend from high school, with whom you’ll inevitably have to make small talk and consider merging reservations.
If I had a dollar for every time a girl in Golden Goose sneakers walked into Momoya (Chelsea location, always) and said, “We’ll get the spicy tuna crispy rice and/or the spicy tuna pizza for the table, and then I’ll have a spicy tuna naruto roll and a spicy salmon hand roll without rice,” I could buy a full-price retail Chanel double flap bag, new price increase included. This is like, the unofficial meeting spot for anyone who went to Syracuse, Michigan, Penn State, or Wisconsin.
Kotobuki is the Momoya of the east side. Chances are you also have very strong opinions about which one you prefer and will defend it like you’re rooting for your Color War team during Sing Night. You were probably introduced to this place because a friend of a friend is from Roslyn, and now you’ll rave about how good the spicy tuna sandwich is to anyone who will listen. (But also, the K-Mac slides are fire. I would know. I’m literally from Roslyn.) When you come here, expect to run into a group of 22-year-olds who are all rooming with their best friends from college in Windsor Court. That is, if they ever look up from their phones.
If you didn’t know any better, you might think Momoya, Kotobuki and Sushi Seki were the only sushi spots in all of New York City. You’re going here if you want a slightly more ~upscale~ experience than the first two, and to eat spicy tuna crispy rice while listening to the table of girls next to you talk about how they need to make a return at Zara tomorrow. They’re probably at least in their mid-20s and work in marketing or media buying but are considering going to law school. Naturally.
Ok, technically you won’t really run into anyone you know here because getting delivery is always the move, but you get the gist. I mean, if you ordered Marinara but didn’t post a picture of the MVP cauliflower pizza and house salad to your Instagram story, did you really order Marinara? I think not. The free marketing they’re getting from girls who live in one-bedroom flex apartments in Murray Hill is truly next-level.
You’re going here for the bagels and lox tower, and also maybe to spot Arielle Charnas. Honestly though, the bagels and babka here are worth the run-in with your best friend from middle school who you haven’t seen in 10 years but *promise* that you’ll grab lunch and catch up with (soon!!).
Mark’s Off Madison
We get it: You miss Barneys. Tell us more about how you dream about the Madison Avenue Salad from Freds on a daily basis. But while you’re at it, get an order of the Belgian fries, a margherita pizza and probably some bagels and lox for good measure. You’re virtually guaranteed to see that girl you stalk on Instagram but don’t know personally—you know, the one who just got engaged and posted a picture of herself in the jean jacket.
There’s no thrill like finally seeing that 7pm Resy notification for the Park Avenue location pop up on your phone and knowing that the kale and rotisserie chicken salad, spinach and artichoke dip, and coconut shrimp roll are just a few short hours away. Word to the wise: Order yourself a martini so that you’re prepared to inevitably run into the finance bro you once went on a few Hinge dates with before he ghosted you.
Is it just me, or did this place just appear out of the blue one day and now it’s… everywhere? Specifically, that damn chopped salad with the sun-dried tomatoes. Yes, yes, I know: Order it SFK style with the negroni. Noted. It goes without saying you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into one of those girls you grew up with who wants to be the next Bravolebrity.
You’re coming here to break your low-carb diet and get your hands on that burger and fries if it’s the last thing you do. That is, after you awkwardly wave hi to the girl in your sorority a year or two older than you that you a) never exchanged more than five words with, and b) haven’t seen in at least five years. But that encounter will be worth it if you spot Tinx while she’s in town.
Dinner at Lola Taverna is like walking into an unplanned high school reunion. You’re coming here to order a Greek salad and a side of the scene. It’s not Scorpios Mykonos, but it’s pretty damn close. Prepare to see girls who are really just here for Instagram and wouldn’t go near the pita bread with a 10-foot pole.
Tasti-D-Lite, Murray Hill
Need I say more?
Images: Javier Díez / Stocksy.com