Many of the finest restaurants in the world are in New York—and some of the finest are downtown. Whether you’re planning on attending Fashion Week or, for that matter, any time of the year you’ll want to make reservations in advance because these three are frequented by regulars and international foodies alike. A word of advice: there’s no such thing as a dress code anymore when you dine out as long as you look chic and clean. It runs the gamut, from cocktail dress fancy, to torn jeans…as long as you coordinate them with a couture blouse and jacket and Tiffany jewels.
Image courtesy of Balthazar Restaurant
80 Spring Street, New York (between Broadway and Crosby Street in SoHo)
SoHo’s Balthazar restaurant is a French brasserie that restaurateur Keith McNally opened in 1997 and since then, has become one of the most popular dining hangouts in all New York. There you can order steak au poivre, signature steak frites, short ribs, beef stroganoff, duck confit, butternut squash, skate, and French onion soup, and order from its famous raw bar.
The building, a former tannery, is full of atmosphere with its high-backed red leather banquettes, scarred and peeling brass oversize mirrors, high tin ceiling, scuffed tiled floor, faded saffron yellow walls, large windows, and antique lighting. Balthazar is immortalized in pop culture in the 2009 autobiography Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School, by Katherine Darling, John Grisham’s novel, The Associate, the 2010 novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, by Rebecca Goldstein, and the 2012 novel The Stolen Chalice, by Kitty Pilgrim. In November 1999, comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld proposed to his wife, Jessica Sklar, at Balthazar.
Image courtesy of Beauty & Essex
BEAUTY & ESSEX
146 Essex Street, New York
Beauty & Essex is a restaurant like no other. The entrance is a well-curated, modern day pawn shop, where you can find, perhaps, a saxophone, some quirky artifacts, vintage treasures and one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Once you’ve made your way through the pawn shop you come upon a circular staircase lit by a magnificent, custom, 2-story chandelier and from there, four distinct dining rooms (one private), two bars, and a lounge. The luxurious other-worldly atmosphere doesn’t stop there: the women’s bathroom is complete with a salon, luxurious sofa, and antique perfume bottles. But you came for the food (not that sax you picked up in the pawn shop) and make no mistake, you are in for a dining experience par excellence courtesy of Chef Chris Santos, one of the pioneers of the small, share-plate dining trend that has swept the international food scene.
Image courtesy of McSorley’s Old Ale House
MCSORLEY’S OLD ALE HOUSE
15 East 7th Street, New York
One of the oldest taverns in New York is said to have first opened its doors in 1854, when it was called “The Old House at Home.” Founded by Irish immigrant John McSorley and passed on by him to his son, William, to manage around 1890, this East Village landmark still attracts anyone looking for a hearty home-style meal and a draft beer. Heck, you can even order Coney Island Hot Dogs at McSorley’s. Among those who’ve enjoyed a hearty meal there are Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt…skipping across a century…Woody Guthrie, and Dustin Hoffman. And when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, they took that most coveted hockey trophy and drank out of it—at McSorley’s.