The @girluninterrupt Guide to Dining Outside Tribeca

I’ve been jealous of @girluninterrupt‘s restaurant adventures for as long as I’ve followed her on Twitter—she lives in Tribeca, but she checks out every hot restaurant in the city, usually before I’ve even heard of it. So I asked if she’d occasionally recommend restaurants that are worth leaving the bubble for. —E.T.

HECHO EN DUMBO
Opened in 2007 across the East River (you guessed it, in DUMBO) and relocated to Manhattan in 2010, Hecho en Dumbo serves Mexican antojitos (small plates, street food) on the Bowery. You’ll find the familiar tacos, sopes, and tostadas alongside larger-plate entrées featuring duck, seafood, or pork belly. The tortillas are made fresh and they taste great with queso fundido or wrapped around short ribs in a taco. I love the sopes here—they’re some of the best in the city. Linger with other diners at the bar: It’s a fun and social vibe most evenings, especially after a few shots of El Tesoro Añejo tequila (one of my favorites) or a few glasses of their famous margarita tamarindo.

JG MELON
I know, I know…. The Upper East Side is like a foreign country, a far-flung land reserved for Real Housewives and fresh-eyed college grads piled into dorm-like high rises. And there can’t be any good food up there, right? Mostly right. Amid the haute burger trend that has invaded the city, JG Melon has kept its cool and its superb and simple burger recipe, feeding preppies, yuppies, guppies, and silverbacks alike. The cheeseburgers are worth the trip uptown: juicy, flavorful all-beef patties between a simple white bun (no fancy pants bread, designer meat, or foie gras here). There ain’t much else on the menu worth a damn, but make sure you order a Bloody Mary or a Bloody Bull, and get some cottage-fried potatoes, too. Then chat up the old-school bartenders and those Gen Yers dressed in madras, Nantucket reds, and cable sweaters. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time to The Official Preppy Handbook circa 1980. In a good way.

XI’AN FAMOUS FOODS
If you dream of a steaming bowl of spicy noodles on a cold winter night without the fuss of a full-service restaurant, this is the place for you.  What started out as a small shop in Flushing specializing in the relatively unknown lamb-centric street foods of Western China, Xi’an Famous Foods hit the big time when it got the Tony Bourdain stamp of approval. Now with outposts in Manhattan (one in Chinatown and one in the East Village) and more expansions planned, the mini chain is poised to conquer the city with its cumin lamb burgers, Spicy & Tingly beef and lamb noodle soups and stewed pork noodles. What gets people coming back is the secret chili sauce used in almost all the dishes. It’s not just spicy for spicy’s sake—it actually has flavor. And you can’t beat the price; a burger plus a big bowl of noodles will set you back all of $10. Just don’t expect a fine-dining experience. The best way to sample the goods and slurp away is at the hole-in-the-wall, standing-room-only storefront in Chinatown.

OSTERIA MORINI
For an experience with a different kind of noodles—i.e., pasta—get thee to Osteria Morini, the newest project from super chef Michael White of Marea, Alto, and Convivio fame. Morini is the more casual, rustic cousin from up north in Emilia-Romagna. Much of the menu will not do you wrong. The seafood salad, grilled swordfish, and branzino will wow. But don’t miss the star of the show: pasta. From the tagliatelle alla ragu rustica to the strozzapreti and the ricotta gnocchi, you’ll learn how a little bit of pork fat and butter can do wonders to simple pasta classics. It just reconfirms the fact that low-carb diets are so, as Fergie would say, 2000 and late. I’m no wine expert, but Morini’s wine list strikes me as having some very interesting and unique selections. Wine + pasta = what’s not to love? And it’s not even that far from Tribeca (on Lafayette, south of Spring).

KIN SHOP
OK, I don’t normally expect good things from restaurants that are a) less than six months old and b) associated with a reality show like “Top Chef” (in this case, Harold Dieterle from the show’s debut season). But Kin Shop was an exception. From the cocktail/wine/beer list (ginger infused Thai rum, bourbon with lemongrass, Laotian beer next to Oregon pilsner…) to the savory (hand-cut beef tartare, roasted duck breast with roti, steamed red snapper), to the sweet (an assortment of ice creams and sorbets made with exotic ingredients), you won’t really care if this is “contemporary Thai” cuisine (as the website calls it) or Southeast Asian fusion or some other trendy food label. You’ll just want in, and you’ll immediately start scheming what you’re going to order next time you’re back.

3 Comments

  1. Kin Shop was a disappointment…surprised to see it here on this list…but thumbs up to the others!

  2. Thanks for the recs! I love Osteria Morini and the burgers at JG Melon’s are at the top of my list, so I’m ready to try the rest, which all seem like good reasons to venture out!

  3. I went with high hopes to Xi’An last year, but was really disappointed in the food–the noodles were only ok, and that is being generous. The others look interesting.