Kristin Harmel is the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting, and six previous novels. Her work has been featured in People, Woman's Day, Men's Health, Runner's World, and Ladies' Home Journal, as well as many other publications. Her most recent novel, The Life Intended, is out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.
One of the things I love about New York City is that it's impossible to run out of culinary spots to try. With a mind-boggling amount of choices – and new restaurants opening all the time – you could eat out for all three meals a day without exhausting your options. And while this might sound like a dream come true, it also begs the question: How do you choose where to spend your time and money? You probably already know about the places that get a ton of coverage, but what about some of the lesser-known, under the radar spots? Here are five favorites:
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709 9th Avenue and 49th Street
New York, NY 10036
This delightful BYOB restaurant, owned by Gazala Halabi, an Israeli Druze who came to New York in 2001, is a unique gem in the heart of Hell's Kitchen. Though less well-known than Halabi's newer, larger location – Gazala's on the Upper West Side – it is overflowing with charm. The first restaurant in New York representing the tradition and cuisine of the Druze – a small Middle Eastern ethno-religious group – it features familiar favorites such as taboule, babaganoush, and hummus all done with a Druze twists, such as using an almost tortilla-like bread called sagg in place of pita.
34-08 31st Avenue
New York, NY 11106
Specialized paninis and an expansive tapas menu under the same roof? Bring it on. This Astoria neighborhood favorite features high-quality antipasti, inventive crostini, and a transcendent panini list, ranging from Berkshire Smoked Ham (with truffle aioli, dirty chips, and aged cheddar) to Speck (with apricot butter and taleggio). The restaurant also offers a small variety of unique craft beers and an inexpensive, well-curated wine list beginning at $22 per bottle.
214 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012
My friend Ann Mah, the author of Mastering the Art of French Eating, is one of the most discerning foodies I know, so when she raved about this Middle Eastern spot owned by Israeli-born chef Einat Admony, I knew I had to listen. It's been reviewed in the New York Times, so it's not as under-the-radar as some other eateries, but if you don't know about it already, you should. Don't miss Mah's favorites: the boneless organic grilled chicken, the breaded fried olives served with thick yogurt, and the crispy cauliflower in tahini sauce.
753 Washington Street At Bethune Street
New York, NY 10014
With a chef-owner from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, this West Village corner restaurant serves up an incredible spaghetti alla carbonara, rustic pizzas, pastas and entrees, and a nice list of salads and appetizers, including Impepata di Cozze (mussels sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce). Make sure to try the rucola, grapefruit, orange and mint salad.
La Bonne Soupe
48 W. 55th Street (Between 5th And 6th Avenue)
New York, NY 10019
My friend Kristin calls this spot "a quiet restaurant in the midst of the midtown craziness," and when I asked her why she liked it so much, she said – twice in three sentences – that it's because of the amazing bread. This French bistro has a mouthwatering assortment of other draws too, especially its "Les Bonnes Soup" menu which features an array of soups – including the restaurant's beloved French onion – served with bread, salad, dessert and a glass of wine for under $22.
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