A few personal favorites (I’ll try to keep the list updated)
Rebelle - Fancy, but not schmancy, or overly expensive. Great french food by an American chef. Amazing wine list and staff who love to geek out on the funkier side of the cellar. Order the “angular” Chenin Blanc if you’re in the mood. (Last visit: May 2015)
Russ & Daughers (Deli) - The original Russ & Daughter’s Deli is a must for anyone interested in food or NY. Get a take-away bagel sandwich, walk two blocks to the West, and watch some pretty good pick-up basketball action. The recently opened cafe has great bloody mary’s. (Last visit: June 2015)
Ippudo West - The mid-town branch of second wave Ramen sensation (first wave = Momofuku). Less hipster, less crowded, less loud - but better food than the downtown twin. (Last visit: 2014)
Mission Chinese - Fake take-out Chinese front on Lower East Side opens up into hipster joint in the back. They often play hip-hop. That’s a good thing. Go late, or put your name on the list and wander around the neighborhood. (Last visit: 2014)
M. Wells Dinette @ PS1 - The recently added steak house is hit or miss, but the lunch spot inside the PS1 delivers. It’s quirky, and interesting, and generally over the top, and highly recommended. (Last visit: Feb 2015)
Haven’t been, but want to go:
Roberta’s - The Brooklyn pizza joint.