BEST PLACE TO FEEL LIKE A CELEBRITY
314 W.11th St., 212-620-0393
A trendy gastropub that has not lost its star appeal. With Jay-Z as one of the owners, it's not a long shot that some celeb - say Jude Law, David Schwimmer or Courtney Love - might show up. But even if the stars aren't aligned for a sighting, there's plenty on this Michelin-starred menu to sink your teeth into.
BEST EXPENSE-ACCOUNT BUSTER
Any restaurant in the Time-Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle
The midtown towers boast three Michelin-starred restaurants and some of the costliest and difficult-to-get reservations in town. If you're not recession-shy, take your clients to Masa for supreme sushi, Per Se for precisely-focused American plates or A Voce for upscale Italian.
BEST PLACE TO TAKE THE PARENTS
9 W. 53rd St., 212-333-1220
Artful surroundings include the garden-facing restaurant featuring beautifully presented French-American cuisine. Desserts are a tour de force here, and influenced by the sensibilities of an Alsatian chef. The wine list includes off-the-beaten-path selections.
BEST GIRLFRIENDS' NIGHT OUT
121 E. 17th St., 212-353-2121
This classy 1854 carriage house near Gramercy Park oozes with cozy charm, whether you're by the fireplace, the open kitchen or tucked in the upstairs loft. The excellent wine by the glass menu prevents squabbles over choosing a bottle.
BEST PLACE BEFORE A MOVIE
38 E. 19th St., 212-677-2233
Pipa, the Spanish-Latin fusion tapas place that's popular with the design set, is fortuitously located near movie theaters on Broadway and Union Square. Decorated by the neighboring ABC Home, it's a visual feast as well as a gastronomic one.
BEST PIZZA THAT ISN'T RAY'S
309 W. 50th St., 646-719-1043
Forget those mono-named red-sauce joints or the trendy celeb chefs-turned pie-makers. This pizza newcomer is a third-generation Neapolitan who takes his craft seriously. Here the pizza dough is first fried, then topped, and finally cooled off in the oven. Choose from 50 kinds, including gluten-free and vegan.
BEST IMPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY
200 Fifth Ave., 212-229-2560
All of the eateries in this emporium are devoted to an aspect of Italy's best culinary traditions - from coffee and gelato to fresh fish and produce. Constant crowds prevent it from being homey, but that's part of the authenticity of eating in the Italian marketplace.
North End Grill
104 North End Ave., 646-747-1600
Battery Park City has long needed a culinary shot in the arm; now Danny Meyer's latest eatery gives downtowners a trendy place of their own. Top chef Floyd Cardoz (formerly of Tabla) heads the kitchen with a focus on seafood and fresh farm meats.
BEST FARM-TO-TABLE EATING
75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776
You'll make your parents proud when you eat your veggies at Dan Barber's farm-sourced restaurant housed in a former speakeasy. The menu has a focus on "know thy farmer," with select heritage meats and poultry, and produce from the restaurant's own farms.
BEST CLASSIC LUNCH COUNTER
Lexington Candy Shop
1226 Lexington Ave., 212-288-0057
With classic counters closing each year, this one, in business since 1925, may be the oldest remaining. Continually operated by the same family (its last renovation was in 1948), it's a place to enjoy no-nonsense classics such as chopped egg or liverwurst sandwiches and the stellar ice cream fountain.
BEST POOL TABLE
75 Christopher St., 212-675-6056
Well-loved by pool-sharking NYU students and devotees of late-night jazz jams, Fat Cat boasts the best basement playground in the city. When you're done with pool, you can belly up to the bar, or dominate a Ping-Pong table, or crash on the many thrift-store couches.
BEST FIRST DATE
Macao Trading Company
311 Church St., 212-431-8750
The menu here is nearly as exotic as the surroundings. Décor from flea markets around the world, a sexy opium cabinet and a sultry downstairs Oriental lounge set the bar high, guaranteeing a second date will be anti-climatic.
BEST BREAK-UP PLACE
113 St. Mark's Place, 212-614-0386
Two things make this a great break-up joint: it's so dark no one will see you cry or throw your drink, and you can take comfort eating gourmet hot dogs at the adjacent Crif Dogs thereafter. You can also drown your sorrows in bacon-infused bourbon sweetened with maple syrup, the signature cocktail of the house.
BEST HAND-CRAFTED COCKTAILS
111 Reade St., 212-240-9194
This three-year-old TriBeCa bar provides a low-key refuge for people who want a cool hangout without the pretension of the red velvet rope. You' ll find great bartenders here and an honest menu of bespoke cocktails, focused on spice and homemade bitters.
BEST PLACE TO BE A WINE SNOB
24 Harrison St., 212-625-9463
Paul Grieco, a self-described Riesling overlord, commands an expanding kingdom of wine bars. Don't expect Yellowtail or any other lollipops on his wine lists. Instead, you'll find a curated book of often overlooked grapes and regions. Something familiar: the cheese and charcuterie that go with nearly everything.
Rudy's Bar & Grill
627 Ninth Ave., 646-707-0890
Cheap drinks, a heavy pour and a classic jukebox make this the undisputed best dive in the city. The duct-taped red booths are as well-loved as the $7-pitchers, unlimited free hot dogs and the crusty bartenders. Expect a crowd of regulars and tourists.
BEST PLACE TO FEEL LIKE YOU'RE IN COLLEGE AGAIN
The Gin Mill
442 Amsterdam Ave., 212-580-9080
Uptown Ivies and Fordham students gather in this casual tavern for Jell-O shots, beer pong, drafts of Stella and Sams and big-screen sports. In b'tween games, there's plenty of nacho-munching, big-burger maneuvering and co-ed canoodling.
BEST SPORTS BAR FOR A WOMAN
122 W. 26th St., 212-741-0645
The original of a growing chain of concept sports bars, high-minded sports guys - and their dates - find a place here. Elevated bar food such a lobster or crab cake sliders, lamb burgers, and mahi-mahi wraps make it a gal-friendly place for watching sports on the 40-plus flat screens. Bored with the game? There's pinot grigio on the menu.
BEST PLACE TO PICKUP SOMEONE RICH
Grand Central Terminal. 212-953-0409
Evoking the feel of an old-moneyed home, the stashed-away bar - formerly the
private office of tycoon John W. Campbell - presents a classy stomping ground for the well-heeled professionals who can afford the pricey drinks. Your best tactic: dress up and carry a $20 - just enough for one drink. If you don't score after that, leave.
BEST URBAN BEER GARDEN
626 10th Ave., 212-977-1944
Atmosphere, not attitude prevails at this authentic German hole-in-the-wall, one of the last of its kind in the city. The usual plates of sauerkraut, wursts and spaetzle are washed down with a good selection of unusual German brews. Best experienced with a happy hour crowd over a keg of Oktoberfest bier.