New York restaurants have a talent of turning up in the most unlikely places: in obscure alleys or on the second floor of industrial buildings. The fact that every New Yorker loves a secret makes all of these spots more delicious. We visit five restaurants that defy text book business location logic and pack in the crowds.
151 Rivington St., 212-677-5470
With no signs outside, this tiny Japanese restaurant seems more like a studio apartment than a commercial restaurant. While it’s not the place for sushi purists, diners can enjoy decent quality sushi at reasonable prices.
Find it: Up the stoop on the first floor.
Gotta try: Wasabi gnocchi ($12) and chef’s choice of sushi and sashimi ($46) per person.
113 Ludlow St., 212-353-8866
For years, diners in the know have flocked to Kuma Inn for King Phojanakong’s inventive and savory Asian tapas. The restaurant’s intimate low-key vibe invites both large crowds and couples.
Find it: On the second floor. Ladies leave your high heels at home. The steep stairs can be treacherous.
Gotta try: Sauteed Chinese sausage ($11.50) and drunken spicy shrimp ($10.50).
2 Freeman Alley, 212-420-0012
Freemans is NYC’s worst kept secret. While it is located in a quiet Lower East Side alley (the kind located only by a GPS), it manages to attract a fashionable downtown crowd that makes brunch here a mob scene. Those lucky enough to snag a table can enjoy simple American fare under lots of taxidermied animals.
Find it: At the end of the alley right next to Freemans Sporting Club.
Gotta try: Hot artichoke dip ($10) and roasted wild bass ($22)
261 Moore St., Brooklyn, 718-417-1118
From the outside, Roberta’s looks like an abandoned garage that should have been in “Mad Max II.” Once inside, the large warehouse space turns out some of the most incredible artisanal pizzas in NYC, made with a soft airy crust and topped with handmade cheese.
Find it: Only five stops on the L-train from Manhattan and a block and half from the station.
Gotta try: The specken wolf: pizza topped with speck, onions, mushrooms and mozzarella ($14) and lion heart: pizza with mozzarella, tomato, Brussels sprout, cotto (a type of salami) and pecorino romano ($15).
394 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-599-6895
This South Williamsburg spot, located right below the elevated train lines, is a local favorite. While the restaurant receives mixed reviews on its Mediterranean/American style food, the amiable service, cozy ambience and live music more than make up for it.
Find it: By looking for a bicycle hanging outside.
Gotta try: Fonduta ($7) and the rotisserie pork rib ($15)
Other somewhat-hidden spots:
La Esquina, 114 Kenmare St., 646-613-7100
NYC’s best-known hidden restaurant made famous by likes of Lindsay Lohan and Madonna
Burger Joint, 119 W. 59th St., 212-708-7414
Hidden behind a curtain in the Parker Meridien Hotel
Kashkaval, 856 Ninth Ave., 212-581-8282
A Hell's Kitchen grocer turns into a wine bar and fondue spot at night?
Sake Bar Hagi, 152 W. 49th St., 212-764-8549
Subterranean yakitori joint with little signage
Ganesh Temple Canteen, 45-57 Bowne St., Flushing, Queens, 718-460-8484
In the basement of a temple devoted to Ganesh
*Courtesy of Aaron Ginsberg of Always Eating and Joe DiStefano of Serious Eats.