The eateries of Restaurant Row—the block of 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues—are popular with theatergoers because of their proximity to Broadway. But the more than two dozen establishments that make up the block are far from tourist traps. At any given seating you’re as likely to find locals in the know as you are out-of-towners. And by the way, Restaurant Row isn’t a nickname. Then-mayor John Lindsay officially designated the block as such in 1973, declaring it “the best restaurants collected in such a short strip of land.” Let’s sample a few of them.
Plenty to choose from on Restaurant Row. Image: Roger Rowlett/Wikimedia]
Founded in 1906, Barbetta is not only the oldest restaurant of Restaurant Row and the rest of the Theater District, but it’s also the city’s oldest Italian restaurant and the oldest restaurant in New York still owned by the family that founded it. More than a landmark, though, Barbetta serves up authentic dishes from the Piedmont region of northern Italy: risottos with porcini mushrooms or roasted beets; roasted rabbit in a white wine and lemon sauce; vitel tonnè, sliced veal in a tuna sauce; and don’t skip the salsiccia di cioccolato—“chocolate sausage”—for dessert.
The exterior of Barbetta. Image: Ralph Daily/Flickr]
When you think of Brazilian cuisine, churrasco— grilled meat—probably comes to mind. Brazil Brazil offers plenty of churrasco options, and more besides. Try the feijoada, a black bean and meat stew considered Brazil’s national dish, or bobó de camarão, a sort of shrimp chowder. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights adds a date-night-in-Rio vibe, especially when accompanied by a caipirinha or two.
Located in what was built in 1894 as a residential brownstone, Hourglass Tavern was named after the hourglass placed on tables to ensure that diners didn’t linger too long; after all, the restaurant had only seven tables when it opened. Today it encompasses three floors, and customers no longer need to keep an eye on the sands tumbling through the hourglass as they tuck into standards such as pan-seared lump crab cakes, lobster-stuffed ravioli, and New York strip steak. Hint: The locals tend to gravitate toward the cozy second-floor space dubbed the Bettibar.
Hourglass Tavern. Image: Jazz Guy/Flickr
When it opened its doors in 1965, Joe Allen was an underdog catering to underdogs: The neighborhood was still a bit down at the heels, and the restaurant was known to extend credit to performers who were a bit down on their luck. Since then the fortunes of the area have risen, as have those of the eatery’s clientele: Regulars have included Lauren Bacall and Al Pacino, and just about every marquee name has tucked into a meal here at least once. Some things haven’t changed, though. The menu still offers favorites such as black-bean soup, burgers, calf’s liver, and for brunch, eggs benedict, and one wall of the restaurant is still adorned with posters of Broadway flops.
Owner and executive chef Paul Denamiel learned his craft during summers spent with his grandparents in France; in the kitchens of his family’s three New York restaurants; at the Culinary Institute of America; and from studying and working with the likes of Daniel Boulud and Jacques Torres. Unpretentious but undeniably French, Le Rivage’s fare encompasses moules farcies (baked mussels), ratatouille, boeuf bourguignon, and the French Onion Soup Burger, a Denamiel creation that won the 2013 New York City Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash.
This Spanish-cuisine restaurant is not for the indecisive. First you have to choose between tapas and a traditional lunch or dinner. If you opt for the former, you then have to select from dozens of small plates, ranging from artichokes with Serrano ham to grilled lamb chops, tongue in garlic sauce, to mushrooms sautéed in brandy. Going with the dinner menu doesn’t make things much easier. Do you want to start with gazpacho or a traditional Seville salad? Which of the myriad paella options should you choose? You might need to order a second sangria before you can make your decision.
Sushi of Gari 46
Acclaimed sushi chef Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio had already launched two restaurants in Manhattan and one in Tokyo when he opened the doors of Sushi of Gari 46 in 2006. To truly understand why Gari has received worldwide acclaim, try the omakase, or tasting menu—literally “respectfully leaving another to decide what is best.” The sushi and sashimi that make up the omakase vary each day, depending on seasonality and market choices. Signature pieces that exemplify Gari’s marriage of tradition and innovation include Hirame Truffle blow-torched fresh fluke topped with sweet onion sauce, poached quail’s egg, and white truffle oil; and Yaki Kaki: grilled oyster topped with pistachios, escargot herb butter, and breaded flakes in the shell.
The remaining piece of an omakase at Sushi of Gari 46. Image: Advencap/Flickr