My family will be in New York next month and we’ll be attending an event on 12th St. in the East Village. Where can I take them to eat that night? They’re a bit of a meat-and-potatoes crowd, but it would also be great to suggest some hipper places for my cousin when he sheds the parents.
The East Village is one of the best areas for dining in Manhattan: you can wander any of the Avenues and find at least one satisfying place to eat on each block. But since you’ve restricted it to the northern end, I can narrow it down to a few parent-pleasing options around 12th Street.
The meat-and-potatoes crowd will feel very comfortable at Back Forty (190 Avenue B at 12th St.). It’s an ingredient-driven “haute barnyard” menu—basics like roast chicken and vegetables, grilled trout, and the house burger—prepared unfussily. If any member of your group wants to splurge on a house cocktail, I highly recommend you try one or two of the seasonal selections. My friend Lisa’s favorite, the strawberry-based The Red and the Black, only comes around in the summer when the berries are in the greenmarkets, but you can try it at your leisure with her recipe.
Similarly, The Redhead (349 E. 13th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves.) serves simply-prepared, hearty dishes with a Southern bent. The fried chicken, house-made soft pretzels, and bacon peanut brittle are always on the menu for good reason, but you wouldn’t be steered wrong if you wanted to sample a big-boy pork chop or roasted beet salad. Unlike Back Forty, this is a no-reservations joint with the exceptions of groups of 5+, and even then, they’ll only seat your party before 6:30 pm.
Both of these places are hip enough that your cousin won’t be embarrassed, nor are they so trendy that anyone will feel overwhelmed or out of place.
After dinner, if the parents are sticking around, head over to Shoolbred’s (197 2nd Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts.) for some well-made drinks. Owner and Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long has styled the space as an homage to his Scottish ancestors, and it’s a cozy room with a comfortably long wood-paneled bar, leather armchairs, and most importantly for these cold nights, a fireplace. If you can find any more room in your stomach for a late-night bar snack, this is the place to have one: the deviled eggs with candied bacon and the crunchy-topped mac and cheese in a cast-iron skillet are standouts.
And once the rest of the family calls it a night, you and your cousin can round out the evening at Hi-Fi (169 Ave. A at 11th St.). It’s a down-and-dirty bar that’s been around long enough to impart a bit of that old-school East Village feel to its walls (which are covered in old records, hence the name). This bar has a special place in my heart not only for the decor but because I once won a cupcake on a bet with a guy who didn’t think I would be able to identify the song currently playing on the jukebox. Little did he know that I am an R.E.M. completist—the song was “Gardening at Night.”
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