I love going out to eat. Delicious food combined with a fun or interesting atmosphere can inspire great conversation, and these elements are what make any old restaurant a really excellent restaurant. Here is a list of my 10 favorite restaurants of 2010:
1-Asia de Cuba at Morgans (New York, N.Y.)
Dark and sleek, this internationally-known restaurant is the perfect place to hit up for drinks with the girls or to wine and dine that cute girl in the cubicle across from yours. Grab a mojito during happy hour and then sit down to experience some of the best service you’ve ever had. To eat: the Cuban BBQ Chicken is bursting with flavor and very smartly paired with sweet Thai coconut sticky rice.
2-Press 195 (Rockville Centre, N.Y.)
Boy am I glad I checked out this spot before the clock strikes 12 tonight. In addition to a slew of pressed sandwiches and fun appetizers, Press 195 offers a wide variety of brews and wines to suit any taste palate. Great for a post-movie drink with friends or a pre-game lunch with the guys, don’t leave without checking out the entire menu. To eat: the Pastrami Knish features Swiss cheese, pastrami, sauerkraut and roasted pepper dressing all packed inside a sliced knish. Top it off with an enormous serving of fries and you’ll be hooked.
3-Del Posto (New York, N.Y.)*
Del Posto is a restaurant from another world. It is dark and split by a cascading staircase, with a pianist playing light tunes to accompany the sounds of clinking wine glasses. Dine here to celebrate an anniversary or new engagement and prepare to be paid attention to for the entire duration of your stay. Dishes are eloquently explained as they are served and feature only the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. To eat: splurge on the 7 Course menu and not only will you get to taste the famed 100 Layer Lasagne al Ragù Bolognese, but you may just have the best dining experience of your year.
4-2 Amys (Washington, D.C.)
If you are looking for no-fuss pizza in an easygoing, wooded atmosphere, 2 Amys is the place for you. Simple ingredients unfold into intricate flavors, and while the menu is not extensive, the opportunities are endless with a make-your-own option. Perfect for a Sunday lunch or nighttime meet-up, the food comes fast and the restaurant offers fresh doughnuts at lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays. To eat: an appetizer off of their specials (try something you’ve never had before!) and a Norcia Pizze.
5-Mia Dona (New York, N.Y.)
This restaurant makes the cut thanks to one simple dish: a meatball hero made and served on the restaurant’s front porch. Placed in between two thick slices of focaccia, the meatballs are doused in spicy or mild tomato sauce, covered with a slice of caciocavallo cheese, sprinkled with arugula and finished with sharp and salty romano. This sandwich of glory is then grilled before your eyes on the grill behind the red, but modest, meatball cart. Served only from 12-2p.m. this sandwich makes for a lunch that will brighten any Midtowner’s day. To eat: the meatball hero (duh!) with a can of San Pellegrino Aranciata.
6-Ping Pong Dim Sum (Washington, D.C.)*
Not only does this Asian restaurant have the best cocktails in town, the dim sum is traditionally made and fun to share with friends. With low lighting and tables to accommodate many, Ping Pong is a great place to hold a bachelorette dinner or have drinks before a concert at the Verizon Center. Sit at the dim sum bar to watch your delicious bites being prepared before your eyes. To eat: the Black Prawn Dumpling, Hoi Sin Duck Spring Roll and Griddled Spinach and Mushroom Dumpling.
7-Taylor Gourmet (Washington, D.C.)
A Taylor Gourmet sandwich is worth waiting an hour for (seriously, it’s been done). This amped-up deli serves Philly-style hoagies that are consistently delicious. With sesame-topped bread from Sarcone’s Bakery in Philadelphia and meats and cheeses imported from Italy, Taylor’s is doing something right in a world of fast food subs. Perfect to take to-go for a walking tour of the city or to have delivered after a night out, don’t fill up too much on the sandwiches as there are fried goods to be had. To eat: the 9th Street Italian (Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto, sharp provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion) and an order of garlicky Rocky’s Risotto Balls.
8-Taiko (Rockville Centre, N.Y.)
This is not your average sushi restaurant. With appetizers like Fish and Chips and a Jake roll containing a shredded combination of Kani stick, shrimp and masago, Taiko is a place for people who are looking to further their sushi-eating experience. While the restaurant itself is small, its signature rolls have enormous flavor. Come here for a fun date or with group of adventurous friends. To eat: the Black Dragon roll (crunchy jake, unagi, avocado, masago, scallion and unagi sauge) and the Que Pasa? roll (deep fried spicy tuna, avocado and salsa picante).
9-The Hideaway (Montauk, N.Y.)
You’re going to need a GPS to find this place. Tucked away behind boats and beach bums, The Hideaway is a treasured Mexican restaurant pouring peach and cinnamon sangria, serving crazy good tamales and fueling an atmosphere that will make you feel as though you’re on a vacation far, far away. With a fun staff and made-from-scratch foods, this restaurant is a must if you find yourself looking for authentic Mexican food and unique tequila-based drinks. To eat: a Pulled Pork Burrito and Sweet Plantains.
10-Gjelina (Venice, CA)
This cozy spot is a small oasis just blocks away from the bustling Venice Beach Boardwalk. Put on your shades and sit in the courtyard outside, but don’t forget to stop and admire the antiqued design of the restaurant’s interior. Gjelina offers up simple pizzas for a summer lunch or more complex dishes such as Crispy Duck Leg Confit and Dungenous Crab and Meyer Lemon Risotto. Come with friends in the afternoon to share a bottle of wine and plate of charcuterie, and then stay for dinner to enjoy some interesting plates. To eat: Chestnut Fettuccine with Braised Lamb and a side of broccolini.
Of course you could also get a delicious and vibrantly-colored spinach pizza and make it the header for your blog.
I hope that 2011 will bring health, happiness and even more delicious eats.
*I had the great opportunity of interning for both Ping Pong Dim Sum and Lidia’s Italy in 2010, and enjoy food from both of these regardless of this connection. A special thank you to the ladies of Lidia’s for introducing me to the Mia Dona meatball hero!