Holiday diversions – Manhattan’s neighborhood cafes and bars

Inside Eataly in the Flatiron District

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New York City at this time of year is resplendent with holiday lights, Christmas trees and festive window displays.  Just walking  down Fifth Avenue in the crisp December air fills me with holiday cheer – and an appetite.  There is no lack of great Michelin star restaurants here, but during the holidays when you’re out-and-about, it’s easy to be drawn into the convivial and cozy atmosphere of the neighborhood cafe or bar.  Here are some ideas for your next trip to Manhattan!


  • Terroir Tribeca is the larger of the wine bars owned by Paul Grieco and Chef Marco Canora of Hearth Restaurant.  The wine list is diverse, but with their strong culinary backgrounds, riesling and Sherry selections shine.

West Village

  • Buvette – a pocket of a French bistro with Upper East Side polish but in a neighborhood format with all day dining and no reservations.  One can have a meal or hor d’oeuvre with wine or just coffee and not feel rushed.  In an area where one is likely to have a student as waiter, Buvette’s staff is well-informed and trained, and the food really is a step above.  The wine list is French and Italian, but moving towards French.  Buvette opens around 3:00 pm on weekends but plans to transition to brunch soon, so call.   42 Grove Street off Bleeker, (212) 255-3590.
  • Tartine – a French bistro serving typical dishes:  mussels, pissaladiere, steak frites and au poivres.  What makes it a great ‘neighborhood’ place is that there is no pretention here.  As a BYOB, no one looks twice if you bring in your own stemware or multiple bottles of wine. You could find yourself striking up a conversation with a scion of a great Rioja family who just might share his bottle of ’89 Pesquera or a 200-year old Pedro Ximenez Solera in exchange for a Meursault rouge.  Cash only, no reservations.  253 W. 11th St. at W. 4th St. 10014, (212) 229-2611.
  • For the quick bite or sweets – Downtown is filled with tempting French and Italian bakeries that also serve savory tarts, sandwiches and desserts.  On Bleeker Street is Amy’s Bread, Rocco’s and Murray’s Cheese Shop.

East Village

  • Peels – Downtown is rich in French and Italian eateries so if you want to change it up a bit, try Peels for American comfort food such as fried chicken and the best biscuits around.  Cocktails are great.  Open all day, 325 Bowery at 2nd St. 10003, (646) 602-7015.
  • Momofuku Noodle Shop.  When you’re on the run and want something light before a big dinner, noodles are a good choice.   David Chang has a talent for pork, so you won’t be disappointed with the Momofuku Ramen with roast pork and pork belly topped with a perfectly soft-cooked egg.  171 First Avenue between 10th and 11th,

Union Square and Flatiron

  • Casa Mono/Bar Jamon – If you’re shopping, you’re bound to find yourself in the Union Square area.  Casa Mono serves contemporary Spanish-inspired dishes in a casual ambiance.  To warm up, stop by Bar Jamon next door for tapas and a glass of Spanish wine.  The diverse wine selection include both modern and traditional producers from all over Spain.  Bar Jamon closes late.  52 Irving Place 10003, (212) 253-2773.
  • Eataly –  across from the Flatiron Building.  It’s amazing how many eating concepts Mario Batali, the Bastianichs et al can fit into a single space, and do it well.  It’s an Italian emporium of casual and fine dining, take-out, bar/small plates, bakery, market, butcher, cafe, gelateria and so on.  It’s a hustling and bustling place of people  speaking a lot of languages, and one language – that of food.

Upper East Side

  • Candle 79 – a wine and drinks bar with a great vegan menu that is a welcome but satisfying respite from holiday feasting.  It’s one of those places that you wouldn’t know was vegan unless someone told you with dishes such as a dairy-free but ultra creamy mushroom risotto and a spicy Moroccan chickpea dish.  This newer spot features more savory and bold vegan dishes whereas the original Candle Cafe focuses on ‘raw’ dishes.   On 79th near Lex.