Winter is a hard time to live in New York. The weather is frequently unpleasant, there's always a lot of work to do, and if you don't have a vacation on the horizon, you might just go crazy. Thankfully, winter is also one of the best times to enjoy the bars and restaurants of this city. Here's a list of 50 reasons to love New York dining in the wintertime:
1) Short Lines at Shake Shack: An especially great thing if you work near a location of Danny Meyer's beloved burger chain. And if you think you've tried everything at Shake Shack, consider ordering a Smokeshack.
2) Hearth's Fresh New Look: Marco Canora's excellent East Village restaurant just got a makeover. Those red felt panels are gone, and now old framed photographs and artwork hang on the walls.
3) The Bar at Keens: If you want a Keens experience, but you don't want to fork over hundreds of dollars, head to that adjacent bar, which serves fantastic cocktails and a sensible portion of the famed mutton chop for $27. You can also get a burger, schnitzel, or Bavette steak for under $20. The best move, however, is to order the sublime, fried egg-topped prime rib hash. It's a big, bold taste of old New York priced at $18.50 a plate, and it easily feeds two.
4) Shop Life at the Tenement Museum: A new exhibit chronicling the vendors of the Lower East Side through the years. The show features a life-sized recreation of a 19th century German tavern.
5) The El Diablo Salsa at El Toro Blanco: This tangy sauce comes with every order of chips and salsa at John McDonald and John Capon's Village hot spot. This salsa has a heat that wraps around your mouth about four seconds after you consume it. Addictive stuff.
6) Hot Toddies: A good way to start the evening. (But it's best to move on to something else after the first round.)
7) Bethany Costello's Pastries at M. Wells Dinette: At M. Wells Dinette, Bethany Costello's pastry creations are perfectly in sync with chef Hugue Dufour's dishes: over the top, but fresh and flavorful in the best way. Order the mighty Paris-brest if it's on the menu.
8) Alder Anticipation Wylie Dufresne's follow-up to wd~50 is opening sometime very soon. As Wylie describes it, this new restaurant will offer hearty American favorites, executed with a bit of that strange modern technique that he is famous for. This promises to be a great, casual companion to one of the most important Downtown restaurants of the last 15 years.
9) The Roast Chicken Ramen at Talde: A fine example of Dale Talde's inspired Asian-American cooking. This dish is a big bowl of roasted chicken, noodles, rich broth, scallions, and celery.
10) Joe's House-Roasted Coffee: The venerable and unfussy coffee shop mini-chain recently started roasting its own beans. This small-batch coffee has a mild flavor and smooth texture. All Joe shops brew this coffee a few days a week, but you can also take a bag home with you at any time.
11) A Plain Pie From Joe & Pat's: This legendary Staten Island Pizzeria serves some of the best thin crust pizzas known to man. This is a fun day trip for pizza freaks.
12) The Champagne Campaign at Corkbuzz: Laura Maniec's hip Village wine bar offers all bottles of Champagne at 50 percent off every single night of the week after 10 p.m. If you bring a friend or two, you can try some great bubbly for about $25 per person.
13) The Big Couch + Fireplace at Antica Pesa: Antica Pesa is perhaps a bit out of step with the rest of Williamsburg. But the restaurant has a festive spirit, the cocktails are superb, and the menu has a handful of winners. For a mid-week splurge, request to sit in the over-stuffed couch in front of the restaurant's roaring fireplace, and order a few Negronis along with the sensational baked mozzarella dish.
14) The Monster Ribs at Mighty Quinn's: Satisfy your mid-winter carnivore cravings with the absurdly large ribs at this terrific new East Village barbecue restaurant. There's no way to finish one of these bad boys without gnawing on the bone like a wooly beast.
15) Tiki Mondays at Goldbar: When Lani Kai closed, Brian Miller moved his popular Tiki party to Goldbar in Little Italy. Celebrate the end of Monday with a potent tropical drink.
17) Sandy-Affected Restaurants Bouncing Back: Hurricane Sandy wiped out many businesses across the New York area. Some of them, sadly, will not return. But many of these distressed bars and restaurants are now springing back to life. The Stumptown Roastery, The Good Fork, Randazzo's, and Perry Street are all back in action, and hopefully, more restaurants will reopen in the spring.
18) Sunday Night Chinese Dinner at Mile End: Noah and Rae Bernamoff are now serving a version of their wildly popular Christmas Day Chinese food feast at Mile End on Sunday nights. For $35, you can enjoy a fixed menu that includes things like mushroom noodle soup, Sichuan chicken wings, and smoked duck with scallion pancakes. It's a great way to beat those Sunday night blues.
19) Chef's Table at Il Buco: The original Il Buco is still one of New York's most charming date night spots. If you're planning a date, call ahead early and try and reserve two slots at the chef's table, which is nestled way in the back of the restaurant by the kitchen pass. It's a cozy spot, and you also get a view of the action in the kitchen.
20) The Noodle Soups at Big Wong: The best place to go if you're wandering around Downtown and you get an insatiable craving for salty broth filled with noodles and roast pork. Most noodle soups are priced under $7.
21) Le Rivage's Dinner Prix Fixe: Classic French fare is a great panacea to the winter blahs. This gem on Restaurant Row offers an incredible three-course meal after 7:30 p.m. for just $39.
22) Wednesday Night Dining: In the wintertime, you can walk into a bona fide hot spot on a Wednesday night without a reservation and get seated quickly, or after a 30 minute wait at the bar. This is how dining is meant to be. Embrace it.
23) Roberta Bendavid's Flower Displays at Gramercy Tavern: Roberta Bendavid's towering flower displays make the Gramercy Tavern's front room a very special place to dine in the winter months. If you go right now, you will see unusual little ferns and flowers that will remind you that winter can be a beautiful time of the year.
24) Roast Beef Sandwiches at Brennan & Carr: Head to this 75-year-old Gravesend classic for sublime roast beef sandwiches drenched in rich, salty jus. For sandwich aficionados, this is a subway day trip worth taking.
25) The Italian Fizz at Prime Meats: During brunch, Prime Meats serves a crisp concoction made with sweet vermouth, Fernet, and soda. Effervescent and not too boozy, the Italian Fizz is an ideal hair-of-the-dog drink.
26) The Raymun at Hanjan: A curious new addition to the New York ramen world. The stock is made with pork, chicken, and fish bones that are cooked for over 12 hours. This Korean version of ramen is only available after 10 p.m.
27) Two-Star Dining in Jersey City: If you want to get out of the city for a night, consider a trip to Thirty Acres, the Jersey City restaurant from Momofuku vet Kevin Pemoulie. It currently boasts two New York Times stars, and the restaurant was just named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award in the Best New Restaurant category. The kitchen serves inventive modern fare in a relaxed, completely unpretentious setting, and at the moment, it's BYOB.
28) Kin Shop on Seamless: If you live in the area, you can get Harold Dieterle's massaman braised goat and spicy duck laab salad delivered straight to your door.
29) Lucky Peach's Apocalypse Issue: Another great cover-to-cover read from David Chang/Peter Meehan/McSweeney's. Make sure to read the Chef Boyardee taste test with Mark Ladner and David Chang.
30) Tacos at BrisketTown: BrisketTown's Texas-style breakfast tacos, which are made with slices of Daniel Delaney's incredible smoked meat, are the best things to eat if you're playing hooky from work. Served every morning starting at 8 a.m.
31) Aska Fever: This scrappy Scandinavian-influenced restaurant is one of the unexpected hits of the season. Aska now has two Times stars under its belt, and droves of hungry diners waiting outside its doors each night.
32) 28 Days of Hot Chocolate at City Bakery: A different hot chocolate for every day of February. Next week, Maury Rubin's famed bakery will be serving versions made with ginger and chili pepper, as well as a "banana peel" hot chocolate. Weird.
33) The Moroccan Lamb Taco at Salvation Taco: This is the standout dish at Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield's new restaurant in the Pod 39 Hotel. It's a pile of pleasantly fatty spiced lamb topped with pickled cucumbers and a tangy yogurt sauce, served on a chewy piece of naan. Two awesome bites.
35) The After-the-Movie Deal from Pies 'n' Thighs: You can get a free drink from Pies 'n' Thighs if you present your same-day ticket stub from Williamsburg Cinemas. And you might just see this awesome commercial for the restaurant before the movie.
36) The Bond Street Dining District: Bond Street is now one of the best blocks for casual dining in Downtown Manhattan. The stars of Bond Street include: Il Buco, Mile End Sandwich, Circolo, Le Philosophe, and The Smile.
38) The Pork Chop at Dear Bushwick: The runaway hit of the menu at this hip Bushwick newcomer. This mighty hunk of tender white meat is topped with lightly sautéed Brussels sprouts and a bacon vinaigrette.
40) The Breakfast Pastries at Bien Cuit: If you crave sweets, try the Danish with yams and crème fraîche. For a savory snack, order the artichoke and goat cheese croissant.
41) Steaks at The Dutch: Andrew Carmellini's Soho American restaurant serves awesome 28-day dry-aged steaks. If you want some hefty protein to get you through the last days of winter, order the ribeye for two.
42) Serious Cocktails in the FiDi: Courtesy of The Dead Rabbit, the bar that every cocktail nerd in this city is freaking out about right now.
43) Frank Falcinelli's Instagram Feed: The chef leads an interesting life. He takes photos of his daily adventures, so that his fans can follow along.
45) The Lunch Special at Moti Mahal Delux: The servers don't give you a menu, they just ask if you want meat or vegetables. But both options include about five small courses of excellent Indian fare for the low, low price of $12 ($15 on the weekend).
46) Gotham Bar and Grill's $30 Dessert Tasting: After 9 p.m. each night, Alfred Portale's modern classic offers a tasting of three desserts for $30, and wine pairings are only $20. This is a classy way to have dessert for dinner.
47) Rosemary's at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday: Although Carlos Suarez's Italian charmer is still jam-packed every single night of the week, you can walk in during brunch and score a table without any wait. Eat pasta and homemade charcuterie while watching the fashionable passersby on Greenwich Avenue.
48) The Plate of Polish Specialties at Karczma: That's pierogis, hunter's stew, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and kielbasa, on a plate, for $10.50. Eat this then take a long winter's nap.
49) The Lamb Ribs at The Marrow: The menu at Harold Dieterle's excellent new West Village restaurant is full of hearty dishes that are perfect for cold winter nights. But no meal is complete without the braised, brined, and fried lamb ribs. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, these meaty treats are an ideal way to start off your meal at this fun new restaurant.