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5 Restaurants to Try This Weekend in NYC

Weekly inspiration for last-minute dining

Vapiano Photo via Vapiano/Facebook

Welcome to your weekend planner, where Eater editors recommend restaurants, cafes, and bars — whether they’re new and hot or the old standbys. As always, please let us know if you’d like to see something specific. For the most recent recommendations, click here.

March 30

For bargain pastas prepared fresh in the Village: Vapiano, representing a long-running German chain of Italian restaurants, is located just south of Union Square. The atmosphere is factory like, with multiple work stations behind a counter at which uniformed attendants assemble ingredients and prepare pastas to order. The recipes are simple and well-seasoned, and you can have extra garlic or extra hot pepper added to your Alfredo, Bolognese, or tomato-laced red pesto, tossed with a wide choice of fresh noodles and raviolis. Pizzas concocted by the same formula, and sweets and wine are also available, in a dining area that might remind you of a college library. 113 University Pl., at 13th Street, Greenwich Village — Robert Sietsemia, senior critic

For affordable Mexican food in Williamsburg: The cash only, super casual small spot La Superior isn’t flashy, but its food makes a good impression: simple yet satisfying. Often busy, it’s worth waiting for or taking to go. Crispy, stuffed street quesadillas are a must, and the rich and thick sopa tarasca, a traditional bean soup from the Michoacán highlands, is filling and memorable. Get the pork brain quesadillas for a real treat, and at lunch be sure to try the torta with tinga de pollo — it’s a filling and flavorful sandwich that’s big enough for two. 295 Berry St., near South Second Street, Williamsburg — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For an Italian refuge near Port Authority: If you find yourself with a bus delay or just needing to be near Port Authority for any reason, duck into Mercato. The unassuming Italian restaurant is affordable, comforting, and very rustic. Chill out with some pasta and a glass of wine, or any of the other Pugliese fare, of which the lasagna is particularly standout. 352 West 39th St., between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Hell’s Kitchen — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For Inwood’s Venezuelan street snacks: Inwood has a magnificent collection of cafes selling stuffed arepas and other street snacks. Cachapas y Mas is one of the best, a gleaming fast food spot done up in garish shades of orange and green with a dancing ear of corn as its mascot. Cachapas are sandwiches with the slices of bread replaced by fried plantain, and the list of fillings is vast and mainly Latin, including pork roast, shredded beef, and white cheese with avocado, or you can choose one of several mayo-based salads. Other snacks like crepes and burritos are also available, washed down with fresh fruit beverages and canned sodas. Open 24 hours. 107 Dyckman St., between Post and Nagle avenues, Inwood — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a chill afternoon with tons of beer: The sun’s out on Saturday, and a place guaranteed to have outdoor space without fights for seating is The Well — a sprawling East Williamsburg/Bushwick bar with killer outdoor art and tons of picnic tables. It’s got cornhole if you need an activity, but more importantly, a very very long beer list. It’s perfect for a group situation, with drinks for both people looking for adventure and those who just want to slingback something familiar. 272 Meserole St., between Bushwick Place and Waterbury St., East Williamsburg — Serena Dai, editor

March 23

For on-point, traditional Taiwanese food in Brooklyn: The continued chilly temps make fairly new Sunset Park restaurant Golden Rich a perfect place to dine. It’s tiny and cozy, and a warming Taiwanese beef noodle soup, a particularly sweet version of three cup chicken, and luroufan (aka minced pork rice) will make the chill disappear. They’re among the best versions of Taiwanese fare in New York. Other tables were ordering a steaming pot of stew, sending its herbal fragrance across the dining room; I didn’t try it, but it came highly recommended. 4001 8th Avenue at 40th Street, Sunset Park — Serena Dai, editor

For a dosa picnic in the park: Popular as they are nowadays, the wonderful vegetarian crepes called masala dosas often require some travel to get. One travels to Jersey City, Manhattan’s Curry Hill, or Flushing to get them, but remember they’re also available at the south end of Washington Square at Sullivan Street. For years Thiru Kumar has operated a cart there, with a griddle whereon he rapidly turns out masala dosas to order. The variation called Pondicherry dosa includes extra vegetables, and the cart also makes samosas and uttapams — vegetable-studded pancakes. A line forms at lunchtime, and N.Y. Dosas is parked on the sidewalk most days except Sundays, from late morning to midafternoon. Call (917) 710-2092 first to make sure Kumar’s there. West Fourth Street and Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a weekend afternoon coffee break: Café Bilboquet is a pleasant respite from the madness of Madison Avenue shoppers. The tables are comfortable, cozy, and calm, and in a rare feat for a cafe, laptops are not allowed. This forces actual conversation or, for solo diners, a quiet place to tuck into a book or people-watch. Get the hot chocolate, which is topped with creamy foamed milk, or a cappuccino, and a chocolate croissant (made with three batons of chocolate instead of just two!) and perhaps a miniature tarte tropezienne, a classic French pastry puff with a crispy top that’s also filled with vanilla cream. 26 East 60th St. between Madison and Park avenues, Upper East Side — Daniela Galarza, senior editor

For stardusted cocktails and small plates in a romantic setting: The Crown Heights outpost of Brooklyn Winery, BKW, is still running its Bowie-themed cocktail program. The drinks are dazzling to look at and appropriately eclectic in their ingredients, one topped with a cube of orange jello, another with flowers and Moroccan spices. There’s a full menu in the back dining room, but the small plates at the bar include the best dishes, like the shishito peppers and cheese curds and the chicken liver pate. 747 Franklin Ave. at Sterling Place — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For a modern bistro in tree-shaded Greenpoint: What is the modern definition of a bistro? A small and relaxed restaurant with jumbled decor, mid-range prices, and a menu propelled by an idiosyncratic mix of dishes, but including some recognizable standards. Located in a bucolic corner of Bushwick near the East River, Chez Ma Tante fulfills these expectations. Pork shoulder with salsa verde is decidedly Florentine, while skate with leeks seems Parisian. Kedgeree is an Anglo-Indian rice dish; Caesar salad is on nearly every bistro menu in town; and pig head terrine fulfills one of the Ten Bistro Commandments: “Though shall serve offal.” It adds up to a bill of fare more playful than most, and a very pleasant brunch or evening meal on the weekends. 90 Calyer St., at Franklin Street, Greenpoint — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

March 16

For a neighborhood Caribbean joint: Just on the border of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, the reboot of The Islands epitomizes Caribbean food in the area. When the restaurant opened in its new bigger space, the menu grew, too. All the jerk classics and oxtails are exceptional, but don’t sleep on the mac and cheese. 671 Washington Ave., between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For a variety of unique ciders: Cider bars are still trying to become a lasting, sustainable thing, and luckily, Bad Seed Brooklyn is a place worth keeping around. They have a host of unique ciders for different tastes that make for a fun evening, and at $7 a glass, it’s a fairly affordable evening out for this weekend. My favorite was a piña colada cider, the perfect beverage for someone who loves tiki drinks but wants something slightly less indulgent. 585 Franklin Ave., between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, Crown Heights — Serena Dai, editor

For a tried-and-true West Village bistro: Most foodsters have pretty much forgotten about Café Cluny, a small corner spot on a cobbled stretch of West 12th Street in the West Village. It offered showy café food, and was one of the first bistros to serve breakfast when it opened 10 years ago. Its two dining rooms are decorated with butterfly collections and other taxonomic specimens. The locals have never forgotten the place, and it fills up at lunchtime with a crowd, few of whom have walked more than a few blocks. At that time of the day you might enjoy pork belly hash (in deconstructed form) with soft scrambled eggs and aioli; or grilled swordfish with black olives and pesto on a heap of greens. Either way, you’ll walk away satisfied but not stuffed. 284 West 12th St., at West 4th Street, West Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For light and airy pizza by the slice: Brand spanking new (like, as of yesterday) Upper East Side pizzeria PQR is a fine stop for some Roman-style pizza by the slice. The bread is exceptionally light, as a result of a 96-hour fermentation and being made up of 80 percent water, so load up on slices, which change every few days but could include classic margherita, a veggie-loaded version, butternut squash and pancetta, and broccoli rabe with sausage. 1631 Second Ave. near 85th street, Upper East Side — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

To burn your mouth in Kensington: Located on a stretch of Coney Island Avenue that has gone gyro crazy, and decorated with a waving chile wearing a chef’s toque, Lahori Chilli is one of the city’s best Pakistani restaurants. The place is relentlessly orange and blue inside, with comfortable booths, and the counter attendant will gladly explain the dishes on the steam table. These might include nihari (boneless beef rib in brown gravy), or paya (thick goat foot soup), and others featuring chicken, goat, and lamb. Many vegetarian selections are available as well. 1026 Coney Island Ave., between Foster and Parkville avenues, Kensington — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

March 9

For warming ramen in Prospect Heights: When at ramen shop Chuko, it’s crucial not to overlook the non-ramen dishes. The salt and pepper wings have a wonderful crunch, and the crispy brussels sprouts with fish sauce are a must-order. The ramen’s great, too, of course. Go with the gooey poached egg add-on rather than a hard-boiled one. It adds extra richness to the broths. 565 Vanderbilt Ave. at Pacific Street — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For cooking of the African diaspora in Clinton Hill: Seven-year-old Soco sits right on Myrtle Avenue across from the Pratt Institute; it was spawned by the same empire that brought us the Jamaican restaurant Negril. Soco offers a menu stocked with Southern, Cajun-Creole, and Caribbean dishes, and the room is deep, dark, and relatively elegant. The mac and cheese is well regarded, and the fried chicken served atop a red velvet waffle is at least innovative. The best dishes I’ve had include roast oysters served with a sweet carrot slaw, a bangin’ shrimp and sausage gumbo, and a pair of really amazing breaded pork chops. 509 Myrtle Ave., between Ryerson Street and Grand Avenue, Clinton Hill — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a campy but still-fun selfie latte: Does the world need lattes stamped with your own face? No! Of course not. But — lighten up. Momentea, a newish tea cafe in Chelsea has a newfangled machine that somehow perfectly prints any photo on top of a latte of your choice in under a minute. Print your dog. Print your girlfriend. Print your own damn face. And then Instagram the hell out of it, because it’s pretty fun and I promise will rack up the likes. 64 7th Ave. between 14th and 15th streets — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For some modest Greek fare: What if a Greek diner only served Greek food? That is the gestalt one gets from Plaka, a narrow shoebox of a café in Bay Ridge right above the R train. The premises are plainishly charming (over the kitchen is a sign that says “Kitchen”), the tables decorated with blue-checked cloths, and the bill of fare covering the greatest hits of Greek cuisine at modest prices. Highlights include charcoal-grilled octopus, saganaki cheese set aflame, a pork shish kebab pita sandwich, and fried dogfish with the garlicky potato dip called skordalia, offered as a special. Whatever you do, don’t miss that skordalia. 406 86th St., at Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a perfect coffee shop hang, sans laptop: This Portuguese East Village coffee shop is full of families kissing babies, friends catching up, and basically anyone looking for some actual interaction. Head to Abraço for a light olive oil cake and top-notch coffee among those who are choosing to eschew Wifi — the name literally means “embrace.” 81 East 7th St., between First and Second Avenues — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

March 2

For a low-key and homey Japanese meal: The intimate and warm space at Wasan is a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy dinner this weekend if you need to meet near Barclays. The menu at the restaurant spans all sorts of cross-sections of Japanese fare, from sushi to ramen. The eel over rice is particularly comforting for those who love the sweet barbecue of an unagi bowl. Add some zest by exploring the sake and menus. 440 Bergen St., near Fifth Avenue, Park Slope — Serena Dai, editor

For humongous sandwiches near the High Line: Attached to a distinguished but expensive Italian restaurant, Bottino is a small shop that sells very large Italian sandwiches on a pleasing variety of breads. It is also within view of the High Line, so if you like to chew and stroll, this is your place. The other day I enjoyed a roast beef sandwich on focaccia with arugula and Russian dressing; the meat was caramelized on the outside and pink in the center. Another favorite is the fresh mozzarella sandwich with tomatoes and basil on a baguette, like a carry-able Caprese salad. All sandwiches are under $10. 246 Tenth Ave., between 24th and 25th streets, Chelsea — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For Taiwanese desserts that have people raving: Popular Taiwanese dessert chain Meet Fresh has opened its first NYC location, and people are pretty psyched, lining up on the regular for the sweet treats. Chewy taro balls, shaved ice, grass jelly, tofu pudding, and more served warm or cold with condensed milk. There are a ton of options, from mango shaved ice and boba tofu pudding to green tea with whipped cream and hot almond soup. 35 Cooper Square at East 6th Street, East Village — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For Vietnamese fare and beer in Fort Greene: A small and stylish spot that evokes the hawker markets of Hanoi, Op La has a bar that serves mainly Vietnamese beer and turns out a fine, simple, and straightforward pho. Across the street from Fort Greene Park, the restaurant is pleasantly bare bones, and other recommended dishes include the turmeric catfish bun (pronounced “boon”), colorfully flung in a bowl and topped with pickled cukes and a black sesame rice cracker; and summer rolls loaded with shrimp and rice vermicelli, furnished with a creamy peanut sauce. One does well to avoid the banh mi, however, mainly because of the inferior demi-baguette. 136 Dekalb Ave., between South Elliott Place and South Portland Avenue, Fort Greene — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For dumplings and noodle soups in Park Slope: One of the best dinner options on Park Slope’s restaurant-ridden Fifth Avenue is a cheap, cash-only takeout spot called Dumplings & Things. The menu offers dumplings (fried or boiled with robust fillings like chicken-and-shrimp), baos, and various noodle soups that you can add dumplings to. Don’t miss the hot oil wontons — they’re exactly what this dreary late-winter weather calls for. There is counter seating and a small communal table in the cute space, but takeout is the move if you want drinks with your dumplings. 375 Fifth Ave., near Sixth Street, Park Slope — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

February 23

For a standout smoked pork neck platter: There is surely a social club or two in neighborhoods like Middle Village and Glendale, Queens that serve Serbian food, but a full-blown restaurant? For that you should go to Kafana, now celebrating its 10th year in Alphabet City. Thrill to the national dish of cevapi, little skinless sausages here made with beef, lamb, and “a little pork”; phyllo pies stuffed with spinach or feta cheese; a giant platter of smoked and sliced pork neck; or baked beans dotted with meat jerky. 116 Ave. C, between Seventh and Eighth streets, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a bar where you can pretend it’s summer: With the exception of those few weirdly hot days this week, the weather right now doesn’t exactly call for frozen drinks, but something about Super Power in Crown Heights makes it easy to forget about the cold outdoors entirely. The tiki-style cocktails aren’t trying too hard and aren’t overly sweet. And the frozen painkiller is dangerously good. There are a few bar food items too, that generally transcend the category of bar food. The banh mi hot dog is a standout, and there are daily oyster selections. 722 Nostrand Ave., near Prospect Place, Crown Heights — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For a final visit to a longtime Williamsburg diner: After 21 years, neighborhood greasy spoon Garden Grill will close on February 25. The clientele here is a true neighborhood mix with old timers, families, and newer, younger transplants looking for an unfussy meal — which here is a classic Greek diner menu that runs from omelets and pancakes to triple decker sandwiches and seafood platters. Diners are a dying NY breed, so show some support before this one slips away. 318 Graham Ave., between Devoe and Ainslie streets, Williamsburg — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For Middle Eastern in Bay Ridge: Weekends are perfect for food expeditions, and, if you don’t live there already, Bay Ridge a great destination. Seaside parks encourage wandering, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge looms overhead,and the neighborhood has the best collection of Middle Eastern restaurants in the city. Le Saj is a great choice, a little bit of Beirut in Bay Ridge. Kibbe is available in several forms: as a cracked wheat dumpling, two types of beef tartare, and as a pie. Paper-thin pitas accompany a startling range of bread dips, and roast lamb or charcoal kebabs are good main course choices, but also consider shish barak — lamb-stuffed dumplings sluiced with yogurt. 8221 5th Ave., between 82nd and 83rd streets, Bay Ridge — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For mezcalitas and Culiacán cuisine in Bed-Stuy: Recently reopened after renovations, Calaca in Bed-Stuy is a tiny place where it’s best to sit at the bar and sip margaritas made with tequila or mezcal or both. The tacos are packed with flavor and the right size. Try the braised shrimp or the mushroom and roasted corn. The red snapper tostada is also a great choice. It’s cash only but totally worth that small inconvenience. 139 Putnam Ave., near Franklin Avenue, Bed-Stuy — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

February 16

For a soup and techno mashup that works: Some people on Yelp say that the techno music blasting at this Sunset Park hot pot restaurant is out of place with the vibe, but those people are haters. The techno is part of the strange charm of Mister Hotpot, along with the sharply dressed young male servers with matching haircuts who all waltz around with earpieces. So what if it’s not what most people might think of when they want a Lunar New Year hot pot? Go anyway. The pork broth and the spicy broth still taste homey. You’ll leave smelling slightly of meat soup, but that is truly okay. 5306 Eighth Ave., between 53rd & 54th streets, Sunset Park, — Serena Dai, editor

For excellent pork cutlets as you like them: Dating from the late 20th century era when the area around Grand Central Station was dotted with specialty Japanese restaurants, Katsu-Hama specializes in perfectly fried pork cutlets, served in the traditional way with a haystack of shredded cabbage, or in a bento box, or incorporated into a wonderful gooey katsudon with egg, onions, and rice. Two types of pork are available, the fatty cutlet or the lean tenderloin, both made from heirloom pigs. A full roster of apps, as well as fried chicken cutlets and fried shrimp are also on the menu. 11 East 47th St., between Fifth and Madison avenues, Midtown — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a classic New York breakfast: Should you find yourself awake and hungry before the more popular brunching hour of noon, head to the ever-classic Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. Feast on all the Jewish fare you can fit: Lox, bagels, smoked whitefish, latkes, matzah ball soup, and then be on your way. 127 Orchard St., between Rivington and Delancey streets, Lower East Side — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For a legit good green bean sandwich: With the tragic closing of Astoria’s San Antonio Bakery, the city may be down to only one Chilean restaurant: La Roja de Todos in Corona, Queens. This small café specializes in seafood (including ceviches, mussels, and farm-raised abalone), but first go for the completa (a hot dog topped with guacamole and mayonnaise) and the charcarero (the national sandwich of thin-sliced beef topped with green chile sauce and … string beans!). 108-02 Northern Blvd., at 108th Street, Corona — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For French-Senegalese in Crown Heights: Cafe Rue Dix is an all-day cafe with one of the best house hot sauces in Crown Heights. The menu offers Senegalese cuisine — like fatya, spicy empanadas served with that winning hot sauce — alongside standard French cafe fare. The bread pudding (served with decadent espresso whipped cream) is a standout. Brunch, as with most places in the neighborhood, can get very busy, but it’s worth it. 1451 Bedford Ave., at Park Place — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

February 8

For Trinidadian cheap eats in Bed-Stuy: Both singular and plural, doubles is the term for a Trinidadian snack, often eaten at breakfast, consisting of a pair of small pooris flopped around a filling of curried chickpeas and potatoes. Two sauces are typically spooned on, a sweet one made with tamarind and a fiery one made with Scotch bonnet peppers. At A&A Bake and Doubles, the doubles are only $1.50 apiece and are definitely delicious. Two makes the neighborhood’s cheapest meal. Other Trinidadian sandwiches, like smoked herring bake, are also available. 481 Nostrand Ave., between Nostrand Avenue and Macon Street, Bedford-Stuyvesant — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For fixed-rate Mexican brunch: Chavela’s in Crown Heights serves authentic Mexican food, and on the weekends, the restaurant offers a $13.95 brunch that includes an entree, super soft Mexican sweet bread, and coffee, tea, or juice. The entrees include chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and a breakfast torta with scrambled eggs, chorizo, black bean spread, and queso Oaxaca on telera bread. It’s one of the best value brunch options in the neighborhood. 736 Franklin Ave., near Sterling Place — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For unexpected celebrity sightings and rarefied drinks: You’ve probably heard of Bemelmans Bar? Inside the Carlyle Hotel? With the charming illustrations on the walls, hand-painted by ‘Madeline’ creator Ludwig Bemelmans? And the exorbitant prices? And live jazz? And baby grand piano? And ladies in opulent furs? And gentlemen in suits and hats? And the charming bartenders? And Drew Barrymore in a corner booth enjoying the best complimentary bar snacks on the UES (cheese crisps, warm potato chips, toasted nuts) between sips of a tall cocktail, with a chaser on the side? Yes? No? Go, and go again. It’s always a delicious riot. 35 East 76th St., between Madison and Park avenues, Upper East Side — Daniela Galarza, senior editor

For mouth-searing Thai in Hell’s Kitchen: When Ratchanee Sumpatboon opened Larb Ubol in 2013, it was a game changing development among the 40 or so Thai restaurants on the Ninth Avenue corridor of Hell’s Kitchen. While it wasn’t the first restaurant to favor the food of the Isan region (Pam Real Thai Food probably holds that distinction), it did so more comprehensively and with more verve and delicacy. The place still draws a crowd at lunch, and you can’t go wrong ordering any of the papaya salads (get the one with salted egg), or the larbs (try duck), or any of the outsize soups, and the kitchen is adept at adjusting the spice levels as requested. 480 9th Ave., between 36th and 37th streets, Hell’s Kitchen — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For dessert and drinks in a historic space: Dinner at The Grill and The Pool will likely set you back a cool $100 per person, so if you want to check out the space and scene, walk through both and settle down in The Pool Lounge, the bar area adjacent. With a separate drink list and access to pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s stellar desserts, have a sweet nightcap while people watching Upper East Side society. 99 East 52nd St., between Park and Lexington avenues, Midtown East — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

February 2

For Ottoman brunch in Greenwich Village: Over the last couple of years, The Quarter on Hudson Street was one of the West Village’s favorite brunch spots, offering a generic menu of modern food that included omelets, chilaquiles, and chocolate chip pancakes. Now Turkish dishes have been added to the brunch menu, like mucver (savory zucchini pancakes with yogurt sauce). The dinner menu has turned even more Turkish, with entrees like beyti kebab (ground lamb kebab wrapped in flatbread with tomato sauce and yogurt) and grilled Mediterranean sea bass. Entrees and apps are big enough to share, so that one main and two starters will feed two — though it’s also easy to make a meal of the small plates called mezze. 522 Hudson St., between West 10th and Charles streets, West Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For good pasta at a great price: The menu is pretty straightforward at Cent’Anni in Crown Heights: There’s a build-your-own pasta component as well as several pre-designed pastas, like the outstanding squid ink pasta and calamari in a spicy tomato sauce. The pasta itself is so tasty at Cent’Anni that even very simple classics like the spaghetti al limon and penne a la vodka are solid orders. But some of the best stuff on the menu are not pastas, like the slow-cooked veal meatballs, the black kale caesar with anchovy-seasoned croutons and a whole sheet of shaved parm, and the stracchino cheese crostini, which is, yes, essentially just cheesy bread, but it’s so good. And if you make it there on a weekday, they have one of the best happy hours on Franklin Avenue. 742 Franklin Ave., near Sterling Place, Crown Heights — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

For a weekend trip to the Bronx’s Little Italy: Not only is it the best restaurant in Belmont — the Bronx’s Little Italy — it’s also one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. Roberto’s takes a more modern approach to the cooking of Italy than the red-sauced establishments that dominate the neighborhood. On the menu, find things like fricassee of rabbit, spicy chicken with sundried tomatoes, octopus and beans, and, perhaps most famous of all, pastas cooked in cartoccio — steamed in parchment (actually, foil). One recent example (consult the chalkboard specials) was radiatori with burrata and yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The interior is reminiscent of a Tuscan osteria. 603 Crescent Ave., between Arthur and Hughes avenues, Belmont — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a good value prix-fixe Korean brunch: West Village Korean noodle bar Jeju has added weekend brunch to the mix. Rather than the ramyun the restaurant makes at dinner, chef-owner Douglas Kim has created a nine-course, family-style feast for $45 per person. It’s so much food, making it a very good value for dishes like grilled mackerel, mussel and roe chawanmushi, Korean fried chicken, pork bo ssam, broccoli slaw, and more. 679 Greenwich St. at Christopher Street — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For affordable steak: This Japanese steakhouse chain rolled into town as a standing-only spot, but recently caved to add chairs for us lazy New Yorkers. The meat at Ikinari, though, remains the same. The restaurant — which will have ten locations in NYC soon! — is exactly the super easy, solidly affordable place to go when craving steak. The waits aren’t long, the service is chipper, and the meat hits the spot. And it turns out wasabi on steak is delicious. Bonus tip: The bathroom is stocked with mouthwash, and the toilet is one of those fun, souped-up Japanese ones. 90 East 10th St., between 3rd and 4th avenues, East Village, but multiple locations — Serena Dai, editor

January 26

For grill-driven Japanese in the West Village: Scrambling into a space that was once a trendy but unnoticed Spanish pizzeria, Shuraku (not to be confused with the East Village’s Sharaku) is an intimate Japanese restaurant that prepares part of its menu on a charcoal grill, to great effect. A meal might begin with some homemade tofu, then proceed to crisp lotus root stuffed with shrimp and fishcake. Switching to the grilling section, a meal might then include grilled Hokkaido scallops and a collection of three yakitori skewers: duck breast with Tokyo scallion, hog jowl, and lemon marinated chicken “oysters” — two round pieces of dark meat on the back near the thigh. How’s that for specific? 47 8th Ave., between Jane and Horatio streets, West Village — Robert Siestema, senior critic

For an afternoon of trying IPAs: Even those who profess to hate IPAs — like myself — can find something to enjoy at the IPA-heavy Other Half Brewing taproom, an industrial bar with lots of the Carroll Gardens’ beers on tap and in very fresh cans. Do a tasting, or just go for a full glass of one that sounds particularly interesting. No food here, but a pro move is to get on the waitlist at nearby Thai hit Ugly Baby and then wait it out at Other Half. 191 Centre St., between Hamilton Avenue and Smith Street, Carroll Gardens — Serena Dai, editor

For Bavarian brats and brews in maritime Brooklyn: The age of German restaurants appearing almost everywhere ended in the middle of the last century, but there are exceptions, and one of the most notable is Schnitzel Haus. Located among a throng of Middle Eastern restaurants, it was founded only 10 years ago and offers a wood paneled barroom decorated with Bavarian beer signs and steins. The bar food is just what you might want in winter, with schnitzels, wursts, and hog shanks galore, decorated with fragrant heaps of sauerkraut and purple cabbage. For beer lover, the tap selection is good, but is outdone by the bottle choices. 7319 5th Ave., between 73rd and 74th streets, Bay Ridge — Robert Siestema, senior critic

For homey an Asian-inflected version of fried chicken: Homey Japanese soul food restaurant Ichibantei is a tiny but chill East Village spot lined with records and pumping out reggae, a low-place to spend an evening meal. Order some version of fried chicken; the chicken nanban in particular, topped with a thick sweet-and-sour sauce and an addictive tartar sauce is worth ordering. 401 East 13th St., between First Avenue and Avenue A, East Village — Serena Dai, editor

For all kinds of beers and bar food that’s actually good: Covenhoven in Crown Heights has 16 rotating taps with a good spread of beer variations including always at least four solid goses/sours. And then it has a huge variety when it comes to bottles and cans, which are available to-go or to stay (it’s always a couple bucks extra to stay). Don’t overlook its small menu of takes on bar food classics like a cheddar and truffle pretzel and a grilled cheese with jam. But most importantly, be sure to build a cheese and charcuterie plate around the beers you’re drinking for the full Covenhoven experience. 730 Classon Avenue, between Park and Prospect Pl., Crown Heights — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

January 19

For Japanese bar food set to a bluesy beat: Rockmeisha might just be the city’s best izakaya, a place utterly devoid of pretense serving up Japanese, American, and Japanese-American bar food, some with punning names (“pinball gizzard”), along with discounted flagons of beer, sakes sometimes served in small screw top jars, and wines. Yes, it’s primarily a bar with a wrestling motif and some scratchy old blues records on the sound system. The place feels like an abandoned wood shed, but the food is often spectacular, from the mayo potato salad decorated with cod roe, to perfect fried chicken and fried smelts, and a nifty hand roll deal that gets you three for $16 before 7 p.m. 11 Barrow St., between West 4th Street and 7th Avenue South, Greenwich Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a small French menu with everything one could want: Calling Le French Diner quaint or darling would suffice to convince plenty to pile in for a weekend date night, but there’s really endless reasons worth visiting this restaurant on the quiet side of Orchard Street. Go solo, take a date, take a small group of three or four, and spend the evening discussing how in the world this restaurant is being executed by just two very welcoming staffers. Definitely get the escargot and octopus. Definitely order the green salad to arrive at the beginning so it can be picked at throughout multiple courses. For dessert, a single offering of a salty but creamy panna cotta with cherries is served in an annoyingly curved jar, making it difficult to scrape it as clean as one will likely want to. 188 Orchard Street, between Stanton and East Houston streets, Lower East Side — Patty Diez, editorial coordinator

For a hearty meal with a top-notch cocktail: The post-work crowd at FiDi bar The Dead Rabbit can be a mess, so maybe try going to the upscale take on a Irish bar during the day over the weekend. It’s known for the cocktails, but the food is on point, too. Try the lamb’s shepherd’s pie, a hearty curried ground lamb concoction that’s properly topped with a heaping of very smooth pureed potatoes. 30 Water St., near Broad Street, Financial District — Serena Dai, editor

For an Italian bakery with made-to-order cannoli: Circo’s was founded on a bustling Bushwick corner on Knickerbocker Avenue in 1945, just as World War II was ending and servicemen were flooding back into the neighborhood. The bakery is Italian, as was much of the neighborhood in those days, and many of the old specialties remain, including biscotti, sfogliatelle, chocolate-covered eclairs, torta de mele, special occasion cakes in the shape of crucifixes and crawling babies, and, the piece de resistance, a cannoli that gets filled on the spot with rich ricotta the moment you order it. 312 Knickerbocker Ave., at the corner of Hart Street, Bushwick — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a long list of mezcals in Prospect Heights: Chef Denisse Lina Chavez’s Madre Mezcaleria is the best place for sipping mezcal in Brooklyn, especially for those who want a lot of choices: Madre has over 50 kinds of mezcal. They’re served the traditional way, with chapulines (grasshoppers) and orange slices with sal de gusano (worm salt). There’s tequila too, and raicilla, another agave-based distilled spirit. The food menu features small plates, like aguachile, a spicy, Mexican-style ceviche. For something different, try the Calle Negroni, made with mezcal, Rinomato, and vermouth. 706 Washington Ave., between Prospect Pl. and St. Marks Ave. — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

January 12

For Peruvian soups in Forest Hills: Sure, Tu Casa — a four-branch Queens Peruvian chain — offers all the budget rotisserie chicken combos you’d expect, the spice-rubbed bird tendered in quarter, half, and whole portions with french fries, yuca, rice and beans, or salad. But for more exciting winter fair, check out the meal-size soups, in two sizes. There’s a stomach warming chicken soup with root vegetables, but instead, go for one of the two seafood soups: parihuela, which immerses squid, corvina, shrimp, and mussels in a tomato broth; or chupe de mariscos, which uses a soothing cream base. Either will leave you happy and well fed. 103-11 Queens Blvd., between 68th Road and 68th Drive, Forest Hills — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For an answer to a demanding group: For an easy, untrendy, no-wait brunch that still has good and fresh food, head to Almond. Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring your last-minute, fussy large group for a meal of brunch classics — huevos rancheros, omelettes, eggs benedict, buttermilk waffles — with nice touches like housemade sriracha. 12 East 22nd St., between Broadway and Park Avenue South — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For showing Haiti some love: This weekend seems as good a time as any to support Haiti, and Flatbush and Canarsie are loaded with Haitian restaurants. Bebe Fritay is a fast-casual spot that offers the greatest hits of Haitian fried food, with some nice views out windows that provide a handful of counter seats. Fried fish are available, but then so is griot, a pork confit that’s been long marinated in shallots and sour oranges. There are giant garlic sausages that have been cross hatched to facilitate crispness, and bouillon, a weekend soup filled with vegetables and beef. Order at the window from the overhead menu, which is in Creole with English translations. 826 Rogers Ave., at Church Avenue, Flatbush — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a leisurely but unconventional brunch spread: Latin American Fort Greene restaurant Colonia Verde, with its casual but cool servers and darling space, feels created for a leisurely Brooklyn brunch. The options lean away from classics, like brunch salads with cumin dressing, duck fried rice, and a spread of sausages accompanied by grilled veggies and arepas. Just try to nab a seat by a space heater if they seat you in the back. 219 Dekalb Ave., between Adelphi St. and Clermont Ave., Fort Greene — Serena Dai, editor

For Italian comfort food coupled with great amaro: Aita Trattoria in Crown Heights is a cozy little neighborhood restaurant with a reliable menu of pastas and small plates. But the real star is the cioppino, a winter-friendly seafood stew of salmon, scallops, shrimp, mussels, calamari, and clams, all bound by a tomato-fennel broth. Aita also has a strong selection of aperitifs and digestifs, with new options coming in regularly. 798A Franklin Ave., between Lincoln Place and Eastern Parkway — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter

January 5

For better-than-usual neighborhood sushi: Everybody needs a decent local sushi restaurant, and slightly sultry and quiet Ki Sushi on the Park Slope and Prospect Heights border leveled up the game when it opened last year. The 10-piece sushi omakase is an affordable $40, but for a low-key night, a miso soup and that $30 sashimi platter feels luxurious without totally breaking the bank. 282 Flatbush Ave., between Prospect Place and Seventh Avenue, Park Slope — Serena Dai, editor

For some old-school tea and Chinese food: When was the last time you had a great bowl of wonton soup? Mee Sum is an overlooked Chinatown tea shop dating to the 1960s that makes its own dim sum; assembles over-rice meals featuring chicken, duck, or pork; and serves up steaming bowls of congee. Stacked between the front door and the formica lunch counter for grab-and-go are joong, the sticky rice meals wrapped in banana leaves. And don’t miss the wonton soup, which boasts a plainish broth, floating raft of greens, and eight wonderful wontons, bulging with pork and flecked with shrimp. They are utterly delicious. 26 Pell St., between Doyers and Mott streets, Chinatown — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For warming Portuguese in a sunny space: The menu changes daily at the charming Broa, a sibling Portuguese collaboration in Jersey City, right by the Grove Street Path station. Upstairs, the sister runs a home goods and accessories shop, while downstairs her brother cooks traditional Portuguese using local ingredients. A great meal here includes chorizo bread, chickpea salad, grilled sardines, and squid stew — BYOB. 297 Grove St., between Wayne and Mercer streets, Jersey City, NJ — Stefanie Tuder, senior editor

For authentic Roman pizza in Brooklyn: Of the many varieties of pizza available in the Eternal City, a predominant type called pinsa is cast in an oblong shape with a thick, bready crust made from a combination of grains and a generous number of toppings. Of the nine available at Camillo, my favorite so far is the capricciosa, heaped with baked ham, artichokes, and mozzarella. But the pastas also bear consideration, including a spaghetti carbonara rich in egg yolks and bacon. Among apps, skip the baby octopus in favor of the cotechino and lentils, and wash everything down with a fizzy Lambrusco. 1146 Nostrand Ave., between Rutland Road and Midwood Street, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

For a cozy wine bar in Cobble Hill: Featuring exclusively natural wines, June has an extensive wine program full of funky options. Its list of orange wines — still and sparkling — is particularly impressive. June also serves food, focusing mostly on locally sourced small plates with a small selection of main dishes. Right now, the menu is perfect for winter, featuring a persimmon tart, clam toast, salt-baked beets, and lamb over turmeric rice. Just steps away from the quaint Cobble Hill Cinema, it’s a a great spot for before or after a movie. 231 Court St., between Warren and Baltic Streets, Cobble Hill — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, associate reporter