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11 Go-To Restaurants and Bars in Union Square

Because plans somehow always end up here

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Love it or hate it, ending up in Union Square in need of a solid meal that isn’t Chipotle (but maybe in the same fast-casual price range) is an all-too-common scenario. It’s the central downtown hub for countless occasions, be it a chill date spot or a group dinner with friends — it’s basically the city’s dining Switzerland when brokering an acceptable meeting spot.

Here are 11 standout places to eat and drink around Union Square, befitting everything from a swanky anniversary dinner meriting a Jean-Georges Vongerichten menu to a cheap taco or onigiri inhaled on the go, all within a three-block radius of the subway.

Note: This map is arranged geographically from west to east. Union Square is defined for this map as the area between Fifth Avenue to Irving Place and 14th to 18th streets.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tocqueville

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1 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 647-1515
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Tocqueville has been open in Union Square since 2000 as a special-occasion spot, but the French and new American fare that sources from the nearby greenmarket remains top-notch. There’s a reason nearly every table has an order of the uni carbonara on it — because it’s untouchable, with the restaurant selling up to 40 a night. A plush dining room with white tablecloths makes it a more refined option in the area: Note that a jacket and tie is recommended, though not required, for dinner.

Tocqueville Tocqueville [Official Photo]

2. 15 East

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15 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 647-0015
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Choose from several omakase options, a kaiseki-style tasting menu, or a la carte dining at this upscale, traditional sushi restaurant. The style is devoid of fussy sauces or preparations, with the focus squarely on the extremely fresh fish. A tight edit of hot entrees, plus cold or hot soba noodles, are also available, though its straightforward, well-executed approach to sushi is the star attraction. Pro tip: Go at lunch for an excellent business meeting option.

15 East Photo via 15 East

3. Breads Bakery

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18 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 633-2253
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Babka hogs the spotlight at this Israeli bakery, but there’s lots more to explore beyond those rightfully famous chocolate-streaked loaves. The cafe in the back is stocked with vegetarian- and pescatarian-friendly salads, sandwiches, and soups, including the sabich (eggplant and hard-boiled eggs stuffed into a pita), two varieties of cauliflower salads (doused in tahini or roasted), and shakshuka. Stock up on gruyere-spackled cheese straws, olive breadsticks, and heavily-seeded loaves for snacking on the go.

An overhead photo of two loaves of chocolate babka beside a cutting knife
The celebrated babka
Photo via Breads

4. Flats Fix

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28 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003
(917) 435-0515
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Hit up this compact, lowkey spot in a former garage from the Coffee Shop team for solid tacos — a bit steep in price for the genre, at $4.75 a pop and $13.75 for three, but they’ll comprise a relatively cheap dinner for the hood for people avoiding ubiquitous fast-casual chains. Choose from traditional fillings like carnitas, pulled smoked chicken, and seared fish, or opt for Jewish deli-inflected pastrami or brisket. Burritos, tortas, salads, a tequila-heavy cocktail list, and a range of Mexican beers are also on the menu at the surfboard and beach poster-bedecked space, run by San Diego native Joel Oberlander.

Flats Fix Photo via Heidi W./Yelp

5. TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie

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21 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 989-1000
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The Japanese udon chain’s first international outpost, housed in the original Union Square Cafe location, features a wide array of its flagship noodles. They’re available in two different thicknesses, with the thinner version comparable to bucatini in width. Preparations span the gamut — from rich, creamier bowls, like spicy tan tan ground pork swirling in a mildly hot sesame broth or a truffle cream crab- and mushroom-filled version, to more austere, broth-based choices, with skimpy but tasty wisps of Wagyu beef or tempura toppings. Opt for the larger size at no extra charge on any of the udon offerings, and to really satiate when famished, lunch sets tack on a small rice bowl or sushi roll for a couple bucks more.

TsuruTonTan Eater Video

6. Ennju

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20 E 17th St
New York, NY 10003
(646) 336-7004
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Head to Ennju for casual, counter-service Japanese fare, including affordable and surprisingly fresh, no-frills sushi ready to grab and made to order. The rest of the place is filled out with a small but often quirky daily spread of cold salads and sides, and decent and filling udon, soba, and donburi bowls. Regulars line up at (and often before) 9 p.m. daily to pillage the remaining sushi selection, when all pre-made rolls are half off.

Katsudon
Katsudon
Robert Sietsema

7. Laut

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15 E 17th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 206-8989
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Behind an unassuming storefront lies tasty affordably priced and well-portioned Southeast Asian fare. Skip the familiar Thai dishes in favor of respectably executed, harder-to-find Malaysian and Singaporean offerings, like Hokkien Mee noodles, chili crab, and Hainanese chicken, plus satisfying curry laksa and asam laksa noodle soup bowls. A trio of roti options is worth perusing, too. Note that the brick-walled space that can get noisy during peak dinnertime.

Laut Photo via Laut

8. ABC Kitchen

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35 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 475-5829
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The perpetually popular Jean-Georges Vongerichten spot is bedecked in lots of white-on-white, antique-y touches, and wood slab tables. The menu emphasizes seasonal vegetables, which are deftly utilized in pretty salads, as well as seafood served roasted, poached, and raw. Though it’s known for light fare, ABC also has a few particularly decadent dishes, like a cheeseburger and various pizzas. Cocktails are equally impressive and many are produce-packed. Reserve far in advance and get an order of the crab toast with lemon aioli.

ABC Kitchen ABC Kitchen

9. Old Town Bar

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45 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-6732
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Sidle up to the mahogany bar for a solo beer or pile into a cozy, high-backed booth with a crew at this venerable watering hole that dates back to 1892. Besides unfussy drinks, Old Town is also beloved for its straightforward burger. There’s a full roster of standard-issue bar fare — which arrives from the upstairs kitchen via dumbwaiter for patrons sitting on the ground floor — like nachos, mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers, plus basic sandwiches and sandwiches. Drinks in this historic space are the main draw, though.

old town bar

10. Dear Irving

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55 Irving Pl
New York, NY 10003

The fancy cocktails (with prices to match) at Dear Irving — from the Raines Law Room team — are tasty, but they’re overshadowed by the opulent surroundings: Each of the four rooms comprising the second-floor space of the time travel-themed spot faithfully channels a particular historical era, including a mod ’60s setup and a crystal-curtained, Art Deco-nodding ’20s section. Despite the lavish decor, the layout feels very intimate, with plenty of date-worthy nooks for uninterrupted conversation — quite literally, as servers are summoned by discreet buzzers. There’s a second, larger location in Mooooidtown.

11. Pete's Tavern

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129 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-7676
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This Irving Place classic is even older than Old Town: It’s been around since 1864 and boasts of writer O. Henry as a former regular. The low-key corner joint even has a beer commemorating its opening year. It’s more of a drinking establishment than a full-on dinner spot, but as for food, it’s a mix of Italian-American staples and steakhouse fare that would’ve flown in the 19th century, save for a few thoroughly 2017 cameos like avocado toast on the brunch menu.

Pete’s Tavern Photo via Pete's Tavern

1. Tocqueville

1 E 15th St, New York, NY 10003
Tocqueville Tocqueville [Official Photo]

Tocqueville has been open in Union Square since 2000 as a special-occasion spot, but the French and new American fare that sources from the nearby greenmarket remains top-notch. There’s a reason nearly every table has an order of the uni carbonara on it — because it’s untouchable, with the restaurant selling up to 40 a night. A plush dining room with white tablecloths makes it a more refined option in the area: Note that a jacket and tie is recommended, though not required, for dinner.

1 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003

2. 15 East

15 E 15th St, New York, NY 10003
15 East Photo via 15 East

Choose from several omakase options, a kaiseki-style tasting menu, or a la carte dining at this upscale, traditional sushi restaurant. The style is devoid of fussy sauces or preparations, with the focus squarely on the extremely fresh fish. A tight edit of hot entrees, plus cold or hot soba noodles, are also available, though its straightforward, well-executed approach to sushi is the star attraction. Pro tip: Go at lunch for an excellent business meeting option.

15 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003

3. Breads Bakery

18 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003
An overhead photo of two loaves of chocolate babka beside a cutting knife
The celebrated babka
Photo via Breads

Babka hogs the spotlight at this Israeli bakery, but there’s lots more to explore beyond those rightfully famous chocolate-streaked loaves. The cafe in the back is stocked with vegetarian- and pescatarian-friendly salads, sandwiches, and soups, including the sabich (eggplant and hard-boiled eggs stuffed into a pita), two varieties of cauliflower salads (doused in tahini or roasted), and shakshuka. Stock up on gruyere-spackled cheese straws, olive breadsticks, and heavily-seeded loaves for snacking on the go.

18 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

4. Flats Fix

28 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003
Flats Fix Photo via Heidi W./Yelp

Hit up this compact, lowkey spot in a former garage from the Coffee Shop team for solid tacos — a bit steep in price for the genre, at $4.75 a pop and $13.75 for three, but they’ll comprise a relatively cheap dinner for the hood for people avoiding ubiquitous fast-casual chains. Choose from traditional fillings like carnitas, pulled smoked chicken, and seared fish, or opt for Jewish deli-inflected pastrami or brisket. Burritos, tortas, salads, a tequila-heavy cocktail list, and a range of Mexican beers are also on the menu at the surfboard and beach poster-bedecked space, run by San Diego native Joel Oberlander.

28 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

5. TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie

21 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003
TsuruTonTan Eater Video

The Japanese udon chain’s first international outpost, housed in the original Union Square Cafe location, features a wide array of its flagship noodles. They’re available in two different thicknesses, with the thinner version comparable to bucatini in width. Preparations span the gamut — from rich, creamier bowls, like spicy tan tan ground pork swirling in a mildly hot sesame broth or a truffle cream crab- and mushroom-filled version, to more austere, broth-based choices, with skimpy but tasty wisps of Wagyu beef or tempura toppings. Opt for the larger size at no extra charge on any of the udon offerings, and to really satiate when famished, lunch sets tack on a small rice bowl or sushi roll for a couple bucks more.

21 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

6. Ennju

20 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003
Katsudon
Katsudon
Robert Sietsema

Head to Ennju for casual, counter-service Japanese fare, including affordable and surprisingly fresh, no-frills sushi ready to grab and made to order. The rest of the place is filled out with a small but often quirky daily spread of cold salads and sides, and decent and filling udon, soba, and donburi bowls. Regulars line up at (and often before) 9 p.m. daily to pillage the remaining sushi selection, when all pre-made rolls are half off.

20 E 17th St
New York, NY 10003

7. Laut

15 E 17th Street, New York, NY 10003
Laut Photo via Laut

Behind an unassuming storefront lies tasty affordably priced and well-portioned Southeast Asian fare. Skip the familiar Thai dishes in favor of respectably executed, harder-to-find Malaysian and Singaporean offerings, like Hokkien Mee noodles, chili crab, and Hainanese chicken, plus satisfying curry laksa and asam laksa noodle soup bowls. A trio of roti options is worth perusing, too. Note that the brick-walled space that can get noisy during peak dinnertime.

15 E 17th Street
New York, NY 10003

8. ABC Kitchen

35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003
ABC Kitchen ABC Kitchen

The perpetually popular Jean-Georges Vongerichten spot is bedecked in lots of white-on-white, antique-y touches, and wood slab tables. The menu emphasizes seasonal vegetables, which are deftly utilized in pretty salads, as well as seafood served roasted, poached, and raw. Though it’s known for light fare, ABC also has a few particularly decadent dishes, like a cheeseburger and various pizzas. Cocktails are equally impressive and many are produce-packed. Reserve far in advance and get an order of the crab toast with lemon aioli.

35 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003

9. Old Town Bar

45 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003
old town bar

Sidle up to the mahogany bar for a solo beer or pile into a cozy, high-backed booth with a crew at this venerable watering hole that dates back to 1892. Besides unfussy drinks, Old Town is also beloved for its straightforward burger. There’s a full roster of standard-issue bar fare — which arrives from the upstairs kitchen via dumbwaiter for patrons sitting on the ground floor — like nachos, mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers, plus basic sandwiches and sandwiches. Drinks in this historic space are the main draw, though.

45 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003

10. Dear Irving

55 Irving Pl, New York, NY 10003

The fancy cocktails (with prices to match) at Dear Irving — from the Raines Law Room team — are tasty, but they’re overshadowed by the opulent surroundings: Each of the four rooms comprising the second-floor space of the time travel-themed spot faithfully channels a particular historical era, including a mod ’60s setup and a crystal-curtained, Art Deco-nodding ’20s section. Despite the lavish decor, the layout feels very intimate, with plenty of date-worthy nooks for uninterrupted conversation — quite literally, as servers are summoned by discreet buzzers. There’s a second, larger location in Mooooidtown.

55 Irving Pl
New York, NY 10003

11. Pete's Tavern

129 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003
Pete’s Tavern Photo via Pete's Tavern

This Irving Place classic is even older than Old Town: It’s been around since 1864 and boasts of writer O. Henry as a former regular. The low-key corner joint even has a beer commemorating its opening year. It’s more of a drinking establishment than a full-on dinner spot, but as for food, it’s a mix of Italian-American staples and steakhouse fare that would’ve flown in the 19th century, save for a few thoroughly 2017 cameos like avocado toast on the brunch menu.

129 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003

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