It seems that a lot of people are interested in what chefs do on their day off. Most of my chef friends would respond “What day off?” Maybe because even if they have a day off, they often spend it cooking. Days off allow for enough time to visit the farmers’ markets, try new ingredients, and cook for loved ones – for personal satisfaction and experimentation. We also like to take the opportunity to visit our friends in their restaurants, get pampered or just have a chance to relax and get comfortable for a little while with some really good food and, of course, cocktails.
Well, I can’t speak for all chefs – or even a large percentage of them, but here’s where my friends and I meet for good food, well-made drinks, and relaxation…
1. Shorty’s .32 : (199 Prince Street btw Sullivan & MacDougal) Josh Eden, aka Shorty, is a chef’s chef. His food is flavorful, skillfully prepared, and always satisfying. He offers a great variety on the menu but our favorites are the simple comfort foods like roast chicken with green beans (possibly the best roast chicken in NYC), an amazing burger (again, in the running for the best in NYC – at least among my friends), and a late night menu designed with the night crew’s schedule in mind.
2. Ippudo NY: (65 Fourth Ave. btw 9th & 10th St.) The first US outlet of a Japanese chain, this place is known for it’s handmade ramen. Noodles in all their forms have been a comfort food for centuries and the chefs I know are all about their comfort food. Doesn’t hurt that ramen is an enduring hot food trend as well. If you can stand the hour plus wait for a seat, you will be rewarded greatly with some of the most succulent, flavorful pork-laden ramen in town.
3. Daddy-O: (44 BedfordStreet at Leroy) This neighborhood bar is a favorite with the late-night downtown chefs. Service is friendly, the food is great – one of the best burgers in NYC served with the best tater tots EVER (perfectly crunchy outside, soft and fluffy inside, with tabasco-spiked ketchup on the side); and don’t miss the Sunday meatballs (and Monday meatball sandwiches!) – the owner’s family’s recipe. Also, the Buffalo-style chicken wings are the real deal.
4. Momo-anything: If you live in NYC and haven’t eaten at any of the Momofukus, you need to rectify that immediately. If you read my writing with any regularity, you know that despite the fact that I believe Mr. Chang sold his soul to the devil (or may indeed be the devil), I adore him and everything I’ve ever eaten in any of his restaurants. OK, I’m gushing, but still… from pork buns and artisinalsoft-serve ice-cream at Milk Bar to an exquisite 15+ course tasting menu for lunch at Ko, and don’t forget the Bo Ssam pork loving feast at Ssam Bar, there’s lots there to love.
5. (Beginning with a disclosure) the one restaurant I spend the most time (and money) in is the one many of my friends (and I) work in (though indirectly)… L’Ecole, the restaurant at the French Culinary Institute, is the best deal in NYC dining. I eat there at least once a week, by choice. The food is prepared with the utmost attention to detail – what our students lack in experience, they make up for in passion. The service is professional, attentive, and warm. And, last but certainly not least, the entire beverage program is outstanding. If wine is your passion, the list is eclectic and extensive (and reasonably priced). If cocktails are your game, look no further. We have Dave Arnold and Nils Noren concocting one-of-a-kind beverages for your pleasure, and Alexis Kahn (of a Thirsty Spirit) overseeing the whole gig. I may be be a little prejudice, but you can always try it for yourself!