This category was invented to accommodate a few of favourite places that do not fit easily into any other.
They have in common really good food, relaxed atmosphere and a New York sensibility.
Union Square Cafe
Twenty years on, Union Square, the first in the Danny Meyer empire, is a constant on any short list of New York favourites.
Meyer, and his partner here, executive chef Michael Romano are talented restaurateurs.
Union Square is pleasant, comfortable, the kind of place where you let go of care and anticipate, rightly, wonderful food and service.
The menu is more or less American with emphatic Italianate overtones.
Happily, many menu favourites have prevailed over two decades: tuna tartare, orange-fennel salad, and above all the fried calamari with spicy anchovy mayonnaise lead the appetisers; the lemon-pepper duck, and the grilled scrota dita lamb chops are beloved entrees.
There also are daily specials; our particular favourite is Wednesday’s porchetta arrosta, as close to Rome’s as you can get short of heading for JFK.
Desserts break down nearly evenly between the Italian and the American, but if you must chose just one, make it the banana tart with macadamia nut brittle.
21 East 16th St
212 243 4020
Wee – 30 or so seats, tightly packed – and barely decorated, Prune is just a bit self-consciously unpretentious.
Mostly, it is fun, and the food is so, so good. The menu reflects no particular provenance, and favourites include battered and fried sweetbreads, marrowbones, spaghetti carbonara, and grilled lamb sausages paired with oysters.
Mussels may come steamed with a spicy almond sauce, pork shoulder with salsa verde, and the ribeye with the classic maitre d’hotel butter.
Prune is great for brunch, with nearly as many choices for food as variations on the Bloody Mary.
54 First Ave
212 677 6221
Yes, it is in a converted garage space, with a retractable front that turns the entire inside out.
Chef Jonathan Waxman was a leader of the first wave of California-New American cooking.
Barbuto – or bearded, as is Waxman – is an American interpretation of Italian food and preparation.
There is an overall simplicity that can deceive…just why is the chicken there so much better than you could expect?
It does emerge crisp and juicy from a ridiculously hot wood-burning oven, as does the pork chop.
Antipasti, sides and a few daily pasta dishes are super: do not miss the signature salad of shaved Brussels sprouts, or the seared squid, or the polenta.
The lunch menu is similar to dinner’s with the addition of pizzas pulled from that ever-burning oven.
775 Washington St
212 924 9700
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