5 NYC Restaurants That Keep It Real

The New York restaurant scene can have some posers, which inevitably means overpricing. Why not relax in comfortable culinary cradles of simplicity without breaking the bank? These five restaurants elevate authentic urban dining and are all about going out—but feeling at home.

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Donna Margherita

Small, intimate and chock full of Italian delicacies, Donna Margherita is a charming restaurant located on the Upper East Side. Dine under a mural of the Italian countryside as you feast on any of the 14 different brick oven, thin crust pizzas, a traditional meat lasagne, salads, appetizers and homemade desserts. The cheerful eatery doesn’t mess around with authentic tastes. Phone: 212-772-1169 Address: 1304A 2nd Ave Click to go

Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails

HKCTruffledFriedBurrata

image: handcraft kitchen & cocktails

Step inside this rocking cavern for a taste of new American comfort food. Ease into the wild game meatloaf or bison burger with the truffled fried burrata (mushroom duxelle, arugula, herbs). Weekday specials include an $18 burger, beer (extensive craft list) and bourbon. The seemingly effortless industrial chic setting is the ideal place to revel with a gigantic Moscow Mule (house ginger beer) or a Sixpoint Puff (double IPA). Phone: 212-689-3000 Address: 367 3rd Ave Click to go

Virgil’s Real Barbecue

Virgil's Baby Back Ribs

image: virgil’s

When your napkin is a hand towel, you’re in for some messy fun. This slow cooking but quick serving roadhouse is full of guilt-free 25oz beers and 22oz margaritas to accompany combination platters meshing timeless hits. Think Texas beef brisket, Memphis-style pork spare ribs and the trademark Carolina pulled pork. If the epic wings and cornmeal-crusted rock shrimp don’t cut it, vegetarians enjoy the from scratch black bean burger. Wine snobs need not apply. Phone: 212-921-9494 Address: 152 W 44th St Click to go

Oro

Oro Black Bass Marechiara

image: oro

A long row of floor-to-ceiling windows in the shadow of the 59th St. Bridge lets outsiders peer into the evolving Long Island City foodie scene. An Italian-American father-and-son team encourage visitors to be real—because they are. The Edison bulb sputniks shed light upon a huge easy-flowing space (and, if you choose well, the baked clams or chicken tortellini soup) and a 200-bottle fine wine display. Enormous entrees that look pricey—but aren’t—include a sumptuous pan seared black bass shrimp (lemon risotto, capers, parsley) with string beans. The long curving bar encourages multicultural mingling. It’s also where the bartender gets creative with florally infused vodka cocktails. Phone: 718-729-1801 Address: 41-17 Crescent St Click to go

Megu

Megu Hi-res interior

image: megu

This swanky underground lair beneath the Dream Downtown hotel upgrades modern Japanese dining into a celebration. The first impression—clubby, subtly futuristic, dimly lit purpleness—is enhanced by nori salmon belly tacos (crispy nori shell, ponzu, jicama, truffle) presented by entertaining waiters. The patient, fun performance continues with a scallop entrée with charred cauliflower (soy ginger, white chocolate, sunflower seed, pickled carrot). Japanese whiskey flights are served on a chunky slate tray. Simplicity reigns supreme when the charcoal grill (robataya) lands on your table to roast everything from swordfish to shitake. Each is accompanied by its own hypnotizing sauces. This visual and culinary tapestry is an exquisite subterranean detour that’s birthday or anniversary worthy. Phone: 212-885-9400 Address: 355 W 16th St Click to go

bruce northam

Bruce Northam is the award-winning journalist and author of The Directions to Happiness: A 135-Country Quest for Life Lessons, Globetrotter Dogma, In Search of Adventure, and The Frugal Globetrotter. He also created “American Detour,” a show revealing the travel writer’s journey. His keynote speech, Directions to Your Destination, reveals the many shades of the travel industry and how to entice travelers. Northam’s other live presentation, Street Anthropology, is an ode to freestyle wandering. Visit AmericanDetour.com.