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10 Restaurants To Put On Your Hit List: Winter Restaurant Week

You’ve just gotten back to school, the impending semester looms over you the way whipped cream envelops a Serendipity 3 frozen hot chocolate, and you can scarcely hear the word “homework” before wanting to collapse into a pile of mediocre sushi. But, wait! There’s hope–and it arrives in the form of glorious, relatively well-priced, foodie heaven: New York Winter 2016 Restaurant Week.

A few notes before we get to the rundown:

  • Restaurant “Week” (RW) is actually three weeks, biannually, once in the summer and once in winter. This winter, it runs January 18th – February 5th.
  • All RW participants will feature separate menus just for these three weeks. Usually, there’ll be 3-4 choices for starters, mains, and desserts, and all are prix-fixe: $25/lunch/person or $38/dinner/person + tax/tip.
  • It’s a great chance for New Yorkers to try some famously upscale food at some famously upscale venues, and for restaurants to market themselves, which brings us to…
  1. Scarpetta
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

If you love Food Network’s goosebump-inducing, emotion-flaring “Chopped,” you know of notorious red-onion-hating judge Scott Conant. If you don’t love “Chopped,” you need to reevaluate your life choices, and there’s no better place to do so than Conant’s Scarpetta. It’s the home to the most Instagrammed spaghetti (#thatfeelingwhen a single pasta dish is more loved on the Interwebs than you), the island’s — and possibly the world’s — most arousing polenta, and a bread basket to haunt your dreams.

2. ABC Kitchen (lunch only)

Photo courtesy of Gourmet Gourmand

Photo courtesy of Gourmet Gourmand

This vegetable-touting Jean-Georges cult-favorite is oddly planted inside an eponymous carpet store. It shouldn’t stop you from being positively swept up by its always-local and always-fresh seasonal menu, and we’re in luck: ABC’s infamous salted caramel-candied popcorn sundae is on its RW menu. I think we’ll take eight of them (give or take) for the table. No, not to share.

3. Craftbar (lunch only)

Photo courtesy of Phil Kline

Photo courtesy of Phil Kline

If you love Top Chef superstar Tom Colicchio, you’ll love his effortlessly elegant Craftbar, the more casual, rustic little sister of Colicchio’s highly-coveted Craft. If you don’t love Tom Colicchio or his food, you’re clearly a scarred Top Chef contestant who took his *constructive criticism* too personally and could use a restorative bite of Craftbar’s legendary ricotta meatballs or chicken liver toast.

4. Bar Boulud

Photo courtesy of E. Kheraj

Photo courtesy of E. Kheraj

Chef and restauranteur Daniel Boulud’s Upper West Side mainstay is where your inner Parisienne snob rears her Chanel-powdered nose with none of the shame and all of the entitlement, for Bar Boulud is the one place you can get away with it–avant-garde wine-cellar vibes, tear-jerkingly well-seared steak frites, and Boulud’s house pâte grand-mêre that will validate every moment you’ve ever stood up for organ meat.

5. Cherry Izakaya

Photo courtesy of Cherry Izakaya

Photo courtesy of Cherry Izakaya

This Williamsburg jewel box of a modern Japanese izakaya will reinvent the way you think about sushi, sashimi, and your unfortunately mediocre knowledge of Japanese cuisine beyond those two diet staples. Quirky is the key word here; your go-to salmon-avo roll it is not: this place whips up a mean tuna crispy rice benedict and bacon caesar roll.

6. David Burke Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

David Burke is the Jennifer Lawrence kind of classy, sassy, and just a tad smart-assy, nestled in SoHo’s magnificently chic James and boasting a Restaurant Week menu that is refreshingly expansive (including a brunch section in honor of our favorite holiday–how thoughtful). Fresh and hearty are the buzzwords, with pairings like burrata and eggplant, salmon and sauerkraut. It’d be a crime to leave without trying all the desserts in a place known for its sinfully creative cherries on top.

7. Little Park (lunch only)

Photo courtesy of Noah Fecks

Photo courtesy of Noah Fecks

Bona-fide chef Andrew Carmellini’s Little Park is like the upscale, much less institutional, and even more appealing version of the Whole Foods prepared-foods section. Like ABC Kitchen (#2 above), the restaurant prides itself on the local, the fresh, and the seasonal, and the squash and steak ($0 surcharge!) certainly look it on the RW menu.

8. Tamarind TriBeCa (lunch only)

Photo courtesy of Gourmet Gourmand

Photo courtesy of Gourmet Gourmand

The Indian food at Tamarind (yup, we’re on a nickname basis) is as ridiculous as the restaurant’s leviathan size, and this place is a consistent crowd favorite for its whimsical but darkly delicious take on classic Indian dishes. The menu is a nod to multi-regional and multi-flavor India–we uncultured peasants don’t know how to pronounce or begin to consider half the stuff on here, but we see curries and paneer, and that’s all you need to know.

9. Telepan

Photo courtesy of Telepan

Photo courtesy of Telepan

Chef Bill Telepan’s pro-greenmarket, pro-Meatless Mondays restaurant is as leafy as neighboring Central Park. Telepan’s Michelin star isn’t the only delectable thing it has notched in its belt–did you see the roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms or the lobster bolognese or the goose or…? #brbdrooling

10. Il Mulino (multiple locations)

Photo courtesy Quentin Bacon

Photo courtesy Quentin Bacon

Il Mulino’s Italian empire extends practically half the length of Manhattan, and for good reason: not only have Bill & Barack just casually lunched there, it’s the kind of place its followers/minions (or, shall we say, “mignons”) fervently defend as the best of its kind. The food is extravagant, the atmosphere the epitome of Old NYC Italian, and the pasta absurd. Get on it.

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