THE BLOG
03/14/2008 02:16 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Secret New York Alternative to Tavern on the Green

The words most commonly associated with Tavern on the
Green are "overpriced" and "not good." Other words
could include uncool, touristy and rip-off. New York
arguably has better food than anywhere in the country,
so instead of hitting off its most famous tourist
trap, check out one of these equally priced, fantastic
restaurants. Be forewarned: they're all located below
14th Street. (Appetizers at TOTG range from $12-20 and
entrees range from $26-42, so if anything, the
following restaurants are less expensive):

Blue Ribbon Bakery - There are a number of Blue Ribbon
restaurants and at all of them the food is just as
delicious as the experience is annoying. This is
because of the group's no-reservations policy, and the
ensuing wait time - every night of the week. But Blue
Ribbon Bakery, being the least hip of the bunch, gets
the least love and is therefore significantly easier
to get into. With its huge storefront windows, it's
especially terrific for people-watching at lunch, when
you'll find yourself deciding between the artichoke
hearts, smoked red trout and fried chicken while
trying to figure out how to dress like the
actor-slash-models on Downing Street. Oh, and they
make their own bread. I just gained 5 lbs writing
this. 35 Downing Street (Downing and Bedford)
212.337.0404

Five Points - This is a great place to go with your
aunt and uncle or a date - if you've been dating for
awhile. The white tablecloths and dim lighting feel
clubby rather than formal or romantic. The food is
solidly good and, though it's not too loud, there's
still that comfortable buzz to the room without which
New Yorkers can't think. The majority of the menu
consists of seafood and pasta dishes, but there is
also American bar food like buttermilk free range
chicken, a char grilled grass fed burger, and hearty
sides like french fries and onion rings. Every night
between 5-6pm Five Points offers a happy hour oyster
and martini special, with $2 oysters and half priced
martinis. Note that when you hit your 13th oyster,
it's full price again. PS - For a more romantic
experience, try its sister restaurant, Cookshop, in
Chelsea. Five Points: 31 Great Jones Street (Bowery
and Lafayette) 212.253.5700

The Stanton Social - You'll notice that the theme of
the Lower East Side these days is youth, and
personally I think the city should consider renaming
it "University of the Lower East Side" (it could play
in the same athletic conference as Williamsburg
College and Murray Hill State). In fairness, the
neighborhood also happens to have some of the best
restaurants in Manhattan, including Freemans, Little
Giant, Barrio Chino, THOR (yes, I like THOR) and
Schiller's, where you can get steak frites at 3am. The
Stanton Social's menu includes mini lobster rolls,
short rib tacos and spicy edamame, and everything's
meant to be shared, including the banquettes at the
upstairs bar. It's a great place to take the friend
from college you only see once a year or that very
mature 24 year-old you've been texting. 99 Stanton
Street (Ludlow and Orchard) 212.995.0099

Cafe Mogador - Cafe Mogador is one of those
restaurants where, if someone looked me dead in the
eye and said, "Cafe Mogador is the best restaurant in
New York City," I would say, "Yes." The only other
restaurants that I would say that about unflinchingly
are Bond Street Sushi, which is ri-DIC-ulous, Craft,
which just cares more about ingredients than anyone
else, and Gramercy Tavern, which is Gramercy Tavern
(the culinary equivalent of pointing out that Clive
Owen is attractive (I don't love Brad Pitt)). But
Mogador is different because it's totally low key. It
looks like all the other Euro-esque restaurants on St.
Marks Place but the food is superb and it's actually
not that expensive. It's Moroccan, which means that
things like lamb and couscous are involved, as well as
impossibly fresh salad, hot pita and luscious
Mediterranean on-the-bone fish. When my dad came to
town we ate here, I kid you not, three nights in a
row. It's that good. 101 St. Marks Place (First Avenue
and Avenue A) 212.677.2226

Giorgione - I feel like this is a restaurant for
people in the art world. This isn't really based on
anything except for the white-stubbled men I see
drinking wine and the fact that I happened to go with
my friend Courtney, who works at Mixed Greens (one of
those small but crucial Chelsea galleries). Again, the
food is stellar, the wine is great and comes in nice
big wine glasses, and the ceilings are high and airy
enough for even the most heated Damien Hirst
conversation. Of course, when Courtney and I go, we
usually talk about boys. (Note that there are two
Giorgiones, the other one has one big, long bar with
high stools. Both are good but the Spring Street one
is more of a conventional restaurant.) Restaurant: 307
Spring Street (Greenwich and Hudson) 212.352.2269,
Bar: 508 Greenwich Street (Canal and Spring)
212.219.2444

I can't think of a better way to burn all these
calories than to go on a walking tour. Luckily,
Secret New York: Exploring the City's Hidden
Neighborhoods
includes walking tours of every
neighborhood of Manhattan (and all of the outer
boroughs too).