So you live in New York City, where good restaurants are lauded all over Yelp and there are tons of great places that you can hop into whenever you’re hungry. But what if finding dinner was more of a challenge and the reward was discovering a place not many people know about?
Think speakeasy, but in a restaurant. Got your attention? Good. Because these are the best underground restaurants and how to find them.
Hidden in the back of Garret Bar in the East Village is a small oasis called Dinnertable. According to Yelp user Maria G., they house only a counter, a communal table, and a few tables small enough for two.
But squeezing into this secret isn’t so bad when you consider you’re one of the chosen few to find it and try their amazing selections like smoked short rib tartare and artichoke falafel, made from only the freshest ingredients. Plus, if you snag a seat by the counter, you can watch them prep your food.
This place is so secret that they specify on their website that you should email them with an introduction and they will reach out to you to dine with them. Their location and contact information is kept as secret as possible.
What’s waiting for you is a mixture of Japanese-American foods that you won’t believe you’ve been missing. From sashimi to sliders, or as they call them “mini burgers,” made with Washu-Beef, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu (assuming you’re lucky enough to gain access).
Found behind the popular Tørst in Brooklyn, Luksus offers a seasonal tasting menu on an odd schedule. Only open Tuesday to Sunday, they offer reservations on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 PM, and Thursday to Sunday at 6:30 PM & 9 PM for $125. They cater to everything besides vegan diets and even offer drink pairings for an extra $55.
A recent menu included 3 snack dishes, a radish dish with razor clams, cucumber and bone marrow, and a little gem salad with chanterelle and egg, among other dishes. Whatever your menu, you can be sure it will be fresh and unique. And the presentation is an Instagrammer’s dream.
Behind Roberta’s Pizzeria is Blanca, a 2 Michelin-star, speakeasy-like restaurant. In a Yelp review, Jimmy W. mentions that there is only 12 person seating at the bar and reservations can only be made for Wednesday through Saturday for either 6 PM or 9:30 PM.
Their new-American, experimental dishes are worth a bit of finagling with your schedule. Their food comes in perfect portions and servings with past options including dishes like tomato foam, served with corn ice cream and black lime, plantain ravioli, and potatoes with monkfish, to name a few. You’re going to want to reserve a spot ASAP.
Decoy has a reputation as a “must visit” spot. Most people come here hoping to hate it because of its crazy prices, but if you’re up for an indulgent night, head down to this Chinese delight of a restaurant. Reservations can be made up to a month in advance, but according to their website it means you commit to their $68.50 prix fixe Peking Duck menu, which, if reviews are any indication, may not be the worst thing in the world.
Walk-ins are always an option, but for an underground place, Decoy has a lot of hype so reservations may be the better option. The peking duck is praised by almost everyone who goes there (excluding only those who haven’t tried it), but you can’t really go wrong with any of the other options either. Hurry though, because they only make 27 ducks a night and you’re going to want to make sure you get one.
On most occasions, you would be considered crazy if you ever went down an empty alleyway in New York, but with Freemans you may want to make an exception. Down this alley off Bowery is a great cozy American restaurant, praised for their brunch as much as their lunch and dinner.
With choices like carrot cake pancakes and baked skillet egg shakshuka for brunch, and grilled lamb skewers and toasted barley risotto for dinner, you can fit in a meal at any time of day. Follow the website’s directions to find the place or else you may get lost.
While that’s not the official name, its gotten a reputation as a top ramen spot. Hidden in the basement of No Name Bar sits a top secret location scooping out serious ramen, although the owners would never admit to it outright. Yup. It’s that big of a secret.
According to Eater, “Patrons are instructed to order at the bar and then bring their ticket downstairs to Lindsay Salminen (Pies n’ Thighs, Diner) who operates the small but efficiently run kitchen.” They serve two different ramen flavors per night in addition to some other small dishes. Carry your snacks to the garden for a nice summer-appropriate dining experience that feels like you’re cheating the system.
While a bakery isn’t technically a restaurant, you’re going to want some desserts after your meal. And I have to admit, this is possibly the hardest, but most worthwhile to find. After stumbling upon this bakery while walking down 18th street one day and seeing a cake in the window, I’ve become a regular customer (but even I almost missed it when I tried to stop in a few times).
The place is hidden below a walk-up apartment so you really have to pay attention to find the little sign that advertises their amazing treats, and the stairs to get down to the tiny storefront. Their half-pound cookies are unbelievable and are usually the main focus, but I always recommend their salted caramel cupcake. People I’ve suggested it to have called it “life-changing.”
So get out your sleuthing gear (Google Maps won’t help here) and open your eyes to find those places your friends have definitely never been before. It’s a great way to impress those out-of-towners, or even a date.