As both natives and visitors know, there is an abundance of seafood restaurants in Manhattan. Most have predictable menu items like tuna, salmon or branzino in traditional dining settings. But there are a handful of places in lower Manhattan that offer both unique dining experiences and menus that are definitely not run of the mill. Here are just a few you should try:
95 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
This place doesn’t take reservations and there is always a long wait to get in, making it hard to plan ahead. The trick is to get there a little before 5:00, when they open. Once you get in, have the happy hour oysters and beer or cider. Follow up with mussels steamed in beer and house cured salmon. This place is one of a kind. Service is amiable and efficient. The fact that the restaurant has no refrigeration (other than for beverages) is a great marketing hook for an oyster house — it’s got to be a fresh shipment every day. It’s a small place and tables are set close together.
390 Broome St
New York, NY 10013
The dining formula here is simple. It’s called The Reel Deal. You get to pick from the catch of the day — usually consisting of three fish selectons. Then you choose one of three sauces/toppings to go with the fish. Finally, the meal comes with three sides. No choice here — but they’re always interesting and never disappointing.
The staff is super-efficient and knowledgeable (they know the relative mercury levels of the fish). The wine list is well-balanced and affordable. The cocktails are as good as most you would get at a cocktail bar. What more could you want? The restaurant is on a corner and is all windowed. It affords a great view of the passersby as well as the historic old police headquarters
Russ & Daughters Café
127 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
I truly believe if you visit NYC and don’t eat here, you’d be missing out on a unique dining experience. About two years old, it feels like it has been an Orchard Street presence since the days when the street epitomized the Jewish Lower East Side, with its shops and peddlers. This cafe is brilliantly conceptualized, using a decor that evokes an earlier time by borrowing details from the original and busier than ever retail store on Houston Street. The porcelain cabinets and trim, the graphics and even the signage look like they were installed in 1900.
You don’t come here for fresh fish, but for the smoked baked and pickled seafood. I recommend the herring and kippered salmon. There’s also the whitefish. The beet borscht is the best I’ve ever had. It’s not watery, but almost a purée. I’ve never had a better Bloody Mary. They have several variations.
There was a time when every Jewish neighborhood had a restaurant that served what was called “appetizing” dishes. They were mainly dairy and fish places, no meat, because they were kosher. This cafe takes some dietary liberties, and the result is better than what you could get from the era it evokes. They also have a full bar and offer egg creams.
Don’t think you can stop in on a weekend for lunch. Unless you get there well before noon, expect a two hour wait to be seated. Come at night. The food is the same, and the place is pretty empty after 6 PM.
Gramercy Farmer & The Fish
245 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003
This is the newest of the restaurants. The name “Farmer & The Fish” comes from the fact that one owner has a farm, providing fresh produce and another owner is a seafood distributor There is a raw bar at the front with a huge selection of oysters, shrimp and lobster. The oysters are an experience in themselves. The shucker or waiter will patiently explain each of them.
A recommended item is steamed Maine mussels in a curry sauce — they are large and the broth wonderful for dipping the bread that came with the mussels. The wild King salmon is as good as any you’ll find. Not oily or fishy. It comes on a bed of smoked beets and kohlrabi. Monkfish Milanese is a must try as is the whole local sole.
The way the dishes are prepared obviously accounts for how good they taste, but the ingredients the kitchen starts with are about as fresh as you can get — that’s what makes this place special.
95 First Avenue NYC NY
917 908 3395
390 Broome Street NYC NY
212 730 6005
Russ & Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard Street NYC NY
212 425 4880 ext 2
Gramercy Farmer and The Fish
245 Park Avenue NYC NY
646 998 5991
Back to Home