Buka celebrates the rich culinary landscape of West Africa with a mouthwatering lineup of traditional meals served amid cozy brick walls, flickering candlelight, and soothing strains of live music. The menu's authentic eats roar with spices and include tomato-based stews of fish, chicken or goat. Fufu⎯a staple starch of pounded cassava or yam flour—accompanies many dishes, served in a single ball that is plucked apart, reformed into a disk-like shape, and wielded with the right hand to cosset morsels of stew or pinch a grandchild’s cheeks. The diverse bill of fare includes a range of yam, egg, or bean-based vegetarian plates, as well as options for more adventurous eaters, including cooked goat head. Aside from the authentic West African fare, Buka immerses visitors in faraway cultures with a growing collection of African books and magazines and regular showings of Nigerian movies.
Tea-light flames flickering through red glass holders gently illuminate the exposed-brick walls, ochre curtains, and plates full of contemporary American cuisine fashioned with a Mediterranean twist at Red Oak Restaurant. Servers flit about the dimly lit setting or covered patio, which sits under a red canopy surrounded by greenery and wood latticework. At tables they stop to present tapas-style hot and cold plates, which balance grilled shrimp, crisp calamari, or classic Mediterranean hummus and falafel. Chefs in the kitchen prepare substantial entrees, including kebabs threaded with lamb or kofta, as well as lamb chops fresh from the grill. Also in the kitchen, fragrant stews known as tajines simmer oxtail or beef with herbs and spices. As a post-meal treat, brass-trimmed hookahs send thanks to the chef via aromatic smoke signals.
Opposites attract at Gallery Social Bar and Lounge, both on the menu of comfort snacks and upscale entrees, and at the bar, where a spectrum of loungers and club dancers sample colorful splashes of fruit juice, exotic liqueur, and top-shelf vodka from Stoli and Absolut. In the kitchen, cooks decorate flatbreads with sweet, juicy pears and savory blue cheese and build sliders from tangy morsels of pulled pork, ground beef, and caramelized onions. Hookahs deliver puffs of flavor to curious palates, and a patio gives guests a breath of fresh air after shaking it to DJ tunes or spelling out their phone number in hookah smoke rings. On any given night, guests can enjoy hot meals until 2 a.m. and the flicker of the flat-screen TV until 4 a.m.
Since it was named the second best beer bar in the US in 2005 by Beer Advocate, Spuyten Duyvil has continued in its legacy of expertly poured pints chosen from their Belgian-centric beer list. The beer menu goes so far as to separate the Belgian beers by region, a sign of respect for the many different styles of beer produced in the country’s Flemish and Wallonian breweries and Trappist monasteries. The bar supplements this list with a full range of European beers and a few selections from Asia and the US (taps usually pour out craft brews from within the US). While guests browse the extensive menu of drinks, they can snack on small plates of bar fare and flip through the jukebox to see if their favorite song sounds the same in public as it does when they scream it in their dreams.
Twenty four draft beers—including Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and Brewmaster's Reserve—line the Cuban mahogany bar at Kent Ale House. Handcrafted by German cabinetmakers, this altar to suds first entered the word before the Prohibition era, when Americans were still allowed to eat cake. The pub's bottle selection features New York brews but also dabbles in international beers from Belgium and Cheshire.
The interior of Kent Ale House features charming exposed-brick walls throughout. In the back, a separate room with a private entrance shelters parties and a ping-pong table. Exposed wooden rafters and a wood-burning fireplace give the space the feel of a lodge, and this is enhanced by the stuffed elk that hangs on the wall. There's also a 50-seat sidewalk café that grants diners a view of the Manhattan skyline.
The critics can’t agree on which of 12th Street Bar & Grill's offerings steal the show. “Brunch is the draw,” says The New York Times, citing their waffles doused in real maple syrup and scrambled-egg dishes tossed with smoked salmon and goat cheese. New York Magazine, for its part, highlights the evening features that make it ideal for “informally romantic dates.” Crab-cake appetizers come alive with a chipotle aioli, and an espresso-rubbed hanger steak builds on its existing heartiness with a helping of truffled mac ‘n’ cheese. Whatever the hour, guests can sip craft cocktails as they admire the space’s high tin ceilings that hint at its history as a carriage house and sales lot for enormous penny-farthing bicycles.