When it first opened in the mid-1990s, an evening out at Pravda often began with finding a payphone. The Prohibition-style basement speakeasy featured no signage to indicate the Russian restaurant within, so many patrons were reduced to phoning for directions. Once they arrived, however, the memory of such efforts tended to vanish swiftly in a heady atmosphere where premium vodkas, champagne, and caviar flowed. Pravda’s name—the same as the former Communist party paper of record—hints at its Soviet-chic influences, but a spirit of clandestine luxury holds far greater sway beneath the restaurant’s immense plaster archways and lanterns printed with Russian text. Meals are more aptly described as grand tours of the house specialties, often beginning with a presentation of caviar that diners can spread on toast points or blini. To experience a classic Russian pairing, groups should order shots of vodka, such as the small-batch Ultra vodka from 300-year-old distiller Jewel of Russia. Said to have been a favorite of several czars, the vodka still goes through a slow-flow filtration process designed to leave it exceptionally smooth without any loss of character. Pravda's owners consider it among the finest of their more than 70 kinds of vodka, and it’s also among the rarest: only 2,000 bottles a month are released to the United States, each with hand-painted caps and glass. The food menu begins with two distinctly Russian samplers: Pravda's Russian Experience, a collection of charcuterie, cheeses, and pickled herring, and the Zakouski platter, a spread of traditional hors d'oeuvres such as potato pancakes and roasted eggplant dip. From there, the selection becomes surprisingly diverse, as diners can choose from plum-tomato pizza, steak frites, and even mini cheeseburgers. Meals often conclude with something from the rotating dessert menu, such as bittersweet Belgian chocolate cake baked to order and served still steaming from the oven. But depending on the hour, music might serve as a final course. A DJ begins spinning mellow sounds around 9 p.m., gradually upping the energy around 10 p.m. by feeding the turntables strong Russian tea. Like a true speakeasy, Pravda caters to the evening crowd, serving as late as 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Katra steeps revelers in a sleek ambiance inspired by its mantra of “Cocktails. Cuisine. Culture.” Moroccan influences drift from the menu of small dishes—including lamb tagines and merguez sausage—throughout the restaurant, from clutches of delicate tasseled lanterns to banquettes strewn with tiny pillows perfect for five-minute naps between entree and dessert. Cocktails made with Pama pomegranate liqueur and tropical fruits such as lychee and guava flow throughout both levels of the restaurant, from the cozy cabanas upstairs to the lower floor’s DJ booth and couches.
Outfitted to resemble a one-room schoolhouse, with beer lists on blackboards and wooden pegs for hanging coats, Nolita House provides an education in simple, affordable, seasonal dining. Learn how far a crispy panko crust can elevate classic mac 'n' cheese ($12 for the large plate or $8 for the small) or study the intersection of the delicious and the porcine with babyback ribs ($9). Forge a guardian's signature and take your tongue on an international field trip with Nolita's shrimp tacos ($16) or miso-saki-glazed cod ($18). Small varietal wines from boutique vineyards pair nicely with an olive plate ($3), arguments over roller-derby statistics, or cheeses, especially at Nolita's Wine and Cheese Happy Hours, held every night between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. ($12 for two cheeses and a glass of wine).
Founded in 1986 as a place for writers and performers to create and develop new work before a live audience, Dixon Place in the Lower East Side steadfastly holds on to its underground spirit, and remains one of New York’s foremost places to watch the creative process in action. Today, the intimate 120-seat theater hosts a diverse program of plays, musicals, dance performances and literary readings by emerging and established artists like Kate Soper, Toni Schlesinger and Marcia Monroe. Dixon Place also hosts similarly experimental art exhibitions in its gallery, alongside film screenings and talks, while musical performances and cabaret take place in the lounge.
At Elevate Restaurant & Lounge, located in the Wyndham Hotel Downtown, chefs Leo Lai and Spencer Truong draw from their own upbringings, blending Japanese and American flavors to create an upscale medley of seafood, sushi, and hearty meats. Before Elevate, the pair worked separately at renowned restaurants: Lai was executive sushi chef at Mizu, and Truong honed his skills under James Beard Award–winning chef Patrick Connolly at Bobo in the West Village.
The duo’s dishes have garnered a devoted following—popular items include crawfish tempura served with Cajun aioli and pan-roasted free-range chicken in teriyaki jus. The kitchen rethinks classics such as the cuban sandwich, made here with Japanese ingredients including pork belly, housemade pickles, and wasabi mayo. After sampling the fare from the sushi bar, raw bar, and kitchen, guests can transition to overstuffed leather booths in the lounge to enjoy the house’s signature cocktails.
PEOPLE Kitchen & Lounge gives its namesake a place to gather and gab over delicious Asian-inspired fare. Dig into dining with the seafood winter-melon soup, which includes winter melon, Asian mushrooms, green peas, scallops, and crabmeat ($6), or test out your tongue's flame-retardant lining with the spicy beef salad, served with a shallot-lime vinaigrette ($8). Entree-wise, the Asian barbecue pork ribs ($16) keep stomachs from attempting death-defying motorcycle stunts as a bid for attention, while the grilled whole prawns, served with crispy rice vermicelli ($17), re-asserts humankind's dominance over both crustaceans and grills. For diners desiring a meal without a biographical background, the grilled vegetables entree drizzles seasonal veggies in a lemongrass-daikon sauce ($14).