Under the full-sized antlers that crown hanging lamps in Cowgirl Sea-Horse, exposed brick and mismatched strips of wallpaper watch as forks sink into seafood and creative, Mexican-influenced American fare. Live music marinates in the sunlight spilling through multiple sets of French doors, which whisper Parisian nothings as margaritas and clink atop the rustic bar. Brunchtime bellies greet French toast crusted with Capn' Crunch, and on Taco Tuesdays, $2 soft or crispy tacos sail on pico de gallo seas to smuggle beef, chicken, or beans into gullet ports. During lunch and dinner, side dish-stuffed Beach Baskets showcase white fish reubens and Creole crabcake sandwiches goosed with jalapeno tartar sauce, while collard greens join whiskey pork chops and salads arrive under a drizzle of Sea-Horse pineapple citrus vinaigrette.
In 2011, the Michelin Guide recommended Vareli for its upscale and creative Mediterranean fare, crafted by chef and Gramercy Tavern veteran Amitzur Mor. Chef Mor uses sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible to inform Vareli’s ever-shifting local menu, which has featured such rich meats as Hudson-Valley duck and Pennsylvania lamb. Resident sommelier Richard Bill draws from his experience at Beacon and Ouest to complement each succulent entree with a wine list of 20 wines by the glass and 100 wines by the bottle. From Thursday to Saturday, Vareli’s kitchens remain open until 2 a.m., so patrons can sip vino and draft beer or rouse sleepwalking roommates with wafts from cheese and charcuterie boards late into the night.
On the ground floor of Vareli, a polished copper bar runs for 20 feet below a rustic arched ceiling, as wide stools belly up to the bar and to barrel-shaped plates. In the upstairs dining room, wide windows look out on treetops and burnished walls support velvety banquettes and lantern sconces. During the summer, couples close in on an intimate outdoor patio for fresh air from nearby Central Park, while colder days invite diners to gather around a cracking fireplace that the New York Times lauds for creating a cozy atmosphere.
Celebrating serving New York City for 20 years and led by executive chef Kenneth Johnson, who just recently showcased his talents in front of American television audiences during a victorious appearance on the Food Network's Chopped, the kitchen team at Pescatore infuses Old World cuisine with diverse flavors culled from around the globe to create a luscious menu of refined Italian cuisine. Parmigiano-topped bruschetta opens the menu, joining antipasti including roasted fingerling potatoes and sauteed broccoli rabe. Meats and seafood stud the menu’s 11 pasta dishes, and chefs plate an elegant assortment of proteins including chicken, pork, and steak. Servers sweep over to tables and refill glasses with selections from the wine program, which encourages pairs to linger in the space's warm ambiance. Soft lighting spills from sconces and flickers from tabletop candles, and boldly swirled patterns mask accent walls with contemporary visages, disguising them from roving bands of wall thieves.
At City Lobster and Steak, north-Atlantic lobsters from a dramatically lit tank join a menu of fresh seafood from around the country. Maryland lump crab cakes mingle with Alaskan king-crab legs, and a section of the restaurant's 45-foot bar boasts a display of raw oysters harvested from both coasts. Asian flavors influence many other menu items, such as appetizers of spring rolls and dumplings or entrees glazed with soy ginger and teriyaki port-wine sauces. When they're not moonlighting as marinades, wines pour from an extensive selection of bottles that garnered one of Wine Spectator's Awards of Excellence in 2012.
Chefs knead pasta dough and form slick spheres of mozzarella for melting onto pizzas or bowling toward zucchini pins at Acqua at Peck Slip, a Zagat-rated Italian restaurant that was recently featured at the Italian Wine & Food Institute's exclusive Gala Italia event. Executive chef Ivan Beacco fills ravioli with walnuts and radicchio, sears swordfish fillets to pair with fennel salad, and braises short ribs for plating with potatoes and root vegetables. Because it wouldn’t be classic Italian without wine, an onsite sommelier keeps the wine list flush with varietals from the country’s famed vineyards. The bottle collection lines a wall adjacent to tall arched windows that appeared in a restaurant scene from The Adjustment Bureau.
At Cacio e Vino, chefs craft a menu of authentic Sicilian specialties made from fresh, imported regional ingredients such as bronte pistachios and giarratana onions mined from the Iblei Mountains. Small plates such as baked Mediterranean sardines mingle with entrees such as veal stuffed with bread, raisins, and primo sale cheese and a sommelier remains on hand to match meals with delicious inebriants from the wine bar. Cacio e Vino facilitates a festive, familial atmosphere with frequent events such as wine tastings, prix-fixe dinners, and parties for special occasions. Inside this rustic Italian eatery, exposed-brick walls and wine-bottle-lined moldings invoke images of a Sicilian countryside, while candlelit tables offer views of a roaring fire in the open oven.