Tongues of flame twist in a fireplace, hinting at the warmth filling the bustling kitchen at MK Valencia. Rail lighting spills a blue aura over dishes that draw from myriad culinary traditions. Mediterranean flavors shine through in salmon drizzled in a pesto sauce and lamb osso bucco. In the dining room, glasses clink occasionally like a xylophonist failing a performance review, setting a tempo for the wait staff, which totes roasted salmon in a pesto sauce.
A curtain of bubbles rises up through champagne cocktails in lively colors that match the crescent-shaped orange booths or electric-blue wine racks. During warmer months, the murmur of conversation spills out onto a patio draped with live plants.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
Sweetwater's serves up an eclectic array of eats, quaffs, and entertainment, continuing the traditions of the Manhattan Sweetwaters in the ’70s and ’80s. Start a nautical-themed meal with Sweetwater's signature bowl of tortilla soup ($5.95) and a sea-sourced entree such as the fried shrimp ($11.95, with fries), and then cast a land-anchor with a hefty bacon burger (with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, and a side of fries, $8.95). Patrons can sample the full spread of bathypelagic bites with a seafood tray—fried fish, calamari, shrimps, and seafood quesadillas served with fries ($29.95).
Proponents of the slow-food movement, Bibi'z Restaurant and Lounge's proprietors believe that meals deserve to be savored rather than scarfed down. To that end, their chefs ensure that diners have plenty to relish: they use simple techniques to bring out flavors in sustainable and wild-caught fish, grass-fed Black Angus beef, and locally sourced organic produce, dairy, and poultry. The culinary team incorporates those ingredients into dishes such as vegetarian wild-mushroom ravioli with a butternut-squash cream sauce, pan-seared duck breast with a reduction of Asian five-spice, and gluten-free braised short ribs with a parsnip puree. In 2014, Bergen.com awarded the restaurant with the titles of Best Healthy Restaurant and Best Place for Girls' Night Out.
Hand-selected from sustainable wineries at home and abroad, organic and biodynamic wines—more of 50 of which are available by the glass—add their own nuanced flavors to meals. Barkeeps also quench thirsts with complimentary still and sparkling water filtered in house rather than taken straight from the blowhole of a whale. Each leisurely feast unfolds on Bibi'z's airy outdoor patio or in a spacious dining room replete with a fireplace and a lounge full of comfy leather chairs.
Though its dining room is in the heart of Yonkers, La Bella Havana's food transports diners straight to Cuba with the chefs' homestyle Caribbean cooking. Drawing equal inspiration from the land and sea, hearty comfort foods include sauteed chorizo with fried plantain chips, empanadas with a variety of fillings, and massive servings of paella that the New York Times hailed as "the real deal: stuffed with seafood, chorizo and chicken, full of flavor and cooked to perfection." The drink menu similarly embraces its Cuban roots with hand-blended mojitos and other potent tropical cocktails.
But Cuba's presence inside the restaurant also goes beyond the edibles to its island-inspired decor. The walls give the appearance of rustic, exposed brickwork peeking through plaster and a glance upward yields ceiling fans and their distinctively leaf-shaped blades. Even the bar area is shaded by a thatched straw canopy, which shields the bartenders from the imported Cuban sunshine.
Warm earth tones and dark wooden trim lend a casual elegance to the dining room at Dúo Tapas Bar & Lounge, an elegance that is mirrored by the menu of refined finger foods. The chefs draw inspiration from Latin, Thai, American, and Italian cuisine as they forge small, tapas-style plates for diners' tables. They top the cuban sliders' roast pork and sliced ham with mustard rémoulade and accompany the tempura shrimp with a sweet chili sauce. Crispy, thin-crust pizzas emerge from the oven with familiar toppings of basil or hot sausage or spreads of non-traditional pizzeria ingredients, including pulled pork and barbecue sauce or shrimp and garlic butter.
The restaurant embraces its lounge roots after sunset, hosting occasional DJ sets and live bands in its space and encouraging guests to practice their best moves on the dance floor. Five televisions flanking the full-service bar entertain patrons as they sip mixed drinks or stuff a love note to the bartender into a cocktail olive.