As you read through this guide, you’re going to notice a few recurring themes. First, you’ll notice that the general takeaway about many Soho restaurants is “this place has been around forever and is still great.” And you’ll also notice that a lot of places serve what is essentially “nice American food and oysters.” At the best of these places, like Blue Ribbon Brasserie, those two things overlap.
In addition to some of New York’s best classic restaurants, you’ll also find some new standbys as well as solid go-tos for groups. By the way, we’re defining Soho as the western side of Layafette, going westwards. Nolita is another beast altogether.
La Mercerie is an all-day cafe in the front of a high-end furniture store. The mostly-French menu has dishes like salads, crepes, and salmon blinis - and the food is excellent. So stop by and have a lunch meeting here next to a $20,000 couch. Your meal won’t be cheap, but it will impress whoever you need to impress (and it’s a lot less than the couch). Just be sure to make a reservation if you don’t want to risk waiting.
If you walked by King, glanced at the menu, and peeked your head in the window, you might get the impression that it’s a little stuffy. The corner restaurant has white tablecloths, a slightly older crowd, and a daily-changing menu of what appears to be pretty fancy food. But once you realize that “lombatello” is just another word for hanger steak, it all becomes clear: this place looks much fancier than it actually is. The service is friendly, the food is very good, and while it’s a bit pricey, King is actually a pretty low-key place to eat. If you have friends or parents who know what lombatello is, they’ll probably like it here.
Le Coucou is fine dining for people who don’t really care for fine dining. While it’s an impressive-looking space with chandeliers and a giant candle on every table, you won’t feel like you’re eating in a rich aunt’s apartment where you aren’t supposed to touch anything. The French food is excellent, and you can expect semi-traditional things involving lobster, pike, and foie gras. Try this place for your next once-a-year dinner with someone in your life who appreciates nice things that don’t feel too formal.
Omen Azen is the sort of place where you might come for a weeknight meal and see Patti Smith sitting a few tables over. It’s a neighborhood spot that serves somewhat healthy things like sashimi, teriyaki, and avocado salad. The restaurant is in the bottom of a small apartment building, and it’s a casual, charming space with brick walls and lamps hanging from the ceiling. Bring a friend that isn’t currently eating anything that could have plausibly touched butter and enjoy a relatively quiet meal.
Raoul’s is classic Soho. This French bistro has been around since the 70s, and somehow hasn’t lost its cool with age. Order the steak au poivre and a few martinis, and you’ll feel like New York’s still got it.
Cafe Altro Paradiso is from the same people behind Estela, although this place is much bigger, and it’s open for both lunch and dinner. The food here is Italian, although not the red-sauce kind - they serve a lot of small plates and lighter pastas, as well as larger things like swordfish and a pork chop. During the daytime, this place is perfect for a lunch meeting, and at night it’s good for date night or dinner with the parents. The airy space is attractive, with big windows and high ceilings, and you could also just stop by for a negroni at the bar on your way home from work.
Shuka is the Mediterranean spot from the people behind Cookshop and Vics, and, like those places, it’s about one step up from The Smith, before The Smith was a chain. It’s in the old Hundred Acres space, and despite being on a charming street in Soho, it’s surprisingly big. They serve stuff like falafel, kebabs, dips, and kale salad, all of which is affordable and excellent for sharing. This is a place to write yourself a note about, for the next time you tell everyone you’ll make the reservation but then forget until two days before.
One of our favorite restaurants in New York, Charlie Bird is another place that will make you happy you live in New York. Or mad that you don’t. Excellent service, even better wine, and some very good food, in a laid-back environment with hip hop regularly coming out of the speakers. You can never go wrong at Charlie Bird.
There is nowhere better in New York – or really in the world – to eat bone marrow and a tower of seafood at 3am. You can do that at Blue Ribbon Brasserie (you can do it at 8pm, too) and you absolutely should. Another place that never, ever gets old.
Houseman is over in far West Soho, but it’s well worth crossing 6th Avenue for a meal here. Actually, it’s worth crossing the entire city to eat Houseman’s insanely good burger. The restaurant is lively without feeling sceney, and the food is excellent. It’s “seasonal” taken to the next level – they print the day’s weather on the menu and often create specials that reflect that.
Carbs were actually banned from Soho back in 2009, but Osteria Morini has still managed to operate its pasta-heavy operation despite that legislation. Order a few to share, along with some wine and some cured meats.
Great bar, great seafood tower, and a generally good menu overall. Of the restaurants serving the aforementioned American food and oysters, this one actually opened this century, giving it a more modern feel than the others.
This is not necessarily the best sushi in Manhattan, but it is very good, and it is fun. Like its sibling Blue Ribbon restaurant down the block, this place is all about late night eats and A-rate people watching. We’re not sure who the cool celebrities are these days, but there’s probably one sitting in the corner.
This subterranean restaurant looks and feels like a big party boat. Like much of Soho, tourists will be present, but the food – from assorted seafood and sushi to the burger – is very good.
A few years after opening, Lure realized its burger was a pretty big deal, so they opened up this burger-focused restaurant and “winepub” up the street. It’s an enjoyable spot overall and the burger really is great.
As you’ve gathered by now, Soho is full of old-school hangs and some new classics. But what about when you suddenly find yourself with a crew of eight people looking to party, less than two days from now, without spending too much money? That’s where Galli comes in. Not only can you actually get a reservation for a big group on OpenTable, but you’ll actually have a good time once you get there.
Balthazar is still a scene – though a different kind than the one you would’ve found 15 years ago when this was the hottest restaurant around. Today, most people in Balthazar appear to have at least three passports, which makes for some entertaining people-watching. Still, it’s a classic.
Another Keith McNally restaurant, Lucky Strike is actually even older than Balthazar – it’s been open on Grand Street since 1989. It’s maintained a much more local feel, and though the food is good but not amazing, the atmosphere and extra large cocktails make it an overall excellent hang.
Yet another neighborhood classic unchanged by current trends, come to Aquagrill primarily for the excellent oyster selection and to find the neighborhood’s over-60 population.
You know what is very easy to find in Soho? A great steak frites in a dark, sexy room. You know what is less easy to find in Soho? Affordable, vaguely healthy food. That’s what you get at Mooncake, which serves what they call “Asian comfort food.” We hit the tiny diner space mostly for takeout, but you can eat-in as well.
Jack’s Wife Freda serves an important purpose in Soho, and that purpose is an easy lunch or very casual dinner. There aren’t a ton of restaurants suitable for that as you go westward. Just know you will encounter a mob scene if you’re trying to eat here at brunch.
As we said in our review, “Welcome to West Broadway Reform, Temple Of Hot Bagels.” The Jewish appetizing store/restaurant from the guys behind Carbone and Parm is over-the-top in all the right ways. It’s a must-visit for anyone who’s serious about their bagel and salmon, but the French toast and babka are what you’ll remember most.
This tiny shop on Sullivan Street makes some of the world’s best Italian sandwiches. Fresh ingredients, fresh bread, and surly people behind the counter.