On Friday night, take a stroll along Bleecker Street to the fringes of Greenwich Village, then turn left along Cornelia Street. For this small traffic-free road tucked between 6th Avenue and West 4th Street is one of New York’s best-kept secrets, home to a clutch of the city’s cosiest and best independent restaurants. Coming across this street feels like you’ve discovered something hidden from the world, but this New York enclave is a local favourite for romantic dinners, leisurely lunches… Follow me…
A little way in we reach our first stop on the right side of the street. Let’s take a moment to admire the shopfront. With its emerald green window decorated with painted vines and delicate gold lettering, this could easily be a contender for ‘the most beautiful NYC restaurant shopfront of the year’ award. Together with the yellow front next door, it belongs to Palma, a posh but welcoming family style Italian restaurant with an emphasis on organic food.
Small, cosy, romantic, with rustic decor in honour of all those little trattorias you imagine in the Italian countryside and a hit with European-loving New Yorkers. Stop by for a laid-back lunch or mid-week dinner in the dining room, or if you’ve something to celebrate, book a table in the private carriage house. Outside, the garden is a favourite with locals for romantic dinners under the string lights.
Palma, 28 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 619 2223
Across the street is one of those long-standing little places you get in NYC that are hard not to love, especially if it’s simply prepared, inexpensive Italian food and unpretentious surroundings you’re after.
Pó combines both and has been going strong since it opened here in 1993, its teeny tiny traditional dining room consistently packed out with locals. Always a good sign. The platefuls of food are hearty and delicious, the appetisers especially amazing and the range of desserts are a must. I’d come just for the Pó Sundae made with fresh mint gelato, cinnamon spiced pine nuts and chocolate sauce.
Po, 31 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 645 2189
Next door, the Cornelia Street Cafe is in a league of its own. Open in 1977 by a group of artists, this place is a piece of New York history, often described as a city landmark. Lively, bohemian, authentic, its restaurant walls hung with paintings by local artists, it’s more of a ‘real’ Greenwich Village’ hangout than a foodie-centric restaurant.
In the summer, it’s packed with locals and visitors dining and having drinks on tables that spill out onto the pavement. It serves 35 wines by the glass and hosts a mind-blowing 700 shows a year in its tiny performance space.
Some say if you only visit one restaurant in New York, make it this one. Order the coconut shrimp to start, order the Bistro Burger, order fries – go all out, then make your way downstairs to the secret theatre, order your favourite cocktail and settle down to watch the show.
The Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 989 9319
Next, we make our way a little further up the street, admiring some of Cornelia Street’s other buildings and doors on our way…
Until we reach our next restaurant. Home is a small, dark and cosy place with dark wood tables, simple decor, candlelit ambience and a pretty courtyard garden. It’s totally unpretentious yet you can forget walking in on a Saturday night and getting a table. This place is popular.
The food is high class home-made with dishes almost too pretty to eat. A favourite with farm-to-table fans, everything here is made with ingredients sourced as locally as possible from Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. The wine list is apparently the most extensive in New York City.
Oh, and if you’ve room, don’t forget to take a cookie on your way out. Compliments of the chef!
Home, 20 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 243 9579
There are tons of places to shuck your way through a platter of salty aphrodisiacs in New York City, so if you’ve endured the 45 minute wait for a table at Home’s neighbour, Pearl Oyster Bar, and squeezed your way into one of the tiny wooden seats, there really is only one thing you should order.
Its famous lobster roll, of course! It comes served piping hot, slathered in mayonnaise on a classic toasted hot dog bun, and paired with a heap of skinny shoestring fries. It’s delicious and remarkably cheap as you can easily share. But you can’t stop there! If you’re on a roll (pun intended) Pearl’s hot-fudge sundae will make you feel nostalgic and comforted.
Pearl Oyster Bar, 18 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 691 8211
Last, but not least, on our journey through New York’s secret street is a French gem called Le Gigot. It’s another small and cosy place and a local favourite for romantic dinners, serving beautifully presented and delicious Provençale dishes.
If it’s the perfect setting for a lazy lunch you’re after, see if you can nab the amazing window seat that opens onto the street in summer weather.
Le Gigot, 18 Cornelia Street.
+1 212 627 3737