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Where to Eat: At the Bar

by белый

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Where to Eat: New York City

Best seat in the house, no question.

A few moments from the past week reminded me why I love New York. On Friday, I sat in the sun outside a wine bar, next to a greyhound named Snork. (It was her birthday!) On Monday, I made it from Midtown to Fort Greene in 30 minutes (when the M.T.A. works, it’s like magic). And on Tuesday I did the best, most life-affirming thing you can do in this town: walking right into a restaurant, sitting at the bar and having dinner.

I struggle to imagine an occasion when a table is preferable to the bar. A work dinner with someone you don’t know well enough to share dishes with? A painful logistics-ironing lunch with an ex, maybe? For every other scenario, the bar is the best seat in the house.

Here are four places to enjoy dinner at the bar, ideally solo or with one other person (at the bar, three people is pushing it, and four should be illegal):

Bars are for seafood

The folks at Penny know where I’m coming from, because their restaurant in the East Village has no tables at all. It’s just a very long bar with a barely-there kitchen and a pricey-but-worthwhile menu of seafood small plates. The “ice box” is a sampler platter of oysters, clams, shrimp and the like, and is a great excuse to linger for a long time with a glass of wine. For more of a full dinner, throw in the schmaltzy confit oysters, stuffed squid and pillowy sesame brioche.

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French classics at a not-so-hidden gem

Every time I utter the name of this restaurant, someone yells at me that I should be gatekeeping it. Too late! I understand the impulse, because as a walk-in-only spot with just nine bar seats and a few (less desirable) tables, Le French Diner can feel like a tough ticket. But show up early-ish, write your name and number on a clipboard passed to you from behind the bar, have a drink nearby and wait for the call, because it will come. There’s a short, unchanging menu of simple dishes like steak tartare, grilled octopus with aioli, hanger steak and a simple, acidic green salad. From your bar perch, you’ll see all the kitchen action, get chummy with your neighbors and feel like you’re anywhere but on Orchard Street.

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