Unfortunately, none of the Mexican restaurants are truly good in Manhattan. They never seem to add enough “kick,” and they try to be too gourmet. Really good Tex-Mex is impossible to find. There are a few that will do until you can get the real thing, like El Cantinero on University Place. Fortunately, a few places do offer good comfort food and barbecue. The following places are my personal favorites and are listed in no particular order. The prices range from moderate to expensive. They are all a bit Southern, very comforting, hangover helping, extremely high-calorie and totally yummy.
Two of my favorites, Jezebel and The Yellow Rose have closed. I have not listed the famous Pink Tea Cup in Greenwich Village since the last meal I had there wasn’t very good. Don’t forget the great Magnolia Bakery (made famous by Sex In The City) for the best cupcakes and pastries. The original one is on Bleecker Street in the West Village but there’s a new one on Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Center. Somehow the Village one is funkier and more fun.
Here are so places to get some Southern comfort when you are in the Big Apple. All of these places are in Manhattan and easily reached by subway. Here are some brief descriptions of my favorite restaurants, as well as the approximate prices and directions to get to them. It’s always good to find the place on a map before you go, call for their hours and reservations, if they take them.
Virgil’s Real Barbeque (152 West 44th Street in Times Square, telephone (212) 921-9494) is huge and attracts a lot of tourists, however it’s worth a visit because the food is wonderful. The ribs fall off the bone and they have all types of side dishes like biscuits, macaroni and cheese, grits and collard greens. Make a reservation and ask to sit upstairs, it’s quieter. Price range $25 to 40 dollars per person. Take any subway line that stops at Times Square.
Chat ‘n’ Chew (10 East 16th Street close to Union Square) is a wonderfully tacky comfort food joint. They have daily specials and standards like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, turkey dinner, Cajun items, mashed potatoes and great desserts. Price range $25 to 40 dollars per person. Take any subway line that stops at 14th Street-Union Square.
Cowgirl Hall Of Fame (519 Hudson Street in the West Village) is a theme restaurant that is fun, if you don’t mind the bad service. The food is really good with outstanding Texas chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy, fried okra and Frito pie (a Southern staple where to open a small bag of Fritos and top it with chili, cheese and onions). Price range $25 to 40 dollars. Take the #1 train to Christopher Street and walk west towards Hudson.
Westville (210 West 10th Street, telephone 741-7971) serves all types of tasty down home dishes like burgers, macaroni and cheese, po’boys and blt’s. They have a sister restaurant in the East Village called Eastville. The price range is $25 to $40 and you can reach it by taking the #1 subway to West 14th Street.
Pearson’s Texas BBQ (170 East 81st Street, telephone (212) 288-2700) is always busy and has a sister restaurant in Queens. Try the brisket, Carolina-style pork, beef and there are many side dishes to choose from. The price range is $25 to $40 per person. Take the number 6 subway to 77th Street.
Peanut Butter and Company (240 Sullivan, telephone (212) 677-3995) is a sandwich shop with many unique combinations starting with basic peanut butter. You can try the famous Elvis Presley sandwich. They serve also have non-peanut butter items, great desserts and milk to go with it all. The price range is under $25. The shop is in Tribeca. Take any train (A, B, C, D, E, F, V) that goes to the West 4th Street-Washington Square station. The price is inexpensive, under $25.
Empire Dinner (2109 Tenth Avenue, telephone (212) 243-2736) is an Art Deco diner open 24 hours a day serving good comfort food. It’s a beautiful diner and you can also dine outside in the summer months. Try the pigs in a blanket or any of their many breakfast items. The menu has a great variety and a lively crowd. The prices are moderate, $25 to $40 per person or less. Take the C train to 23rd Street and 8th Avenue.
Sylvia’s (328 Lenox Avenue, telephone (212) 996-0600) is a Harlem tradition serving soul food and sometimes there’s live music-try the gospel brunch. Try the fried chicken, collard greens and black-eyed peas. It’s a busy, lively place. The prices range from $25 to $40 per person. Take the 2 or 3 train to 125th Street.
Georgia’s (192 Orchard Street, telephone (212) 253-6280) has wonderful fried chicken and ribs. It’s a small space and often crowded, but worth a visit. The prices are under $25 per person. Take the F or V train to Lower East Side-Second Avenue.
Hill Country (30 West 26th Street, telephone (212) 255-4544) has sausage imported from Texas, good ribs, brisket and great desserts. The prices run from $25 to $40 per person. Take the F or V train to 23rd Street.
Blue Smoke (116 East 27th Street, telephone (212) 447-7733) is a bit pricey, but the ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, hushpuppies and live entertainment (a jazz blue is downstairs) are worth the money. The price range is $40 to $60. Take the 6 train to 28th Street.