Café Integral, Nolita 

Former photographer César Vega worked in quality control for speciality coffee mills in northern Nicaragua before founding Café Integral in 2012. He and his trusted team designed many aspects of the minimalist interior at this former dry cleaner’s, including the spherical light fittings. The café takes coffee seriously but stops short of being snobbish and its focus on Nicaraguan beans lends it a welcome sense of regional identity. It also offers house-made milk alternatives, and doughnuts and cookies from New York suppliers, as well as a small but well-chosen food menu. 

149 Elizabeth Street, NY 10012

Café Cluny, West Village 

Brunch doesn’t always have to be a blowout (although it can feel that way in New York), which is where this French-influenced establishment in the West Village steps in. Waiters in striped shirts will serve you homemade granola should you wish to sidestep the eggs, while the franglais frisée salad aux lardons is also a classic. If you venture here later in the day, the three-course prix-fixe dinner is a winner, preferably accompanied by a bottle of riesling. Check out the portraits of regular patrons, drawn by a Central Park artist. 

284 West 12th Street, NY 10014 
+1 212 255 6900

Russ & Daughters, Lower East Side

Now run by the fourth-generation Russ family, this veteran Jewish deli was opened by Joel Russ on East Houston Street back in 1914 and has changed very little since – it still serves fish-based takeaway fare. “Food is a conduit for memory and most of our important memories revolve around family,” says Niki Russ Federman, co-owner and great-granddaughter of Joel. Recommended nibbles here include the signature pastrami-cured smoked salmon – on a bagel, obviously – and the “heebster” (whitefish and baked salmon salad with horseradish, dill and cream cheese). 

The latest offshoot, which opened in 2014, is a sit-down café located just round the corner on Orchard Street. Secure yourself a lunchtime pew at the bar and order from one of five types of caviar and blini, washed down with a crisp glass of white. The pickled herring trio – canapés in three varieties on pumpernickel bread – is also excellent. 

179 East Houston Street, NY 10002 
+1 212 475 4880;
127 Orchard Street, NY 10002 
+1 212 475 4881

Glasserie, Greenpoint 

Set in a former 1860s glass-fixture factory on the northern edge of Brooklyn, this Greenpoint destination is worth the trek even if your main digs are in Manhattan. Owner Sara Conklin and her team regularly make small changes to the menu, which is determined by the produce that’s available at nearby farms. “Our food philosophy is to respect the original product by limiting how much we manipulate it,” says Conklin. Expect colourful, meticulously presented dishes that can include house-cured sardines or rabbit loin. 

95 Commercial Street, NY 11222
+1 718 389 0640

Dynaco, Bedford-Stuyvesant 

Seen from the street, Dynaco doesn’t immediately announce itself as a bar but step inside and you’ll find yourself in what feels like a cosy hunting lodge, with ultra-low lighting even by New York’s softly lit standards. Best enjoyed during the colder months due to the wood burner at the back of the space, this cash-only joint in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighbourhood often has a mellow soundtrack and drinks that include a blackboard-listed selection of craft beers alongside classic-cocktail requests made directly to the bartender. It’s the sort of drinking hole where the hours quickly slip by. 

1112 Bedford Avenue, NY 11216

Images: Max B

Go back: New York


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Monocle 24

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  • The Urbanist