Seeing Double: Sibling Restaurant Roundup
From casual eateries and fine dining to stylish cafés and dive bars—we’ve narrowed down the sibling restaurant field for where you absolutely have to eat, drink, repeat.
From the West Village and the Lower East Side to the East Village and Nolita, from casual eateries and fine dining to stylish cafés and dive bars that happen to serve really good food, deciding where to eat and drink in New York City can be just as difficult as finding a parking spot in the city. And because some spots are so damn popular—and because two is better than one—many a sibling restaurant is born. Thirsty to sip on a pistachio gin cocktail at a crazily charming café that feels like it’s been transported perfectly intact from Rome? How about, where to get one of the best ice cream sundaes below 14th Street? We’ve narrowed down the sibling restaurant field for where you absolutely have to eat, drink, repeat. You’re very welcome
Go on and ask an East Villager to name their top five favorite Italian neighborhood spots and they’re more than likely going to mention the quintessential East Village restaurants Frank and Lil’ Frankie’s. The sibling restaurants serve authentic Italian dishes that taste delicious for reasonable-for-New-York prices—and they’re both consistently popular, drawing in a big local crowd. Also popular is the restaurants’ charismatic owner and lauded chef, Frank Prisinzano, who currently boasts 54K followers on Instagram. (Fun fact: The born-and-bred New Yorker also founded East Village Radio.) Frank’s Frank has delivered traditional Italian dishes ever since he opened the cash-only restaurant back in 1998. We recommend the Mozzarella di Bufala for starters; and penne with tomatoes and basil (tip: Add some meatballs for an additional charge) or spaghetti with broccoli, garlic and olive oil for your main course. Go on and order several sides of garlic bread, too, and follow all of that with mouthwatering homemade tiramisu and/or panna cotta, because you’re worth it.
Frank also has one of the best wine lists in the ’hood. In other words, it makes sense that the hip and homey space is packed practically every evening, so consider taking advantage of the charming patio out front on a sunny weekday. Or, for an equally cozy-cool experience—and crazily good pizza—head on down to Lil’ Frankie’s just a stone’s throw away on 1st Avenue. The brick-walled spot has an old-school feel thanks to its Italian nonna decor and plants dangling from the skylight and is known for its lengthy list of pizzas. Most come for the Neapolitan, but the prosciutto di parma pizza is divine. You also can’t go wrong if you opt for the spaghetti Limone, the eggplant parm, the, well, everything.
Restaurant-slash-bar The Flower Shop opened to major fanfare in 2017 and is still going strong. The proof is in the packed house. On any given night, you’ll find cocktail-sipping downtown artists, club kids, skaters, fashion world types, and the like, occupying colorful ’70s-style booths in the ground-level dining room. Cocktail suggestions: tea-infused gin with vanilla and passion fruit syrup, AKA the “love potion,” or a “cold brew martini.” In addition, The Flower Shop has a nice selection of natural wines and inexpensive beers. For more drinks, head to their downstairs bar, where things can really get wild, replete with a jukebox, a sunken fireplace, orange carpeted floor, a pool table, and quirky posters (including *NSync!) on the wood panel walls.
But this isn’t a velvet-rope, “are you on the list”-type situation, though there’s often a line out front on weekends. All are welcome at this unique and friendly Lower East Side hotspot, which, as co-owner Ronnie Flynn tells us, was the premise from the get-go. “Frankly, we were sick of the pretentiousness and exclusivity of NYC hospitality and nightlife, and it seemed that a lot of people felt the same way as the market kind of craved and shifted towards more casual vibes.” The Aussie transplant, who’s a big deal in the New York hospitality scene, along with his Flower Shop partners who all happen to be from Australia or England, wanted to bring the casual “pub life” from back home to downtown. “The idea was to create a place like the Cheers bar, where everyone knows your name. So, we tried to create a safe, fun place to call home, where you can literally bring your mom, where everyone is welcome, and where you can spend an evening with all the elements that we and our friends wanted—from good comfort food, cold beer, natural wines, eclectic music, a pool table, TVs for sports, and a great margarita!”
The Flower Shop’s version of comfort food isn’t microwaved bacon-loaded potato skins and mozzarella sticks, though they do serve wings (with Frank’s RedHot sauce!) and cheeseburgers (with black garlic mayo!) The head-turners on the menu include Pink Moon oysters, a seaweed salad grain bowl, mini Aussie meat pies, and soft-serve ice cream. Next up, Flynn is opening a SoHo restaurant called Little Ways on West Broadway in a “little two-story building.” It’s expected to open in November and will feature a lounge bar upstairs. Flynn “hopes to breathe some fresh air into the landmark neighborhood,” and we hope to be invited to the opening.
You’ll want to call yourself a regular after one visit to Uncle Boons. The popular Michelin-starred Thai spot in Nolita is the brainchild of chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer who met while working at upscale restaurant Per Se. Nolita, Per Se, Michelin-starred, oh my! That all sounds like a recipe for a hipper-than-thou crowd nibbling at expensive “elevated” bites. However, that’s not the case at this laidback, quirky restaurant, whose eclectic Bangkok flea market-inspired decor includes framed photographs, paintings, and vintage Thai posters of all sizes scattered across the brick walls, with funky light fixtures suspended from the ceiling. Here, the main event is the affordable and phenomenally flavorful, and often very spicy, Thai food. It’s clear that the big-time chefs use the highest-quality ingredients, especially when ordering dishes like grilled curry pompano wrapped in a banana leaf; northern style golden curry with egg noodles, chicken leg, pickled mustard greens and fresh turmeric; roasted bone marrow with peanut sauce; garlic and soy-marinated frog legs. Spice up your life via the green curry snails with crispy garlic and herbs. For the unadventurous taste buds, the $22 coconut milk chicken replete with green mango salad is very filling, very popular, and damn good. Important: You’ve got to power through your at-capacity belly and order perhaps the most aptly popular of them all: the sublime coconut ice cream sundae with candied nuts and whipped cream.
If you rather a low-key night in with your prawn pad thai, Uncle Boons’ sister restaurant, fittingly called Uncle Boons Sister, has got you covered. Located barely a block and a half away, the tiny nine-seat joint, which opened in 2017, is basically the fast-food version of Uncle Boons. The menu is shorter compared to Uncle Boons, but equally as mind-blowing and lots of fun. For instance, the traditional northern Thai pork sausage gets the hot-dog bun treatment; Uncle Boons’ popular coconut ice cream sundae gets the King Cone treatment. Your taste buds will be getting the five-star treatment, regardless of who your favorite uncle is.
You just might spot Jennifer Lawrence and other A-listers at Via Carota, but the minimally decorated restaurant feels warm and inviting to all. In fact, the perpetually packed Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village is a walk-in only situation known for its sometimes multiple-hour waits. The sundrenched, spare space with its exposed brick walls, neutral tones, and vintage chapel chairs for seats, gives off friendly, unfussy vibes. Instead of a bible, you’ll find the menu, which is an oversized sheet of paper, in the chapel chair slot. The menu offerings are understated and heavenly, and that’s all thanks to award-winning chefs and couple Rita Sodi (who runs I Sodi a few blocks away) and Jody Williams (who runs Buvette). Via Carota is their first joint venture, and there’s a slew of menu highlights. See also: the rich and cheesy cacio e pepe and the rich and meaty pappardelle. You’ve gotta try flavorful explosions like the olive all’ascolana (fried green olives stuffed with ground pork sausage), the acciughe e burro (anchovies on butter-smothered bread), the cibreo toscana, AKA chicken livers. One of the most popular items sounds the most generic but, spoiler alert, is downright incredible. We’re talking about the insalata verde. It’s a gigantic, towering stack of lettuce (butterhead, frisée, endive), perfectly dressed in a shallot sherry vinaigrette that should be bottled and sold in stores ASAP. Across the street is the duo’s second joint venture, the recently opened Bar Pisellino, a super stylish, super tiny all-day café. This is not some crammed WiFi coffee shop: The inspiration for Bar Pisellino comes from the cafés and hotel bars of Venice, Florence, Rome, and Turin. So much so that you’ll probably forget you’re on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. Here, it’s all about the Italian art of drinking. Have a glass of wine with an order of prosciutto and killer break sticks or a tramezzini (Italian finger sandwich). Spumoni cocktail (gin, pink peppercorn, grapefruit, tonic, Campari), anyone? How about a pistachio gin cocktail? Pair an espresso with a bomboloni (Italian donut). Be social and sip your drink of choice at the marble standing bar. Or, better yet, take your aperitivo al fresco outside and grab a sidewalk seat to enjoy some entertaining people-watching, like those anxiously trying to get into Via Carota.
WORDS Alex Catarinella
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of The Flower Shop