THE RESTAURANT WEEK WAS BORN IN NYC!
The first Restaurant Week was conceived by famed restauranteur Joe Baum and food critic Tim Zagat when thousands of journalists and delegates flocked to Manhattan for the 1992 Democratic National Convention. Restaurant Week was designed to attract and satisfy guests (largely journalists and delegates) looking for good and affordable dining options around the city.
The week-long event became such a success that over time it went from one week to four weeks long, and occurs twice a year for a month in the summer and for a month in the winter. Furthermore, it has become a nationwide phenomenon, with dozens of other cities participating. The winter version (this year from January 17-February 22) runs for 4 weeks, giving food enthusiasts ample time to sample!
It has become a much-anticipated and favorite event for New Yorkers and visitors alike. That first year, several top restaurants offered a special lunch menu for $19.92, hoping to get some residual publicity from the political spectacle. Since then, the marketing scheme has changed slightly, with different pricing structures, but the event still allows patrons to try some of the best restaurants in New York at (fairly) bargain prices, many of which are right here in our neighborhoods!
So where does one begin in the East Village, NoHo, and Greenwich Village — all well-known for scrumptious, adventurous, and delightful dining destinations? We don’t play favorites, but we can offer up a few options for your consideration!
Veselka in the East Village
We’ve picked Veselka first because not only will you be visiting a locally-owned and -operated small business, but you will also have the opportunity to dine while aiding an important cause. Veselka, at 144 2nd Avenue, has been feeding New Yorkers and visitors alike since 1954. The gastronomic institution was also a 2010 Village Award winner! Known for some of the best pierogis and borscht you can find in the city, (or anywhere, excluding perhaps a Ukrainian grandmother’s table!), this East Village staple is the perfect place to enjoy some soul-warming Ukrainian comfort food. In support of Ukraine, the restaurant has turned its famous Black & White cookies into the colors of Ukraine (blue & yellow). They are additionally donating 100% of sales of their delicious borscht to Ukrainian causes.
Veselka will also take donations of much-needed items that they will send to Ukraine. All items below are needed for Ukraine relief efforts. Please drop off donations at the East 9th Street entrance. Donate what you can and Veselka will handle the rest:
Yellow heavy-duty tape, AA/AAA batteries, headlamps, sterile saline wipes/antibacterial wipes, band-aids/gauze for wounds, elastic bandages and regular bandages, occlusive dressing for wounds, Betadine, quick meals, energy bars, water purification tablets, small canned foods that can be easily opened, individually packed nuts or cookies, new cotton socks, new men’s underwear and t-shirts, new men’s heavy-duty gloves, baby diapers, baby formula. (Disclosure: Veselka is owned by Tom Birchard, a Village Preservation Trustee.)
The Library at The Public in NoHo
The Library is one of our neighborhoods’ best-kept secrets; tucked away on the mezzanine of the Public Theater. This elegant and cozy restaurant and bar is named for the Astor Library, in a nod to the United States’ first public library formerly located in the landmarked building that now houses the Public Theater. This supper club acts as watering hole and backstage lounge to downtown characters, neighborhood dwellers, theater-goers, academics, and artists alike. You never know what stories will unfold over dinner and cocktails at the Library.
The menu, created by Chefs Andrew Carmellini and Ricky Mungarary, is inspired by New York City: the richness of its local ingredients and the vitality of its downtown culture.
Sant Ambroeus in Greenwich Village
If you are looking for Old World charm, this Greenwich Village boit has it all! Sant Ambroeus first opened its doors in Milan in 1936, and a devoted following emerged. This celebrated patisceria and confetteria became a meeting place for the local intelligentsia, whether beginning their day with Sant Ambroeus’ legendary cappuccino and cornetto, savoring panini at lunch, or spending their evening enjoying refined cuisine in the restaurant’s elegant dining room. Sant Ambroeus translated these Old World sensibilities to modern times and imported these rich culinary traditions to Greenwich Village. The restaurant remains authentic to its Milanese origins and continues to serve culturally inspired delectables in a beautiful setting.
Some restaurants participating in Restaurant Week offer prix-fixe meals for $29 (two-course lunch) $39 (two-course dinner) and $59 (three-course dinner). Drinks are not included, and, of course, tips and taxes are extra.
There are so many places to visit in our neighborhoods during this special month for food lovers. You can find a complete list of the participating businesses here and you can search by neighborhood! You can also search by “meals offered,” “accessibility” and “ownership.” If thematics are your thing, there are a number of those as well: Our personal favorite is the “James Beard Honorees!”