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Ignore the Health Inspector: 3 NYC Restaurants That Are Worth the Risk

NYC Food

Fran Lebowitz once said, “When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. ” Many a tourist has the reverse reaction: when they leave anywhere else, they’re astonished at how dirty New York is.

What can I say? Our city has grit and I like it. Maybe that’s why a little health code violation isn’t enough to deter me from my favorite eats. Or maybe it’s because some chefs say the whole thing is garbage anyways.

These three restaurants are reasonably priced and delicious. They shouldn’t be passed over… even though they’ve gotten a liiiittle bit of bad press.

Alta

64 West 10th Street, 212-505-7777

First, this place is beautiful. Like any tapas spot it’s good for a group, but the upstairs alcove is candle lit with just enough room to play footsie. Before the big scare, this place got some hype and it can still be tough to get in sometimes. Make a reservation, because this one is worth it.

What to get:

For less than $40 you can grab all of the following: fried goat cheese with lavender-infused honey, r
oasted brussel sprouts with fuji apples topped with crème fraiche and pistachios (they give you like 15 of these suckers so there’s plenty to share), bacon-wrapped dates and olives (when it’s up to me, I order these sans-olives), and foie gras with cranberry reduction (some would swap in the lamb meatballs here, which are good, but… come on. Foie gras.) I’ve heard mixed reviews on the cocktails, but due to $$ I’d grab a bottle of wine for around $35.

 

S’MAC

345 E 12th St, (212) 358-7912

Welcome to Sarita’s Mac and Cheese, better known as S’MAC. This place is amazing. And it’s clean, actually – even the inspectors think so now. But it’s not sexy. You stand in line for your food before you sit down to gorge on a faceful of awesome.          …Okay, who am I kidding. That’s totally sexy.


What to get:

Grab a “major munch” only if you want leftovers for lunch the next day. Otherwise the nosh is plenty. My bro goes for the buffalo chicken every time, but you can’t pull me away from the Parisienne: brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. OMfingG. I have had bites of the others. I know the Alpine has gruyere and bacon and I know La Mancha oozes manchego with onions and they are both awesome BUT they are just not as good. The beers are all $6 or less. And I hate to tell you, but.. they deliver.

 

Kenka

25 St. Marks Place, 212-254-6363

An unusual menu, odd decor, and loud Japanese music that sounds like it’s coming out of a bull horn make for quite the ambiance.

What to get:

They had me at $8 pitchers of Sapporo.

More small plates, with nothing over $7. Go big or go home: turkey testicles and bull penises are on the menu at $5.50 each. The balls are delicious, but the penis is bland. If you aren’t feeling adventurous (or they’re out of the ol’ twig n berries, which happens) there are a ton of other options including okonomiyaki (a pancake with pork, squid, egg and cabbage), yakitori (chicken on a stick – good, but this isn’t the best place to get it), and a really good fried mackerel.

In case you’re not sold, they send you away with FREE COTTON CANDY. Free candy. Free carnival candy, for adults and for kids. Yes yes yes yes yes.

 

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