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2000s Archive

Restaurants Worth the Money: Northeast

Originally Published October 2009
Eleven great places to spend your hard-earned cash in Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
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Fore Street
At this Old Port standby, supreme-quality food is prepared in a hardwood-fueled hearth. Born of meticulously sourced ingredients, dishes like spit-roasted rabbit and roasted wild mussels with garlic-almond butter are simple but never boring, and often astonishing. 288 Fore St., Portland, ME (207-775-2717; Fore Street)

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Toro
It’s amazing how well this upscale taberna captures the party spirit of a Barcelona tapas hot spot—and not just because it’s perpetually jammed. Toro features a number of Spanish vino values and a huge, innovative, and reasonably priced menu (marinated oysters with grains of paradise + saffron emulsion + lovage = flippin’ good). 1704 Washington St., Boston (617-536-4300; Toro)

Sofra
This bustling bakery-café, where chef Ana Sortun presents her take on Arab-world, spice-route classics, gets better with every visit (and the bar was set so high to begin with). The value? Many of the superstar mezes from Oleana—Sofra’s more upscale sibling—appear here at lower prices. A good thing, considering what’s offered (like spicy carrot purée with dukkah) is utterly habit-forming. 1 Belmont St., Cambridge, MA (617-661-3161; Sofra)

DBGB Kitchen and Bar
Daniel Boulud’s downtown outpost is filled with people having a very good time. No surprise, since the menu offers an up-to-the-minute snapshot of what young New Yorkers crave right now. Sausages—from hot dogs to classically rich boudin noir—are a draw, as are the burgers; it’s hard not to fall in love with one that has a strip of pork belly riding the beef. Adventurous souls will thrill to the crisp lyonnaise tripe cakes. Given the lack of sticker shock, it’s hard to believe that this joint is owned by one of America’s premier chefs. 299 Bowery, New York City (212-933-5300; DBGB Kitchen and Bar)

Gramercy Tavern
The restaurant’s no-reservations front room is that rare space that’s sexy enough for a date but comfortable enough for your grandparents, and the menu is so thoughtful it’s like an act of generosity: a dozen appetizers (such as crêpes with crab and crisp peas or housemade pastrami with pickled cauliflower) at around a dozen dollars, entrées for not much more, all done with three-star care. 42 E. 20th St., New York City (212-477-0777; Gramercy Tavern)

Tanoreen
A $2.25 subway ride to Bay Ridge is all that stands between you and Rawia Bishara’s sublime Middle Eastern food. Some go for the lamb (grilled as kebabs, wrapped in cabbage leaves, or stewed simply with spices), while others go for the colorful salads and appetizers that crowd the refrigerated display case (fattoush, muhammara, flatbreads spread with pickled yogurt), but no one can go wrong. 7704 3rd Ave., Brooklyn (718-748-5600; Tanoreen)

Zafra
At Maricel Presilla’s ultra-casual pan-Latin restaurant, foodies over from Manhattan sit elbow-to-elbow with workers from the hospital down the street and dig into stellar versions of homey dishes like Cuban-style roast pork, featherlight empanadas, and shrimp in a complex red mole sauce. It’s never even close to expensive, but if you’re looking for one of the best bargains in this part of the country, show up during the week before 6 p.m. and get a three-course dinner, complete with rice and black bean soup, for $18. 301 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ (201-610-9801; Zafra)

Zahav
There’s nary a falafel in sight at young chef Michael Solomonov’s buzzy Israeli restaurant in Society Hill. Instead, you’ll be beguiled by chewy, fresh-baked laffa bread, crisp Haloumi piled over a smear of date jam, an exemplary raw kibbe, peppers stuffed with rice and walnuts, and juicy housemade merguez sausage, all served as elegant (and generously proportioned) small plates. 237 Saint James Place, Philadelphia (215-625-8800; Zahav)

Paesano’s Philly Style
While hungry tourists throng the cheesesteak temples of South Philly, locals in the know head north to this teeny Fishtown gem for sandwiches lovingly layered with tender, hand-pulled roast suckling pig, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone, and long hots. Wash it all down with a frosty bottle of locally made Hank’s black cherry soda. 152 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia (267-886-9556; Paesano’s Philly Style)

Woodberry Kitchen
What could be more enticing than a stylishly rustic farm-to-table restaurant in a rehabilitated foundry with a chef named Spike? How about one with a congenial staff, complimentary fizzy water, Joe Strummer quoted on the menu, and a kitchen that makes the most of the region—from pristine Choptank Sweets on the half shell to a plump Chesapeake Bay crab cake paired with kohlrabi slaw. 2010 Clipper Park Rd., Baltimore (410-464-8000; Woodberry Kitchen)

Le Bernardin
You cannot get a mediocre meal, or even a mediocre dish, in Eric Ripert’s shrine to seafood—No one understands fish and fish cookery better. 155 West 51st St., New York City (212-554-1515; Le Bernardin)

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