In the past few years, chef Gerardo Gonzalez has become one of the most beloved faces on downtown New York’s ever-changing food scene. After cutting his teeth at the Lower East Side mainstay, El Rey Coffee Bar and Luncheonette, Gonzalez moved on to open Lalito, an all-day restaurant in the former space of legendary karaoke/dive bar Winnie’s. There, Gonzalez serves what he describes as “new age-y Latino food” influenced by both his California coastal upbringing and Latino culture in New York City today.
We met up with Gonzalez at Lalito in Chinatown to get his go-to spots to eat and drink. From an old school East Village lunch counter to a Nolita Thai destination, Gonzalez let us in on where we might be able to find him on a rare night off. Out of modesty, he neglected to recommend his own establishment, but we already know that it’s not to be missed.
GERARDO GONZALEZ: After I workout, I usually hit up Dimes Deli for their macro plate. It’s a basic, clean dish—rice, kabocha squash, beans, avocado and all of that. I don’t think people realize how influential [founders] Sophie, Alissa, and Sabrina are in terms of Dimes’ aesthetics, food, and design. They’ve been replicated so many times, but they really started a movement downtown.
Insider tip: If you’re in the mood for more Dimes, stop by their market to pick up a healthy grocery haul or their full service restaurant for a sit down affair.
Scarr’s is the quintessential, timeless, New York pizza spot. Go in the afternoon and get a slice with anchovies on top if you want to run into a million people on Orchard Street. I call it Calle Sesamo, which translates to Sesame Street in Spanish, because you run into everybody down there.
Insider tip: At Scarr’s, you can get Gerardo’s trademark vegan caesar salad from the Lalito menu made with nutritional yeast and dulse seaweed.
My date spot is Uncle Boons, but if you can’t get in because their wait is a
million hours, then their new spot, Uncle Boons Sister is amazing. Everything they
do is inspired: the blood sausage, banana blossom salad and lamb larb, which
tastes exactly like In-N-Out animal style. I mean that in
the most complimentary kind of way.
go to Russ & Daughters Cafe, I order everything and end up walking away kind of sodium drunk. I get
the chicken liver, the pastrami Russ, the wasabi and white fish on a bagel with
wasabi roe, and the herring plate.
Insider tip: Russ & Daughters Cafe fills up as soon as it opens each morning at 10am. Go early or you better try your luck a few blocks away at the original Russ & Daughters shop.
This is my secret one, but I’ll tell you. This place has been around forever. It’s a kosher deli called B&H lunch counter—all of the lunch counters are disappearing so we should support them. They serve matzoh ball soup, tuna melts, and challah that’s made in-house. A lot of dishes that I make have been inspired by B&H—it’s one of the last relics of the old East Village.
I go to Dual Specialty every week. It’s a spice store on 1st avenue in a basement underneath four Indian restaurants. That’s where I and a lot of other chefs and bartenders get inspiration. The owners are really nice and if you ever want anything, they’ll get it.
Mission Chinese Food is the ultimate group spot. Every time you’re sitting in one of those booths, you feel like you’re in a Jim Jarmusch movie. They have such a wide range and variety, which I think is a testament to [former executive chef] Angela [Dimayuga]. The charsu pork cheeks are probably my favorite dish in the city. It’s good to go with a lot of people because you can try almost everything.