Alison Roman's Guide to NYC Eats

Even the most trepidatious of cooks will find comfort in the kitchen under the laid-back guidance of author/recipe developer Alison Roman. She is as if your best friend happened to be highly adept at making delicious food and wanted to patiently teach you how to cook: never intimidating, always encouraging, and full of one-liners.

In her new book Dining In, a collection of 125 “easy to cook, easy to shop for, easy to conceive of making” recipes, Roman invites everyone to her house for dinner. She gently persuades readers to try her ingenious tricks (think roasting citrus to bring out flavor and using carrot tops as more “assertive” parsley), while never losing her wry sense of humor. It’s the perfect guide for anyone having a hard time committing to their oven.

Unsurprisingly, Roman is also quite well-versed in the art of dining out. Here are her “nonnegotiable” spots to eat and drink in New York City.


It’s probably one of the first restaurants I went to in New York that I truly fell in love with. I think the room is really romantic, it’s always perfectly lit, and the wines are on point. I can go there when I want something I know I’m going to like and it will be how I want it prepared.


I love Prune. I don’t go as often as I used to because it’s harder to get in and I don’t like waiting for tables anymore, but I still think it’s a pretty perfect restaurant. There’s something nostalgic about it for me, so I like to go for special occasions. I always get a Gibson [cocktail] to start and the radishes if they’re on the menu—they weren’t last time I went. I think they also took the bone marrow off, which I would like to petition to bring back.


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It’s basically where you go to people watch. I go if I’m in between meetings and just need a snack; I like to go eat dry pepper style tofu by myself. It’s deep fried soft tofu (so it’s really crispy on the outside and really custardy on the inside) and has lots of scallion, fermented black bean paste, chilies, and big, fat slices of garlic. So fucking good. There’s zero ambience: I don’t go for the restaurant, I go for the food.


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Before you go, you should know the servers are kind of rude, and looks-wise there is nothing remarkable about this place. It’s BYO though, which is cool. I’ve brought pretty nice bottles of wine into that restaurant, which is funny because it’s this extremely dingy kind of gross looking Chinese restaurant with insanely delicious food. I like to eat really spicy Szechuan food at least once a week. I end up craving it in a way that I don’t crave any other kind of food.


I love the vibe there. I love chef Gerardo Gonzalez. I love the music they play. I love the staff. I love the food. I love the Jennifer Lopez bathroom. I think it’s because I love Gerardo so much and the restaurant is so him that it’s like an extension of his personality. I feel like to be in that restaurant is to really be in his home.


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This is the place where I’ll always take out-of-towners because the food is so consistently on point. It’s a nonnegotiable kind of place and to me; it’s one of the most important restaurants in New York in the past few years. You’ll definitely run into someone you know there. Hillary Clinton and Obama went there so maybe you’ll run into one of them.

I always order the endives and if they have it, the kohlrabi salad. I love their salt cod fritters and any kind of crudo, particularly raw scallop. The ricotta dumplings with mushrooms are possibly the best things I’ve eaten in my life. The reason I like going there is because it’s food that’s really familiar but it's nothing I’m ever going to make at home.


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[Hart’s and Cervo’s are sister restaurants.]

I love both. If I don’t feel like going to the city, I’ll go to Hart’s, or if I’m already in the city, I’ll go to Cervo’s. I like to go to Hart’s on a Saturday night at 9pm, sit at the bar, have some snacks, and get drunk with a girlfriend. It feels really intimate without feeling too cramped and really New York without being annoying. To me, it’s just what I want a restaurant to be. 


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I go to the Brooklyn one because it’s close to my house and a lot of my friends’ houses. I like the vibe there, even when they’re busy. I love their pickled chilies that you put on top of the pizza. I like the whole thing.

I’m a Margherita person. I think that you can tell the quality of the pizza when you get the most basic version. You can taste the tomato, the cheese, and the crust; that’s really what will make anything good. From there, anyone can put a ton of shit on a pizza, but will that make it better? I don’t think so.


I go here probably more than any of the other restaurant because I know them very well and I think they have the best wine list in the city. It’s a little brightly lit for a date spot; I think it’s most conducive for friends or someone you’ve been dating for a long time.

My favorite time to go there is right when it opens at 6pm. Get the little gems, the beef tartare with shaved cheddar and Brazil nuts, have some wine, and then go to your second dinner. When I go with my friends, we stay for hours. We are there forever. We drink so much. Never good the next day. Clear your schedule.


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