Dining Under the Influence at East Village BYOBs
New York’s East Village has a plate for every palate. With so many flavors at your fingertips, how do you choose? Don’t! When you spend less on libations, you can sample more. It’s the beauty of Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) restaurants, and they’re all around the ‘hood. You just need to know where to look.
A few of my favorite spots for boozy grubbing in the EV:
The mouthwatering scent of crackling pork will draw you into this 7th Street hole in the wall. A few coveted stools and two small benches placed outside on warmer days may mean hovering for a seat after you order at the marble counter. It’s well worth the wait to enjoy a bottle of Italian red with some of the city’s best pork. Foodie darling Sara Jenkins oven roasts her pork until its meat is perfectly tender and skin perfectly crisp. With a just-generous-enough seasoning of salt, pepper, wild-fennel pollen, thyme, sage, rosemary and garlic, the pork is sensational both sandwiched by a crunchy-chewy ciabbata role and as a platter beside garlicky sautéed greens and beans. Spring for a side of roast potatoes that get a special crunch from porchetta “burnt ends.” If you’re of the veggie-persuasion, not to fret! Order the tasty mozzarella sandwich…but don’t be surprised by the looks of pity from passersby.
Even carnivores will find Angelica Kitchen’s creative “plant-based cuisine” satisfying. Better for a date than a group dinner, Angelica manages to be calming even while crowded (which it tends to be). Expect seasonal, organic food with a focus on local ingredients, typically served less than 48 hours after harvest. Pop open that organic wine as you flip through the lengthy menu. Start with a mix ‘n match Pantry Plate to try sides like the Walnut-Lentil Pate, Norimake and Live Curried Cashew Spread. Then dive into a big healthy salad, a hot sandwich like the scrumptious Open-Faced Tempeh, or the popular Dragon Bowl – a steamy combination of rice, beans, tofu, sea and steamed vegetables.
Why take out when you can BYOB? Owner and waiter Vinny serves solid Italian standbys in the casual dining room adjoining pizza shop 11B Express. One of the best pies in the neighborhood, Vinny’s has just the right amount of crunch and subtly sweet tomatoes. Wash it down with beer or wine as you enjoy great people watching in this window-filled corner space. For something heartier, the Homemade Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana bring comfort sans grease overload. Quality, homemade food and reasonable prices make 11B a surefire crowd pleaser.
Picnic tablecloth is the accessory of choice in this small, casual Avenue C staple. Casa Adela is essentially a luncheonette, but take advantage of their BYOB policy and start your night off with authentic, affordable Puerto Rican cuisine. They’re known for their tasty rotisserie chicken, which comes with yellow rice and beans, but the fully stacked hot Cuban sandwich and roast pork is the answer to pig lovers’ prayers. Make sure to get your fill of plantains, be it with a side of Tostones (fried crispy plantains) Maduros (sweet plantains), or the classic Mofongo (fried crushed plantains made with garlic, and pork crackling). Craving something sweeter than wine? Try one of Casa Adela’s delicious fresh-fruit juice milkshakes.
Mama’s Food Shop
Mama’s Food Shop is down-home, simple cooking in a down-home, simple setting. Take along some cold brews or Southern Comfort to this small neighborhood favorite to pair with your fried chicken, meatloaf or roasted pork shoulder. Choose from equally comforting sides like mac ‘n cheese or German potato salad with bacon and parsley. Mama looks after the health conscious, too. Drink you daily glass (or two) of wine with a lighter main like roasted chicken or tilapia, or make an entrée from your choice of three well-seasoned sides. Regular veggie side dishes include green beans and shallots, roasted carrots and beets and braised kale with minced garlic.
Little Poland Restaurant
Little Poland Restaurant is your classic, no-frills NY Diner, only Polish. Brick walls and old wooden booths and a stool-lined counter set a comfortable scene at for filling up on Polish comfort food. Expect not-so-little dishes: huge portions of pork and beef are served up in many styles, including loin pork schnitzel topped with egg, beef stroganoff and beef with “Hungarian style potato pancakes.” Warm up with a long list of soups or blintzes, which come both savory and sweet. Little Poland’s must-try pierogis are available as entrees or as part of a combination platter with stuffed cabbage, keilbasy and bigos. Perfect for that bottle of Żubrówka you’ve been meaning to finish…
Take a deep breath and walk purposefully with two-liter bottle of wine in tow up a set of stairs to the door on your right (if you hesitate, the men from neighboring look-alike establishments will badger you). Not for the epileptic or faint of heart, Panna II is an Indian restaurant “Where Chili-Pepper Lights Meet Christmas-Tree Lights.” Those lights fill a cramped dining room, lining the windows and hanging low from the ceiling. While most options on the long menu are just mediocre, Panna II’s cheap eats and quirky-fun atmosphere make up for what its food may lack in refinement. Take advantage of the $10.95 pre-fixe and make sure to include vegetable samosas in your order. Always the party host, the staff serenades birthday boys and girls with a Bollywood birthday song set to special effects (e.g. manual light-flashing).11B: 174 Avenue B, (212) 388-9811 Angelica Kitchen: 300 East 12th Street, (212) 228-2909 Casa Adela: 66 Avenue C, (212) 473-1882 Little Poland Restaurant: 200 2 Avenue, (212) 777-9728 Mama’s Food Shop: 34 Avenue B, (212) 777-5729 Panna Garden II: 93 1 Avenue, (212) 598-4610 Porchetta: 110 East 7th Street, (212) 777-2151
East Village Liquor Stores Alphabet City Wines: 100 Avenue C, (888) 851-2133 Tinto Fino: 85 1 Avenue,(212) 254-0850 Discovery Wines: 10 Avenue A, (212) 674-7833 Ave A Wine & Liquor: 196 Ave. A, 212-260-7878 Nizga Liquors: 58 Ave. A, 212-420-1449 Wines on 1st: 224 First Ave., 212-979-1999 Sakaya (sake shop): 324 East 9th Street, (212) 505-7253