Relaxed NYC Dining

New York, USA

11 places

Natalia Malihina

Small cafés and joints frequented by locals if they want to get their latte, burgers or hummus without dressing up or paying a fortune.

Joe Coffee

Great coffee and pastry. Love this place for its location – can spend hours on the bench watching the life of this quiet neighborhood.

The Corner Bistro

This unremarkable place at the corner of Jane and W4th is worth spending an hour or two. They have one of the best cheeseburgers in NYC – ideally cooked with crispy pickles and fresh greenery for just $6.5. And they have the most charismatic bartender in the neighborhood – this grey-haired guy is about 75-80 but is a real professional – he'll pour you a pint (spilling a quarter of it) and give an old-school cashier's receipt. That's the quintessential ritual and spirit of the venue.

Think Coffee

Coffee connoisseurs get their morning latte here, not in Starbucks. At first, because Think Coffee does it better and though it's also a chain it's cozier – dimmed lights, wooden stalls and tables scattered across the space – looks like a private coffee shop. You can also have a bite – a chicken sandwich or cream cheese soup. Their pastry is quite good – selection of oatmeal cookies, strawberry cheesecake, lemon pie and chocolate cake.

Westville café

They have three locations in NYC. I prefer the one in Chelsea, in the 18th as it's bigger and has an outdoor terrace. It's nice to sit there with a glass of white wine waiting for your salad and enjoying the weather. I love their caesar with parmigiano reggiano & homemade croutons. They also have good veggie burgers with mixed mushrooms and sautéed greens. Prices are average – soup is about $8 and sandwiches are some $9. If all outside seats are taken, stay indoors – the design is light beige with minimum decorations and a huge bar – quite a harmony.

Olive Tree Cafe Comedy Cellar

This MacDougal Street venue is located under and connected to the Olive Tree Cafe – like a real tree. Black wooden tables have paper covers to draw on and write poems about NYC, cozy Tiffany-style stained glass lamps and the Chaplin movies on the walls make for a nice atmosphere. The menu is a melting pot – you can even get some Polish and Mexican stuff. Every night there is a comedy gig, featuring their celebrity Dave Chappelle. To enjoy the jokes you should read local newspapers and know the news. If you have no wish to twist your brains and pay 20$ excuse yourself to the bathroom – it's shared by both floors and is in the basement. On your way back wait for ten minutes for the gig to end.

Doma Na Rohu

One of the coziest spots in NYC hidden in quiet West Village streets and packed with locals that spend hours in this Czech venue. Their motto is – it always feels like home. Though the place is Czech they serve no Knedlicky dumplings but soups, sandwiches and salads. Prices are quiet moderate for this location. Tomato soup and half-sandwich cost just $10. The interior is lovely – old and somewhat shabby but so historical.

Melvin’s Juice Box

A little Jamaica or a tiki bar without booze. It all started with a small Miss Lily's bungalow place with Caribbean food, but later they opened a bakery and a juice bar. The decor is authentic American except Jamaican raggae on their online radio. The rasta bar is the kingdom of the legendary juice-maker Melvin Major Jr. who has been making juices for two decades. The menu has 10 juices, 10 shakes, including protein ones. Their trademark is Catch a Fire (apple, beets, lemon, ginger and cayenne) and Harry Fontantabella with rice milk, banana, blueberry juice and granola. They also serve coconut water and coconuts with a straw like in Asia or Latin America but in Manhattan settings. For 3 dollars you can get a ginger energy shot with apple juice and cayenne. Part of the profit goes to a charity to build schools for Jamaican kids. The place is often frequented by celebs, like Sarah Jessica Parker. Prices: $7 per mix.

Cafe Habana

Lines and crowds are not surprising – food is cheap and yummy. Two dollars for grilled corn and about eight for a burger. To go is cheaper. They offer a hangover menu – it was tested and can be trusted. Locals love their old school glass Coca Cola bottles shipped from Mexico. And we were so happy that the place was packed but nobody pushed or tried to sneak some free sauces displayed as if we were in Sweden. Servings are large and they have food both for vegetarians and meat lovers.


Between SoHo's Houston and Prince St. pop in a tiny coffee place with a delicate approach to the drink located in Sullivan Street. It was opened by a couple. He is a graphic designer and she is an actress. You can have your coffee or try their sandwiches, salads and candy.

Mamoun's Falafel

The best illustration of cheap and yummy. A couple of bucks and you're enjoying a filling pita, an impressive mix-it-all salad and their banging falafel.

Rice to Riches

Looks like a gelato place, but in fact serves sweet and salty rice pudding in lovely bright pots that you can carry home. Design is futuristic and Japan-inspired. The place is quite popular and you should try this exotic stuff. Go there after strolling around Little Italy or SoHo, visiting New Museum and Spring Street Galleries or shopping in West Village.


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