9 Divine NYC Restaurants to Visit in 2020 According to Designer and Foodie Lela Rose

by Charles Manning

Designer Lela Rose loves fashion, but her true passion is food (or, at the very least, food is a close second). Whatever the exact order, the fact is she is absolutely gaga for a good meal and when she’s not hosting fabulous dinner parties at her Tribeca home, she loves exploring the menus of the best restaurants our fair metropolis has to offer. The restaurants on this list are not necessarily new, but they are delicious, which, let’s be honest, is what really matters. Bookmark this story now and you’ll be guaranteed a year of fabulous meals in 2020. 

Lela Rose and Chef Dan Kluger of Loring Place

1. Loring Place
Cuisine: Upscale-Causal American
Address: 21 W 8th Street (West Village)
Phone: 212-388-1831

“Chef Dan Kluger, who [used to work at] ABC Kitchen, is the master of vegetables,” says Rose. “All of his dishes are amazing — it’s not a vegetarian restaurant at all — but he really is a genius at vegetables. They are surprising and delicious and there’s always a little bit of crunch and a little bit of sweet and savory. I cannot tell you how many of his dishes I have tried to recreate at home and I never get anywhere close. He does this farrow with a crunchy Jerusalem artichoke, I think. Whatever’s in there, it’s always amazing. He does this lemony fried cauliflower with this delicious aioli. Every vegetable dish is fabulous. I love Loring Place.”
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2. Cosme
Cuisine: Contemporary Mexican
Address: 35 E 21st St. (Flatiron)
Phone: 212-913-9659

“First of all, the cocktails are some of the best you’ll ever have,” says Rose. “Whenever I order their drinks, I never quite know what they’re going to taste like, which is part of what I enjoy; I love a surprise, and they’re always interesting and delicious. [Chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes] do this duck carnitas there; it’s amazing. And the uni tostada! I mean, it’s fancy, interior Mexican, but cool and modern.”
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3. Cafe Altro Paradiso and Estela
Cuisine: Italian (CAP) and New American (E)
Address: Cafe Alto Paradiso at 234 Spring St. (Hudson Square) and Estela at 47 East Houston St. (Soho)
Phone: 646-952-0828 (CAP) and 212-219-7693 (E)

“I love [Chef] Ignacio Mattos,” says Rose. “He is from Uruguay and there is always this interesting mix in his food. One of my favorite dishes at Estela is his steak tartare and I normally couldn’t care less about a traditional steak tartare, but this one is amazing . I love Ignacio. I love everything he does. Both his restaurants are very different but there’s always a twist, a surprise, and the flavors are always delicious.”
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4. Via Carota and Bar Pisellino
Cuisine: Italian
Address: Via Carota at 51 Grove St. (West Village) and Bar Pisellino at 52 Grove St. (West Village)
Phone: 212-255-1962 (VC)

“Chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi are just incredible,” says Rose. “Every dish you get at Via Carota is a surprise. It’s always good. It’s always the best ingredients. But even when you look at something and you’re like, “Ehh, that pasta just sounds like wahh,” it’s always delicious. And Bar Pisellino is this super-chic bar they’ve built out right across the street on 7th Ave where you can get little finger sandwiches and cocktails [while you wait for a table at] Via Carota. [They don’t take reservations, so] there’s always a wait. It’s not trendy at all, it’s just fabulous, so there is always, always a wait.  I Sodi is one of their restaurants as well and it’s also amazing. They are all really good.”
Via Carota and Bar Pisellino do not accept reservations.

5. Frenchette
Cuisine: French
Address: 241 West Broadway (SoHo)
Phone: 212-334-3883

“It’s so chic looking!” says Rose. “Such a beautiful bar space and restaurant. They have these razor clams that are divine. I never liked razor clams before I had them at Frenchette — so rubbery — but theirs are amazing. So many buttered breadcrumbs on top, there’s no way they couldn’t be good. They also have blowfish tails, which I’ve always loved and always try to buy at the green market when I can,  so whenever I go with someone I’m like, ‘We’re getting the razor clams and the blowfish tails. You’re going to love them!’  They ust have some really special things on their menu that you don’t see at a lot of places and most people don’t typically don’t eat.”
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6. Lilia
Cuisine: Italian
Address: 567 Union Avenue (Williamsburg)
Phone: 718-576-3095

“[Chef] Missy Robbins is really good,” says Rose. “Her pasta is all handmade, at Lilia and at her other restaurant, Misi; they’re both in Brooklyn. Lilia is hands down my favorite, though. They have one pasta dish with lemon and ground pepper; it doesn’t sound very interesting, I know, but it is just knock-your-socks-off, insanely good. The reason I bring up Misi is that they roll out all their pasta in their window, which is always very fun [to watch].”

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7. Wayla
Cuisine: Homestyle Thai
Address: 100 Forsyth St., Basement
Phone: 212-206-2500

“I just went here for the first time and I loved it,” says Rose. “Everything is super spicy, but not to where it kills you. Their flavors are very good. They have this adorable garden in the back that, once it gets to be Spring/Summer, is just the cutest little hidden gem. Good cocktails, too.”

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8. King
Cuisine: Seasonal Southern French / Italian
Address: 18 King St.
Phone: 917-825-1618

“[Chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt] make really interesting food,” says Rose. “It’s a really small menu that changes [daily]. The menu doesn’t really describe the dishes, so it is always kind of a surprise when it comes — all these interesting flavors, but always really good. They are doing something kind of different and it feels special.”
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9. TAK Room
Cuisine: Continental
Address: 20 Hudson Yards, Level 5 (Hudson Yards)
Phone: 929-450-4050

“It’s Thomas Keller’s new place over in Hudson Yards. They serve throwback dishes like lobster thermidor, but super chic and delicious and buttery,” says Rose. “I feel like that’s one of the ways restaurants are going right now — that throwback style.”
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