8 Downtown Restaurants That’ll (Really) Make You Feel Like a Native New Yorker

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8 Downtown Restaurants That’ll (Really) Make You Feel Like a Native New Yorker
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Whether you’re craving the coziest environment with the most comforting food or an artful mashup of cultural flavors, we have the best restaurants located in New York’s cool downtown that’ll make you feel like a local.

Click through the slide show for Travel Dose’s picks for where to eat in New York City.

Text by Emily Marucci

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The brainchild of Matt Danzer and Ann Redding, this little gem is made for the traveler at heart. The food is so authentic, you’ll feel like you caught a train to Bangkok (sans the airfare cost). Uncle Boons has a very downtown underground vibe—it's warmly lit, with frames dripping off the exposed-brick walls and lots of dark-wood architecture. When it comes to this Southeast Asian cuisine, leave your unadventurous friends at home and start with the tamarind margarita or the beer shake, then move on to the green curry snails, spicy chicken, banana blossom salad, and frog legs over glass noodles with a side of octopus.

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We have never not craved Mexican food after discovering Barrio Chino. This casual spot on the Lower East Side does right by the latter part of its name, meaning “Chinese” in Spanish. Asian accents and Chinese portraits hang from the warm exposed-brick walls, colorful paper lanterns dangle above the dark wooden floors, and the shelves of tequila are always in plain sight. Try the enchilada verdes stuffed with shredded chicken, melted Oaxacan cheese, and black beans and topped with queso fresco. You might as well be in the homeland … it’s that authentic. Barrio Chino is the Mexican go-to we’ve been waiting on for so long.

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What’s the one thing every New Yorker loves? A brunch spot with a laid-back vibe fit for Sunday afternoons. It’s understated with an effortless charm (think: a homey striped awning and a long family table smack in the middle of the space). Here, you’ll find the perfect mix of cozy atmosphere and comfort food. Come for the owner’s grandmother’s matzo ball soup made with duck fat or the rosewater waffles with Lebanese yogurt, then head home for an afternoon nap.

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It’s Greece in Chinatown (with lemon trees inside to match). Kiki’s is authentic, uncomplicated, and straightforward. The space is intimate, airy and open. The food is 100 percent traditional Greek, which is a big plus for those searching for the real heart of the country … the food. The space has a rustic feel with wooden beams and brass fixtures. Order the roasted eggplant with crushed walnuts, charred lamb chops (don’t leave without trying some meat) and shrimp drowning in ouzo—you’ll get legitimate Athens vibes. If that alone doesn’t compel you to visit, you should know the staff is so friendly, you’ll feel like family. From beginning to end, be prepared for an amazing experience.

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This tiny Tribeca carriage house turned 1930s bar offers a list of classic cocktails so you don’t have to read the fine print. You’ll want to get the oysters and then get down with a great burger. Sometimes that’s all you need. But if you’re on the lookout for something a bit healthier, the avocado toast with sunflower seeds, lemon, chili, and sea salt is not only delicious, it’s a creative masterpiece.

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Meatball Shop’s co-founder Michael Chernow just opened Seamore’s this month. The lowdown? Sustainable seafood in a light and bright space with splashes of maritime décor. Try customizing the catch of the day with different sauces (i.e, harissa cashew) and then make your choice among three sides (we love the sweet potato fries). Here, the choice is literally all yours.

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Head to Tijuana Picnic for an interesting take on a Mexican menu. Chef Alex Lopez weaves lots of smart Asian accents into the food, and it really just works. The best part is the food’s vibrant flavors that are just as thoughtfully presented to perfection. Try the duck wings with Asian spices, shrimp tempura tacos with fermented black beans, and the tortilla soup with pork dumplings. Picnic tables, loud music, and a cucumber mint cocktail with mescal … this place makes dining fun. And there’s one word it’s not: pretentious. Don’t take Grandma here, because it’s party time.

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This eatery takes a cue from its name: It's very New York. Now, the city happens to have the best pizza in the world so where does GG’s stand? Chef and Staten Island native Bobby Hellen serves up something simple but lovely: no-fuss New York-style pizza that sets him apart from the others who are trying to take pizza into another world with weird ingredients coming along for the ride. Here, he picks his ingredients straight from the backyard, so naturally we chose the “Ev Greenery,” which consists of greens, lamb chorizo, sauce vert, grano padano, cherry tomatoes, and pickled red onion. If you feel like something that will feel home-cooked, word is the grandma pie is the way to go. Home sweet home.

Photo: Courtesy of Travel Dose

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