Considering the multitude of rave reviews that Hearth has received since it opened in 2003, we were pleasantly surprised at the unpretentious and warm greeting we received. Although reservations for the dining room are recommended, especially during peak times, some of the best seats in the house are first come, first served. Pull up a stool at the bar and sample one of the artisanal cocktails made with New York produced spirits, or walk straight through the softly lit, exposed brick and red-walled dining room to the open kitchen and grab one of the four chairs right at the counter where the food is being cooked. During our visit, one of the sous chefs was cutting apart ribs right in front of us. When we visited, we learned that the menu changes slightly each day, always highlighting the freshest ingredients and trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible. However, a few favorites have remained on the menu since they opened over nine years ago, including the Grilled Quail and the Beef and Ricotta Meatballs. Many of the dishes are meant for sharing, like the Whole Roasted Fish of the Day. In 2016, chef Marco Canora upgraded the menu to focus on fewer processed flours, sugars, and oils. There are also many more dishes featuring offal, such as heart and liver. The purpose of the shift is to highlight food that is high in nutrients and does not contain growth hormones. If the resulting cuisine is anything like what we tasted when we visited, diners are in for a treat. Hearth’s extensive and well thought out beverage program is also intriguing, with a wine list focusing on certain grape regions, plus off the beaten path beers. With such an inviting and comfortable dining room, an exciting and ever-changing menu, and an impressively curated beverage list, Hearth presents the total package for a perfect night of dining.
In May 2006, Ten Degrees opened its doors under owner Moti Hasson. With a staff “so lovely” that he would have them at his own Thanksgiving dinner, Moti told us that he runs his business with “great” and “honest” service. In the ensuing years, he has worked to provide “high quality product without asking high prices. " Dark wood, warm lighting, and comfortable seating provide the perfect backdrop for those looking for a place that has a vast selection of wines or who want to try some great local beers -- all accompanied by a comforting meal from an eclectic menu. Ten Degrees also hosts private parties in its back room - an ideal space for an intimate gathering.
Craving a traditional hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut? Or perhaps something a bit more eccentric? Crif Dogs is known for its creativity when it comes to putting together a hot dog meal. How does avocado or pineapple sound, or perhaps a dog wrapped in bacon with cream cheese spread on top? Their sides have quite the reputation as well - be sure to try either or both the tater-tots and chili fries. Amazing. Be prepared to wait on line, as there is sure to be one at almost any hour of the day, including weekends at 3: 00am. Old-school video games such as Double Dragon, Spy Hunter, Galaga, or my favorite, Ms. Pacman, help pass the time.
Do not be deterred by the bottleneck entrance, just continue walking toward the back where there is a welcoming outdoor courtyard that is always open, and heated in winter. The coat of warm, red paint on the walls, the rock and jazz music playing in the background, and the fireplace make this a cozy place to settle in with friends. The steaming cup of coffee, heaping with frothed milk, is smooth and light, exceeding all expectations. If you are as taken with their blend as we are, they package and sell their own beans. When we dined here our brunch was fresh and delicious, served with hearty bread, rice and beans.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.