Summer in the city is almost over. And while some may be jumping at the bit to put their plastic pumpkins on the fire escape or exchange their Reformation sundresses for Aritzia cable-knit jumpers, I’m freaking out about outdoor dining. Anyone who knows me understands my insatiable need to spend way more than I have to on the latest Michelin or hot bottomless brunch spot; however, although we’re technically allowed to eat indoors starting September 29th, restaurants’ capacity will only let 25% of me and the rest of the foodies in Manhattan (which believe me, is a lot) enter their hallowed halls.
So naturally, I went a little crazy this weekend.
I pulled out my saved TikToks and scrolled through @eater_ny on Instagram in order to compose a list of some last-minute dining options, before tables become a hell of a lot harder to reserve. I therefore present to you now, every food-related establishment I visited this weekend and a mini review of sorts to complement each one. These are overall must-tries, so read on for some awesome final summer eats destinations before the Big Apple’s temperature drops below 50 degrees.
Friday night, 1st Stop: John’s Twelfth Street Restaurant
The Impression: I was only here once before with my folks. It was a few years ago and inside, of course; melted candle wax coated the walls, and dim lighting set the mood for a night filled with wine and authentic Italian. Outside, however, mini vans line the curb, and Manhattan winds disrupt the napkins and menus. Although this is true for every outdoor restaurant under the city’s current conditions, John’s setting could use an elegant touch for such renowned delicacies.
The Prologue: Making a reservation here was originally rather confusing. The first time I called they said they only made same-day reservations, and when I phoned at 3pm to secure a table for 6:30pm, the staff member who answered claimed they did not take advance reservations at all. But when I expressed my grievances, they genuinely apologized and offered to add an extra table in the vicinity no matter how booked they were. No harm done.
The Service: So, so charming. If you didn’t already get a sense of John’s customer appreciation from the Prologue, I’m overflowing with examples. Upon providing a series of taste preferences, our original waiter called over a more versed wine connoisseur to ensure complete satisfaction. He also rather dramatically placed a plant right next to our table to make up for the less-than-picturesque views (recall the mini van comment). They let you use the bathroom inside, and our waiter checked in on us regularly.
The Drinks: Tonight, I requested a dry, rich wine to complement my main course. After sampling two endorsed selections from John’s stocked menu, we ultimately chose two glasses of Chianti. They surely lived up to their recommendation and balanced the sweet/tangy ragu wonderfully.
The Food: Just excellent. I had no idea that John’s was featured on the Food Network’s hit show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (yes, the one with Guy Fieri). Per Guy’s medley featured on the episode, the Beef Ragu was thick, savory, loaded with parmesan, and more than satisfying. I pride myself with the ability to clear a plate, but I ended up taking about half of it home. And snacked on it for the next two days.
Rating and Conclusion: With a vibe of a family establishment and the food quality of a Michelin star, John’s Twelfth Street is a hole in the wall that deserves to be jumped in headfirst. Like every understaffed outdoor establishment, it has its faults and predispositions; however, I personally had an easy night and superb meal. 8/10
Saturday brunch, 2nd Stop: Local92
The Impression: Easily overlooked (as most establishments are on Second Avenue), Local92 is a tiny Mediterranean restaurant partnered with bright, dashing colors, the best hummus on this side of the East Village, and a secret bar. Although the hush-hush Blue Quarter is not open for business due to the pandemic of course, the restaurant itself looks and feels like an Israeli summer holiday.
The Prologue: Saturday brunch was a breeze. Even though we arrived at 11am, we didn’t have to make a reservation in advance, waited less than 60 seconds before being led to our table, and wevwere able to inquire about the bottomless mimosa special right away.
The Service: Local92 is surely an establishment that expects you to order. In between each food or drink request, our waiter literally left us alone for thirty minutes unless we flagged him down. I was in good company and did not mind the wait, but if you have somewhere to be, a quick comment or perhaps a reservation somewhere speedier is in order. The waiter did complement my bold eyeliner wing though, so all is forgiven.
The Drinks: Usually, Local92 has a bottomless mimosa deal ($14 per person). I believe they stopped offering it though, because this time we were informed that they only sold by the glass and pitcher. After stifling our disappointment with a few Americanos, our waiter presented us with an enormous pitcher of champagne and orange juice. Safe to say that it’s still a good deal.