Much like a meeting with your accountant or an animal cruelty PSA featuring Sarah McLachlan, an NYC winter is a very serious thing. This city gets so cold, in fact, that sometimes the best restaurant is the one that’s easiest to get to. With that in mind, here are places we like that are extremely close to subways. (As in, a block or less from a subway stop.) We’ll even tell you which train’s closest.
Delancey/Essex Street J/M/Z/F
If it’s cold, and you want to get to La Contenta without having to tape hand warmers to your face, take a train to Delancey Street and use the northeast exit. From there, it’s about half a block to tacos, steak, and margaritas. La Contenta is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in NYC, and it’s an ideal place for a casual meal with friends. It’s pretty small, however, so if you come with a big group, you might wind up waiting for a table outside.
Spring Street 6
Arguably the best part of any ski vacation is “apres-ski,” which basically entails sitting in a warm bar, regaining feeling in your fingers, and having some drinks while laughing about that guy who face-planted while trying to get off the chairlift. Cafe Select is an all-day spot a half-block from the 6 train entrance at Spring and Lafayette, and it’s a good spot to do all the fun stuff associated with apres-ski, without the bruised tailbones and waterlogged ski socks. The bar area up front works for some wine and European food, like lobster bisque or veal schnitzel, but if you really want to feel like you just stepped off a Swiss mountain in an all-white one-piece ski suit, get a table in the fondue room in the back.
You want a steak, but you don’t want to cook it yourself, and it’s so cold outside that the moisture in your eyeballs starts to freeze when you think about leaving the house. Try El Almacen. It’s roughly 20 feet from the Bedford Ave L station (if you use the exit at Driggs), and the steak here doesn’t cost an unreasonable amount. This is an Argentinian restaurant, so there are also things like empanadas and tacos, as well as some avocado fries that may or may not be Argentinian, but are good regardless.
No. 7 is about three feet away from the Lafayette C train stop, which is ideal for any polar-vortex-type situations. It also sort of feels like a nice cabin inside, so it’s a great place to hide from the outside world for an hour or two. You can grab a table in the back dining room, or you can sit alone at the long bar up front, if that’s the sort of winter you’re having. The food is standard American stuff like burgers, steak, and fried broccoli, and it’s all pretty solid and crowd-pleasing.
Union Street D/N/R/W
Maybe you’re all from Winnipeg and this weather is no big deal, or perhaps it’s a friend’s birthday and everyone on the text chain just feels obligated to go out. When you need a spot for a big group and nobody wants to show up with soaking wet socks, go to Dinosaur BBQ in Gowanus. The huge space is less than a block from the R entrance at Union and 4th Ave, and it looks like a converted barn, with a ton of tables and lots of bar seating. Share a bunch of barbecue and a few orders of the crunchy, cheesy fried green tomatoes, drink some IPAs or something brown on the rocks, and you actually will feel like this weather is no big deal, no matter where you’re from.
A Nordic beer bar is an objectively appropriate place to hang out in the winter. So if it’s January or February, and you’re feeling sad because you can’t remember what the sun looks like, go to Tørst. It’s a Scandinavian-looking space with wood-paneled walls, and they have a great selection of beers that come in glass goblets. They also serve a tasty burger, a few other sandwiches, and some other stuff like steak and burrata. As an added bonus, it’s about a 30-second walk from the nearest subway station.
West 4th Street A/C/E/B/D/F/M
West 4th is kind of a confusing station to navigate, but you can think of getting to Hao Noodle without being outside for more than one minute as your incentive to get it right. This Chinese restaurant is on the same block as the West 4th Street subway exit on Waverly, and it’s casual enough that you can just walk in anytime. Most of the noodles, stews, and small plates are pretty spicy, and almost everything is easy to share. It’s also worth mentioning that they serve a lot of good soups (including one with egg crepe dumplings that’s excellent). Which is perfect because warmth is a fleeting feeling right now.
86th Street 1/2
Elea is a Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side, and it’s right next door to the UWS location of Han Dynasty, which happens to be one of our favorite spots for a casual meal. So why aren’t we telling you to go to Han Dynasty? Because Elea is just slightly closer to the subway. You can eat some very good Greek food here, it doesn’t get too noisy, and it’s a great-looking space with a vaguely coastal theme and candles on every table. It’s perfect for a date, or ideal for meeting some new potential family members when it’s incredibly cold out.
Astor Place 6
Noodle-induced narcolepsy isn’t an actual condition, but if it was, Ippudo ramen would be a regulated substance. On a cold winter night, a bellyful of this stuff will sing you a lullaby and pull your blanket up to your chin. But you have to get home first. The 6 train is a block away. Run.
14th Street A/C/E/L
The Weather Channel keeps using the term “tundra,” but that doesn’t mean everyone is staying in. If you still want to go somewhere sceney despite the weather, head to RH Rooftop. Yes, we know it sounds counterintuitive to suggest a rooftop when it’s freezing, but this place is actually indoors - the rooftop just refers to its location on the top floor of the Restoration Hardware in Meatpacking. The space is filled with people who may have actually debated buying one of the ridiculously expensive mirrors or Greek statues downstairs, and while it’s walk-in-only, perusing the five floors of fancy home goods with a glass of wine is an entertaining way to kill time until your table is ready.
18th St 1
Say you need to meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and they want you to pick a cool place for dinner. Also, it’s freezing, and no matter how much you like your friend, there’s no way you’re going to spend more than two minutes outdoors. Go grab some food at Motel Morris. It’s a place in Chelsea that looks like a retro hotel lobby, and there are equal amounts of healthy and unhealthy options. It’s also just feet away from the 1 train.
We like all the bright colors inside Fancy Nancy. They put us in a better mood when it’s snowing outside and all plant life in New York City has ceased to exist. We also like the fact that this Bed-Stuy restaurant serves a very solid burger and a plate of duck wings that taste sort of like savory candy (in a good way). Plus, if you need a drink to help you cope with the weather, you can get something called an “Adult Soda” or a “Summer Vacation.” Once you’ve finished your meal, the G train is just across the street.
Lorimer Street G/L
If we asked you to name a Peruvian restaurant a short walk from the Lorimer L stop in Williamsburg, you might immediately say Llama Inn. But there’s another Peruvian spot that’s closer to the subway, less crowded, less expensive, and still very enjoyable, and that’s Chimu. Most dishes on the menu are under $20 for a generous portion, so two people can easily share an appetizer (like the avocado stuffed with shrimp and vegetables) and an entree (like the fried rice with a ton of mixed seafood) and leave without having spent too much money. This place also works well for casual group dinners, when you can split some wine (all bottles are $40) and sides, like the fried yucca with a variety of sauces.
Franklin Ave C
If you don’t live in Bed-Stuy, the commute to Hart’s can be lengthy. But the subway tends to be pretty warm. Plus, it’ll give you time to catch up on the latest things that people aren’t saying about you on Twitter. Once you’re at the Franklin C stop, Hart’s is just across the street. We especially like this little Mediterranean/American place for date night, but it also works for a solo dinner at the tiny bar or a meal with a boss, some parents, or a few friends who appreciate a restaurant with a good burger and a playlist that might include Ja Rule and Mariah Carey.
116th Street 2/3
Fried chicken is technically always good, but it somehow feels even more appropriate when it’s cold outside. Maybe that’s because the breading is kind of like a blanket, or maybe it’s the fact that fried chicken often makes us want to take a nap, which is one of our favorite winter activities. Either way, go to Amy Ruth’s to eat some. It’s a big soul food restaurant about half a block from the 116th Street stop of the 2/3, and our go-to order here is something called The President Barack Obama, which consists of chicken however you want it, plus two sides.
Court Square E/G/M/7
When it’s so cold outside that you put on long johns before opening the door to sign for a delivery, LIC Market is a very useful place to know about. Firstly, it’s less than a block from the E, M, and G lines, and two blocks from the 7 train. Secondly, the narrow space feels like a country home where you’d want to ride out a nor’easter. And thirdly, the seasonal American menu - with things like an egg-topped kale salad, scallops with bottarga, and a dry-aged ribeye with black truffle butter - has filling and enjoyable options for everyone.
Herald Square B/D/F/N/Q/R/W
When the outside world is so cold it feels uninhabitable, K-Town is a wonderful place to be. First off, it’s compact - you could spend several full days just going to different spots on 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. There also happens to be a subway entrance at the corner of 32nd and Broadway, which means you won’t need to spend much time outdoors. If you need to narrow it down to one place for dinner, try Samwon Garden. It’s a three-story Korean barbecue spot just a couple doors down from the subway, and it’s a fun (and slightly upscale) place to grill your own food. Get the beef sampler, and supplement it with a seafood pancake.
14th Street 1/2/3
Coppelia is for drunk people. And that isn’t to say the food is bad. It’s just that it’s a 24-hour diner within walking distance of the Meatpacking District, so that’s naturally who it’s for. So the next time it’s 20 degrees outside and you’ve been drinking in the area, stop by for some huevos rancheros and yucca fries. The food is a mix of Cuban and American, and it’s everything you need at 2am. Oh, and also the ability to get home as quickly as possible. You’re in luck with that too.
It’s 5pm and you’re trying to think up a good excuse for cancelling on that friend who’s kind of not actually a friend that you always say you want to get drinks with - for the third time. All you really want to do is go home, get into your ugly sweatpants, and hide from winter. Hate to break it to you, but you can’t hide. So it’s time to face it. Preferably with good burgers and good cocktails. Get them both at Sel Rrose, without having to go more than a few steps from the cozy depths of the subway. Maybe you’ll even make a new best friend out of it.
Christopher Street 1
Sure, summer has sun and warmth and beaches and generally happier people. But eating pasta while you watch snow fall onto the charming and unthinkably expensive streets of the West Village just feels right. Take advantage (without having to submit yourself to the cold for more than 10 seconds) at Via Carota, right near the Christopher Street 1. You’ll probably encounter a wait, but you won’t mind if you get yourself one of their excellent negronis at the bar.
23rd Street 1
On most other days, you understand that walking is beneficial for your life. That’s why you own that Fitbit you keep forgetting to charge. But in the dead of winter, walking is the enemy. And that’s where Excellent Dumpling House comes in. This place is exactly three storefronts down from the 1 train exit on 23rd Street, and perfect for a fun, not-too-expensive meal with friends. You’ll get huge portions of entrees like fried rice and beef with broccoli, as well other things like soup dumplings and a scallion pancake with pastrami. Most of the dishes are under $15, and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a table.
Franklin Street 1
On the sinking Titanic, they drank booze to keep warm. And at Walker’s, you can do the same. This is an old-school tavern in Tribeca, and you can treat it as either a restaurant or a bar. They serve food until 1am, and they play the hits: chicken wings, caesar salads, burgers, etc. Walker’s is pretty much a New York institution, and it’s the perfect place to hang out when it’s cold.
Myrtle Avenue J/M/Z
We normally don’t advise running in street clothes (because it tends to alarm people), but when it’s cold out, it’s a good idea to run across the street from the Myrtle Avenue stop to La Lupe. This casual Bushwick spot serves tacos so good they might make you forget it’s the time of year when solid water is likely to start falling from the sky. In addition to tacos, you can get things like nachos, margaritas, and chicken enchiladas, and fill up your own water from a Gatorade cooler (which you’ll recognize from your JV softball days). It’s nothing fancy, but the food is really good.
23rd Street 1
The Upper East Side Sushi Seki has found its way onto our Greatest Hits List, which should tell you that it’s one of our all-time favorite restaurants. And while we don’t love the Chelsea location as much, around this time of year it gives the UES Seki a run for its money. And that’s because we won’t lose a finger to frostbite on our walk there from the subway.
1st Avenue L
When your friend wants to grab dinner in the East Village, but you’re thinking about calling off your friendship just so you don’t have to walk more than two blocks outside in the winter, suggest Ichibantei, which is just around the corner from the 1st Avenue L stop. This little spot serves Japanese comfort food like fried chicken, ramen, and a delicious rice bowl with egg, chicken, and onion (the Oyako Don), and it’s also open late - until 2 or 3am on weekdays, and 4am on weekends. Just keep in mind that it’s cash-only.
Chambers Street 1/2/3
Your aunt is in town and wants to get dinner, but the forecast is so bad that your office is already preemptively closed for tomorrow, and any money you would have spent on a cab went toward some Air Jordan booties you found for your dog in Chinatown. Suggest a meal at Little Park. It’s healthy and nice enough for your aunt, and she won’t guilt trip you about making her walk too far in the cold.
Vernon Blvd / Jackson Ave 7
It’s the dead of winter and you want to pretend you’re in France. Not the fake France of Moulin Rouge and Midnight in Paris - the one that normal people live in. That’s when you go to Cafe Henri. This cafe is the definition of ordinary, and that’s what makes it so special. You come here for plain, un-fancy French food. The best part is, it isn’t trendy. And there’s something soothing about that. Give it a shot.