As you read through this guide, you’re going to notice a few recurring themes. First, you’ll see that the general takeaway about many Soho restaurants is, “this place has been around forever and is still great.” You’ll also see that a lot of places serve what is essentially “nice American food and oysters.” And often, those two things overlap.
But in addition to some of New York’s best classic restaurants, you’ll find some new standbys, as well as solid go-tos for groups. By the way, we’re defining Soho as the western side of Layafette, going westwards. Nolita is another beast altogether.
La Mercerie is an all-day cafe in the front of a high-end furniture store. The mostly-French menu has dishes like salads, crepes, and salmon blinis - and the food is excellent. So stop by and have a lunch meeting here next to a $20,000 couch. Your meal won’t be cheap, but it will impress whoever you need to impress (and still be a lot less expensive than the couch).
At first glance, you may group West-Bourne in with the many other all-day cafes in Soho. It’s an attractive space filled with people eating eating colorful vegetarian food that looks quite healthy. But what separates West-Bourne from its competition is how good the food here really is. We particularly like the grain and vegetable bowl with jalapenos and tahini, and the reuben loaded with roasted mushrooms. Come here anytime you want tasty vegetarian food in a comfortable space.
Charlie Bird will make you happy you live in New York. Or mad that you don’t. Excellent service, even better wine, and some very good food, in a laid-back environment with hip-hop regularly coming out of the speakers. This place works for everything from a business lunch to a fun night out with friends - you can almost never go wrong suggesting Charlie Bird.
Houseman is in far West Soho, but it’s well worth crossing 6th Avenue for a meal here. Actually, it’s worth crossing the entire city to eat Houseman’s burger. The restaurant is lively without feeling sceney, and the food is “seasonal” taken to the next level (they print the day’s weather on the menu, and often create specials that reflect that). As we said, in addition to whatever else you order, you want the burger.
Balthazar is still a scene - though a different kind than the one you would’ve found 15 years ago when this was the hottest restaurant around. Today, most people in Balthazar appear to have at least three passports, which makes for some entertaining people-watching. But it’s more than just a tourist attraction. It works for just about any situation (as long as you don’t mind spending some money), and it’s a Soho classic.
If you walked by King, glanced at the menu, and peeked your head in the window, you might get the impression that it’s a little stuffy. The corner restaurant has white tablecloths, a slightly older crowd, and a daily-changing menu of what looks like pretty fancy food. But once you realize that “lombatello” is just another word for hanger steak, it all becomes clear: this place looks much fancier than it actually is. The service is friendly, the food is very good, and while it’s a bit pricey, King is actually a pretty low-key place to eat. If you have friends or parents who know what lombatello is, they’ll probably like it here.
You’re looking for a fun group dinner spot in Soho, but you don’t want to break out your for-emergencies-only credit card. Go to Bombay Bread Bar, a brightly-colored Indian spot designed by the set director of a bunch of Wes Anderson movies (yes, really). The loud, crowded space is ideal for people who want to tell embarrassing stories about last weekend at full volume, and the shareable food works for groups as well. Get any/all of the 10 different types of bread and some chutneys for dipping, along with small plates like the mushroom upma.
You want to eat the udon at Raku. Both the hot and cold varieties are loaded with soft, chewy noodles and ingredients like shrimp and eggplant tempura or chicken and sea eel - and while one of these giant pots is definitely enough for a full meal, the small plates are great, too. So we recommend sharing an udon and getting a few other things, like Japanese fried chicken and thin slices of tender, rare beef. This is a good spot for a low-key date, or a quick solo meal at the chef’s counter.
Cafe Altro Paradiso is from the same people behind Estela, although this place is much bigger, and it’s open for both lunch and dinner. The food here is Italian, but it’s not the red-sauce kind - they serve a lot of small plates and lighter pastas, as well as larger things like swordfish and a pork chop. During the day, this place is perfect for a lunch meeting, and at night it’s good for dates or dinner with the parents. You could also just stop by for a negroni and very good wagyu burger at the bar on your way home from work.
There is nowhere better in New York - or really the world - to eat bone marrow and a tower of seafood at 3am. You can do that at Blue Ribbon Brasserie (you can do it at 8pm, too), and you absolutely should. This place never, ever gets old.
This is not the best sushi in Manhattan, but it is very good, and it is fun. Like its Blue Ribbon sibling restaurant down the block, this place is all about late night meals and A+ people watching. We’re not sure who the cool celebrities are these days, but there’s probably one sitting in the corner.
Shuka is the Mediterranean spot from the people behind Cookshop and Vic’s, and like those places, it’s about one step up from The Smith (before The Smith was a chain). Despite being on a charming street in Soho where we assume all rents have an extra zero attached, it’s surprisingly big. You’ll find things like falafel, kebabs, dips, and kale salad, all of which are affordable and excellent for sharing. This is a place to write yourself a note about, for the next time you tell everyone you’ll make the reservation but then forget until two days before.
Le Coucou is fine dining for people who don’t really care for fine dining. While it’s an impressive-looking space with chandeliers and a giant candle on every table, you won’t feel like you’re eating in a rich aunt’s apartment where you aren’t supposed to touch anything. The French food is all very good, and you can expect semi-traditional things involving lobster, scallops, and foie gras. Try this place for your next once-a-year dinner with someone in your life who appreciates nice things that don’t feel too formal.
As we said in our review, “Welcome to West Broadway Reform, Temple Of Hot Bagels.” This Jewish appetizing store/restaurant from the guys behind Carbone and The Grill is over-the-top in all the right ways. It’s a must-visit for anyone who’s serious about their bagel and salmon, but the French toast and babka are what you’ll remember most.
Raoul’s is classic Soho. This French bistro has been around since the ’70s, and somehow hasn’t lost its cool with age. Order the steak au poivre and a few martinis, and you’ll feel like New York’s still got it.
If you’re in the camp that believes eating deep-dish pizza is a New York sin similar to rooting for the Red Sox, then Emmett’s isn’t for you. But if you like pools of melted cheese in a thick crust several inches deep, and you don’t care who knows it, then this Chicago-style pizza spot in Soho should be on your radar. The small space feels like a tavern, and it works for dinner on nights when you’re definitely not planning on going to the gym.
Omen Azen is the sort of place where you might come for a weeknight meal and see Patti Smith sitting a few tables over. This neighborhood restaurant is in the bottom of a small apartment building, and it’s a casual, charming space with brick walls and lamps hanging from the ceiling. The menu has things like sashimi, teriyaki, and avocado salad - so bring a friend who’s currently staying away from eating anything that could have plausibly touched butter, and enjoy a relatively quiet meal.
Carbs were actually banned from Soho back in 2011, but Osteria Morini has still managed to operate its pasta-heavy operation despite that legislation. Order a few to share, along with some wine and cured meats.
The Dutch has a great bar, a great seafood tower, and an upscale food menu that’s generally good overall. Of the restaurants serving the aforementioned American food and oysters, this one actually opened this century, giving it a more modern feel.
This underground restaurant looks and feels like a big party boat. Like much of Soho, tourists will be present, but the food - from assorted seafood and sushi to the burger - is very good.
A few years after opening, Lure realized its burger was a pretty big deal, so they opened up this burger-focused restaurant and “winepub” up the street. It’s an enjoyable spot overall, and the burger really is great.
Coco Pazzo is a useful place to know about. This Italian spot is the revamped version of a UES restaurant that was popular in the ’90s, and it works in lots of different situations, from takeout lunches to casual dates at the bar to low-key dinners with parents or colleagues. As long as you aren’t expecting Italian food that’ll make an appearance in your dreams tonight, and you get the four-cheese baked rigatoni, then Coco Pazzo is a solid option.
Piccolo Cucina now has three spots in the city (all of them in Soho), and this one on Prince Street is the most casual. It’s a one-room space that feels like it could be in a small town in Sicily, with doors that open up to make the whole space airy, and one person cooking all the food behind a tiny bar. The menu primarily involves Italian small plates like octopus salad and arancini, along with some housemade pastas - and we especially like the meatballs and the orecchiette, both of which are served in a tart and cheesy tomato sauce. This place works well for wine and a casual bite after work, or during lunch when you can get anything on the menu for $10.
Some common characteristics of hotel restaurants are client dinners, tables of tourists, bars filled with people wearing white button-downs and drinking martinis, and a whole branzino on the menu. In those ways, Bistrot Leo - a French spot in the Sixty Hotel - feels pretty typical. But the food here isn’t boring, and dishes like chicken served in a pool of mushroom jus and a wagyu burger with smoked onion aioli have some intense flavors we really like. Come here with tourists or clients or people wearing white button-downs, or whenever you want some good French food in Soho.
Aquagrill is unique in that you could confidently send you mother-in-law or friend’s aunt here, but you could also recommend it to anyone looking for a classic Soho scene that hasn’t changed in decades. Either way, they’re going to get one of the best raw bars in the whole city.
Lucky Strike is from the same people as Balthazar, and it’s actually been around even longer (since 1989). It’s maintained a much more local feel, though, and the atmosphere and extra large cocktails make it an overall excellent place to hang.
Antique Garage feels kind of like a caricature of a Soho restaurant. It’s on a cobblestone street that’s often full of people posing for semi-professional-looking photo shoots, which makes the sidewalk seating here ideal for people-watching. But the indoor space is just as entertaining - it usually has a mix of European tourists and people dressed according to trends you didn’t even realize existed yet. As for the Mediterranean food, we like the small plates and mezze - like charred eggplant salad and phyllo filled with different cheeses - more than the entrees. Come here for brunch (they often have live music) or for drinks and a light bite after work or window-shopping.
As you’ve gathered by now, Soho is full of old-school hangs and some new classics. But what about when you suddenly find yourself with a crew of eight people looking to party, less than two days from now, without spending too much money? That’s where Galli comes in. Not only can you actually get a reservation for a big group, but you’ll actually have a good time once you get here.
You know what is very easy to find in Soho? A great steak frites you can eat in a dark dining room. You know what is less easy to find in Soho? Affordable, healthy food that’s more interesting than hummus and roasted beets. That’s what you get at Mooncake, which serves what they call “Asian comfort food.” We hit the tiny diner space mostly for takeout, but you can eat in as well.
Jack’s Wife Freda serves an important purpose in Soho, and that purpose is an easy lunch or very casual dinner. There aren’t a ton of restaurants suitable for that as you go westward. Just know you will encounter a mob scene if you’re trying to eat here at brunch.