After a decade-long construction nightmare, the recent completion of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway has turned the area along the route, a seeming culinary wasteland of bro bars and Buffalo wings, into something of a gastronomic hot zone. Chalk it up to accessibility. The other night, we hopped on the 1 train at Canal Street, a half-block from our office, transferred to the Q at Times Square, exited the station at Second Avenue and 83rd Street, and sauntered all of 300 feet to a terrific Italian restaurant we’d been meaning to try — practically door-to-door service. Here, then, a brief guide to where to go and what to eat after riding the Q.
1. San Matteo Pizza Espresso Bar
1739 Second Ave.
The Naples-style pie is great, but go for a panuozzo, a supersize pizza-dough panino of sorts that’s like a piadina times ten. (San Matteo Pizzeria e Cucina, a larger spinoff, has opened nine blocks south, at 1559 Second Avenue.)
1724 Second Ave.
Year-old, pint-size branch of the terrific Kips Bay restaurant with a knockout biryani deluxe and much-talked-about onion bhajjias.
3. Two Little Red Hens
1652 Second Ave.
Judging by the line snaking out the door one recent afternoon, you’d think they were hawking Black Tap milkshakes. But no, the more sophisticated sweet tooths who crowd this 25-year-old bakeshop are here for Brooklyn blackout cupcakes, New York cheesecake, and Michigan sour-cherry pie.
4. Schaller’s Stube
1652 Second Ave.
Everything at this hot-dog-stand annex to the adjacent Schaller & Weber, the last of Yorkville’s once-ubiquitous schinken shops, is deliriously good, including bauernwurst topped with goulash-spiced chili and chopped raw onion.
5. Heidelberg Restaurant
1648 Second Ave.
Serving up schnitzel, schweinshaxe, kartoffelpuffer, and many more delicious, gut-busting, hard-to-pronounce German delicacies since 1939.
6. City Swiggers
320 E. 86th St.
Multi-hyphenate beer shop–beer bar–neighborhood social center. Sample something fresh on tap, and BYO dinner from Schaller’s Stube around the corner.
303 E. 85th St.
Everything you could ask for in a craft-beer-bourbon bar and then some: 135 whiskeys, a frequently changing draft list, and housemade tater tots.
8. Budapest Café & Restaurant (a.k.a. Andre’s)
1631 Second Ave.
The poppy-seed strudel alone is worth a trip. Good stuffed peppers, too.
9. X Bar Bistro
316 E. 84th St.
Does super-soigné bistro cooking stand a chance in the land of pub grub? With the brand-new X, Danny Brown, whose eponymous wine bar had a good run in Forest Hills, aims to find out.
10. 83 ½
345 E. 83rd St.
The locals who mob this Sicilian-slanted trattoria would probably like to keep it a secret, but Vincenzo Mangiafridda’s eggplant-Parm “meatballs,” carciofi fritti, and housemade pastas are too good for that.
1565 Second Ave.
Solid Turkish-grandma food, with an actual Turkish grandma in the kitchen.
306 E. 81st St.
No one cooks classic Roman like that master of the pasta pot Sandro Fioriti.
308 E. 78th St.
Interspersed among the pumpernickely old-world repertoire, you’ll find au courant loaves leavened with starter made from natural yeasts residing on the skins of locally grown grapes.
14. Up Thai
1411 Second Ave.
Good Thai food in the crowd-pleasing Spice-chain vein, with over-the-top décor and a litchi martini with a cult following.
15. Bohemian Spirit Restaurant
321 E. 73rd St.
There are three takes on schnitzel at this Czech café inside the Bohemian National Hall — veal, pork, and chicken — four if you count the fried, bread-crumbed slab of cheese called smazeny syr.
16. Szechuan Gourmet
1395 Second Ave.
The burgeoning Sichuan chainlet has supplanted the former Szechuan Chalet, Chengdu chilled noodles and double-cooked pork in tow.
17. Jean Claude II
1343 Second Ave.
Always ahead of the curve, Jean Claude Iacovelli, the poor man’s Keith McNally of ’90s-era Soho, has brought his budget-bistro concept uptown.
*This article appears in the February 6, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.