Grub Guides

21 New York City Restaurants That Could Save Your Life

Le Bernardin specializes in pairing fish with wine — just what you're looking for.
Le Bernardin specializes in pairing fish with wine — just what you’re looking for. Photo: Melissa Hom

An unusually unambiguous study was published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine — and widely reportered in a front-page story in the Times — that seems to prove once and for all the real, life-extending benefits of the Mediterranean diet. It can prevent 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths caused by heart disease. What you’re looking for: “A high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals.” With so many good Greek, Spanish, and seafood-focused restaurants around town, this diet’s actually not hard to follow. We’ve rounded up great restaurants that champion this kind of life-extending dining.

This year-old restaurant specializes in vegetable-driven Mediterranean food, like smoked eggplant dripped with spicy Calabrian honey and roasted broccoli spears with hazelnuts. Adam Platt gave it two stars.

A Voce
Whether you go to the Madison Avenue or Columbus Circle location to try Missy Robbins’s urban take on Italian food, look for dishes like sea bass with clams, artichokes, mint, and lemon; or olive-oil-poached cod with couscous, green olive, and dill.

Avra Estiatorio
Freshly caught fish is displayed on ice, simply grilled, and priced by the pound, making this one of the best picks among the midtown Greek fish houses. Order a side of fasolakia, or green beans stewed in tomato.

Israeli-born Einat Admony cooks home-style meals in the Mediterranean style. This diet doesn’t celebrate carbs, but the housemade kale pasta with artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, and garlic-walnut crumble packs so many health benefits, we think it’ll fly. If in doubt, get the grilled whole branzino with beet-citrus salad.

Casa Mono
Years after opening, it’s still tough to get a table at this Spanish tapas restaurant in Gramercy. Order scallops with pumpernickel gazpacho and pickled apples or razor clams a la plancha if you want to live forever — you may need the time to get another reservation.

The Cleveland
This Mediterranean-influenced restaurant recently opened in Nolita. The creamy cauliflower soup surprisingly has no actual cream in it, and the lemon-vanilla poached cod comes with charred eggplant and celery root. Make sure to order butternut-squash soffritto with za’atar labne for the table.

It’s continuously named one of the top seafood restaurants in the city, and Esca lives up to the hype. Opt for the sea trout with crushed almonds, or the live Maine sea urchin with Capezzana olive oil. Mario Batali and Dave Pasternack know Southern Italian seafood.

There’s more to this restaurant than just ace pizza; Mediterranean leanings show through in dishes like the mezze maniche with chickpeas and marinated sardines with almonds, fennel, and yogurt.

A traditional Loup de Mer, with orange, fennel, toasted almonds, and baby arugula, is one of the many options at this lively Lebanese restaurant in flatiron. Go big and splurge on the $139 Mezze Royale sharing plate.

Entrees are under $20 at this Upper West Side restaurant, but flavor and quality aren’t sacrificed. If you’re jonesing for fried food, order the chickpea, eggplant, and bulgur fritter to stay on track.

La Vara
This celebrated Cobble Hill restaurant fuses Spanish and Moorish cuisine. That means you’ll be eating flavorful food like anchovies with sesame and hazelnuts; citrus-cured salt cod; and for dessert, an orange-blossom-scented date-walnut tart.

Le Bernardin
An obvious choice, but if you’re going subsist of mostly seafood and vegetables, you deserve to treat yo’self. Eric Ripert’s $127 four-course menu currently includes charred octopus a la plancha with green olive and black garlic emulsion, and a warm green lentil salad.

This recently renovated taverna serves oven-baked gigante beans with spinach and olive oil, plus grilled calamari in a parsley and pistachio sauce. Two stars from Platt, and he recommends the market fish for two.

The opening of this brasserie-style Spanish restaurant brings sea bass crudo, tuna tartar, and seared cod with cauliflower purée to Gramercy. Chef-collaborator Dani García is best known for the two-Michelin-starred Calima in Marbella, Spain.

This Lower East Side Mediterranean bar-restaurant opened in October, and it’s serving small plates like steamed falafel buns and caramelized sweet potatoes with Greek yogurt. Don’t forget wine: There are $6 glasses during happy hour.

Pera Soho
Turkish chef Sezai Celikbas draws inspiration from the eastern Mediterranean. Beans, peas, and lentils are all good for you, so order the warm hummus with pastırma and charred Spanish octopus with chickpea ragout. The lamb-loin even comes in a yogurt and extra virgin olive oil marinade.

Porsena Extra Bar
Sara Jenkins incorporates Mediterranean-rim flavors from Spain and Lebanon at her spinoff restaurant. The mezze plate with flatbread includes spicy red pepper walnut purée and roasted eggplant.

You can find fantastic shakshuka, hummus, and calamari at this cheap, casual spot off University Place. Breakfast pitas, stuffed with options like salmon and eggplant, are served all day long.

Taverna Kyclades
Astoria’s Greek restaurant offers fresh seafood that’s more affordable. Red snapper, stripped bass, and dorata are all simply prepared without any butter or cream sauce. But expect long waits.

A family of Greek-food importers runs this Tribeca restaurant. The produce is organic, the wine is Greek, and, apparently, the seafood is imported directly from Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Hawaii.

Zizi Limona
This Middle Eastern restaurant opened in Williamsburg in September. It caters to cool kids; the babaganoush is called “Crazy Baba” and “Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar” is a dish made with almonds, mozzarella cheese, basil, and honey.

21 New York City Restaurants That Could Save Your Life