14 chefs

Where to Eat on a Day Off, According to 14 Chefs

Get Italian sandwiches and pasta at Carmenta’s in Bushwick. Photo: Melissa Hom

It’s a well-established fact that chefs work when everyone else has fun: nights, holidays, brunch hours. What’s less discussed is that these same chefs, in turn, are free during the daylight hours when most people are at their desks. And they know how to take advantage of the city on a random weekday afternoon, which means you should take their advice on your next “sick” day. Below, 14 chefs share their favorite picks.

Taylor Hester
Chef de cuisine, Maison Yaki
Wong Wong Noodle Shop in Sunset Park is one of my favorite places in the world. The trip there is half the fun, getting to explore all the Chinese markets. Eating there takes me back to my first winter in New York, warming up with a big plate of rich, silky, hand-pulled noodles. You have to order the beef chow noodles and pork dumplings (keep the squeeze bottle of black vinegar handy)!”

Ashley Berman
Head chef, Bernie’s
“Being from Jersey, I am a diner girl by nature. I even had my birthday at a diner last year. On a day off I go sit at the counter at La Bonbonniere. It’s an old lunch counter in the West Village with some menu specials written on paper plates. Your hot coffee arrives immediately and you can pretty much get your order in about a minute, the guy working the flat top is so fast. My go-to is two over-easy eggs with extra well-done home fries, then you can break the yolks over the crispy potato. You can also sub out home fries for rice and beans, which I have done before and it’s a good move with a couple splashes of hot sauce.”

Jenny Kwak
Chef-owner, Haenyeo
“I enjoy going to Han Joo in Flushing  because on my day off, I like to feast! Han Joo serves thick cuts of pork belly that you grill on a heated crystal slab at your table. These slabs not only grill delicious moist meat (with the crispy edges), but there is something about grilling on a quartz slab that makes me feel happy and invigorated. And the best part is the pork belly drippings that slather the kimchi that you grill alongside it.”

Try cuisine from the Uyghur people of China at Café Kashkar. Photo: Melissa Hom

Patricia Lee
Head chef, Kichin
“I’m crushing hard on Café Kashkar lately, especially as we head into cooler weather. Their Uyghur offerings like mantys (spiced meat dumplings served with sour cream) and laghman (hand-pulled noodles dressed in a peppery lamb gravy) are outstanding, but what really brings it home to me every time is their mampar — a deeply aromatic lamb stew floating with little square noodles. It’s like the Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup that I grew up eating, but with Turkish spices and herbs. Bonus points for being located just a block away from the beach!”

Nick Curtola
Head chef, The Four Horsemen
“I’ve been going to Té Company quite a bit lately. I love how thoughtful they are with all of the details. I love their linzer cookies, rice bowls, seasonal salads, and small veg plates. It’s all light, so I feel like I can go and have a nice lunch and not be bogged down the rest of the day. It’s just clean and simple.”

Marisol Corona
Chef de cuisine, ATLA
“One of my favorite places to eat on my day off is Ops. I like to order the Pops pizza with tomatoes, house mozzarella, guanciale, onions, and pecorino. The pizza crust is sourdough and baked in a brick oven that makes it just perfect. I also like to get the salad and a glass or two of their wine. The first time I had the pizza was very nostalgic — it brought me back to my mom’s homemade flour tortillas.”

Atla’s Marisol Corona can’t get enough of Ops. Photo: Melissa Hom

Sergio Nakayoshi
Chef de cuisine, Llama San
“On my days off, I love going to Carmentas in Bushwick. This place hits the spot every single time. They have the best Italian sandwiches in my opinion. Fresh ingredients with their house-cured meats and two very talented young cooks doing it right. Did I mention they also make fresh pasta that’s done right and very affordable? I love getting a side of their cacio e pepe with my Italian sub.”

Greg Proechel
Chef-owner, Pulpo Hospitality
“I would say my recent favorite day-off dining spot has got to be Secchu Yokota. Not only is it run by a husband and wife team who are incredibly nice and both masters of their own domain (front of house/beverage and crushing the tempura station, respectively), but the food is outstanding. I always opt for the longer tasting menu and if they are offering the tempura uni, get one or, like, 5 of those. Also, any daily special is amazing and try to find a bottle of sparkling Riesling on their list to go with the meal. It’s incredibly intimate and the staff is great.”

Derick López
Chef-owner, The Freakin Rican
“When I’m off and out on the streets of New York City, there is no place that makes me feel more at home then Casa Adela on the Lower East side. I love their rotisserie chicken. It’s delicious. I’m a big fan of Adela and all the passion she puts into her restaurant. I can relate. Every time I go I feel her presence and it fills me with joy.”

Tali Petschek
Chef-owner, Babydudes
“I might regret saying this, because the wait is already long enough, but hands down Shanghai You Garden in Flushing. They serve the best scallion pancakes I’ve ever had, which I always order with the sliced beef. If you miss the pork mooncake you have made a huge mistake, they are the flakey, sweet, salty, and perfect. Also make sure to bring a reusable bag, you can get your grocery shopping done across Main Street in New World Mall.”

Sourdough toast with clams at neighborhood favorite, Hart’s. Photo: Melissa Hom

Neal Harden
Executive chef, abcV
“I like to go to one of two places on my day off for dinner with my wife. One: Little Sheep for hotpot. It feels restorative after brutal work weeks to just eat all the greens, mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables cooked in the fermented cabbage broth. Or two: Hart’s, which is a couple blocks away from my house. It’s special because of the wonderfully warm people who work there and own it. I order whatever seasonal salads they have and some good wine and bread. It’s small, familiar and is the only place in our area, my wife and I can agree we love going to.”

Eric Hsu
Chef-owner, Coast & Valley
“On our days off, my partner, Stephanie, and I love to check out new spots that are popping up around the city. The last place we popped into was Haenyeo in Brooklyn. A dish that stood out for us was the yang-yum chicken wings — one of the best takes on Korean-style wings we’ve ever tasted. Also, Chef Jenny’s mom’s kimchi was out of this world!”

Danielle Spencer
Pastry chef, Win Son Bakery
“My favorite place to eat on my day off is Bernie’s in Greenpoint. They reimagine nostalgic dishes in the best way. I go often enough that I usually rotate my “usual,” but the vinegar chicken is such a standout. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed. The restaurant aesthetic is also my favorite, I’m a big fan of booths, and there’s so many of them in there.”

Kevin Adey
Chef-owner, Faro and General Deb’s
Keens is my favorite spot. It’s got that old New York feel, but it’s not stuffy. It’s a classic steakhouse menu, but it doesn’t feel out of date, even if it’s more than 100 years old. They are very welcoming even though they probably knock out 1,000 covers at dinner. The mutton is great, but we always get the porterhouse for two or three. It’s one of the few places that always exceeds expectations.”

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Where to Eat on a Day Off, According to 14 Chefs