No matter where you live, it’s worth visiting New York City at least once a year if only to be able to talk about the newest restaurants and hottest food trends from experience. It really makes no difference whether you long for New York street food or prefer to chase down Michelin stars. Though classic New York staples like bagels as big as your head and dollar-a-slice pizza are here to stay, much of the flavor of New York comes from the rotating cast of characters who are constantly reinventing the city’s cuisine. The choices here highlight some of the city’s most exciting and creative chefs, as well as the meticulously prepared dishes served by the world’s most venerable restaurateurs.
Beauty & Essex
The sign for Beauty & Essex hangs high above an entrance that blends better with the rough facades of mini-marts than those of the modern boutiques that surround it on the Lower East Side. Opening the door, I still wasn’t sure I was in the right place–instead of the restaurant I expected, I was standing in a vintage pawn shop. A few tentative steps forward, and the cashier waved me over to an unmarked door that opened into the lively bar and dining room of Beauty & Essex, an upscale lounge/restaurant/club with a growing reputation as a place to see and be seen.
Its rise in popularity might be partly due to this truth: Beauty & Essex is on a short list of places where you can confidently seek out both a superb dinner and a classy fling in the same, exquisite evening. The clientele is a celebratory bunch, a mix of trendy people in their late-20s to uptown sophisticates looking for the next big thing. Managers play matchmaker by encouraging patrons to mingle on the second-floor lounge for cocktails. Walking through the bar, the mood it set by dark decor and low lighting running down either side and into the dining room. High ceilings topped by a glass roof lend an air of infinity to a city so cramped. The aesthetic is smoothed by round wooden tables and curved leather booths.
This post originally appeared on the Purple Roofs Gay Travel Blog.