Restaurants

Tasty trek: Tips to embark on a restaurant crawl

Jan. 10, 2013 at 10:12 AM ET

The Little Owl /
Nibble on appetizers like sliders from New York's The Little Owl, then keep it moving to the next restaurant.

We've all done pub crawls, but what about restaurant crawls? If you're an adventurous eater who wants to understand the local culinary landscape, a customized neighborhood food crawl could be your saving grace. These multi-stop eating extravaganzas are a creative way to indulge in fine cuisine at restaurants you might find too spendy or weren't sure if you wanted to dedicate time to an entire meal there.

A crawl makes for a fun night out while traveling or even a hot date in your hometown, and instead of eating the same bite-sized samples offered every week on commercial food tours, you get intriguing appetizers that you can relish and share.

But before you get to eating, it's important to have a game plan. Here are some tips on how to organize a successful and toothsome restaurant crawl.

  1. Walk it out. Not taking a taxi or public transportation is part of a crawl’s appeal. Smart phones, apps and maps make it effortless to navigate a neighborhood on foot, so,  choose restaurants that are within walking distance. But remember that a restaurant crawl may take several hours. Plan accordingly by wearing comfortable shoes and checking with each restaurant beforehand as to when their kitchens open and close.
  2. Be transparent. Walk-ins are welcome at all of the restaurants listed on our crawl below, but be transparent with the waitstaff. Let them know that you are there to savor only an appetizer and a drink, and not a full meal. Or you can always belly up and order at the bar. While most restaurants worth your time will welcome you for a quick bite, your up-front consideration as a diner will be appreciated. And if you really like what you eat, make a reservation for a full meal with the hostess on the way out.
  3. Keep moving. Order, savor and move on. There is nothing worse than the deadly combo of a diner who spends little and overstays their welcome, prohibiting the turn of a table for a new patron.
  4. Go in with a game plan. The best nights to organize a crawl are on Sunday and Monday when seating is readily available. If you're taking up a table for a single app at a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, you can bet your server isn't going to be happy.
  5. Create an experience. Think of it like a chef would a tasting menu: start light, build to a crescendo, and consider dessert. By the time the crawl is done, you'll have consumed a proper meal. And don't forget to diversify. Unless your intention is to sample the best ice cream in a particular neighborhood, make sure to switch things up a bit in terms of flavor profiles.

Now that we've gotten the basics out of the way, here's our first TODAY.com restaurant crawl. We’re exploring New York City’s West Village, home to some of the finest dining establishments in the Big Apple. These six restaurants – all with bar seating – are within a 1-mile radius.

Start your restaurant crawl with a drink at Casa. This regional Brazilian restaurant makes some of New York City’s foremost and refreshing fruit-infused caipirinhas. Slowly sip Brazil’s national cocktail at this charming hidden gem while gazing through the windows at New York City’s narrowest house – only 9 1/2 feet wide.

Next on your journey, and for your first bite, is Market Table. The second New York brainchild of owner Joey Campanaro with chef Mike Price, Market Table’s beet salad has become a favorite among its regulars and critics. The combination of goat cheese, horseradish crème, soft herbs and hazelnuts is as exciting as it is beautiful.

Up the street from Market Table is its sister restaurant, The Little Owl. Housed at the foot of the “Friends” building, The Little Owl’s lionized facade is trumped by Joey Campanaro’s award-winning Grandma Rosie’s gravy meatball sliders. These sliders – which are made with beef, pork and veal mixed with salty pecorino cheese – have received many accolades, including first place at the 2011 New York Wine & Food Festival’s Meatball Madness competition. If seating is scarce, ask to sit in the perch to eat your sliders with a glass of prosecco.

Your next stop is around the corner at Buvette, a true incarnation of a Paris café. Every small plate at Jody Williams’ French/Italian hotspot is meant for sharing. You can’t go wrong with any dish, so pull up a stool at the elegant marble bar and get down with slow cooked duck, pork and beans and pair it with any libation from Jody’s illustrated guide to wines and cocktails. When the weather’s nice, enjoy the fare in Buvette’s garden.

The Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield has perhaps made her gnudi more famous than the partners in her gastropub (Jay-Z, Bono, Mario Batali). Gnudi translates to “naked” in Italian, referring to the fact that the dish is basically bare pasta filling without its wrapper. Bloomfield’s pillowy gnudi made of sheep’s milk ricotta with brown butter and sage.

Your final delectable destination includes live music. Garage’s raw bar and nightly live jazz performances are the ideal way to wind down. The warm crooning combined with a romantic atmosphere and award-winning service is an entertaining way to finish this restaurant crawl in style.

Casa

72 Bedford Street (at Commerce Street)

212 366 9410

www.casarestaurant.com

Market Table

54 Carmine Street (at Bedford Street)

212 255 2100

www.markettablenyc.com

The Little Owl

90 Bedford Street (at Grove Street)

212 741 4695

www.thelittleowlnyc.com

Buvette

42 Grove Street (near Bleecker Street)

212 255 3590

www.ilovebuvette.com

The Spotted Pig

314 West 11th Street (at Greenwich Street)

212 620 0393

www.thespottedpig.com

Garage

99 7th Avenue South (at Grove Street)

212 645 0600

www.garagerest.com

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