Vero Midtown: The little amber-hued nook seen here is nestled inside this warm and inviting wine bar on East 53rd Street that boasts a 2,200-bottle wine cellar. This is the second Vero location, and while the uptown original emphasizes panini, this iteration has a full kitchen serving dishes such as short rib tacos, gnocchi with foie gras and truffle sauce, and pan-roasted quail. The romantic scene is set by raw wood tables, Edison bulbs encased in pewter and antique glass pendants, mid-century inspired monochromatic art-work featuring '60s and '70s film stars, and lots of natural wood-framed mirrors. Vero also has its own in-house sommelier, Storme Woode, who has attained the elite "second level" of certified sommelier status. Also, per the publicist, "She is cute! And Storme can choose a wine for you by just looking at you." 1004 2nd Avenue at 53rd Street, (212) 935-3530.
Dirt Candy: Amanda Cohen, the chef/owner of this cleverly-named East Village vegetarian restaurant, says that "vegetables are amazing. Made out of little more than water, sunlight, and dirt, they wind up growing into a candy store full of color and flavor. And that's what I want Dirt Candy to be: nature's candy store." Formerly the chef de cuisine at Pure Food and Wine, Cohen's menu includes such dishes as an appetizer of Portobello Mousse with Truffled Pear & Fennel Compote and entrees that include a Carrot Risotto with Carrot Dumplings and Parmesan Curls. It's a sleek and mod-looking room, with white tables set against a background of recycled natural Kirei wood walls, contrasted with a bright orange banquette. Take a look! 430 East 9th Street, (212) 228-7732
West Branch: Respected chef Tom Valenti has finally opened this casual brasserie on the Upper West Side after two years of preparation, just in time for the new Depression. Eater has nice photos and says the place has "170 seats, a sidewalk cafe and bar, and though it has tablecloths, the place skews more casual/brasserie/gastro-pub than fine dining." Describing the cuisine, Valenti says, "The food decisions were driven by what we felt at the time were the things we love to eat, and try to wrap it up in one joint....Fish n' Chips to Foie Gras, Oysters to Burgers, Roast Chicken to Pot au Feu, etc." And the Food and Wine blog stopped by and deems the plush banquette seats "an ideal place to escape for a beer and a juicy burger, or an icy cocktail and some puffy cheddar gougères." 2178 Broadway, 212-777-6764
Also check out our lavish photo spreads on Rouge Tomate, Citrine, The Oak Room, and The Imperial.