Wildair

This chilled-out offshoot of nearby Contra’s prix fixé pretension offers similarly exquisite small plates à la carte within a more casual, come-as-you-are wine bar ambiance. The wine lists is way longer than the menu—so plan at least 3 glasses. They’ll pair perfectly with the beef tartare with smoked cheddar and chestnuts, or the skate with morels and vin jaune. It’s haute cuisine without the hassle.

Contra

Self-described as adventurous, the highly-lauded concept menu here is fixed every night. The only choice is whether to order the bread and butter for $3 (you should, and more than once). The New Yorker and the Times would have you believe that the 8  courses are perfection from start to finish—but truth be told, you’ll find at least one to be a little…odd. Then again, that’s as it should be. But beware: if you cancel a reservation here, they’ll charge your card (which they get in advance) for nearly the full cost of a meal.

Beverly’s

Beverly’s: this is where the art kids hang. A wash of pink neon light and video works projected in the front and back of the narrow space set the tone, while cheap well drinks facilitate raucous nights. If there’s a gallery opening nearby, you will find the after party here. Actually, opening or not, you’ll find the party here.

Fung Tu

Per Se alumn Jonathan Wu teams up with Nam Wah Tea Parlor’s Wilson Tang. The result? From the fried rice with crab fiddle head ferns, ramps, and spinach, to the smoked dates stuffed with Peking Duck—this is Chinese food that’s unlike any Chinese food you’ve ever had. In fact, even if you normally the cuisine, their $65 tasting menu (which includes six courses plus an amuse bouche) is worth it any night of the week.

Kiki’s

A traditionally Grecian tavern from the traditionally greek owners of next door restaurant Forgetmenot. This is their more upscale venture but not in a try-hard way. The menu hews to Greek classics, fresh seafood, wine in pitchers, crazy-good dips, and even crazier-good bread. Actually the bread is insane. Slightly burnt and drizzled in olive oil, you’ll dream of the stuff.

Ludlow Hotel

Hospitality impresario Sean MacPherson’s foray into the LES. Unlike some of he neighbors, jives perfectly with surrounds. Rooms have nice, turn-of-the-century sorts of touches, and massive windows for surveying the city below. Inviting public areas exude something of a pan Euro chic – couch strewn Lobby Bar is as comfy as a your fave French Relais & Chateaux inn, extends to cozy patio for summertime sips. A modern classic, to be sure.

Birds & Bubbles

Unites two of the most awesome things ever: fried chicken and champagne. Sarah Simmons’ little charmer has country chic menu: deviled eggs, shrimp & grits, buttermilk braised pork shank…but champers list could compete with your favorite Relais & Chateaux auberge outside Épernay. Splitty Split gets you half chicken and split of the bubbly. Back patio for romantic assignations.

Dirty French

Another Carbone / Torrisi production, this one fitted into exceedingly trendy Ludlow Hotel. Too sceney to be romantic, but warm woods, gothic chandeliers, beamed ceilings and cozy banquettes do give it a certain Gallic charm. Menu keeps it uncomplicated: duck a l’orange from the rotisserie, foie gras terrine, chevre and kale salad, cote de bouef a deux. Make a night of it with post-prandial cocktails in buzzy Lobby Bar.

Stanton Street Kitchen

“21” Club chef Erik Blauberg gets his Downtown on with this craft beer focused restaurant without the Brooklyn annoyingness. Make an evening of pairing mind boggling selection of international brews (two dozen seasonal drafts) with grilled sour dough bites like quail egg, black fig and pulled duck. It’s a good place to get a little wild and skip the hard liquor hangover.