I’m always looking for creative ways to gain access to top quality cuisine at rock bottom prices. But it’s not easy finding bargains at restaurants like Babbo, Craftsteak, and Lupa. Belly Up to the Bar, Dining with New York City’s Celebrity Chefs without Reservation(s) written by Joyce Slayton Mitchell, outlines a perfect formula for getting the best dishes prepared by top NYC chefs at a fraction of the normal cost.
Do just as the title and Mitchell suggests throughout the book and head for the bar stools of these elite establishments. Not only will you be infinitely more likely to get a seat without lengthy waiting lists or onerous bribing, you’ll get a much richer experience by sitting elbow-to-elbow with in-the-know locals and joining their conversations with the knowledgeable bartenders that keep neighborhood lore alive.
Belly Up to the Bar is the quintessential guide to eating at the bars in 101 of New York City’s top restaurants as rated by Zagat’s 2008 survey. All of them are rated 23 or higher as well as being listed in the 2008 Michelin Guide. It’s apparent that the author visited and revisted every restaurant in this book firsthand to evaluate their noise level, atmosphere, diner-friendliness, crowd, and wait time for each of her experiences.
Only at the bar are you liberated from waiters who often act offended when you attempt to order fewer than three or four formal courses. Bartenders are only too happy to serve a simple appetizer or dessert with your drink. Since this setting makes eating at the bar a more flexible and social experience, Mitchell often finds herself sharing food and conversations with strangers who don’t remain strangers for long. And that’s the point of traveling after all, isn’t it?