Lincoln: This Lincoln Center establishment looks expensive, but chef Jonathan Benno is a real talent, his uncluttered Italian dishes are exemplary, and the prices are not sky-high, especially for lunch. 212-359-6500, lincolnristorante.com

Macao Trading Co: The dimly lit basement bar of this Tribeca establishment is a great hideaway for quiet cocktails such as Drunken Dragon's Milk (Charbay Green Tea Vodka shaken with young coconut puree, Thai basil and Macao five-spice bitters) at $15. 212-431-8750, macaonyc.com

Mandarin Oriental Lobby Lounge: The view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, plus the understated art deco sophistication, mean it's worth the elevator ride from the lobby of the fancy hotel and the $19 price on cocktails. 212-805-8800, mandarinoriental.com/newyork

Maysville: This Flatiron American restaurant and whiskey bar was the best surprise of my trip to New York. Chef Kyle Knall's flavors are big, yet finessed. Crispy grits with country ham and bourbon aioli ($9) alone justify a visit to Maysville. 646-490-8240, maysvillenyc.com

Mercer Kitchen: This industrial-looking Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in the basement of the Mercer hotel in Soho has an eclectic menu, so you might start with soft-shell crab tempura ($18) followed by tuna pizza ($18) along with a cucumber martini. 212-966-5454, themercerkitchen.com

Maison Premiere: The menu at this casual Brooklyn restaurant is simple enough: basically oysters and raw fish, with a wine list weighted toward France. Expect a crowd. Arrive early to try for a table in the garden. 347-335-0446, maisonpremiere.com

The Marrow: I liked the menu and cocktails and loved the British waitress at this charming corner restaurant and bar in the West Village, but the food at lunch was curiously short on flavor. 212-428-6000, themarrownyc.com

Mission Chinese: The food crowd loves the gutsy dishes at this Lower East Side joint. The menu may include lamb tongue and cuttlefish terrine ($11) followed by catfish a la Sichuan ($14). Chef Danny Bowien won the James Beard award for rising star. 212-529-8800, missionchinesefood.com/ny

Il Mulino: This dark, old-fashioned, expensive Italian restaurant in the East Village traces its history back three decades, specializing in the cuisine of the Abruzzo region. It's a throwback, and a good one. 212-673-3783, ilmulino.com

Nancy Whiskey Pub: Village Voice called this Tribeca establishment one of New York's best dive bars. A good range of beers and whiskeys accompany a friendly welcome. Nancy Whiskey feels like it might be a tourist attraction, while it's a genuine neighborhood bar. 212 226-9943, nancywhiskeypub.com

Nomad: This restaurant and bar in the Nomad Hotel on Broadway is so popular you have to run the clipboard gauntlet to get in. It's worth it. The quirky rooms are remarkable, and the food first class (whole-roasted chicken for two, $79, is a showstopper. 212-796-1500, thenomadhotel.com

North End Grill: There's a $39 weekday lunch menu at this Danny Meyer grill, where chef Floyd Cardoz has a garden on the roof. The menu may include chilled cucumber soup with radishes and cherry tomatoes ($13) and rice-flaked halibut with watermelon, watercress and lime ($23). The cooking is refined, the ambience a bit corporate. 646-747-1600, northendgrillnyc.com

Peter Luger: This Brooklyn restaurant traces its history to 1887 and is focused entirely on steak. It's an old-style restaurant without fancy decor or lighting. Don't expect any fuss or for service to be overly attentive. 718-387-7400, peterluger.com

Pod 39: This is the rooftop bar and lounge at Salvation Taco is a great place to hang out if you aren't thirsty; service takes a while at this understaffed bar. Views are great, and the crowd lively. thepodhotel.com

Red Rooster: This restaurant and bar reflects Harlem's evolution toward fashionability. More than that, it's a fun place to hang out and enjoy cocktails (the Brownstone: nutmeg-infused Bulleit Bourbon, Cherry Heering, St. Germain) and chef Marcus Samuelsson's comfort food. 212-792-9001, redroosterharlem.com

Rye: This Williamsburg neighborhood restaurant's happy hour features cheeseburgers and old fashioneds at $5 a pop between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Go later for chef-owner Cal Elliott's menu (dishes such as Long Island duck breast with Moroccan-style couscous, lemon confit, spinach and tomato chutney, $28). 718-218-8047, ryerestaurant.com

Salvation Taco: This lively, noisy, colorful and sometimes crowded restaurant in a former Salvation Army hostel in Murray Hill is not for purists. The tacos include Moroccan lamb on naan ($6) and Korean BBQ ($5). It's worth visiting for the vibe and the energy. 212-865-5800, salvationtaco.com

Schapiro's: This new cocktail bar and bistro on the Lower East Side references a long-gone Jewish winery. The food is modern American with Jewish influences, featuring matzo ball soup and bagel on lox, but it's the cocktails that may draw people. 212-533-6089, schapirosnyc.com

Shahi Biryani & Grill: This Manhattan Valley halal joint is open till 2 a.m., serving inexpensive Pakistani dishes. The food is authentic and unfussy. 212-222-8820 (71 W. 109th St.)

Tribeca Grill: Drew Nieporent, an owner of Nobu along with Robert De Niro, also owns this unpretentious establishment, good for steak and salad, crab cake or seared sea scallops. It's easy to overlook a spot like this, with good service, regular food and a fine selection of American wines. 212-941-3900, tinyurl.com/tribecagrill

Trix: I wandered into this corner bar in Brooklyn, for which the owners collaborated with artist James Johnson to pay homage to Belinda's go-go lounge, formerly of the same location in the 1980s. I didn't eat, just sat outside for happy hour drinks. 347-599-0702, trixnyc.com