The trendiest lunch spots in downtown NYC

Look no further than these eight eateries for a luxe lunch in TripExpert's home city.

New Yorkers know that dining out isn’t merely an opportunity to gain sustenance; it’s a time to see and be seen at the hottest locales, as well as try out the different eateries that make New York City one of the world’s most coveted foodie destinations. Less formal and more laid back than neighboring Midtown and Uptown Manhattan, Downtown NYC offers prime real estate for the best people-watching during your afternoon meal. From relative newcomers to tried-and-true restaurants frequented by the rich and famous, here’s our list of Downtown NYC’s trendiest lunch spots.

Sadelle’s is the go-to hotspot for weekend brunch in Soho—though it’s also open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, as well. High society website Guest of a Guest deemed the Sadelle’s Tower one of New York’s most photographed foodie dishes, and for good reason: The tiered spread of tuna, egg, lobster, and shrimp salads alongside fresh veggies and baked-to-perfection bagels is sure to make anyone’s mouth water. Sadelle’s is so iconic that they collaborated with adidas for a limited-edition sneaker release in December 2018, perfect for running to beat the line at this famed Jewish comfort eatery.

Those who think that Italian is better for dinner than it is for lunch would have to reconsider after dining at Bar Pitti. Lasagna for lunch may not be the worst idea if it means you get first-rate people-watching on the side. As Travel + Leisure puts it, “The prime outdoor seating at this Greenwich Village Italian spot is as much of a draw as the food.” A healthy dose of pretension and red tape come with the territory, however, as scenesters flock here in droves, the menu is limited (though supplemented by daily specials), and payment is cash only.

New to the West Village as of October 2018, the Village Den—which replaced a landmark diner of the same name—is the fast-casual brainchild of Queer Eye’s food expert, Antoni Porowski. The menu features clean, whole foods free of gluten, soy, red meat, and processed sugars, and is amenable to vegan patrons as well as Whole30, paleo, and keto dieters. Salads, smoothies, and hearty bowls are just a few options on offer. The eatery features a cartoon mural by Jeremyville, featuring Porowski fashioned after the eponymous The Little Prince, as well as caricatures of in-the-know friends of the restaurant and anthropomorphic fruits and veggies.

When Jack’s Wife Freda first opened its doors in Soho in 2012, hoards of young, well-to-do New Yorkers made it their go-to spot for lively Instagrammable shots of breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare in quaint, understated surroundings. New York Magazine calls the eclectic menu “South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine,” which may be a specific niche but one that has proven successful. Jack’s Wife Freda has since opened two other locations in the West Village and Chelsea, giving customers ample opportunity to feast on favorites like shakshuka, grilled halloumi, and mashed avocado all across Downtown Manhattan.

Though aesthetically simple and unassuming, this French-Moroccan cafe has a “je ne sais quoi” that continuously draws Downtown trendsetters here for lunch on the daily. The Infatuation says that Cafe Gitane “is the epitome of the ‘it’ downtown cafe” and “a quintessential Nolita eatery and place to See And Be Seen.” Newbies to Cafe Gitane may be delighted to learn that the food is reasonably priced for New York standards, especially given the cafe’s enviable cool factor. Menu standouts include Moroccan couscous and pomegranate-glazed salmon.

For upscale Milanese fare in an intimate setting, look no further than the Sant Ambroeus outposts in Soho and the West Village. Celebs such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jared Leto, and Taylor Swift have frequented the Downtown locations, as well as dozens of fashion-industry insiders. We recommend booking a lunch date here to dine on “‘chi-chi’ Italian nibbles” amidst “a ‘civilized’ milieu,” as per Zagat.

A meal at the Dutch is an experiential foray into the lives of Manhattan’s elite. Brought to life by NYC chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini, The Dutch is a buzzy hotspot based in American dining with touches of inspiration from the world over. Choose from a pre-set lunch tasting menu, share freshly caught seafood from the oyster bar, or delve into Japanese fusion mains like the lobster roll or black sea bass. You’ll want to come on an empty stomach and dressed to the nines, as The New York Times admits that The Dutch is geared toward those “who care about good food and the theater of eating it.”

The Butcher’s Daughter is a plant-based restaurant, cafe, and self-proclaimed “vegetable slaughterhouse.” With Downtown Manhattan locations in Nolita and the West Village—plus additional outposts in Williamsburg and Venice in Los Angeles—The Butcher’s Daughter has a rotating menu of feel-good food and cold-pressed juices perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. The Food Network offered the cafe its stamp of approval, stating that the “Nolita eatery is just as healthy as it is visually appealing” with its “white walls, natural woods and floor-to-ceiling windows.”

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