The March issue of Gourmet is the "New York Collector's Edition," and in it editor Ruth Reichl presents "Ruth's Roll Call," her 25 personal favorite restaurants. Reichl writes, "This is a city of strangers, a place where people yearn both to be left alone and to connect. Nowhere do public and private come together so completely as they do in restaurants. That is why New York is -- and always will be -- a city devoted to the joy of eating out." Contents also include an A to Z guide for eating, drinking, and shopping; and longer pieces on the city's Russian, Mexican, and Chinese ethnic communties.
Here are Ruth Reichl's 25 favorite New York City restaurants, with pull quotes.
Ruth Reichl's Favorites, in alphabetical order
Alain Ducasse at the Essex House
155 W. 58th St.
"What other New York restaurant reserves your table for the entire evening? Where else can you peek into the kitchen and see a quiet ballet of cooks, their entire attention focused on feeding a mere 65 people? Alain Ducasse is a true master. . ."
110 Waverly Pl.
"Babbo is everything I want in a restaurant: The rustic Italian food is earthy, satisfying, and always surprising; the room is comfortable and feels dressed up, even if you aren't; the wine list is a dream; the staff is unpretentious."
538 Madison Ave., 2nd flr
"To me caviar is the ultimate luxury, and this ornate little hideaway is the ultimate place to enjoy it."
164 W. 75th St.
"If a brilliant Italian peasant cook had arrived in America 100 years ago with an innate knowledge of our tastes, 'Cesca would have been her restaurant. Sometimes I dream of the rich escarole soup with its fierce little meatballs, and I wake up thinking about the fried parmesan fritters."
43 E. 19th St.
"I take them to Craft, too, because it has a truly modern American menu served in a beautiful room and is one of the two or three most interesting places that have opened in New York in the past few years."
60 E. 65th St.
"This is one of the few places in New York that honors the drama of dining, one of the few that can turn any occasion into something special."
1064 Madison Ave.
"This loud, faintly grubby Upper East Side emporium makes a perfect egg salad sandwich. The owner understands that a modern bagel is really best cut into four pieces. And the jelly doughnuts and brownies are almost as good as the ones I make myself."
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave.
"It's a gorgeous room, the service is extremely friendly, and while the food doesn't shout "innovation," it is always delicious."
1621 Second Ave.
"It's a classic New York type, an always crowded saloon with wooden floors and gruff waiters. The difference here is the food, which, whether it is a chopped salad, a plate of pasta, or a grilled veal chop, is always excellent."
402 W. 43rd St.
"[T]he chef, David Pasternack, is a fisherman, and his reverence for seafood shows in everything that comes from his kitchen. On occasion, the food actually makes me vibrate with pleasure. . ."
The Four Seasons
99 E. 52nd St.
"At lunchtime the Grill Room is a club, the place where those with influence gather to exercise it, and I know my mother is loving the fact that we can now join them for a meal. This makes her much happier than the superb service, the excellent wine list, or the quietly impressive American menu that depends upon the finest ingredients."
106 Mosco St.
"I don't understand the economics of the place; how can it possibly sell five plump pot stickers -- crunchy on the outside, hot and juicy when you take a bite -- for a dollar?"
Gotham Bar and Grill
12 E. 12th St.
"And in his own quiet way Alfred Portale may be the most influential chef in the country. He has no TV show, he makes no speeches, and he has only one restaurant. But for nearly 20 years he has been defining what American food is right now, and his cooking gets better and better."
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Grand Central Terminal, lower level
"We would never dream of eating at the tables; most of the food on the menu is depressingly dreary. Instead we sit at the counter; Bob has oyster stew while I put away as many different kinds of of clams and oysters as I possibly can."
229 Ninth Ave.
"This is not a Shanghai-nese restaurant, so I have a very hard time comprehending why some of the city's best soup dumplings are served here, but I don't question it. When you bite into the fragile wrappers, a mouthful of the richly concentrated soup explodes into your mouth, and the flavor keeps echoing long after you have swallowed."
Great New York Noodletown
"It doesn't look like much, but the roast suckling pig has skin that crackles when you take a bite before giving way to tender flesh as soft as velvet. The noodles are great, the deep-fried crabs are the perfect combination of crunch and brine, and when I'm under the weather a bowl of wonton soup always improves my mood."
17 E. 48th St.
"But sushi is much more than a meal -- it's a relationship, one that develops over time. It took me a while to find a sushi chef I wanted to be friends with, but ten years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a gentle chef named Osada at Hatsuhana, and over the years he has enriched my life."
170 Mercer St.
"But once you've learned to appreciate the cool beauty of soba noodles, which are exceedingly difficult to make, you begin to understand the nature of Japanese food. In addition to soba, this restful restaurant serves a small selection of sashimi (including the best sea urchins in the city), a few very Japanese appetizers (marinated burdock root, homemade tofu, seaweed salad), and shrimp so large they seem unreal, folded into crisp tempura batter."
1 Central Park W.
"Jean Georges Vongerichten is one of the top culinary talents of our time, but it was not his scallops with carmelized cauliflower or his sweetbreads dusted with mango powder that first impressed me. . . . when Mr. Vongerichten came out of the kitchen the particular magic of restaurants really kicked in. He could not have been more gracious. . ."
155 W. 51st St.
"During his lifetime, Gilbert Le Coze was the sexiest man in New York, and some part of him seems to linger in the air here. . . When Gilbert passed away, it seemed as if Le Bernadin could never be the same, but Eric Ripert stepped up to the stove and the ship sailed on. Somwhere Gilbert is smiling."
45 Tudor City Pl.
"It is the most comfortable restaurant in New York, and among the quietest. The clientele is the most diverse. And the Italian food -- from handmade pasta with perfect tomato sauce to slowly roasted capretto, is wonderful."
170 Thompson St.
"I could eat at this crowded osteria every day of my life and be happy. What more could anyone want than a platter of the home-cured salumi, the great roasted vegetables, and a bowl of perfect pasta alla carbonara? It's loud, it's crowded, it's inexpensive, it's the only place in New York that permits me the illusion of being in Rome."
105 Hudson St.
"I love the innovative sushi, the restlessly imaginative food, the smiling service, and the ever-present celebrities. . ."
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St.
"My favorite meal at this diminutive restaurant is a few salt-crusted shrimp, a bucket of steamers, and a perfectly cooked little lobster."
Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway, Brooklyn
"Today, only one restaurant in the world offers steaks whose deep mineral aroma, sharp tang, and robust beefiness remind me of my dad. . . Steak is the only reason to go to Peter Luger (the hamburgers are good, too). . . This is an initiation into meat lust, a primal experience, and a guaranteed trip to the the past."
The Prime Burger
5 E. 51st St.
"The name has changed, but nothing else has: The burgers and the onion rings are still terrific, and there are still the same odd wooden seats with their fitted trays. Most surprising is that after all these years the same man is, improbably, baking the same pies that he always did."
11 Madison Ave.
"Not everyone appreciates this restaurant, but I love the spice, the color, the sheer surprise of the food. This is thoroughly original fare, Indian food filtered through a veil of European techniques, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere."
Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle
"This is the greatest conglomeration of culinary talent under a single roof that we have ever had in this city, and it's a truly exciting prospect."