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Truffle egg toast at ‘Inoteca.

It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that I have a two inch strip of counter space for food prep. And I know I’ll have a good time when I go out with me.

These are two new-ish Manhattan restaurants, opposite each other on the island, that have been consistently amazing about accommodating this party of one.

(A quick reminder about my dining-out-solo habits: I almost always take bar seating or else I make a reservation, I tend to eat outside of the lunch and dinner rushes, I bring a good book, and I tip well.)

Txikito: I sweat the small stuff
240 Ninth Ave at 25th Street
Filling meal/glass of wine/tax/tip: $25-30
Style: Contemporary Basque
Favorite dishes: croquettes, grilled cheese and shrimp sandwich
txikitonyc.com

I just think Txikito is cool. Even during the dinner rush I can score a stool between happy couples and work friends, who are invariably having a good time. The crazy-busy bartenders make the effort to be warm and attentive, and, bonus for chicks, the guys are pretty easy on the eyes. At the same time, when I came in at 5:30 in a rainstorm and had my pick of seating, the guy behind the bar didn’t force conversation on me.

The first time I went looking for Txikito back in February, I actually couldn’t find it. Pathetic, I know. But it’s miniscule, and in something of a strip mall except more modern and attractive than the kind I grew up with. Just months old, it’s a popular spot, a couple of doors down from also-new-and-trendy Co.

Bruni’s April review, despite the star-count, was generally positive. My take on Bruni is that if he goes to your restaurant at all, it’s probably a good sign. But I do pay attention to what he says, and it’s probably an even better sign when he says the owner, Alexandra Raij, has “indisputable talents.” It’s slightly dark for reading, but, I mean, most people stop squinting at tiny print for the night after they get through the menu–this is completely normal in any restaurant.

Txikito does small plates, an added bonus for solo eaters. If I go out to eat with friends, they’re going to let me try their meals. (Or I might just ask to try them.) With small servings for small prices at Txikito, I get a few tastes in a sitting for what I normally pay for one.

And I don’t have to share.

‘Inoteca:
24th Street and 3rd Ave
Filling meal/glass of wine/tax/tip: $25-$30
Style: Italian-American immigrant?
Favorite dishes: in 7-10 meals, I’ve really only ever ordered the fontina panini with truffle oil, spinach, and mushrooms, and the truffle egg toast with and without bottarga
inotecanyc.com

‘Inoteca’s new location on 3rd Avenue, the third from the Denton brothers and chef Eric Kleinman, has mostly seen me between 11pm and 3am–which is actually, really, honest-to-God how late the kitchen is open. In a neighborhood defined by curry joints and fratty bars with wings nights, they rock for that.

Bar seating is generously spacious, with enormous windows looking out onto 3rd Ave. The acoustics, lighting, and banquette cushions are conducive to getting through a few book chapters in a comfortable fashion. The atmosphere is generally relaxed, but not at the cost of quality. I think the staff uniforms say a lot about the place–they just have to wear a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled past the wrist, jeans, aprons, and closed-toe shoes. They look good.

I’ve brought friends to ‘Inoteca, but I’m starting to take on a sort of bratty “this is mine” attitude. The hosts and a couple of the servers recognize me and seem happy to see me, which makes me very happy. I haven’t explored the menu because I like the three things I order too much not to get them. The truffle egg toast, with or without the fish eggs, is one of my favorite meals ever. Bread, cheese, raw eggs, truffle oil, black pepper, as photographed above. It’s as fun to eat as it is flavorful. One friend commented on my order that there is such thing as too much truffle oil, and that the dish was it, and I could not disagree more. Truffle oil in the panini is secondary to the balsamic vinegar marinated portobello mushrooms, easy enough to pull out as I go and enjoy on their own. I usually get an order of fig mascarpone bruschette, too, and it’s a sticky little treat.

Cocktails are $10 and wine is equally reasonable. I like the Cotillion –bourbon, rum, citrus juices, orange liqueur, absinthe, all top shelf– but mostly stick to the wine white/rose wines. If you enjoy old-fashioned drinks (like, say, the Old-Fashioned) you’ll do well with any of the 36 cocktails they make. A note about the 323, a house cocktail with rosemary bourbon, balsamic vinegar, basil, and citrus juices: it tastes exactly like rosemary bourbon, balsamic vinegar, basil, and citrus juices. It’s not like it undergoes a chemical reaction. Both the food menu and the cocktail menu have glossaries, and I’ll put it this way: unless you’re fluent in Italian or distill your own bourbon and gin, you’ll be glad they’re there.

I’ve never felt rushed at ‘Inoteca. I’ve never been asked if I’m sure I don’t want to order more food. When I left a shopping bag under my table and didn’t realize it for several hours, the entire front of house staff knew I would be coming back in to get it. In Gourmet’s Restaurants Now, my girl Ruth asked of ‘Inoteca, “what’s not to like?”

Don’t look at me for an answer.

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