Sushi Samba: Located at 87 Seventh Ave, Sushi Samba is a trendy downtown sushi restaurant. With an exciting lounge scene, live DJ, inventive cocktails, and the most attractive staff I have ever seen, Sushi Samba is one of my favorite West Village hot spots. I recommend starting with the Sea Bass and Miso. Honestly, even people who say they don't like fish love this exotic dish.
Gyu Kaku: This Japanese BBQ restaurant is perfect for small groups looking for a fun night out. The tables have a grill in the center and the majority of the dishes come out raw and marinated, ready for you to cook! I recommend going during happy hour because both the food and drinks are cheap - $1 beers, $5 cocktails and wines, $5 appetizers, and $10 entrees. The Midtown East location is my favorite because the staff is friendly and the ambiance is vivacious and young. The chicken garlic noodles (available without chicken if you are a vegetarian) and the avocado salad are two of their best dishes.
Lombardi’s: Lombardi’s is America’s first pizzeria. Their brick oven pizza is so amazing that there is usually a line down Spring Street of people waiting for a table. Don't be intimidated by the line, the service is great and the pizza is incredible!
Gennaro: Featured in 101 Best New York Restaurants for 2006, Gennaro is a hidden gem on the Upper West Side. The food is fresh, delicious, and fairly priced. Be prepared to pay cash because they do not accept credit cards. I recommend starting with the Insalata Di Cavolo Nero (kale salad with currants, pine nuts, balsamic, and ricotta salata), having the Gnocchi Di Patate (fresh potato dumplings with tomato, cream and basil) as your main course, and of course, finishing with Tiramisu for dessert. I spent this past summer in Italy and Gennaro is the only restaurant on the Upper West Side whose food compares to the fresh, Italian cuisine I ate in Florence.