17. Miss Lily's Favourite Cakes

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Address: 132 West Houston St.
Website: misslilysnyc.com

A sceney, Jamaica-inspired hot spot with models working the door, $19 jerk chicken and a How to Make It in America crowd sounds like NYC wanksterism at its worst. But I have to say, this place surprised me. While the hype draws legions of cool hunters, the spot isn't all scene and no substance. Those models turn out to be extremely friendly, and they won't make you feel like a schmohawk for walking in without a reservation. Chef Bradford Thompson, a James Beard Award winner, has done a respectable job of elevating island staples like curry goat and Middle Quarters pepper shrimp without losing their essential appeal. And, to be honest, drinking Red Stripes while listening to Grace Jones and looking at beautiful people is not that bad of a time. (Also worth noting: I had the best coconut cake I've ever had here.)—CS