Paley's Place is aging gracefully—a little bit of time looks good on this spot, which has for two decades and counting been one of the city's classiest, stateliest dining houses. The front veranda, home to a coveted clutch of six or so tables, is still one of the best spots to watch the street scene on Northwest 21st Avenue when the weather's nice. On rainy days, Paley's dark, homey lounge offers eight spots at the bar plus a few tables, including a high-backed banquette. An understated dining room evokes the earth tones and European art prints of Frasier Crane's living room—one of the most popular shows on television when this place opened in 1995.
Start with seasonal small snacks, like a composed heirloom melon set ($12) with mint, fresh goat cheese, hazelnuts and spiced honey, or the griddled corn cakes ($8), perfect little pucks of fresh corn and chewy batter during my visit. For a taste of chef Vitaly Paley's Belarusian heritage, order whatever dumpling is available. The late summer ushki ($17, $28) was filled with sweet corn offset by unctuous creamy tomato butter and diced pickles.
Keep an eye out for specials. On a recent visit there was an entire rabbit ($55) on the menu, presented on the bone with carrots and greens. Or you can settle in with the restaurant's restrained, smart take on an upscale bar burger ($10 happy hour, $17 otherwise) with pickled vegetables and mustard aioli on a house-baked brioche bun.
You may be stuffed when it comes time for dessert, but by no means should you skip the cheese. Paley's has some of the best rotating options from around the world ($15 for three tastes, $23 for five) and several raw milk offerings.
Pro tip: The cocktail list deserves your attention, particularly the bar's excellent take on a barrel-aged Manhattan ($14). Typically a woodsy, syrupy experience, here the drink is surprisingly light on its feet—sprightly even—updosed with Bonal apertif wine and two kinds of bitters. Definitely order this.