Last week, my friend Raina emailed me, looking for restaurants in the West Village, since she was going to a play at a theatre on Barrow Street. I forgot to ask her where she ended up going, but this is what I recommended:
My favorite reliable spot in that area is a Greek place called Snack Taverna, right off Seventh Ave on Bedford. Nice but not too expensive, excellent food, intimate and comfortable atmosphere, I have had a number of great meals there. Definitely ask for extra pita bread -- they make their own and it is fluffy and warm and so very good. Decent vegetarian options, too.
For some serious amazing spicy fishiness, do not miss Fatty Crab, on Hudson at Horatio. So damn good -- between the fried duck and the pickles and the crab and the curries, I am developing a serious crush on the place. I saw one of the waiters at a show at the Bowery Ballroom recently, and I accosted him as if he was a rockstar, just so I could gush about the duck and pickles.
If you go early and feel like making the scene, Spotted Pig really is good, though not good enough to wait two hours on the sidewalk in the rain. Go for lunch some other time when the place is chill and the food is the same. The famous dish there is the gnudi, oversized ricotta gnocchi-esque dumplings, soaking in a brown butter sage sauce which is akin to drinking a butter soup. When I was there last week the bartender said he limits himself to one serving a week. Oh yeah, and the bartender's a total babe.
For more snack/cocktail mode try Employees Only, on Hudson. I haven't eaten there but the cocktails are dreamy. Lat time I was there I had a fig/honey vodka something-or-other, which was like an alcoholic mediterranean smoothie.
August, on Bleeker at Charles, is very good. But maybe too expensive for your purposes? Also can be hard to score a table at a prime time. Great backyard though, and I always mean to go back there more often.
Both Mary's Fish Camp and Pearl Oyster Bar are delicious, if you are feeling the seafood. At Pearl, I really dig the shrimp appetizer; I actually eat the shells. I haven't been there is a long time though, I wonder if that dish is even still on the menu...?
For cheap and easy, there's a new casual asian place on Carmine called Noodle Shop or something (Noodle Bar? it's right across the street from Grey Dog coffee), which is kind of dinery with a pan-asian menu. Quick and decent.