Aziz Ansari has impeccable taste. You’ve likely seen him on stage in a suit, or in an ad for a blockbuster comedy special, so you already know this. But have you ever seen him stroll through Williamsburg’s Parlor Coffee and order a cortado a few feet away from bearded Brooklynites getting a quick trim? Ever heard his thoughts on the best dish to order at a Major Food Group restaurant?
Well, now you can. Master of None, Ansari’s new show that premiered on Netflix this past Friday (all episodes of season one are available to watch), is doing for New York’s dining scene what Sex and the City did for Manhattan’s drinking and clubbing scene in the early 2000s: identifying and evangelizing the cool spots that people should know about in a way that feels refreshingly authentic.
But of course, the cool of today is different from the cool of the early millennium, when Carrie popularized the Cosmo, and Magnolia was still a thing. In Ansari’s 2015 world of cool, friends hang at hip-casual restaurants like Marlowe and Sons; their conversations about sex, love, careers, and race are set in front of a backdrop of reclaimed wood paneling and a chalkboard menu that changes with the seasons. The characters’ cachet comes not from being flashy, but from knowing the right vegetable-forward restaurant, or self-aware dive bar to tuck yourself into. The flashing club lights of early-2000s New York have been replaced with Edison bulbs.
And Ansari wants us to know where he’s eating and drinking—all the restaurant and bar scenes in the show are shot on location. If we don’t get a shot of the sign (Morgenstern’s, Shun Lee) there’s usually a reference before or after the fact: to a party at 169 Bar, or a date at Dirty French (Aziz’s character, Dev, loves the chicken and crepes). For New Yorkers, this awareness makes the show all the more enjoyable, a niche Easter egg hunt for places we’ve been or places on our list.
It’s an endearing reflection of the way that many of us live our lives. Because Dev doesn’t just show up at the right places; he also has a deep attentiveness to food. You see it when he orders a cortado (trendy) and his friend orders a latte (comes in a clunky ceramic cup). You see it when his girlfriend buys him a pasta-maker as a housewarming gift. You see it when they get in a fight, and he finally pulls out the box, and makes himself pasta carbonara, a comfort food of the pasta-obsessed.
Does every cool show need a hawk-eye attentiveness to food and restaurant culture? Of course not. But it’s just so much damn fun to watch a series written by a comedian who has happily and comfortably bopped in and out of the food scene over the past few years (case in point: that gonzo GQ story where he went to Tokyo with David Chang and James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem). Ansari and Yang share their favorite places with viewers the way that you tell your best friends about that one restaurant you always go to when you just want to sit at the bar and have a burger and a negroni.
The season ends with a cliffhanger, which—spoiler alert, spoiler alert, spoiler alert—has us wondering whether or not Dev will come back in season two as an artisanal pasta-maker. If he does, that means a very famous comedian-writer will have written a show that started out a rom com sitcom about an actor, and ended up being about a burgeoning food entrepreneur; and if he succeeds, somebody, give the man a damn James Beard Award.
Here we give a rundown of the restaurants and bars featured in Master of None, including ordering tips from Aziz (and a handful of our own suggestions).
The Smile is first restaurant to pop up in episode one, where a conversation about plan B and safe sex takes place surrounded by exposed brick and the sort of small, dried-flower arrangements you can find at the Union Square Greenmarket.
To order: Chicken sandwich, lamb meatballs
Dev spends the day looking after a friend’s two kids, and wants to take them to a fancy gelato place. They demand sixteen handles. Everyone has to get vanilla.
To order: Anything but vanilla.
After a day of babysitting, the kids’ father brings home huge sandwiches from Parm—either chicken parm or a meatball sub, hard to tell. The adorable little ones make peanut butter, lettuce, and ketchup on white bread; Dev goes all in on the parm sandwiches regardless.
To order: Chicken parm sandwich, eggplant parm sandwich.
Shun Lee Palace
Dev and his friend Brian, realizing they don’t know all that much about the lives of their immigrant parents, plan a getting-to-know-you meal for both families. They go to Shun Lee Palace, the OG Chinese Restaurant on the Upper East Side that claims to have invented the lettuce wrap. A classic, classy choice.
To order: Soup dumplings, lobster cantonese, dan dan noodles
With dim lights and dark booths, Hotel Delmano looks the quintessential Brooklyn cocktail bar here. (And it is: there’s no sign out front, only a bouncer, and the drinks menu is formidable.) Dev asks his bartender on a date. On so many other shows, this sort of scene would go down in some iteration of Cheers. Delmano is decidedly more upscale and hip, but still somewhat unfancy.
To order: A cocktail and as many oyster as you can afford.
Baby’s All Right
At a secret Father John Misty concert, Dev runs into a girl he had a one-night stand with. Pretty sure this happens to everyone every time they go to Baby’s All Right.
To order: The cheapest beer you can find.
Another cool, dark bar; this one is owned by the Tarlow group, the institutional forefather of most of today’s quintessential new-Brooklyn restaurants. There’s a DJ. There’s dancing. Everyone looks cool.
To order: A negroni, of course.
Marlow & Sons
Dev and Pradeep, a friend and actor, discuss the challenges that Indian-American actors face while sipping espresso drinks in front of a wall of carefully curated, very-brooklyn merchandise. Pradeep exits the scene because Bombay Muscle Pea Protein might be causing his friend to lactate. Here, milk acts as a haunting, powerful motif. Dev comes back later in the episode for dinner.
To order: For dinner, the signature Brick Chicken; for breakfast, the egg biscuit.
Morgenstern’s Ice Cream
Here, there’s a kerfuffle over a King Kong Banana Split, which is topped with a sesame caramel.
To order: The King Kong Banana Split
This is the only dinner date of Dev’s that we see on camera, and Dirty French—owned by Major Food Group, which also owns Parm, Carbone, and Sadelle’s—is a strong move for a first date.
To order: Dev likes the chicken and crepes.
Mission Chinese Food
In the trippy-looking mirrored hallway outside the downstairs bathrooms, Arnold (played by Eric Wareheim) sings the praises of fancy hand dryers (likely the one and only Dyson Airblade): “I feel like I’m drying my hands in the future!” They then head to the bar and drink what one can only assume are negronis.
To order: Ma po tofu, pizza
Before a particularly adventurous weekend-long date, Dev and his new girlfriend Rachel stroll through a room full of men getting beard trims and haircuts and order cortados, pulled by a pink-haired barista.
To order: Cortado
Loud and full of people, neon lights, and fake plastic trees. It’s always hard to get a drink. The girl that Arnold is trying to talk to starts blatantly frenching another dude in the middle of the bar. Pretty standard for 169.
To order: The popcorn! Which you can order via text message, and comes in a microwave bag.
Here is where we learn how smart Dev and co. truly are: they show up to the Commodore—Stephen Tanner’s dive bar-slash-fried chicken joint—during the daytime, when egg biscuits are on offer and things are quiet.
To order: Egg biscuit sandwich
The perfect place to debrief with coworkers after a citizen’s-arresting of a man for masturbating on the subway, apparently.
To order: A bunch of booze.
An old-school Italian red sauce joint where Dev eats with Rachel’s grandmother. Classic Italian music plays over a “we’re having so much fun over red wine and penne alla vodka” montage. It’s a really adorable bonding moment, and makes you wonder whether Ansari and Yang are employing a full-time food stylist.
To order: Penne á la vodka
Dev and his father—played by Ansari’s real-life dad—talk girl problems at the Lower East Side SoCal-ish spot.
To order: Avocado flatbread
While lounging at Dev’s (enormous) apartment, Dev and Arnold decide they want tacos. After a really incredible Yelping montage, they decide on Tacos Morelos, a well-loved taco truck staffed by a blasé but beefy dude listening to a wrestling podcast.
To order: Carnitas tacos