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  • Photograph: Krista Schlueter

    Hot dog at Old Town Bar

    Hot dog at Old Town Bar
    A gang of nouveau hot dogs with haute chef pedigrees rolled into town this year. But this simple classic---lowered from the second-floor kitchen via an antique dumb waiter---puts the young pups to shame. The hefty all-beef Sabrett, cradled in a butter-griddled top-loading bun, is grilled to achieve the perfect balance of juicy, salty and snappy. 45 E 18th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-529-6732). $7.50.

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Vodka pizza at Rubirosa

    Vodka pizza at Rubirosa
    Each year seems to spawn a new pretender to NYC's pizza throne, but this newcomer actually approaches pantheon status. Rubirosa's crisp yet pliable thin-crust pies have a delicate char and a small ring of crackerlike crust around the edges. We've yet to go wrong with the no-frills vodka rendition, which boasts a layer of creamy, booze-spiked tomato sauce and a gooey patchwork of fresh mozzarella. 235 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-965-0500). Small $16, large $22.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Sausage banh mi at picerie Boulud

    Sausage banh mi at picerie Boulud
    Banh mi
    riffs seem to be everywhere these days, but few boast the bona fides of this high-brow hot dog. Daniel Boulud's crack team of artisans handcrafts each element of the sandwich. The bakers fashion the mini baguettes, perfectly proportioned and properly crusty. The charcutiers create the lemongrass-spiked sausage and house-cured ham. And chef Jonathan Kinsella brings it home with a smear of lush country pt, crunchy radish-and-carrot slaw and jalepeo-infused mayo. 1900 Broadway at 64th St (212-595-9606). $8.90.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    The Hellboy at Paulie Gee's

     

    The Hellboy at Paulie Gee's
    Paulie Gee's barkeep Mike Kurtz is behind the small-batch Mike's Hot Honey that jacks up this fiery pizza. He infuses mild clover honey from Pennsylvania with Brazilian chili peppers and a splash of white vinegar, before passing it on to pizzaiolo Paul Giannone. The golden stuff truly sings when drizzled over a puffy, blistered pie scattered with Berkshire sopressata picante, melting puddles of creamy fior di latte and a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. 60 Greenpoint Ave between Franklin and West Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-987-3747, pauliegee.com). $16.

  • Photograph: Jay Cheshes

    Grilled Caesar at Millesime

    Grilled Caesar at Millesime
    Romaine lettuce, it turns out, is just as terrific hot as it is cold. A brilliant signature dish was born when chef-owner Laurent Manrique applied this happy realization to his Caesar salad variation, which deploys grilled Romaine hearts heaped with shaved Parmesan and draped in silky smoked cod instead of the typical anchovies. Carlton Hotel, 92 Madison Ave between 28th and 29th Sts (212-889-7100, millesimerestaurant.com). $14.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ants on a log at David Burke Kitchen

    Ants on a log at David Burke Kitchen
    David Burke, the zany chef behind cheesecake pops and flavor spray, is at is again. This time the toque's whimsical style enhances ants on a log---the classic after-school snack of celery with cream cheese and raisins. Roasted and split marrow bones stand in for the vegetable, and garlicky Pernod-and-fennel-butter-drenched snails pitch in as the ants, with some parsley thrown in for good measure. 23 Grand St at Sixth Ave (212-201-9119, davidburkekitchen.com). $16.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Mac and Chicharrn at Coppelia

    Mac and Chicharrn at Coppelia
    Chef Julian Medina really ups the ante on NYC's mac-and-cheese game at this 24-hour Cuban diner. A double dose of pork---crisp shards of skin on top and quivering chunks of belly within---adds richness and texture to elbow macaroni. The sauce is a silky mix of American and cheddar cheeses, spiked with spicy sambal. 207 W 14th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-858-5001, coppelianyc.com). $8.95.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    All American with Cheese at Smashburger

    All American with Cheese at Smashburger
    The burger wars are fierce in New York, and it takes a mighty patty to break through the hype. So credit is due to this fast-expanding chain, which sprouted in Brooklyn earlier this yearand has been quietly serving one of the city's best new contenders ever since. The beef---chopped Angus chuck---is cooked using a smashing technique: The kitchen staff paints a smoking-hot flattop grill with butter, tosses on a patty and presses it into the griddle for a ten-second sear. The resulting burger, succulent with a crunchy exterior, is nestled in a springy artisan bun that absorbs most of the juice and leaves the rest of it to dribble down your chin. 80 DeKalb Ave between Hudson Ave and Rockwell Pl, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-222-1101, smashburger.com). $4.99.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Paella at Caliu

    Paella at Caliu
    Socarrat
    ---a crisp bottom layer of caramelized rice kernels---is a key indicator of a well-made paella. You'll find plenty of it in Caliu chef Franco Barrio's version of the iconic Spanish dish, which he cooks entirely a la plancha for an added dimension of crunch. The dish features quartered patties of spicy, house-made chorizo, plus briny cockles---tossed in raw and boiled, together with the rice, in a rich lobster stock. Grilled baby octopus, spritzed with citrus, tops the winning plate. 557 Hudson St between W 11th and Perry Sts (212-206--6444, caliutapas.com). $16.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Sausage polenta at Osteria Morini

    Sausage polenta at Osteria Morini
    The return of sweater weather also signals the revival of this chill-abating indulgence. Chef Michael White's stratospheric version of creamy polenta is stocked with white pepper and funky Parmesan, spread with a layer of rich pork-sausage rag and capped with bread crumbs and melted stracchino cheese. 218 Lafayette St between Broome and Spring Sts (212-965-8777, osteriamorini.com). $18.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Montanara pizza at Forcella

    Montanara pizza at Forcella
    Though it seems like an only-in-America innovation, fried pizza actually originated in Naples, where families in small ovenless apartments cooked the dough in frying pans. Forcella pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has brought the technique to NYC, with an added flourish---after deep-frying his dough, he finishes the pizza in a wood-fired oven. The result is a mind-boggling crust with a chewy yet featherlight texture, topped with tangy tomato sauce, pools of house-made mozzarella and sprigs of verdant basil. 485 Lorimer St between Grand and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-8820, forcellaeatery.com). $10.

  • Sliced spicy pork jerky at Malaysia Beef Jerky

    Sliced spicy pork jerky at Malaysia Beef Jerky
    If "Macho Man" Randy Savage was a persuasive part of your last beef-jerky purchase, listen up: The pork bak kwa at this Chinatown stalwart is marinated in a blend of top-secret ingredients (if we had to guess, soy and fish sauces, sugar and five-spice powder enter into the mix). Slow, steady charcoal-fueled heat transforms the moist slices of meat into gorgeous, fibrous, compulsively snackable slabs. 95A Elizabeth St between Grand and Hester Sts (212-965-0796, malaysiabeefjerky.com). $18/pound.

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Hot dog at Old Town Bar

Hot dog at Old Town Bar
A gang of nouveau hot dogs with haute chef pedigrees rolled into town this year. But this simple classic---lowered from the second-floor kitchen via an antique dumb waiter---puts the young pups to shame. The hefty all-beef Sabrett, cradled in a butter-griddled top-loading bun, is grilled to achieve the perfect balance of juicy, salty and snappy. 45 E 18th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-529-6732). $7.50.

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