Single-subject restaurants: One-dish eateries in New York City

Hyperfocused, single-subject restaurants are popping up all over NYC, homing in on madcap doughnuts, Japanese bento and more.

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Salmon teriyaki lunch bento at Tanoshi Bento

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Shrimp-and-vegetable tempura dinner bento at Tanoshi Bento

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Muffaletta at Empire Biscuit

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

The Snuggah Boo at Empire Biscuit

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

The You-So-Nasty at Empire Biscuit

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Spiced fried-chicken biscuit sandwich at Empire Biscuit

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

The Bright Crew at Empire Biscuit

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Photographer: Lauren Spinelli

Fried Hop Pickle at Pickle Shack

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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Miso-maple doughnut at Dough Loco

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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Blood-orange doughnut at Dough Loco

From meatballs to porchetta, grilled cheese to rice pudding—whatever specific craving you have, Gotham’s likely got a one-dish spot to satisfy it. New York’s latest crop of single-subject restaurants find one-of-a-kind focus in dishes as varied as Southern-style biscuit sandwiches and Japanese bento. These four new fixed-gear eateries deliver.

Tanoshi Bento

The subject: Bento
The pedagogue: Before launching his bento-box spin-off, owner King Ang garnered acclaim with his sushi-and-sake bar Tanoshi, starring Tokyo-trained raw-fish whiz Toshio Oguma (Morimoto).
Get schooled: Tucked next to its mobbed sushi-counter sibling, this pocket-sized Yorkville haunt features a menu as stripped-down as its humble, ten-seat digs. On offer are five varieties of bento (a traditional one-box Japanese meal), each order showcasing an array of dishes from the curtained-off kitchen: Lacquered trays come teeming with two types of seaweed salad, white or brown rice, pork shumai and a choice of protein. Nuggets of chicken karaage ($19.99)—with a deep-fried crunch that would make Kentucky jealous—hide hints of mirin, sake and ginger beneath their golden shells, served alongside creamy Kewpie mayo flavored with plum paste. Salmon teriyaki ($18.99) is also a standout—no surprise, given the gleaming fish served at its omakase neighbor—basted until soft and succulent, with an indulgent sweetness that never verges on cloying. Pro tip: Snag a cold six-pack of Kirin on your way to this BYOB joint. 917-265-8254

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Upper East Side

Empire Biscuit

The subject: Biscuits
The pedagogues: Southern gents Jonathan Price (of North Carolina) and Yonadav Tsuna (a Memphis native)—who met as waiters at Bouley in 2009—strike out on their own with a country-style biscuit depot.
Get schooled: At the 24-hour East Village spot, the flaky, puffed-up disks come in three modes: as sandwiches, drenched in gravy (sage-and-sausage, tasso-ham-and-coffee or vegetarian), and heaped with more than two dozen varieties of compound butters, jams and marmalades. For the sammies, the lardy, three-inch pucks are split and stuffed with fried chicken, pickled carrots and sauce a l’orange  ($8.50), or classic muffuletta accoutrements of mortadella, provolone and garlicky olive salad ($6.50). Customize your own butter-and-jam combo ($4.50) or opt for one of the prefab versions: The Fig and Pig counters salty bacon-and-cracklings butter with sweet-fig jam, while the Bright Crew marries oxtail-and-brown-sugar jelly with arugula-and-fennel butter. empirebiscuit.com

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East Village

Pickle Shack

The subject: Pickles
The pedagogue: Having cut his teeth preserving produce at vegan spots like Blossom, Brooklyn Brine founder Shamus Jones now delves more deeply into his pickling passion.
Get schooled: Opening this week, Jones’s cukecentric pub spotlights the vinegary creations of Brooklyn Brine Co. and the craft suds of Delaware brewery Dogfish Head. The partnership began in 2012 with the Hop Pickle ($6), a gherkin jolted by citrus and pine, courtesy of Cascade hops and Dogfish’s 60 Minute IPA. In the bar’s kitchen, chef Neal Harden experiments with offbeat flavors for pickle plates ($8–$10), such as lavender-infused gooseberries, mustard-and-turmeric cauliflower and cured quail eggs. Beer-friendly bites include a cheddar sandwich done up English-style, with a house-made version of Branston pickled chutney ($8), and a veggie burger slathered with garlic-and-dill-pickle aioli ($10). 347-763-2127, pickleshacknyc.com

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Gowanus

Dough Loco

The subject: Doughnuts
The pedagogue: East Harlem niche-filler Corey Cova—who gave the UES freewheeling sandwiches at Earl’s Beer & Cheese and asparagus ice cream at wine bar ABV—brings his left-of-center style to dough-punching.
Get schooled: Cova slices his two-inch-tall, yeast-raised rounds with hexagon-shaped cutters. At once light and rich, the colossal confections ($3 each) are coated with one of seven glazes, in traditional and outré flavors. The miso-maple variety—made with upstate Roxbury Mountain syrup and a mixture of red and white fermented bean paste—offers a salty umami pitch with a blast of robust maple sweetness. The more conventional offerings are no less indulgent—a decadent chocolate version is smothered in a heady, gooey glaze made with Peruvian chocolate bars from small-batch Catskills chocolatier Fruition, while the Nonna’s Blood Orange sports a tart citrus bite. doughloco.com

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Upper East Side

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