The best bar food and snacks in New York City in 2013

New York City bar food went beyond basic nachos this year, with exquisite snail toast, surf-and-turf bone marrow and yakitori meatballs.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Tsukune at Ootoya

For this elongated chicken meatball—the Japanese chain’s must-order yakitori—Brooklyn-raised fowl is ground, then mixed with diced onions and minty shiso leaf. Grilled over charcoal, the juicy, plump kebab is served two ways: dipped in a tangy, soy-based yakitori sauce, or seasoned with shio (salt). 8 W 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-255-0018, $6.—Patty Lee

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Pub cheese at Alder

With whimsy and skill in spades, this new-wave chips-and-dip is classic Wylie Dufresne. The illustrious gastrogeek finesses a mix of sharp white cheddar, a red-wine-and-shallot reduction, cream cheese and carrageenan (a thickening agent) into a vividly purple, silky-smooth fromage, liberally smeared across a slate slab. Martin’s potato rolls ingeniously serve as the crisps, rolled thin through a pasta maker, baked to a terrific crackle and clinched with chewy hunks of sweet pistachio-and-white-fig brittle. 157 Second Ave between 9th and 10th Sts (212-539-1900, $11.—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Snail toast at Montmartre

Toasted soldiers of house-made focaccia are smothered with lush garlic cream and sweet cherry-tomato confit. Playing off the milky and fruity notes, earthy snails drenched in salty garlic butter crown the decadent bite. 158 Eighth Ave between 17th and 18th Sts (646-596-8838, $15.—Molly Aronica

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Smoked-eggplant appetizer at East Wick

Boulud Sud vet Meny Vaknin elevates simple eggplant at this cheery Williamsburg newcomer. Charred on the grill, the vegetable is blended with Middle Eastern spices and sour cream for a creamy consistency. A crumble of feta cheese and za’atar (a mix of herbs, sumac and sesame) lend tang and earthy tones, but confited lemon rinds bring the smoldering starter over the top, brightening it with citrusy brio. 112 Graham Ave between McKibbin and Seigel Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-987-3188, $6.—Laren Spirer

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Gooey spicy ham-and-cheese fritters at ABC Cocina

These vaguely Spanish croquettes go way beyond the greasy, bland renditions found on most bar menus. Fried to a lip-smacking golden brown, the golden orbs are filled with tender, smoky diced ham from Flying Pigs Farm and creamy Manchego. These vaguely Spanish croquettes are comfort food taken to the hilt. Douse each morsel in smoked-paprika dipping sauce—the ultimate creamy and acidic counterpoint to the spice—repeat, and consider ordering a second round. 38 E 19th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-677-2233, $11.—Molly Aronica

Photograph: Dominic Perri

Tomato tartare at Manzanilla

Tart and tang complement intense, concentrated tomato flavor in this modernist reimagining of pan con tomate. Chef Dani García mixes olive oil and thyme-cured, vine-ripened tomatoes with French bistro ingredients—green mustard, sherry vinegar, capers, cornichons, shallots and chives. Slathered over toasted country bread, the tartare is garnished with fruit’s seeds and “egg yolks,” mango puree gelled in a sodium-alginate bath. 345 Park Ave South between 25th and 26th Sts, entrance on 26th St (212-255-4086, $10.—Suzanne Lehrer

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Floyd beer cheese at Smorgasburg

Kentucky natives Jim Carden and Andrew Templar (of Atlantic Avenue drinkery Floyd) brought their home state’s staple spread to Brooklyn’s artisanal food bazaar this year. Crisp lager and sharp upstate cheddar cheese meld in the tangy mixture, while garlic powder, cayenne and dashes of Tabasco sauce add kick. The snappy, velvety spread comes in three varieties: classic pimiento, spicy jalapeño and smoky bacon. 27 North 6th St between Kent Ave and the East River, Williamsburg, Brooklyn ( $7.—Laren Spirer

Sidle up to the bar for New York’s best snacks of the year. Pair your poison with crispy croquettes from a three-Michelin-starred chef, madcap pub cheese from a gastro genius and sake-soaking Japanese meatballs. With stellar beer cheese and tomato tartare, you won’t miss those wings and nachos one bit.

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