Wed Apr 16 2008
Best neighborhood bistro
Other nominees: L’Absinthe, La Sirène, Régate
Though bistros sprout up as routinely as Duane Reades, this convivial den of steak frites, laid-back Brooklynites and Francophile charm is foremost in your affections. Tabac is Boerum Hill’s beacon because it embodies the bistro ideal: Everyone is welcome. Kitschy Pernod signs, weathered wood and brass aplenty—not to mention the hot live jazz—help set the warm and festive mood. Hefty portions of French comfort classics, such as coq au vin and trout amandine, are superaffordable and, most importantly, available long past midnight.
NEXT: Best vegetarian restaurant »
Best vegetarian restaurant
Other nominees: Candle 79, Caravan of Dreams, Counter
There’s a reason feijoada—a Brazilian beef stew—contains meat: It’s a beef stew. So when a vegan place like Blossom offers a “lighter version,” made with smoky tempeh, black beans, chayote and sweet potatoes, you’re allowed to be skeptical. But those animal-friendly ingredients make the hearty dish taste that much better. Upscale while keeping its crunchy cred, the Chelsea restaurant does protein right: Try the satay (with seitan), the scaloppine (more seitan, with white-wine caper sauce) or the dancing curry (tofu and veggies, served with popcorny forbidden black rice). You can’t go wrong—but you already knew that.
NEXT: Best celeb chef who actually cooks »
Best celeb chef who actually cooks
Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Provence, Five Points)
Other nominees: Colin Alevras (Tasting Room), Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), David Waltuck (Chanterelle)
Celebrity-chef cornerstones—Vegas spin-offs, hotel partnerships—don’t seem to be in the cards for Marc Meyer. He’s been keeping it real since he first picked up a skillet at the Odeon in the mid-’80s. The chef, whose focus on local foods predates the current farm-forward frenzy, emphasizes simple, expertly prepared American eats. At Cookshop you’ll find succulent Atlantic porgy grilled and served with pickled red onion and capers; at Five Points, it’s lamb loin that’s given the unfussy treatment, roasted and paired with creamy mint yogurt. He also has a hand in the South of France preparations at Provence, his most personal project (Meyer and his wife, Vicki Freeman, got engaged at the restaurant before it was under their ownership). Suffice it to say that Meyer, who can be spotted on the line at all three eateries, isn’t just cutting checks.
NEXT: Best new restaurant »
Best return of a New York institution
Other nominees: Bull & Bear, Monkey Bar, Shopsin’s
We can imagine the infinite number of reasons you voted 2nd Ave Deli your favorite resurrected classic. Because when it closed down in 2006, it felt like someone tore out New York’s soul and gave it a roundhouse kick. Because it came back. Because it’s not on Second Avenue and just doesn’t care. Because they apologize for their Web page, which they call “shlumpy.” Because if you ask the ancient woman behind the counter what she recommends, she answers, “The pastrami and corned beef,” but not before coughing out a phlegmy, bubbe-like, “Ehhh, everything’s good.” Because that woman is right.
NEXT: Best wine bar »
Best wine bar
Other nominees: Black Mountain Wine House, Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, In Vino
It would be easy for a restaurant family like Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s Blue Ribbon group—with concepts as disparate as a sushi bar, a brasserie and a bakery—to lose its focus and quality. But judging by its flagship wine bar, it keeps getting the details right. The tiny space’s white-marble-topped bar offers an ideal spot for sipping vino while digging into small plates such as warm, thick toast with luxurious smoked sturgeon. Attentive bartenders offer friendly guidance with the diverse 250-bottle wine list, which has everything from a $600 Saint Emilion to a $33 Greek robola; diners can sample many more-expensive bottles by the glass. With eclecticism this refined, who needs to specialize?
NEXT: Best new Brooklyn restaurant »
Fish-and-chips at Alchemy
Best new Brooklyn restaurant
Other nominees: Elementi, Fette Sau, Hibino
Medieval alchemists tried turning lead into gold. Park Slope’s Alchemy transformed a hardware store into a London-style gastropub, and you’ve deemed it Brooklyn’s preeminent new eatery. The formula is simple: Fill a brick-and-weathered-wood room with deep booths and filament bulbs, toss in locally brewed beer, add a secluded backyard and fashion lofty pub grub that rivals the fare at the Spotted Pig. Curried fried calamari and tempura-crunchy fish-and-chips appease the hunger of Brooklynites from lunch to late night, while Guinness-flavored pancakes set the gold standard at breakfast.
NEXT: Best new bar »
Best new bar
Other nominees: B Flat, The Gutter, Smith & Mills
The name says it all: To be a huckleberry is to be the right one for the job, and Huckleberry Bar is just that. Owners Andrew Boggs and Stephanie Schneider have created an experience that will satisfy any boozer’s desire: choice beers, an ace wine selection, serious cocktails and respectable eats. Every detail, down to a DJ who adjusts the soundtrack to fit the crowd and hour, is tailored to give you what you want. They got it right—and you rewarded them.
NEXT: Best new teahouse »
Budding flower jasmine tea at Amai
Best new teahouse
Amai Tea & Bake House
Other nominees: Sanctuary T, Tafu, T Salon
Amai may be petite in many ways, from the size of its space to its miniature sweets, but the surplus of small things adds up to one monumental whole. An exhaustive list of premium teas, which includes everything from delicately floral oolongs to green-tea “flowers” that bloom in the cup, is more than worth the visit; add to that a selection of exceptional baked goods, like lemongrass-ginger cookies and transcendently moist green-tea cupcakes, and we understand why you gave this little place so much big love.
NEXT: Best beer bar »
Best beer bar
Other nominees: Pacific Standard, Spitzer’s Corner, Spuyten Duyvil
Beer geeks who’ve sinned by sipping Bud must repent at Blind Tiger, the city’s go-to house of hops worship. Since reopening last spring, the suds clubhouse—there’s zero liquor—has sated aficionados with a quaff selection so voluminous that bargoers can hit the Tiger a hundred times and never duplicate a drink. There are 28 rotating drafts, a couple of cask ales, 50-plus bottles and cellared beauties nuanced enough to win over a wine snob. Stealing another page from the vino playbook, the bartenders match fromage from Murray’s Cheese to your chosen tipple. Heresy? No, it’s heaven.
To recharge his batteries, Blind Tiger Ale House’s co-owner Dave Brodrick spent the past year visiting breweries across America in an Airstream trailer nicknamed “Alestream.”
NEXT: Best new Queens restaurant »
Best new Queens restaurant
Other nominees: Athens Tavern, Nusara Thai Kitchen, PJ’s Steakhouse
Queens—arguably the city’s best borough for ethnic food—is developing its haute dining rep with a slew of new neighborhood eateries serving casual yet sophisticated fare. It was a tough fight, but Astoria’s Bistro 33 emerged as your favorite: The ambitious French and Japanese menu offers creative sushi, including a tongue-tantalizing orange-curry shrimp roll, and grilled lamb chops with a basil-ponzu vinaigrette. Moussaka, meet your competition.
NEXT: Best new farm-forward endeavor »
Best new farm-forward endeavor
Other nominees: Back Forty, Community Food & Juice, Irving Mill
To grass-starved city dwellers, Market Table is a regular Little House on the Prairie, with a farmhouse-themed dining room neater than a well-tended pasture. The agrarian bent transcends aesthetics: The restaurant’s seasonal New American food with a Mediterranean slant uses ingredients culled largely from local and small-production farms. Chef Mikey Price’s harvest-happy menu includes informal eats like a braised lamb shank and golden-fried hush puppies served with a pot of honey butter. The vibe might be country bumpkin, but the impossible-to-get reservation is pure NYC.
NEXT: Best mobile food »
Dancer Maria Lebedeva poses on the DessertTruck.
Photograph: JJ Sulin
Best mobile food
Other nominees: Mo Gridders, Treats Truck, Wafels & DingesTake equal parts Columbia Business School grad and Le Cirque pastry sous chef, blend and stuff inside an oven-on-wheels. When it’s done, you get DessertTruck, the mobile confectionery station that doles out restaurant-quality goodies at curbside prices. Your favorites include baked apples bursting with sugary cranberries, and a chocolate bread pudding with an optional bacon crème anglaise. At a mere $5 per dessert (and $1 for a scoop of homemade ice cream), you love the price. Lesser competitors will need to work harder to find their sweet spots.
NEXT: Best new coffeehouse »
Best new coffeehouse
Other nominees: Espresso 77, Frank White, Roasting Plant
The beans are roasted upstate, but there’s a downtown vibe at this slim West Village coffee bar. A spin-off of 71 Irving Place, the Farm has drawn a pack of loyalists to challenge the Starbucks hegemony. Espresso—dutifully short, wonderfully dark—is the poison of choice for workforce warriors frequenting the Seventh Avenue shop; more leisurely joe pros opt for a steamy cappuccino topped with a dense thicket of foam. Globe lamps illuminate a sweets-stocked case, and the lively staff percolates at first mention of a double shot.
NEXT: Best pastry-chef-run restaurant »
Best pastry-chef-run restaurant
Other nominees: Falai, P*ong, Tailor
It’s a wonder the chef can create anything in the teensy sliver of a kitchen at Graffiti. It appears to have fewer appliances than a college dorm room (we think we may have spotted a hot plate). Against the odds, chef Jehangir Mehta (previously of Aix) creates masterful, Indian-inflected dishes such as delicate pickled-ginger scallops and tender, cinnamon-spiked pork—all assembled with the detail-oriented aesthetic you’d expect from a former pastry chef. If you’re too claustrophobic to squeeze yourself into this four-table space, then stay away—there’ll be more room for us.
NEXT: Best Manhattan diner »
Best Manhattan diner
Other nominees: Fat Annie’s Truck Stop, Gold St., Good Stuff Diner
What does it take for a greasy spoon to set itself apart from the multitude? Skylight’s prompt welcome and always-hot coffee, dispatched by bustling waiters who are cordial enough that you’ll feel like a regular by your second visit, have seen off the competition—RIP, Cheyenne Diner. It may not have the latter’s chrome glamor, but Skylight’s eponymous glass ceiling illuminates the retro decor with a cool morning glow—sufficient, when combined with unlimited java refills, to lift you from your a.m. torpor. The pancakes are fluffy and the eggs come as ordered—whether fried over-easy or as the “Anthony Quinn (Greek) Omelette” with feta and tomato—which is all you really ask of diner food.
NEXT: Best candy shop »
Best candy shop
Other nominees: Philip’s Candy Shop, Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, Papabubble
Despite a cavalcade of sugary newcomers, this Lower East Side institution is your No. 1. It’s as popular and everlasting as a gobstopper, which the 1937 candy depot vends alongside faux smokes and Charleston Chews, chocolate-dipped Oreos and nutty halvah, foot-long Twizzlers and countless other cavity-causers, new and old. This perennial fave packs so many floor-to-ceiling confections in its mazelike confines that customers’ eyes pinwheel with possibilities: Care for an oversize Pez dispenser or perhaps cinnamon discs? Ask Economy’s sweet workers for a suggestion, just not a sample: That’s a no-no.
NEXT: Best new UWS restaurant »
Grand platter at the Mermaid Inn
Best new UWS restaurant
Other nominees: Bar Boulud, Community Food & Juice, Dovetail
From dining desert to destination in just 12 months: So it went on the Upper West Side, the year’s most surprisingly active restaurant ’hood. Your favorite uptown upstart was the Mermaid Inn, the Amsterdam Avenue spin-off of Danny Abrams’s perpetually packed downtown fish shack. In the five months since the location opened, diners have loaded in for New England–style staples like meaty lobster sandwiches with Old Bay–dusted fries, crispy fried clams, and grilled or roasted fish with all manner of sides (like broccoli rabe with preserved lemon). The maritime-meets-Americana interior sees a steady flow of locals who clink bottles of Fisherman’s Brew to toast their diminishing need for a MetroCard.
NEXT: Best new Spanish restaurant »
Mojama with marcona almonds at Mercat
Best new Spanish restaurant
Other nominees: Pamplona, El Quinto Pino, Suba
It seems you’ve been practicing your Catalan at this loftlike wood-and-steel tapas treasure. The language’s telltale letter x (pronounced “sh,” as in carxofes and peix) blankets the menu as densely as the smoked paprika on the fiery patatas bravas. Equally authentic are the mojama (cured tuna) with marcona almonds and the fideus negres, soft, short noodles tossed with diced cuttlefish and black ink. Make like a Catalonian waiter and count your tapas toothpicks to tell how much you’ve eaten—or don’t.
NEXT: Best place to be seen »
Best place to be seen
Other nominees: bobo, Da Silvano, Morandi
Ever since Graydon Carter first opened the Waverly Inn’s tiny wooden door in October 2006, it has been the It place. Even if you’re not a boldface name, the blinding paparazzi outside make you feel like one. And of course, you get to ignore the likes of Beyoncé, Bono and De Niro as you saunter to the bathroom. But if you’re not famous, and you don’t have Graydon’s number, here’s how to get in: Go in person, between 5 and 6pm, and don’t be a dick. Seriously, being snotty will get you nada—moments after we’d been offered a selection of tables, a braying trader and his demanding mate were told, “There’s nothing. Sorry.” If you are refused, smile sweetly and say you’ll gladly take a table on Sunday—after all, you only come for the pork chops.…
NEXT: Best reality-TV spin-off »
Best reality-TV spin-off
Perilla (Harold Dieterle, Top Chef)
Other nominees: Crave on 42nd (Dave Martin, Top Chef), Paloma (Camille Becerra, Top Chef), Purnima (Vikas Khanna, Kitchen Nightmares)
Every week, we’re thrilled when a famous chef or restaurateur (Boulud! Maccioni!) appears as a guest judge on Top Chef. They legitimize the show and, by extension, make it all right for us to worship the winners. Perilla, the solo project from season-one champ and Jimmy Bradley–restaurant alum Harold Dieterle, is unassuming (the chef stays in the kitchen) yet bold. The ingredients sound divine separately and taste even better together, like in the farro risotto, made of artichoke confit, Parmesan and chili-grape salad. Though some of the menu borders on gimmicky (“cheeks du Jour,” for one) we can’t fault Dieterle for experimenting. His spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli are proof that his ideas work—and not just because he made them on Martha last month.
Harold Dieterle of Perilla confessed that he started cooking to meet girls in his home-economics class at his West Babylon, NY, high school. He also wanted to hire the Beastie Boys to play his eatery’s opening party.
NEXT: Best new out-of-town import »
Best new out-of-town import
Alain Ducasse (Adour Alain Ducasse at the St. Regis New York)
Other nominees: Philippe Massoud (Ilili), Fabio Trabocchi (Fiamma), Yuji Wakiya (Wakiya)
Though he was booed out of New York with two failed restaurants in his wake—Mix New York and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House—it seems that you like this legendary French restaurateur more than you let on. Perhaps it’s the comparatively relaxed formula that he’s employed at his latest Gotham endeavor, Adour Alain Ducasse at the St. Regis New York, which made you reconsider—you can actually order à la carte here. Or it could be the formidable wine list, which, despite a bells-and-whistles computerized format, offers 70 incredible selections for under $50. Possibly it was just chef Tony Esnault’s delectable tenderloin and short ribs that won you over. Whatever it was, welcome back, Monsieur Ducasse.
NEXT: Best new frozen yogurt »
Poet Charles Simic eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
Photograph: JJ Sulin
Best new frozen yogurt
Other nominees: /eks/, öko, Red Mango
Officially ending Tasti D’s icy grip on NYC fro-yo, “Crackberry”—as this West Hollywood–based chain is lovingly referred to by devotees—has turned many an ice-cream lover into a PB addict since it first landed in midtown two years ago. Though lines no longer creep down the block at its 11 locations, the masses still flock to its mod emporiums craving nonfat, low-calorie frozen confections (what is this, the ’80s?). Its trio of unbelievably creamy, not-too-sweet flavors (tangy original, green tea and coffee) and bevy of quirky toppings (including gargantuan blackberries, Fruity Pebbles and chewy mini mochi) have made Pinkberry your official favorite. Multiple locations; go to pinkberry.com for more info
NEXT: Best barbecue »
Other nominees: Fette Sau, Georgia’s Eastside BBQ, R.U.B.
Last year’s onslaught of barbecue spots filled our fair city with the scent of smoldering wood, but one Chelsea roadhouse is ahead of the competition. Pit master Robbie Richter’s recent departure didn’t stop you from voting this larger-than-life Texan ’cue joint the city’s best. Pete Daversa mans the meat these days, and it’s as indulgent as ever: Moist brisket is ridged with fat, and Kreuz sausages, a Lone Star import, bulge from their casings. Ask and they’ll tell you: The seasoning is basic salt and pepper, but that doesn’t mean you can do this at home.
NEXT: Best new fast food »
Burgers at Five Guys
Best new fast food
Other nominees: Go! Go! Curry, Maoz, Zen Burger
New York foodies typically treat fast-food eateries with a revulsion reserved for the Red Sox. But upon the arrival of this Washington, D.C., chain, burger maniacs lined up like it was the second coming of Shake Shack. Understandably so. Heat-lamp-hating Five Guys griddle-cooks its prime-beef patties to order and trumps Burger King’s your-way boast with 15 customizable toppings, such as jalapeños, mushrooms and fried onions. Even better, zippy Cajun fries are hand-cut and fried crisp in peanut oil—a treat as tasty as the free peanuts available by the fistful. Multiple locations; go to fiveguys.com for more info.
NEXT: Readers’ choice index »
Best neighborhood bistro: Bar Tabac
Best vegetarian restaurant: Blossom
Best celeb chef who actually cooks: Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Provence, Five Points)
Best new restaurant: Allen & Delancey
Best return of a New York institution: 2nd Ave Deli
Best wine bar: Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar
Best new Brooklyn restaurant: Alchemy
Best new bar: Huckleberry Bar
Best new teahouse: Amai Tea & Bake House
Best beer bar: Blind Tiger Ale House
Best new Queens restaurant: Bistro 33
Best new farm-forward endeavor: Market Table
Best mobile food: DessertTruck
Best new coffeehouse: Irving Farm Coffee Company
Best pastry-chef-run restaurant: Graffiti Food & Wine Bar
Best Manhattan diner: Skylight Diner
Best candy shop: Economy Candy
Best new UWS restaurant: The Mermaid Inn
Best new Spanish restaurant: Mercat
Best place to be seen: The Waverly Inn
Best reality-TV spin-off: Perilla (Harold Dieterle, Top Chef)
Best new out-of-town import: Alain Ducasse
Best new frozen yogurt: Pinkberry
Best barbecue: Hill Country
Best new fast food: Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Contributors: Joshua M. Bernstein, Michael Freidson, Gabriella Gershenson, Daniel Gritzer, Clare Lambe, Kate Lowenstein, Jordana Rothman and Helen Yun