"Let Me Tell You" is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They are published every week. Food & Drink Editor and Critic Amber Sutherland-Namako’s columns previously argued that Mallomars are NYC’s best fall flavor and that all the good cocktails already exist.
This past year has been relatively quiet vis-à-vis much local food and drink virality. Aside from the bafflingly so-so hot dog on seemingly everyone’s lips this past spring, we were absent anything as sonorous as 2022’s supposed Dirty Shirley ubiquity or even the negroni sbagliato with—what was it again?
It makes sense post-post you-know-what, as the accelerated pace coming out of the new normal wound down to a somewhat more familiar normal. (Take the tough reservations, please!) And without the proverbial spaghetti competing to stick on the wall, some quieter, micro-moments emerged. In 2023, the drink of summer was the punchy leek gin and tonic at a breezily understated Spanish wine bar in Park Slope, though it slipped through those butterfly net hashtags. Likewise another debut’s exceptional steak. And some of 2023’s best new restaurants, including the “unconventional” Thai arrival that takes the top spot, are real deal neighborhood destinations, absent PR party lines.
Even so, keeping up with the abundance of restaurants and bars in New York City is a hobby and a half. Between all the new reviews, forever favorites and recent honorees, even eating and drinking pros could be forgiven for missing a headline or two. The five collected here are snapshots of places we’ve loved and lost, conversations with some of the people who populate our local hospitality landscape and glimpses of quickly-creeping trends. Bookmark them for those upcoming train rides, lazy après-meal times and just getting some air moments, for a look back at 2023, and a hint of a glimpse of what’s to come.
“Several months ago on a clammy spring night, I was running on time to a restaurant reservation, until I was running late. Not to worry, my husband texted, he was seated at the bar. Seated, I asked back, or waiting? The former, he replied, and was that not right? It wasn’t, but I’d sort it out when I got there, my cold sweat turning hot.”
“‘Night Mayor?’ mulls Jeffrey Garcia, the newly appointed head of New York City’s Office of Nightlife, with half a laugh. “Well, listen, while beautiful [phrasing], there’s really only one mayor in the city, and that’s Mayor Eric Adams.’”
“When an actually iconic restaurant or bar closes in New York City, the conventionally expected reaction is gnashing moans. Here, we believe that good things are real and real things are old and old things are better than new ones.”
“Although lodged in the looming, inhospitable Financial District, Etrusca felt like an idealized home: warm, friendly, comfortable and inviting, with a great dinner menu. It was the kind of spot where I wanted to be a regular, and, in addition to the published piece, I’ve recommended it in person more than any other new restaurant in the intervening months.”
“A little more than 30 days after a quiet debut, groups gather outside and hope for tables at the walk-in-only address. Even on weeknights, and even with other good and great places to eat nearby. Those crowds will only grow, as Untable is New York City’s best new restaurant of the year, so far.”