The 100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2015

Next-level sashimi and one badass brownie are just some of this year’s most crave-inducing dishes and drinks
GABRIEL KREUTHER sturgeon and sauerkraut tart
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz Sturgeon and sauerkraut tart at Gabriel Kreuther
By Christina Izzo and Dan Q Dao |
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The year 2015 was a high-low hodgepodge of deliciousness when it came to eating and drinking—beachside taco outlets were spoken of as breathlessly as three-figure sushi restaurants, and fried chicken as exalted as foie gras. From Indian ice cream to Hawaiian poke salad, and elegant Japanese martinis to the bar food needed to sop ’em up, these are New York’s best dishes and drinks of the year. 

RECOMMENDED: See all of the best dishes and drinks in NYC

1
SHUKO spicy tuna roll
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Seafood

Spicy tuna roll at Shuko

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

We know. You think you know spicy tuna rolls—that raw-fish beginner’s course encompassing ground low-grade tuna, from- a-bottle sriracha and a pat of mayo. This is not that spicy tuna roll—this is the best dish of the entire year. What co-chefs Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim serve under that seemingly familiar moniker is a different species altogether, a firecracker of a hand roll assembled with a lush, melty slab of grilled bluefin belly, flaring Thai red chilis and juice-sopping sushi rice inside shattering, toasted nori. Like that chili gusto, the memory of this bold, beautiful reimagining lingers on your lips long after your plate’s been cleared. Hell, you’ll be dreaming about it well into 2016. $175 as part of kaiseki.

2
Bread Basket With Butter
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Bread course at Semilla

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

At her vegetable-focused chef’s counter (which she runs with boyfriend José Ramírez-Ruiz), pastry chef Pamela Yung pulls bread out of its opening-act status to the peak of the meal’s crescendo. Midway through the tasting menu, Yung hand-delivers a box filled with her aromatic, alt-grain loaves trundled out with a tangy trickle of house buttermilk and bright-yellow, sea-salted butter from upstate’s Cowbella dairy farm. The gorgeous breads rotate regularly (einkorn-buckwheat, nettle brioche), but one particularly swoonworthy variety is Yung’s porridge sourdough, moist and nutty beneath its hearty, crackling crust. $85 as part of tasting menu.

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3
GABRIEL KREUTHER sturgeon and sauerkraut tart
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, French

Sauerkraut tart at Gabriel Kreuther

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Tableside pageantry is fast and frequent at Gabriel Kreuther’s solo debut, but it’s most fitting when matched with this regal tartlet, an import from the chef’s lauded 10-year tenure at Alsatian-accented MoMA dining room the Modern. The flaky phyllo cup, piped with a yellow fluff of caviar mousseline over smoked sturgeon and musty sauerkraut and topped with a quenelle of inky black caviar, is hooded in a glass cloche fogged with applewood smoke, the savory plumes of which permeate the tart and release when the server pulls up the lid. It’s at once folky and flamboyant, and it’s Kreuther at his best. $98 as part of four-course prix fixe.

4
KANF HO DONG BAEKJEONG prime boneless short rib
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Korean

Short ribs at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

icon-location-pin Midtown

Nope, the year’s most stellar short ribs didn’t come out of a veteran French kitchen or a New American dining room. Instead, they were the product of a K-town barbecue joint helmed by a dude born in—check it—1990. (Yeah, we feel old reading that too.) That young gun, Deuki Hong, tapped into his fine-dining résumé (Momofuku, Jean-Georges) to refine the Korean barbecue experience at this bi-level meat haven, drawing megawatt chefs such as Anthony Bourdain and Danny Bowien with his prime cuts and smart, minimal fussings. Occupying both categories are his boneless short ribs, whisper-brushed with sesame oil, garlic and black pepper to allow the meat’s natural marbleization to do the talking. And with its superbly rich flesh enveloped in char-edged crust, what fine things it has to say. $39.

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5
DOMINIQUE ANSEL KITCHEN sage brownie
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, French

Sage brownie at Dominique Ansel Kitchen

icon-location-pin West Village

Even the simplest pleasures aren’t what they appear at Dominique Ansel Kitchen—a croissant imbued with rosemary olive oil moonlights as garlic bread, and tiramisu layers are heady with black tea. Even a humble brownie is leavened with hidden complexities: The deeply chocolaty square, fudgy and cakey at equal turns, is topped with sage leaves, swaddled in cedar paper, tied with twine and torched, arriving warm and filled with campfire smoke and sweet earth. We usually don’t like the idea of screwing with simple perfection, but for this sumptuous update, we’ll easily make an exception. $5.

6
MU RAMEN mu ramen
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Japanese

Mu ramen at Mu Ramen

icon-location-pin Long Island City

It tastes like New York in a bowl, a steaming crock of Japanese ramen with the bubbe-warmth of a Jewish-deli sandwich. Chef-owner Joshua Smookler sought out Katz’s as inspiration for his studied flagship bowl, and it’s immediately felt in the moist hunks of house-made corned beef, shredded cabbage and half-sour pickles that entwine his toothsome noodles. In place of traditional pork tonkotsu, Smookler rejiggers his broth, ladling in oxtail and bone marrow stock for a much-welcome extra boost of meatiness. $18.

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7
TEMPURA MATSUI scallop
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Japanese

Scallop tempura at Tempura Matsui

icon-location-pin Murray Hill

Shrimp may be the king of tempura territory, but Masao Matsui makes a stunning case for scallops at his batter temple. The veteran chef (the Nadaman at Tokyo’s Hotel New Otani) drags supple pillows of mollusk cradled in nori through a mixture of Super Violet flour, mineral water and egg yolk that’s been whisked together until flaxen and featherweight. Matsui lets the scallop dance for a few joyful moments in his secret-recipe blend of cottonseed and sesame oils and plunges his wooden batons in to retrieve it, and suddenly it’s right in front of you: a soft, nearly raw bivalve trussed in a golden-crisp gossamer. It’s impossibly delicate and stupendously satisfying. $200 as part of omakase.

8
OOJI honey butter chips
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Korean

Honey butter chips at Oiji

icon-location-pin East Village

South Korea’s honey butter chips created Beatlemania-level hysteria earlier this year. Convenience stores were perpetually sold out, and the bright-yellow bags even hit the black market. Enter new Korean eatery Oiji. After failed attempts to import the chips to their East Village restaurant, chefs Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku took to parodying the snack themselves. Their warm, wickedly rich version—billed as a side but served last, à la dessert—glazes mandolined, fried russet potatoes in high-fat French butter, brown sugar and honey, with cayenne and salt working diligently to check the overt sweetness. A few feverish fistfuls later, you’ll see that chip craze was justified. $5.

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9
FUKU spicy fried chicken sandwich
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Fried chicken sandwich at Fuku

Sorry, Chris Pratt, the It dish of the 2015 blogosphere was actually a fried chicken sandwich. The year was inundated with heavyweight options, from Shake Shack’s Brooklyn-only ChickenShack to Chick-fil-A’s Manhattan debut, but one bird ruled the roost: David Chang’s poultry tour de force, with buttermilk-battered, Scotch-bonnet-smoldering meat spilling out from under a pliant Martin’s potato roll. Spare trimmings—a slick of briny butter, a few snappy pickle chips—allow for focus to remain on the bird, and what a mighty bird it is. $8.

10
CHIANG MAI kao soy
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Khao Soi at Chiang Mai

Less than a year after opening Red Hook’s Thai-critical darling Kao Soy, co-chef Kanlaya Supachana split—and took the namesake noodle dish with her. Thankfully, though, it wasn’t gone for long. Down the block—174 friggin’ feet down, to be exact—the Chiang Mai native brazenly stirs her turmeric-yellow coconut curry in a pop-up space inside home-goods-store-cum-café Home/Made. A pair of juicy chicken drumsticks lurks amid soft-boiled noodles in the soup’s depths, enlivened with pickled mustard greens, shallots and chili oil, while a cap of fried egg noodles and shreds of banana-blossom fritters add contrasting crunch. 293 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn. $12.

Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

The Black & Walt at Ample Hills Creamery

icon-location-pin Gowanus

It’s two iconic New York desserts in one: The soft, spongy iced shortbread known as the black-and-white cookie and the Bowery pushcart-born ice cream sandwich. But it’s also the meeting of two beloved local sweet purveyors, small-batch creamery Ample Hills and oversize-cookie maker Baked. A puck of vanilla malted ice cream is fitted Chipwich-style between two thick, fondant-frosted black-and-white cookies with malted fudge and then rolled in malted-chocolate Rice Krispies. Showing off New York pride never tasted so sweet. $7

Babu Ji Kulfi
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Indian

Kulfi at Babu Ji

icon-location-pin East Village

Gotham is well-versed in international frozen treats—Taiwanese shaved ice, Thailand’s i tim pad roll-ups—but it got its best ambassador for kulfi (Indian’s answer to Popsicles) in Jessi Singh’s time-intensive version. For capital-C creaminess, Singh stirs a cow’s milk base for six hours, suffuses the mixture with flavorful add-ins (say, cardamom, honey and pistachio) and then freezes it for 12 hours in tapered tin molds that he smuggles back from the motherland. Warm the cannister between your palms to release the pop—the payoff is the sweet spot between mochi chewiness and custard richness. $6.

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Tea Dance at Ice & Vice

Tea Dance at Ice & Vice

Frozen-sweet whiz kids Kendrick Lo and Paul Kim are known for their off-the-wall ice cream flavors (bacon, egg and cheese sundae; Vietnamese coffee with doughnut truffles), but this more subtle tea-based concoction will stay with you long after the last lick. A rich cream base is infused for 24 hours with Nilgiri tea leaves, a fragrant black variety native to southern India, and then swirled with an otherworldly salted butter caramel given a citrusy kick from finely ground, oven-charred lemon zest. $4.75

Photograph: Courtesy Lafayette
Restaurants, French

Tout-ti Frutti push pop at Lafayette

icon-location-pin East Village

Colorful and cheeky, Jennifer Yee’s throwback dessert tugged New York’s nostalgic, sweets-loving heart. But the pastry chef doesn’t rest on mere reminiscence—Yee’s treat comes to age each June, marbling creamy sorbet with crumbles of fresh-baked French macarons in modern flavors like matcha, birthday cake and the bakery’s signature bergamot. $5.

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Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

Oddpocket at OddFellows

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

Don’t want to curb your ice-cream consumption even into the cold-weather months? The ever-inventive Sam Mason has you covered. The scoops wizard introduced this panini-warmed sweet at this fall’s sandwich-shop reboot of OddFellows’ East Village location. Like a dessert-world Hot Pocket, a brioche bun is pressed around a core of the parlor’s rich ice cream in flavors that include corn bread with cornflake crunch and blueberry compote, brown-butter sage with spicy almond and honey, and an unabashedly crowd-pleasing bacon variety with candied pecans and spiced maple syrup. It’s the indulgent intersection of savory and sweet, toasted and melty. $8

Parm
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
Restaurants, Italian

Ice cream cake at Parm

icon-location-pin Nolita

It might not be your birthday when you enjoy one of pastry chef Heather Bertinetti’s tricolored cakes, but it’ll make you feel so good you’ll swear it’s your big day. Each pristine cake at the Italian-American counter is built with three layers of smooth, house-made gelato—peanut butter, raspberry and banana for an Elvis-themed number, say—interspersed with fresh whipped cream and Carvelesque chocolate crumbles. Your move, Fudgie the Whale. $58.

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Sourdough Donut at Pies n Thighs
Photograph: Courtesy Sasha Landskov
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Sourdough doughnuts at Pies 'n' Thighs

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

Anticipation was already sky-high when word hit that Sarah Sanneh and Carolyn Bane’s Williamsburg comfort-food counter was crossing the river to the Lower East Side. And then news of a debuting doughnut flavor rocketed that buzz to the stratosphere. Sanneh’s round begins with a natural yeast-rye starter that’s left to ferment for three days before the dough’s rolled, proofed, fried and then shellacked in a sweet, crunchy glaze that balances out the savory funk of the starring sourdough. It’s everything you love about a warm loaf of fresh-out-the-oven sourdough, tucked inside the soft, sweet airiness of a raised doughnut. $3.

10Below Ice Cream Rolls
Photograph: Courtesy Dara Elass

Ice cream rolls at 10Below

Move aside, Cold Stone. The a la minute ice cream of the year was the Thai-style i tim pad roll-ups at this Chinatown parlor. Liquid crème anglaise is poured onto a thermoelectric cold plate and scraped into finger-sized rolls as it congeals in real time, resulting in a light, airy consistency that has kept sweet-toothed lines forming around the block. To change up the flavor, mix-ins like banana, Nutella and graham crackers can be smashed and folded directly into the base as it hardens, ensuring those enhancers are evenly distributed, while the rolled shape allows each cup to be piled high with sugary accoutrements. $7

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Untitled
Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Triple chocolate chunk cookie at Untitled

icon-location-pin Meatpacking District

The Whitney restaurant’s ambitious readjustments of dowdy museum eats extend all the way down to the humble cookie. Pastry chef Miro Uskokovic folds brown butter with organic white and light-brown sugars and Thomas Keller’s Cup4Cup gluten-free flour, resulting in a round that’s equal parts crunch and chew. Fudgy pockets of chocolate dot the batter—three Guittard varieties comprise the gooey core—and Amagansett sea salt speckles the hull. You can get the cookie à la carte for half the price upstairs at Studio Cafe, but then you’d miss out on the accompanying bottle of milk: sweet Five Acre Farms dairy splashed with Madagascan bourbon vanilla. $8.

Alta Linea
Photograph: Janelle Jones
Restaurants, Italian

Frozen Negroni at Alta Linea

icon-location-pin Chelsea

Summer endures at this High Line Hotel courtyard eatery, taking cues from the Italian Riviera’s aperitif tradition. Joe Campanale’s complementary cocktail program follows suit, zeroing in on bitters and vermouths for quaffs like this exceedingly likeable frozen Negroni. Soliciting help from Brooklyn slushy master Kelvin Slush, Campanale churns Kelvin’s citrus slush with Greenhook gin, sharp Campari, red vermouth and freshly squeezed orange juice in a Taylor slush maker without any additional ice for a creamy, not icy, consistency. When sipping this under paper lanterns, shady trees and string lights in the alfresco patio, you’ll feel like you’re in southern Italy, not south Chelsea. $15

BAR GOTO
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Izakaya

Sakura martini at Bar Goto

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

At his first solo venture, Pegu Club veteran Kenta Goto salutes his Japanese heritage—and years spent poring over the Western drinks canon—with this subtle sake-crossed martini that sharply rebuts the hyperbolic sake-tinis of yore. A dry, cedar-casketed junmai variety of that fermented rice spirit bolsters gin and maraschino cherry liqueur, while the olive is nixed in favor of a salted sakura cherry blossom, whose dainty petals gently unfurl when dropped in the lucid glass. Lovely. $15

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Bars, Cocktail bars

Surfliner at Grand Army

icon-location-pin Boerum Hill

Drenched in the year’s saccharine tiki tidal wave, New York City’s boozers grappled for one of those kitschy throwback quaffs that would spare them the sugar-induced head rush. At this breezy, unpretentious Boerum Hill oyster-cocktail bar, mixologist Damon Boelte occasionally offers a refreshing respite with a neon-green elixir fortifying tart pineapple juice, sweet cane syrup and allspice dram (a Jamaican berry liqueur), with stiff Navy-strength rum and heady blue curaçao sneaking in at the finish. $13

Bars, Cocktail bars

Link Ray at the Happiest Hour

icon-location-pin West Village

You’re able to pick your poison (jalapeño tequila, rum or gin) when you order Jim Kearns’s adventurously boozy riff on Brooklyn’s Cel-Ray soda, which goes far beyond the usual lime, mint and cuke usually schlepped along in drinks starring the pop. That choice spirit gets shaken with a base of bitter gentian Suze and splashes of delicately sweet celery juice, grassy rhum agricole and cane syrup, with Kearns smartly bringing out the vegetable’s flavor with a celery-powdered rim and a stalk garnish. $12

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HOLIDAY COCKTAIL LOUNGE
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Cocktail bars

Deluxe Long Island iced tea at Holiday Cocktail Lounge

icon-location-pin East Village

Since its haphazard invention in a 1972 Long Island bartender competition, the much maligned five-spirit potion has been relegated to the undignified realms of lowbrow restaurant chains and highbrow frat parties. At this reincarnated bar recognized by its Christmas lights and idiosyncratic brand of divey elegance, bartender Danny Neff sprays a well-balanced soda-gun rendition that layers the vodka with a welcome infusion of Supreme Breakfast tea from nearby Physical Graffitea and swaps out the usual one-note triple sec for a swirl of more intensely flavored from-scratch oleo saccharum—a sweet syrup with citrusy overtones from lemon, orange and grapefruit peels. $6.

Bars, Cocktail bars

Tia Mia at Leyenda

icon-location-pin Carroll Gardens

It was far from home—in the volcanic town of Antigua, Guatemala, to be exact—that bar queen Ivy Mix found her shaker-cup calling and met a free-spirited local woman who’d later inspire the name of this Latin-skewed mai tai riff. (Tia mia means “my aunt” in Spanish.) At her Carroll Gardens cocktail bar, Mix stirs equal parts briny mescal and oak-aged rum—tempered by nutty orgeat syrup and dry orange curaçao—which slowly diffuse once slurped through a mound of melting crushed ice crowned by mint sprigs and a single orchid. $13

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Bars, Lounges

Mace at Mace

icon-location-pin East Village

The namesake coupe at barman Nico de Soto’s studio-size watering hole won’t leave your eyes burning but it will leave your lips tingling. Bitter Aperol and Norway’s herbaceous aquavit are fortified with splashes of beet juice, orange-citric acid and Thai coconut syrup to smooth out the vegetal profiles with some neutralizing sweetness. Two perfume squirts of the house Mace tincture rounds things out with a nutmeglike spiced thrum. $13

Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Phil Khallins at Mission Chinese Food

icon-location-pin Downtown

Innovations don’t end at the kitchen line at Danny Bowien’s hyper-modern Chinese banquet hall. At the downstairs bar, Sam Anderson stirs weird but worthy cocktails like this tom kha gai–inspired slurry, cheekily served in a Chinese soup bowl. The lightly creamy gin-based sip upholds those Thai flavors, redolent with coconut milk, zesty ginger and makrut lime, and finished with sesame oil and two crinkled, fried chilis on top. $13

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MOTHER OF PEARL tide is high cocktail
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Cocktail bars

Tide Is High at Mother of Pearl

icon-location-pin East Village

This isn’t just any old tiki drink. At the East Village tiki counter, coral-haired barkeep Jane Danger whips a trumped-up tropical riff as colorfully spirited as her ’do. A former baker, Danger deploys sugar evenly in this rich, cashew-milk glug jazzed with woodyreposado tequila and smoky mescal. A froth of white-capped foam comes courtesy of shaken pineapple juice, neutralizing the boozy elements in a conch-shell glass crowned elegantly with a bright pink orchid. $15

Other Half Brewing
Photograph: Jessica Lin
Bars, Breweries

Greenbacks IPA at Other Half Brewing

icon-location-pin Carroll Gardens

Originally brewed in collaboration with Park Slope beer bar Mission Dolores this spring, the hops-forward pale ale will make a grand return this fall due to popular demand. And it’s not hard to see why boozers are clamoring for the limited-supply release: The cloudy, orange-tinted sud balances traces of tropical fruits (papaya, mango) with a backbone of slightly nutty, pervasively bready malt. 12oz draft $5, pint $6

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BLACK SEED baked salmon salad, pickled fennel, aruluga
Photograph Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Bakeries

Baked salmon sandwich at Black Seed Bagels

icon-location-pin East Village

At this East Side sibling of the blog-heralded Montreal-meets-Manhattan bagelry, head baker Dianna Daoheung turns out the same hand-rolled, honey-boiled rounds that garnered praise at the Soho flagship. Exclusive to this location, however, are newfangled sandwiches including this creamy schmear of salmon salad—lush with red peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in a garlic-lemon aioli—set against the crispness of pickled fennel and peppery arugula. Now that’s what we call a breakfast sandwich. $11

Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, American regional

Coney dog at Ed & Bev’s

icon-location-pin Crown Heights

Hailing from the Motor City, Eli and Max Sussman have become somewhat like standard bearers for Detroit specialties, so it wasn’t a shock when the chef brothers took on that city’s celebrated Coney dog. Though their version is modeled after the frankfurters served in Michigan’s Greek-American diners, the usual bucket-chili topping is shunted for tender smoked brisket and ground beef, but still featuring the essential chopped onions and mustard. $7.50

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EL CORTEZ chicken buddies
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Chicken buddies at El Cortez

icon-location-pin Bushwick

For bar-food fiends, Stephen Tanner’s formidable fried-chicken sandwich at the Commodore is damn near legendary, with hot sauce famously cooked right into its crackly crust. And at his Tex-Mex tiki follow-up with Commodore cohort Chris Young, you can wolf down a quartet of craggy white-meat sliders speared on an oversize toothpick with shredded romaine, zippy pickles and mayonnaise. It is, hands down, one of the best drunk eats of the year. $11

Pastrami sandwich at Harry & Ida's

NYC’s pastrami-sandwich pantheon is filled with iconic stuff—the jaw-testing classic at Katz’s, the smoked-meat revision at Mile End—but Will Horowitz’s beaut is a worthy new entry to that venerable group. You’ll get a taste of luscious deckle before your sandwich is even assembled—midcarve, the deli man ushers a slip of fat-marbled, peppercorn-rubbed beef in butcher paper over the counter. It’s a soft, smoky, sinful preview of what’s to come. To combat the heft of those thick-cut slices, the sandwich is rigged with buttermilk-fermented cucumber kraut, fronds of fresh dill and a salty smear of anchovy mustard on a Pain d’Avignon club roll, a pillowy upgrade from traditional rye. $17.50

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Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, Hamburgers

Cheeseburger at JG Melon

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

Now there’s a downtown outpost of the Upper East Side burger stalwart. Even the most staunch of patty purist will be pleased to find that the uptown venue’s main attraction—the half-pound puck served open-faced on no-frills white buns with red onion and crinkle-cut pickle chips—hasn’t lost any of its juicy thrills at the new location. It’s dished out with snacky cottage fries on the trademark green-checkered tablecloths. $11.50

Mission Cantina
Photograph: Courtesy Caviar
Restaurants, Mexican

Chinese California Super Burrito at Mission Cantina

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

The Mexican-ish Lower East Side canteen has undergone numerous culinary transformations since opening in 2013—from the apropos (dollar tacos) to the head scratching (Vietnamese breakfast pho). But this year, Mission Cantina’s freewheeling chef Danny Bowien focused its concept on crowd-pleasing burritos. The look is Chipotle but Bowien-esque tweaks still abound: One newfangled creation is built withmapotofu, that fiery Sichuan staple, prepared with minced pork, aged beef fat anddoubanjiang(spicy fermented bean paste) at the restaurant’s sibling Mission Chinese Food. A heap of salt-cod fried rice, studded with sweet Chinese sausage and shreds of fried egg, temper the mouth-tingling chili-pepper oomph. $12

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ROSE'S burger
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, American

Burger at Rose's Bar & Grill

icon-location-pin Prospect Heights

In a city where burgers have been beefed up with Michael Bay–level patty pyrotechnics (crowned with caviar, gorged with glazed doughnuts, lodged between ramen-noodle “buns”), Andrew Feinberg’s rendering at his Prospect Heights pub with wife Franny Stephens is subversively simple. There’s no braggadocio meat blend at play here—just a juice-dripping puck of quality beef sealed with a funky char inside a buttered-and-toasted sesame-seed bun. And we really mean no frills: You’ll even have to ask for ketchup. $14

SADELLE'S triple-decker
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Bakery

Triple-decker sandwich at Sadelle's

icon-location-pin Soho

Yes, it’s $29 for deli meat, but hear us out: This is one masterfully balanced sandwich. A tribute to the sedimentary New Jersey sloppy joes at South Orange’s Town Hall Delicatessen, the crustless, thick-as-a-phonebook configuration bookends your choice of two meats—house turkey, house roast beef, Hebrew National salami and Schaller and Weber ham—with crunchy, mayo-free cole slaw and creamy Russian dressing on Melissa Weller’s soft, house-baked caraway rye. It’s comforting, not showy, and best of all, you won’t have to brave the New Jersey Transit to get your mits on it. $29

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Schaller Double from Schaller's Stube
Photograph: Courtesy Schaller's Stube
Restaurants, Hot dogs

Schaller double at Schaller’s Stube

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

Dispatched from a walk-up sausage bar connected to legendary uptown wurst maker Schaller & Weber, this monster brat doubles down on bacon and cheese; the stuff is folded into the meat itself, and then topped with even more gooey American and crisp curls of smoked swine on a sliced Balthazar bun. But that’s not all. The hearty link is further festooned with snappy pickles, diced onion and tomato, and a slather of Thousand Island–esque Stube sauce. Your cardiologist definitely won’t be pleased with you, but your taste buds sure will. $10

Snowday
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

Maple grilled cheese at Snowday Truck

The street-circuit favorite took home the grand prix Vendy Cup this year, in part for its addictive, maple–steeped grilled cheese sandwiches. Buttered slices of Shewolf Bakery sourdough flank oozing squares of sharp white cheddar, and while optional adornments range from Flying Pig’s smoked ham to strawberry chutney, drizzles of hot house-made maple gussy up every sammie. It’s chewy and crunchy, salty and sweet. Hell, they don’t call it “famous” for nothing. $7

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Souk & Sandwich
Photograph: Michael Tulipan
Restaurants, Lebanese

Sojuk at Souk & Sandwich

icon-location-pin West Village

You can find plenty of unusual Middle Eastern wrap-ups at Tarik Fallous’s West Village sandwich shop—one crammed with crispy fries, another with tender cow tongue—but the standout comes with a more traditional filling: Lebanese sojuk sausage. The hearty spiced links, aromatic with sumac, cumin and red pepper, get an extra jolt of garlic from creamy ribbons of aioli-like toum and some pickled pep from brined vegetables, all wrapped in the shop’s soft, grill-warmed bread. $8

Clocktower
Photograph: Daniel Krieger
Restaurants, American

Fish-and-chips at the Clocktower

icon-location-pin Flatiron

A few English curios pepper the menu at the New York Edition Hotel’s dining room (lemony Dover sole, a Lancashire hot pot), but Jason Atherton’s finest ode to his home country is this polished reworking of the chip-shop standard, offered only at lunch. The Michelin-starred Brit sets a juicy, generous hunk of white Icelandic cod, all salt-flecked crust and beer-battered tang, atop a vibrant mound of mushed peas humming with malt vinegar. Thick-cut, thrice-cooked fries are primed to drag up every last morsel. $23

Restaurants, Japanese

Japanese squid at Ganso Yaki

icon-location-pin Boerum Hill

Of all the booze-sopping grub shuffled across bars this year, Tadashi Ono’s grilled squid at this sake-fueled yakitori operation was the most head-turning. The eight-ounce cephalopod is slathered in ginger-soy marinade before hitting the grill whole, making the body rings supple without a whisper of rubber and the tentacles and head into charred, crispy vehicles for a mayo dipping sauce zested with seven-spice shichimi. $14

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Mekelburg's oysters

Oysters in red sambal butter at Mekelburg’s

Even more surprising than a Clinton Hill specialty-goods grocer having a quality craft-beer bar ensconced in the back is the fact that it serves some of Gotham’s finest under-the-radar pub grub. In the small plates section, half a dozen Washington State bivalves come topped with a bright dollop of orange compound butter spiced with roasted garlic, lemon zest, briny anchovies and southeast Asia’s chili-powered sambal. Fired for 10 minutes in a 500-degree oven, the plump bivalves arrive swimming in melted butter with a slightly charred cap on top to round out the flavor of the sumptuous one-biter. $13

Noreetah
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, American

Bigeye tuna poke at Noreetuh

icon-location-pin East Village

You’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier primer on poke this far from the Big Island. (Poke, by the way, is Hawaii’s chopped raw-fish salad—oh, and it rhymes with okay.) Chef de cuisine and Honolulu native Chung Chow stays faithful to the dish’s traditional flavors—firm cubes of sushi-grade bigeye tuna loin are slicked with soy sauce and sesame oil and studded with red onion, scallion and toasted macadamia nuts for crunch—but deftly updates them with Japanese notes, including briny tangles of tosaka and oga seaweeds and the lip-tingling chili smack of Japan’s tobanjan paste. $17

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Restaurants

Crab Louie at Oleanders

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

There are plenty of 1970s throwbacks at play at Joe Carroll’s reimagined McCarren Hotel fern bar (faux Tiffany lamps, cloying Grasshopper cocktails), but our favorite is chef Kevin Chojnowski’s gentle tweaking of the dated Crab Louie. Born on the West Coast around the turn of the 20th century, the salad tosses king crabmeat with sweet gem lettuce and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Chojnowski wisely bucks tradition by swapping out mayo for a buttermilk-poppyseed dressing and an asparagus vinaigrette infused with Thai chilis and minced shallots. Crab Louie enters the 21st century. $16

Fish tacos and a drink on a wooden table
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Attractions

Fish tacos at Tacoway Beach

icon-location-pin Rockaways

Word of Rockaway Taco’s imminent closure this spring set fear in the hearts of many a New York taco lover. After all, that ramshackle stand was home to the city’s most exemplary fish taco: a clean, thoughtfully constructed fold-up filled with flaky beer-battered tilapia, vinegary cabbage slaw, crisp radish rounds and, if you were smart and ordered the deluxe, a healthy mound of excellent guacamole. Luckily for us, that taco made the move with chef Andrew Field to his new seasonal taqueria operation at Rockaway Beach Surf Club this summer. The bad news? The lines are still lengthy. The better news? That taco is as reliably delicious as ever. $3.50

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Wildair
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Fried squid at Wildair

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

This one’s like a space-age fritto misto. Draped in sheer, lightweight golden shells made with masa-enhanced potato flour, pops of bright yellow (that would be preserved lemon) and pale green (sliced scallions) are fried right alongside tender curls of squid for this otherworldly calamari at Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske’s Lower East Side wine bar. The accompanying sauce looks and tastes similarly out-there: A smooth, garlic-charged aioli stained the color of charcoal, courtesy of the mollusk’s ink, gives the dish a double-dose of squid-y brackishness. $15

ATERA lamb saddle
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, American

Lamb saddle at Atera

icon-location-pin Tribeca

Opened in 2012, the two-star Michelin mainstay has seen a chef come and go from the hallowed halls of its tasting-menu kitchen, but current toque Ronny Emborg has breathed new life into the arduous 18 courses this year. One of the most memorable employs fine Elysian Fields lamb saddles aged for three weeks, allowing their umami flavor to fully develop. Those tender cuts are then swaddled in white bread smeared with leek ash and chicken mousseline, and cooked in their own fat before hitting the plate with a smoky burnt-onion jus and a finishing coat of more rendered fat. Saddle up is right. $235 as part of tasting menu

COSME duck tacos for two
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Mexican

Duck carnitas at Cosme

icon-location-pin Flatiron

Think of this as pampered poultry. In their colossal riff on the taqueria staple traditionally made with pork shoulder, Mexican megachef Enrique Olvera and chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes heavily salt and hang heritage Rohan ducks for three days, then braise them overnight in duck fat and a sweet, tenderizing mixture that includes orange slices, evaporated and condensed milks and, yes, even Mexican Coke. Finished in the oven and crisped in the broiler, the sizzling, golden-skinned bird comes crowned with flash-pickled onions, brightening lime juice and warm heirloom-corn tortillas for the most elegant do-it-yourself tacos in New York. $59

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Four Horsemen
Photograph: Janelle Jones
Bars, Wine bars

Steak tartare at the Four Horsemen

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

This year saw many novel mutations of the stuffy bistro classic—Wildair’s pungent smoked-cheddar update, the Clocktower’s marrow-fortified, mustard-punched version—but the dry-aged funk of Nick Curtola’s rugged tartare stood out from the rest. Happy Valley–sourced sirloin is roused with crunchy pickled cabbage, darkly fiery sambal chili and pools of buttermilk. And forget forks: The thin sesame-cracker shards on top are the only utensil you’ll need. $15

Goa taco

Lamb shoulder taco at Goa Taco

“One paratha taco equals two regular tacos,” declares the menu on the wall at the Lower East Side brick-and-mortar venue of the Smorgasburg staple. And it’s right: Buttery, flaky paratha bread, a gastronomic import from the Indian trading port of Goa, packs twice as much as its Latin cousin. Chef-owner Duvaldi Marneweck folds the flatbread around spectacularly tender Colorado lamb shoulder—slow-roasted for five hours in a from-scratch recado rojo (red achiote paste made from annatto seeds)—with zesty salsa-fied eggplant and a cooling Greek tsatsiki. Postmidnight lines curl around the door regularly and it’s not hard to see why: This meaty roll-up soaks up way more booze than your average-Joe taco. $8.27

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Restaurants, American

Pork sausage at Houseman

icon-location-pin West Village

The Hudson Square restaurant takes its name from the Norwegian word husmanskost (or “everyday food”) and with that quotidian ethos in mind chefs Ned Baldwin and Adam Baumgart tender this unpretentious, Portuguese-style sausage-and-clams plate. The salty bite of meaty link, constructed with house-ground Royalton Farm pork shoulder seasoned with paprika and chili de arbol, offsets the sweetness of the accompanying sofrito-filled steamed littlenecks, all in a pool of Neuseke’s bacon-smoked whitefish fumet. $25

JAMS jams chciken with tarragon butter
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, American

Roasted chicken at Jams

icon-location-pin Midtown West

In the food-world lexicon, the name Jonathan Waxman is practically synonymous with “roasted chicken.” The California-cuisine icon introduced his famed fowl to New York with his 1980s farm-to-table pioneer Jams and wisely reinstated the dish at the restaurant’s Upper West Side revival this year. A Bell & Evans bird is fired in a charcoal-fueled oven and basted frequently in a tarragon-charged jus, ensuring that there’s moist flesh beneath crisp, burnished skin. Waxman seasons the chicken simply with salt and pepper because nothing more is needed with a dish this good. $25

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Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager, NYC Food photographer, Restaurant p
Photograph: Morgan Ione Yeager
Restaurants, Mediterranean

Lamb shank at Kat & Theo

icon-location-pin Flatiron

Set a knife in the vicinity of chef Paras Shah’s handsomely lacquered lamb for two and it practically wilts in its presence. The meat—darkly caramelized and lustily fatty—sighs off the bone, falling to the plate to join a hash of farro and roasted vegetables, plump wedges of fig and crispy cubes of smoked lamb belly. $34

Koji Fried Chicken at Mission Chinese
Photograph: Daniel Krieger
Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Koji fried chicken at Mission Chinese Food

icon-location-pin Downtown

New York’s fried-chicken lust endures, and it’s no shock given such knockout contenders as executive chef Angela Dimayuga’s version at the MCF reboot. A refined play on southern Chinese specialty Hainanese chicken rice, Dimayuga’s fowl is marinated with ginger, scallion, garlic and aged, umami-rich koji (fermented cooked rice) and then air-dried for three days before frying to ensure a delicately caramelized crunch without the heft of additional starch. Any residual richness is gracefully cut with salted cucumber salad and a hot sauce thrumming with preserved chilis and lemon. $28

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O YA foie gras
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Japanese

Foie gras with chocolate chip at O Ya

icon-location-pin Flatiron

It’s almost silly that Tim Cushman offers dessert to cap his 18-course omakase, because this stunner nails it in the sweets department. Atop a cylinder of warm, nori-wrapped rice, a quivering tile of seared Hudson Valley foie gras is daubed in balsamic-chocolate kabayaki (eel sauce)
and bedecked with raisin-cocoa pulp and a caramel-smooth chaser of eight-year-aged sake picked by wife-sommelier Nancy. Even with a belly full of nearly two dozen pieces, not savoring every shamelessly indulgent bite is functionally impossible. $185 as part of omakase

Via Carota Svizzerina - chopped steak
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Italian

Bunless burger at Via Carota

icon-location-pin West Village

No bun, no fries, no condiments? No problem. Aside from a few knobs of roasted garlic and one lone, fragrant sprig of rosemary, there’s little to distract from the beefy, elemental beauty of Rita Sodi and Jody Williams’s raggedy, rough-chopped steak. Like a caveman’s tartare, the coarse, half-pound puck of aged New York strip is seasoned minimally with salt and pepper and flash-seared in a cast-iron pan. The result is achingly tender and rosy on the inside, encased in a deep, smoky char glistening with green olive oil. This is pure meat porn, people. $21

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Photograph: Courtesy of Werkstatt
Restaurants, Austrian

Weiner schnitzel at Werkstatt

icon-location-pin Brooklyn

Thirty-four years after earning rave reviews as executive chef of Vienna ’79, chef Thomas Ferlesch reprises that restaurant’s schnitzel recipe, but subbing in thick slices of marbleized Sterling Silver pork loin for the customary veal. Slapped with flour, egg, heavy cream and fine, house-ground panko crumbs, the pounded cutlet is sautéed in clarified butter until the heat causes air bubbles to rise beneath the golden breading, creating delectably crusty, wavelike ridges for a squeeze of lemon juice to cling to. $16

BETONY cole slaw
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Coleslaw at Betony

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Humble cabbage slaw isn’t what you’d usually find on a three-figure fine-dining menu, but it’s proof of chef Bryce Shuman’s ingenuity—and playfulness—that he turns the picnic staple into a sleek plate worthy of a Michelin-starred dining room. The vibrant medley of vegetables includes parsnips, carrots, kohlrabi and broccoli stems, brined in their juices, julienned into neat batons and dressed with a tangy honey-mustard vinaigrette and chive tips, and mimics the pickled bite found in classic slaw. $195 as part of tasting menu

Dirt Candy
Photograph: Evan Sung
Restaurants, Vegetarian

Korean fried broccoli at Dirt Candy

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

“Basically, it’s crack in broccoli form,” the menu suspiciously brags, but it’s kind of right! The snacky gochugang-fired florets at Amanda Cohen’s replanted vegetable restaurant are craveable to the point of being addictive. Coated in a tempura batter shot with seltzer and vodka for an überflaky texture, the deep-fried crests are burnished in a garlicky sauce zapped with Korean chili paste, soy-sauce-like tamari and ginger. It’s a credit that even beneath a festive sprinkling of sesame seeds and scallion slivers (and that substantial crunch), the broccoli still retains its natural snap. $8.

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Restaurants, Italian

Sweet pea porridge at Faro

icon-location-pin Bushwick

This ain’t no garden-variety gruel. For this mellow springtime bowl, Kevin Adey begins with local grains (emmer, organic corn, red winter wheat) that are sourced from upstate farms and milled via a hand-cranked grinder. Simmered in mushroom stock until soft and silky, the grains are joined by tender young peas and morels and enriched with a pat of house-made butter and nubs of Alpine cow’s milk cheese from Hawthorne Valley Farm. Topped with a moat of frothy whey and a tuft of microgreens, this is one porridge guaranteed to leave you saying, “Please, sir, I want some more” come March. $11.

La Pecora
Photograph: Courtesy Brian Park
Restaurants, Italian

Braised artichoke at La Pecora Bianca

icon-location-pin Flatiron

Locavore got an Italian accent with Mark Barak’s breezy new Flatiron cucina. The ethos is promoted in the restaurant’s robust vegetable-focused antipasti, whose standout is chef Simone Bonnelli’s whole braised artichoke. Peel off a buttery, lemon-spritzed leaf and drag it through a painterly scrape of smooth, subtle mint aioli hit with the salty shrapnel of dried-anchovy powder. $14

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LUPULO fava beans, blood sausage, ramps and chanterelles
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Seafood

Fava beans with blood sausage at Lupulo

icon-location-pin Chelsea

It was as fleeting as a spring fling. Between April and August, this rustic dining room offered an earthy tumble of bright, fresh fava beans that came with two of the season’s most precious offerings, ramps and morels, along with crumbles of house-made blood sausage. The dish has since been updated with broad beans and beech mushrooms, but the memory of those plump little favas will hold us over until April. $9

Rebelle
Photograph: Evan Sung
Restaurants, French

Leek vinaigrette at Rebelle

icon-location-pin Nolita

Poached leeks in mustard dressing are as time-honored a French dish as they come, but Daniel Eddy’s deconstructed adaptation at the Bowery neobistro feels decidedly modern. Pale segments of blanched young leek are nestled in finely acidic Dijon-forward vinaigrette with scraps of soft-boiled eggs and smoky plumes of leek ash, trading the fussiness of the original for an easygoing edge. $12.

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Santina
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Restaurants, Seafood

Squash carpaccio at Santina

icon-location-pin Meatpacking District

Like tartare, carpaccio saw many a gussied-up alteration this year, but Mario Carbone’s vegcentric version—trading beef for butternut and delicata squash—was one of the loveliest. Petals of golden gourd, lightly charred and curling at the edges, are lacquered with beurre noisette and spiced honey agrodolce to amplify the squash’s nutty sweetness. A scattering of pumpkin seeds and cracked pink peppercorn adds crunch, offset with rich dollops of crème fraîche. Where’s the beef? More like, who cares? $9.

Restaurants, Italian

Parmesan dashi ramen at All’onda

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

New York already knew that Chris Jaeckle had a way with pasta (before opening the modern Venetian dining room, he ran the Michelin-starred kitchen at Ai Fiori). But in last January’s chill, he proved his noodle prowess extended beyond fettuccine and fusilli with the introduction of his hybrid ramen. Offered now during lunch service at the downstairs bar, the seductive bowl tangles al dente house-made noodles around oozing egg in a creamy Parmesan-dashi broth enlivened with feisty splotches of Calabrian chili oil. $14

BRODO paper cups
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Wine bars

Brodo bowl at Fifty Paces

icon-location-pin East Village

Marco Canora’s buzzy broths have earned both widespread praise and scorn: A Twitter bot was created to automatically find tweets with “bone broth” and crankily respond, “You mean stock?” But there’s no ennui to be found in the flavorful depths of his 18-hour–simmered brodo. The soup of ginger-seasoned beef neck bobbing with shiitake, farro and spring onions will forever rid cans of Campbell’s from your memory. Mmm, mmm, that’s damn good. $12

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Goemon Curry Yakuzen Vege and Chicken
Photograph: Courtesy Junki Ikeda

Yakuzen soup curry at Goemon Curry

No, Japanese curry is not some culture-crossing hybrid bowl. Though rare in New York, Japanese curries are increasingly popular in that country’s northern regions, where chef Mika Oie hails from. At this next-door sibling to Lower East Side soba shop Cocoron, Oie offers two types of curry, a roux-gravy classic or this showstopping soup curry. The latter boasts two fingers of light, bonito-flaked chicken stock, loaded with potatoes, carrots, boiled egg and a grilled tandoori chicken leg (grilled pork is also available), as well as a side of sticky rice to sop up every last drop. Medium $18, large $20. 
Restaurants, Japanese

Kimchi ramen at Jun-Men Ramen Bar

icon-location-pin Chelsea

It’s not only the minimalist digs that distinguish this Chelsea newcomer from its often-chaotic peers on the East Side. Here, the sole broth is a supremely richtonkotsu, simmered with pork bone for 14 hours and served with miso paste or laden with kimchi. The zesty kimchi version lingers on taste buds: It’s fiery with a fermented cabbage that Korean chef Jun Park prepares using a family recipe he adopted from his grandmother. The piping-hot rendition is poured onto straight noodles and finished with the classic fixings of roasted pork shoulder, egg and scallion. $15

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Restaurants, Vietnamese

Pho at Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen

icon-location-pin Bushwick

Purists, be warned: The singular pho offered at this humble Bushwick charmer is, gasp, meatless. Instead, the lucid broth is simmered with mushrooms, star anise, charred shallots and ginger for three hours, and assembled with unorthodox fixings like shiitake, bok choy and fresh not dried noodles. Beef is an optional topping—namely brisket smoked over mesquite and applewood—but the gracious lightness of the bowl ensures you can down the entire beautiful thing without enduring the dreaded meat sweats. $8, with brisket $12

Restaurants, Japanese

Miso ramen at Ramen Lab

icon-location-pin Nolita

Though the standing-only Nolita ramen-ya has changed its game to highlight a rotating cast of visiting chefs, this vegetarian bowl from the opening menu of Japanese supertoque Shigetoshi “Jack” Nakamura has hooked noodle geeks and novices alike. You’ll hardly notice the lack of meat thanks to the rich, miso-paste broth spiced with Momofuku’s XO sauce (a shellfish-based chili oil) and the garnish of bean sprouts and Japanese chives, tangled around the famed noodles of the restaurant’s parent company, Jersey-based Sun Noodles. Because this dish is served at a high temperature, the strands are aged to ensure they stay firm even after the boiling broth is poured over the top. $14

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Mountain Bird
Photograph: Courtesy Todd France Photography
Restaurants, French

Foie gras dumpling consommé at Tastings Social Presents Mountain Bird

icon-location-pin East Harlem

The New York food scene can be an cruel one, a fact proved when Harlem’s Mountain Bird shuttered last year, not because of poor reviews (the critics were, if anything, overwhelmingly positive) but due to landlord issues. Luckily for poultry fans, husband-and-wife team Keiko and Kenichi Tajima revived the poultry-focused concept inside uptown’s Tasting Socials space this fall, bringing the beautiful consomme with them. A porcelain cup brims with fatty, amber-hued broth, with a lone bread dumpling plopped in the center, its delicate wonton skin enveloping silky foie gras mousse. It’s like chicken soup for the elegant soul. $12

Potato cannelloni at Avant Garden

New York’s standard for vegetarian victuals shot through the roof this year, thanks in part to this tiny, wood-bedecked jewel from the prolific Ravi DeRossi, a practicing vegan. From the restaurant’s open kitchen, chef Andrew D’Ambrosi composes a potato cannelloni that’s every bite as satisfying as it’s beautiful: Mandolin-sliced spuds are fried and cigar rolled with pine-nut ricotta. Atop a pool of arugula pesto, the flaky tube is accessorized with savory slips of merguez-spiced eggplant, shatteringly crisp potato chips and sweet aji dulce peppers for some lively piquancy. $17

BRUNO country ham pizza
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Pizza

Country ham pizza at Bruno

icon-location-pin East Village

At their new school pizzeria Bruno, Box Kite cohorts Dave Gulino and Justin Slojkowski top their time-intensive crusts—kneaded with flour milled in the restaurant’s basement from wheat berries grown upstate—with everything from lovage to lamb coppa. But their most satisfying configuration features shavings of smoked country ham acting as a counterpoint to charred Seckel pears, cured onions and melty patches of Von Trapp Farm’s Oma cheese. Bronze fennel fronds and parsley sprigs cut the richness and finish the charcoal-pocked pie with a fresh note. $17

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Restaurants, Pizza

The Burger pizza at Emily

icon-location-pin Clinton Hill

It was, graciously, inevitable: Matt and Emily Hyland’s Clinton Hill pizzeria is not only home of the best new pies in New York but also one of the city’s best burgers, a seven-ounce dry-aged beaut hooded with melted Grafton Village white cheddar, a tangle of sautéed onions, peppy cornichons and the house’s EMMY sauce (a garlic-butter gochujang mayonnaise) on a Tom Cat Bakery pretzel bun. All those flavors end up on this off-menu hybrid round, topped with crumbles of fontina and Debragga beef, whole cornichons and a bull’s-eye swirl of EMMY sauce. And boy, does it hit that target straight on. $26

Restaurants, Lebanese

Lahm bi ajeen at Manousheh

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

It’s Beirut by way of Bleecker Street at owner Ziyad Hermez’s permanent flagship. (Prior to opening this year, he slung the titular Lebanese flatbreads at a Nolita pop-up and a seasonal Smorgasburg booth.) Though the shop’s standard manousheh is a touch doughier, the bread is completely flattened for this “Lebanese pizza” to ensure a crispy crust, blanketed generously with a mince of grass-fed beef, tomatoes and onions. Pro tip: Finish the pie off with a spritz of lemon and a hefty pollination of addictive Aleppo pepper. $5

Venue says Manousheh is a Lebanese bakery that specializes in traditional flatbreads. Street food at its best! Come and ask about our Loyalty Program!

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Timballo de Zanghi at Sessanta
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Italian

Timballo di Zanghi at Sessanta

icon-location-pin Soho

The timballo, Sicily’s drum-shaped baked-pasta casserole also called the timpano, is by nature a theatrical dish; it famously played a big part in the 1996 foodie flick Big Night and fittingly turns heads at whiplashing speed when ushered onto tables at this Soho dining room. Chef Jordan Frosolone’s take on the Italian specialty—named for his young daughter Zanghi, whose pasta preference also informs the dish—encases ring-shaped anelletti pasta and a hearty pork-sausage ragu inside a dome of supple grilled eggplant. Dressed with more of that robust raguand an avalanche of salty Parmesan, it’s like Nonna’s lasagna—turned up to 11. $42

SRO montanaro pizza
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Dinner

Fried pizza at SRO

icon-location-pin East Village

Giulio Adriani may have shuttered his Bowery-set fried-pizza outlet Forcella last fall, but the East Village wasn’t without those frizzled montanara rounds for long. Through a hidden door inside Espoleta, the Spanish tapas bar that took over the former pizzeria space, you’ll find the 24-seat za speakeasy and its flash-fried crust. The puffed-up, pillowy round is crowned with the requisite toppings—bright tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella—and finished in a 1,000-degree wood-burning oven. $16

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Epaulettes at Vaucluse
Photograph: Courtesy Anthony Jackson
Restaurants, French

Epaulettes at Vaucluse

icon-location-pin Lenox Hill

Pasta king Michael White applies years of Italian finesse (see Ai Fiori and Marea) to classic French flavors in this dual-pocketed ravioli, named for its resemblance to the square shoulder pads on military garb. Gamey rabbit confit occupies one side of the pasta pouch, with buttery reblochon cheese in the other, both grounded in a reduction of earthy, heady black truffle. $24

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Izakaya

Grilled cheese okonomiyaki at Bar Goto

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

At Kenta Goto’s namesake cocktail palace, East meets West in everything from the cherry-blossom martinis and shiitake-shot Bloody Marys to this gooey revision of the barman’s beloved childhood snack: Japan’s street-style okonomiyaki pancake. The traditional pork and shrimp trimmings have been traded for three types of cheese (white cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyere) along with woodsy beech mushrooms and tart sun-dried tomatoes. These comfort-food fixings bulk up an already superbly flavorful dough; the flour is infused with a bonito-kelp stock before hitting a cast iron pan slathered in sweet-and-sour okonomi sauce, silky Kewpie mayo and pickled red ginger. $12

Corn empanadas at Charrua

Corn empanadas at Charrua

Although Gonzalo Bava and Rocío Raña focus their wood-fitted charmer on the fare of their native Uruguay, their standout empanada is the humita corn variety, popular in neighboring Argentina. Shaped like an Asian dumpling with hand-crimped edges, the frizzled pockets snug a piping-hot filling of sweet corn kernels and pimento peppers bathed in a smooth béchamel-like sauce. A spear of olives puncture each turnover, while a side of vinaigrette-dressed salad tempers the richness. Two for $8

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Restaurants, Californian

Mango pitaya at Dimes

icon-location-pin Chinatown

See you later, acai. Pitaya has been a staple in the tropical Far East for centuries but finally gets its New York showcase in a frozen breakfast bowl at the Cali-cool cafe. The bright magenta fruit is blended with banana and creamy coconut milk to yield a thick, milkshake-like consistency. That frothy product is then spooned into a bowl and bedecked with sliced bananas, raspberry and a superfood-heavy load of hemp, buckwheat and bee pollen. That’s a good-for-you breakfast we can get behind. $10

El Rey
Photograph: Liz Barclay
Restaurants, American creative

Vegan chicharrones locos at El Rey

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

This isn’t the deep-fried, puffed-up pork skin you know and love. Instead, chef Gerardo Gonzalez models his snacky bites after the curbside chicharrones de harina he grew up eating in California. Cashew crema with nutritional yeast takes on the role of queso fresco; mint and jicama add an herbaceous tinge; and a pickled-pineapple salsa hits with a zesty sweetness. But most important is the satisfying crackle from those frizzled rinds, which perform a spot-on impression of their porcine peers. $11

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Ema Datsi
Photograph: Bradley Hawks

Ema datsi at Ema Datsi

Don’t be frightened by the neon-orange hue and daunting chili peppers topping these souplike bowls: It’s cheese, man. The only Bhutanese restaurant in New York serves the small country’s national dish, a peasant meal of liquified curds doused in onions, garlic and fresh green peppers. The Himalayan staple comes with a side of traditional red rice, but spring for add-ins like mushrooms or dried beef to help sop up every mind-blowingly rich drop. $8

Masa Waffles at Empellon Cocina
Photograph: Evan Sung
Restaurants, Mexican