Best restaurants in NYC
What is it? It takes a lot to knock Eleven Madison Park off the #1 spot for New York’s best dining, but we’re confident to stand behind this all-day spin-off of Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes’ Cosme. The more casual, cooler follow-up from their Flatiron megahit spotlights healthy Mexican and Central American fare: chayote squash salad, flax seeds chilaquiles and striped bass aguachile. There’s also a strong emphasis on drinks; diners can begin the day with café con leche and end with agave-leaning cocktails by beverage director Yana Volfson. Taking cues from the community-focused restaurants of Mexico City, the 60-seat venue features sleek black and oakwood furniture, a white terrazzo bar and verdant vegetation lining the walls.
Why go? Guess what? You can still have fun at New York’s best restaurants. It may seem like a small detail, but so many top-rated restaurants in the city are stuffy, expensive, and too heady (not to mention, with almost all kitchens in the city only run by ahem, men). Soto-Innes and Olvera have introduced New Yorkers to a much more nuanced understanding of Mexican food, in a way that is elevated and experimental while still remaining approachable, in their hip-yet-casual environment on Lafayette Street. It feels particularly radical to introduce a new category of Mexican bites in an era in which south of the border relations have never been more contentious. This gastro-diplomacy is not only timely, but one of the most exciting menus New Yorkers have tried in a while.
What is it? In the #trending millennial slang lexicon, basic is not a compliment—it’s a dig to the banal, extra-regular-ness of everything from fur-lined Ugg boots to pumpkin-spice lattes. Basic cooking is no exception, redolent with whiffs of home kitchens and hands-on Sauté 101 classes. But the soulful Italian plates served at Via Carota, the first joint effort from chef power couple Jody Williams and Rita Sodi—at once rustic, sophisticated and heart-swelling—proves simple food can be anything but basic.
Why go? Because the love behind the kitchen shows in the dishes
What is it? The spot sports a fashionably cookie-cutter decor—exposed brick, globe lights, hulking marble bar, you know the drill—but the true draw to the space is the talented Ignacio Mattos, the imaginative Uruguayan-born chef cooking in this Mediterranean-tinged spot.
Why Go? Simple, yet thoughtful fare perfect for a stunning meal any night of the week
What is it? The front door of this fine-dining Korean restaurant from the husband-and-wife team behind Atoboy is hidden in the foyer of a walk-up apartment building on the edge of Nomad (we can’t help but wonder whether a thriving restaurant makes for a friendly neighbor). Past the bar, a flight of stairs brings you to the basement, where you can enjoy snacks on couches in the stone-floor lounge before taking a seat at one of the 14 chairs at the black-granite counter overlooking the kitchen.
Once seated, you’ll collect a series of cards throughout the 10-course, $175-per-person tasting menu. With each course, another chapter of the gastronomic story unfolds when another card arrives, meticulously describing the components of the dish alongside a little nugget of history or culinary knowledge. The menu—which includes deep-fried langoustine with creamed uni, grilled and braised turbot, and scorched rice pudding—makes for a great meal and a you-should-have-been-there tale.
Why go? It’s Korean food unlike anything you’ve had in town.
What is it? It’s a scene out of Ratatouille: Lined with copper pots and hand-glazed tiles, the open kitchen churns with an almost cartoonish hustle as chefs skim their two-foot-high toques against the range hoods while plating hazelnut-freckled leek vinaigrettes or, say, foie-marbled veal terrines. But it’s no movie; rather, it’s the animated stir of prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr’s Le Coucou, which makes the case for a revival of French fine dining.
Why go? For the revival of fine-dining French
What is it? Siblings Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze brought Le Bernardin to Gotham back in 1986, and the swanky spot has maintained its reputation ever since. With white tablecloths, punctilious service and a jackets-required policy in the main dining room, it has retro formality in spades. Presided over by Éric Ripert, this haute-French seafood classic still delivers the goods with its tasting menu, four-course feast and (much more affordable but equally stunning) bar snacks.
Why go? For delectable French seafood
What is it? Yes, it did slide from the top spot—new New York is moving away from fine dining—on our list but it is still one of the best places to eat in the city (which is to say the world). In fact, even after attaining best-in-the-world status from a number of outlets, they weren't happy with their offering so they closed up shop for a spiffy redesign and returned with a bang. Post-revamp, Daniel Humm still mans the kitchen at this über progressive landmark, which has a grand dining room to match its heady, epic tasting menus. The eight- to 10-course format nicely spotlights Humm’s auteur instincts. Lucky for you, those signature savory black-and-white cookies didn’t go anywhere, either.
Why go? A tasting menu like no other blends with five-star service for the best restaurant in NYC (and possibly the world)
What is it? When world-renowned sushi chef Masa Takayama arrived in New York, he offered what’s likely the most expensive dining experience in the city’s history (today, dinner for two can top $1,500). To be clear, Takayama doesn’t overcharge for his meals: He overspends, and the mystique of it all—his exquisite materials, rare ingredients and labor-intensive techniques—can be lost on a diner who doesn’t know the ins and outs. Takayama meticulously prepares each perfect, bite-size gift, and the sushi almost melts in your mouth. To serious food lovers (us included), this ritual is a priceless experience.
Why go? Takayama doesn’t distract diners from the meal: the space feels like a temple for seafood worship
What is it? They call it second-child syndrome: a loosening of the reins, a slight dimming of the overeagerness that comes with adding a sibling to that precious firstborn. Such is the case of Wildair, the 45-seat sister restaurant to chef Jeremiah Stone and pastry chef Fabian von Hauske’s avant-garde tasting-menu den, Contra, two doors down. Wildair is more low-pressure, set with sardine-packed bar tables, a fuzzy midaughts soundtrack and neighborhood affability. And though Wildair’s snacky, à la carte menu has less sharp-edged experimentation than Contra’s, there are low-key innovations at play here.
Why go? For one of the best wine lists curated at a restaurant
What is it? Expectations are high at Per Se, and that goes both ways. You are expected to come when they’ll have you—you might be put on standby for four nights, only to win a 10pm Tuesday spot—and fork over a pretty penny if you cancel. You’re expected to wear the right clothes, pay a non-negotiable deposit and pretend you aren’t eating in a shopping mall. Thomas Keller’s restaurant, in turn, is expected to deliver a spectacular meal for even prettier pennies (the $340 nine-course tasting menu, for example). And it does. The foie gras with raw almonds is lush, the butter-poached lobster with bearnaise mousseline is tender and sweet, and the dining room has a level of luxury fit for Streisand.
Why go? The 30-for-30 deal for the millennial crowd is not to be missed
What is it? If a new restaurant is lucky, it’ll have one destination dish that piques food-geek interest and draws New York’s increasingly discerning eaters across bridges and through tunnels for a mere taste. Lilia—the airy Williamsburg pasta parlor that simultaneously serves as the kitchen comeback and solo debut from acclaimed A Voce vet Missy Robbins—has an entire menu of destination dishes; the biggest problem you’ll have here, other than scoring a free table, is picking a favorite.
Why go? It’s easily the best bowl of pasta you'll have this year.
What is it? Enrique Olvera, the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, made his stateside debut with this bare-concrete Flatiron dining room that slings elegant, high-gear small plates. Pristine and market-fresh, Olvera’s menu is a masterpiece, with single-corn-tortilla tacos, sinful carnitas, and surprising touches, such as bone-marrow salsa and a savory-sweet meringue.
Why go? Cosme brought a much needed Latino flavor to upper-echelon NYC restaurants
What is it? You’ve got to make it through the reservations ringer to gain access to chef David Chang’s slim tasting menu. The ever-evolving 12 to 15 courses feature dishes like raw fluke in a coating of tangy, mellow buttermilk, poppy seeds and house-made chili sauce or a frozen foie-gras torchon, shaved over lychee puree and pine-nut brittle. It’s all brilliantly executed and further proof that Chang is the kind of pioneer the city needs right now.
Why go? David Chang is the contrarian pioneer that the city needs
What is it? From 1959 to 2016, the Four Seasons was the city’s most exclusive supper club, a veritable village green for New York’s wealthy, famous and powerful. So it’s no small feat that Major Food Group’s remake of the famed Grill Room, which opened its doors last year, dazzles. Inspired by midcentury menus from Delmonico’s and the 21 Club, chef Mario Carbone deftly reconstructs continental classics like filet Peconic, lobster Newburg and three iterations of Dover sole. And, of course, there’s the prime rib that’s wheeled out on a $10,000 silver-domed service trolley by tuxedo-clad waiters.
Why go? The prime rib
What is it? Ah, the restaurant that transformed Danny Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur into a full-blown impresario, made Tom Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual-yet-upscale American eateries. Under chef Michael Anthony (Blue Hill at Stone Barns), the delicate constructions of farmers’-market produce, meats and fish shine in Gramercy’s mandated $129 three-course prix fixe. In the front, though, a lively, no-fuss à la carte tavern is a sweet alternative to the main dining room.
Why go? Thoughtful American fare with the best cookie plate in town
What is it? In a white-tiled slip of an East Village eatery, former James Beard Award-winning Del Posto pastry great and erstwhile punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley gives his uberpopular veggie burger pop-up the brick-and-mortar treatment, offering the namesake patty, tofu-cabbage wraps, vegetarian sloppy joes and vanilla-labna gelato.
Why go? The best veggie burger you'll ever have
What is it? Last year, Brooklyn’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars made the movin’-on-up jump over the East River to Hell’s Kitchen. Twice the size of the original, the food at Chef’s Table 2.0 is thankfully still on point—and still pricey. Taking a date to enjoy executive chef Jared Sippel’s four-course Mediterranean prix fixe could send you back more than a grand.
Why go? It’s Brooklyn’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant
What is it? Five years back, Adam Tihany’s vibrant redesign brought Daniel Boulud’s classic restaurant into the 21st century. The food is as thought out as the decor, with unusually generous entrées that consist of seafood stunners and top-form nouveau French fare. Sure, Daniel is still a big-ticket commitment, but Boulud and his team make a powerful case for living high on the hog.
Why go? No place does better nouveau French fare
What is it? The Italian-American supper clubs immortalized in mob movies and sepia-toned photos were never as dreamy as they seemed. Moving beyond sentimentality in their homage to those restaurants, however, the young guns behind Carbone have turned the whole genre on its head. Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s spot is a Godfather hangout on steroids, more fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback. It’s a hype-worthy spin on a vanishing form and a restaurant where, breadsticks to bow ties, everything looks, tastes and feels authentic.
Why go? For a 21st-century restaurant sporting 20th-century charm
What is it? The painstakingly crafted Neapolitan pies—cracker-thin crust with a pleasing char and a subtle Parmesan zing—have been prepared by hand for more than 50 years at Domenico De Marco’s unassuming corner joint. To keep yourself occupied during what feels like an interminable wait, check out the window boxes full of herbs used to flavor the sauce and drop some “Did you know the dough is made several times a day?” knowledge on a pal.
Why go? It’s NYC—we take our pizza very seriously
What is it? Fact: When I reviewed Frenchette a few months ago, I waited four hours for a table; since then, the hype hasn’t died down at all. A peek at this Tribeca brasserie’s reservation book will show that only a few tables are available for the next month, and they’re for 10pm or later. Add in a bustling bar with a rotating roster of high-profile patrons and you’ve got one of the hottest spots in town. If you are able to get a prime-time resy, an abundance of comforting French fare awaits, such as duck frites smothered in a bearnaise sauce or baked gnocchi showered with ham and cheese. Score a table—and your bragging rights.
Why go? The trendy Tribeca spot has duck frites that shouldn't be missed
What is it? You may remember Daisuke Nakazawa toiling over egg custard as the modest apprentice in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, humbled by the rigors of an 11-year stint under the world’s most distinguished sushi chef, Jiro Ono. The pupil has emerged as the teacher at this sleek West Village sushi bar, where he sets each of the 20 or so morsels on your plate in a graceful choreography. And the fewer the embellishments, the better.
Why go? Nakazawa is a jokester who places a live squirming shrimp on your plate just for a laugh
Lilia’s James Beard Award–winning chef Missy Robbins is serving her famous pasta and vegetable dishes in a brand-new space, which has a pasta-making room that’s visible to diners and passersby alike. Witness the chefs prepare 10 starchy specials, including fettuccine bathed in buffalo butter, corzetti peppered with Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and summer herbs, and Sardinian gnocchi packed with clams, sea beans and saffron.
What is it? This 20-seat follow-up to Neta in the West Village has a cool-kid atmosphere—the beanie-clad chef remains, as does the thumping “99 Problems”—but where an expensive omakase was an option at Neta, here it’s mandatory. No matter: It’s a parade of exceptionally made edomae sushi (prepared by sushi demigod Masa Takayama’s longtime disciples) served in its purest form: lightly lacquered with soy and nestled atop a slip of warm, loosely packed rice.
Why go? The rock-star chefs were longtime disciples of sushi demigod Masa Takayama
What is it? The name’s a playful twist on the phonetic pronunciation of misada, the Hebrew word for “restaurant.” At this Fort Greene spot, Israeli-born chef Tomer Blechman (Bar Bolonat) combines his Latvian heritage with Mediterranean cooking for smart mezzes and main-course Middle Eastern plates, best enjoyed on the outdoor terrace.
Why go? You can eat your weight in fluffy pita on their outdoor terrace
What is it? Chef Nick Perkins, a veteran of Andrew Tarlow’s Williamsburg empire of Diner and Marlow & Sons, brings some serious chops to this Bed-Stuy beauty. In the 30-seat dining room (marble-topped bar, cushioned banquettes) designed by Perkins’s brother, Russell, the toque turns out Mediterranean-focused plates that are always elevated but never fussy.
Why go? For high-quality seafood fare that's not fussy
What is it? In one of New York's few (and certainly only trendy) Persian restaurants, the incredibly fragrant cuisine of Iran is finally getting the spotlight it deserves. Dine on roasted eggplant dip, beef-and-potato kebab and rosewater sorbet at this traditional Persian spot in Prospect Heights led by the chef-owner who moved to the city from Iran in the 1980s.
Why Go? One of the best and only representations of Persian cuisine in town.
What is it? The big-box room, situated on the ground floor of the Grace Building, is too comfortably cream-toned for cool, fixed with timber barn beams and folky stork wallprints evocative of the Alsatian farm country where Gabriel Kreuther—the man, not the restaurant—hails. But Kreuther isn’t concerned with cool, nor should he be. After an acclaimed decade at Danny Meyer’s MoMA restaurant, the Modern, the veteran chef joins the grand pantheon of name-bearing flagships—the Daniels, the Jean-Georges—with cooking that’s as personal as it is precise.
Why go? Dine in a space as beautiful as the food
What is it? La Grenouille, which opened in 1962, is a window into a time when stuffy waiters and chateaubriand were considered the peek experience of fine dining. It doesn’t get much snootier: Jackets are required, cell phones and kids are forbidden, and the electric-red decor, full of mirrors and flowers and Art Deco details, has the feel of a Mad Men power lunch. But beyond its throwback charm, it endures for one big reason: top-form culinary execution.
Why go? For old-world, over-the-top romance
What is it? The team behind Legacy Records turns its latest project into a full experience: there’s a restaurant, cocktail den, wine store and event space spanning two floors of Henry Hall. Legacy Records hits all the notes we want in a restaurant: food that’s delicious but not fussy, a room full of energy, fun cocktails and stylish decor.
Why go? It’s close to Hudson Yards but still feels like a New York restaurant where the food
What is it? If you had to pick one restaurant from Michael White (Convivio, Alto), this would be it. The spectacular shrine to the Italian coastline is a worthy indulgence. Spend you shall, but you will be rewarded with superb crostini and seafood-focused pastas.
Why go? If you had to pick one Michael White restaurant, it would be this one
What is it? With four-star ambitions and prices to match, Del Posto set the bar awfully high when it opened in 2005, but the cavernous restaurant has become nothing less than one of the city’s top destinations for refined, upscale Italian cuisine. The clubby dining room, serenaded nightly by a twinkling grand piano, feels like the lobby of an opulent grand hotel. The kitchen challenges its French competition in butter consumption.
Why go? For casual celeb spotting (hi, Bey and Jay)
What is it? Nur is the forward-thinking pan–Middle Eastern restaurant in Gramercy from Israeli-Moroccan celebu-toque Meir Adoni (of Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Blue Sky and Lumina) and Breads Bakery founder Gadi Peleg. Adoni, one in a growing line of chefs who are retooling Israeli eating in New York, stretches beyond comfort dishes to pull influences from all over the Levant, from Jewish and Arab traditions to his own North African roots.
Why go? Their array of breads makes for the perfect evening of carboloading
What is it? Chef-owner Alfred Portale made his name with towering New American constructions, and though the menu doesn’t push any flavor boundaries, the execution is damn impressive—as is the restaurant’s soaring, traditional, masculine space. It’s upscale overload, with standouts such as the juicy fried soft-shell crabs with morels, fresh peas, ramps and couscous.
Why go? For upscale food that’s not too esoteric
What is it? Pizza is the star of the show at Emily. Categorized by sauce color, the menu has a red column and a white column. Where should you start? The namesake white pizza, topped with mozzarella, pistachios, truffle sottocenere and honey. It’s a performance in restraint, with the drizzled sweet honey dancing with the sumptuous mozzarella, all mingling with a slight crunch from the pistachios and truffle sottocenere.
Why go? For some of the city's buzziest new pizza in the last couple of years
What is it? For New Yorkers, lining up at Russ & Daughters is a time-honored morning tradition. Pull a ticket, wait for your number to be called, then sidle up to the glass cases to gawk over the stunning sable and sturgeon. The routine hasn’t changed much since the smoked-fish emporium launched more than a century ago.
Why go? For fresh fish in an institution
What is it? In the überindulgent world of three-figure omakase thrills, sushi reigns, with finance whales and deep-pocketed diners kneeling at the throne of trumped-up toro. But tempura, Japan’s battered-and-fried preparation of seafood and vegetables, was never a part of that fine-dining fawning. Enter Masao Matsui.
Why go? The tempura batter includes Dash, a Japanese soup stock made from fish and kelp
What is it? Drew Nieporent returns to the hallowed halls of his restaurant past, the space that held his formative debut, Montrachet. Nieporent, however, has changed gears, enlisting chef Markus Glocker (Gordon Ramsay at the London) to infuse a multicourse European tasting menu with touches of his native Austria.
Why go? There are 800 wines on the menu
What is it? The ceiling and walls are hung with tobacco pipes, some from Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and other long-ago Keens regulars. Even in these nonsmoking days, you can catch a whiff of the restaurant’s 130 years of history. Beveled-glass doors, two working fireplaces and a forest’s worth of dark wood suggest a time when “Diamond Jim” Brady piled his table with bushels of oysters, slabs of seared beef and troughs of ale. Other aspects have remained unchanged, too: The menu still lists a three-inch-thick mutton chop and classic desserts such as key lime pie.
Why go? Sirloin and porterhouse (for two or three) hold their own against any steak in the city
What is it? Crown Shy is the first collaboration between James Kent, longtime Chef de Cuisine at Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park and Executive Chef at NoMad, alongside Jeff Katz, Managing Partner of Del Posto. The restaurant is located inside the highly sought-after Art Deco residential building, 70 Pine Street.
Why go? Here, elevated meals are crafted by New York’s fine dining elite. You can ball out like a banker without breaking your piggy bank. We suggest the cavatelli with chicken liver ragu and horseradish ($18) finishing off with the orange satsuma ice cream served with toasted marshmallow and honeycomb ($9). Dishes change seasonally.
What is it? Some of the best restaurants on this list, like Le Coucou or the NoMad, found their homes in hotels, and the trend keeps growing. This year, the Freehand Hotel made its first local appearance, adding to the Sydell Group’s roster of locations in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, and with it came a new favorite: Simon & the Whale. Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman (Joseph Leonard, Bar Sardine) opened the eatery in conjunction with the all-day Studio café and the cozy George Washington Bar, all under the same roof. And they’re all glorious.
Why go? Baker Zoe Kanan's black bread is worth the trip in itself
What is it? A pizzeria in Bushwick run by Marie Tribouilloy, Mike Fadem and Gavin Compton (who, collectively pull experience from Achilles Heel, Estela and Buvette) for a neighborhood joint serving up pies. There’s the square-crust version, marinaras and the “Juno” (prolovalone, ricotta salata, broccoli rabe, potatoes), among others that complement a rotating selection of veggie sides.
Why go? At Ops, you’ll immediately be made to feel like a regular, even if it’s your first time through the door. And while you’ll certainly be there to fill up on bread and cheese, it’s one of the only pizzerias we head to for some of the county’s most exciting natural wines, a list full of fun and affordable options. The excitement around their natural wines even inspired the owners to open a nearby wine shop called Forêt Wines, so you can drink them at home, too.
What is it? Sure, this Prospect Heights jewel from Greg Baxtrom (Per Se, Blue Hill at Stone Barns) initially smacks of veggie fussiness—the ribboned carrot crêpe is sprinkled with sunflower petals—but plumb its expertly balanced depths and you’ll see a different picture. Think of it as fine dining wrapped up in a neighborhood-spot aesthetic: The most expensive entrée doesn’t exceed $25, impromptu “Happy Birthday” sing-alongs occur among strangers, and you can openly curse over just how fucking good a dish is. And it is.
Why go? The eclectic menu tastes even better when eating in the outdoor garden
What is it? Korean food has expanded in breadth and ambition in recent years, but none of it has seen a boost quite like Korean barbecue. Just look at Cote, a sleek Flatiron District effort from Simon Kim of the Michelin-starred Piora. Sitting 10 blocks south of K-Town proper, it’s deliberately billed as a “Korean steakhouse,” a distinction that’s felt in its swank decor and starters you’d more likely find at an all-American meat temple than at a bulgogi grill. Not only that, the joint earned a Michelin star within its first year of opening.
Why go? Cote earned a Michelin star within its first year of opening
What is it? Created by the Speedy Romeo team, the recently Michelin-starred Oxomoco focuses on wood-fired dishes; favorites include a beet “chorizo" taco ($13), masa-fried cauliflower with black mole, pepitas, and butternut squash crema ($14) and chicken al pastor with grilled pineapple ($15). The restaurant exudes a faint campfire smell that spreads throughout the all-white dining room, accented only by the green ivy hanging from the skylights. Be mesmerized by the glow emanating off the illuminated bar, lined with beautiful bottles of mezcal and tequila, ready to be shaken or stirred into cocktails.
Why go? Feels like you’re in a trendy Mexico City restaurant
What is it? Il Buco’s offshoot focuses on a wine-centric dinner atmosphere (Vineria) and an Italian pantry shop (Alimentari) while managing to make classic Italian dishes exciting. At this Italian staple, there’s charred leek with smoked steelhead trout roe and meyer lemon ($18), Spanish Mackerel marinated rhubarb, pickled mustard seed, green meat radish ($21), cacio e pepe bucantini ($23) and pappardelle with lamb neck sugo ($26).
Why go? In addition to sumptuous antipasto, primi and secondi served in the back, you can pick up some hard-to-find pantry staples from their butcher counter or shelves filled with fancy olive oils and tinned fish.
What is it? If you haven’t heard of this sprawling ode to artisanal pizza, you must have just emerged from that rock you’ve been living under. Perhaps the Bushwick essential, this oasis on an industrial block grows much of its own produce and slings out brick-oven pies that feature inventive toppings, such as guanciale and egg or kale, Taleggio and Berkshire pork sausage. The dining room is cozy, but don’t miss the roomy outdoor beer garden (or the seasonal frozen dranks).
Why go? Large groups can nosh on a multicourse meal with stellar wood-oven pizza
What is it? Jody Williams may have designed her intimate Gallic-themed eatery with friends and neighbors in mind, but the food here is too accomplished to keep gastro groupies at bay. Those who wait for an evening table are treated to excellent small plates, which arrive all at once like an indoor picnic. Every detail of the place is thoughtfully curated, leaving you to revel in the chef’s very good taste as you linger over perfectly prepared dessert.
Why go? For a little bit of Paris in NYC
What is it? Good looks aren’t everything, but they’re serious business here, where tables overlook the MoMA’s sculpture garden and diners carve their meat with Porsche steak knives. The pre-fixe menus are as carefully curated as any museum show, from vibrant opening bites to hearty mains.
Why go? If you get an early reservation, you can look out at the garden while the sun’s still out
What is it? Keith McNally’s lovingly restored Minetta Tavern may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial New York. The place is as buzzy now as ever, yet the food (like the exquisite Black Label burger) is as much of a draw as the happening scene.
Why go? The pricey Black Label burger is worth every penny
What is it? In the years since the 2006 opening of Ssäm Bar, chef and owner David Chang has added to his résumé cookbook author (Momofuku), magazine editor (Lucky Peach) and—with the ascendency of his pastry chef Christina Tosi—even talent scout. To understand his astounding success and cult of personality, one need look no further than this perpetually buzzy restaurant, still a crown jewel of the East Village dining scene. Waiters hustle to raucous rock music inside this wood-paneled 50-seat space, ferrying platters of oysters and regional American hams, oozing pork buns, and daring offal dishes to tables still packed with food cognoscenti.
Why go? You couldn’t get a reservation at Momofuku Ko
What is it? Nix is the first veg-only restaurant from John Fraser, who dipped his toe in the genre with Meatless Mondays at Michelin-starred Dovetail and his blogger-luring rotisserie beets at Narcissa. It’s named for the plaintiff in the 1983 Supreme Court decision that designated tomatoes as vegetables, not fruit.
Why go? Here, vegetable dishes are made decadent and won’t have you asking, “where’s the meat?”
What is it? Designed by the film-set decorator and Wes Anderson collaborator Kris Moran, the space is a circus for the senses. Naan is the gateway drug—puffed, buttery and pocked with char—but the kulchas, pillowy griddled flatbreads stuffed with chicken and split chickpeas or bacon and cheese, are the truly dangerous addiction. However, Cardoz, a native of Bombay, has built more than just a kingdom of carbs. Bombay Bread Bar is the kind of colorful, rollicking spot that will reintroduce New Yorkers to Indian food through an eccentric lens.
Why go? Chef Cardoz is a master of naan.
What is it? Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first meat-free venture looks like the inside of Gwyneth Paltrow’s brain: The spacious room is a Goop-y stretch of all-white furniture, with pops of color (courtesy of the artisanal ceramic plateware), millennial-pink wall panels and boho banquettes. Each menu arrives with a chart that details the health benefits of various vegetables. Oh, the food’s delicious, too.
Why go? ABCV is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's first meat-free spot
What is it? Thai restaurant Uncle Boons is part of a riptide of upstarts repackaging homey Asian food—once relegated to holes-in-the-wall or fusty midtown warhorses—in buzzy, forward-thinking joints. So at this dark-wood-paneled rathskeller, you’ll find tap wine and beer slushes, vintage Thai flatware carved from teak and brass, and perhaps major foodies plowing through noodles in the back dining room.
Why go? For some of the hippest Thai in the city
What is it? Before there was a destination restaurant on every Williamsburg corner, Andrew Tarlow was quietly pioneering restaurants that functioned like community hubs for artists in the otherwise barren neighborhood. Beginning with Diner, Marlow & Sons was Tarlow’s follow-up that opened in 2004. Tarlow has since expanded his Brooklyn restaurant empire with Marlow & Daughters, Roman’s and Achilles Heel.
Why go? Last year, chef Patch Troffer completely reinvented the menu, focusing for the first time on Japanese-American farm food: a kombu pork shoulder with sauerkraut and kabocha squash ($28) or a sour cabbage pancake with togarashi and bonito flakes ($16) keeps the same locally-minded, ethical sourcing, this time from a new perspective.
What is it? The effortlessly-curated interior by Roman and Williams sets the stage for chef Marie-Aude Rose’s take on the classic French bistro with a modern touch. Every egg dish is perfectly cooked, the pastries glisten behind the counter, salads are expertly composed and the specialty butters from Bordier alone make the long waits worth it.
Why go? French cafe fare feels Parisian chic with a New York flare. Everything is for sale, from the plates and napkins to utensils to the showroom in back (be careful after a few glasses).
What is it? Despite decor that Jewish mothers might call “schmutzy,” this legendary deli is a madhouse at breakfast and brunch. Enormous egg platters come with the usual choice of smoked fish (such as sturgeon or Nova Scotia salmon). Prices are high but portions are large—and that goes for the sandwiches, too. Or try the less costly dishes: matzo-ball soup, creamy egg salad or cold pink borscht served in a glass jar.
Why go? If you can’t travel to get bubby’s homestyle cooking on the weekends
What is it? The owners of Bar Henry branched out to Queens with this 40-seat Mexican eatery, specializing in the regional cuisine of Cintalapa, Chiapas. Brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar, the chef and GM respectively, pay homage to their late mother with traditional plates, including some based on her recipes, such as chicken mole and cochinito chiapaneco (guajillo-marinated baby pork ribs).
Why go? The high-quality cooking garnered Casa Enrique a Michelin star, making it the first Mexican restaurant in New York to ever do so
What is it? Diners often compare eating great food to a religious experience, but at Kajitsu there's something literal in the restaurant's connection to the divine. The sparse, hushed interior suggests a reverence for nature that is also expressed in the food. For those accustomed to bold flavors, the preparations can at first seem understated to a fault. But with each jewel-like course, the meal emerges as an artful meditation on simplicity and seasonality.
Why go? To try possibly New York's only kaiseki restaurant serving centuries-old Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin
What is it? Sipping wine out of a pricey Zalto stem is an activity typical of more formal surroundings, but at Charlie Bird, you swirl a smoky Rodano chianti riserva while nodding your head to the Notorious B.I.G. Devoted in equal measure to seasonal cooking and serious wine, this West Village spot roughs up its own polish with subtle hints of the street, like large graphic prints of boom boxes and the now-ubiquitous restaurant soundtrack of early-’90s hip-hop.
Why go? For wine bravado in addition to delicious eats
What is it? Tucked away on a quiet stretch of Smith Street in Carroll Gardens is a Thai restaurant that will keep you coming back for more self-inflicted pain. It may not be scientifically proven, but spicy food is addictive—especially at Ugly Baby. Whether you’re ordering the “stay-away spicy Udon Thani’s duck salad” or the khao soi, the servers will warn you over and over to be careful. You’ll go against their advice and end up begging for more of the cooling cucumbers to ward off the heat.
Why go? You’ll keep coming back even through the tears and sweat because the food is that good.
What is it? For the yet-to-be converted, Korean barbecue can seem like utter chaos—a frenzy of pounding K-pop hits and smoke-spewing tableside grills always an inch or two away from firing up a lawsuit. Despite the noise and crowd, the cooking speaks of a quiet refinement courtesy of young-gun chef Deuki Hong, who previously put in kitchen time at Jean Georges and Momofuku.
Why go? Hong wet-ages his Omaha beef for three weeks before the servers showcase the carne in escalating degrees of flavor and heft
What is it? Chef Gabe McMackin has built a career cooking at restaurants such as Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern, where utilizing seasonal ingredients was at the forefront. At his restaurant The Finch, he’s maintained this philosophy but with an effortless edge as the menu evolves throughout the year. On one visit you might order Japanese yams to dip into a Meyer lemon mayonnaise or a bowl full of squid ink pasta but you can always find something unexpected.
Why go? Restaurants with a seasonal focus are a dime a dozen, but The Finch sets itself apart with a neighborhood vibe that’s infectious.
What is it? Everyone loves a good taco, but at Claro, your notion of Mexican food is greatly expanded. The aguachile is not exactly your run-of-the-meal ceviche: scallops marinate in a bath of bright citrus and also have an unexpected hit of heat. The tortillas are housemade and make a perfect vehicle for the complex moles that feel tradition yet modern.
Why go? Oaxacan cuisine gets a New York touch where everything is carefully sourced.
What is it? The city’s best Indian food isn’t relegated to Curry Hill or the East Village. Indian Accent’s elevated take on classics and creative take on lesser-known Indian dishes fills a much-needed gap in the fine-dining scene.
Why go? It’s unlike any Indian restaurant in the city and run by a team that’s found a winning formula in New Delhi.
What is it? A Williamsburg fine dining spot, the revival of the Michelin-starred Scandinavian kitchen helmed by Swedish wunderkind chef Fredrik Berselius. A tasting menu will set you back $265, but think of it as tickets to your own personal staging of a Netflix Chef’s Table episode, rather than just a dinner.
Why go? A restaurant with some of the most exciting foraged ingredients we’ve ever seen. Basically Brooklyn’s version of Noma.
What is it? A Taiwanese-American spot in East Williamsburg by Josh Ku (a former property manager) and Trigg Brown (formerly in the kitchen at Craft) serving sloppy baos ($11), fried eggplant ($9) and sticky tofu with pickled kumquat ($7).
Why go? If you want a crash course on East Williamsburg, this is the neighborhood spot to get a feel for the creativity on this side of the bridge.
What is it?
This heralded Israeli pita shop in Chelsea Market is a key player in the renaissance of Middle Eastern cuisine in NYC. The menu is split up between in-a-pita and out-of-the-pita, though you're going to want to get a sampling of both (especially the whole roasted baby cauliflower).
Why go? Their folded cheeseburger pita will make you question everything you thought you knew about a great burger
At this point, it’s unclear just how many “moments” Vietnamese food has had in New York’s gastro timeline. The city’s last pho wave hit in 2013, when buzzy outlets like Rob Newton’s Nightingale 9 and the ramshackle Bunker in Ridgewood, Queens, came onto the scene to unpack and update Far East flavors with farm-to-table finesse and refined techniques. And now Gotham’s in the midst of yet another influx, with high-profile openings such as Chao Chao, a Brooklyn reboot of Bunker, and two East Village additions, Madame Vo and Hanoi House. It’s Hanoi House from Stephen Starr alums Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen—a Vietnamese comfort-food canteen situated at the less-grungy end of St. Mark’s Place—that has stirred the blogosphere’s fresh hopes of pho grandeur. Traditional Vietnamese this emphatically is not: The restaurant’s chef and fellow Starr vet John Nguyen (Storico, Lincoln Ristorante) taps more into the freewheeling Southeast Asian cooking you’d find in his native Orange County, California, which is home to the oldest and largest Little Saigon in the country. Tangles of morning glory come dressed with savory capers and fish sauce spiked with brown butter ($8); nubs of coconut-braised octopus are dotted with perfect little hard-boiled quail eggs ($16); and banh mi is deconstructed as dainty pâté-slathered toasts crowned with sea urchin and pickled vegetables ($18). Not every doctored recipe works: For instance, roasted bone marrow adds little to a plate of shaking beef ($28), and
What is it? Brooklyn’s pizza legacies are legion—from Grimaldi’s in Dumbo to Ditmas Park’s fabled Di Fara. To this noble lineup add Lucali. The artisanal intent at the candlelit pizzeria is visible in the flour-dashed marble counter where the dough is punched and stretched, and in the brick oven from which it later emerges crisp and blistered. There are just two items on Lucali’s menu: pies and calzones, adorned with milky, elastic mozzarella and simple toppings like chewy rounds of pepperoni or slivers of artichoke.
Why go? BYOB, baby
What is it? You may have noticed the spate of Isan food, the cuisine indigenious to northeastern Thailand, served in recent years. Credit Somtum Der and its Michelin nod early on for this trend. The spice level is rarely toned down for American tastes whether you order a papaya salad or fiery plate of larb moo. But it’s not just about spiciness because the Thai food at Somtum Der showcases flavors New Yorkers crave (and expect) from Thai food today.
Why go? If you want an introduction to Thailand’s Isan food, there’s no better place in New York.