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The 100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016

From Nordic bread to Nashville hot chicken to new-age clam pizza, these are New York’s best dishes and drinks of 2016

By Christina Izzo, Lauren Rothman and Dan Q Dao |
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Butter noodle at Momofuku Nishi
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The New York food scene was a spoil of riches in 2016—it welcomed regional specialties like Nashville-style fried chicken, Chicagoan Italian beef and a Detroit analogue to the city’s best New York pizza. It offered fresh takes on old-world French, shiny-new meccas of Japanese food and Korean BBQ, and top-notch breakfast sandwiches to cure our hangovers. These are the 100 best dishes and drinks we enjoyed this year.

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

85 best dishes in NYC 2016

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Italian

Agnolotti at Lilia

Williamsburg

Realistically, any of the remarkable pastas at Missy Robbins’s Williamsburg stunner could have taken the top spot this year—the ruffle-edged, peppercorn-pepped mafaldini; the chili-thrummed rigatoni diavola—but it was the chef’s agnolotti that haunted our pasta-lover dreams since first bite. The supple, hand-shaped parcels—stained the color of the sun from sprinklings of heady saffron—cradle a soft spoonful of tart sheep’s milk ricotta that threatens to ooze out into the honey-laced butter sauce at the hint of a fork prong. A crush of dried tomatoes punctuates that gorgeous golden pool, anointing it with bright, welcome acidity. This, quite simply, is what bliss tastes like, people. $22

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Carrot crepe at Olmsted
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Carrot crepe at Olmsted

Prospect Heights

It’s rare when a dish tastes exactly as good as it looks, and chef Greg Baxtrom pulls it off with this root crepe, a soft orange disk mosaicked with edible sunflower petals and seeds, fresh sprouts and bright streamers of carrot peel. But the real magic happens beneath that velvety, ravioli-like round: a silky carrot reduction swimming with the buttery brine of small littleneck clams. The sunflower seeds and carrot ribbons on top do ample work of providing crunch to offset that earthy softness below, making for a signature dish that is as balanced as it is beautiful. $15

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Italian

Littleneck clam pizza at Pasquale Jones

Nolita

The clam pie is a proud specialty of Connecticut, most notably the iconic, char-pocked rendition at New Haven’s Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, but New York has its fair share of freshly shucked contenders, from Franny’s of Brooklyn to Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern on Staten Island. Joining that esteemed company this year is the littleneck za from chef Ryan Hardy at his Mulberry Street sequel to Charlie Bird. From a wood-burning oven, Hardy pulls a crisp, lightweight crust with a center that stretches out into a pliant chew. On top, minced bivalves and bitter broccoli rabe wade in a garlicky cream sauce shot with brackish clam liqueur and enlivened with olive oil, fresh oregano, a spritz of lemon and an optional but highly encouraged drizzle of the Calabrian chili oil set at each table. Your move, New Haven. $24

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Corry Arnold
Restaurants, French

Tout le lapin at Le Coucou

Little Italy

“All of the rabbit”—that’s what the starring dish translates to at Le Coucou, the formidable French spot from American chef Daniel Rose, of Paris’s acclaimed Spring and La Bourse et La Vie. And all of the rabbit is just what you get in this exceptionally elegant three-part plate: oven-roasted hind legs rubbed judiciously in mustard and cooked low and slow with wine and white onion; liver-filled saddle sliced into medallions and spooned with a rabbit-bit vinaigrette; and a copper pot of rabbit bouillon stewed with juicy meat and garnished with carrot, ginger and cabbage. Free with meal

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran
Restaurants, Contemporary European

Bread at Agern

Midtown East

There are showier plates to be had at Claus Meyer’s Nordic fine-dining destination inside Grand Central Terminal—a salt-baked beet, say, with its ashy hull cracked tableside to reveal the glistening root within. The house bread is nowhere near as flashy, but the yeasty tang of head baker Rhonda Crosson’s sourdough-barley round sticks with you long after the meal ends. The fresh-baked brød is served oven-warm and quartered in an earthenware dish; tear through the loaf’s crackly, well-browned crust, and watch the steam rise from its soft, sour crumb. It’s delicious on its own but elevated even further with a swipe of house-churned Hudson Valley butter that’s been whipped to tart greatness with buttermilk and cider-vinegar powder. This is one bread basket for which you won’t mind spoiling your dinner.

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Roast beef at Mr. Donahue’s

Nolita

Nobody ever called roast beef sexy or cool. It’s the meal equivalent of a hug from Mom: warm and comforting. And compared to the intricate, Michelin-starred Thai reworkings that married chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer serve around the corner at Uncle Boons, the unfussed roast here at their charming Nolita throwback diner can appear downright pedestrian. But then you sink your fangs into that slow-roasted beef, an inch-thick strip loin from Oregon’s Painted Hills—all herb crust, rosy blush and wobbly fat—and you’re hooked. The jumbo flakes of sel gris, pepper and rosemary that cling to the tender flesh are more than enough dressing, but a side of cowboy butter never hurt anybody. $26, with two sides and sauce

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Butter noodle at Momofuku Nishi

Chelsea

Ceci e pepe was arguably the most talked about dish of 2016—a Momofuku overhaul of Rome’s minimalist cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) reinvented with chickpeas (those would be the “ceci”). On the menu of David Chang’s Korean-tinged Chelsea canteen since it debuted in January 2016, the dish’s punny name has since been simplified to just “butter noodle,” but regardless, the influences are clear: That fork-twirl of house bucatini gets its umami heft not from the traditional pecorino but from a proprietary chickpea hozon, which has a natural sweetness that Ko vet Josh Pinsky checks with copious cranks of black pepper. You’ll be entirely forgiven for lapping up that buttery-smooth sauce with your finger. (Everyone around you is doing the same.) $19

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Pizza

Roni Supreme at Emmy Squared

Williamsburg

As New Yorkers, it’s our God-given right to snub our nose at anything—especially anything pizza-related!—that wasn’t born and bred in our fair city. Detroit-style pies fell under such snobbish judgment—that is, until Matt and Emily Hyland, the married couple behind Clinton Hill pizza hit Emily, brought their excellent take on the squared-off Midwestern specialty to Brooklyn in April. At the Williamsburg restaurant, puffy, pan-baked pies sport buttery crusts that crackle with burnt cheese at the edges, acting as a frico-crunch contrast to the light doughiness beneath. It’s a delicious base for all of their varieties but particularly well suited to the pepperoni option, which dots tangy tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella with curled-up crescent moons of pepperoni cradling sinful pools of chili-fired oil. $19

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Mimi
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Go B.
Restaurants, French

Lamb at Mimi

Greenwich Village

Since the petite Greenwich Village bistro opened in fall 2015, 25-year-old Empellón Cocina alum Liz Johnson has taken to recasting centuries-old French recipes with the assured spunk of someone far beyond her barely-able-to-rent-a-car years. That confidence-in-spades is on full display in the chef’s slow-cooked lamb leg, which is brined and braised until the meat is so achingly tender, it’s gloriously hard to distinguish juicy flesh from supple fat. The earthy gaminess of the young sheep is matched in a rugged pesto funked with grassy wild nettle and mellowed by a wedge of cream-gorged pommes dauphinoise. Who said meat and potatoes had to be boring? $34

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100 best dishes and drinks in NYC 2016
Photograph: Courtesy Craig LaCourt
Restaurants, Korean

Blood sausage at Insa

Gowanus

It might be an easier menu sell under its traditional Korean name, soondae, but even the squeamish will fare well with the blood sausage at this Korean-barbecue–karaoke hybrid in Gowanus. For the soft, sumptuous links, chef de cuisine Michael Stokes churns fatty pork belly with braised red-cooked snout and pads the meat with sticky rice and cellophane noodles before dousing it with enough deep-purple pig’s blood to ruin Carrie White’s prom. Fragrant scallions, ginger and garlic freshen the rich, crumbly wurst, which is poached and—in a move away from tradition—pan-seared for a good snap. Drag a slice through a side of salt shot with ground chili and perilla seeds for even more savoriness. $17

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15 best drinks in NYC 2016

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Lil’ Slice of Heaven at Belle Shoals
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Bars, Cocktail bars

Lil’ Slice of Heaven at Belle Shoals

Williamsburg

This pecan-pie–themed, crushed-ice number by Jimmy “Jimbo” Palumbo replicates the aromatics of the Southern dessert, with baking-spice–heavy allspice and sweet Blackstrap molasses complementing the nuttiness of pecan orgeat and a pleasantly grainy backbone of Mellow Corn whiskey. Summer-fruit–laced Benedictine liqueur and fresh lemon brighten the blend. $13

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Nettai at Karasu
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Japanese

Nettai at Karasu

Fort Greene

Served with a mint bouquet and crushed ice in a glass etched with arboreal designs, this Japanese-inflected mai tai riff could win an award for most elegant presentation. Thomas Waugh plays off the original recipe by fusing El Dorado 12-year rum with Mirabelle plum brandy, which stands up excellently to the kick of citrus from Mandarine Napoleon—a Cognac and orange liqueur hybrid—, lime and yuzu juices. $14

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S&K Dark-n-Stormy at Solomon and Kuff
Photograph: Liz Clayman
Bars, Cocktail bars

S&K Dark & Stormy at Solomon & Kuff

Harlem

At his Harlem gastropub, Karl Franz Williams celebrates tropical, rum-forward drinking culture in both newfangled creations and takes on classics like this jazzed-up Dark & Stormy. In his revision, Williams splits the usual base of Gosling’s with similarly dark Bacardi 8, and crafts his own housemade ginger beer by fermenting fresh-pressed ginger with water, sugar, lime and a few secret spices. $14

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Pastis Cobbler at Sauvage
Photograph: Nicole Frazen
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Pastis Cobbler at Sauvage

Greenpoint

Maison Premiere’s Greenpoint follow-up emphasizes herbal yet easy drinks, like this intricate, anise-forward cobbler by head bartender Will Elliott. The fair-weather refresher balances Italy’s potent Mediterranean-meets-Alpine Argala Pastis with bitter French Maurin Quina and lemon juice—all soothed with splashes of sweet chamomile-grappa and floral Combier rosé and poured over pebble ice. $13

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Girl Scout at Sons & Daughters
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Bars, Cocktail bars

Girl Scout at Sons & Daughters

This brighter, cream-free version of a traditional Grasshopper cocktail takes inspiration from the iconic Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookie. Barkeep Tim Cooper sweetens Fords Gin and lime juice with minty Fernet Branca Menta and oily, chocolate-forward Marie Brizzard Creme de Cacao. Cooper doubles down on the mint with muddled leaves and garnishes the drink with an actual Thin Mint and a handful of mint sprigs. $16

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