Some restaurants find their strength in diversity, while others risk it all on one dish. This year saw plenty of the latter—cevicherias, banh mi shops, a mozzarella bar—with Socarrat emerging as the victor. While the restaurant excels at tapas, it's pretty clear that when you go to a place named for the golden crust of a properly made paella, you'd be wise to order that dish. Hunks of seafood and meat, spoonfuls of rice and yes, that crispy base make culinary monogamy worthwhile. Socarrat Paella Bar259 W 19th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-462-1000)
Chef Stephan Brezinsky (Pok Pok NY, the Third Man) pulls from a childhood filled with home-style Vietnamese cooking—his mother was a native of French-ruled Saigon—for this 65-seat Alphabet City spot. In the sleek space—set with black leather banquettes and a vinyl nook stocked with 45s spinning everything from Ramones to De La Soul—the chef-owner turns out dishes like sriracha-zipped beef tartare with crispy shallots, banana-leaf–grilled skate with charred daikon, and a modern take on thit kho tau (traditionally, marinated pork and boiled eggs), comprising wok-fired pork shoulder and pickled soy egg in a caramel fish sauce. At the granite-topped bar, find cocktails from Dear Irving drinksman Tom Richter, including a Negroni-riffing Nah Toi (sake, Cappelletti, Byrrh Grand Quinquina).
Venue says: “Chef-owned, contemporary Vietnamese cooking in the heart of Alphabet City”