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Paul Wagtouicz Clam pizza at Pasquale Jones

The best new restaurants and bar openings in February

From superstar Italian newcomers to refined burger joints, feast your eyes on NYC’s most exciting new eats

By Dan Q Dao

Between the dreary weather and polarizing Valentine’s Day, February is rarely anybody’s favorite holiday, but New York’s dining scene nearly changed that fact with the abundance of all-star restaurants that debuted this past month. February welcomed new dining rooms by power players like Mario Batali and April Bloomfield, a sophomore effort from Thai food favorite Uncle Boons and a cocktail bar with serious booze pedigree. Here are the best new restaurants and bar openings in NYC in February.

RECOMMENDED: See more of the best new restaurants and bars in NYC

Best new restaurants and bar openings

Cafe Altro Paradiso
Marcus Nilsson

Café Altro Paradiso

Restaurants Italian West Village

Estela won over New Yorkers—and, memorably, the POTUS—with Ignacio Mattos’s stunning small plates (life-affirming burrata, anyone?) and meticulously curated wine list. Now, Mattos and co-owner–beverage director Thomas Carter are trying to make lightning strike twice at this 94-seat Italian-focused follow-up in the West Village’s Hudson Square. Starters include beef carpaccio with fried capers, spicy anchovies with parsley crostini and a pizzetta loaded with caramelized radicchio and gorgonzola. They preface a selection of rotating pastas, including gnocchi with wild mushrooms and lasagnette with green-olive ragù.  Alongside mains (rib eye with roasted peppers and a grilled swordfish with artichokes), the kitchen will also turn out nightly specials in the coming weeks. Plates are dispatched across a high-ceilinged room trimmed with reclaimed-oak wainscoting, Carrera marble floors and custom 1930s-style light fixtures modeled after those at the landmark Benedetta Cappa post office in Palermo, Italy. At the bar, Carter spotlights Italian wines—Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva from Tuscany, Daniele Ricci Timorasso San Leto from Piedmont—and aperitivo cocktails, such as an Uva Passa (grappa, vermouth) and a Melagrana (aged tequila, Campari, red wine).

Duck chettinad, foie gras, idli, pearl onion chutney at Indian Accent
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Indian Accent

Restaurants Indian Midtown West

The O.G. Indian Accent, opened in New Delhi by restaurateur Rohit Khattar and Indian supertoque Manish Mehrotra, currently sits pretty at No. 77 on S. Pellegrino’s World’s Best list. At this 70-seat New York sibling, set in the Le Parker Meridien hotel, Mehrotra reprises lauded plates such as sweet-pickle ribs with sundered mango and onion seeds, and a platter of kulcha (North Indian leavened bread) served with butter chicken. Exclusive to the NYC outpost are varieties of kulcha including one with sliced pastrami, as well as dishes like a butter-pepper garlic paneer (prepared in-house through a tedious two-day process) and baby squid with crispy rice and an everything-seasoned chutney. The stateside outpost also offers diners the option of two-, three- and four-course meals, as well as a $110 chef’s tasting menu. Decor nods to materials commonly found in Indian architecture, with a Calcutta gold-marble bar and bronze mirrors offsetting white Venetian banquettes and the pearl-lustered plastered walls from the original. At the center of the dining room is an 11-foot-tall gold-leafed wall, adorned with a geometric Indian jaali motif.

Shawarma platter at King of Falafel
Photo: Cayla Zahoran

King of Falafel

Restaurants Street food Astoria

Fares “Freddy” Zeideia is a sort of local celebrity in Astoria, Queens, where he’s been doling out Vendy Award–winning falafel, shawarma and kebabs from his King of Falafel & Shawarma truck since the early aughts. His street-food standouts find their first brick-and-mortar home at this 38-seat casual Middle Eastern spot, marked by a black awning that cheekily reads #YEAHHHHHBABY. While the Manhattan cart and Queens truck continue to operate seprately, the restaurant turns out crowd favorites like thinly sliced beef-and-lamb shawarma, as well as an expanded menu of newfangled creations such as daily baked pita bread and a falafel burger with zaatar and tomato. Like the food, decor is inspired by both Zeidaies’s Palestinian heritage and his Astoria roots, with a painted mural of the Manhattan skyline as seen from Queens and a large-scale image of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock that Zeidaies took while visiting the Holy City.

La Sirena Ristorante
Zandy Mangold

La Sirena Ristorante

Restaurants Italian Chelsea

You don’t get much more high-profile than this: Taking over the dining operations of Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel, Italian all-stars Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich launch this cavernous, over 200-seat trattoria, the team’s first stand-alone restaurant in New York since 2006’s Del Posto. Like their previous ventures (Babbo, Lupa), the focus is traditional Italian; however, the dishes will be far less tied to a specific theme, with dishes ranging from old-school beef braciola with broccoli rabe to more modern options like lamb chops with Sicilian chickpea-flour fritters. Plates are served across two dining rooms—each doubles as a glass-enclosed patio space that opens up during fair-weather months—bisected by a monolithic, 38-foot white Caesarstone bar. It’s no surprise, then, that the restaurant touts the most extensive cocktail program to date for Team Batali & Bastianich: Italian-accented quaffs include an amaro-splashed Coppa di Sicilia (cucumber, ginger beer) and a Punt E Mes–fortified Gazehound (grapefruit, Maldon salt).

Mr. Donahue's
Zandy Mangold

Mr. Donahue's

Restaurants Soul and southern American Nolita

It was their fiery, funky take on home-style Thai food that earned Uncle Boons chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer a Michelin star in 2016. The husband-and-wife team makes a complete culinary 180 with this Nolita follow-up named after Danzer’s grandfather. Nodding to the longtime Southern tradition of “meat and three,” Redding and Danzer turn out mains like rotisserie chicken, roast beef and Swedish meatballs, complemented by mix-and-match sides (stuffed cabbage, egg drop soup). Dinner’s served on vintage plateware, which Redding fittingly calls “grandpa chic,” in a twee, wood-fitted space boasting miniature Tiffany-style lamps, retro hanging wall plants and nine seats to emphasize carry-out and delivery.

Paul Wagtouicz

Pasquale Jones

Restaurants Italian Nolita

The team behind Soho charmer Charlie Bird brings its brand of jaunty Italian to Nolita with this 50-seat, pizza-slinging sister. (As for the name, the owners claim it’s just fun to say.) Along with chef Tim Caspare (Cotogna and Quince in San Francisco), Charlie Bird chef Ryan Hardy helms twin Stefano Ferrara brick ovens—handmade in Naples, Italy, out of Mount Vesuvius volcanic rock and ash—with one set to 900°F for Neapolitan-meets-New York pies and the other to 450°F for small poultry, shellfish, pork shoulders and dry-aged steak roasted with aromatic grapevine cuttings. To pair with those rustic plates, a 100-bottle wine list, curated by partner-sommelier and fellow Charlie Bird–er Grant Reynolds, highlights pours from Italy and Burgundy.

Fish burger at Salvation Burger
Cayla Zahoran

Salvation Burger

Restaurants Hamburgers Midtown East

April Bloomfield knows her way around a burger—her char-grilled, Roquefort-hooded round at the Spotted Pig is one of New York’s most beloved takes on the American classic. It’s fitting, then, that the British supertoque’s latest venture with longtime cohort Ken Friedman is a fast-casual burger joint inside Pod 51, trimmed with cow-inspired decor (artwork, lampshades) that pay homage to the upstate-sourced steers broken down by an on-site butcher. Patties are plancha-seared, sandwiched between Bloomfield’s house-made potato buns and topped with bespoke fixings—even the pickles are brined in-house. Combinations include the classic, featuring two smashed patties with secret sauce, and a meatless variety made with beets, root vegetables and sweet-potato vermicelli. Beyond burgers, the menu is stocked with a fish sandwich, house-smoked hot dogs and vegetable-forward small plates, including wood-roasted beets with Rogue blue cheese. And like any true burger classicist, Bloomfield is pairing her meaty pucks with a selection of milkshakes blended with house-churned ice cream, available straight-up or spiked.

Solomon & Kuff

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Harlem

As New York drinkers have become more discerning, the city’s bars have responded in kind, catering to niche spirits inclinations with more narrowly focused menus—see agave-heavy bars like the Daisy and the vodkacentric menu at Sadelle’s. In a similar vein, this 5,000-square-foot West Harlem hall shines a spotlight on sugarcane-based spirits ranging from American and Caribbean rums to rhums agricoles (distilled from fresh cane juice, rather than molasses) and their Brazilian cousin, cachaça. Owner-barkeep Karl Franz Williams (67 Orange Street) and co-owner Julie Grunberger pour from about 100 bottles behind a wood-and-metal bar lined with vintage rum barrels. Even the bar’s name nods to its rum focus: An African slave named Venture Smith was purchased for four barrels of rum and years later bought freedom for himself and his two sons, Solomon and Cuff. ORDER THIS: At only seven cocktails ($14 each), Williams’s menu is limited but solidly showcases both the diversity and versatility of the bar’s principal spirit. The Re-Fashioned is a play on the original, with Jamaica’s smooth-sipping Appleton Estate Reserve rum offset by bespoke spice bitters, while the humble dark and stormy is r=ecast with two rums—the traditional Gosling’s and a premium Bacardi 8—as well as a house ginger beer infused with turmeric and Scotch bonnet pepper. Rum and cachaça act as accents for fellow island flavors in drinks like the Telenovela, which rounds out bursts of mescal, passion fruit and lime with

Jungle Bird at Suffolk Arms
Photograph: Oleg March

Suffolk Arms

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

Giuseppe González (PKNY, Pegu Club) made a bar-world splash with Golden Cadillac in late 2013 yet unexpectedly departed the now-shuttered ’70s-stirred drinkery a mere three weeks into its opening. The reason, now clear, was to kick-start work on this 75-seat passion project, a booze-soaked shrine to all things New York. Partnering with former classmate Ruben Rodriguez (Havana Cafe), González divides his cocktail menu into three sections: house signatures, like the B & B & B (banana, bourbon, butter) and a Hendrick’s gin–based Duke of Suffolk (Earl Grey and English breakfast teas, cream, sugar); “something like classics," which features the barman's interpretations of iconic quaffs from modern bartenders such as Dev Johnson of Employees Only and Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland’s Pépé Le Moko; and vodka drinks, dispelling the myth that the colorless spirit is dull and unexciting. In the latter category, find drinks from Gotham cocktail pioneers, including the Flatiron Martini from Julie Reiner and a Grapefruit Cooler from Audrey Saunders. Bargoers can post up at the white-tiled mahogany bar for drinks or pub grub (Streit's matzo ball soup, Thai chili wings) by Calle Ocho alum Alex Garcia or settle into a dining area lined with portraits of notable New Yorkers (Ed Koch, Jam Master Jay) drawn by Seattle artist Mandilla Blouin.

Sushi Ganso
Photograph: Zandy Mangold

Sushi Ganso

Restaurants Japanese Boerum Hill

They’ve tackled ramen (Ganso Ramen) and izakaya fare (Ganso Yaki)—now Harris Salat and chef Tadashi Ono complete their Japanese trifecta with this 36-seat, white-brick spot focusing primarily on sushi and sashimi. Combinations include an 11-piece sashimi plate (Scottish salmon, mackarel); a chef’s omakase of 10 pieces, one roll and a classic chirashi bowl with Osaka-style chopped sashimi over vinegared rice; as well as small plates like Kuro edamame with Japanese sea salt and steamed monkfish liver with yuzu ponzo sauce. Along with a wooden sushi counter, the cozy dining area is fitted with a mural-size Gyotaku (traditional Japanese fish print) by artist Momoyo Torimitsu.


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