Well, it’s safe to say that January 2017 was eventful—along with the excitement of awards-show season and the worry of recent political developments, New Yorkers could at least take solace in the crop of great new restaurants that opened this past month. They include sandwich shops with high-profile pedigrees, an elevated addition to the smoky pantheon of BBQ in NYC and a Brooklyn sister to one of Manhattan’s most popular food courts. From global soul food restaurants to Mexican-inspired beach shacks, these are the best new restaurants that debuted in New York this January.
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Best new restaurants in NYC
The Cecil—the Afro-Asian-American curiosity that won chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson a good deal of acclaim since opening three years ago—seemed to be yet another casualty of 2016 when the team announced its closure by year’s end. But those oxtail dumplings and the collard-green salad live on next door at its sibling Minton’s, the famed Harlem jazz club which is not only absorbing the Cecil’s square footage (it will serve as an event space) but also some of its menu favorites. Johnson cooks dishes like braised pork shank with coconut stone-ground grits and short-rib toast with pickled okra to the sound of live jazz performances during dinner and weekend brunch.
Gotham West Market has been one of the more popular outlets to come out of the food-hall boom of the 2010s, a regard the team looks to capitalize on with a spin-off inside Fort Greene’s luxury residential building the Ashland. The 16,000-square-foot location hosts a pop-up food space—it kicks off with crab-roll joint Crabby Shack—along with seven regular vendors including Spanish tapas restaurant Boqueria and Southern-comfort spot Mason Jar. Also, John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que fame oversees chicken dishes at Flip Bird and locavore Italian plates at Apizza Regionale.
The Pig Beach family is expanding yet again. The summertime BBQ pop-up got a permanent residency in Gowanus in spring 2016, and now the team branches out further with another pork-named project two blocks south of Washington Square Park. The similarly caloric, if slightly more elevated, menu from Del Posto vet Matt Abdoo is filled with comfort-food twists including deviled steak and eggs, smoked-cod fritters with red-pepper jelly and a crispy confit duck thigh with sweet-and-sour glaze. But unlike the scruffy digs typical of ’cue joints, this 56-seat space is bright with 25-foot ceilings, burnt-orange leather banquettes and a brass-accented marble bar.
It may be named after plucky cukes, but this Upper West Side newcomer from Jacob Hadjigeorgis—the Jacob of Jacob’s Pickles—expands beyond its namesake with a range of French-dip sandwiches. The kitchen, helmed by Jacob’s Pickles chef Glenroy Brown, turns out five varieties of the iconic American sandwich, from a classic beef with horseradish aioli to a lamb number with mint chimichurri. Beyond sandwiches, the menu at the 150-seat retro-luxe restaurant includes bone marrow with clams casino and flounder Rockefeller.
Two fast-casual pros come together for this East Village sandwich shop. Melt Shop owner Spencer Rubin enlisted Bark Hot Dogs founder Joshua Sharkey as culinary director, and the result is a 10-sandwich lineup with options like roasted tri-tip with salsa verde and Tunisian olive oil; miso-charred zucchini with mushroom falafel and preserved-lemon tahini; and an egg number with maple-ginger breakfast sausage, pimento cheese and chili ketchup.
The El Atoradero crew had quite the year: The Bronx cheap-eats favorite got a Brooklyn sibling in early 2016, and now two of the owners of that Prospect Heights restaurant—Noah Arenstein and Josh Kaplan—branch out with this seafood-focused Mexican offshoot on the Upper East Side. The team updated the former Brother Jimmy’s BBQ space with surf-shack accessories like tiki torches, painted wooden barrels and wall-mounted marlin, and the food-and-drink menu fits the beachy theme. Dishes from Vinegar Hill House alum Juan Juarez range from bass tacos (fried with epazote cream, grilled with mango pico de gallo) and beer-steamed shrimp buckets to cheese taquitos and San Diego–style steak fries topped with carne asada, which diners can wash down with mescal punches, mai tais and margaritas by the pitcher.
The trends of farm-to-table and fast-casual collide to create farm-to-tray at this Chelsea lunch counter, a stand-alone offshoot of the Chelsea Market flagship. Expect a similar lineup of homey American fare made with locally sourced products (Ronnybrook Farm dairy, Dickson’s Farmstand meats), like tuna melts, griddled PB&Js and chicken tenders. In keeping with the aw-shucks farm aesthetic, the 18-seat restaurant features handwritten chalkboard menus and vintage milk bottles.
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This Japanese restaurant in Chelsea isn’t your typical sushi joint. Instead of ordering rolls and tempura a la carte, the thing to order at Naoki is one of the two tasting menus ($88 and $108). Both include a basket of appetizers such as grilled lotus root and tofu with manganji pepper, soba rice risotto, seasonal sashimi, nigiri sushi, miso soup and the choice of an entree such as pan-roasted duck breast with clementine teriyaki or grilled salmon with miso-butter sauce. The higher-end option also includes a steamed egg custard amuse bouche and more expensive entrees such as premium wagyu beef cooked tableside. You could also order a vegetarian tasting course ($88) and select a la carte items after 9pm Sunday through Thursday. Don’t miss desserts such as matcha tiramisu or persimmon creme brulee ($8 each).
Venue says: “Check Out Our Prefix Tasting Course Menu! Multiple Courses of Sushi, Sashimi, a Meat or Fish Main Dish, Risotto, and More! Starting at $80.”