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All & Sundry
Photograph: Courtesy of Kirsten Francis Photography

NYC's latest restaurant reviews

See which neighborhood spots, fine dining destinations, dives, bars and cafes score Time Out's iconic red stars.

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako
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Dining out in New York City can be a labor of love. There are thousands of new and old restaurants to choose from, making reservations can seem like a sport or a game of chance and most of us want and need to spend our eating and drinking money wisely. That’s why Time Out New York spends days and nights haunting the city to highlight the very best in hospitality right now, and gently divert from the less-best. Peruse on through to choose your next favorite destination, and play along to see which newcomers become 2022’s top options

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Latest restaurant reviews in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant

Last year around this time, shortly after the post-vaccine portion of the pandemic began, so many restaurants, culinary events and fledgling supper clubs were purportedly dinner party-adjacent that it seemed like a trend. Instead, everything became a speakeasy concept, and the whole living room thing turned out to be PR synchronicity. Whether they were unspeakably expensive, logistically convoluted or just totally divorced from that stated intention, few of those purportedly homey destinations landed as anything other than (often pleasant!) places to exchange money for goods and services. 

I went to my first real dinner party in quite a while shortly before those places started opening. I brought wine, the host was charming, I barely knew anyone, the food was good and the evening made it seem like social life could be easy again. Dept of Culture is a closer approximation of that night than any of the places that had promised they would be. 

Longtime hospitality professional Ayo Balogun opened Dept of Culture a short distance from his cafe, The Council, in January. Balogun also began hosting a pop-up dinner series influenced by convivial dining experiences in Nigeria a number of years ago. His latest venture is similarly fashioned, and with 16 spots mostly around one communal table (a few are at the kitchen-facing counter), Balogun serving as each seating’s host (there are two nightly) and a BYOB policy (spiced, tomato-based obe ata appears here and there, should that inform your selection) it delivers on the promise that erstwhile almost-trend foretold. 

Dept of Culture’s four-course tasting menu ($75) takes notes from north-central Nigeria. A staffer switches records between rounds. The menu in the small, comfortable space lined with family photos, changes every couple of weeks but the pepper soup is frequently served and it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year. Red snapper (or sometimes another seafood variation) is suspended in a vibrant broth with stained glass translucence. Sprigs of cilantro settle under the surface like aquatic flora. Balogun, who details and contextualizes each dish, mentions its heat intensity, but the caution only seems necessary for the most spice averse—it's more bright and fresh and it is fiery. 

The generously-plated wara ati obe might be next, a cumulus cloud of mild raw milk curds in that bolder red sauce. Its juxtaposed flavors are nicely balanced, the wara’s yielding texture lays the groundwork for future cravings and it’s an item seldom seen on NYC restaurant menus. The penultimate course could be the gbegiri, another texturally dynamic preparation with more fish bits, corn and yams combined into a satisfying stew of a conclusion. And dinner typically finishes with dodo, a deep golden plantain under a dollop of vanilla ice cream, after a couple of hours that seem to fly by like at any fun fête. 

Dept of Culture is this genre of intimate dining’s most successful address and the whole operation makes it look effortless. It is, of course, a little harder to win a reservation than it is to get invited to a pal’s place. But you still get to bring your own wine, and odds are the food’s a lot better, too. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Welcoming, intimate dinner party style and charm. 

The Food: A frequently updated, seasonal four-course tasting with menu items influenced by north-central Nigeria.

The Drinks: BYOB.

Time Out Tip: Dept of Culture plans to host visiting chefs in the near future. Details will be posted to its website and social media accounts

Dept of Culture is located at 327 Nostrand Avenue. It has seatings at 6pm and 8:30pm Wednesday-Sunday. 

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown East

The tables in the dining room at Fasano are substantial. Large. Round. Heavy. The generous distance between them invites information trading. They anchor you to the handsome space under soaring ceilings amid high-gloss finishes and dampened light pressed against curtained windows. The tables feel important, dressed in pressed white tablecloths. They feel expensive, too, poised to hold unspeakably expensive entrées. That they can’t stand up to those pricey plates is particularly disappointing given Fasano’s otherwise well-executed fine-dining fashion. 

This is the more-than-century-old Brazilian hospitality company Fasano Group’s first foray into the U.S. Its titular Italian restaurant, which opened in February, is an exceedingly gracious, polished operation, down to the dedicated bag stools. It all reignites a kind of 1990s vintage midtown richness, at least aesthetically and financially: it is pretty and expensive. The food is mostly both of those things, too, though generally absent the frequently maligned, though marvelous when used sparingly, decadence that often joins those other meanings of the word. 

Caviar with the typical accouterment (market price), begins the menu and sets the scene. Grilled octopus to start is a more reliable demonstration of what’s going on in the kitchen. Done well it can come off as effortless: tender, near-sweet and almost inviting a ‘how hard can it be’ home attempt. Done less well, it’s a chewy labor. Fasano’s ($35) falls on the latter end of that spectrum. Curiously blunt knives might easily slice through more successfully finished tentacles, but hack attacks on this one actually rattle that apparently weighty table. Although the density seems to indicate a skipped or hastened step, the flavor, at least, hits pleasantly where expected, and the nicely textured accompanying mashed potatoes lighten it all up a bit. 

Things get tough again with the veal Milanese ($69). Although it is impressively presented, enormous and fried with technical perfection, it tastes like little other than that lovely golden exterior crust; failing to gin up any notes other than crunch. It is, at least, not unenjoyable, but the pattern of "at leasts" is pronounced at this price point. It’s also another one that’s a bit rough to cut in places, confoundingly in spite of a much sharper knife and its famously yielding texture. 

A few blocks from 30 Rock and with Jack Donaghy style, Fasano makes more sense as an expense account destination. The veal Milanese is eye-catching enough to interrupt conversion with the message, “We value you as a client” and bland enough for any palate. It’s easier to swallow as a high-priced business dinner stunt dish, when a company, rather than an actual person is being relieved of their $69 in exchange for an entrée that lands squarely on fine. The small arugula and cherry tomato side salad it's paired with is less forgivable in any culinary category, indistinguishable from something batched in plastic at an Au Bon Pain. In a hospital. 

Fasano’s brighter spots are on its comprehensive pasta list. Veal appears there, too, alongside lobster with fettuccine ($52), porcini mushroom pappardelle ($36) and a delightful ravioli bursting with king crab ($42). The crustacean is notably seaside fresh like a breath of piquant saline air, even under a light cover of a vibrant sauce. It's plated as pretty as a box of spendy wristwatches. 

Cocktails are more reasonably priced than expected, given everything else about Fasano. Without the drink list, context clues conjure appraisals of around $25, but they peak at $5 less for a martini that was recently served as an unasked for gibson (though fortunately with the least flavorful pickled onion garnish in existence), $18 for a bright, summery Fitzgerald and $18 for a precisely prepared off-menu Manhattan, up with rye. Wines by the glass start in the teens and, though some bottles reach up to the aspirational hundreds and beyond, a decent number are available below $100. So you can get business drunk in lovely environs and under excellent care for less than the price of a plate of fried veal. At least. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Lovely and grand with polished fine dining operations that function like a symphony.

The Food: Average northern Italian items like veal Milanese and nicer pasta options for above average prices. 

The Drinks: Well-executed cocktails, a wide-ranging wine list with glass and bottle options, plus a few beers and a long list of spirits. 

Time Out Tip: Fasano has an adjacent, somewhat less expensive osteria up front with its own similar menu. 

Fasano is located at 280 Park Avenue. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-10pm. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Clinton Hill

The new restaurant from the trio behind Michelin-starred Oxalis was supposed to open in 2020. And it sort of did, as a pop-up in Oxalis’ courtyard that summer, and on March 31 this year, Place des Fêtes opened in a home of its own about a mile away on a pretty stretch of Greene Avenue in Brooklyn. 

The space, slightly sunken from street level, is handsomely rustic with the requisite exposed brick, lots of wood from the beamed ceiling to the floor and a stylized patina of wear. Though joined, the 65-seat space feels like two dining rooms, bright and brunchie around the bar up front and a little more evening leaning in the back, with a semi-open kitchen in between. It's attractive and familiar. 

Place des Fêtes’ menu is divided into cold, salted and vegetable sections, along with three mains. The first section’s winter flounder ($17) is lovely: chunks of mild white fish enlivened by a spritely golden tomato gelée. It’s a nice, light snack or starter, a culinary interpretation of spring. The second column’s Don Bocarte anchovies ($15) are also excellent, doing what great anchovies do best: imparting waves of dynamic sea salt flavor, inimitable, firm but buttery texture and an overall tasting experience that far exceeds their diminutive size. These are among the finest of tinned fish varieties, and that they’re served rather than prepared here is a testament to the restaurant's sourcing, if not its execution. They’re also the latest in a recent micro-trend of marvelous anchovies portending what turns out to be an otherwise fine-approaching-good restaurant. 

Another increasingly frequent occurrence is a collection of menu items up top that would have left a much better impression of the overall restaurant in a vacuum—the flounder and the anchovies, Place des Fêtes’s primary examples, each served in gleaming, shallow pools of olive oil that invite bread. For $8, it’s a few thick, dark slices from a well-regarded area bakery. The offsite context adds nothing and it could be swapped with almost anything without gathering notice. But it is a conversation starter about menu creation—how one might author a bill of fare that takes what’s sometimes considered a tertiary item and render it functionally necessary but not substantively so. 

With a little subjectivity and the myriad dimensions of perspective, Place des Fêtes is a pleasant place to visit. It fulfills its purpose as a wine bar with those outstanding small plates and another petite option, “crispy” maitake mushrooms ($15) that could simply be called fried. They all soar above expected drinking snacks and each would be delightful with pours or bottles from the largely French and Spanish wine list. But it’s still, and likely will be for a bit, too popular to serve as a casual neighborhood pop-in spot. 

The standout entrée at the moment, a tidy portion of fried halibut with a little pot of gribiche and a perky tangle of endive ($35), is as good as any good fried fish you’ll find, but it might not quite live up to the long waits, planning and last minute notification-hoping required to book a primetime table, either. And larger land plates like a somewhat chewy, pungent Berkshire pork rib with scarcely perceptible dried clams ($33) fall too far outside of the restaurant's more successful seafood options. This extends to the dessert menu, which betrays the wonderful saline quality of the anchovies by upending the mineral and seemingly pumping a technically adeptly constructed and terrifically textured cream puff ($12) with an abundance of salt that cloaks its subtle notes of banana. 

Place des Fêtes is promising and will probably shine on those rare lucky evenings that turn nicer than expected absent any effort; and when interest fades a bit and it’s a little easier to make reservations as a precaution, not a requirement. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Rusticly chic and roomy between a bright dining room up front and a somewhat sleeker space in the back.

The Food: Seafood forward mostly small plates like the exceptional winter flounder with tomato gelée and Don Bocarte anchovies. 

The Drinks: A largely French and Spanish wine list, plus cocktails, beer and cider. 

Time Out Tip: Expect reservation availability outside of primetime. Walk-in space is theoretically available. 

Place des Fêtes is located at 212 Greene Avenue. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30pm-10pm; Saturday and Sunday from 4:30pm-10:30pm. 

  • Restaurants
  • Flatiron

Park Avenue South between 28th and 29th Street is one of NYC’s most famous culinary destinations. Brasserie Les Halles, made famous by Anthony Bourdain in his bestselling memoir, Kitchen Confidential, operated mid-block from 1990 to 2016. A 1991 review in the New York Times describes it as popular, simultaneously efficient and a little unorganized, loud, all with "a Parisian feel," a delightful and prudently priced wine list and generally good food like the "juicy and full of flavor" flank steak with "superior" frites.

This was seven years before Bourdain became executive chef. A later review of Les Halles’ second NYC location earned the original a range from "barely average" to "good." By 2008, when GQ published Alan Richman’s “Kitchen Inconsequential,” the chef/writer/television host had left back of house for a post as the restaurant’s "chef-at-large." Bourdain titled a chapter "Alan Richman Is a Douchebag" in his Kitchen Confidential follow-up two years later. 

The previously uneven reviews and late-aughts intrigue would be less relevant if 411 Park Avenue South’s new occupant were eschewing the connection. Instead, a press release for La Brasserie, issued in advance of its March opening, touts an "Hommage à Anthony Bourdain section of the menu celebrating Les Halles favorites" and preserved design elements among its features. 

In lieu of that planned whole section, La Brasserie, which is now owned by French cookware company founder Francis Staub with executive chef Jaime Loja at the helm, pays homage to Bourdain via one item, the steak frites ($43). The bavette’s center is precisely prepared to the recommended medium-rare and is, in addition to the adequate though generously portioned French fries, served with a spritely pile of watercress and a choice of sauce. A bernaise is too heavy on lemon that doesn’t even slake any richness, but the slightly lighter, subtly herbaceous, unnecessarily titled "secret sauce" (one is included, extras are $6 more) is actually additive to the already terrific sliced cut and amplifies the so-so, slightly dry fries. 

A handsome pot of mussels is also dry, teeming with gleaming shells bursting with plump interior morsels, all swimming in seemingly nothing. There is evidence of what must have been the beginnings of stock at the bottom of the vessel, but no broth to sip or flavor the bivalves. But the texture is successful and it’s an interesting $36 lesson in what the seafood variety tastes like unadorned. (Very little.)

The escargot ($22) is La Brasserie’s better mollusk, wonderfully cloaked in butter, herbs and garlic with an appropriate allotment of toast. Apps, in general, are a strong point here, and give the restaurant more reach as a dining destination or nicer than average drink spot with better than most snacks that can add up to dinner. The soufflé au Comté ($16) is a pleasure, even mood-elevating, airy as it is but deep with bold, Gruyère-adjacent flavor that all creates a real conversation stopper. And the impeccably textured foie gras ($28) easily joins the city’s best. 

That 31-year-old review noting easy to swallow wine prices bandied about figures in the teens. The lowest, $14, is $29.72 today. Context clues indicate that this was for a bottle. Today, La Brasserie’s lowest-priced glass, a riesling, is a fairly standard $14. The wines skew mostly French and the brief cocktail list includes manhattans ($16) and sazeracs ($20). The long zinc bar is also just a pleasant place to be per se, hovering around fancy with an -ish but totally unpretentious and comfortable. 

La Brasserie is, in general, an easy place to be, an increasingly valuable quality as reservations are still hard to get. It seats 173 across crimson leather booths, banquettes and decently spaced tables, seemingly suitable for any occasion. Its casually lovely interior is cast in flattering date night lights, but it's also an obvious option for business lunches, large groups and all of your out-of-town guests for an enjoyable, even outing. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Friendly, welcoming and a little casually fancy.

The Food: Excellent apps like escargots, soufflé au Comté and foie gras and a terrific steak among other French items. 

The Drinks: A primarily French wine list plus beer and a brief cocktail menu. 

Time Out Tip: The roomy, attractive dining room is particularly suitable for large groups. 

La Brasserie is located at 411 Park Avenue South. It is open Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 10pm, Saturday from 10:30am to 10pm and Sunday from 10:30am to 9pm. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

Brooklyn’s Smith Street was once considered as venerable restaurant row as any in NYC. Its changing reputation as . . . less than that has been chronicled in the Observer, Brooklyn Magazine and in these very pages. With the trickling addition of new venues in recent years, is Smith Street poised for a comeback? Maybe! Was the immediate area absent a good Szechuan restaurant before Shan opened last month? Yes. 

Shan follows Long Island City’s Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant Hupo. The newer of the two is already popular. The estimated wait on a recent Friday night was one hour. And on Saturday at around 2pm, the long banquette in the shades of slate, blue and lacquered black dining room upfront, which has gleaming hardwood floors and a chicly distressed yet-to-be stocked bar with low-back stools, was full. Booths in a cozy, brick-lined nook beyond were also occupied, but the back, similarly-styled space had plenty of room. 

There’s also plenty on Shan’s menu, which spans several QR code-generated swipes. That mapo tofu ($16) fills a miles-wide void. Its sauce achieves the ideal density to suspend finely minced pork and tofu cubes as satisfying to crush as snapping bubble wrap. It's good even without the expected málà: Neither noticeably hot or at all numbing, but perfectly pleasant nonetheless, and perhaps calibrated to area tastes where some of the best restaurants of yore (Battersby, Char No. Four, The Grocery, Saul) have been replaced by more general interest menus. 

Heat does percolate elsewhere, like in the wonderful Chongqing spicy chicken ($22), where crispy bits of fried fowl mingle with dried peppers. Even with a fully-topped table, and likely enough to take home, this is the one you’re most liable to let linger almost until it's time to go, snacking and chatting like you’re at a friend’s place (in spite of the popularity, Shan does not seem rushed). Its spice has a delightful build you’ll want to keep returning to to test the limits of its fire, which approaches misty eyes if you indulge in too much, too, fast, which is a great temptation. 

The lamb dry pot ($30) crackles too, beautifully combining lotus root, red and green pepper, shallots, a bit of potato, bok choy and flowering cauliflower with the rough-chopped sautéed meat. Each ingredient is carefully prepared to hold its individual flavor and texture: The perky bite of the lotus root, the dainty, cut-above cauliflower, the just-happy-to-be-here potato, soaking up the spices like a good potato does. Shan excels at lamb elsewhere on the menu, too, like in the familiar, pleasantly perfumed cumin variety, where the meat seems to be more uniformly sliced. Both, and most mains, are generously portioned. 

Dumplings, wontons and potstickers are less likely leftovers for obvious reasons. You’re more likely to order them at the auspicious beginning of the meal and they’re served in groups of four or a few more. The pork and crab roe soup dumplings ($9) stand out among the bunch, perfectly constructed to maintain their integrity against the weight of the broth with an exceptionally tender interior. Pork with black truffle and varieties sans roe are also available. 

Shan will likely begin serving alcohol in the coming weeks. Call for its present BYOB policy.

Vitals

The Vibe: Comfortably stylish and nicely paced in spite of the crowds that are already coming in. 

The Food: The Chongqing spicy chicken, spicy cumin lamb, lamb dry pot and mapo tofu stand out among the mains, but do not expect málà from the latter. 

The Drinks: Alcohol is expected in the near future; ask about BYOB. 

Time Out Tip: The same menu is available at lunch and dinner, and it’s much easier to get a table earlier in the day. 

Shan is located at 191 Smith Street. It’s open Monday-Thursday from 11:30am-10pm Friday-Saturday from 11:30am-10:30pm and Sunday from 11:30am-10pm. 

 

  • Restaurants
  • Astoria

Some places are so much themselves that it’s hard to imagine them as anything else. When I lived near Citro Cafe’s location (mumbles) years ago, my closest restaurant and bar options were a casual chain approximating a neighborhood bar and grill, another pantomiming regional pizza from another region and a Starbucks. 

In their manufactured way, each of those places are, of course, also hard to imagine as anything else, at least once you’re through the door. Each would be simultaneously indistinguishable and familiar if they were transported, as is, to a whole new neighborhood, or the city by the lake, or a mall. But they weren’t the kind of spots that were going to convince any of my friends to come to Queens. Citrico Cafe, which opened last month, is that kind of place. The owner, Alex Marquetti, also runs other Queens venues Dive Bar LIC and Mojo in Forest Hills, with a second on Long Island. 

The large, lofty Mexican cafe & agaveria is a fun, friendly, easy place to linger. It has a long strip of buzzy sidewalk seats set back from the street outside, broad windows and high ceilings that lend a literal and figurative airy feel. Inside, a pretty bar at the center of the room has lean lines and backlighting. Tables and a long banquette beneath sleek chandeliers and amid pops of greenery are to the left. Another dining area is to the right, up a few stairs and separate enough for semi-private parties with light fixtures that look like paper lanterns overhead. The space is both calm and convivial, mostly filled in with shades of black, white, sand and cream. 

The food is unfussy but intentional, evidenced most obviously by an order of nachos ($15) presented in a big hollowed-out Crisco can that’s then lifted to reveal a cylinder of tortilla chips, pinto beans, pickled jalapeños and pico de gallo smothered in an inordinate amount of chipotle crema and queso that might make the most devoted cheese lovers raise an eyebrow. The abundance obscures more than ties the whole decadent plate together, but the generous dollop of guacamole on top is a fresh win that cuts through the richness, and it is Instagrammable

A whole fish with market vegetables ($29), marinated cabbage with quinoa and rice ($19), dry-aged ribeye asada ($35) and a half pollo campero ($23) number the entrees. The steak’s flavor is pleasant, but it was recently prepared well over the desired doneness. The chicken is much more successful, moist all the way to the center with a satisfying char and a texture easy to pull apart and fix into accompanying tortillas. It’s served with fries and coleslaw.  

A variety of tacos is the best path at Citrico. The fish option ($10) gets a double crunch via crispy batter and cabbage confetti, the pork belly char siu ($11) is just fatty enough with a sweet pop of pineapple and there’s a selection with ground beef, shredded cheddar and lettuce, Cholula crema, pico de gallo and a bit of guacamole all in a petite hard shell ($9). These and a few more tacos, typically served in pairs, make great snacks or a DIY main that you can mix and match. 

It’s ideally all paired with pours from the agaveria portion of the operation, which already has icy drinks for frozen cocktail season. The frozen margarita ($12) is nice on its own, or you can add flavors like mango and strawberry for $2 more. There’s also a mezcal-based take and standard liquid cocktails, many made with tequila and mezcal, plus wine and beer. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Fun and friendly with pretty decor and a lot of sidewalk seats.

The Food: A variety of tacos to mix and match, good guacamole and a smattering of entrees.

The Drinks: Frozen margaritas, plenty of tequila and mezcal-based cocktails, plus beer and wine. 

Time Out Tip: Tacos are typically served in pairs, but they’re available individually for $3-5 on Tuesdays. Select drinks, like $8 frozen margaritas, are discounted at that time as well. 

Citrico Cafe is located at 35-15 34th Avenue and opens at 3pm on weekends, 5pm weekdays.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hell's Kitchen

NYC tourist regions like Times Square, Grand Central and Bryant Park have plenty of restaurants to choose from, but few that capture that often intangible neighborhood-like quality. Columbus Circle—right by Central Park and tons of commercial real estate, decently adjacent to theater and museumsisn’t any different. But in February, the area got a lovely new spot that looks and feels like it would be at home anywhere in town. 

All & Sundry, across from the big mall on 58th Street, follows Sophie Bruschi, Mike O’Sullivan and Danny Grace’s Irish pubs Harley’s in Clinton Hill and Grace’s in the West Village. It's a departure from the trio’s previous Emerald Isle-inspired ventures. (O’Sullivan and Grace are from Ireland.) It’s quickly emerged as the immediate area’s best easy place to grab a drink and some good food. 

Billed as a bistro and bar, it has a strip of street and sidewalk seats outside. Down a few steps inside, a little pastel velvet-upholstered nook with room for about half-a-dozen is strewn with throw pillows. A pretty green bar with glass shelves and subtly colorful globe lights overhead is farther back. A row of high-top tables is to the left. Some Instagram elements are present–a single wooden swing is fixed inside a small alcove–without veering into the Immersive Restaurant Experience zone. It’s cute before the point of cloying. 

The cocktail menu’s Stanford ($16) is described as a cosmo snow cone with vodka, triple sec, cranberry and lime. It sounds like the bar’s most likely Instagram Thing, but like the decor, it only flirts with reaching over the top. It isn’t quite a frozen, or especially reminiscent of those childhood summer treats, but rather a kind of hybrid that doesn’t quite coalesce. Pale liquid is poured over crushed ice and a lot either gets lost in the shards somewhere or it’s just a paltry portion–even keeping in mind that ice can be deceiving. And because it isn’t truly a blended drink, straw tunnels keep forming and you have to continuously stab around for new reservoirs that tap out fast. The flavor’s pale, too, but not unpleasant. 

This is a blip and the rest of the cocktail list is solid and suitably presented. The draft manhattan ($17) is as boozy and bracing as any made à la minute and the tequila-based Piña Express ($16) is a sweet, beachy libation that looks ahead to summer. A short list of martinis (all $17) is the latest to fulfill a trend that I identified last October

Although this bistro and bar more resembles the latter—plenty of space for “just drinks,” backless stools that don’t invite lengthy tastings and enough room for the order queue to get a few people deep—All & Sunday’s lunch and dinner menu has plenty to choose from. The oysters Rockefeller’s five shells ($15) top the familiar app with Monterey Jack cheese to decadent, delicious effect that even oyster scorners might try twice. The simpler but equally divisive olive starter ($10) is similar, frying the pitless fruits to a golden-crusted finish and pairing them with a lemon goat cheese spread.  

The rest is as varied as expected given the location and its potential proclivities: Charcuterie ($22/half, $44/full), cheese sticks with tomato sauce ($12), sandwiches, salads and fries for the table ($10). And it's better than it might hypothetically need to be to earn success at this address; crafted to keep locals coming back. The kitchen takes general interest items and dabs them with subtle improvements while keeping their mass appeal intact. 

A room service staple that you’ll likely find nearby, the turkey club ($20, includes fries) loses the superfluous middle bread and uses house-roasted turkey, cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce tomato and mayo to fill it in. The pesto spaghetti, dubbed “pumpkin seeds pesto pasta” ($14) on the menu, adds pepitas to the fresh, verdant mix. (Expect sensations of fresh cut grass in the spring rather than orangey autumnal mush.) And the steak frites’ ribeye ($35) is prepared to a perfect medium rare, sometimes unseen even at established steakhouses that still seem to deliver something a little over or under. Eleven-ounces are sliced and served with chimichurri and parmesan-speckled pommes. 

A lot of after work and/or tourist destinations get by on proximity to those captive audiences, and the assumption that both groups will parrot the caveat that going out is really about the company. All & Sundry’s food, drink and ambiance are better than that: take someone you hate today. 

Vitals

The Vibe: The neighborhood’s most neighborhood-y spot in a pretty space with some under-the-top photo ops and an easy, comfortable environment. 

The Food: General interest items like sandwiches, salads, burgers, steak and pasta with pizzazz. 

The Drinks: Classic and novel cocktails, wine and beer. Champagne is $15 a glass and $60 a bottle during happy hour every day from noon to 7pm. 

Time Out Tip: All & Sundry accepts reservations for up to 20 guests and has a similarly designed private event space upstairs that can accommodate 120. 

All & Sundry is located at 312 West 58th Street and is open every day from noon to 4am. The kitchen closes at midnight. 

  • Restaurants
  • Prospect Heights

Patti Ann’s is the latest in a prudently slow-burning dynasty from the talented chef Greg Baxtrom. It follows his highly regarded seasonal ingredient bastion Olmsted, which opened in 2016, and his 2019 followup French yakitori, Maison Yaki. Both were quick to accrue accolades and the crowds that follow when they first launched, three years apart. 

Nearly another three years later, but with much more distance given which three years those were, Baxtrom opened Evi’s Bäckerei with pastry chef Alex Grunert to tons of attention before it even became apparent that the shop’s pastries were as good as they are. It occupies a few hundred square feet on Vanderbilt Avenue, where all of Baxtrom’s operations collect mail. Patti Ann’s came next at the same address last month. 

Olmsted tapped into the settling down of the once straightforward but eventually vexingly nebulous farm-to-table trend. Maison Yaki caught the skewer wave of 2019 right on time. Patti Ann’s official self-designation is Midwestern comfort food. (Mostaccioli . . . I haven’t heard that name in years.) It also seems to be grasping for another less-defined dining genre: The sort of so-so moneyed family spot with plain enough food to please grammom, kids and the parents who are just trying to drink it out between those loveable bookends. 

The 70-seat space is schoolhouse chic and with pops of primary colors, geometric shapes and board games stacked into cubby shelves. The corner location’s large windows let a lot of light in. Its aesthetic and the less tangible atmosphere not only achieve, but exceed apparent designs on the family-friendly category. It is a happy place that seems great for those multi-generational groups. It’s so warm and sweet you might almost want to protect it. Give it a cookie. Stick a gold star on there. But the food is less successful; incongruous with the resaurant's other merits. 

If you’ve heard anything about Patti Ann’s, you’ve heard about its goop and chips ($8). Well intentioned as a carefree throwback, it lands like a fun-sized flop. The goop is a mildly flavored dip with a near-whiff of onion. It would be a cute idea in another context, like how you might pin a kid’s scribble to the refrigerator. But unless you possess the unchecked confidence of P.T. Barnum, you aren’t going to slap a price tag on it. 

The goop and acoutremon would be delightful as a cheap bar snack, but its small size and the gimmicky use of an iconic Chicago snack brand at the expense of the final product—the thin crisps barely hold up to the dip or even the modest weight of their own molehill as well as some other selections would—don’t sit well for the price. 

A bread basket and port wine cheese ball ($12 each) are also among the nostalg-ish apps. Though neither ever disappeared from menus, the latter does evoke notions of decades past and the former will inevitably inspire the old timers at your table to muse about a time when bread was free. The pig in a blanket ($14) shines among the starters: Thick, beautiful bacon encased in a spiral of lovely, lightly gleaming golden pastry atop a shallow pond of a zippy honey mustard glaze. It is too auspicious a beginning for what follows. 

“I’ve never had a duck meat loaf that I didn’t like,” I assured my friend, who’d never had the pleasure, on a recent weeknight at Patti Ann’s. And how could I have known better? Olmsted has been one of NYC’s best restaurants for years, I recommend Maison Yaki to people all the time, duck meat loaf’s always delicious—it’s basic arithmetic. 

The $22 dish is coated in an unexpected color fit to match a matriarch’s lipstick kiss. A kind of waxed dusty pink. It is disquieting, even understanding the obvious ambition to zag from standard meat loaf condiments. It looks uncannily artificial. And ultimately, that cherry ketchup covering a dense, individual round loaf that could just as easily be duck, beef, or even a cultured meat, tastes artificial, too, like semi-sour red-flavored candies melted down with a little roux. It is, however, one of the more flavorful things on the menu, which also includes that Second City staple, mostaccioli ($25 with meat, $22 without), Saltine-encrusted salmon ($26) and a huge chicken fried pork chop ($28) that has a crispy surface demonstrating technical skill, but still needs a lot of lemon to taste like anything other than batter given the indistinct quality of its accompanying gravy. 

The short rib pot roast with peas and carrots ($28) is the only main that hints at including a side, though the famous pairing amounts to more of a garnish. Supplements like sauteed pea shoots, fried button mushrooms and, that old crowd-pleasing classic, mashed potatoes (each $12) are available separately. The mac and greens ($14) is one of Patti Ann’s spot-on comfort food executions. Although the greens, more precisely broccoli rabe, are indistinguishable from any other, its a pleasant combination of gooey shells with a cheese pull as telegenic as an Olive Garden commercial. 

There are some reasons to check out Patti Ann’s. I’d sit at the bar with blanket pig and a nice cocktail like the Manhattan-adjacent Field Trip with subtle notes of cherry and orange. Baxtrom has a devoted following who will want to experience the fourth effort from the venerable chef, regardless of what anyone says. My friend and I did. And it is an easy enough option for families willing to spend probably a little bit more than they need to for a simple dinner that nobody is going to complain is too spicy (or too anything) in a pleasant environment. It’s pretty precisely fine. I frequent a few just fine places when that's what the occasion calls for. But the idea that I’d encourage my family to spend good money here isn’t especially comforting. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Warm and welcoming with a bright schoolhouse aesthetic that’s great for families.   

The Food: Efforts at midwestern comfort food with mostly mild flavors.   

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine, beer and, specifically, pop. 

Time Out Tip: There is reportedly stroller parking outside. 

Patti Ann’s is located at 570 Vanderbilt Avenue and is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm to 10pm.  

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  • Restaurants
  • Brooklyn Heights

There is a pair of idyllic views from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway heading north right after Atlantic Avenue. In the distance to the left: An expanse of the East River and the Manhattan skyline. Just to the right: A bird's-eye look at a little pocket of Brooklyn Heights that seems to write in swoopy script across your windshield, if you lived here you’d be home now

That those homes are all unspeakably expensive makes it curious that the neighborhood was recently absent a special occasion destination restaurant. But if you were to ride an umbrella down from the BQE to the sidewalk like Mary Poppins, you’d land near Clover Hill, a wonderful new spot that brilliantly fills that gap along with some everyday dining options as well. 

Clover Hill first opened in the former location of the highly-regarded Iris Café in December of 2019 with the previous occupant’s manager, Clay Castillo and his friend-turned business partner Gabriel Merino at the helm. The pair had to close shortly thereafter due to the pandemic, and linked with executive chef Charlie Mitchell (Eleven Madison Park) before reopening for daytime operations this past February. Dinner service began in March. 

Its address is even more charming at street level than from traffic fantasies. Located on the one-block stretch of Columbia Place between State and Joralemon, it feels like a secret, tree-lined annex to one of the few parts of NYC that could still almost pass for a hamlet. It’s as leafy and quaint as the rest of the surrounding area, but the roadway towering overhead gives it a particularly secluded quality.   

Inside, there are 34 seats (including six at the bar) between large picture windows up front and an open kitchen in the back. Its precisely-executed Brooklyn aesthetic seems honestly achieved. Prints and vintage portraits line white-painted brick walls above hardwood floors. Plants and petite lamps are spaced throughout. The ambient music could have been the soundtrack for an elder-millennial middle school dance.

By day (Friday through Sunday from 9am to 3pm), the brunch menu is a primer on the excellent sourcing and preparation that Mitchell brings to the kitchen. A croque fromage ($18), French omelette, ($19) and short rib cannelloni ($36) feature among the relatively lengthy menu. The evening prix fixe cements Clover Hill’s destination status. 

Like many NYC tasting menus, Clover Hill’s will change based on seasonal availability. A recent roster, $135 for seven French and new-American influenced courses, was seafood-focused and abundant with spring vegetables. A $95 wine pairing is nicely calibrated with each dish.  

To start, a trio of house-made, baked rye tart shells are filled with ingredients like asparagus and a ranch crème fraîche that, in two bites, goes a long way to promise not only an expertly-conceived dinner to come, but also a fun one. Pop it first, you’re advised, then the hiramasa (often called yellowtail kingfish) and the shima-aji (likewise, striped jack) varieties, which both pack more flavor than their miniature surface areas imply. It’s a jubilant beginning combined with the pairing’s sparkling chardonnay blend. 

The aguachile that follows is among Mitchell’s most outstanding plates. Kombu-cured scallops reach an impeccably silken finish, served in a vibrant mussel bouillon with snappy, lime vin-marinated fava beans and crowned with osetra caviar. Its companion pour is an appropriately bright Greek variety. 

A couple of courses later, you’ve likely dipped into bolder red wines that portend items like a stuffed fluke that perfects the task of marrying varied notes while still keeping their separate qualities intact. The fish is slow-cooked in clarified butter and stuffed with minced crimini mushrooms and truffles that pop with a bracing earthy essence among dainty spring peas all served atop a deep, somewhat smoky Willington sauce. Its a triumphant combination that also demonstrates style, skill and expertise in the kitchen.  

The final savory course is similarly dynamic, this time fixing a thin layer of foie gras and lobster beneath beautifully deep-golden chicken skin. Its wispy, crustaceous perfume, embedded in the breast and present in a sauce Américaine, links this last main to the rounds of wonderful seafood that preceded it. 

Dinner finishes with two presentations from pastry chef Vanessa Matonis that outdo standard issue restaurant desserts. The first is a perky citrus gelato with Cara Cara oranges and a texture-amplifying coconut crumble. It's followed by a light rum baba visibly laced with lightly spiced swirls, and served alongside a pour of its titular spirit, if you’ve splurged on the wine pairing. One more sweet surprise caps the exceptional experience. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Tucked away on a picturesque one-block street with a cozy, comfortable dining room that seats a few dozen.    

The Food: The $135 tasting menu includes seven French and new-American influenced courses that presently skew significantly toward seafood. A separate à la carte brunch menu is also available. 

The Drinks: A $95 wine pairing, plus bottles, glasses, beer and cocktails. 

Time Out Tip: Walk-ins are welcome, but the place fills up fast for dinner around primetime. 

Clover Hill is located at 20 Columbia Place and is open Wednesday-Sunday from 6pm and Friday-Sunday from 9am to 3pm.   

  • Restaurants
  • Brooklyn Heights

Salads are more labor intensive than they’re typically given credit for. Maybe it’s because of the proliferation of NYC’s Rube Goldberg-esque work lunch salad spots that spin out 108-ingredient bowls in under a minute. But, absent a dedicated assembly line, I laugh at the common de facto dismissal that anything is “just a salad.” I make them at home a lot, and they take forever, but then I do toast the pepitas so maybe that’s on me. Anyway, several times a week, I am literally a woman laughing alone with salad.  

The celery Victor with anchovy and parmesan ($16) at Inga’s Bar, which opened in Brooklyn Heights last month, is not just a salad. Credited to the French chef Victor Hirtzler at the San Francisco St. Francis Hotel circa 1910, its base is a bed of marvelous celery hearts typically marinated in a non-vegetarian stock and married to anchovies. Inga’s gets that primary ingredient just right, landing on a texture to please celery devotees and dissenters alike, topping the marvelous melange with wonderfully rough bits of cheese. The whole lovely plate is imbued with the essence of those slivery fish. Though you might not spear one of the tiny suckers, their inimitable presence is abundant. Remember how Via Carota’s salad became a whole thing? I predict a similar outcome here. 

Inga’s short rib dish ($30) is also imbued with flavor, but, where the salad sings, this is one note. It looks promising enough, with meat pulling apart with the flick of a fork atop a cloud of mashed potatoes, but the whole plate is suffused with salt. The prickly flavor is a disappointing surprise considering how expertly executed the plate’s parts are otherwise. It seems to be the kitchen’s only miss. The fantastic fisherman’s stew ($27) is much brighter, plump cockles, mussels and hake swimming in a zippy red broth. And smaller plates like the duck poutine croquettes ($12) and bacon-wrapped country pâté ($17) are first class bar food. 

This whole place looks and feels like it sprung fully formed from an idealized version of the neighborhood. It’s on a picturesque little corner of northwest Brooklyn Heights previously occupied by Jack the Horse Tavern, with new owners designer Caron Callahan and James Beard award-nominated chef Sean Rembold (Marlow & Sons, Reynard) at the helm. It’s still recognizable from the previous iteration, but there’s a new polish over the place that gives its hardwood floors, exposed brick and tin ceiling a warm, shabby-chic glow. The roomy dining room is right through the door and a handsome bar that looks like it could have inspired an Edward Hopper painting is in an alcove off to the side. The atmosphere lands on the frequent telegenic brownstone Brooklyn style target where others fall flat into cartoony territory. 

That modestly recessed arrangement lends the bar its own destination designation. Its cozy and feels private in the wonderfully strange way sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers always does. The cocktails are excellent and simply presented. The Romance Language ($14), made with tequila and French and Italian vermouth, is one of the best. It's served in a seamless rocks glass and looks like an especially cold cup of water. Lightly perfumed, it’s perky and smooth at once and, maybe like a salad, deceptively simple. I’ve thought about that cocktail an unreasonable number of times since visiting and only just realized it’s because seeing something so plain is becoming less common at new restaurants. I love a novelty cocktail, too–stick a sprinkler in there, serve it in a shoe, anything goes!–but this one is so uninteresting to behold it almost seems radical. Like it’s just a drink, that happens to be very good. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Charming, warm and stylish in a classic Brooklyn fashion with a personality of its own. Great, somebody’s dad-type music (“Dirty Work!” “Peg!” Probably other Steely Dan songs!) fills the air.

The Food: The celery Victor with anchovy and parmesan and the fisherman’s stew are sensational. Avoid the deeply salty short rib. 

The Drinks: Terrific cocktails like the tequila-based Romance Language, gin Epilogue and bourbon Cardinal Sin, plus wine and beer.  

Time Out Tip: This is the rare great new restaurant where reservations are still easily had. That will change soon. 

Inga’s Bar is located at 66 Hicks Street and is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm.  

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  • Restaurants
  • East Village

The hospitality group Unapologetic Foods is responsible for more of NYC’s finest restaurants than most operators ever achieve in a food and drink generation. Dhamaka was last year’s best new opening. Adda Indian Canteen enjoyed similar accolades in 2018. Semma—which started service last October—is still booked up weeks out. Rowdy Rooster, a fast casual Indian fried chicken destination that opened in February, draws lines out the door, even on weekdays. 

The narrow storefront is bursting with color inside. A kaleidoscopic bird with lush plumage is pictured opposite a low banquette and a few tables with backless stools that are more or less comfortable enough for the duration of a brief lunch. You order at the counter in the back and they’ll pack it up and bring it over when it's ready a few minutes later. 

The menu is more robust than the seating arrangement. Chicken sandwiches, those reliable old discourse starters, are available both as the hearty, two-hand Big Rowdy ($12) and slightly smaller Lil’ Rowdy ($9). Both dark meat cuts are bathed in a secret ingredient yogurt-based marinade for two days, coated in an also hush-hush spice blend spanning five possible heat degrees, fried to impeccable texture and finished with mint, yogurt and pickled onion.

Aside from size, the sandwiches are served on two different vehicles that each have their own effect. Soft as it is, the former’s larger potato bun stands up to the hefty fowl, lending what could be a messier affair welcome manageability. The latter is served on a smaller, pillowy pao, light with a gleaming crown–a pleasantly surprising real ringer for the wonderful buns that come with the sensational gurda kapoora over at Dhamaka. These are the best new fried chicken sandwiches in New York City. 

Fried chicken pieces are also nice, prepared with the same mystery and batched by four on the bone or three off, served with cooling mint chutney for $9 in either case. The required amount of that soothing balm will vary based on where your preference is calibrated on a spectrum from entry-level to “crazy hot” with gradations between.

On a recent visit right before the rush that struck at about 1pm, I ordered the spiciest option as a matter of course, but acquiesced one level back due to a personal policy of typically accepting any good faith staff recommendation. The four alarm variety has a solid scorch that scratches eye-watering, but it won’t set alarm bells for previously torched palates. For practical purposes, it will likely still land on the higher end of fiery for most. And, to be fair, the max level threatens to obscure the sandwich’s other expert seasonings. The penultimate option still allows its fragrant spices to shine. 

Chicken in whichever form is Rowdy Rooster’s main event, but supporting acts are strong, too. Crispy bits of eggplant pakora disappear as fast as movie theater snacks, and the lovely ‘Lil Rowdy bun makes another appearance in the vada pao, its patty’s light golden fried exterior enveloping the tender potato inside. Mango lassi and Indian sodas like Limca and Thumbs Up are notable on the drink menu.

Vitals

The Vibe: Vibrant, fun and teeny-tiny with just a few seats and lines that form out the door.

The Food: New York City’s best new fried chicken sandwich with some great ancillary items. 

The Drinks: Mango lassi and Indian sodas like Limca and Thumbs Up, plus other soft drinks.

Time Out Tip: Do not count on getting a table. Have a takeaway plan. 

Rowdy Rooster is located at 149 1st Avenue and is open Tuesday–Sunday from 12pm to 3pm and 4pm until they're sold out.

  • Restaurants
  • Chelsea

New Yorkers love nostalgia. The first time your favorite place closes forever, it stings even after you start telling anyone who’ll listen about your favorite place that closed. Newer New Yorkers, which is to say the young and/or recently New York-ed, will even catch wistfulness for destinations they never stepped foot in.

Many of us are attracted to a past that isn’t this one, perhaps seeking to escape the knowledge that our moment, too, will soon transform into history. And, although books are fine, the best way to fully immerse oneself in only the most halcyon of bygone days, is at glittering, gritty, Old New York restaurants and bars

El Quijote first opened on 23rd Street adjacent to the historic Chelsea Hotel in 1930. The Spanish restaurant closed for renovations expected to span just months in 2018. There’s a paucity of notices and reviews from the '30s online, but eighty years later, Time Out New York remarked on its time capsule interior, generous portions like four “good for the table” paella varieties, and clocked the average entrée at $25. Even closer to the restaurant’s end, its triumphant decor, including marvelous, vibrant works of art inspired by the novel Don Quixote, from whence the place drew its name, accrued adjectives like “kitschy” and “tacky.” 

El Quijote reopened on February 9 with a slick but subtle refresh and Sunday Hospitality (Rule of Thirds, Sunday in Brooklyn) at the helm. 

Its entrance is separate from the hotel’s, which critically keeps the restaurant from the oft-doomed Hotel Dining category. The years-long renovation/restoration left its interior’s general glow intact. Its aura is the shade of a vintage valentine. 

The long, 1930s-era bar is to the left. The main dining room, separated by a lovely wood partition, is to the right. Red leathery booths are somewhat further divided by wrought-iron-style panels back-to-back, curling like lace above eye level. They’re a real luxury of relative seclusion in this era of abundant, conversation-amplifying banquettes. Four-tops are surrounded by upholstered chairs in a crimson hue, too. The ceiling is artfully distressed like the most stylish cave in Manhattan, and one of the erstwhile space’s more subdued murals, white on oxblood, endures on the main room’s west wall. Upbeat jazz and pleasantly gravelly male warbling of indeterminate performers fills the air. 

The whole space, including a private room toward the back that accommodates about 10, seats around 65. Minus the bar stools, a little back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the primary table seating in the low 40s, amounting to an intimate locale for whisperery, candlelit dinners. Just be sure to order from the top half of the menu for the best taste of what El Quijote has to offer. 

Drinks are uniformly terrific, from zero-abv options like the Pink G&T ($12) with non-alcoholic gin, cherry blossom and tonic to its boozy carnival mirror Quijote G&T ($15) counterpart, which spins that last ingredient with Spanish gin, aloe and celery. They’re both served in kingly goblets that will reduce the pace of even the most accomplished drinkers. Those and the matrimonio de anchoas y boquerones ($18) are the ideal way to start a visit here. But they also wildly over-promise on what's to follow. 

The anchovies are the perfect pairing of pickled and salt-cured fish. Four of each preparation are swimming in olive oil and served with grilled bread. The former, paler of the filets are light with a buoyant, saline effervescence. The latter are darker and rich, deeply dense but yielding like uni in slow motion. If you start with this sensational plate you’re liable to try just about anything, including the $72 paella. Do not order the $72 paella. 

Between February of 2010, when this publication reported that El Quijote’s typical entree was $25, and February of 2022, the most recent month that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has data for, $25 became $32.73. This would matter less if the restaurant’s current, sole $72 paella variety were better, but its present price is above even the typical de facto hotel-restaurant tax for sub-room service quality.

The paella de temporada does have some acceptable elements.The short-grain rice is fine. Nearly-developed patches of socarrat, that beautiful, crispy patina that can form at the base of a pan, appear here and there, recalling more successful paella efforts one might have previously enjoyed. 

Whole prawns with all their biological accoutrement restore some trust between the kitchen and the consumer, their brittle exterior shattering into tender meat that’s closer to catch of the day of anything else in the shallow dish. Mussels, clams and squid are also included: The bivalves curiously shriveled in their otherwise auspicious shells; tentacles seemingly sprawled out in an SOS gesture. This is not to mention the rabbit, which would be better served in a hat. The overdone morsels’ gamy notes are unpolished and under seasoned, but at least the medallions are scant. 

El Quijote is still worth visiting. In addition to the sensational matrimonio de anchoas y boquerones, some small plates are pretty good. The golden fried patatas bravas with standard-issue aioli and zippy choricero pepper sauce ($12) and the also golden fried, crispy, creamy croquetas de jamón ($16) are top-notch bar bites to accompany excellent cocktails with aplomb. Even the poor paella is seasonal, so it could be better as early as June 21. Just make sure somebody else is paying before you give it a shot. 

Vitals

The Vibe: The main dining room hints at romance with candle light, shades or rouge, and cozy booths in lieu of ubiquitous banquettes. The lovely adjacent bar has Old New York style. 

The Food: Terrific bar food like patatas bravas with choricero pepper sauce and wonderful sardine preparations. Skip the seasonal paella until summer at least. 

The Drinks: Excellently crafted and beautifully presented no and pro-ABV cocktails are the strongest argument for a visit to El Quijote. Gin and tonics in both categories are great, as are frozens like the Portonico with white port, cachaça, green apple, mint and cucumber tonic.

Time Out Tip: Sangria is only available in batches, so bring friends or come thirsty. 

El Quijote is located at 226 West 23rd Street and is open daily from 5pm to 11pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Brooklyn Heights

A darling new cafe just opened in Brooklyn Heights, and it seems like all anyone can talk about is its bathroom. A majority of visitors around late lunchtime on a recent weekday had something to say about the W.C., which has a hidden door disguised by decorative shelving. 

There is a doorknob, to be fair, and it’s to the right of the gelato case, which displays several house-made varieties. But first, coffee. And bánh mì, and bún. 

The cà phê trứng ($3.75) is a few velvety sips of espresso, condensed milk, sugar and egg yolk with a little bit of bite and a little bit of sweetness—like a vampire’s kiss served in a paper cup. Drip’s on the menu, too ($2.50 and up), plus lattes ($4.25+), cold brew ($5.75+) and a wide variety of teas ($3). All this plus generous WiFi make it one of the neighborhood’s most welcoming daytime hangouts in a while. The password’s just printed on a sign beside the register, but I hadn’t seen one offered as a matter of course in a while. 

That’s where you order, too, and they’ll bring your food and drinks out to the bright, brick-lined dining room where faux vines are arranged here and there. It seats a couple dozen at square, lacquered, shallow wood-grain tables. Seafoam green covers the chairs and a gleaming espresso machine on the counter. Queen, 80s-era George Harrison, and that one good Kiss song play at an appreciable volume, and sunshine streams in through the wide, sidewalk-facing windows. 

The classic bánh mì ($11.50) is one of several varieties, each a collage of the standard daikon, pickled carrots, cucumber and cilantro, but they’re particularly perky with pronounced individual flavors here, which is less standard. The classic is arranged on a baguette with mayo, dainty layers of pâtè, jambon and pork roll to nearly overflowing effect that still holds together, defying the laws of sandwich fillings. The optional jalapeños are actually doing their job, too, bringing real heat rather than the typically hollow/hopeful offer to make it spicy. Each selection is more like two sandwiches; put the halves back together and it must measure nearly a foot long. Beef, sliced chicken thigh and tofu options all hover around $11. 

Diem’s bún bowls ($11.75-$12.75) are outstanding. A bed of vermicelli noodles is layered with a mosaic of ingredients like turmeric fish, peanuts, fried shallots, dill, scallion and cilantro. It's almost too pretty to disrupt, and each individual item has its merits–the texture and the brightness of the shallots, the zippy dill–but they really sing when properly combined. This, too, is fairly large in size for a substantial lunch.  

The cafe’s hours creep a bit into dinnertime, but it’s primarily an earlier operation with a zag as a dessert destination: They make fantastic several gelato varieties on site. In keeping with Diem’s established oversized offerings, a small ($5.50) is packed about one-and-a-half lengths above its cup’s height, and you can mix flavors like amaretto and chocolate-raspberry. Vegan flavors like vanilla bean and pistachio are also available, but they might vary from week to week.

The sum of Diem Eatery’s parts–its abundance of expertly prepared, delicious caffeine vehicles, its fortifying menu items with enough variety to keep coming back, and free keys to the internet make it not only a welcome new neighborhood spot, but also a solid new work-from-not-home locale. 

You might even be able to hide from your boss in the bathroom for a minute.

Vitals

The Vibe: A place that actually wants you to be there, with WiFi, nice natural light and good food and cafe drinks.  

The Food: Huge bánh mì, generous bún bowls and terrific house-made gelato. 

The Drinks: Enough caffeine varieties to keep you alert all day, including a rich, velvety cà phê trứng. 

Time Out Tip: The bathroom’s charmingly hidden in plain sight, but we bet you can find it if you’re ‘sweet.’ 

Diem Eatery is located at 79 Atlantic Avenue and is open Monday and Tuesday from 8am to 7pm, Wednesday from 8am to 5:30pm, Thursday and Friday from 8am to 7pm, Saturday from 9am to 7pm and Sunday from 9am to 6pm.  

  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

When it comes to love and restaurants, you know you’ve got a good thing when you can’t stop thinking about it. Koko’s is a good thing. 

Billed as a Nikkei izakaya, the Brooklyn space opened late last year. Its ambiance and Japanese-Peruvian plates invite sharing. As with some other favorite recent openings, it feels like a party you’re actually happy to attend. 

The difference between a Food Business and a restaurant is usually pronounced, and Koko’s is clearly the latter. It’s the kind of place where you’ll feel like a regular the first time you visit and factor that feeling into future evenings out before you sign the check. 

A couple of typical two- and four-tops are up front, and the bar and a long row of tall tables backed by banquettes are up a few stairs beyond. Its decor anchor is a vibrant mural, and attention to design abounds throughout the rest of the room and the menu items. 

The $14 eigakan 映画館 cocktail (in Japanese: Movie theaters) is one of Koko’s Instagram Things. The tipple tops caramel corn-infused rum, a cola reduction, lime and elote liqueur with a generous handful of caramel corn, all served in a vessel fashioned after a vintage red and white striped popcorn box. One note and obviously bracingly sweet, this is not even Koko’s best cocktail, but the seldom locally-seen presentation (similarly styled tipples have appeared at England’s Steam & Rye and New England’s The Ghost Walks) is conversation-stopping and portends further charms to come. 

The Fuego Llama 熱いラマ ($13) is a perfect mix of tequila, aji amarillo, triple sec, lime and togarashi that transfers just a bit of pleasant heat. The smoky mezcal-based El Sombrero ソンブレロ ($15) is a hit, too, as is the Machu Pisco ($15) マチュ ピスコ, which adds cinnamon, lime and bitters to house-smoked pineapple pisco. That one’s served in an icy Inca Kola can. This is solidly a bar you can eat at and a restaurant you can drink at.  

Koko’s food menu also has some exceedingly sippable options. The excellent $20 ceviche carretillero’s aji amarillo leche de tigre, brightly acidic and swimming with plump seafood, could be served as shots. It's fixed into fish tins with a side of fantastic fried calamari that amounts to a flavor and texture triumph you’ll turn over in your mind en route home, in your dreams and the morning after like you’d reimagine a fresh crush. Order it first while your appetite’s electric.  

At $17, the hamachi kama’s another winner. The yellowtail collar’s best bites are toward the top as plated, so tear in and work your way down the juicy bit of lightly aromatic fish. It flakes beautifully, and it’s delivered with a portion of perfectly prepared rice. Add an order of pulpo anticuchero ($14), with its ideally finished octopus, tender potato medallions and dollops of botija olive mayo to create a tasting that Koko’s could charge a lot more under that label while coming by it honestly. 

And isn’t honesty the foundation of any good relationship? 

Vitals

The Vibe: Fun, lively and welcoming with a clear focus on hospitality. 

The Food: Excellent ceviche you’ll wish to sip, plus a terrific yellowtail collar and other items that amount to a marvelous DIY tasting experience.

The Drinks: The eigakan 映画館 cocktail’s a real beauty, but the tequila-based Fuego Llama and smoky mezcal El Sombrero are even better. 

Time Out Tip: Koko’s has happy hour Sunday-Thursday from 4pm-7pm, when select bites and drinks are $9 or less. 

Koko’s is located at 588 Grand Street and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 4pm to 1am and Sunday from 10:30am to 12am. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

If New York City has become boring recently, nobody told Uncle Lou. 

Chinatown local Louis Wong opened Uncle Lou on Mulberry Street with a lengthy menu in a large venue late last year. His “dream to contribute to Chinatown’s exciting dining scene” that “exemplifies the vibrant intergenerational dynamics that makes Chinatown so special” is now a confirmed reality. 

There was already a twenty minute wait at 6:45pm on a recent weeknight, when a smattering of hopeful parties populated the entryway. A few seats were available at the bar adjacent to Uncle Lou’s 75-seat dining room. 

The restaurant is warm and buoyant with a convivial, casual dinner party atmosphere. Globe lights and lanterns are suspended overhead. A long banquette spans the length of one brick-lined side and tables in various configurations populate the rest of the space. Everything seems abundant. 

Uncle Lou’s menu is divided into standard categories: Dim sum, noodle soup, beef, chicken, seafood and so on. The “lo wah kiu favorites” column “takes grandparents back to the Cantonese villages in Toisan, Sunwui, Enping, and Hoiping.” That list is a couple dozen dishes deep, including lamb or oxtail stew casserole ($24.95/$29.95), pan-fried lotus root and pork patties ($18.95) and a terrific half chenpi duck ($14.95). The duck is sliced and generously plated, enrobed in a lightly tangy, near-sweet sauce that’s speckled with citrus rind. It's prepared to the ideal doneness under a manageable layer of pleasant fat. 

The vegetable section’s Buddha’s delight ($16.95) is also overflowing and vibrantly bursting with sliced lotus root rounds, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, zucchini and hunks of tofu laced with dainty rice noodles. Crucially, the “mixed vegetables” as they’re undersold on the menu, retain a fresh snap where they should, and the integrity of each one’s individual flavors and textures are intact. 

Another highlight from the dizzying array of the kitchen’s bright spots, the HK-style char siu lo mein ($8.50), tops its noodles with a lovely layer of carefully cut swatches of smoky pork, only the best of which make it to the plate. The substantial, lunch hour-priced item is tucked away all the way down on the menu’s lower left hand corner, which stirs curiosity about what other soon-to-be favorites are hidden in plain sight among Uncle Lou’s oodles of options. 

It’ll be exciting to keep coming back to find out. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Warmly buzzy like a huge, no-pressure dinner party. 

The Food: An abundance of items including the standout half chenpi duck, Buddha’s delight with mixed vegetables and terrific HK-style char siu lo mein.

The Drinks: A beer and wine permit is pending. 

Time Out Tip: Uncle Lou accepts reservations by phone for any size party.

Uncle Lou is located at 73 Mulberry Street and is open daily from 11am to 10pm. 


  • Restaurants
  • West Village

Four months after opening, reservations at The Commerce Inn are nonexistent. The “early American tavern and cookery” with Shaker influences is the latest from hospitality superstars Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, whose previous partnership Via Carota (2014) is still perpetually packed. Sodi also opened I Sodi in 2008 and Williams followed with Buvette in 2011, among other West Village-dynasty establishing destinations. 

“Have you been to Disney,” the friend I joined for a recent, rare reservation asked. I’ve only been to the mall store, but he’s familiar with both Shaker fashion and theme park style. The Commerce Inn flies close to the latter and lands the former. Outside, the picturesque little street looks like a sound stage that turns Manhattan into an idyllic hamlet. Inside, white tablecloth-topped tables can be found in the dining room to the left and the bar and tight church pew two-tops are to the right. The space is encased in wood from the floors to the beams overhead with a row of Shaker-appropriate peg rails between. 

Mixed font-printed menus include small plates and one main, the excellent roast chicken. The rest of the entrées are off-book specials like fish with shoestring potatoes, rabbit, sliced pork chop and salt beef. The offerings are on a spectrum from after-school microwaved snack to ideal execution. 

The permanent bill of fare’s rarebit ($19) is the least successful plate. Rarebit tops toast with a cheese blend. The seemingly simple combination is rich with almost unending possibilities considering the dizzying potential base, spice and dairy or alternative options. But the toast should be toasted and the cheese should be a saucy blanket evoking notions of reconstructed fondue. It's also sometimes served with a lightly torched surface, closer in texture and appearance to a vegetarian croque monsieur. The Commerce Inn’s rarebit is curiously neither. Its thick-cut vehicle is charred at the edges and soft through the center. The cheese seems to have been heated separately and assembled just before plating to Fisher-Price effect. 

Pale cod cakes ($24) are puzzling, too. One bite might be dry and as salty as grandmom’s pasta water, the next might be as good as any fish ever flaked, and then you might just get a mouth full of doughy filler. Fortunately, there are much brighter plates ahead.

Satiny bone marrow ($22) could be a culinary school final exam. It soars over the aspic quality that lesser kitchens deliver and lands on the ideal yielding, uni-like texture and inimitable near-buttery flavor that only the best in class ever achieve. It's topped with dainty mushrooms that would be easily annihilated elsewhere, but are perfectly executed here. This, paired with a 50/50 martini ($19), pulls the place into focus. 

The salt beef with raisins and carrots is another hit, well-sourced and beautifully sliced with a thin ribbon of silken fat that mirrors the marrow. But the $26 special is a little startling when it hits the table. It’s a modest portion of beef and the number of raisins and carrots would garner too many winners in a jelly bean jar contest. Things cost, as they should. But nobody wants to feel like the goofball who ordered two dainty strips of delicious, but paltry beef while their friend tears into a hunk of that marvelous half chicken. 

It’s fun to be able to mix and match smaller plates like a madcap choose-your-own adventure, but the roast bird ($32) is what makes The Commerce Inn a viable dinner destination rather than an erstwhile tavern facsimile. There’s a plump, photogenic leg, and even the hunks of white meat are juicy all the way through, with a deep golden finish and a coating of aromatic herbs. It's served with French fries, the best of which are underneath the generously plated bird and soaked with jus. 

Considered in conversation with this powerful hospitality pair’s other operations, The Commerce Inn creatively expands a formidable portfolio. In a vacuum, it's an interesting lark with some real winning plates. In either case, walk-ins are welcome, so, with a little luck, it could be another option for both aspiring diners and devotees of the beloved local empire. 

It’s a small world, after all. 

Vitals

The Vibe: The tavern side near the bar is as cozy as a train car. The adjacent dining room is a little roomier and more formal. Service is unrushed for such a popular place that might otherwise transparently turn tables.

The Food: The bone marrow with mushrooms and peak-form roast chicken stand out on the permanent menu. A salt beef special is also terrific, but closer to an appetizer for two in size. 

The Drinks: A tidy list of nicely prepared cocktails like the 50/50 martini, bourbon-based Old Commerce and milk punch are $19-$20.   

Time Out Tip: Pay attention to the specials. Aside from the terrific chicken, items that most would consider mains are off the printed menu.  

The Commerce Inn is located at 50 Commerce Street and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 4pm to 10pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

One pancake, a couple of eggs, a bit of breakfast meat and a hashbrown is a wonderful combination curiously hard to find at a lot of NYC’s benchmark brunch spots. Denny’s named the same basic blueprint a Grand Slam decades back; a chichi destination could probably get away with calling it a tasting. And, although you’re a little more likely to find it at one of the five boroughs’ dwindling diners, this true tour of morning taste sensations does not quite enjoy the ubiquity of, say, unlimited mimosas

At Stowaway, a southern-influenced operation that opened in Greenpoint late last year, it's listed as the Shoreline Breakfast: All of the above with a choice of bacon, smoked and cured on-site, or house made sausage for $17. The scrambled eggs are properly fluffed, the medium-density sage sausage patty is substantial, the thin, slightly and delightfully greasy hashbrown harks back to fast food favorites with added made-to-order attention and the golden pancake is peak form, with the ideal porousness to soak up maple syrup that turns the plate into a dizzyingly decadent dessert. It’s a satisfying brunch. 

The Hen House Breakfast ($15) swaps the shoreline’s hash brown for a copiously-battered fried chicken thigh. It's nicely prepared, if lightly seasoned, with a suitable crunch. The chicken is also served in sandwich form on Stowaway’s promising southern-style buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits’ interior’s a little denser than expected, especially given their photogenic finish, but they’re still a fine vehicle for the chicken, painted with a dash of bright yellow bread and butter pickle aioli and paired with sweet heat peppers. BECs and SECs are also available on biscuits, or you can order one doused in herbed mushroom gravy or plated with jelly and whipped molasses butter. Biscuits are all priced from $7-$11.

Small plates like the deceptively generous portion of terrific fried okra with remoulade ($8) and the airy pimento cheese on grilled rye ($10) are lovely as starters, sides or as first-class snacks at Stoways’s cozy marble bar. Mid-back stools can accommodate a few pairs at the cozy slip, with more counter space available in the large, sidewalk-facing picture window and mostly two-tops lining an exposed brick wall. Natural light hits the intimate space’s high ceilings, curved lines, subtly nautical design elements and  brassy chandelier suspended from the seafoam green ceiling. 

Stowaway achieves the exact notes that create a neighborhood cafe-bar where it's easy to imagine becoming a regular, sipping hot and iced coffee and tea drinks in the morning and beer, wine and cider a bit later on. It offers a lot on its relatively brief, brunch-leaning menu, and its bountiful Shoreline Breakfast in particular is a home run any time of day. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Bright, intimate and welcoming with subtle maritime style. 

The Food: Breakfast and brunch plates like the outstanding Shoreline Breakfast, served with a pancake, bacon or sausage, hash brown and eggs any way.

The Drinks: Hot and cold coffee, tea and espresso drinks, plus beer, wine and cider.  

Time Out Tip: Stowaway splits the difference between counter and table service: You’ll order up front, have a seat, and pop back to the register for additional items. The restaurant plans to expand with cocktails and dinner service this spring. 

Stowaway is located at 159 Greenpoint Avenue and is open Monday-Wednesday from 8am to 4pm and Thursday-Sunday from 8am to 10pm. 


  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

Entering a restaurant, being seated and ordering without needing a reservation meticulously orchestrated weeks in advance is an increasingly unusual treat in NYC. 

Some perfectly nice neighborhood spots I’ve been walking into for years are now strongly recommending reservations, and a few junior varsity special occasion destinations even require booking deposits. On one hand, dinner gamification turns dining into a reward-based dopamine stream. On the other hand, so much in this city is already competitive enough. 

I’d been wishing for another easy pop-in option when Bangkok Degree opened in Park Slope last month. It seats a couple dozen in a rustic-chic wood and brick-lined space. The collage of greenery arranged overhead gives it a bit of a secret garden appeal, and Edison light bulbs underscore its address in the borough that seemed to make those divisive devices famous. 

The short service bar in the back turns out Thai iced tea and coffee varieties, butterfly pea lemonade, pink milk, juice and sodas ($3-$5.50). The long dinner menu is broken into all the expected sections plus “Traditional Grandma Dishes,” and BYOB was allowed at press time. 

Bangkok street food staple fried quail egg wontons ($9) are a standout starter. The golden crispy wonton skin cracks into the softly buoyant egg white encasing a creamy yolk. This trio of textures is key to each skewered piece’s success, and a sweet chili dipping sauce gives them a bit more of a pop. 

A refreshing, piercing papaya salad ($12) is on the opposite end of Bangkok Degree’s intensity spectrum. It is also the rare restaurant item anywhere that delivers on its promise of heat. The pretty dish combines green papaya, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, string beans, peanuts and chili lime dressing into a piquant, just barely eye-watering sensation. 

The fantastic beef jungle curry ($17) does not approach quite that level of heat, but it is wonderfully spiced nonetheless. True to standard form, it eschews coconut milk to build its velvety base. Eggplant, bell peppers and bamboo shoots all join the slices of tender meat at their ideal preparation. Chili paste, peppercorn, basil and fingerroot contribute to the depth of soothing flavor. 

The obvious catch-22 here is that a good restaurant is going to become popular, and Bangkok Degree is a good restaurant. It's only been open for about a month, and a little bit of a wait was already forming at primetime on a recent evening. Maybe it’ll even have to go full-reservations sometime soon. Until then, it’s a terrific addition to the shrinking category of reliable walk-in spots with menus worth booking in advance. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Subtly stylish and casually pretty in a welcoming environment. 

The Food: Nicely spiced with good heat across highlights like the perky papaya salad and the beef jungle curry—the mild fried quail egg wontons and the roti massaman are standout starters.

The Drinks: Thai iced tea and coffee varieties, butterfly pea lemonade, pink milk, juice and sodas. Call for present BYOB policy.  

Time Out Tip: 7th Avenue wine and liquor is around the corner, should you elect to bring your own B. 

Bangkok Degree is located at 847 Union Street and is open for lunch every day from 11:30am to 3:30pm and for dinner every day from 5pm to 9:30pm. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

The family-run hospitality group Todos os Santos opened its first restaurant, Santo Brúklin, in the tidy Carroll Gardens space previously occupied by La Slowteria in the months before the tumult of 2020. Its Brazilian-influenced menus and charming garden quickly grew neighborhood esteem that earned it a spot on Yelp’s top 100 list by the following year. The group's second venture, Santo Parque in Williamsburg, is poised for similar success. 

The new space is larger, with high ceilings and exposed brick walls. Overall, it has a pleasantly open and lofty quality. Two- and four-tops line the perimeter around a communal table. Neutral hues are dabbed with pops of leafy green in potted plants.

You have to get the pão de queijo ($10 per pair), an anytime cheesy bun ubiquitous in Brazil. Order it with your drinks; the pretty Smokin’ Betty ($14) with fragrant mezcal and the classic Caipirinha ($10) are some of the ace bar’s best cocktails. Santo Parque’s PDQ forms two types of yucca flour and its secret cheese blend into a muffin shape with a satisfying pull. A trio of accompanying spreads includes a sensational house made 'nduja. The rich, salty spiced pork brilliantly factors into a number of dishes to follow. 

Santo Parque’s 'nduja also headlines its pork and bean fritter ($9 for three), which cuts that titular mix with collard greens before feijoada spheres are fried into crispy golf ball-sized bites, equally ideal as an app, snack, side or apex bar food. The swine’s more subtle in the standout Spanish octopus in malagueta pepper vinegar ($21). The bed of red sauce is deep with a near-heat that perks up the mild tentacles and bits of plump, slightly sweet yuca fries. 

One of Parque’s runaway standouts swaps all that porcine perfection for seafood. The moqueca ($26) arrives absent any fiery flavor from the kitchen. Instead, it's served with a shot of malagueta hot sauce on the side for DIY-intensity. It's wonderful either way, even to a person who annoyingly treats heat like a sport. The beautiful bowl suspends shrimp and mussels in savory, slow-cooked coconut milk stew and tops it with a salmon filet that demonstrates the kitchen’s texture expertise. With the bivalves freed from their shells and the whole dash stirred in, the moqueca’s gentle notes are punctuated by a rising heat that halts before tears spring. Personal palate thermometers, however, will vary. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Lofty and sprawling with flattering lighting—equally suited to date duos and larger parties.

The Food: Standouts include the moqueca with a trio of seafood and shot of malagueta hot sauce for DIY fire, the PDQ and anywhere else the house-made 'nduja appears.

The Drinks: Precise caipirinhas and marvelous mezcal applications join more cocktails, beer and wine. 

Time Out Tip: The printed menu diverged a bit from what appears on Santo Parque’s on a recent visit. An image of the current menu as of press time appears above. 

Santo Parque is located at 232 N 12th Street in Williamsburg and is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm to 10pm and for brunch Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 7pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

Yiming Wang and Xian Zhang’s Cafe China was one of NYC’s favorite Sichuan restaurants for a decade before it closed its original address last year in anticipation of relocating about an avenue west on 37th Street in Manhattan. The new space would be larger, spanning three stories including private dining areas on the top floor. It would also be a couple of minutes closer to the transit hub at Herald Square. But in the interim: intrigue. 

The vacated space, which was Michelin-starred for most of its existence, was taken over by a pair of Cafe China’s previous employees, Eater New York reported. Allegations of intellectual property copy, rebuttals and further comments flew before Cafe China opened its new doors in December. 

A few months later, Wang and Zhang’s latest operation—following their now-closed China Blue in Tribeca and still-popular Birds of a Feather in Williamsburg—appears to be running with ease. 

The bar is roomy enough for more than just reservation-waiting drinks, which are good enough for a visit even pre-appetite. Some signature cocktails (all $15) are familiar from Cafe China’s first iteration. The Fallen Angels gives bourbon a feathery landing with lemon juice, grenadine and bitters. The Flowers of Shanghai skews more confectionery, with gin, floral parfait amour liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and ever-uplifting egg white. Classics (all $15) shake out nicely, too, and stay close to form. The Old Fashioned incorporates two types of bitters, and the Manhattan’s made with rye as a matter of course. Both wisely stop short of “takes.”

The comfortable adjacent dining room is splashed with swipes of green and illuminated by chandeliers that look like upturned bouquets of golden daffodils. Fringed lampshades dangle over some of the gleaming, seafoam-hued tabletops. The same aesthetic slinks upstairs, where a more communal-style seating arrangement overlooks the tri-toned checkered floor one flight below. It’s subtly polished sprawl, with room for large parties, duos or solo diners. 

As with the drinks, some plates return, too, like the vegetable or pork pot stickers ($9), mung bean jelly ($9) and the wonderfully fragrant, carefully cut cumin lamb ($25), which is plated without a single unwelcome bite. Its spiced perfume pops like an ethereal amuse bouche before it hits the table. Yielding slices are rich and refreshing with somewhat sparing chili pepper heat trembling under the beat of lightly earthy top notes.

Another holdover, the vegetarian mapo tofu ($16) with firmer than typical bean curd cubes seems, instead, designed for the heat averse, absent the expected numbing, fiery effect. The restraint is puzzling given the dynamic flavors in some of Cafe China’s more successful dishes.  

The spicy soft shell crab ($38), for example, zags back toward the restaurant’s punchy expertise. It's a texture hat-trick: The crab is chopped before frying for an even coating over the naturally barely-crackling surface that covers the crustacean’s tender, almost sweet interior. 

Laced with vibrant dried chili peppers and punctuated with Sichuan peppercorns, it flirts toward the edge of heat and leaves you wanting more in a brilliantly calibrated fashion. This, and the cumin lamb both distinctly recall the best of what Cafe China has had to offer since 2011, and promise a bright future. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Comfortable, welcoming and unpretentiously polished.

The Food: Cafe China’s Sichuan menu will appease both heat-likers and spice dabblers.

The Drinks: Creative novel cocktails and true-to-form classics, plus beer, wine, house made plum juice and tea. 

Time Out Tip: The last seating is an hour before closing each day, so 9:30pm from Sunday-Thursday and 10pm Friday-Saturday.

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  • Restaurants
  • Lower East Side

A few years ago, I came close to succumbing to shared plates fatigue. Like ubiquitous marble-topped bars and reclaimed something somewhere, it seemed as though a secret hospitality consortium had authored an oath mandating every menu item be divisible by party size, regardless of how unsatisfying the outcome might be. 

I had made a reservation for four at an intriguing new restaurant which, on paper, seemed to be one of the only recently opened spots where I could order and eat my own duck confit. So when that familiar phrase “family style” eventually pierced the air, followed by the suggestion that four adult people, from two seprate households, might wish to share the soup, my skeleton turned to dust. It simply did not make sense. 

Everything at 8282 makes sense. The second restaurant from the pair behind now-closed Pado opened on Stanton Street in November. Billed as modern Korean, selections from 8282’s banju menu are prepared and presented to effectively share, and its anju options can easily act as apps or sides. 

The boneless K.F.C. ($14) is the star of the smaller plate section. Four chunky cuts of chicken thigh splattered with soy garlic sauce are pleasantly jagged on the outside with juicy interiors. The larger, kitchen-sliced skirt steak with roasted potatoes ($26) rivals steakhouse classics, successfully grilled to the dedicated carnivore’s target mauve and tender beyond expectation. The accompanying mushroom purée is subtle enough that serious fungi fans will want more. 

Dakgalbi kimchi-bap ($21), which features cheesy rice covered with gochujang-marinated chicken and a wispy tangle of fragrant seaweed, is 8282's essential dish. The best bites are the scorched bits at the bottom of the skillet its served in: Crunchy and caramelized, they're warmly combined like the cheese fell in love with the rice. 

8282 is relatively intimate for a format that so easily lends itself to groups, but the space is efficiently arranged to accommodate those larger dinners. The sleek slate grey and white space has a few two-tops down the center and a banquette on the left that can be reconfigured for a full, family-style feast that actually works. There are also bar seats to the right, should you prefer to keep the dakgalbi kimchi-bap to yourself. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Comfortable and upbeat with options for solo diners and large groups. 

The Food: Billed as modern Korean and designed to share with standouts like boneless K.F.C., great skirt steak and sensational dakgalbi kimchi-bap

The Drinks: 8282’s liquor license is pending.

Time Out Tip: The bar next door, 82 Stanton is unrelated to 8282. But it’s a great spot to stop by before dinner for happy hour, or after, just to catch up on your drinking.

8282 is located at 84 Stanton Street and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5pm-11pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Hell's Kitchen

Mari is NYC’s best new restaurant that you aren’t going to see on any year-end best-of lists

The same thing happened with Kochi, chef Sungchul Shim’s first solo spot. Kochi opened with a sensational Korean skewer tasting menu at the end of 2019; late enough to fly under the radar of that year’s roundups. It didn’t quite get its rightful due in the months that followed, either, as the hospitality industry was pummeled by chaos. But it prevailed, topping Time Out New York’s best restaurant list and going on to collect a Michelin star and other accolades

Mari opened in December, and similar applause will come. Shim is one of NYC’s most talented chefs, and his Mari swaps skewers for another tasting menu of mostly hand rolls and extraordinary ancillary items for $125.

Dinner at Mari’s high-gloss, muted-hued chefs counter or in the comfortable dining room beyond starts with a beautiful hansang. Clockwise to the center: An opaque acorn jelly, oyster with makgeolli mignonette, eggplant jeon (on a skewer like an insider wink to Kochi), Wagyu tartare and a sensational sphere of one or two-bite crispy egg rice, best tasted in that order. 

It’s real "kid in a candy store" stuff, all exquisitely executed save for maybe one too many drops of sauce on the tartare, which almost obscures that inimitable beef flavor that people pay a premium for. Each element’s expert preparation and presentation would be notable on their own. Combined in this tantalizing fashion, they articulate the abundance to come and easily establish Mari’s quickly earned best-of status.

The sundubu that follows on Mari’s January menu is its best dish, negligee-slinky tofu complemented by chili oil’s gently rising, subtle heat and studded with perfect clams, shrimp and mushrooms. It's dainty with substantial flavors, and you’ll want to dip into it like a heart-shaped hot tub. 

Eight of twelve present courses are those hand rolls, which will likely remain the majority. Each is a study in culinary architecture, maintaining structural integrity between bites where less-skillfully constructed hand rolls would come apart, sending their king oyster mushrooms, scallops and mackerel flying like fast-deflating cartoon balloons. But these are all as easy to hold as they are pretty to look at. They're also outstanding to taste. Salmon under a lovely crown of caviar and spicy tuna are highlights among the shining lineup. 

Mari is refreshingly absent a beverage pairing and the resulting feeling that the sometimes convenient, sometimes galling, always tab-inflating conceit can effect. (I’m already spending so much money that I might as well; This is surely the best way to experience this meal; What if I’m missing out?) Instead, it has a tight four fun cocktails, including the bracing Death by Rye (whiskey, red vermouth, Campari) and the near-sweet gochujang Margarita (both $16). 

Subtly brilliant or slyly intentional, Mari also has a self-guided drink tasting, if you know where to look. Five sool pours are listed in perfect (and succinctly detailed) order to accompany Mari’s courses. 

Plenty of written tasting notes veer into poetry that’s swell to mull without ever imparting any information. But Mari’s “plum/floral/dry” Seoul Night ($14) is just that; likewise the “smoky/full body/pungent" Pungjeong Sagye ($19) and the “fermented soy/mushroom/earthy” Yangchon Chungju ($15.) 

Start from the top of the list and let the three-ounce pours flow for an impeccable pairing that’ll ultimately run $74, should you let it reach its conclusion. Play it to the end to sip the creamy/strawberry/raspberry Red Monkey with Shim’s marvellous take on the Choco Pie, which layers chocolate sponge cake, black sesame marshmallow, strawberry jam and milk foam and anoints it with a fleck of gold that could never dream of shining as bright as the excellent restaurant around it. 

Vitals

The Vibe: The very heartbeat of ease across 30 seats between a chef’s counter and comfortable dining room. Low-key elegance abounds. 

The Food: An excellent tasting menu comprised mostly of outstanding hand rolls with extraordinary ancillary courses to begin and end.  

The Drinks: Kicky cocktails and brilliantly curated sool options, plus wine, beer and spirits to sip. 

Time Out Tip: Order from the top of the sool menu and keep ‘em coming for a kind of DIY-beverage pairing. 

Mari is located at 679 9th Avenue and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Crown Heights

If Agi’s Counter were in your neighborhood, you might just be there every day. It’s like a cafe in a Netflix original series where the whimsical main character spends long afternoons scribbling improbably artistic annotated sketches in a Moleskine notebook. Still, Agi’s stops short of veering into twee by virtue of its own genuinely darling character. 

Agi’s glass door opens to the shorter side of its L-shaped counter. Beautiful pastries are arranged on the corner, while the kitchen where they’re made is just beyond. The counter’s longer side leads to a pale wooden banquette that’s backed by slyly stylish floral wallpaper in muted hues. The Jewish and Eastern European-influenced restaurant is named for former teen food blogger chef Jeremy Salamon’s grandmother, and its design also evokes cool matriarchs.

The menu is brief but already buzzy a couple of months and alterations after Salamon (Buvette, The Eddy) opened his first solo spot. The leberkäse ($15) seems to be the most frequently recommended: A breakfast sandwich worthy of NYC canon that places a thick slice of pork pâté, pear mostarda and a fried egg between two hearty hearty slices of toast that ably stand up to the substantial fillings. It's a giddily rich way to start the day and large enough to share. 

Lunch includes a nosh plate ($17) with the aesthetic appeal that you’d expect at any august NYC restaurant. Thin, palm-sized spelt crackers are suspended in a generous portion of pâté alongside a dense, piquant Hungarian pimento spread, pickled cauliflower and cucumber and deviled eggs topped with a sunny dollop of egg mousse and a pop of dill. The plate is poised on a silver stand, literally elevating the very notion of a snack plate. 

Agi’s Counter is only open until 3pm (dinner service is in the works) with sharp lines between its breakfast (open-11:30pm) and lunch (12pm-close) menus, but executive pastry chef Renee Hudson’s sensational baked goods are available until they run out. After I started unwinding a Ferdinand bun’s ($6) lovely swirls on a recent morning, for example, I heard someone else nab the last one a few minutes later. The Hungarian dessert is sweetly buttery with a near-creamy interior and flaky, tacky surface. 

The also terrific Gerbeaud cake squares ($4.00), with cookie, walnut and apricot layers, a chocolate ganache top and sprinkle of salt cut like petite emerald pendants seemed to last a little longer, along with the newly-introduced, two-bite vanilla vollmond (“full moon” in German) cookies ($3.50). They, and each of the exceptional confectionaries also travel well to bring a little bit of Agi’s cinematic magic and excellent menu items wherever you’re going. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Bright with flattering light and telegenically chic with comfortable counter seats, a banquette in the back and a jazz soundtrack lightly filling the charming space. 

The Food: Jewish and Eastern European-influenced menus with standouts like the leberkäse breakfast sandwich and the outstanding Ferdinand bun for dessert or whenever. 

The Drinks: Coffee and espresso drinks, tea and a few specialties like house-made soda.

Time Out Tip: Agi’s Counter only serves breakfast and lunch for now, but you can catch occasional pop-up dinners in advance of its official evening launch, including one planned for Valentine’s Day.

Agi’s Counter is located at 818 Franklin Avenue and is open Monday and Wednesday-Friday from 8am-3pm and Saturday-Sunday from 9am-3pm. 



  • Restaurants
  • West Village

The decades-old debate surrounding NYC pizza versus Chicago varieties continues into its nth decade with the recent opening of Emmett’s on Grove, a follow-up to Emmett Burke’s original eponymous deep-dish destination nearby. 

In addition to knife-and-fork pies, the original Emmett’s brought Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef from the city by the lake to the West Village in 2013. Headlines flew film-noir style all the way from the Spring Street subway stop to Tribune Tower. “Midwesterner challenges the NYC slice,” our local tabs roared. “Its true,” the Second City’s venerable broadsheet shrugged. Nine years later, Emmett’s is counted among the best pizza places in the five boroughs. To this day, it has the city’s closest facsimile to deep-dish. 

Burke's new venture aims to replicate that success with tavern-style pizza. Deep-dish’s diametric opposite, a tavern-style pie has a thin, brittle crust, leaves the sauce beneath the cheese, and gets sliced into manageable, hand-held squares versatile enough to serve as hors d'oeuvres or dinner. 

Both the friend who recently joined me at Emmett’s on Grove and I have spent a lot of time eating deep-dish and tavern-style pizza in and around Chicago. Like Emmett’s before it, EoG's contribution to the latter category is the closest approximation we’ve seen in NYC. 

Poised on a wire stand, the 14’’ pies (starting at $20) have geometric lines that are nostalgically identifiable to anyone who’s had a square around Chicagoland. Their taste and texture are ringers, too, with a snappy crust, slight chew and toppings like pepperoni, green peppers, giardiniera and especially on-the-nose sausage generously distributed from center to perimeter. Unlike the cumbersome, casserole-like layers of a deep dish pizza or more spaciously arranged add-ons that slide off some New York slices, Emmett’s on Grove’s tidy tavern pies balance flavors across each bite. 

One pizza can reasonably satisfy two, but a few other mains are equally worth table space. The Chicken Parm ($28) is wonderfully comforting, served with lovely fresh pasta listed as spaghetti on the menu but more closely resembling linguini on the plate. (“It’s a thicker spaghetti that resembles more of a linguini,” Burke says through a rep. Some might say bigoli!”) Its nicely-fried cutlet and gooey cheese warmly recall red-sauce specials in either city and beyond. 

Ideally-executed baby back ribs ($27 for a half-rack, $35 for full and served with French fries or a baked potato in either case) are the new spot’s standout. They’re baked for five hours and smothered in tangy, house-made barbecue sauce. Try to pick one up by the bone and the meat slides clean off in a fashion many local BBQ spots have yet to perfect. The sauce is applied a tad too thick, but this can be easily remedied with a little DIY redistribution. 

Emmett’s on Grove’s space—half below sidewalk-level with low-ceilings and an L-shaped bar up front, throwback wood paneling and a larger dining room with big booths in the back—seems best suited for pitchers of Budweiser. However, cocktails like the rummy mai tai, mezcal-based la cura and classic martini (each $16) are proficiently prepared punchier pairings. Beer and wine are also available. 

Vitals

The Vibe: A modern throwback with midwestern-adjacent menus and aesthetics that stop short of theme territory. 

The Food: Tavern-style pizzas by way of Chicago get top billing, but mains like falling-off-the-bone baby back ribs threaten to steal the show. 

The Drinks: Rum-forward mai tais, mezcal-based la cura cocktails and classic martinis are a fun departure from pizza’s typical beer pairing, but suds and wine are also available.   

Time Out Tip: Treat the thin, 14’’ pies like an app, follow ‘em with terrific baby back ribs or chicken Parm and you’ll likely have enough to take home.

Emmett’s on Grove is located at 39 Grove Street and is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 5pm-12am, Thursday and Friday from 5pm-1am, Saturday from 4pm-1am and Sunday from 4pm to 11am.

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  • Restaurants
  • Boerum Hill

Taqueria Al Pastor first opened on Wyckoff Avenue in January of 2020, months before restaurants all over the city were forced to reorient their operations due to the pandemic. Not only did the tiny corner spot prevail, it earned popular and critical acclaim for menu items like its outstanding eponymous taco. 

The al pastor taco (all varieties are $4.75) at the shop’s second location, which opened last month on Court Street, is also sensational. It starts with a house-made corn tortilla, structurally sound with an earthy aroma. The 5’’ flat is piled high with strips of thoroughly-marinated pork sliced off the familiar, slowly rotating trompo, onion and the ideal ratio of pineapple flecks to deliver proper pops of sweetness.

Like all of the tacos here, the al pastor overflows with generous fillings, and, after a few preliminary forkfuls off the top, their sensational shells are mercifully manageable. The excellent pork, like many of Taqueria Al Pastor’s proteins, is also available in several other preparations like quesadillas ($10.75), burritos ($15) and plated with rice, beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole and tortillas or chips ($15). 

The fantastic fried fish taco is also a winner. The fish’s crispy exterior walks the line between delicate and dense with a deep-golden finish that delivers a satisfying crunch. And the chicken taco’s cubes of grilled poultry with some good char here and there, all topped with a nicely-textured guacamole that’s gently seasoned to let the main ingredients shine, slake lunchtime hunger with aplomb. 

For the time being, Taqueria Al Pastor’s new location seems best suited to midday meals. For one, although a large, three-sided bar lined with backless metal stools is poised for the introduction of alcohol (liquor license pending), the restaurant's present drinks are soft. Its counter-service schema and bright interior also skew toward daylight hours. 

When beer, wine and/or cocktails are introduced, Taqueria Al Pastor also has great promise as a bar. Its food stands alone, but expanding its offerings will be a boon. Its expectation-exceeding salsa, which has a gently-building heat that improves everything it meets, is already mighty tasty with house-made chips as a side or starter. With the addition of booze, it’ll officially become some of the best bar food on the block, by a mile.  

Vitals

The Vibe: Bright, spacious and inviting with plenty of bar and counter seats.

The Food: Outstanding al pastor tacos, excellent house-made corn tortillas and serious salsa. 

The Drinks: Agua fresca, horchata and soda. A liquor license is pending. 

Time Out Tip: Taqueria Al Pastor’s menu items also hold up well for takeout. 

Taqueria Al Pastor is located at 119 Court Street and is open Monday-Sunday from 11am to 9pm. 

  • Restaurants
  • Sunnyside

There is a New York City urban legend about a person who once sent a steak back in a restaurant because it wasn’t hot enough. Not prepared on the periphery of the requested doneness, or even cold, but rather presented below the typical mouth temperature in the high nineties.

Korean Barbecue, in addition to its many other merits, is one antidote to this type of . . . expectation. 

The staff at Wonder Pig, which opened a few months ago in Sunnyside, does not leave you to, ahem, wonder about the heat or doneness of its many meats. They position the protein on the gently-domed grill at the center of each table, allow it to sizzle and give the signal when it’s reached peak ready-to-eat. 

But first, you’ll take a seat in the sleek, sprawling, chrome, black and stone-hued space, where K-Pop videos play on copious flatscreens. Put your jackets, hats and whatever else fits in the hollow, backless seats opposite banquettes to minimize the smokey meat perfume that might eventually follow you out the door. After that, start ordering in threes. Wonder Pig is all you can eat for 100 minutes and runs $23 at lunch and $35 at dinner and on weekends. You can put in your first few picks right away and peruse the menu for however more. Even two rounds, especially when supplemented with sides like the springy, sticky cylinders of rice cakes, seems plenty for a party of four.

The thinly sliced beef brisket is one of the best selections from Wonder Pig’s 21 options. Ribbons of marbled red and solid white are wound into loops displayed across the grill’s hot top like a bouquet. They’re briefly left to brown before they’re ready to eat: Tender with some satisfying crisp edges on the bits closest to the heat. The thicker, marinated strips of bulgogi also turn out nice with a bit of tangy sweetness. And while the fire spicy chicken’s moniker should not be taken literally, it is a pleasant diversion from the red meat, should those in your party want one. There’s also a little offal, plenty of pork options and a few seafood items like chewy rings of squid on the menu. 

A couple of glass-doored service refrigerators filled with a few makgeolli varieties, beer, more than half-a-dozen soju options and soft drinks are situated behind the host stand. One 350-ml bottle of perky Charm soju goes a long way for $12, as does the cloudy, mellow, effervescent-adjacent and much lower-ABV (5% vs. about 19) Kooksoondang 100 Billion Probiotics makgeolli. They’re both exceedingly easy to drink, just with different possible conclusions. 

Wonder Pig’s roller rink-sized space, intrinsically-shareable menu and inherent fun makes it great for groups. I defy any carnivore to not be delighted gathered with friends around a sputtering grill with theoretically endless options to come, even if for but an hour and forty minutes. Unless they’re the sort to send things back. There’s just no pleasing some people. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Industrial-chic and convivial in a huge space with K-Pop playing on flatscreens.

The Food: All-you-can eat Korean barbecue for $23–$35 with a 100 minute time limit.

The Drinks: Very drinkable makgeolli and soju varieties, beer and soft drinks.

Time Out Tip: Tuck your outerwear in the hollow seats to minimize the lingering smoky meat perfume. 

Wonder Pig is located at 37-08 Queens Boulevard and is open Monday-Thursday from 12pm to 10pm and Friday-Sunday from 12pm to 11pm. 

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  • Restaurants
  • West Village

The West Village has dozens of sushi restaurants ranging in caveats from "not the best but cheap" to "incredible but exceedingly expensive." The relatively few places that split the difference are the best of them all. 

Sushi 456 quietly opened on Hudson Street in the former Takashi space this past August. It has no known PR or apparent email address, and its social media presence is scant. It is, however, a more polished looking spot than its similarly analog contemporaries. 

Function-over-communication-convenience operations like this often appear to be held together with a wish and the blow of a kiss, but Sushi 456 is all lean lines and gleaming surfaces, with a large, pale wood center chef’s counter surrounded by a few more tables and chairs and high, wide windows that look out onto the sidewalk.

The airy restaurant quickly developed crowd-accruing word of mouth buzz by the early fall that led to its own caveat: Chefs pre-cut fish throughout the day rather than to order. They were so busy in the beginning, I’m told, that all that slicing à la minute led to untenably long wait times. But, aside from however deeply some guests desire knife theater, few casual consumers will detect a difference compared to seafood slivered on the spot. 

Sushi 456’s fish is flown in from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market and occasionally U.S. providers a few times a week before it’s expertly formed into blossoms of hirame, fanned-out rectangles of bluefin tuna arranged like a hand of three card poker, thick squares of king salmon and little cucumber cups overflowing with buttery uni or popping crimson ikura pearls. 

Plenty is available à la carte for $4 (tamago) to $14 (Japanese uni). Sets like an attractively plated five-piece sashimi lunch are available for $35 in the afternoon, when the understated space is a pleasant, peaceful place to have lunch alone. 

Crowds grow denser in the evenings for Sushi 456's 15-piece omakase. It's among the city's latest additions to the $100 price point, and it also comes with one hand roll. Rather than the typical piece-by-piece presentation, it arrives in two groupings that might include the above, plus ocean trout, eel and Wagyu aburi.

Vitals

The Vibe: Casual, relaxing and quick at lunch, busier in the evening and inviting all the time.

The Food: Well-sourced sushi available à la carte, in lunch sets and and as a 15-piece omakase for $100.

The Drinks: Alcohol is not yet available. Inquire about the present BYOB policy. 

Time Out Tip: Golden Rule Wine & Spirits has a nice variety of sake across the street.

Sushi 456 is located at 456 Hudson Street and is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 5pm-11pm, Thursday and Friday from 12pm-2:30pm and 5pm-11pm and Saturday and Sunday from 5pm-11pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

Brooklyn’s Smith Street was once considered one of the borough’s best restaurant rows, hosting highly-regarded destinations like Battersby, Saul, The Grocery and Char No. Four. Some excellent longtime staples remain, plus a few wonderful relative newcomers. But a troubling run of less great places a few years back, including a celebrity chef-backed, uncanny neighborhood restaurant facsimile with $10 Triscuits and cheese, still makes me eye new openings on the strip with caution.

Signs, and what seemed to skew queasily close to branding, for Levant started covering the northeast corner of Smith and Butler—near relatively new neighborhood favorites Leyenda and Books are Magicwhen it was still warm out. A fun, Jetsons-esque font with a bright, eye-catching color scheme and rows and rows of text about the "magic of cuisine" seemed to signal the arrival of a possible chain. 

Instead, it's the second venture from the owners of Verde, an Italian restaurant that opened across the street in 2009. Levant, which opened on October 14, is French. Though reservations appear abundant online, the 30-odd seat space is packed by 8pm on weekends, when even its short bar in the back gets a few people deep. 

Bartenders make eight martinis in their efficient nook, though none are actually martinis. They’re mixed drinks with flavors like apple, lychee and espresso, served in cocktail glasses (all $12). The French variety’s creation ($12) is absent ties to the republic, of course, but it, and the signature Levant addition ($14), with vanilla vodka, Chambord, rose water, cranberry and pineapple juice are ultimately fun to drink, charming detours from overthought offerings elsewhere. The wine list is a little lighter on French grapes than expected, and bottles from it and other regions hover mostly in the $50s-$60s, while glasses start at $12.

Dinner begins with another throwback: A complimentary bread basket and a few mild goat cheese spheres. Hang on to the former and order the brasserie staple steak tartare ($17) that Levant makes with Wagyu beef, plus the requisite shallots, capers, mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire and egg yolk, but absent any toast points or other dedicated vehicle. You’ll also want the crusty loaf to soak up the escargots’ ($16) delicious garlic butter. The snails themselves are among the smallest I’ve seen, but their fragrant bath is fantastic. 

Levant’s lengthy menus steer the classics with a sometimes heavy hand. The duck leg confit ($28) with what’s detailed on the menu as a light jus arrives blanketed in what more closely resembles a gravy, but the meat beneath is yielding and rich. (The accompanying French fries taste curiously of faint peanut, though I’m told the kitchen uses canola and vegetable oil.) The coq au vin ($24) is also a hearty dish, Burgundy-braised to the correct tender effect, served alongside the familiar mushrooms and a pommes mousseline. A textbook beef bourguignon ($32) is also available, along with salads, pasta options and a few fish and additional chicken mains. 

Along with its erstwhile designation as a premier NYC restaurant destination, Smith Street has also historically been lined with more than a few French restaurants, and stretches are even typically closed to traffic for annual Bastille Day celebrations. Levant’s early popularity is evidence that its surrounding neighborhoods are still hungry for comforting standards with reliable preparations in a charming environment. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Cozy, boisterous and handsomely lit with some tables squeezed close together, but with a high enough ambient noise level that your neighbors might not hear your conversation.  

The Food: Classic French comfort food that stays on book. 

The Drinks: Throwback cocktails like apple and espresso "martinis," plus enough wine bottles, some French, in the $50s-$60s and glasses starting at $12. 

Time Out Tip: Try to swing by if you’re in the neighborhood, but make a reservation if you’re pretty sure Levant is on the agenda, as it seems to fill up with walk-ins fairly fast.  

Levant is located at 223 Smith Street and is open daily from 4pm-10pm. 

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  • Bars
  • Lower East Side

Keeping up with bars and restaurants on the hospitality-rich Lower East Side can feel competitive in more ways than one. First, you have to identify the good ones. Then, you have to navigate the jostling crowds and actually get in. Top honors go to those who can do both while also keeping abreast of what’s new in the oversaturated neighborhood: the friend who can say, I know a place, when options seem to be running out. 

Cafe Skye, which opened on Clinton Street in October, is a good new spot where you can still get a seat. A few steps away from the booming nightlife on Ludlow and Rivington streets, it’s a tidy alternative to those corridors' frenetic energy. Its narrow space is pretty and rustic, with distressed white brick walls, succulents and neat groupings of notionally vintage framed prints. It’s cozy, if a few watts too bright, with room for about 25 inside and around half as many more outdoors. Its owner is first-time NYC service industry operator Cameron Bean. 

This is a bar first, with shareable and large bites suited to complement a cocktail list (all $15) that's twice the length of the food options. The Double Decker Old Fashion, named for its two types of rye rather than its size, is a pleasant zag from the expected, its whisper of fruit comes via guava bitters rather than the typical garnish. The Yankee Gimlet is also a worthy addition to its category, pleasantly sub-sweet with gin, lime cordial and citrus saline. Cafe Skye’s addition to the espresso martini zeitgeist is its El Mañana, made with coffee liqueur, rum, vanilla bean-infused aguardiente and Colombian chocolate. 

To pair, the shiitake sage crunch ($7.50) is the best of the small plates, its texture derived from the sesame seed surface coating nicely al dente mushroom bites. The grilled raclette ($10) is also promising, if a bit buried under a fairly photogenic but somewhat cheese-obscuring fig and walnut mix. 

Options billed as more substantial are a little incongruous, but, like the snacks, seem to offer enough variety. A pair of braised brisket sliders on brioche ($18) are a fine bar snack when doused with the shot of accompanying jus. The autumn grain bowl ($13) skews a bit brunchier, but its farrow is perfectly prepared and abundant produce, particularly the crispy kale and plump pomegranate seeds, are demonstratively well-sourced. 

There is no guarantee that Cafe Skye will remain as easy to roll into as it is at the moment, nor would any operator want it to. Its cocktails invite return visits and those boomerangs will likely grow into crowds. Until then, it's a terrific option to keep in your back pocket for when you need to know a place. 

Vitals

The Vibe: A lovely new LES spot to cozy up with good cocktails and tack on a few snacks to make a night of it. The atmosphere might turn romantic if the lights were a little lower. 

The Food: The brief menu is divided into sharable and larger bites. The shiitake sage crunch and braised brisket sliders are each section's standouts. 

The Drinks: Nice zags on classics like the Old Fashion with guava bitters, plus–you guessed it!–a take on the espresso martini. Natural wine and rotating beer selections are also available.

Time Out Tip: Ask about Cafe Skye’s seasonal cocktails like its recent hot toddy take. 

Cafe Skye is located at 43 Clinton Street and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 4pm to 12am, Friday from 4pm to 1am and Saturday from 1pm to 1am and and Sunday from 1pm to 12am.

  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

Free bread in restaurants has been tepidly debated for as long as people have been tepidly debating things on the internet. (In summary, free bread at the outset of a meal once seemed ubiquitous, but it is no longer. This is an adjustment.) The bread at newly opened Nura in Greenpoint, the second venture from Otis’ owners Michelle Lobo-Hawley and Scott Hawley, is so sensational that it renders that old expectation inconceivable. 

Nura’s bread basket ($19) lands on your table like a beautiful bouquet of baked goods, garlic coriander naan fanning out around a pair of Parker House rolls. The naan is wonderfully blistered, a little slick with ghee and dynamic with alternating charred and chewy textures. The Parker House rolls with ají dulce and annatto seeds and are plump with a snappy surface and a pillowy interior. The whole lot is tandoor baked and served with a trio of dips: Mellow yogurt with haraasa and za’atar, poblano hummus and vibrant cultured leek butter. 

The breads and dips are remarkable. Carbohydrate connoisseurs and novices alike will likely literally remark on their presentation and the obviously meticulous preparation orchestrated by pastry chef Sam Short (recently of Blanca and Roberta’s). Even if Nura’s menu offered little else of similar esteem, this item, which splits the difference between appetizer and side, would put it on the map. 

The kitchen, led by chef Jackie Carnesi (also of Roberta’s), continues to deliver on the promise of Nura’s excellent baked goods. The grilled prawn starter ($21) has a buoyant bite and a more pronounced saline, seaside nose and flavor than most. Its bed of deep, smoky sauce, multi-dimensional with mezcal, habanero, urfa biber and pomegranate, is marvelous to taste on its own and the reason why Nura’s bread (or any bread at all, for that matter) exists. Finishing the last drops I imagined other pairing possibilities; opportunities to taste the expert purée again and see how it punctuates other foods. It is a very good sauce. 

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Larger plates are generously portioned, like the half honey-glazed chicken ($37), served with an herbaceous fenugreek roti, that's bisected from a hefty bird. Its skin is a little less than crispy but the meat is juicy even to the center of the breast. And while the za’atar baby back ribs ($32) aren’t quite falling off the bone, they come pretty close and are richly flavored with cherry chipotle barbecue sauce.

Nura’s warm, welcoming, industrial-chic space is large, lined in exposed brick and lush with flora under a high ceiling. Some tables have wood-slatted partitions between them, intimate and prime for secret-sharing. And the sprawling, 80-seat dining room is anchored by a large horseshoe bar a little right of center, where they make some exceptional cocktails with flavors less often combined by local mixologists. The Little Giant ($15) is a real winner and should become an autumn standard, made with ghee-washed rye, jaggery, fennel and bitters. The Paid to Daydream ($15) also successfully blends milk-washed white tea rum, peach and citrus to quick-drinking effect. 

Complimentary baked goods may no longer be as common as some recall, but you get what you pay for. Nura’s breads are stunning, and the rest of its small but mighty menu invites return visits. It’s exactly the kind of restaurant that lets its talented team fracture old notions with new standards. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Inviting, comfortable and beautifully designed with high ceilings, exposed brick and abundant foliage with room for groups and cozy, semi-secluded tables poised for romance.

The Food: Nura’s naan and Parker House rolls are sensational to start with, and its grilled prawn and half honey-glazed chicken deliver on that early promise.

The Drinks: Terrific cocktails like the Little Giant with ghee-washed rye, jaggery, fennel and bitters are unlike much else in the area.

Time Out Tip: Reservations at Nura are already a bit hard to come by, so plan your visit outside of prime time. 

Nura is located at 46 Norman Avenue and is open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:50pm-10:30pm and Friday and Saturday from 5:30pm-11:00pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • East Village

I love a time limit. I’ve had multiple recent conversations about how all restaurants should embrace the 90-minute dining caps already familiar to fans of bottomless brunch. Anything worth doing can be done in 90 minutes. Seriously, if you can’t make a deal, fall in love or learn to play the ukulele in 90 minutes, it isn’t going to happen. 

Anyway, should you wish to learn the table time limit at La Cabra, a new café in the East Village by way of Denmark, simply ask if they share the Wi-Fi password. The answer is no and, just so you know, there is a 45-minute maximum for tables. 

La Cabra isn’t inevitably crowded, which is nice. But it might be a little confusing the first time you visit. There are a few tables in its sidewalk enclosure, where people are chatting and looking at laptops, as is the café way. Inside, the counter is shaped like an upside-down L. The space is softly bright with a few more tables to accommodate about 10, understated decor and barely audible ambient music so low you should probably refrain from gossiping. 

If there’s a line to your left, don’t get in it. Those people are waiting for coffee. The register’s to your right and a row of windows behind it provide a peek to the on-site bakery (led by Jared Sexton of local favorite Bien Cuit and internationally famous Dominique Ansel Bakery) where they make lovely rye tarts, gleaming croissants and danish crowned with white chocolate and nutmeg. 

The neat rows of treats in La Cabra’s glass case include a few savory options like a serviceable ham-and-cheese croissant ($6). The croissant is flaky and buttery but the cheese is scant and it only has a smack of ham. It’s also a little clammy at room temperature, but the toasted sesame seeds sprinkled across its top give it an aromatic, nutty flavor that invites more bites in spite of its shortcomings. 

La Cabra’s sweet treats are more successful. The apple tart ($7) fills a shell with caramelized apples and tops one side with jammy caramel and the other with a whipped ganache that brilliantly slakes the whole thing’s sweetness. It's a celebration of autumn that stirs excitement for whatever the café might have on deck for future seasons. 

Big-in-Sweden cardamom buns ($5) are one of La Cabra’s most popular items, sometimes selling out by the end of the day. The bun’s structure, a stripe here and a loop there, is familiar to fans of the genre, and it has a pleasant pop of that familiar fragrance. Its surface is a little tacky as expected and its interior is a little denser than some and it's an all-around enjoyable addition to the category in NYC. 

La Cabra got its start as a coffee company and it runs a robust subscription service all over the globe. Its expert, studied bean sourcing, handling and preparation is a point of pride and attracts accolades. This location has a few hand brews (made-to-order pour over) for $6 to $13 a cup. 

I’ve been covering above-market-priced coffee for a number of years and yes, there is a noticeable difference between an average two-buck cup and the $13 hand-brewed (made to order pour over) product of a dry process Panamanian bean. And even La Cabra's $3.50 batch brew, which is what you’ll get if you order ‘a coffee’ (this option’s origin was recently El Salvador) is abundantly better than most, smooth and absent the burnt flavor synonymous with big coffee that has replaced bits about airplane food in mainstream comedy. It needs no accoutrement. 

I didn’t exactly lose track of time at La Cabra the other day; I was keenly aware of the ticking clock after I’d accidentally flagged myself as a possible laptop threat. Right around the 45-minute mark I was offered some water. It’s a nice place to visit, but it was time to go. Plus it wouldn’t be my first beverage of the day and I wouldn’t dare ask about the bathroom. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Calm and so quiet that you really should not gossip here.    

The Food: Terrific pastries like a fragrant cardamom bun and dynamic apple tart that look beautiful and travel well. 

The Drinks: Excellent coffee that ranges from $13 special occasion cups to terrific $3.50 batch brews. 

Time Out Tip: No Wi-Fi. 

La Cabra is located at 152 2nd Avenue and is open Tuesday-Friday from 8am-6pm and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-6pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Boerum Hill

The Ace Hotel has spent 22 years establishing itself as the cool international vacay chain before finally tapping Brooklyn, the NYC borough so telegenically trendy it's rendered in caricature the world over, this summer. 

I’ve been to some of its restaurants and bars in a few different cities in a couple different countries, and when I grasp for recollections, the best I can glean is a miasma of man-made style. That isn’t bad branding. 

The Ace’s latest opened in Boerum Hill in July. Its sprawling, ground-floor restaurant, As You Are, followed two months later with executive chef Ryan Jordan (The Breslin) and pastry chef Daniel Alvarez (Union Square Cafe) in the kitchen. It's as handsome as it is huge, starting with filmic light fixtures illuminating a baby-grand entrance that tumbles into As You Are’s 130-seat dining room. 

The space inside is lined with warm-toned wood and forest-green upholstered chairs and banquettes under soaring ceilings. A gleaming mosaic hovers above eye level on the south wall, and the bar spans nearly the width of its east end. It would all be suitable in a scene from a TV show that takes place in Brooklyn, but isn’t about Brooklyn. 

As You Are’s roomy bar section–still a sliver of the restaurant’s overall footprint–makes the best case for its addition to the neighborhood. There are already a fair amount of nicer-than-normal night out, special-occasion in-a-pinch places nearby, but As You Are’s potential strength, other than as an easy option for fatigued tourists, is as a spiffy, easygoing spot to grab a great cocktail that might carry on into an impromptu dinner. 

The Bond Street ($16), for example, made with Scotch, peach, ginger and lemon is a balancing act with a boozy zing and novel notes that aren’t just some close approximation of every other geographically-titled tipple in the area. Pair it with a Swiss-topped short rib burger on a housemade English muffin ($21) and your visit’s a seemingly spontaneous pleasure. Other dishes that you might peruse ahead of time and look forward to are rougher, but some ingredients still shine.

The dainty baked clams’ ($8 for four) hot sauce and brown butter bath has a good bite, but their interior’s too chewy. A chicken liver and onion app’s main components ($10 for three pieces), pâté and madeleines (the onion’s a speck of garnish) are delicious separately, but compete when paired. The golden cake has an ideal crumb and velvety texture but it’s too sweet for the rich pâté, and the duo's disparate flavors almost comically cancel each other out. Similarly intertwining high and low-lights are a theme. 

A New York Strip ordered medium-rare recently lurched toward well done, but its vibrant zhug and fine cut almost split the difference. Greens in a potato and cabbage side popped with anchovy and lemon, the tender leaves worth their own dedicated line on the menu absent the dry accompanying medallions. And the flatbread served with confit lamb ribs was curiously brittle, but the meat had a satisfying, caramelized finish. 

Most of the other Ace operations I’ve been to have either shifted concepts or ceased to exist. The one in Shoreditch closed for good last year. I know I had a nice time there and that we had cocktails and I think someone ordered a snack and I think I thought the music was a little annoying. 

Later that night in London, my group wandered into an empty bar not too far away, creaky underfoot and staffed by a lone woman who didn’t pause for one second to let us order, but instead started making espresso martinis that none of us would have asked for in a million trips. We took them up to the second floor, which was decorated with dolls and doll paraphernalia. I sat in a rocking chair. That place was pretty cool, and made me feel like I'd actually been to Shoreditch. Too bad I remember everything but its name. 

As You Are is located at 252 Schermerhorn Street and is open daily from 7am to 2pm, Sunday-Wednesday from 5:30pm-10pm and Thursday-Saturday from 10pm-11pm. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Sprawling and lofty with corporate-chic style and nondescript music below a conversational level.

The Food: Nicely-finished confit lamb ribs and a winning burger, plus near-hits like a chicken liver and onion app that’s delicious when deconstructed and a terrific cabbage side. 

The Drinks: The bourbon-based Street Lamp and Bond Street with Scotch, peach, lemon and ginger are refined, drinking persons’ cocktails. 

Time Out Tip: As You Are’s space is huge and reservations are easy to come by, so it would be great for large groups. 

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  • Restaurants
  • East Harlem

Restaurant reservations may be NYC’s most competitive sport. (Take our baseball teams, please.) I have half-a-dozen Resy notifications set at any given time and only two have come through in the past several months. As a result, snagging a hot table always feels like a win.

Contento opened on 111th Street in June and swiftly garnered extensive press—and tons of buzz—surrounding its important, and often woefully overlooked, mission of providing “accessibility to all.” About half of Contento’s bar is positioned at a height to accommodate wheelchair users, its tables are slightly raised to do the same and adaptive utensils are available on request.

Sommelier Yannick Benjamin (previously of Le Cirque and Jean-Georges) and business partner George Gallego considered these details as wheelchair users themselves. Chef Oscar Lorenzzi (the Waverly Inn, Marseille) authored the Peruvian-influenced menu that includes some early highlights.  

The ceviche clasico ($21) is plated like a kaleidoscope of corn, cilantro, slivered onion, dollops of potato purée and plump scallops in a daring leche de tigre. The bright marinade flies as close to the sun as it can without bursting into an acid burn, beautifully balancing the cool, mild bivalve. The studied small plate authoritatively underscores the talent and experience in Contento’s kitchen. 

A generous portion of duck liver mousse ($19) is a more substantial appetizer—rich and a little airy under a ​​deep purple chicha morada gelee named for the corn-based Peruvian drink. It’s served with a lovely purple corn focaccia that’s a short zag from the expected and another well-executed reminder of why you’re dining at Contento and not just wherever pâté and toast points are sold. 

Mains are nicely finished with nuanced follow-through, the best of which, short ribs over udon noodles in peanut sauce ($34), achieves each element’s peak form: The meat is tender, the noodles are buoyant and the light sauce coats rather than cloaks. The arroz con pato’s ($33) bone-in duck leg is also successful, with crispy skin and an easily shredded, juicy interior. And, although the crispy-skin salmon’s ($32) exterior could be a bit more brittle, its accompanying pillows of hominy are expertly textured and one of the menu’s most memorable bites. 

A few months into operations, Contento delivers on its promising initial headlines with good food and drinks, a comfortable space and surprisingly available reservations. In NYC’s unending game of have you been, it’s a terrific place to tally up some points. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Intimate and convivial with a fun soundtrack late-90s kids will love.   

The Food: Nicely-executed Peruvian plates unique to Contento’s kitchen, including a bright ceviche with a leche de tigre you’ll want to sip straight from the bowl. 

The Drinks: Contento’s billed largely as a wine bar, but mixologist Heidi Turzyn’s (Gotham Bar & Grill) cocktail menu is a list of hits. Accomplished drinkers can start with the bourbon-based, autumnal Spruce to Meet You, switch to an excellent wine recommendation for dinner, and finish with the rummy, perky Lime & the Coconut. 

Time Out Tip: The short ribs’ peanut sauce is described as spicy on the menu. I did not detect any heat, but spice-resistant palates might. 

Contento is located at 188 East 111th Street and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 4pm-9:30pm and Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 10:30pm. 

  • Restaurants
  • Financial District

Last night at this time I was at Saga, I thought, 24 hours after riding the elevator to the 63rd floor of the Art Deco building at 70 Pine Street, ordering cocktails at its small, theatrically lit bar and stepping out onto the terrace into an unending skyline all before shattering my first course with the back of a spoon.

New York  has more than its fair share of fine dining restaurants, and some are even good, but few inspire new measures of time like Saga. Chef James Kent’s follow-up to Crown Shy, located about 1,000 feet below, bookends the original. 

Crown Shy opened in early 2019 to critical acclaim and topped local and national ‘best of’ lists by the end of the year. (This wasn’t unexpected considering that Kent’s previous tenure at Eleven Madison Park helped it earn its Michelin stars and a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.) Saga was going to open the following year, which turned out to be 2020. 

Many months later, it’s finally here. Saga works unlike most other restaurants. You will be charged $553.49 for a party of two before you get anywhere near the place. Its multi-course seasonal tasting menu, one welcome cocktail and an engaging, orchestrated experience cost $245 per person before additional drinks, tax and tip.

The average dinner here lasts about three-and-a-half hours and spans a few spaces. First you’re introduced to a bartender, who makes drinks with subtle variations on the classics like martinis with special vermouth blends and Manhattans with notes of brown butter and lavender. You’ll sip them on the terrace, where the view across a wide stretch of the East River to Brooklyn and beyond provides a disarming sensation of being anchored to, yet totally untethered from the city.

It’s all intended to evoke a fancy dinner party for people who are accustomed to that sort of thing, or approximate one, for those of us who aren’t. It also feels like a Hoberman sphere, expanding and contracting with your roving perspective: the relative intimacy of the twelve-seat terrace juxtaposed with infinite lights and night. 

There’s no advance menu, so a server will meet you outside with a couple of questions. Recently: Wagyu ribeye or dry-aged duck, for the shared main? Continue on with cocktails, order wine by the glass, select bottles with Saga’s sommelier before you’re seated or spring for the $155 per person wine pairing for the path of least resistance? 

You’re called back into one of Saga’s dining rooms at the preternaturally perfect moment. Both spaces are appointed with emerald-hued tabletops marbled like a sea storm, plush upholstered armchairs and buoyant carpet like the kind moneyed protagonists might “pad across barefoot” in a beach read. 

The Ice Breaker lands first: a ballerina pink, hibiscus-based dome chilled with liquid nitrogen and surrounded by grape halves and nasturtium petals. It's solid enough to break apart with a spoon’s single tap. The resulting shards have a delicate flavor approaching herbaceous and a pleasant, cumulus texture. It piques your palate like an unfulfilled filtration later recalled as clever. 

Next, the Hoberman sphere expands again with a two-tiered presentation of five bite-sized fluke preparations, the best of which layers a bit of fish, creme fraiche, smoked trout roe and lime in a fried wonton wrapper. The brittle, bursting balance  swaps clever for brilliant. The following fish egg course builds on that promise, plating wild sturgeon caviar with rich, light bonito foam and topping it with salt and vinegar potato chips. Caviar is nice, and it often comes in a tin. Saga’s delightful interpretation demonstrates that sourcing is important, but execution is crucial. 

“Seasonal” denotes ongoing menu development with ingredient adjustments, new and disappearing plates and variations in the number of courses. Last week’s dinner ran nine, by a consevative count, including a kind of pre main: A rectangle of black bass with morsels of lobster, clams and scallop. Primed to peak form and combined together in a coconut bisque, it’s a culinary CV, and as excellent an entrée that many fine dining restaurants would be pleased to end on and collect acclaim. Here, more follows.

The only course hinted at earlier in the evening, the dry-aged duck is exquisitely finished two ways. Breast is roasted on the bone with an expertly rendered ribbon of fat running beneath its crisp surface before it’s sliced. Checker-piece portions of the leg get the sous vide treatment before they’re seared. 

Both are fragrant with Saga’s own blend of Moroccan spices, served with a comforting kabocha squash tagine, bright chicory salad and a shortstack of m’semen should you wish to grab or wrap a vibrant mauve strip in its pliable layers. It’s an achievement, and the tasting’s most sonorous nod to the influence Kent gleaned from his father’s upbringing in Tangier. At least until a few minutes later, when you’re whisked away to another terrace for Moroccan tea service, sweet and minty and poured with a flourish.

Two dessert options, Stone Fruit (frozen nougat embedded with walnut and pistachio and filled with plum chutney) and Malt (a cookie crumble foundation, shortbread, orange sorbet, caramelized malt ice cream and blonde chocolate crowned with a thin pretzel chip) are both very grown-up confections, mild like the Ice Breaker that started the tasting. It could make sense to end on this subdued note, for Saga’s sphere to come back down to size, but instead it expands once more.

A lovely custom-made candy dish is last to land on your table; a carousel of treats filled with a dizzying assortment of housemade candies like shining chocolate caramels, strawberry pistachio bonbons and little Rice Krispies treat cubes all wrapped up like little gifts you might be inclined stuff into your pockets. 

It’s fun and effervescent, and the right note to end on after a shifting whirlwind of dinner that inspires new measures of time. 

Vitals

The Vibe: Fun, refreshed fine dining that moves. 

The Food: A multi-course seasonal tasting occasionally delivering Moroccan influences and flashes of brilliance. 

The Drinks: The cocktails are nice, but one is included with dinner and you can try similar offerings upstairs at the adjoining bar, Overstory without the automatic $245 per-person buy-in. This is the rare occasion where I’d recommend the wine pairing instead, beautifully curated by wine director Kristen Goceljak. 

Time Out Tip: I guess there’s still a huge market for bonkers expensive restaurants in NYC, because reservations are booked clear through the coming weeks. Resy alerts came through for this one.

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  • Restaurants
  • East Village

The beginning of anything—whether it's a journey, a romance or a bottle of Champagne—is often the best part. However, Sidney’s Five makes a particularly memorable impression right before you leave. The new restaurant, which opened on First Avenue in May, delivers complimentary chocolate-covered strawberries to your table as you prepare to say goodbye. 

It’s darling, it's charming and it sets the tone at a key moment often overlooked in hospitality: the moment when you’re heading out the door. 

There’s plenty to enjoy at Sidney’s Five before you sign the check, too. Even approaching full capacity on a Friday night—with the ten-or-so, high-back cerulean stools at its wood-topped bar, the two-tops in occasionally shifting arrangements and the big banquette that spans the back corner all populated—it still feels alive but uncrowded.

It isn’t quiet, but you can have a conversation; it isn’t rushed, but you aren’t left to languish; and it isn’t cavernous, but you can enjoy a few plates at a time, plus a martini flight ($20), without having to play table Tetris. 

To be fair, the flight’s a mini, but it still takes up more space than a single tipple. Three tea-party-sized cocktail glasses are filled with two-ounce pours of batched martinis just unique enough to taste each one’s slight sweetness here or earthy undertones there. Still, most gin and vermouth dabblers would likely categorize them all as simply martinis. But the flight is darling, too—fun to sip and almost irresistible to photograph. Those resistant to whimsy might prefer a single classic option, the vesper variety or any one of the bar’s five single-serving takes (all $14). 

You can only try both of Sidney Five’s standout appetizers at dinner. The fresh-shucked garlic herb charbroiled oysters ($4.50 each) are very good; fired to just the right firmness and punchy with ideally executed familiar flavors including Parmesan, pecorino, chives, parsley, dill, tarragon and fresh Thai chilies for a little heat. It's a can’t-miss dish with an approachable texture and a lovely finish that you might even introduce to the otherwise oyster-averse. It's also available during happy hour.

Meanwhile, the andouille corn dog ($15 for two) outdoes its form, encasing a vibrantly-spiced sausage in a nearly-confectionery batter blended with cornmeal, buttermilk and honey, fried to golden and served on a stick with pepper jelly and Carolina mustard for dipping. It’s a little too generously portioned to go full festive and eat off the stick, but the reference still happily lands. If you swing by a bit later, it's listed on the late-night menu as well but not available at happy hour.

The lamb burger ($23) is also good, and surprisingly easy to handle. Plenty of similarly artfully stacked burgers are as nice to look at as they are hard to hold, but this one is architecturally sound. Its blend also brings out the lamb’s deep, subtly funky notes, and it’s juicy enough without veering into novelty burger project territory.

The lamb burger tastes like (rather good!) lamb and bread. Mint jelly may be listed on the menu, but I tasted zero on the burger. Still, this dish and the fish and chips ($23), a thickly beer-battered cod with crispy potato wedges, are enticing enough to imagine returning to. 

Those chocolate-covered strawberries, by the way, are chilled but not too cold to sink your teeth into, with a shell that maintains its integrity even a few bites in. They’re also $3 a pop, should you want more than your fair share, or simply to begin at the end.

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The Vibe: Lively but relaxing, with flea market finds, floral prints and pastels for decor, all evoking a little throwback vacation, resort flair. Enviable as anyone’s local.   

The Food: Studied bar food and then some, suitable for all your disparate friend groups at once.  

The Drinks: Martinis are the thing here, but other cocktails, like the vodka-based Free Britney, wine and beer are available too. 

Time Out Tip: Sidney’s Five has happy hour every day from 5pm to 7pm, when martinis are $10, select beers are $4, wine is 20% off and you can get a burger/beer special for $20, raw bar items for $1.50 to $2 each and the terrific charbroiled oysters for $3.50 a piece.

Sidney’s Five is located at 103 First Avenue and is open on Wednesday from 5pm-12am, Thursday-Saturday from 5pm-2am and Sunday 12pm-9pm. 

  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Brooklyn

Gage & Tollner is beautiful. Twirl through its revolving door and you’ll enter into a gilded dining room that seems like it goes on forever. On your left, heavy wood is topped with lilting marble to form a stylish, throwback bar. Straight ahead, circular tables look like figurines poised to glide across the glassine surface of an animatronic music box. And cushy crimson velveteen booths line either side of its 134-seat space. It’s lush and plush and suffused with golden hues.

Located in a building that has lived many lives, including as an accessories shop, an Arby’s and a previous iteration of Gage & Tollner that was at one point famously helmed by chef Edna Lewis), it was recently revived by longtime Brooklyn hospitality fixtures chef Sohui Kim, Ben Schneider and St. John Frizell this spring. They were able to restore the space to its former majesty thanks in part to a 1975 interior landmark designation that ensured the preservation of original design details like brass chandeliers and cherry wood trimmings. Mirrors also abound throughout, including a wall of ‘em on the far back wall that creates that forever-effect.

Visit Gage & Tollner any number of times, and you’ll probably hear some equivalent of this: G&T’s original owner posited that “guests would eventually tire of looking at artwork, but they would never tire of looking at themselves,” on every trip.

It’s a cute anecdote, and it’s even cuter to imagine a time when guests would have looked at art or themselves, instead of, say, lovely arrangements of fresh-shucked oysters or clams ($24 and $16 per half-dozen, respectively) through an Instagram filter. Oh, fine, take a photo or three, it’s still hard enough to get a table here that you’ll want something to remember it by. 

The perfect cocktails from the bar are good candidates for the grid, and hard to bungle. You won’t even need to flash the old fashioned ($15), its blocks of ice refracting candlelight like big diamonds suspended in amber liquid. All the classic cocktails are here, too, including seven martini varieties (each $16). 

There are a few impressive steaks and chops to choose from, though, on a recent visit, we were told there weren’t any bone-in ribeye cuts ($4.25 an ounce) appropriately portioned for one, and the rest of the table was already excited about other entrées. The dry-aged NY strip ($57) was a suitable compromise instead; richly butter-basted, kissed with char outside, the desired shade of mauve inside and served with a hearty half-head of roasted garlic. 

Gage & Tollner is a steak and chops kind of place, with raw bar items too expertly prepared to be regarded as ornamental, but nice to look at nonetheless. It’s the fried chicken, however, that’s beyond reproach–crispy skin a topography of flavor protecting the juicy meat inside. It's marvelously paired with a perky kale/kimchi slaw and springy cornmeal fritters that, all together, amount to the envy of the table. 

For dessert, pastry chef Caroline Schiff’s incredible baked alaska for two slakes any order envy, given its ability to satiate twice that many and its brilliant composition. It is a texture and flavor triumph that layers dark chocolate, amarena cherry, and mint ice cream and encases it all in a just-sweet-enough merengue so light it might float up to the ceiling were it not firmly nestled in a bed of crumbled chocolate cookies. 

If you’ve ever had a baked alaska, you might expect it to be set alight at your table. Gage & Tollner does not do that. Instead, its baked alaska is meticulously torched inch by inch in the kitchen to create an even surface that elevates the meringue for a jubilant final product. But you won’t miss the flames. When something is this lovely, there’s no need to gild the lily. 

Vitals

The Vibe: An unpretentious Old New York throwback that’s as inviting as it is ornate and a little like dancing at someone else's wedding. 

The Food: Steaks and chops and raw bar items and excellent fried chicken. The creamed spinach is also a nice, comforting side, and the devils on horseback, which wrap dates and smoked almonds in bacon, are a sweet/salty treat.   

The Drinks: We love a martini menu, and Gage & Tollner’s includes seven. The rest of the options are more classic cocktails than most can likely name, and, with so little room for improvement, they’d probably manage to perfect a white wine spritzer here, too. 

Time Out Tip: Reservations are still hard to come by, but Gage & Tollner recently opened up its bar for walk-ins. Sidle up alone; with all those mirrors you’ll have multiples of you for company. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Prospect Heights

“I’m so glad I know this is in the neighborhood,” a friend said midway through dinner at Leland Eating and Drinking House recently, before predicting how much money he’d eventually spend over the course of future visits. The restaurant, which briefly operated last December before fully opening in February, makes it easy to imagine return trips. It’s an easy place to be. 

For one, the corner spot is comfortable, divided into two dining areas. Enter from the Dean Street side and the bar is to your left with a long, pale wood banquette and tables to your right. Farther back and down a few stairs, another dining room is closer to the kitchen and looks out on Underhill Avenue. Both spaces have big windows and lots of white oak. When a protagonist is a chef/owner at an unseen restaurant in a Nancy Meyers movie, the restaurant probably looks like this. 

The menu is divided, too, split into three sections. Most of the snacks and plates could just as accurately be called appetizers, and the large plates entrées. Order any combination and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing. Everything here makes sense. 

The choppy smoked steelhead trout rillette ($9) is a fun presentation. Served in a jar with crispy za’atar potato chips it’s emblematic of the restaurant overall: good and unfussy and apparently effortless. You don’t worry about how to best divide it however many ways—there’s a pile of potato chips, just keep loading them up until it’s gone! This is also one of the dishes we’ve thought about the most since visiting, the typically mild fish variety pleasantly richer than expected with a saline current. It tastes like something you’d have at a dockside picnic on the first cool day of summer.   

The mussels ($18) are one exception to the plates-are-apps rule. Filling a large skillet, they could easily stand for a main. They’re also an example of how Leland exceeds expectations for what’s typically categorized as a “neighborhood restaurant.” We’d never anticipate anything approaching perfection from such a place, just tasty enough food and a good enough time. But Leland’s charred lemon mussels in a shallow broth with a perky citrus pop have every indication of the preparation we would expect at a much more expensive restaurant striving to justify its price tag. Each gleaming onyx shell seemed to be open to the same degree, each with a uniformly plump interior. It’s a studied offering with ideal execution.   

Other highlights among the smaller plates include crispy pollock fritters over horseradish tzatziki ($9) that you could call elevated bar food, and the mushrooms and sourdough ($15), which tops thick pieces of toast with tender mushrooms in cream, thyme, garlic and ginger. 

Leland is not explicitly a seafood restaurant, it just happens to do seafood particularly well. Its large plates include a salt-citrus brined half chicken ($26) and a nicely prepared sliced grilled pork chop ($34). But the whole fish ($32)–a lovely, lightly fried scup–is a standout, the variety sometimes called porgy enlivened by a glancing, near-sweetness and caramelized flavor and texture.

A decent selection of beer and wine are available from the bar, in addition to a brief cocktail list. Tabled together, the J Bomb, which layers a barely bitter icy negroni over frozen margarita base and the Cider House, with a palm-sized apple slice in a rye, lemon and maple seem to nod goodbye this season’s weeks of heart and humidity and break into the fall to come. 

We’re so glad to know that Leland Eating and Drinking House in our friend’s neighborhood, even though it isn’t in ours. But we’re already imagining return trips, in any case. 

Leland Eating and Drinking House is located at 755 Dean Street and is open from 1pm-4pm Wednesday-Friday, 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday, 5pm-10pm Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 5pm-11pm Friday and Saturday, and 4-5pm Wednesday-Sunday.

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

As, perhaps, the internet’s loudest “nothing is off the beaten path!” crank, I will admit that Sushi 35 West is a little hard to find. 

Do not enter the office building clearly marked 224 West 35th Street. Do not take the elevator to the second floor and peer into office spaces. Instead, pass that address by a few narrow storefronts and stop at what could be confused with a service entrance if the doors were closed. This is also 224 West 35th Street, where Sushi 35 West has been operating for about four months. 

On a recent visit, the doors were open, and Republican candidate for mayor Curtis Sliwa was blocking the entrance, red beret like a beacon. A small crew filming him with an iPhone moved on quick enough, revealing a couple of printed signs for the place and a staircase. 

Take the staircase to the second floor and emerge into next to nothing. Head toward two patio tables and and a friendly voice might call hello from the kitchen behind a sliding window. Order the salmon roe ($6), the sea urchin ($10) the Spanish mackerel ($5) and the striped jack at a minimum, and on every return. Yes, you’re probably getting some set that ranges from a couple of rolls for $18 at lunch to the 35-piece omakase for $100, and it will all be excellent, but these four selections are essential to Sushi 35 West.

The translucent red pearls of roe gleam like gems and burst in your mouth like they should, with an exceptional, lightly saline brightness. Popping each effervescent egg is, to borrow a few phrases, like kissing a mermaid who’s high on Champagne. The rich urchin, which is more commonly described with that metaphor’s first half, is also exceptional, softening in your mouth like briny buttercream. The Spanish mackerel, too, seems to dissolve into a smoke that perfumes the space between your tongue and your palate, and the striped Jack’s peak-form texture, achieved by feathery knife work, is evidence of an expert kitchen. And it’s all served on plastic trays.

Sushi 35 West is primarily a takeaway. It just so happens that two of its owners worked at NYC’s very top sushi restaurants before the pandemic, before finding this sparse space. When you’re good, you're going to shine in any setting, and these two are great. They’re serving their beautiful, meticulously sourced fish, sliced à la minute, to people ordering mostly take out and delivery. It’s like those stories you hear about retirees finding Warhols at a yard sales. 

You can dine inside, too, at those two patio tables, but they can only accommodate four total, and there is very little to look at. While some element of exposed brick, often painted white, has come to signal fledgling trendiness for restaurants that aspire to that sort of thing, that is all there is at Sushi 35 West. That and exposed pipes, a grey floor and a little peek through the window into its incredible kitchen. But it’s a peaceful blank slate compared to the chaos of midtown downstairs–one that makes it easy to be fully absorbed by the food. 

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The Vibe: In spite, or maybe because of its design paucity, dining in still feels warm and pleasant, and sitting there alone, eating fish eggs one by one because I didn’t want them to end, just as some goofy but effective pop song came on over unseen speakers, I’d have sworn I felt my heart move. It’s the kind of effusive atmosphere that can only be created by greatness in the kitchen.   

The Food: The first time I went to Sushi Nakazawa, still one of the best sushi restaurants in NYC, I felt like I’d finally gained access to some other, better species of fish that was secretly only available to the moneyed. At Sushi 35 West, I felt like I hadn’t had anything as exquisite as what they’re serving in a long time. And, in addition to Sushi 35 West’s essential menu items, the salmon and fatty tuna are impeccable. 

Time Out Tip: Even if you endeavor to dine indoors, have a back-up plan. Consider landing one of the four available seats unearned luck, not a given. Maybe the people in the offices at the other 224 West 35th Street will lend you a spot if you offer to share the 35-piece omakase. 

Sushi 35 West is located at 224 West 35th Street and is open on Monday-Friday from 11:30am to 9:30pm and Saturday from 3:30pm to 9:30pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Greenwich Village

Newly opened in the West Village this past June, Yuco has 65 seats and an aim “to be the single most innovative Yucateco restaurant in the world.” Already, it's doing a bit to reorient fine dining in NYC.

You can go to Yuco and spend $225 per person on its tasting menu before drinks, tax and tip. Nine courses are like a carousel of some of the best of what Yuco has to offer across its price tiers. A $95 prix-fixe lets you choose one item from first, main and mid-course sections. In a move that separates Yuco from NYC’s more antiquated institutions of higher eating, everything is available à la carte. 

Chef-partner Christian Ortiz’s excellent braised oxtail en mole, for example, appears on either the prix-fixe menu or on its own for $51. Even divorced from the pageantry of Yuco’s grandest tasting and the truncated spectacle of its second, the execution is remarkable. This is a ne plus ultra oxtail, rich and satiny and offset by a deep mole unlike what any other NYC restaurant has on its menu. 

The recipe is a collaboration between Ortiz and sous chef Jose Hernandez and takes about a week to make, not accounting for the research and development that preceded the plate. Rare Yucatán chiles like chilcostle and chilhuacle are soaked and charred and spices are toasted before it’s all joined, reduced, strained and aged. The oxtail is braised, pulled, rolled and wrapped in caul fat. 

The resulting spheres shred nicely with a fork’s gentle trace, and they’re a strong contender for entry into the city’s cattle canon. Served with a short stack of house-made heirloom corn tortillas, made to order and individually weighed for the ideal thickness, it’s an essential dish. The quick freshness of the tortillas and the obvious time and attention poured over the oxtail mingle in a balance seldom so apparent. 

Yuco’s steak is also sensational, beautifully presented but a bit paltry at a glance, considering its $54 individual price tag. If you have $54 to spend on three decently thick slices of ideally finished prime ribeye, these are the three decently thick ideally finished slices of prime ribeye to spend them on. On the $225 long-form tasting, you might not pause at the modest presentation, daintily arranged on a vibrant chayote squash puree with charred pearl onion halves and a dash of chili demi-glace. Á la carte, it does raise an eyebrow. But, prepared sous vide then pan-seared, it outpaces many Manhattan steakhouse favorites by a mile, even in its inch increments. (It’s 5.5 ounces, if you’re counting.)

With its rare chiles and meticulously sourced ingredients, Yuco’s menu is distinctive, and its focus on singularity is apparent in the wine and cocktail list, too. Co-owner Trent Walker employs a neat gadget to offer some very fancy wines that wouldn’t otherwise be available by the glass. The device taps bottles without uncorking them, enabling Yuco to serve quarter-bottle pours that range from $45 to $125; a less bank account cleansing sum than normally attached to such varieties, and an infrequent opportunity to splurge on a taste of what’s considered some of the best wine in the world. On the spirits side, the bar carries a tepextate unseen elsewhere in the US, and you should see what they’re doing with corn in the aptly titled Mexican whiskey-based Five Ages of Corn cocktail. 

Yuco’s food is very good, as it is at many restaurants. But a lot of its magnetism and the quality that makes it worth returning to comes from the combination of preparation and detail and ingredients that you’ll only find here. “You have to order the oxtail,” you’ll tell a friend, or you’ll make a note that the next time you wish to dwell or to bask, you will come back to Yuco to sample the mole and sip the $95 cab that no one else has.

Vitals

The Vibe: Relaxed elegance with a bar near the entrance, dining room set back a bit and a cozy booth alcove in the middle. 

The Food: The à la carte menu’s first course section also includes a lovely crispy octopus ($32). Chef Ortiz will only use 4-4.5 lb octopus to achieve the desired tenderness. It gets an eight hour sous vide treatment, followed by an ice bath and a pan sear with burning apple wood-infused arbequina oil. Section two is all tacos and the Wagyu option ($22) is as delicious as you’d hope. And, although it would be hard to diverge from the oxtail, there’s also an 18-hour smoked cochinita pibil for two ($110) among the mains.

The Drinks: Hard-to-find wine by the glass and elaborately constructed cocktails. 

Time Out Tip: Everything is 20% off at happy hour until 7pm.

Yuco is located at 33 West 8th Street and it is open on Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm to 12am and Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 1am.



  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

With new viral snack sensations sweeping social media every time you tap TikTok, it can be hard to keep track of what came from where, and when: an irony worthy of O. Henry. Back in 2016, for example, lines snaked outside of a modestly monikered Williamsburg bagel shop’s unassuming facade for one such foodstuff. 

The Bagel Store’s since-trademarked Original Rainbow Bagel garnered inordinate wait times, local and international press and a place in Instagram Thing history before the next flashy bite came along. Later, the shop was seized for unpaid taxes and eventually relocated to Park Slope.   

The august address was empty until last month, when a new bagel shop took over. And Simply Nova Gourmet Appetizing & Delicatessen seems to be operating without a marquee gimmick. 

Anyone grumbling back then about how they couldn’t just grab an egg sandwich without having to wait for like-lovers to grab their kaleido-carbs can now do so. A duo of industry pros opened Simply Nova in January after the notion first started brewing in 2018. 

Black and white letterboard menus are on on either side of the spiffy space, fixed above eye level behind glass cases displaying sweet and savory wares. Bagel and bialy varieties are $1.50, and smattering of gluten-free alternatives are available. They're all sourced from off-site, but most of the other offerings, like soups, salads, latkes and some of the cured fish, are prepared in house.  

The gravlax, for example, is made here then sliced celluloid-thin, only to be rebuilt into precisely constructed sandwiches with accoutrements like critically manageable layers of garden-fresh scallion cream cheese on both halves of an everything bagel, red onion, tomatoes and capers ($14). Whitefish salad, another house special, is wonderfully smoky and salty, packed onto a bialy with the works–same as above–for $12.50. 

Other beautiful slabs of seafood are available in sandwich form of to-go by the quarter pound and up. Can’t decide between the sturgeon or the sable (each starting at $15 to take away)? Samples are quickly suggested as a remedy, and both turn out to be great, each terrific for top the latkes ($12 for a pack of four) later on.  

A little candy corner is filled with chocolates and topped with black-and-white cookies, banana walnut bread and babka options ($4.95). The cinnamon variety, petite as it is, still looks like it might last a couple of days on your kitchen counter, but its rich, swirling textures invite that standing, knife in hand, one more slice, disappearing quickness. 

Crackers, condiments, olive oil tinned fish, pickles, blintzes and cheese selections are ready to grab and go, along with freshly squeezed orange juice and Dr. Brown’s soda cans. Coffee and espresso drinks are also available. 

Grabbing-and-going is, in fact, 99 percent of the way to enjoy Simply Nova’s breakfast, brunch and lunch (turkey, pastrami, and corned beef are among the sandwich meats), since there aren’t any seats inside. But there is one bench out front where you might be able unwrap your carefully-wrapped sandwiches. It even gets good natural light, should you want to try your luck at authoring a new, line-accruing hashtag. 

Vitals

The Vibe: A gleaming new shop to grab a good breakfast, brunch or lunch to-go. 

The Food: Terrific house-prepared gravlax that’s lovely on an everything bagel with the works, and all manner of salad options, like the whitefish nicely fixed on a bialy with more works. 

The Drinks: Coffee and espresso drinks, orange juice and Dr. Bronner’s. 

Time Out Tip: There's just one bench outside, so prepare to grab-and-go.  

Simply Nova is located at 754 Metropolitan Avenue and is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm and Sunday from 8am to 4pm. 

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