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Photograph: Courtesy of Gabi Porter

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

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 2023’s top options

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Latest restaurant reviews in NYC

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Flatiron

If I had a buck for every time I’ve heard that “New York is back,” I’d have enough for a few bites at chef and humanitarian José Andrés’ new restaurant, The Bazaar. Literally. 

A place where the plates range from $14 for eight olives to $65 for one ounce of Kobe ribeye, with $8 oysters in-between, certainly assumes that the moneyed are poised to spend again. This is not the first return to super-luxe dining since the pandemic, of course. Daniel Boulud’s Le Pavillon, which presently peaks at $205 per person for six courses at dinner, was among the earliest post-vaccine arrivals; James Kent’s Saga ($295 per person for nine-ish rounds), which came a little later, is one of the most expensive. But Spanish and Japanese-influenced The Bazaar at The Ritz-Carlton, Nomad, with its recommended four-to-six dishes a guest, and its caveat that many amount to just a few chews, assembled untethered from a guided tasting or the notion of abundance a multi-course experience can evoke, seems to have the boldest dollar signs of those après-2020 currency symbols. 

Some of The Bazaar’s “little starters,” for example, are even less substantial, at twice the price, as the amuse-bouche-sized openers I knocked at one of 2022’s best newcomers, the also costly, also à la carte, Le Rock. And some of their flavors are as fleeting as the essence of a Pamplemousse LaCroix, for comical sums. 

That includes the Japanese sea urchin cone. Described by The Bazaar’s patient, professional staff as one or two bites, it’s most charitably enjoyed as the former, lest you get a mouthful of the bland, uni-obscuring yuzu kosho mayo gathered toward its tip. At $24 for the pinkie-measured nibble, this is not an unheard of supplement fee for that orange-y, buttery-to-dissolving good stuff on, say, a nice bit of sashimi, but here, it needlessly competes, with, rather than compliments, its accompanying emulsion. The disappointment and perhaps rightful guilt for having just eaten the equivalent of almost eight subway swipes sucks some air out of the otherwise grandly handsome space. 

The Wagyu air bread ($18 per piece) is a much more uplifting affair. Versions also appear at The Bazaar’s D.C., Chicago and Las Vegas outposts as one of few recurring items—like those darn cones—across the brand. The Manhattan spin fills otherwise hollow torpedoes of that airy titular vehicle with marvelously melty manchego and tops it with a layer of thin, lightly seared beef. It approaches transcendent, decadent with textures alternating between silken, crisp and velvety. Eat it immediately, as instructed, and it’s unforgettable, and even seems worth its price. 

It’s a chasm. It’s unnerving to learn that The Bazaar’s introductory items are portioned and priced like they’re from a restaurant in a New Yorker cartoon. It’s disquieting to hear that its penultimate “tasting through Japan” section starts at $40 an ounce for (surely the finest) short rib, and wonder, in “if you have to ask . . .” fashion, if a person is intended to order all four selections for what would amount to a minimum of $200, were they cut to their smallest possible portions. And it’s just confusing to figure out that, aside from the unspeakably expensive so-sos, there are some slightly less unconscionably expensive very goods on the menu. 

While the oysters escabeche ($38)—which I ordered for its seeming hints of the molecular gastronomy genre Andrés is prominently associated with via its listed ingredients like “air” and “green apple “pearls”"—are ultimately uninteresting, topped with foam like you’ll find plenty of places, those teased gems just literal bits of fruit, the much simpler live scallops ($34) are fantastic. While the strip loin (recently available at $60 for 5 ounces; normally $80 for 8), as close as you can get to the considerably higher priced beef by the ounce section without going over, is cheerily interrobang-punctuated ok‽, if inadvisably done to a medium-plus in some places, the tartare ($36), made with Japanese Wagyu top sirloin, presented deconstructed with its egg yolk, mustard and anchovies, then assembled tableside and served with brilliant tempura shiso leaves, is wonderful. And while the puntillitas ($18) aren’t unlike any other fried baby squid in town, save for the vast room to roam between them, the bomba rice socarrat ($24) is excellent, enveloping to whisper warmth across lovely slices of raw shima aji. 

Visit frequently enough, and you’ll know what to order for a good time. But the price of admission is so high, it’s too easy to leave feeling like the subject of a joke. “No two experiences at #TheBazaar are the same,” a post on the burgeoning chain’s Instagram page states. With the wild swings, the assertion lands a little more like a threat. 


The Vibe: Gilded. 

The Food: Some extraordinary items like the Wagyu air bread, beef tartare and bomba rice socarrat with shima aji. Average oyster preparations that cost too much to be so so-so and a huge miss with the super-spendy, signature Japanese sea urchin cone. 

The Drinks: Excellent cocktails like the über-smooth milk punch, and Manhattan, old fashioned and martini classics plus beer, wine, sake and shōchū.

The Bazaar is located at 35 West 28th Street. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • East Village

The text messages started the day before, as they always do. I’d finally landed a reservation at Ariari, the new Korean restaurant from Hand Hospitality, the group behind top restaurants Little Mad, one of my picks for the best openings of 2021, and Atoboy, high on my list of NYC’s overall greats. Ariari debuted in the East Village at the end of last year, and it took me until this summer to land a convenient reservation, this one the infrequent fruit of a Resy notification. 

This communiqué, however detailed several totally reasonable and not at all unprecedented house policies (don’t be too late, don’t double your party size, don’t cancel at the last minute unless you want to pay a comparatively reasonable $10 per person fee, don’t overstay your welcome) in addition to the more standard confirmation request. There were a few caps. Fair enough. I don’t see anything similar scrolling back through the last 24 months of reminders, but fair enough. 

But then, about 45 minutes before my designated arrival, as I chatted on a rooftop farther uptown, another message, “Your table is available now if you would be interested in dining with us sooner. Please text us back to confirm!” Then, relocated to a hot subway platform but with plenty of time to spare, the standard 30-minute warning, before, “Hello, this is ARIARI Restaurant. We are holding your table up to 15 mins after your reservation time. Please text us back if you are running late!,” which I wasn’t, but now felt like I was, the accumulated notification combining to leech the ease with which I wish to enter every restaurant, especially those I’m set to review, each ping thickening the early evening humidity and seeming to slow my every stride from the F at Second Avenue like a hypergravity stress dream.  

Inside, Ariari is the antidote to those missives. It is efficiently packed but comfortable enough, and peacefully lit to a near dim with pleasant energy that seems to exclaim “Oh hey, you made it!” as though the multitude of previous paragraphs never happened. The incongruity is a jarring relief, and cocktails like the light maesil (soju, green plum, Suze, peach lemon, $14) and, once you’ve cooled off, more robust dae-chu (jujube-infused rye, simple syrup, orange bitters, $15) further take the edge off. 

Excellent complimentary kimchi—crisp and bright—begins the path through Ariari’s menu. It’s a hard-to-choose-your-own adventure with mostly right turns, divided into categories like shareables and mains, which could easily be swapped. From the first, the seafood pancake ($16) if a regal golden-brown, bursting with minced mussels, shrimp and calamari, plus specks of Thai basil and Korean chives. It is delectably a little greasy outside, fluffy inside and buoyant with its trio of seafood. 

The fried section’s soft shell crab ($18) is a textbook success with the expected dual riffs on crispness from the outside in and properly juicy at the center. Its zippy accompanying yuza scallion aioli helps set it apart from any other late August offering if only a bit. 

Detours from the road here are minor. Among those mains, the duck bulgogi ($26) seems to have been fired a moment too long, its thinly sliced protein losing its typical waterfowl character. That it’s still basically tasty is a credit to its nearly sweet, slightly garlicky marinade, tangle of properly tender onions and chives and vivacious chojang-perilla dip. An easily corrected near-miss like this might go less noticed elsewhere, but Ariari sets a higher bar. 

The spicy pork with fried squid entrée ($25) and the rice and noodle column’s dolsot al-bap ($19) are marvelous examples of what the kitchen can do. The former’s perfectly pan-seared swine masterfully mingles with its fried companion for a texture triumph laced with celery’s ribbons of freshness. The latter’s an airy-rich, winning mix of fish roe, sea urchin cream and egg, stirred tableside to reveal rice beneath and incorporate all the gently saline, briny flavors. 

Service is swift without feeling rushed, so I was surprised when given a 40-minute warning toward the end of the dinner, not only that I had been given a 40-minute warning, as these things are enforced far less frequently than they are asserted, but that only 65 minutes of my two-top’s allotted 105 had passed, considering how many terrific things we had tasted in such a brief space. To poetic amusement, we still waited a little longer for the check than I’d have hoped, but that’s an old dining trope practically anywhere. But by the time I’d paid, we were still ahead of the deadline, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. 


The Vibe: Inviting and busy—most who enter are greeted with a group cheer—but still with nicely-paced service in spite of the crowd. 

The Food: Billed as “Busan to New York,” with standouts like the seafood pancake, soft shell crab, spicy pork with fried squid and dolsot al-bap. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, sool, wine and beer. 

Ariari is located at 119 1st Avenue. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • East Village

In the months before the pandemic, a little East Village sandwich window was getting big attention for its locally infrequent ingredients like camel and bison heart, alongside more standard fare like shrimp, lamb and roast pork. It closed three years and many fans later due to that old Manhattan classic, a lease dilemma. Foxface expanded its concept, menu, space and name not too far away this past spring with the opening of Foxface Natural on Avenue A. 

Though several times its predecessor’s size, Foxface Natural’s long, narrow dining room is still petite, swiped mostly in white with a few lines of sandy wood and a bit more color from potted plants. Like before, the menu is frequently updated; quail, live scallops, goat, outsized prawn heads and other underwater noggins having graced tables throughout Foxface Natural’s two seasons in operation. It’s still, in this new iteration, spotlighting some infrequently commercially seen items, a few available on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them basis. A shipment of percebes, for example, was recently lost at JFK, conjuring all sorts of hypotheticals about the unintended party eventually on the Portuguese goose barnacles’ receiving end. Studied sourcing and its beautiful conclusion aside, there has still been little else quite as attention-catching as that camel here at 2.0, though the kangaroo tartare ($25) comes close. 

Next to nothing is unheard of in New York City, including kangaroo, which I’ve previously enjoyed in carpaccio form at since-shuttered Public in Nolita, and you can presently find skewered at Williamsburg’s Isla and Co. The lean meat is milder here than its “gamey” shorthand, and lends itself well to the raw, chopped approach, served in a heap with brittle Sardinian flatbread and a delightful little pouf of airy charred eggplant. A glancing taste could easily be mistaken for more common beef, a value judgment for the eye of the beholder. I’d get it again. 

Elsewhere among the assorted proteins, the wild boar pork tongue’s ($22) thin, cold cut-style slices are reminiscent of sandwiches, though more evocative of the catered luncheon variety than the unique affairs Foxface was first recognized for. The dainty pink pile is laced with light greens and served atop a tonnato sauce that obscures any tuna and anchovy notes with a heavier mayo presence. Its meat is plenty tasty, if only a little distinguishable from any other high-quality ham.  

Everything here is suitable to share; some for a few bites and some for several more, and the printed menu’s order follows a conventional smaller to larger format. In a rare suggestion of restraint wherever money changes hands, you might be told you’ve ordered too much, and encouraged to cull a plate or two. There are half a hundred ways to do so, even on a menu less than 20 lines long. Foxface Natural’s frequent rotation and pleasant, unrushed atmosphere lends itself to return visits to mix and match, and a first trip its as good a plan as any to follow the day’s recommendations. 

Seafood is the kitchen’s stated can’t-miss category at press time, and the hiramasa “pastrami” ($24), one dish consistently available since opening, gives a gentle kick to the geometrically-textured, thin slices of nearly-blushing fish. The app’s rye crisps and horseradish dabs close the loop on the subtly executed conceit. 

One of Foxface Natural’s best preparations is also its simplest, arriving just how the menu describes. A whole Montauk fluke ($56) is wood oven-roasted with parsley and an abundance of garlic that suffuses the tender fish with fragrance and deep, silky flavor without cloaking the fluke’s own near-sweetness. Relatively uncomplicated as it is, this is still a wonderful demonstration of what Foxface’s “natural continuation” can do. 


The Vibe: Peaceful, pleasant and unrushed. 

The Food: Frequently updated, unique, and skewed to seafood recommendations like the hiramasa “pastrami” and whole Montauk fluke at the moment. One of a few spots citywide with kangaroo on the menu. 

The Drinks: Beer and wine. 

Foxface Natural is located at 189 Avenue A. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • West Village

It takes a lot of work to make things easy. A good maître d' will do it, and Michael Cecchi-Azzolina, who manned Minetta Tavern, Raoul’s and Le Coucou before publishing his tell-all, Your Table Is Ready: Tales of a New York City Maître D' in 2022, is among the industry’s best known. The famed steward opened Cecchi’s as “a modern take on the classic New York bar & grill” in the West Village this summer. And it's already righting some recent hospitality wrongs. 

My top three restaurant complaints of the past two years have been that everywhere’s too bright, all the "new" cocktails are needlessly complicated and I can’t get a reservation anywhere. Hyperbole aside, they’re all vexing trends, each eschewed by cleverly coordinated Cecchi’s. Here, the lighting’s nice, the cocktails skew simpler and, although it’s obviously popular, Cecchi’s is also accessible for its intended purpose of selling food and drinks. 

The appletini ($20) among the latter’s a hoot, the slight pomegranate zag in the cosmopolitan ($20) is pleasant rather than puzzling and the Manhattans and martinis ($17+) are masterclass. There have even recently been seats to sip them at the handsome bar, where an old cash register from cult favorite Café Loup, which operated in the neighborhood for 42 years, is once more in use. The adjacent Art Deco-style dining room is flush with a honeyed glow and splashed with murals depicting convivial party scenes. A warm, less decorative but somewhat more private, annex is a little farther back. 

‘This must be the place’ -type spots like Cecchi’s aren’t always best known for their food, but 105 West 13th Street is now worth visiting aside from its scene. To start, a switcheroo. Farther down the list of those semi-private gripes, I’ll always grouse about a plated shrimp cocktail, staged flatly, absent its veritable third ingredient, a fancy presentation glass. Cecchi’s crustaceans ($6 each; minimum 3) arrive on their sides, lazing on a bed of ice, lemon wedges hedged wherever. But they’re so good, plump, bright, saline and devoid the unintended fishiness I’ve often detected at esteemed seafood spots, I didn’t care about the incongruous lack of pageantry. The mushroom toast ($17) goes bigger, piled but still manageable, with the light flavor combination of petite fungi and sunchokes. The onion rings ($15) fall shorter, a little underdone inside with a coating that struggles to adhere.  

The steak and fries pairing ($42), joins the best of any restaurant in this genre, its flap cut zapped of any common chewiness and turned wonderfully tender. Those crisp golden potato sticks are great, too, and both are made extra decadent by an accompanying brown butter béarnaise that’s better than any in recent recollection. The pan-seared pork chop is also tops, thick, juicy and served with tasty fingerlings and well-tamed broccolini; its dainty florets as attentively finished as its heartier stems. Even at a steak and chop-situated spot, it’s a bit of a surprise to see a roasted cauliflower ($29) as the sole plant-based entrée years into the cliché that it’s the sole concession “for the vegetarians.” It’s an unexpected passé flash in a place that otherwise so successfully conjures a modern vintage ambiance, rather than one of a reaching throwback; so much so that this one dish almost tracks as intentional camp. 

In various ways and to disparate degrees, every restaurant in New York City wants to be the place to be. At Cecchi’s, the feeling is mutual. 


The Vibe: This must be the place. 

The Food: Wonderfully plump and crisp shrimp cocktail, Solid steaks, fabulous fries and chops served with expertly-tended vegetables. 

The Drinks: Perfect cocktails as though they’re shaken from the libation heavens, plus wine and beer. 

Cecchi’s is located at 105 West 13th Street. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • West Village

Approach The Golden Swan’s 11th Street address (the same one previously occupied by The Spotted Pig; a restaurant that cycled through hospitality’s highest highs and its most disturbing lows before closing in disgrace in January of 2020), and a host stands guard outside. It’s dated, alienating and impractical, creating a truly goofy pseudo exclusively reminiscent of comical red velvet ropes rather than what I imagine is a stab at the gatekeeping of proprietor Matt Abramcyk’s early-aughts Beatrice Inn. “We’re trying to create a clubhouse without being a membership club,” Abramcyk told The Wall Street Journal; a conceit that, if landed, would only evoke the worst of both worlds. 

What might have seemed impressive in 2006 is a naked affectation today, but this introduction is more than just an eye-roller. What’s inside is rather nice, and the pre-entry pomp does it a disservice.

The once cluttered, grandma-tavern aesthetic that enraptured fans of celebrities and burgers for sixteen years is gone; with it, the once-ubiquitous pigs. The first floor space they’ve dubbed the Wallace Room is now awash in pretty shades of gleaming emerald and chartreuse. Essentially the bar component, the food down here is a bit different than the fancier affair upstairs, and, though still expensive, a bit less-so. The second-story dining room (“Dining Room”) is vaguely mid-century pretty, done in hues of warm beige with comfortable seats fit for grown-ups.  

The cocktail menu is twice as long and half as good as it needs to be, but this has been the norm all over town for a while. The takes on Manhattans and martinis ($19-$23) are fine, but their actual, off-menu antecedents ($20-variable) are better, even if the latter of those originals isn’t cold enough. In the dining room, drinks ordered on the rocks recently arrived up, also not an infrequent occurrence elsewhere. There’s wine. 

Trappings and citywide bar program blight aside, talented chef Doug Brixton’s menus are excellent. Recently departed from now-closed Bâtard, which was on our list of NYC’s best restaurants until its final day, his Golden Swan preparations are billed as French-Mediterranean. 

The steak tartare ($34), the only dish available in both spaces, caviar aside, is exemplar. It’s dressed up with garlic aioli that needn’t scare mayo haters away, a brown butter emulsion, Parmesan flakes and a few dainty greens, but its plump minced tenderloin still stars. 

A poached halibut looks ridiculous, plain-white and Jetsons-like, though this is, I concede, ideal rich person plating; real peak-Goop kind of stuff, like what they’d have been eating in the Flugelheim museum in Batman (1989). But—joke’s on me!—is another impeccable item. Its accompanying tableside dash of saffron beurre blanc adds required color, if not much else, but the fish itself is as light and mild to taste and gently firm to touch as any perfect such specimen in creation. The garnish-portioned artichoke beside it has flavor a few times its allotted size, bolstered by the best smoked trout roe I’ve had in a while. Real sides are separate, and the pleasant tri-color cauliflower with garam masala, labneh and mint ($15) also livens up the look a bit. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Golden Swan’s Crescent duck ($48; named for the local farm that boasts “nutritionally enhanced” birds) has a vibrant blush throughout its wedge duo. Its skin is rightly crisp, its fat is properly rendered and its texture is near-velvety to make for one flawless waterfowl. Its own little accoutrement creates a banner moment for beets. They’re sliced thin, folded and filled with shallots that have been coated in butter, sage, rosemary and thyme, slow-cooked, caramelized and puréed to sensational effect. It's a sweet, savory, special couple of bites served in just the right amount. 

It might take a moment to get off the ground, but The Golden Swan takes flight.


The Vibe: After an unnecessary checkpoint outside, The Golden Swan is graceful, lovely and comfortable. 

The Food: Excellently-executed French and Mediterranean-influenced menus with fantastic steak tartare and perfectly finished duck.  

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

The Golden Swan is located at 314 West 11th Street. It is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 5pm to 12am and Thursday-Saturday from 5pm-1am. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

Although I have yet to test this theory, I believe it would be easy to spend about one million dollars in under an hour across a short stretch of 57th Street. A luxury sports car from the Aston Martin at Park Avenue would do a lot of the heavy lifting as the vehicular equivalent of a cart full of turkeys on Supermarket Sweep, and then, provided I could find parking, I’d pad out the rest at Dior, Bulgari and Bergdorf. There’s a Tiffany over there, too. Now, perhaps the billionaires for whom the area is named (their “Row,” if you will), will say it can’t be done, but I reply, try me, you beautiful titans of industry, of whom everyone is very fond. My time, your money. Winner buys dinner at Nasrin’s Kitchen nearby. 

Chef Nasrin Rejali learned to cook family recipes growing up in Tehran and went on to operate a cafe there before emigrating to Turkey and then to the United States with her three young kids. Here, Rejali connected with the refugee and minority immigrant-staffed hospitality business Eat Offbeat. This eponymous Persian restaurant that opened in June follows a series of pop-ups she also hosted around town. 

Halfway up the staircase to Nasrin’s Kitchen’s second-story space, the air seems to lift, too, in a mood-elevating shift. The 50-some-odd-seat dining room just has good energy, a welcoming ambiance that can’t be faked. Tree trunks of datedly distinguished marble columns, petite vases of dainty carnations and casual white tablecloths are reflected in a wall of otherwise unobtrusive mirrors. A semi-separate bar a bit farther back will soon be stocked with wine and beer and it’s worth asking in advance about the present beverage possibilities. 

Rejali’s menus borrow some of those recipes from her youth, detailed in places on the menu while other items are noted by location. To start, mirza ghasemi ($12), from the Caspian Sea region of Iran is smoky and brightly, near-sweetly acidic, the eggplant and tomato dip topped with a sunny egg and served with thin, seeded housemade bread that yields from a little crisp to soft inside. 

Among the mains, the khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi ($28) listed as a national dish, is abundant with beef in its herbaceous stew and easy to share, even aside from its heaps of rice. Even larger and vibrant with its galaxy of jewel-toned ingredients, the tomato-saffron chicken in the zereshk polo ba morgh ($26, linked here to Tehran) is marvelously braised to tender, covered in perfectly prepared basmati rice, slivered almonds, emerald pistachios and tart, ruby-red berries. Delicious as they are, once plated, these gems won’t last forever. 

Nasrin’s Kitchen is located at 35 West 57th Street. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Gowanus

When a neighborhood restaurant closes, the best thing that can replace it is another one. Inevitable grousing about the way things were aside, those pleasant, easy spots are preferred over the alternative million dollar condos, bank branches, or even overpriced, underperforming food and drink businesses seemingly sprung fully formed from social media. So Cotra, a new self-billed izakaya that opened last month in the space long occupied by red sauce spot Monte’s is a welcome new steward of the address. It arrives on the block from the operators of Trad Room in Bed-Stuy. 

Inside, the brick walls are still exposed, and the wood-burning oven is still in the back; visible as before, but now framed by sleek windows. Up front, the white marble-topped bar remains on the right, and the whole rouge banquette to the left has been swapped with similar but untethered, segmented seats a bit better for smaller parties, if a little wobbly. The rest of the formerly blush color scheme around the actual banquette and booths have been redone in swipes of light gray, charcoal and blue for, once more, a modern-Gowanus aesthetic, as the place’s previous owners aimed to achieve when they redid the room in 2011 style.

Sushi varieties like the nori-forward tamago roll ($7.25), its bright interior egg overly firm, and the spicy salmon ($9) with too-chewy crispy rice, are quick to arrive for speedy drink pairing, but might be more welcome after you’ve had a few. Opt instead to linger a little longer for fun and nicely done fried apps like the golden panko-encrusted oysters ($14) and the mochiko karaage’s enjoyably juicy chicken ($15). 

Another fried bite, this time from the menu’s shared plates section, the soft shell crab $24, is both smaller than the karaage and considerably less flavorful for an easy skip. That category’s yakiniku skirt steak ($28), perfunctory greens aside, is a tastier, adeptly prepared to medium rare, alternative. 


The Vibe: Fun, friendly, neighborhoody and casually stylish. 

The Food: Nice fried oysters, chicken karaage and skirt steak; a wide variety of smaller plates.

The Drinks: Abundant, with cocktails, wine, beer, sake, shochu and zero-ABV options. 

Cotra is located at 451 Carroll Street. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm to 10pm.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Upper West Side

The buzziest restaurants in New York City are not always the best. Expectations inflated by press, hashtags, and exclusivity burst like birthday balloons in the power lines when that Next Best Thing turns out to be just fine. Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi, which opened in November at Lincoln Center, is the rare New York City hotspot that actually exceeds its tremendous surrounding hype. 

Tatiana follows Bronx-raised Onwuachi’s early career years in some of NYC’s most esteemed restaurants, his Top Chef season, a pair of D.C. operations, book publications and accolades like the James Beard Foundation’s rising star chef of the year award in 2019. His first local destination, with Afro-Caribbean-influenced menus in a soaring, uncommonly inviting space, is a triumph. 

The sweeping venue is distinguished, chicly industrial and makes you feel like you’ve arrived, especially after what was probably a long and/or circuitous route to finally landing a table. Huge windows suffuse the polished dining room with natural light filtered by delicate metallic curtains. Large cumulus cloud fixtures hover toward the ceiling. The armchairs opposite a banquette with its back to Lincoln Center’s plaza are, uniquely, as comfortable as the cushy bench they face; nicely sized, substantially anchored and designed for ease. The custom pieces are a relief, and a demonstration of a detailed commitment to hospitality, particularly in light of the recent threatening trend of truly awkward seats, including the glorified tree stump-like tests of core strength at another hotspot elsewhere in town. 

There is also a ton to love on Tatiana’s one-page menu, divided into small and large shares. The curried goat patties ($26) are an excellent introduction to some of the kitchen’s rich protein preparations, plated three to an order with golden, flaky exteriors and sides of mango chutney and creamy aioli. The crispy okra ($15), also grouped among the starters, is a dish of fun abundance, with fresh texture and a patina of honeyed sweetness that, while tasty, cloaks the item’s listed mustard and peppa sauce.  

When reservations are this hard to come by, ordering can turn from simply taste-slaking to high-stakes strategy. I really don’t think you can go wrong here, and Tatiana adeptly factors seafood, poultry and vegetable options into its offerings to cover all manner of desires, but I will have a hard time skipping its exquisite red meat varieties on any lucky returns. 

Braised oxtails ($52) from the menu’s larger shares practically melt off the bone under a somewhat tangy, nearly-sugared glaze. Each silken bite is almost impossibly decadent with depths of flavor that bring conversation to a halt. 

Tatiana’s undeniable standout, however, (an exalted designation on an all-star lineup) is its short rib pastrami ($85), which has been presented a couple of different ways over the last eight months. Its wonderfully marbled, tender Wagyu is presently sliced and arranged to curve around a tight pile of crisp, slightly tart red cabbage alongside gleaming pillows of caraway coco bread. Both a perfect pastrami and sensational steak, like Tatiana’s welcoming warmth, there’s nothing else quite like it in New York City right now. 


The Vibe: Polished, comfortable fine dining that puts you at ease in an inviting space. 

The Food: Destination-making short rib pastrami, braised oxtails, crispy okra and curried goat patties are highlights among outstanding Afro-Caribbean menu items. 

The Drinks: Tatiana’s Miami Vice is one of NYC’s best frozen drinks, its classics are top-notch and its wine list is studiously curated. 

Tatiana is located at 10 Lincoln Center Plaza. It is open for dinner Monday-Saturday from 5pm-10pm.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Noho

The tables at Raf’s are too close together. Maybe not all of them, but certainly the banquette stretch on the pretty restaurant’s long west wall leading to the elegantly framed, peacefully coordinated, open kitchen. The comparatively truncated space is nearly imperceptible, almost negligible until everybody starts to remark. That side of the dining room seems scored with a chorus of polite “pardon mes,” as the staff admirably navigates throughout. The tight fit that might not be as noticeable someplace else is magnified at Raf’s, which is so effortfully polished that the sporadic smudge is amplified. 

Intended to evoke both European-style neighborhood spots and the continent’s grand cafés, with more granular influences from Italy and France, Raf’s is . . .  sure, why not. It’s a glowy addition to Noho, just across East Houston from its predecessor, The Musket Room. The newcomer, which opened in March, could practically have sprung fully formed from any of the area’s stealth-wealthiest corners, with the reservation-filling following to match. It took a few tries before I could squeeze in. 

The address was Parisi Bakery for 47 years until 2021, and Raf’s has its own bread preparations to rival any other. That the $14 baskets become compulsory depending on appetizer selection is an increasingly common but irksome cost of dining out in recent years. The listed warm fresh ricotta, for example, which sounds interesting with the addition of long hot peppers that ultimately bring nothing, needs a vehicle, which turns the little $8 lark into a $22 starter, for the apparent few keeping track.

Skip the bland bit of cheese, but keep the peak-form focaccia, sourdough and milk buns, whose accompanying fancy butter is plenty complimentary, anyway. The trio’s a treat with that alone and another useful platform for the much better, nicely-portioned, buoyant beef tartare with anchovy, mint and a shower of aged Parm ($24.) It comes in handy again for the plump, ideally textured escargot’s too-mild in-shell herb bath, livening up the verdant blend as best it can. 

Wood-fired mains from the hearth are large, too and could be shared to mix and match with a house-made pasta like the otherwise fine for one mafaldine with lamb ragu ($29). The size of the whole dorade, for example, would be respectable in any gone fishin’ snapshot, with a proficiently fork-flaky interior. 

The half-chicken is the choice to beat, attracting long glances from those (very) neighboring tables. The impressively plated poultry’s parts are each triumphantly finished to their uniquely required cooking times and temperatures for a bird that soars alongside dainty asparagus spears and atop jus-soaked slabs of sourdough, at once rich, rustic and decadent. There might even be plenty to take home, where it’s still wonderful the next day in the relative sprawl of your own kitchen, improvised coffee-table-dining-room, or fire escape. 


The Vibe: Tightly packed and a little stuffy between white tablecloths, though likely to relax over the course of what will probably be a long, successful run.

The Food: Fantastic bread with sensational butter, great beef-tartare, serviceable (though photogenic) escargots, a few house-made pastas and one impressive roast chicken. 

The Drinks: Wine and a cocktail menu better swapped with classics. 

Raf’s is located at 290 Elizabeth Street. It opens for dinner at 5pm Tuesday-Sunday.

  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

“Walk in as a person and leave like a legend,” reads a promise splashed across Mitica’s social media. The new Greenpoint restaurant opened this past May. A few menu items do assume that description, though not its most flattering definition.

Still, Mitica is promising. Its narrow bar area would be a fine place for a quick drink (though the novel options, each $16, are forgettable), the dining room beside is comfortable enough, there’s a large backyard, and reservations across all are wide open for this follow-up to well-regarded Mariscos El Submarino in Queens. 

Mitica serves some pleasant echoes of that Mexican seafood spot. The aguachile negro ($22), made here with four fresh, plump shrimp and sliced avocado under a miny-spray of pretty, edible flowers is as bright and refreshing as it is petite. The taco gobernador ($16) is nice too, stuffed with melty cheese and topped with bits of lobster, though the the sum of its parts is a bit too chewy due to its carrot tortilla. 

Other plates might, like a legend, exist only in hearts and minds, if only because they never arrive. That absence, plus the presence of an expensive rib-eye ($85) ordered medium-rare and served medium-well make Mitica one to watch, if not one to book just yet. 

Mitica is located at 222 Franklin Street. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

I did not set out to find the drink of summer. Other than my enduring belief that frozens, in general, are it, my more practical opinion is that it’s all marketing, as brilliantly demonstrated in this 2018 Times piece about that year’s supposed Aperol spritz blitz. But still, it’s A Thing, even if 2023’s race to identify it has prudently smoothed. 

Bar Vinazo opened on Park Slope’s 7th Avenue in May. It’s pale and narrow, but efficiently arranged with a few standard tables up front, tiny two tops fixed to the south wall, a long row of pleasanter bar seats an arm’s reach away and a roomy backyard appointed in ivy beyond. Self-billed as a Spanish wine bar, I aimed to start with one those on a recent visit, but the humidity outside set me toward cocktails while the white I had my heart set on—an apparently popular albariño ($18/glass)—needed to chill. 

In that brief cooling period, for me and the bottle on deck, I choose from the trio of Vinazo’s gin and tonics. Its gardener variety ($16), aptly made with Isolation Proof’s small-batch, limited-edition, ramp gin, is a knockout. It’s lightly vegetal, pungent and savory but refreshing, and like little else I’ve had in a glass lately. Gardeners aren’t being ordered everywhere, for, as I know, they’re unique to this restaurant, but that is precisely why they better occupy the nebulous drink of summer space than something supposedly ubiquitous. Like the season itself, the gardener is elusive, ethereal and, according to the patient, hospitable staff, a little divisive; an entry level to acquired tastes. 

A fair number of Vinazo’s menu items are curated, rather than scratch-made. Boquerones, sheep’s milk cheese and a tender but textured, fairly portioned to share at around eight slices, delicious lomo ibérico ($14-$18, respectively) are among those twenty snackier, assembled options. 

The pros in the minuscule, exposed corner kitchen also make some solid plates from start to finish. A pile of dime-sized, deeply saline and near-silken octopus medallions ($26) are mellowed by a stack of firmly yielding potato slices beneath in a wonderful pairing of bold and mild flavors. And the croquetas de jamón y queso ($15/4) are comforting cylinders filled with a wonderfully melty Manchego.

Vinazo’s fideuà is also pleasant. Its short pasta’s answer to near-relation paella’s rice is winningly prepared to suitable doneness, even as its shrimp and cuttlefish hover around the common fate of being heated all together with the mix, rather than a little later, as the seafoods’ optimal quicker cooking times require. 

Around three items per person are recommended, but personnel provide prudent guidance surprisingly absent the upsells I’ve increasingly seen elsewhere around town. It’s a polished operation, professional but still friendly, and a lovely place to wait for that ultimately quite nice albariño to reach its ideal temperature. 


The Vibe: Intimate, casually polished and friendly. 

The Food: Mostly small plates like boquerones, sheep’s milk cheese and a great lomo ibérico. Fideuà is among a few larger options. 

The Drinks: NYC’s drink of summer in a leek-forward gin and tonic, plus more cocktails, wine and beer.

Bar Vinazo is located at 158 7th Avenue. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-11pm.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

After international culinary employ, a tenure at highly-regarded Bessou (which previously had a presence at Time Out Market New York unrelated to this critic or review) and a stop at Saigon Social, chef Emily Yuen opened her permanent location of Lingo on Greenpoint Avenue this past April after a few of pop-up previews. 

The space is bright and beachy-breezy, if somewhat cramped by what seems like an ad hoc service island at the center of the bustling back dining room. Tables are the expected no-gossip distance apart, and there’s a peaceful, L-shaped bar daintily draped in a bit of greenery up front. A glimpse of the kitchen is in-between. 

Cocktails are a brief affair with some even briefer flavors. The umi martini ($17, also with vodka and theoretically plum-amplifying umeshu), does not quite assert its titular fruit, while other cocktails are indistinguishable or pronounce little more than sweetness. 

An otherwise wonderful hamachi collar’s ($18) smoked cherry tare’s a bit too sweet, too, the treacly glaze cloaking the marvelously tender yellowtail beneath, each strategic flick of the fork rewarding the modicum of effort with a satisfyingly procured morsel until the bone is approaching bare, ribbons of sauce pushed aside. It’s an easy enough fix, and the coating doesn’t penetrate the fantastically executed cut itself, but the cloak is a one-note opposition to its superior vehicle. 

Another app, the crispy cauliflower ($16), needs no improvement, nearly as brittle as the surface of a crème brûlée on the outside and yielding underneath, arranged on a mild, pleasant lime curry crema. 

Lingo’s bird soars even higher. The spicy fried chicken ($26) is, more precisely, a whole Cornish hen, finished with a lovely golden exterior that produces a gratifying crunch when you cut deeper into its juicy flesh. It’s a terrific little clucker, its stated spice admirably hot enough to justify its title. Subject to inexpert DIY-butchery, it does tend to slide around the plate a bit beside a lightly charred lime, unfairly making the poultry appear a tad paltry, but zoomed in it’s an impressive plate. 

The beef pie ($41) stuns at any range. It arrives with both a sprig of smoking rosemary and the circular bone from which marrow mingled into the dish planted in its oblong, flaky golden crown. It’s another beauty, sure, this one impressing to its seams, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts: its rich interior surpasses even its carriage with its Hokkaido-style curry’s substantial braised beef and supporting carrots, English peas and leeks. 


The Vibe: Bright and beachy-breezy, if cramped in some square feet. 

The Food: Self-billed “Japanese-inspired new American” menus with impressive plates like the clucking good fried chicken and the beef pie with bone marrow and a sprig of smoking rosemary. 

The Drinks: Beer and wine, plus promising cocktails with room for improvement.  

Lingo is located at 27 Greenpoint Avenue. It is open Wednesday-Thursday from 5pm-10pm, Friday-Saturday from 5pm-10:30pm and Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Gowanus

New to Brooklyn since last month, Café Mars is self-billed as “an unusual Italian restaurant.” It should become the norm. 

The Gowanus spot, which began simmering into existence on the Resident rotating chef circuit last summer, is the neighborhood destination to beat—near or far—replete with housewarming party hospitality, style, an excellent menu and more perspective than I’ve seen anywhere else this year. Café Mars is just tremendously itself. 

Arrive a few minutes before your reservation and you might wait in the picture window seat with your back to Third Avenue, then be invited to order a drink; a clever gesture that everybody wins. Ahead, the bar is to the right and a row of booths is to the left, all a little retro-future spaceship-adjacent. A smaller room is farther back, brick-lined with a bouncy, cerulean, wall-to-wall banquette and a partial view of the even smaller backyard expected to open this summer. There’s room for 55 throughout. 

My perpetual date and I were sat in that middle section on a recent evening, fast enough for the radioactive blue-hued Sonic Rickey  ($15) that I’d ordered up front from the cocktail menu’s “new tails” section to meet us at the table. The vodka, gin and lime cordial means business listing “blue razz” as its first ingredient, and, though its freeze pop-reminiscent sweetness isn’t to my taste, its assertiveness is delightful. More standard sips like martinis and smartly listed wines recalibrate back to an elder palate. 

The jell-olives ($11) are boozy, too: four Castelvetranos suspended in orange Negroni cubes. The textures and bittersweet notes are jubilantly paired. I’ll order the novel snack again for newcomers as a shorthand introduction to the place, though I’ll probably abstain from my own bite, as the dish pronounces itself the first time without beckoning return. But enough of the nompliments. 

Café Mars’ housemade pastas are out of this world. The baked potato gnocchi’s ($26) flavors are giddily just what they sound like, the sum of baked spuds plated in a butter sauce with roasted garlic sour cream, charred broccoli, pickled pepperoncini, bacon bits, chives and mozzarella. Co-chef Paul D'Avino mentioned Wendy’s erstwhile form as a reference point in response to a fact-checking email—a citation as apt as it is nostalgic. 

The “waves,” ($27) hearty, Slinky-like ridged curls, are perfectly firmly soft, served with plump, sea-fresh shrimp, slivers of asparagus and bright, thin Calabrian chile slices. None of Café Mars' four noodle plates are large, but this one is closest to an entrée. 

A pork rib Parm ($36), however, appropriately listed among the menu’s “big” options, is as richly decadent as it is substantial. St. Louis-cut swine is cold-smoked, steamed and roasted, bread crumb-coated, fried to order, blanketed in red sauce and mozzarella, broiled and presented pierced with an upright steak knife alongside a tangle of cold spaghetti salad that all together evokes particularly delicious, and wonderfully unusual, picnics in the park. 


The Vibe: Housewarming party in a stylish, retro-future space. 

The Food: Unique snacks like Castelvetrano jell-olives, terrific, if petite, pastas, and bigger knockout swings like the smoked pork rib parm. 

The Drinks: In an uncommon act of generosity, seated guests are welcomed with a presentation of fancy glasses soon poured with a complimentary drink, which might be prosecco or a zero-ABV alternative. Wine, beer, cocktails and sake are also available for purchase.

Cafe Mars is located at 272 Third Avenue in Brooklyn. It is open Wednesday-Thursday from 5:30pm to 9pm, Friday-Saturday from 5:30pm to 10pm and Sunday from 3pm to 6:30pm. 


  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown East

The $29 hot dog at Mischa is fine. It sure is big, for one, and it’s accompanied by a ramekin of chili as comforting as canned, plus five condiments (mustard, relish, kimchi, something approximating chili crisp and alleged pimento cheese that skews closer to aioli) that never quite venture too far from tasting like store-bought, but complete the appearance of abundance, nonetheless. 

It’s also evocative of little other than orchestrated internet virality, recalling social media strategy, rather than, say, warm afternoons at the ballpark, backyard cookouts, or, more likely in NYC, grilling in the park. If you were to buy one in many of those green spaces, instead, it should cost $4 for about an ounce-and-a-half of meat on a squishy bun, according to 2022’s approved pushcart vendor prices. 

Mischa’s fancier frank is stunt-sized at several times that weight in beef and pork, and served in a soft but substantial potato bun. The smiling wiener’s casing has a good snap and its juicy interior is tastier and better textured—a bit more dense—than any of those everyday options, if ultimately still expected. 

If you or someone you know wants a $29 hot dog, to cradle it for a photo, to create a clever hashtag, or use whatever’s already been invented for maximum impact, this is the place to acquire one. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you can’t put a price on novelty. It’s this restaurant’s potentially hidden costs that end up vexing. 

I knew I’d made a mistake almost as the words escaped my lips. “Yes, thank you.” 

“Shoot,” I said to my friend, the two of us just barely settling into plush seats at chef Alex Stupak’s post-Empellón venture, which opened adjacent to a midtown food hall in April. “I think I accidentally just bought us an $8 bottle of water.” 

The setting being luxe-light, the menu being generally spendy, and the question being whether we wanted “still water,” I’d made an obvious blunder. “Sparkling or still” typically indicates payment in environs such as this, and I’d momentarily, somehow, forgotten my old “tap is fine” refrain. The fault was mine, and one that would actually cost $10 for a bottle of swiftly delivered Saratoga. To start.  

Having dodged one unsolicited recommendation that landed more like a store credit card offer (for the $19 black hummus), our intentionally ordered Mischa martini ($24) and horseradish margarita with mezcal, cucumber and smoked salt ($20) came quickly, too. 

Both are also fine, though the titular martini’s addition of carrot sticks to vodka isn’t particularly revelatory. Their arrival seemed to abet another weird add-on. 

It is very clear when a plate is inadvertently served. You’ll say something like “I don’t think that’s for us,” and it’ll be rerouted to the right table. Occasionally, it’ll turn out to be yours, indeed, sent out on the house, because the kitchen made extra, or you weren’t a jerk at the host stand, or you’ve been mistaken for an influencer. But I can’t remember ever having experienced any kind of gray area where I’m ostensibly given something that ultimately appears on the tab. 

“Did you know that I hate olives,” I said to my friend, both of us eyeing the handful of sesame-coated, savory fruits authoritatively delivered with the drinks, absent a glimmer of hesitation or pause for protestation. I’d have bet 10 times their eventual price that they were an amuse-bouche, or a slightly more divisive alternative to complimentary bread, or accompaniment to justify the carrot cocktail’s $24 price tag. There simply would have been no way to mistake, in good faith or bad, that we had asked for these olives, or that they were meant for us. That bet would have cost me $110. 

Listed among the sides, the long tots ($15) are another item that seems to aim the spotlight inward. The gimmicky tubes look like the product of a Play-Doh factory, but taste pleasantly surprisingly more like a reinterpreted knish than the assumed taters. The duck and foie gras mortadella appetizer ($24) fares worse, lacking obvious notes of either ingredient, and bland under a toss of crushed pistachios that do little to enliven the dull consistency. 

What’s listed as apple vareniky ($29) among three pasta options sounds promising. At about nine pieces, I’ve seen paltrier presentations, but, after a few bites, we had more than enough, anyway. Though the dumplings’ dough is mostly inoffensive, its purported salt pork is virtually undetectable and its fruit filling is reminiscent of sack school lunches. 

Many of Mischa’s preparations are, to be fair, technically adeptly executed. But reaching to remark on the scallops' proper doneness and nice caramelization, for example—qualities that should be given—isn’t enough to justify the main’s $48 outlay, even with its pairing of similarly finished shrimp on a bed of rice “grits.” 

To add farce to mild frustration, somewhere around our entrées, which also included a bright spot of a faultless, adobo-seasoned, lovely fried chicken with sofrito gravy ($36) another bottle of, this time, unmistakably unasked for Saratoga was uncapped and poured with head-spinning speed, even as our glasses were still half full. 

In several years of professional eating, I’ve only made this bottled water gaffe one other time; in 2021 at a fine dining destination with that unsettling undercurrent of "if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” It wasn’t any more acceptable there than it is here, but that previous place had enough redeeming factors to recommend it, even with that one caveat. Mischa’s more of a stretch. 

As always, likes and clicks move on quickly; their perceived value sometimes fading as swiftly as it started. But, again, if you’ve got somebody in your life who’s a little late to trends, or who’d just get a kick out of an oversized hot dog, by all means, this is the place to book. Just skip most of the rest, and hydrate first.   


The Vibe: Comfortably appointed and luxury-adjacent without veering into fine dining; suitable for corporate expense account dinners. 

The Food: The semi-famous $29 hot dog that launched tens of headlines, good fried chicken, and the avoidable rest. 

The Drinks: Serviceable cocktails, wine and beer. Non-buyer beware, un-asked for bottles of water might be served and added to your tab in confusing fashion. 

Mischa is located at 157 East 53rd Street. It is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11am-3pm and dinner Monday-Saturday from 5pm-10pm; Sunday 9pm. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants

In New York City, there is a county known as Kings. Also called Brooklyn, it is arranged into sundry smaller sections with famed names like Williamsburg, Park Slope and Greenpoint. Although these areas make up but a fraction of the borough’s total expanse, they are dominant on screens large and small, all over the world. 

Dumbo is among them, sort of. Many visitors may know it from internet search terms like “NYC’s best Instagram spots,” or various hashtags. (As a macabre aside, Green-Wood Cemetery also pops up in similar web quests, and I humbly ask that future readers be respectful when taking their holograms there one day, when I’m cold underground. J/K, that ghastly micro neigh-boo-rhood is too expensive for me, evennn in lifeee *ghost sounds*). 

A charming acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, which a bit of it is, Dumbo is beautiful. Parts have sensational waterfront, Manhattan skyline and cobblestone street snapshots. The one to beat them all, or at least the one that’ll keep you apace with your pals visiting from Manhattan or Monaco, is at the intersection of Washington and Water Streets, where that titular structure, the Empire State Building, and you gorgeously align for one perfect image. And darned if some genius didn’t go ahead and build a pretty good bar right there, called Gair. 

Gair is a big, bright, box of a spot on the corner. Just out of frame, it’s a shining solution to that common after-tourist-attraction quagmire: what’s the closest possible place to post those pics with a few refreshments? It’s the photo-op spot’s answer to the Starbucks at the Louvre; to the cocktails on the Empire State Building’s observation deck

Up half a staircase, Gair has high ceilings and tall windows, two walls of which look over all the memory-making action on the street outside. On a recent visit, however, pre the formal post-work hour, I was stopped at the host stand then sat, back to the view, at the handsome, substantially sized, and mostly empty marble-topped bar. This is not the standard practice to sit at a bar, where one typically just . . . sits. There’s plenty of room to cross your legs beneath, at least, and the space is attractive, with a recessed ceiling that creates a cozy feeling even amid the relative sprawl, further populated by tables and chairs and appointed in mostly pale shades.  

Dubbed as either a “new neighborhood bar” or, more precisely, a cocktail one, in press materials, Gair does have the latter, but qualities often found at the former can only be imbued by locals over time. A few new openings managed to capture that inimitable proclivity right away—Velma, Etrusca and Gus’s Chop House are recent examples—but it’s an infrequent achievement. “Neighborhood” isn’t a hospitality category, like, say, speakeasy, pub or seafood shack, but an earned designation like dive

At the moment, and since its February opening, Gair still serves a fine purpose as a convenient and actually decent option in a highly-trafficked area that makes a nice showing of what NYC can offer. 

Some of the cocktails (all $19) have punny names. The “Under the Influencer” is not unpleasant, and seems more like something you’d sip hotel poolside than near the banks of the East River. It’s viscous like a cold-pressed juice, made with passionfruit, celery, lager, mezcal whose smokiness redeems the whole combination, and lovely cayenne pepper applied generously enough to actually pop and dive the drink a little more dimension. It’s kind of fruity without any radioactive colors or artificial sweetener, served in a tall glass without a straw. 

“The Old Man and the Sea” is more dynamic, telling a short story as its flavors gently roll in like the tide. Straight in a rocks glass, it mixes ​​Japanese whisky, soy and what’s detailed only as umami on the menu and turns out to be derived from fish oil bitters. It’s garnished with a curl of nori, and its deep perfume of the sea blooms first like a mist of ocean air, followed by a lightly arriving sweetness and smooth saline. Its finish is more complex and satisfying than many drinks with far more ingredients or steps. 

Low and no-ABV options are also available for $2 and $5 less. Beer starts at $6 for a can of North Fork Brewing Company’s Hold Me Closer Tiny Lager, wine pours open at $14, and the most expensive bottle is a $120 Champagne. The food menu is snack-centric, with charcuterie ($18), burrata ($24) and a solid house-made chicken liver mousse ($22). A cheeseburger ($24) is among a few larger plates. 


The Vibe: Open, airy and sightseer-friendly, if a bit rigid at odd times with assigned bar seating. 

The Drinks: Cocktails like the dynamic Old Man and the Sea with notes of the ocean, plus low and no-ABV options, wine and beer. 

The Food: Snacks like charcuterie and chicken liver mousse, plus a couple of larger plates including a cheeseburger. 

Gair is located at 41 Washington Street. It is open Tuesday-Wednesday from 4pm-12am, Thursday from 4pm-2am, Friday-Saturday from 2pm-2am and Sunday from 2pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • East Village

Downtown bistro Virginia’s had a respectable run from 2015 until owner Reed Adelson (previously of the Mark by Jean-Georges and Locanda Verde) chose to close at the conclusion of the cozy spot’s lease in 2021. Brick-lined and slightly rustic, its reprise less than a mile away opened with similar design in a larger space by the same name (dubbed for Adelson’s mom) this past March. 

The new address on Third Street was made-over outside and in after previous occupant Root & Bone vacated last year. As Virginia’s, redux, the facade is lipstick-red with pops of the same shade around the small bar near the entrance and the dining room to the left. The interior seats 60 at tables and schoolhouse-style chairs, with room for another 35 on the sidewalk. 

Former Fat Choy owner chef Justin Lee’s menu is made of mostly smaller plates with enough variety to appeal to groups, if sometimes better portioned for two. Hamachi crudo ($18) arrives four triangles to an order, though they’re sliced a bit thicker than many paper-thin preparations elsewhere. They taste as fresh as the sea, each topped with a j​​alapeño-sliver that adds a glancing crunch, if not heat, all bathed in a bright, citrusy gloss wanting for a few slices of bread, which one could order with olives for another $9. The clams casino ($18) is more easily divvied, with six hot half-shells, lightly herbaceous and bacon-forward with and a crumbly-crisp panko crust. 

The mains comprise a decent variety in spite of their truncated real estate—more-or-less four unless you stretch to include the serviceable Little Gem salad ($16.)  A heartier vegetarian option, risotto ($26) with Parmesan and confit tomatoes is adeptly textured, plenty creamy and comforting for cooler spring evenings, though its stated wild mushrooms seem like your average grocery aisle variety. 

Steak frites ($40) are on the opposite end of the spectrum, presented as a snapshot from any charming boîte, with welcome, textbook execution. Fantastic, thin and golden fries are piled beside a handful of frisée and a 10-oz New York strip capped with a melting medallion of butter. The house-recommended medium rare is convincingly achieved and this dish, paired with a great martini ($19) or pleasant pinot noir pour ($19) make the most convincing case for Virginia’s 2.0 as a lovely (re)addition to the area. 


The Vibe: Relaxed and neighborhoody. 

The Food: Bistro and steakhouse-influenced with shareable apps like clams casino and nice steak frites. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Virginia’s is located at 200 East Third Street. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm-10pm, Friday from 5pm-11pm, Saturday from 11am-3pm and 5pm-11pm and Sunday from 11am-4pm. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • West Village

About a month after opening, Justine’s on Hudson is the uncommon great new restaurant where you can actually get a reservation, with one irksome quirk. Book the West Village wine bistro, and you could land at the smattering of tables in its small, buffed-to-lovely dining room, or at the even tighter bar. They don’t distinguish online the way many places have begun in recent years, delineating patio, indoor or counter arrangements. 

There are plenty of locations and situations where I prefer to sit at the bar. My most regular brunch spot. Almost any hotel. And a solo steak and martini at something supposedly reclaimed sounds rather nice at the moment. But when I’ve planned in advance, especially for work, I expect, more or less, to be seated in a chair. Among the litany of reasons you can’t just stick somebody on a stool, the most superficial is that they’re there under an assumed name for review purposes and need to meet certain conditions. But nobody should have to explain that to fulfill this otherwise very reasonable expectation. 

On a recent visit, it only took a few minutes to get rearranged on the velvety banquette that runs along one wall. Cool shades of slate, silver, beige and lacquered black surround. It’s all a little canonical Sex and the City, or at least an alternate reality version of the seminal show that didn’t give a whole generation and-a-half the wrong idea about both NYC (and journalism). It comes by its polish casually and seems orchestrated to make evenings feel easy, once you’re settled. 

Waiting wine glasses are thin and light and feel expensive, inviting pointed, manicured fingernail pings. Soon, they’re filled with perhaps the most studied selections in town: the eponymous owner, Justine Rosenthal, tapped her dad, industry-famous wine merchant Neal, to curate the bottles and pours. Nine of the latter are presently available, including the wonderful 2012 Lucien Crochet Sancerre rouge cuvée prestige, ($35/4 ounces) a harder-to-find red, decanted from a magnum with relaxed pomp.  

Chef Jeanne Jordan—previously chef de cuisine at the now-closed Mas (Farmhouse) nearby—aims to express French and Filipino influences on a menu that covers a decent amount of ground in relatively few lines. There’s some everyday drama here, too, after the delivery of that increasing anomaly, complimentary bread—a solid sourdough, in this case. 

The smoked crab and whitefish salad ($30) arrives under a whole, plate-obscuring coconut rice cracker, light and airy but able to carry the mild mix beneath. Unveiled, the minced seafood is bright with a garland of dainty yellow arugula flowers that add a bit of zip familiar from the greens from whence they came. It isn’t cheap, and nothing here is, but it’s fairly portioned, an eyeball measure that might match what often fills a split, buttered hotdog bun. 

Beef tartare ($28) is partly covered, too, peaking beneath another whole house-made cracker. Zabuton (the fatty chuck cut sometimes seen as Denver) steak trimmings are fresh, bright and as satisfyingly choppy as hoped for. A little lower and wider than a hockey puck, it’s showered with a cleverly texture-juxtaposing, finely crushed peanut pistou. These two starters together are an excellent introduction to the kitchen and a fun little choose-your-own surf and turf. 

Mains also span land and sea, risotto with spring vegetables and fish like fluke or wild striped bass among them. Lamb ($56), a trio from the rack, demonstrates control and confidence behind the burner, each piece slow-roasted to rose, tender and juicy toward its center, if a little chewier at the edges. Its best bites are nearly buttery and lightly grassy, with a dark, viscous bay leaf sauce that brings more depth to the dish. 

Justine’s on Hudson’s American Wagyu hanger steak ($48) the best of any kind I’ve had at a new restaurant this year. It’s marinated in wasabi and red wine, prepared to a marvelous medium rare down to a fraction of the degree, and finished with a kiss of char. Sliced before plating, it’s topped with a peppy sikil pak, the sauce’s pepitas verdant and vibrant with epazote’s herbaceous, acidic kick. It’s plated with one of the best items of the night, a tidy bouquet of garlicky mustard greens. It’s just the kind of thing I’d return for, maybe even alone some early summer night, swapping my typical martini for one of those brilliantly selected reds—if they eventually stop sweeping reservations to the bar. 


The Vibe: Casually polished, lush and highly hospitable. 

The Food: One of the best new steaks in NYC among French and Filipino-influenced chicken, fish, lamb and vegetarian mains, plus great steak tartare and crab and whitefish salad to start. 

The Drinks: Studiously-curated wine by the bottle or $13-$35 glass, with most hovering around $20. 

Justine’s on Hudson is located at 518 Hudson Street. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm-10:30pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

Salt’s Cure first opened as a small, farm-to-table restaurant with a focus on whole animal butchery and local ingredients in West Hollywood in 2010. So, basically, the 2010 bingo card. The critical-and-consumer hit relocated to Hollywood in 2015. I visited that larger space a short while later, and I have fond, if unspecific memories of the experience. I believe I had pork, and I believe that it was very good, but I have no notes, photos or published work to support these reaching assumptions. I do not cover Los Angeles. 

Salt’s Cure returned to WeHo with the Breakfast prefix in 2017. On another trip of mine, it was a “you-have-to-go” place among everyone I knew (remember when it seemed like everybody was moving to L.A.?), but I didn’t make it. But by the time Breakfast by Salt’s Cure came to Manhattan’s West Village in 2021 it was already overly known for its griddle cakes.

Sometimes things simply don’t travel even between NYC neighborhoods. An outpost of a mini-chain you love on one side of town can seem completely inadequate on the other. The type of pipes that carry tap water can make a difference. Heat sources. Likewise, sometimes it seems, quirks of the earth below. I now regret not trying Breakfast by Salt’s Cure’s griddle cakes on any previous jaunt to California, because it is unfathomable that they could be as delicious as they are at its new Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn address, anywhere else in the world. As great as they are here, they must have been transcendent to have landed this far, and with such enduring acclaim. I’m not sure I would have been ready for that kind of enlightenment. 

Breakfast by Salt’s Cure opened its first Brooklyn restaurant on one of those improbably telegenic Brownstone Brooklyn corners this past winter. It’s across from sweet little Carroll Park on Court Street. On a recent Saturday morning, the line wasn’t quite out the door for the counter-ordering, table service schema, but it was close. 

Weekdays are easier, but still populated in the way that makes you wonder what everybody there’s job is and how you get it. Big windows let a lot of light into the minimalist room that feels a little like a plant store waiting for its leafy delivery with a few animal print textiles strewn about with Goop-y restraint. The register is near the entrance, a long line of bench seats with tables and chairs is to the right, and an open kitchen emitting a symphony of sizzles takes up about half the length on the left. Morning bedroom music is the even more deliberate score. 

The menu is brief and complete. Those griddle cakes are available in five types: a few fruits, chocolate, and the incredible “OG” ($10). Start there. The plate-cloaking oatmeal cakes are thin but substantial like a light but wind-fighting fleece on a crisp autumn day. The OG has a subtly assertive maple note and moist finish that proves BbSC’s repeated claims that they require no syrup, aided by its cinnamon molasses butter that arrives in near-spheres and melts to paint like Pollock across their textured surface toward lacy edges. It’s all you need and enough to drive you to distraction from the other fantastic items. 

Eggs are made in three stated ways ($5), and the soft scrambled is what waking up is for. They’re as dynamic as tumbling fog under a street light with another sensation seemingly impossible to stop returning to. Separately, this pork I won’t forget, both with the benefit, this time, of notes and photos I didn’t have before. Picnic ham ($9) with coriander and a brown butter glaze is like a mini-chop: hearty, barely sweet, properly porcine and a portion like nothing else in the a.m. neighborhood.

Hashbrowns, on the other hand, recall the very best of extended South Brooklyn. Shredded potatoes are knit tight and formed into a beautiful square like they used to do at one of my all-time favorite brunch spots, Fort Defiance, which recently started doing it again at its own new address. This particular plate does not appear to be on the menu at Breakfast by Salt’s Cure, West Hollywood, so, in addition to its wonderful preparation, it gives New Yorkers, particularly those peculiar Brooklyn varieties, something even more valuable; the ability to say that it’s at least one thing that you can only get here. (I won’t tell anybody that it’s available at the Santa Monica outpost if you won’t.) 


The Vibe: Order at the counter for table service in a bright, airy, very breakfast-y space. Fine for lingering on weekday mornings. 

The Food: Incredible, can’t-miss griddle cakes, wonderful eggs, perfect hash browns and fantastic ham. Very good, well-traveling breakfast sandwiches are also available. 

The Drinks: Coffee, tea, juice, and cold brew by the can. 

Breakfast by Salt’s Cure, Brooklyn is located at 368 Court Street. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 8am-2pm. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Prospect Heights

If Petite Patate, the new restaurant from chef Greg Baxtrom, feels like it’s been there for long enough to get comfortable, that’s because it sort of has. Baxtrom followed his 2016 solo premiere Olmstead, still one NYC’s best, with Maison Yaki at this address in 2019. Back then, practically everything new was on skewers, and the piercings here shined brightest. Maison Yaki was quick to earn public and critical praise, including a place on my list of that year’s top spots.

Then came 2020. Maison Yaki endured the same pause and subsequent sputters as everywhere else before ultimately flipping into Petite Patate this past February. Baxtrom opened Patty Ann’s and Five Acres in between. On a range from not-great Patty Ann’s to wonderful Olmstead, French bistro-inspired Petite Patate is in the pretty good center. 

The space is more or less the same. Its primary mood and hue is rouge, and the floor tiles’ jagged shapes are kaleidoscopic. The high-tops that used to hug the right-hand wall have been swapped for standard tables, and the space between them and the long, fixed-stool bar is still very narrow. As before, the dining room widens farther back around the open kitchen, and there’s an outdoor space beyond. 

As before, the listed cocktails are on draft, and the vesper, made with vodka, gin and a lightly bittersweet apéritif, is properly cold and satisfying. At $13, it is also below market rate in an economy where lesser cocktails rise above $20. Likewise the slightly more viscous vieux carré (rye, brandy, Bénédictine) at its own appropriate temperature and for a dollar more. À la minute drinks like a gin martini ($17) are exact as well. 

The small plates are mostly appetizers, but there’s also a French onion soup (soup is a course) and duck fat confit potatoes, which could pass as a side, should you order the unaccompanied sea bass. The escargot en croute ($18) is a delight—its crown of snails encircling their high, light and golden pastry, suffused and emerging from their lovely blend of garlic, herbs and parsley. The shell food itself is perfectly prepared to firmly yielding, the sauce is a pleasure and their encasement is nice in places. Where it’s soft and fluffy everything coalesces; where it’s brittle and flaking, it fails to connect. 

A duck liver pâté’s ($14) is also almost there. The spread is silky, rich and deep, seemingly slightly sweetened with a bit of beet, which is also whittled and pointlessly positioned in the blend’s center like a vampire’s sharpened fingernails emerging from the wrong side of the earth’s surface. Pistachios add a crunch that you also get with three pieces of toast teetering on the dish’s edge in a needless threat to fall and would be better portioned as four. 

Most of the seven entrées arrive with frites, and those are terrific, slim and salty and impeccably crisp-to-practically-whipped outside to in. They’re in abundance beside au poivre burgers, gussying up grilled chicken paillard and running over from a cup that comes with mussels à la bouillabaisse ($30). The bivalves are uniformly plump and tender as though quality-inspected by the shell. Their broth steals the show; perky and smooth and saline and best as hot as it’s served so don’t get to chatting. 

Patates also pair with the steak ($38) which, at six slices, looks a little paltry. Pre-cut, it also illustrates a doneness spectrum from almost rare to nearly medium, rather than the requested middle of the two conceptually close, but tangibly disparate finishes. The grilled New York strip’s flavor is pleasant, however, the beef’s natural notes are amplified by an otherwise light touch and mostly neither helped nor harmed by the fancy-sounding porcini & bone marrow glaçage underneath. Since the steak more or less tastes good and its pieces look like they could have come from different heat sources, it might be more successful if they put it on a stick. 


The Vibe: Petite in hues of rouge with friendly, welcoming hospitality and neighborhood proclivities. 

The Food: French bistro-inspired with good escargot en croute, pâté, mussels, and a pretty ok steak. 

The Drinks: Great vespers and vieux carrés on tap, and equally nice live-made cocktails like gin martinis. Beer and wine are also available, but there is only one red by the glass. It’s fine.

Petite Patate is located at 626 Vanderbilt Avenue. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Red Hook

Wonderful red sauce restaurants have splashed the adjoining neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and the Columbia Waterfront district for years. Some great ones have closed (I still miss Red Rose) but new efforts in this cuisine category continue to be served up in this specific part of Brooklyn more many than others.

A short distance away, Red Hook is a little less saturated. There are a high number of great restaurants on and around its main drag, but not a ton of Italian. 

Fort Defiance is one of those great places. It occupied 365 Van Brunt Street for more than a decade before moving a few doors down and operating in a few different forms before fully reopening last summer. Bar Mario followed, opening at Fort Defiance’s original popular address this past January. 

The outline is still recognizable from the corner locale’s previous iteration. The window seats up front are now high tops paired with backless stools upholstered in velvety jewel-toned deep teal. Those line the bar, too, which is a little more open, now absent the former cap of enclosed shelves above the bar that gave the space part of its cabin-like, near-nautical aesthetic. The vintage florals that covered tables are gone, too, and the walls are now a pretty millennial pink with a patina that abstractly recalls mottled clouds and makes the old familiar black-and-white checkered floors pop. The petite dining room is already popular and fills up fast. (Meanwhile, a couple of the outside spots are truly pushing the limit of what’s practically in traffic.) Reservations are not typically formally accepted. 

The menu’s similar to other nearby Italian spots even as the environs—the hues, the flashy mod light fixture toward the back, the neon sign emblazoned with the place’s name—seem to say ‘not-your-grandmom’s this-or-that.’ But, what Bar Mario seems to do quite cannily, is sort-of split the difference to appeal to real red sauce devotees, and diners for whom documentation is as important an appeal, all with warm hospitality. 

The fritto di calamari and shrimp ($18) loosely coats both and fries them to their proper texture—adding a few halved brussels sprouts to the mostly squid mix. Paradoxically arriving at lightening speed, it seems a little fresher than some competitors, if a little skimpy on the crustacean at two to an order. 

Portion sizes overall walk an appropriate line; neither teeming in seeming family-style-for-one fashion like at some NYC classics, nor teeny-tiny at some other notable newcomers. The entrée plating is ultimately satisfying with a few bites extra to share. 

An app or an add-on, polpettine al sugo con polenta ($16) comes with three “Mario’s secret meatballs” on a bed of silken grains. Part of the secret is the addition of green peas to the oven-baked, half beef, half pork blend, which arrives tender and moist to the center under a pleasant and understated marinara.

Spaghetti loaded with onions, garlic, capers and anchovies among its litany of ingredients, house-made gnocchi and pici (think of a plumper spaghetti) cacio e pepe, are among the pastas populating tables, mostly hovering around $20. The rigatoni alla fiesolana ($19) is detailed as a dry variety, which signals homemade qualities that add up to a comforting finish. The tubes are prepared to an ideal almost-firmness in a near-creamy sauce just shy of rouge, and kissed with smoked bacon and Parmigiano, cozy in a bowl that feels both simple and like it was dished just for you. 

There are enough specials that you have to really pay attention, including a recent duck pappardelle ($28). The waterfowl is curiously mild to the point of being a little hard to identify as anything other than “pretty good protein” in a vacuum, but the accompanying ribbons of wide, yielding noodles are top-notch, even in this sea of South Brooklyn options. 

Restaurant desserts puzzlingly disappoint more than often than not, hurtling to the point of why bother, but Bar Mario’s tiramisu could be it’s own whole thing like nearby Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. Heaps of light, airy mascarpone cheese beautifully diffuse its more intense notes of coffee and liqueur. As desserts are the most common items items to share, prepare to get in there quick or order a double. 


The Vibe: Cool as grandmom’s parlor, were she an influencer, and twice as warmly welcoming. 

The Food: Red sauce-inclined with very good meatballs, comforting rigatoni alla fiesolana and great tiramisu. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine, beer and zero-ABV. 

Bar Mario is located at 365 Van Brunt Street. It is open Wednesday-Friday from 5pm-11pm, Saturday from 2pm-12am and Sunday 2pm-11pm. The kitchen closes at 10:30pm Saturdays, 9:30pm Sundays.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

When Laser Wolf opened on the 10th floor of Williamsburg’s Hoxton hotel last May, it set off a chain reaction of accolades that virtually filled its reservation slots clear across the calendar. Almost 12 months later, availability is still stuffed nearly to the margins. You can now dine on a Saturday night more than two weeks from press time, for example, but not before 11:15pm. 

Having once waited more than two hours as a drop-in, to be seated at the bar, facing away from the notable view, for agreeably-fired skewers and a wonderfully abundant assortment of salatim, I still couldn’t, in good conscience, advise that anyone else follow that particular tack, then or today. That edition of chef Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia original of the same name, however, still made it to my list of NYC’s best new restaurants of 2022, which says as much about its broad appeal in the dining room proper, booked at a rather early or quite late hour, still with sensational, unlimited babaganoush, gigantes, hummus and warm, ideal pita, as it does about last year’s contenders.  

K’Far, another Philly follow, debuted in the hotel’s sunken lobby level last November with a considerably lower hum ever since. And, although it is even better than its lovely and oft-praised upstairs related neighbor, you can actually get a table, more or less whenever. Mild situational Twilight Zone vibes aside, this apparent disturbance in the balance of public and media fondness for a destination relative to its objective goodness in such clear display is ultimately the restaurant-goer’s gain. A great place you can simply visit? For spring? Groundbreaking! 

The large Israeli restaurant shares some style notes with its PA predecessor. It’s warmly appointed, with soft, soothing hues and polished, beach house themes. There are three dining areas: the sleek, lofty, tri-sided chef’s counter to the left behind the host desk, what feels like the main dining room to the right, and the verdant adjacent atrium that’s full of foliage and natural light diffused through its glass panels. 

This is New York City’s best new hotel restaurant in the last several years, and it wins a high spot among the few true finest in the category overall. It would be as good anywhere, untethered from any naturally traveler-oriented conceit, but, aside from the notable friendliness of everyone I’ve encountered here, it escapes any tourist trappings. It also keeps the long hours expected of its genre, opening at 8am with borekas, Jerusalem bagel sandwiches and eggs for breakfast, and adapting to the mealtime of day until 11:30 on peak nights. 

The dinner menu starts small but shareable. Eight two-bite pieces of baklava ($18) are jubilantly springy and savory with flavorful, prudently salty haloumi, adorned with a vibrant shower of crushed pistachios. It’s a perfect snacking, drinking and chatting app. The same section’s roasted fennel Caesar ($16) is also quick to disappear. Its titular ingredient’s layers are subdued to mild, lightly blanketed in dressing and amplified by bolts of pecorino and the greatest salad crunch-enhancing accouterment in recent memory, described in understated fashion only as “pita crumbs,” of which I could not get enough.  

Even bigger in a landscape of increasingly miniaturized items at other operations, the Palestinian lamb tartare ($19) covers a swath of its plate in mauve, punctuated by perky shipka peppers and served with leafy green vehicles. It's a fantastic preparation for the meat’s fresh, subtly earthy notes.

A dorade entrée ($45) is not only the most excellent I’ve had of its kind, but one of the nicest fish of any variety I’ve had anywhere: on expensive tasting menus, at august seafood institutions, and considerably closer to the saltwater of the Mediterranean. It’s served tail-on and deboned for a practical whole fish presentation without any pesky poking around. Its simple seasoning and flame kiss allows the rich, tender white meat inside to shine. Its bed of creamy spring pea tzatziki with shabazi is peak form, and would be worth ordering on its own, were it a standalone dip.  

Ask what’s can’t-miss and you’ll get plenty of fair answers, but the chicken schnitzel ($30) is an automatic signature dish. The expertly butchered, juicy bird’s crunch comes from kataifi that gives the pounded fowl a light, crisp coat that seems poised to float into the air. It’s accompanied by a portion of tehina with a dollop of bright schug with a bit of heat I’d also like to pair with almost everything here and everywhere, including the delicious coconut ice cream that comes with a passable chocolate kanafi ($12) for dessert, as dynamically additive as this sauce is.  

Five months in, K’Far is the increasingly atypical terrific new restaurant that you can reliably book without any reservation platform gymnastics, and one that will give the lucky out-of-towners filling the stories in the hotel above the idea that dining this well in NYC can sometimes, somehow, seem easy. 


The Vibe: Sprawling, airy and lofty but still intimate and welcoming across its three spaces, including the verdant atrium. 

The food: An Israeli all-day cafe, bar and restaurant, K’Far serves standout savory baklava, excellent lamb tartare, wonderfully light chicken schnitzel and a dorade that’s among the best fish our critic has ever had. 

The Drinks: Wine, beer and refreshing cocktails like the celery gin and tonic and Yalla Yalla, with vodka, elderflower, cucumber and soda.

K’Far is located at 97 Wythe Avenue. It is open 8am-10:30pm Sunday-Wednesday and 8am-11:30pm Thursday-Saturday.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • East Village

Not everything at Foul Witch is small. The dining room is long. The ceilings are high. The bathroom is spacious. The wine pour is fine, which has, in recent months of apparent ounce counting, become generous. But some of its smart, appealing preparations are paltry. Not that they’re trying to keep that a secret. 

The new East Village restaurant, which opened in January, follows a couple or several hospitality operations or businesses by some of the same partners, depending on who’s counting what. First was Roberta’s, which launched as a Bushwick juggernaut in 2008. Absent reservations but with the benefit of BYOB and tremendous buzz, the wait for tables wasn’t much faster than the time it took a Netflix DVD to arrive in the mail. 

Then came Blanca, which, after occasional engagements, formally took over 12 counter seats inside Roberta’s with a $180 per person, wide-ranging 20+ course, three-hour tasting menu in 2012. Though Blanca took bookings, Time Out called them “impossible" to get in a four-star review that summer. Back on the opposite end of the spectrum, Roberta’s pies were available in freezer aisles a short while later. 

Blanca went on to earn two Michelin sparklers before it closed in 2020. Today, in addition to its original address, Roberta’s has satellites elsewhere in Brooklyn, plus Manhattan, Montauk, Nashville, Houston, Los Angeles and Singapore. Foul Witch was initially conjured as a Frieze Art Fair pop-up in 2018 at a moment when a lot of this was brewing simultaneously.  

The 2023 edition has a permanent space on Avenue A, and a decent amount in common with all of the above. It’s Italian. There is zero online availability at press time. It is rusticly appointed, though more polished than its progenitor. It seems sort of trendy enough, I guess, but maybe like your erstwhile indie music fave made a tidy sum and started writing cool-parent children’s books. And, although they aren’t as tiny as they’d be at a tasting, some of the plates skew quite petite. 

The polenta ($29) isn’t one of them, for an app, though without explicit categories, the menu’s outline is mostly intuitive. The silken, golden grains are creamy and comforting, gilded with a lusty kiss of barely firmer sea urchin. Together, the textures and slightly-above-room temperature approximate a warm hug, and the urchin lends the, in this case, pretty rich polenta a saline, marine depth. It’s a fun one to play with: a bite of both side by side for distinct sensations; or one or the other, or swirled into harmony. A version previously existed at Blanca. 

Sometimes you get what you pay for, others, you pay what something’s worth to you, and occasionally the two shall entwine. If one night in 2012, service at Blanca rattled through the lower end of its rounds, 20, at $180 per person, each dish would have shaken out to $9 by a willfully simplistic calculation. That would be $12.31 at this moment. Part of the conceit at Foul Witch was to turn a bit of Blanca à la carte, and, like buying a bottle of perfume, the true price does rise as volume decreases. It’s the cost of access across many goods and services, widely and sometimes unconsciously accepted. Here, the dollar signs become a little more pronounced farther down the menu.

Maybe the expense of the excellent, included bread is baked in. A lovely baguette is accompanied by the best, salty and dairy fresh butter I’ve had this year, and an oil-soaked focaccia. They’re wonderful on their own, even as the latter’s a little drippy, and intended to match with cheese and charcuterie like the Fire & Ice $16, which combines both with a cool, mild stracciatella and a lower layer of ‘nduja. The proportions are a tick off, with the cheese cloaking, rather than veiling the lightly spiced meat that’s also a little more piece-y than the evenly spreadable consistency expected. Another starter, it’s still among the more industry-typical serving sizes on offer. 

Things shrink around the pastas. Asked about the veal tortellini ($28), for example, a staffer is swift to number its 10-12 pieces before other details. Even so, it’s a pauser, seeing how easily counted the stuffed pockets are in what most people will fairly assume is a main. And, while that could make a fun debate, it does fall outside of area entrée norms. What’s there is good, though—the calf soft and concentrated with its dainty springtime flavor inside its expertly finished wrapper posed atop a lightly bovine broth. 

A spaccatelli with aged game bird ($29) is less alarming without those individual pieces to tally, but still on the snacking end of the spectrum. Its appropriately springy tubes and tender duck are almost imperceptibly coated in a whisper of an almost sauce seemingly created by its ingredients’ natural cooking process. The sum is showered in pungent, thinly shaved Parmesan, and it all mingles successfully. A couple of larger items like grilled pork ($32) and whole roasted turbot ($145) are also available. 

The drink list splits the difference between those old, BYO days and the beverage programs that came later. Beer and wine are available, sans plans for a full bar. 


The Vibe: Rustic with polish and probably cool enough, for those who care.  

The Food: Italian that follows the pizzas at predecessor Roberta’s and adjacent erstwhile tasting destination Blanca. Excellent included bread, some terrific apps like the polenta with sea urchin and notably small but good pasta options like the veal tortellini. 

The Drinks: Wine, beer, and a few non-alcoholic options. 

Foul Witch is located at 15 Avenue A. It is open Thursday-Monday from 5-10pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Soho

Sometimes in movies, people meet in restaurants or bars that look too crowded but then turn out to have the perfect booth or corner seats. That’s Milady’s, even on recent weekends at standard going-out times. It’s one uncontrollable way to make people feel welcome, and the rest adds up to more orchestrated comfort. 

This also almost never happens, but 160 Prince Street might have even retained a little bit of its erstwhile local favorite namesake’s sparkle. The original Milady’s, which reportedly might have been operating since the 1940s, became so beloved serving Budweiser, Wild Turkey, potato skins and chicken wings that it got the whole New York Times wake reportage treatment when it closed in 2014. By then, it had become one of just a few destinations antithetical to surrounding Soho’s shopping mall sprawl.

“It’s a dive bar,” then-owner Frank Genovese told the paper at the time. “I serve burgers; a beer is 5 bucks. I can no longer sustain that formula. It doesn’t work anymore.” 

The destination characterized as “blue collar” in that same article opened under the earlier name last October with New York City hospitality maestro Julie Reiner (Clover Club, Leyenda) in power. With at least one other business occupying the address in the interim, the interior’s new but the layout’s the same. Enter on the corner, bar’s on the right, tables on the left, though now between chairs and banquettes done in subdued sunflower hues against large windows and pale cornflower-colored walls that fade out of recognition at night when the place is particularly crackling. 

Previously of Park Slope’s Applewood and Reiner’s own Clover Club, Executive chef/partner Sam Sherman’s menu is described as “dive bar inspired” in a press release—phrasing that courts all kinds of discourse and would undoubtedly invite derision were it not all as good as it is.  

Brunch, lunch and evening fare’s all divided into “dive” or “high dive” distinctions. At dinner, jalapeño corn dog poppers ($16) are filed to the former, plated about six two-bite bits to an order, all terrifically rich and juicy inside with a whisper of heat, enrobed in a thin cloak of batter and paired with zippy yellow mustard to dip. The latter’s shrimp cocktail ($27), with its own nice sauce, is as fresh and finely presented as any, if a bit of a reminder especially after the fantastic sausage bites, that these categories are in the eye of the beholder. 

The Milady’s burger ($23; “dive”) is among the best in class. Two beef patties are lightly smashed and prepared to a perfect not-too-doneness for their quick-to-heat dimensions, then joined by lettuce, tomato, onion, ideal American cheese and a creamy party sauce on an easily handled plush bun, and served with golden fries. A crab mac and cheese ($24; “high dive”) is likewise an excellent blueprint for the dish, packed with and wedded to its trio of titular ingredients, with gentle portions of Old Bay and green chiles.

Milady’s is a new classic restaurant and bar rather than a bar with food, but its drinks stand up to dedicated mixology spots. The menu, like at Leyenda, has a glass legend in the margin. A few options are listed in “cheeky” or “full-figured” sizes for $10 or $20. And all are printed with their alcohol by volume. The larger house martini, for example, with gin, rosé vermouth, fino sherry and Amaro Santoni comes in a more or less expected vessel (though less-so than the “Big Apple” variety) at 24.85% ABV. It also, like at Clover Club, comes with a sidecar. And its minor tweaks, crucial cold temperature and sensational finish make it an expert antidote to NYC’s recent martini and novel cocktail malaise. 


The Vibe: Lively, accommodating conceptually cohesive; loud at night. 

The Food: Divided into “dive” and “high dive” categories, selections like former’s jalapeño corn dog poppers and burgers are wonderful. The latter’s shrimp cocktail and crab mac and cheese are quite nice, too.

The Drinks: Great cocktails, plus low and no-ABV drinks, wine and beer. 

Milady’s is located at 160 Prince Street. It is open Monday from 4pm-12am, Tuesday-Thursday from 12pm-12am, Friday & Saturday from 12pm-2am and Sunday from 12pm-12am. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Two Bridges

Racing through downtown around rush hour, via any means, save for maybe, a private zeppelin, is an unwelcome pulse quickener. Do it in service of reaching a hard-won restaurant reservation as the blocks seem to grow longer and the minutes shrink, and cortisol spikes even higher.  

But Casino is calming. Counter to a place with all the makings of a so-called hotspot (blocked bookings, media mentions and the frequent companion of both, PR), the ambiance is chicly easy. Greetings are inviting to the point of delightful distraction from those last heated strides outside. And there is a clear objective to welcome guests into Casino's esteem, with tremendous success. It's is among the most seemingly breezily hospitable hospitality operations in recent or outstanding memory. 

Aisa Shelley, partner in similarly categorized cool bars Primo’s and Mr. Fong’s, opened this self-billed northern Italian restaurant with chef Ken Addington (whose résumé includes Strangeways, Soho Diner and Five Leaves) in December. The bright, mostly white and very airy space up front has a smattering of seats at its petite bar and cafe tables between chairs and long benches, all intended for drop-ins. 

The back seats 70 across roomy rouge booths and a zig-zag of two and four-tops, all lit by slightly Beetlejuice-adjacent light fixtures that make pretty starburst patterns on the walls. The dining room also does cute by its white tablecloths. The recently beleaguered textiles are draped with more casual self-confidence here than most of the forced, confused efforts I’ve seen bumbling genres elsewhere lately. 

The menu’s more of a gamble. The crudo appetizer ($21) is excellent. Its amberjack, bathed in fermented fish sauce with basil, radish and chili, has a nice little heat that still keeps the fish’s freshness and expected buttery elements intact. The ‘nduja bread starter/side ($16) is as pleasant as it is puzzling: perfectly pillowy Parker House rolls sprinkled with what tastes like the best available bacon bits, rather than spicy, spreadable pork sausage. Its accompanying Calabrian chili honey butter, however, packs a pinch of that expected low spark. 

Pappardelle ($28) is listed among a trio of pasta options, this one served with smoked lamb from the kitchen’s cherry wood-burning oven. The meat is exceedingly mild, sapped of its pungency and almost absent its gamier notes, while the noodles skew a fraction softer than ideal. Altogether, it still passes the comfort test, and many will likely find it fine, but it’s a forgettable dish in a city with plenty of competitors. 

An abundant lobster cioppino ($48) is memorable for all the wrong reasons. It is beautiful to behold; bountiful with black bass, clams, crab, mussels, shrimp and its titular ingredient in saffron fennel broth. The liquid vehicle’s a smooth enough ride, but its passengers seem to have been boarded simultaneously, without regard for their disparate desired cooking times. My first bite was what must have been shrimp, though I’m meeting the toughest crustacean I’ve ever pierced more than halfway in making that assessment. Whether it was prepared on the surface of the sun or plunged into its fluid grave too soon is a vexing bet. The lobster fares a bit better, but might do more right coated and served on a roll. 

Dry-aged duck breast ($38) is a decent redeemer. I’ve seldom seen a duck I didn’t order, and Casino’s is a satisfyingly mid-range offering, with an acceptably crisp surface, serviceably rendered fat and mauve, prudently juicy interior. It is also more generously plated than most, and easy to share as a main for two.  

That small bar creates some great cocktails. The Casino cosmopolitan ($18) is a zag from the standard with framboise mixed with its citrus vodka and triple sec for a distinct riff on the perpetually almost-trending tipple. It also makes classic Manhattans ($14) and martinis ($18) to bet on. 


The Vibe: Welcome home to a casually glamorous abode.

The Food: A crapshoot, with wonderful crudo, comforting pappardelle, serviceable dry-aged duck and lobster cioppino to avoid. 

The Drinks: Fantastic cocktails, plus wine and beer. 

Casino is located at 171 East Broadway. It is open daily from 5pm-midnight. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • American
  • West Village

Gab’s, which opened on Carmine Street in January, is doing a lot of things right. Its owner Gabby Madden, previously of Emmett’s on Grove and Lola Taverna, and its chef Nathan Ashton, (Mimi), are doing enough things right, in fact, to make it a good place to be, under the right circumstances. 

It’s pretty. The petite bar and larger adjacent dining room are awash in pops of orange and the proprietor’s own artwork is featured among the decor. The latter’s winding banquette is comfortable, and tables are just far enough apart to not be too close together. A long row of tables is suitable for large groups and the atmosphere’s convivial in any case. Fleetwood Mac fills the air. 

The sourcing is good. A fattoria salame ($24) from California’s Journeyman Meat Company tastes as fresh as any cured meat in imagination, slightly grassy with a little heat. Some of the preparations more specific to this kitchen are nice, too, like the kampachi crudo ($21), whose mild, buttery raw fish joined by a bright citrus and chile de árbol leche de tigre. 

But some of the larger investments are bad. Echoing an awful lot of self-billed new American restaurants, this one more granularly categorising itself as a bistro, seasonality amounts to some degree of menu rotation. A few months in, a halibut’s already been swapped with a striped bass ($36); the ribs with a côtes de porc ($42). The bass is alarmingly fishy for what’s typically such a gentle one, with a chewy finish. 

The pork sounds promising, described not dissimilar from the previous ribs’ recipe: gochujang-marinated, cooked sous vide for 24 hours and charcoal-grilled. Unmentioned: the curious, coarse coating on this edition’s surface. Its gritty, dry crust has a cinnamon challenge-like effect by virtue of its overpowering texture alone. The meat beneath does not emerge a diamond in the rough, either, whether absent its stated flavor to begin with, or leached by its moisture-sapping top coat. 

It’s all exacerbated by certain well-intended details’ neglect. Tables are topped with flowers, for example, and the decay beginning to devour a small bunch of pale roses near me recently carried that inimitable, mournful, dying-botanical aroma so swiftly it was more of a whack than a waft. The otherwise justly boasted-about housemade bread arrives below room temperature as though recently refrigerated. A Manhattan ordered on the rocks arrives up. 

Still, Gab’s real appeal at the moment is as a bar with apps, and some of the drinks give this an edge among the many, many other options nearby. The martinis ($21) are pleasant, prepared pretty much however you’d like and served cold enough in any case. And, in spite of my general position that all the good cocktails already exist, they’re creating some fun apparent novelties here. The Miss Moneypenny ($19) is made with a subtly interesting combination of gin, asparagus-infused vodka and Aocchi Americano that makes a suitable apéritif; wherever you’re having dinner. 


The Vibe: Pretty, lively, and more Instagram than TikTok. 

The Food: Good small plates like the fattoria salame and the kampachi crudo; avoidable mains like the striped bass and côtes de porc. 

The Drinks: Beer, wine and cocktails like the somewhat unexpected Miss Moneypenny with an asparagus infusion. 

Gab’s is located at 76 Carmine Street. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm-12am.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Ridgewood

Finally, a good martini. 

I have been grousing about cocktails in general and martinis specifically since they first started repopulating the trend space well over a year ago. One gripe is that most aren’t cold enough, gaining degrees as they wait to board for the short journey from bar to table. One solution is to simply sit at the former—one of my favorite configurations in any case, but not always realistic or even available. Another is the sidecar. 

Extra’s always special. A taste of brisket before you order by the pound. A big tin of milkshake overflow. And a miniature carafe packed in ice bringing the kingly power to top off one’s own tipple. Some of the best bars in New York City, like Brooklyn’s 15-year-old Clover Club, serve some drinks like this. But it’s lesser-seen at newcomers like Velma, which opened in Queens last month and shares ownership with Gordo’s Cantina. This additional vessel alone, carrying that splash more of gin or vodka and dry vermouth, served with your wish of dirty or a twist, goes a long way to make it my favorite new martini destination. 

Velma is a real neighborhood place with character and style. Up front, a pool table, a few roomy booths and high-back stools at the double-crescent bar top the black and white tiled floor under a painted pressed-tin ceiling. The small dining room in the back has aesthetic red sauce proclivities without feeling theme-y. It’s warm, inviting and familiar, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and a collage of framed family photos covering one wood-paneled wall. 

The menu mirrors that conceit, with a lot of what you’d expect done just as you’d hoped. Apps include fried mozzarella, ($14)  and a pile of crispy outside, mild inside, golden calamari ($18), both served with—what else?!—a bright side of marinara sauce. Another starter, Velma’s caprese stack ($24), renders the standard salad vertical, towering with mozzarella, tomato and prosciutto among its primary ingredients. 

Pasta, mains and pies like cheese, potato, grandma and a couple of specials like the titular variety with jalapeños, shallots, pimento green olives and pepperoni follow similarly successful formulas. The spicy vodka rigatoni—more precisely, snail-shaped lumache in lieu of the stated tubes—is appropriately textured with a zippy little zing to the sauce, and perfectly plated for one with room for a few shared tastes, if not exactly heaping like at the red sauce spots of memory. 

The chicken parm ($27) is also wonderfully comforting, its thigh meat carefully butchered beneath its batter and pleasantly smothered by mozzarella and more marinara. Its only mild imperfection is that the breading can collect too densely in some places, but, in this setting, the effect actually makes it seem even more made with love. Velma's juicy chicken is likewise nice, aptly titled and rolled with prosciutto and mozzarella in a white wine reduction with crimini mushrooms. And a side of sautéed broccolini ($5), a curious miss in many kitchens, turn out great here, with tender stems and dainty florets in a hearty gloss of oil. 

That martini that really sealed the deal for me is joined by other classics like Manhattans and Negronis, plus some sips with more recent buzz like espresso cocktails and sbagliatos, all $16. The food and drink menus work as well separately as they do together. There are plenty of bars with snacks and plenty of restaurants with ostensible seats at the bar, but increasingly few that pull double duty as casually elegantly as Velma. 


The Atmosphere: A real neighborhood place with character and style.

The Food: Pizza, pasta and pleasant red sauce classics. 

The Drinks: A good martini in a city running dry, plus more cocktails, wine and beer.

Velma is located at 584 Seneca Avenue. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from noon-9pm and Friday-Saturday from noon-10pm.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

If you aren’t tired of hearing about Rockefeller Center, there’s a decent chance you might be in the market for reservations at Rockefeller Center. In brief: Its potential as NYC’s next great dining destination has been percolating since about 2019; the bulk of its buzziest new spots opened by the end of last year; and the public and critical reckoning appears largely positive so far. 

Five Acres was among the famed footprint’s most anticipated arrivals for months before it began service on the rink level in December. Its talented proprietor chef Greg Baxtrom has operated a few Brooklyn restaurants with more renown than many places ever get since his 2016 solo premiere, Olmsted. This is Baxtrom’s first Manhattan venture. 

The dining concourse at 30 Rock has a number of entry points, including an elevator down from the sidewalk on the north side of 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues near the ice rink. Underground, Five Acres feels like the center of it all, its theoretical dining room delineated by winding potted plants overhead. Its pretty environment draws the eye up like at other Baxtrom properties; the similar greenery affixed over tables at Olmsted; the shelves of board games stacked up toward the high ceiling at Patti Ann’s; the fancy mushrooms that used to incubate above the bar at Maison Yaki, which has since become Petite Patate

The exposed, 65-seat area is referred to in a press release as an “open air” restaurant, one of the more clever PR euphemisms in recent memory. Although it is easy to get comfortable here, settling into smooth lines of textured, mossy-green banquettes, it is indiscrete. Not quite a fishbowl, but maybe a terrarium—and one that attracts a small but noticeable number of what seem to be fruit flies who are just as at ease in the verdant space. 

Five Acres’ menu is “guided by the seasons,” also according to a press release. Its winter, 2023 items are almost as winning as they are expensive. The smoked oysters Vanderbilt ($28 for six) are good fun and worth the price of admission. Their shells share space with smoked crème fraîche, shiso oil and a stained glass dandelion-hued tosazu gelée, which brilliantly enhances, rather than competes with the slippery bivalves. The lot’s also cloaked in hickory chip smoke and domed before an unveiling at the table. Enough time has passed since so much seemed to be suffused with plumes on trendy menus in NYC that the presentation is just such a delight, rather than dated, and it’s made even more welcome, of course, by the delicious, elegant one-sip combination that each half holds. The starter also encapsulates Baxtrom’s (who held positions at Chicago’s Alinea and NYC’s Per Se before striking out on his own) fine dining proclivities. 

The surf & turf crab cake ($34) is likewise mostly marvelously executed, its peekytoe crab’s gleefully brittle exterior about as shattering as the crown on a crème brûlée. The stated bone marrow in its aioli, however, is imperceptible, and the heart of palm hollow it’s served in, while a cute nod to the real thing, doesn’t add much other than wit. 

A trio of Maine lobster ($58) is also about a third unfulfilling whimsy, which would be fine and good if it didn’t total more than half a hundred dollars. That less-satisfying of its sections, a large, impressively constructed crustacean cracker topping a hearty dollop of aioli made with the sea creature’s eggs and knuckle served inside a cocktail glass, walks an odd line between earned showboating and well-meaning letdown. Its other components are much better, including its comforting and lightly rich pierogies in a satiny sauce and the butter-poached and otherwise terrifically unadorned headliner itself, which seems to make up the bulk of what reps say is about 4.5-oz of shellfish across the dish. Its texture’s fantastic and its simplicity is a breath of fresh air, quietly demonstrating real range. 

Grilled guinea hen ($46) is Five Acres’ most dynamic plate, and its least classically beautiful. It is a brick of meat; breast stuffed with confit leg mousse. The terrine is explosively game-adjacent and its accompanying root vegetable hazelnut financier is an excellent, slightly sweet accompaniment with a wonderfully caramelized bottom that’s a subtly telling detail.


The Vibe: Fairly exposed in what can feel like a set in 30 Rock’s mall-like basement, but pretty enough with quickly found comfort. 

The Food: Seasonally driven, with press time standouts like smoked oysters Vanderbilt, crab cakes and grilled guinea hen. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Five Acres is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, rink level. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 8am-2pm and 5pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • East Village

The East Village’s restaurant saturation is rivaled only by its number of bars, and, now with this fourth neighborhood address, chef Ruben Rodriguez is operating a mini-empire in the area. Kōbo Mediterranean restaurant opened in December with menus influenced by Rodriguez’s formative years learning to cook in his family’s restaurant in Galicia, and later travels. 

The space is relatively large between 30 spots at the bar and 85 decently-distanced seats in the dining room, though sound travels easily under the high ceilings that add to the airy environment. It’s bright, even at night, with expanses of blonde wood across two-tops and more than a few configurations that could easily accommodate around six. It feels very casual. 

We’ve already established that NYC cocktails are having the opposite of a moment, but Kōbo’s are the closest to good I’ve had at a new place in a while. The addition of Moroccan black olive oil-infused vermouth to a martini ($15), gives it a silken sip, pleasantly softer than a standard dirty. It just needs to be colder. An old fashioned is nice with its bit of ginger, but fountain soda machine-like ice in lieu of bigger cubes makes it more like a quick-melting DIY minibar creation than anecdotally-slightly-under-market-value-libation. 

Everything on the dinner menu is intended to share, with three plates recommended per person, but fewer will probably be fine. Kōbo’s stated signature dish is its paella-like fideuà ($34), which swaps rice for thin, short pasta to give a totally different texture to squid ink, proficiently-prepared baby squid and obscured saffron all under a touch too much allioli. 

Housemade pasta is the kitchen’s continued focus, and the pappardelle ($23) is great; its long, flat ribbons swirling through pork cheek ragù. This is not a red sauce restaurant-sized pasta, and it’s an enduring curiosity that “shareable” is often incongruously synonymous with “small,” but some terrific even more petite options make this, and any of the items toward the end of the menu, a more complete meal. 

Kōbo’s Ibérico pork meatballs ($18 for three) are fantastic. They’re moist to the center, cloaked in a zippy sauce, served atop fluffy ricotta that cuts their near-richness, and served with a trio of bright shishitos. The broccolini ($14) is also successfully done, with tender stems and lightly crisp florets with bites as studied as brushstrokes. 


The Vibe: Casual, bright and airy. 

The Food: Mediterranean-influenced mostly small plates with standout Ibérico pork meatballs, pappardelle and broccolini. Kōbo’s signature dish is fideuà. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Kōbo is located at 202 Avenue A. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Financial District

Even just a couple of months after opening, Etrusca already delivers on what a lot of places promise. It is a neighborhood restaurant positioned, lion, witch and wardrobe-like, on the Financial District’s Stone Street, which has its own magical quality as Epcot-does-happy-hour. It has a true charm that cannot be faked—my god; think of the last time you saw someone try! It beckons return even as duty and convenience call me to others. And the “Tuscan mountain fare” menu authored by executive chef Elisa Da Prato, who previously operated an eponymous restaurant in Barga, Italy is fun, exciting and excellently executed. 

In lieu of the scooter stationed outside that old address overseas in a sweet snapshot, Stone Street’s stippled with outdoor dining setups from the surrounding sports bars and taverns in a way that makes it feel like last call at a mortgage company holiday party. Etrusca is a respite. 

Its interior is compact, daintily rustic and ultimately comfortable enough even without a booth or banquette in sight. White tablecloths are draped in unstuffy fashion and topped with candles amid properly low light that, with the hushed tones you’ll affect unless you wish to join conversations with the parties very nearby, create what feels like an effortlessly romantic environment. Wine bottles line shelves high on one sage-painted brick wall, and the bar’s not too far across along the other.  

The cocktail list is cleverly kept to a quartet: A Manhattan, a Negroni, a martini and a French 75, each $18 and performing blessedly as expected. There are also more spirits, and a much longer, wonderful wine list. 

Dinner is a two-page affair that should start with the show-stopping la tartare ($24.) Its hand-cut beef is more generously portioned than most raw meat in recent memory, mixed with house dressing, grazed with the faintest heat via New Mexico chiles, showered with grated cured egg yolk and served with a polenta crisp. It’s tender and bright and, thanks to Da Prato’s proprietary blend, wholly unique to this restaurant and among the highest ranking I’ve ever had. 

La tur ($18) is lovely to start with too, a previous special recently made permanent. A large wedge of the soft, mild, cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese of Italy’s Piemonte region is electrified by onion ash, jet black cocoa, honey, olive oil and Calabrian chiles. Its presentation, taste and texture contrasts are an achievement. 

Five entrée options follow. The lumache al ragù ($32) is shockingly, in this moment, for Manhattan, at what is poised to become a trendy restaurant, abundantly plated. Another circumstantial surprise: its snail-shaped pasta is also boldly cooked to firm and stands up brilliantly to the cloak of sausage-rich red sauce that’s as at home here as it would be in any of that genre’s top spots.  

If I could predict popularity, I’d pin it on the fried quail ($32). Two petite birds are prepared with a mix incorporating ancho and fig leaf. They’re lightly battered and fried to the gentlest, crisp finish that yields like funnel cake and holds a little sweetness. Its juicy interior is another successful juxtaposition, and that the plate shines in particular among other stunners points to signature dish status. 


The Vibe: Casually romantic and comfortable enough across the compact configuration of tables and chairs. (No booths or banquettes.)

The Food: “Tuscan mountain fare” with excellent beef tartare, lumache al ragù and fried quail.

The Drinks: A great short menu of classic cocktails, full bar and terrific, long wine list. 

Etrusca is located at 53 Stone Street. It is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday from 6pm-10pm. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown East

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. The MTA’s weird, limited-run, commemorative sandwich collaboration. All transit catastrophes with notable culinary elements. And all sharing more in common with the new restaurant at Grand Central Terminal, Cornelius, than anyone would guess.  

The City Winery entertainment and hospitality venture started moving operations into Vanderbilt Hall last November with retail wine in refillable bottles among its offerings. Its stated “high-end” effort, named for old-timey railroad tycoon and daddy to both the site’s original hub, Grand Central Depot, and Anderson Cooper’s great-great-grandpop, followed in December. 

Cornelius takes “culinary inspiration from the exquisite tastes of the Gilded Age,” according to its website, with a “modern twist on familiar favorites.” Its menu is also apparently somewhat influenced by plates available to the richest passengers on that big, doomed boat, executive chef Zach Bondy (previously of Portland, Maine’s Black Point Inn and Mopho in New Orleans) seems to indicate in a New York Live segment.  

But the ode to wealth isn’t even upper middle classpirational.

“Fine dining” has become a nebulous distinction in New York. White tablecloths, which they have at Cornelius, have fallen out of vogue, as have snooty maître d' tropes and elevator music, which, as far as I can tell, they do not. Some of the city’s best and spendiest tasting destinations zag so far away from all that and toward some version of cool, in fact, that they veer toward “how do you do, fellow kids?” territory. The only constant is that anything hovering around the category is going to be expensive. And it's OK either way; affect casual qualities with a much higher price tag, or throw it back to those old clichés. But you have to deliver. Establish plainly, as Cornelius does in its public and press-facing materials, that a place is supposed to be fancy, and you’re authoring an expectation that must be executed. 

“It’s like a dining car,” a friend said, once we’d navigated the chaos of late rush hour right outside and reached Cornelius. It's nearest to Grand Central’s entrance at 42nd and Vanderbilt. We’d both been on separate long-distance train trips before, and both had the goofy, youthy illusions that truly dining in the designated hurtling metallic rectangle would be even a little glamorous. It wasn’t. Those notions had some basis in reality, or at least a version of reality regurgitated in movies, but whatever romance even might have existed at these moveable feasts of yore had become aspirationally aspirational at best; white tablecloths straining to signal something that wasn’t there.    

Some of Cornelius’ 75 seats are arranged into smaller sections like cozy compartments, and its inoffensive design is swiped in sepia tones. Undulating lines hark back to a more recent vintage than likely intended, and create a kind of staid, 80s business dinner tableau. The petite bar is pretty, as most backlit bottle shelves are. Images of local landmarks line the walls. 

Complimentary bread is one welcome relic, semolina with golden raisins and sourdough. They aren’t at all bad and they’d be even better with a good butter, but the butter here tastes like nothing; more of a carb lubricant. Still, it’s a warm and uncommon gesture when bread service sometimes ticks into double digits elsewhere. For all the posturing, Cornelius isn’t consistently priced as fine dining, either, but closer to nicer-than-normal night out. This is not to say its quality always conceptually tracks with its dollar signs, just that there are fewer of them than at restaurants actually occupying the genre. 

The salad Lyonnaise ($19), for example, is not only low on lardon but what’s there is more reminiscent of bacon bits than the hot, fatty pork that should be imparting whiffs of smokiness to the otherwise OK frisée, poached egg and truffle vinaigrette in the dish. That the rigid flecks are hard to detect is almost a wash, given how good they aren’t. 

A lobster strudel ($52; trailing only the $127 chateaubriand for two and the $59 linguine with truffle and caviar in cost) is harder to swallow. Although its shellfish is proficiently prepared, it never quite coalesces with its other primary components, snappy asparagus and a hug of pastry. Imagine, if you wish, a pizza. It is a simple pizza, with cheese and, let’s say pepperoni. But those items are married together with the sauce and crust, becoming one. Cornelius’ lobster strudel lands more like its parts were prepared separately, maybe even for separate recipes, and assembled after the fact. It just isn’t mingling. And, although it might sound “high end,” the “essence” listed as an ingredient on the menu (“a reduced and clarified stock that is spritzed on the dish as it leaves the kitchen,” a rep says) adds less than the time it would take to shrink even a single drop of bone broth. 

Like the fungus and fish eggs enhancing the pasta, some foodstuffs really just shout what you want to say when what you want to say is lux-u-ry, and foie gras is right up there with them. Here, it’s a fun little addition to the substantial crab cake ($33), which could be fairly shared as an app. Lentils are on the opposite and of the extravagance spectrum, capably prepared here and paired with a salty duck confit ($34) that has a good texture but enough of that prickly mineral to simmer an itch and approximately one square inch of crispy surface on its leg’s landscape of otherwise limp skin.  

Cornelius isn’t reason alone to enter Grand Central, which, historic and pretty in places as it is, can also just be a real pain. But enough people pass through every day that it doesn’t have to be a destination; it gets to be a location. 

It has a purpose, and that purpose is to be here whenever an expense account meal has to happen as close to the Terminal as possible, and it doesn’t get much closer than this. Its purpose is to have availability, of which there is plenty, when a friend from out of town is passing through, literally here, and has a couple of hours, max, to catch up. Its purpose is to be one of those countless anonymous spots you pass by a thousand times and maybe once improbably end up and get a funny story out of it. “A swipe date invited me to dinner in Grand Central Station,” you’ll groan, incorrectly. (It’s Terminal; Station’s where the choo-choos go.) Just bring your own butter. 


The Vibe: Business casual. 

The Food: Self-billed fine dining taking “culinary inspiration from the exquisite tastes of the Gilded Age” that amounts to fair preparations of duck confit, incongruous lobster strudel, a lacking salad Lyonnaise and a pretty good crab cake. 

The Drinks: Cocktails are going down the drain citywide at the moment, and this is no exception. Try the wine. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

Heat is a heck of a thing. It can be gauged a few ways. The Scoville scale is a generally accepted measurement that more or less assigns alarms to chili peppers. Bell peppers are at the bottom and Carolina Reapers are at the top, with tabasco around the slightly-high middle. 

Individual interpretations of heat are more subjective. You might be joined at dinner by somebody for whom nothing’s hot and somebody for whom everything is. And restaurant staff is trying to manage both of their expectations. It might all complicate sharing to a degree, but who thinks what is too spicy can also be a conversation accelerant. 

My preference is on the high side, so rarely does the promise of piquancy seem to deliver on its stated claims. But I’ve met my match at Kru.

Kru’s “modern interpretation of hundred year-old Thai recipes” first appeared in our fall restaurant preview last year. The married co-owners of Fish Cheeks, chef Ohm Suansilphong and pastry chef Kiki Supap opened this independent venture a few days later in September. In November, the nicely lit, handsome space lined with illustrations of Thai herbs and spices was listed among Esquire’s best new restaurants in America. In the last few weeks, it was introduced to the Michelin Guide and named a James Beard Award semifinalist in the best new restaurant category. And it has earned a position on my personal list of places that actually test the limits of my heat tolerance, even with some puzzling gaps. 

A staff member details every menu item once you are sat and settled; a unique routine that sounds somewhat daunting for all parties but only takes about two minutes, saves time on any Q and A later on and makes a first visit feel as informed as a second. Small plates are up top, then relishes—five dips with bounties of vegetables arranged like bouquets—mains and a couple of sides. It’s all described as more or less increasing in heat as you go down the row until reaching the final boss kaeng pa, with beef tongue featured in the avowed fiery broth. 

The first and thus mildest preparation, ma hor ($10) is specified as an ancient Thai ceremony treat. Two pink pineapple triangles and a pair of pineberries are topped with an excellent dollop of caramelized chicken, pork, prawns and peanuts, all pulverized beyond recognition and into an almost sweetly meaty marvel happily married to the fruit and doing right by the perfect party platter dish. Last in the sort-of starter category, signaling spice, the bone marrow ($17) didn’t get the message, apparently absent its listed chili paste and scant on its supposed turmeric. It’s also just skimpy, so you’ll have plenty of rice crisps left over for whatever’s next once you’ve scooped up the good enough, as silky as expected, quivering, buttery, but scant bits. 

Those relishes would be good with practically anything; the fruit and chips before them and especially their garden-lovely endive, Bibb leaves, carrots, cauliflower and accompanying halved soft boiled egg. There are crab, ham, and almond options, and in the middle of the lot, a cooling smoked whitefish variety ($24) with anchovy, shrimp and chili pastes, coconut cream and grachai, the mix of gentle and more pungent flavors combining into a dynamic dip that I’d happily have, with its accouterments, every day for lunch. It is curious, though not necessarily a detriment in this case, that it carries so little bite, given its menu position. 

Each of Kru’s five kaeng comes with rice and centerpiece ingredients like a half cornish hen or pork belly. The last two on the list, theoretically positioned as the hottest, are both terrific and could scarcely have a wider Scoville chasm between them. The pineapple-lobster selection ($38) is like a warm, borderline confectionary hug in a meadow on the nicest day; its primary components joining bright, fun flavors with an ideal texture on the deconstructed crustacean. Again, the missing scorch isn’t a deficiency here. You might even detect a spark in the back of your throat if you concentrate and conjure one, and the real elements at play are together creamy and near-rich and satisfying enough to not want improvement.  

At last lies the volcanic climax, the one true metric to define how Kru can deal heat, the beef tongue curry ($28). It is hot; bitty-bite, more white rice, yes, it was a good idea to keep the extinguishing leafy greens from the relish on the table hot, heat derived largely from Thai chilis. But it is not novelty hot like something from a segment on a mid-2020s Food Network show, rather hot enough to appreciate. It is so hot, however, that its intensity does dim some of its other parts like eggplant, baby corn and Thai basil that didn’t stand a chance. 

The beef tongue is also a brilliant base, with a dainty, satiny texture conceptually in a love/hate romance for the ages with all that permeating fire. It’s an exciting thing to eat, and to discuss.   


The Vibe: Warmly industrial, roomy enough for large parties and cozy enough for pairs.

The Food: Hits from Kru’s “modern interpretation of hundred year-old Thai recipes” include a supremely hot beef tongue curry, milder pineapple-lobster variety, delightful ma hor and a great smoked whitefish relish.

The Drinks: Wine, beer, a full bar with on-menu cocktails best to avoid and smartly selected non-alcoholic drinks. 

Kru is located at 190 North 14th Street. It is open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30pm-10pm, Sunday from 5:30pm-9pm, and lunch Saturday-Sunday from 12pm-3pm. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Greenwich Village

If you pass by the intersection of Bleecker and MacDougal Streets in Greenwich Village, a pretty restaurant glows on its southwest corner. If you click around Figaro Café’s website, you’ll find a claimed established date of 1957, cool black and white photos and the names of purported previous visitors like Jack Kerouac, Lenny Bruce and Bob Dylan. If you pop in—reservations do not appear to be necessary at this moment, abundant as they are—you might find some reasons to return, though they will not be related to the food. 

Only those first and third points are relevant to potential present day diners, but, being that Figaro’s public and press-facing communications lean as far into its vintage branding as an imbiber on a bar stool at a place where the drinks come out quicker, the middle demands mention as well. The original Le Figaro Cafe operated at this address for most of the 51 years following 1957. It was a Blimpie and an ice cream shop between 1969 and 1975. When its penultimate revival closed in 2008, “there wasn’t any widespread outpouring of grief,” according to the New York Times. And, with history poised to repeat itself, “the appeal really wasn’t about the food.”

The location was briefly a Qdoba in the nearly decade-and-a-half before married couple Marta and Mario Skaric (previously of The Standard Grill and Benjamin Restaurant Group) and their business partner Florence Zabokritsky reopened it once more under the lightly edited name this past fall. 

Previous design elements are gone, according to the New York Post, but the reimagined space is attractive absent from its past. Pages from the French newspaper Le Figaro partially paper walls in an efficient nod to preceding decades. A nautical blue otherwise anchors the color scheme. It’s splashed behind the long, gleaming white bar to the left and across the plush upholstered banquettes to the right. There are a few particularly cozy nooks throughout, including one in the windowed corner up front, and the lighting’s just right all around. The room expands toward the back, which has larger tables conducive to groups.  

The menu could theoretically work for groups, too. There are enough options to choose from and they’re mostly fine enough to get away with being the person who suggested the place on an otherwise fun night. Things even begin promisingly enough, with complimentary bread that’s virtually disappearing from NYC restaurant tables. The rosemary loaf is warm and generous; flaky on the outside and almost doughy on the inside and as comforting as the most successfully executed pop-and-bake in creation. Priced items struggle to match. 

Colossal shrimp ($23.92) are nicely sized and attractively balanced four to a plate on a bed of ice with cocktail sauce and lemon that turn out to be necessary rather than simply expected. The color and texture are right, but they’re just a little fishy—just fishy enough to notice—though that can be quickly obscured by their accouterments. 

The beginning of dinner here seems fired at lightning speed, so the plant-based “scallops” ($21.84) might arrive before you’ve effectively doused half the crustaceans for palatability. These, however, are a welcome distraction, adeptly sculpted from king oyster mushrooms with pleasant, mildly earthy notes that make them even better than a basic bivalve alternative. Trios are served on a fennel purée that might be the best thing from Figaro’s kitchen. It’s über-creamy with a bit of fresh texture from charred ramps. You’ll want to reserve some bread for spreading, though you’ll need to be assertive to keep either from being collected too soon. 

This might all make a case for Figaro Café as more of a drinks and snacks kind of place, and it could still be under certain circumstances, but the cocktails are also just so-so. That the perfect martini ($16.64) isn’t quite cold enough does not inspire confidence in the other seven tini-takes that include a pumpkin spice espresso. A rye Manhattan ($17.68) is inexplicably thin, which, again, does not bode well for the bar’s signature recipes. They’re also a little slow to flow, incongruous with the plates’ too-swift pacing. Some enjoyable beer and wine varieties are also available, but a lot of stylish places serve enjoyable beer and wine. 

A lot of places also serve steak, many even in this immediate area. Figaro Café serves an OK 12-ounce, bone-in New York strip ($49.92) with chimichurri, flirting toward well-done. That it’s served to those specs when ordered au poivre, medium, eh, it’s really just half a degree of doneness, and these things happen, even at better restaurants. But the one-dimension sauce’s overwhelming whack of lime rarely does. Likewise the accompanying fries, pale as a naked potato and almost reminiscent of Wendy’s, but without the fast food charm and with more of the apparent recent residence in the freezer. 

The duck leg confit ($37.44) is similarly situated. The waterfowl itself isn’t too bad, tender enough under the surface, even with a skin that’s more crusty than crisp. But its bed of grits is curiously dry and neither preparation surpasses ambitious museum restaurant quality. Lovely as it is, the environment here couldn’t be expected to live up to that occasionally caveat-inviting expectation. 


The Vibe: Pretty, comfortable and equally well-suited for intimate pairs or larger parties.

The Food: A wide variety of perfunctory seafood, steak, pasta, burgers, salads, poultry, pork chops and a few plant-based options. 

The Drinks: Serviceable cocktails, “spiritless’ drinks, wine and beer. 

Figaro Café is located at 184 Bleecker Street. It is open Monday-Friday from 11:30am-3:30pm and Monday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

Every price tag in New York City comes with a caveat. This is below market rate. That wasn’t too bad. The other’s pretty affordable. For New York

Rana Fifteen, which Ahmet Kiranbay and Armando Litiatco opened in October, has one of the best deals in town right now. The Park Slope spot follows the duo’s seven-year-old Filipino restaurant F.O.B. a short distance away in Carroll Gardens. Its menus are influenced by Kiranbay’s upbringing in coastal western Turkey’s Izmir. Rana is Kiranbay’s mother, from whom he learned to cook and lifted recipes for his second venture. 

The 4th Avenue facade is as white as a science fair poster board and half as antiseptic, save for its cerulean signs. The wide inside is also appointed in gleaming pale shades, but lit low enough to feel like dinnertime in the evening. Exposed beams run between ends of the gently curved ceilings, mirroring dark hardwood floors below. A somewhat exposed kitchen is at the back of the dining room. 

A deal’s a deal, and it’s more rewarding when it’s actually good. “Fifteen” is for the Rana’s Table, fashioned after the multi-item çilingir sofrasi (from Turkish, locksmith table), which refers to the spread’s often accompanying raki and the spirit’s likeness to unlock its imbibers. (Rana Fifteen is BYOB while it awaits its liquor license.) For $39 per person (minimum two), the abundance includes all eight available apps, four meze, and an entrée, a side and dessert to share per pair. Almost all are very good. 

Plentiful plates are presented with casual pageantry, arranged this way and that to accommodate the bounty. The atom labneh ($12 if ordered à la carte) is dreamy-creamy with a bit of brown butter and bright (but not hot) with chilis. Tarama fish roe ($10) competes for the title of best spread, its bread base enlivened by the saline carp eggs. Both are terrific with the pita half covering a nice salad with seared halloumi ($12). 

On the solid side, the fried calamari ($12) is great; crispy, mildly sweet and tender, although lightly drizzled with an unnecessary sauce that skews too close to a roux. Fortunately, it’s mostly limited to the otherwise faultless squid’s top layer. The stuffed mussels ($14) are similarly situated. They’re welcome in an area where they don’t overpopulate menus, they’re proficiently filled with rice and currants and they’re fun to pop open, but they’re also flatly one note with what’s only detailed as “spices.” The kimyon garlic shrimp ($16), however, is a show-pauser. A few whole crustaceans entwined in their dish are rosy with a pepper glow and silken with a little butter, firm and fresh in their shells with a satisfying exterior crunch. Off-menu meze like a recent tomato effort, simply dressed in a way that might let a more ideal specimen of the fruit peak, are easier to forget. 

All six of the kitchen’s mains are available with the special, some with a $10 supplement. The tight half-dozen options, bookended by a cozily roasted half-chicken ($26 if ordered à la carte) and a stuffed eggplant ($18) could still easily appease a group, and the 45-seat space is arranged with potential for large parties. 

The Iskender steak ($30; no supplement in the Rana’s Table) is a nod to the red sauce-topped kebabs of the same name. This eight-ounce black angus strip, too, covers pita, which absorbs both traces of the tomato gravy and more of that enriching brown butter. This isn’t a how would you like it done? steak, but its finished close enough to medium, its flavors are pleasant with a kind of broad appeal, and the father-in-law figure in your life will likely enjoy it. 

An herb-armored branzino ($10 supplement or $36 à la carte) is a pleasure to share. (The restaurant adjusts Rana’s Table entrées for odd-numbered parties; three would choose two, five would choose three, etc.) Under an aromatic coat like it was dragged through the garden, the whole grilled fish is moist and easy to flake and imbued with the inimitable flavors of an open flame. 

That affordability addendum isn’t going anywhere, but the competitiveness of the city’s dining tide ebbs and flows. This moment is still (and again) a little challenging. Reservations are hard to get, pay-to-play startups seep up in dark corners, pop-in wait times ramble into hours and most new restaurants that promise or aspire to have an antidote don’t, instead turning otherwise comprehensible descriptions like “neighborhood restaurant” into an assertion in a press release or a box to check on an imagined platform. Rana Fifteen is a real neighborhood restaurant with real availability and a value that values guests. For … you know. 


The Vibe: Comfortable, inviting and low-pressure.  

The Food: Western Turkish with a terrific branzino and a nice steak among its crowd-pleasers, plus one of the best dinner deals in town right now.   

The Drinks: Rana Fifteen is BYOB while it awaits its liquor license. 

Rana Fifteen is located at 209 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. It is open for dinner Friday and Saturday from 5pm-11pm, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5pm-10pm, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11am-3pm

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Brooklyn

On a lucky day, you might wake up thinking of a certain dish and get it. I recently arose with a powerful desire for egg soufflé. In my daydream, it was light and airy, creamy and comforting. I must have remembered that Atti opened with one on its menu amid myriad other pleasures near Downtown Brooklyn a couple of months earlier. 

Self-described as “fine Korean BBQ,” Atti’s elegant environs still have an easy manner. Make a reservation for busy, weekend nights, especially for larger parties, or pop in by the host stand around brunch time. Swing a quick right past the stylish, neon-lit refrigerators to the lofty dining room, which can accommodate 80 in cozy, high-backed, blonde wood booths, the largest of which will fit about 10 people who are pretty fond of each other. Flat, brass-encircled grills are slightly sunken into table centers. 

The Atti han-sang ($64 per person with a minimum of two) includes three or four chef-selected meats and an abundance of banchan. Temperature-stable items are the earliest to arrive. Pumpkin is smoothly textured between pureed and mashed, a bit closer to the latter, and just sweet enough to convince squash skeptics to have another bite. The kimchi’s peak form and slightly spiced. And the little, glittering dried anchovies give a savory salt kick to everything they join. 

Nice white rice follows, wonderful with a duo of bubbling stew: a mild doenjang and a bolder kimchi with a little more funk and fire behind it. Then, the egg soufflé of heart’s desire, which, with the addition of water, salt and expert execution to its main ingredient, rises to all that I’d imagined in a pillowy, pale sunshine dome with scallions on top. It’s a love soufflé. 

Meats might include hanger steak, short rib, American Wagyu flat iron or ribeye all beautifully presented in marbled red and white. Carefully arranged into their quarters, they’re conversation-stoppers; petite, stock-model portions of beef. You almost don’t want them to go to the grill but servers control each round’s preparation to perfect doneness; an exacting process performed with ease. Restrained seasoning lets each cut’s unique qualities—suffused with satiny fat, or with ‘and potatoes’ familiarity, or buttery, rich, a little earthy, or some combination—shine. Their accompanying ssam is also stunning: leafy greens so fresh and crisp and flawless it’s like they were recently trimmed from a secret garden. 

A lot more à la carte options are available for a lot more money. NY strip’s $54; filet mignon’s $58. Or you could confidently spring for a luxe set with the $185 American Wagyu ribeye, filet mignon, short rib set, knowing how carefully the staff handles precious meats. Oysters, shrimp cocktail, jeon and a few other stews are also among the un-grilled options. 


The Vibe: Cooly elegant, easygoing and peaceful with potential for larger party fun. 

The Food: The excellent Atti han-sang includes three or four beautiful, expertly-grilled meats and sensational banchan. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, a nice variety of Korean spirits, sake, wine and beer.

Atti is located at 294 Livingston Street. It is open Monday-Friday from 5pm-11pm and Saturday-Sunday from 11am-11pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Flatiron

As year-end lists circle the city like a cursed chain letter whose hastily dismissed consequences are nostalgia for something neither experienced nor previously desired, and enduring FOMO, it’s clear that 2022 is the year of the “pretty good” restaurant. It’s a particular kind of “pretty good,” said in a singsong tone infused with a noncommittal interrobang. Other phrases: the diplomatic “fine approaching good”; “okay!” (with that precise spelling and punctuation only); and, similarly “fine!” but only when optimistically intended. In Time Out parlance, at this moment, a “pretty good” restaurant is a low three stars. Many of the press release destinations that opened this year merit up to, but not exceeding these exclamations, and Koloman is one of them. 

Communications about chef Markus Glocker’s Ace Hotel-adjacent latest where “Parisian creativity” meets “Viennese tradition” started percolating around the spring and lingered long enough to appear among fall previews. The talented, decorated Glocker, who previously led Bâtard to 50 best, Beard and Michelin recognition, launching a new spot at an address with prior proven success, attracted expected attention, as well as positive reviews since its September opening. 

Previously dark with heavy wood and taxidermy in highly aughts-style as The Breslin, Koloman is brighter and breezier, like a Brooklyn brownstone renovation that strips decades’ worth of grit and grime from its bones. Its present aesthetic update harks back to the more recent twenty-teens, when it seemed like every other place was painted in beachy shades and festooned with potted plants. Though absent the time-traveling latter, surfaces gleam with bouncy lamplight, occasionally slick with what seems like food grease or speckled with crumbs at a large waiting table near the 29th Street entrance or on banquettes further back in earshot of the hotel’s Lobby Bar. Big, Narnia-like doors physically separate the erstwhile hotspot from the newcomer, though they can’t blot out the sounds of the one-time party hive wailing for its prime. 

Koloman’s menu is a mix of ambitious swings and well-placed bunts with scarce home runs. The eventually-arriving, included bread basket is a nicely-executed gesture, accompanied by a wonderful dollop of weightless butter, brilliantly encrusted in a thin layer of salt to give bite to a pat. 

Excellent gougères begin the priced-item lineup, which more or less starts with apps and expands to entrées. Mild bergkäse—raw-milk Austrian mountain cheese—is creamy inside the warm embrace of pillowy pastry, served three to a plate with a side of perfect, piquant horseradish spread ($15). They’re enough to dim the immediate memory of brushing that apparent detritus from an earlier party’s complementary carbs off a seat, but overpromise on the unevenness to follow. A lobster slider ($26, listed as a lobster “burger”) from the same column, for example, is satisfactory in preparation (though, context clues aside, not proportional to cost), but seems transported from a time when adding shellfish bits or truffle oil signaled little other than pedestrian luxury. Its scant side of crisp-ish potatoes aren’t bad, walking the line between wedge and steak fries, and served atop a spring time-y dip bejeweled with caviar as if by the tip of a magic wand activated once you remember the glorified garnish includes the fish eggs. 

The next section’s “unique take on a classic terrine” ($25) is a tempting proposition. Its short rib and tafelspitz (Viennese boiled beef) are joined by roast beef and layered with celery root and leeks, encircled by thinly sliced carrots and drizzled with pumpkin seed oil from a small copper pot. The tender roast beef is its primary, not unpleasant flavor, maybe even reminiscent of lovingly-made second-day leftovers, but it’s pronounced enough to obscure the supporting elements in what otherwise seems like a studied, intentional dish. Whatever the finishing liquid is trying to do, the droopy carrot edge does even less. It’s over-chilled, one note aside from clotted aspic, and best avoided. 

Although proving once more, even after that terrific horseradish, that condiments are not Koloman’s strong suit, the schnitzel Viennoise ($36) itself is good. Its veal surpasses most other fried foods I’ve had this year, which amounted to a micro-trend of overwhelming batter. Koloman’s contribution is prudently pounded and breaded, arriving light and golden. Neither its lingonberry nor sea buckthorn sauces are at all enriching—the former recalling the popular assembly-required furniture store; the latter too bland to recall anything—but a mist of lemon is more than what’s needed to enjoy the schnitzel, per se. Joined by a forgettable potato salad and brightly lovely cucumber medley, it’s large enough to make a main, if not explicitly situated among them.  

A reasonable person might expect, after scanning what precedes, that Koloman’s fourth and penultimate menu portion, followed only by the whole roasted chicken for two ($84), would include what’s sometimes euphemized as large plates. And that tracks here, but stops short with the grilled trumpet mushrooms ($32). About five to a plate with watercress, a smattering of crushed potatoes and seemingly freezer-fresh sauce vierge, they’d be more accurately presented as a side, and a so-so one at that. It isn’t even the size that matters the most, but rather the afterthought of it all. I’ve had plenty of fantastic fungi this year, but this one is a flashback to recent years, when even the buzziest of new restaurants’ plant-based options were limited to barely-seasoned cauliflower steak to pair with, perhaps, a zero-abv drink like a seltzer and nothing. 

Wisely rising to the spirit-free occasion, if not the plant-based one, Koloman does have a  “soft cocktail” offering ($15 each), plus a few non-alcoholic beer and wine options ($6-$8). Its boozier concoctions are fine, except for the ones that aren’t, underscoring my point that, in most cases, all the good cocktails already exist. Koloman’s martinis and Manhattans are squarely in the 49th percentile of the incalculable number I’ve had. Its listed “originals” are less palatable in this setting. 

The Bitter Truth hits each one of its listed ingredients of Japanese whisky, Campari, apricot, cocoa, salt and cereal, really lingering on the last one. It’s Everlasting Gobstopper effect wouldn’t be out of place at a dedicated cocktail bar, but it has no business near a dinner menu, where it could be mistakenly paired with something like the pretty good duck ($49), even with the appropriately mauve sliced bird breast’s thematically congruous crispy einkorn; sometimes spun into that typical morning meal. Another person who ordered it within eyeshot left the $21 original unfinished. 

Kolomon has a place high among 2022s spate of “pretty good,” “fine approaching good,” “okay” and flatly “fine” new restaurants. A fair amount of people need spendy places to take their moneyed parents. I bet it could be a decent place for a date, especially if you wish to return to not-too-far Murray Hill. And, were you within a three-block radius, there are worse places to dine. I just wouldn’t rush to the Resy notifications for this one. 


The Vibe: Like an elder-millennial time traveled from 2009 to 2019 before opening a restaurant in 2022.

The Food: Excellent gougères and schnitzel Viennoise; must-miss short rib and tafelspitz terrine and mushrooms.

The Drinks: Perfunctory classic cocktails, avoidable “originals,” beer, wine and zero-abv options. 

Koloman is located at 16 West 29th Street. It is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-11pm. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Elmhurst

Even prior to 2020, in spite of New York City’s second most popular nickname, great places to grab dinner in the middle of the night were a relative few. When Pei Wei and Bryan Chunton opened Zaab Zaab with chef Aniwat Khotsopa in Elmhurst, Queens this past spring, it was with the 2022-ambitious closing time of 1am. Zaab Zaab accrued enough accolades, like a Michelin Bib Gourmand to crowd out room for improvement in the months that followed. But it extended operations until 4am daily a few weeks ago. 

Its dining room is as intimate as a slumber party and traced with cheery hues as well as a detailed mural on the ceiling. Enter and there are five tables between a tightly upholstered banquette and backless but sturdy stools to the left. A large mirror creates the illusion of more space and reflects the physical effects (a single tear; a sharp inhale) of Khotsopa’s more heat-forward recipes. A bar, which serves mostly beer and wine, plus a couple of sake options (which are also spun into über–fruity cocktails) is to the right. A sidewalk patio up front is covered in inclement weather, and there’s a street shed past the curb.

Zaab Zaab promises “the true flavors of Thailand’s Northeastern Isaan region,” like its larb ped Udon, which is very good. Minced duck breast and gizzards are mixed with crumbly, plucky, ginger-adjacent galangal, fried garlic and lime leaves, mint, roasted rice powder, crushed chili and fish sauce, studded with fried waterfowl skin and served alongside leafy greens for grabbing or wrapping ($19.95). Its trio of duck creates a dynamic, pronounced flavor/texture pair, even among oodles of other ingredients. Never guess, because you might be among friends who find refrigerated aisle guac hot, but the larb ped Udon does not approach Zaab Zabb’s most fiery items, and instead seems like it would be acceptable to a mid-level tolerance. 

The gaeng om with beef shank ($18.95) is another contender for signature dish, significantly hotter, and among the most nuanced eye-watering experiences I’ve had in a long time. The meat is immersed in herbal curry braised with Thai eggplant, lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal, adorned with an herb box worth of dill. The first sips of broth are brightly botanical and clear, conjuring soft, verdant images. Further dives catch chili that builds to a near burst. It’s the city’s best new soup and it’s terrifically fun to eat. 

Nuer yang ($24.95) is plated with a spectrum of capsaicin notes. Its flame-grilled, sliced Crying Tiger ribeye, with strips ranging from fatty to nicely marbled, is seasoned with a light touch that brings the earthy beef just to a volume that will get your attention. But its accompanying jaew duo amplifies the understated preparation with its alternately spicy and searing, and deeply bitter sauces. Each creates a totally different, singularly satisfying profile from bite to bite. 

A pile of wonderfully golden moo tod pla ra ($16.95) is similarly situated. Pork belly is marinated in fermented fish sauce before frying. It’s served exquisitely crisp with a subtle funk enlivened by more marvelous jaew; an ideal midnight snack that’s decadent and delicious, and the type of shared dish that just sparks fun. 

Greens and soothing, palate-zagging herbs like bitter sadao and Thai basil top tables to slake any alarms. A surprisingly mild som tum pla ra with shredded green papaya, bird’s eye chiles, lime, and the option to add black crab ($18) might do the trick, too, skewing closer to refreshing than bracing. Each of three som tum varieties are clay krok-pounded by hand to crack (not mash!) open fragrance and flavor before plating. 


The Vibe: Welcoming in an intimate, colorful space.

The Food: Zaab Zaab’s promised “true flavors of Thailand’s Northeastern Isaan region” include an incredible gaeng om with beef shank to top soup all over NYC, terrific larb ped Udon and decadent golden moo tod pla ra.

The Drinks: Beer, wine and sake, plus a couple of cocktails that incorporate the latter and a great Thai iced tea.

Zaab Zaab is located at 76-04 Woodside Avenue. It is open from noon to 4am each day. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

Unapologetic Foods is the top hospitality group operating in New York City right now. Since last year alone, restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and chef/partner chef Chintan Pandya have opened and led Dhamaka to its status at 2021’s best new restaurant, followed it with newly Michelin-starred Semma, and began serving the city’s latest great fried chicken sandwich at Rowdy Rooster. Its coming attractions were obvious additions to this fall’s most anticipated new restaurants, including September’s Masalawala & Sons. 

Mazumdar opened the original Masalawala, his first operation, with his father Satyen Mazumdar on the Lower East Side in 2011. Although that iteration lasted a decade, it did not meet the younger Mazumdar’s intentions to serve homestyle recipes from his youth, instead offering locally expected items like chicken tikka masala by force of necessity, he told Resy. Now in Park Slope, again with his father, “this is the restaurant I wanted to open 10 years ago, but couldn’t,” he told the reservation platform. 

The Brooklyn location, billed as “a celebration of India’s yesteryears” opened to immediate popularity on September 22, and has maintained most of that momentum since. A (literal) couple of primetime weekend reservations are only starting to creep in at press time. Also an ode to the elder Mazumdar, who shares menu input with his son and Pandya, dad’s portrait appears on Masalawala’s Fifth Avenue awning. 

Inside, an L-shaped banquette opposite backless upholstered cubes is on the left. Arrive in advance of your companions for a test of character: slide inside to ensure your own comfort, or be a seat hero and work your core on the stump. Tables and regular chairs populate the rest of the vibrant, warmly lit space. There’s a patio in the back. 

Cocktails like the Bengali Renaissance (stirred with coconut-washed gin, turmeric, saffron, fennel and fenugreek, $17) and the Tagore’s Lyric (stirred with tequila, smoked bhut jolokia, roses and Himalayan salt, $17) are good and unlike anything else in the neighborhood, and little beyond. The same goes for the dinner menu, which even at just one page of consistent winners, can be reconfigured again and again over many visits. 

One advantage of an early reservation (the place is already buzzing shortly after the 5pm slots) is a greater chance of sampling the small plate category’s macher dim ($23), noted, at least online, as having limited availability. Myriad dynamic notes—Bengali fish roe, egg yolk, ghee and green chili with flavor-soaking kala jeera rice—are happily married in the petite dish that’s among the most seldom seen commercially available foodstuffs in NYC at the moment. 

Miss it with a later seating, and the same snack category’s dahi vada ($11) is a less-sung star (exclusivity like that of the macher dim is always going to gather attention), but its fermented lentil dumpling cloaked in yogurt with roasted cumin is a stunning combination of creamy tang, mild heat and slight sweetness, delivered cooly smooth on the surface and buoyantly spongy at its depths. It’s also a little indicative of what’s to come: masterfully spiced bites mostly without the more pronounced heat that many of us love and others love to comically detail like a fire-breathing cartoon character across the river at Dhamaka.

Selections from the mid-menu split the difference between shareable app and main. Its fish fry ($21) is closer to the former. Mild, white bhetki has a moist, flaky interior and crisp golden exterior, as delicious as it is basic in spite of alleged cilantro-chili, but enlivened by accompanying mustard. The larger keema kaleji ($19) is a knockout, the one to make a trip for, and order again and again even when all those other configurations await. Minced lamb and bits of liver are spiked with black cardamom, cloves and egg, disallowing any excessive gaminess or iron. It’s served with a duo of pao poufs for sandwiching, dabbing or grabbing, identical to the unforgettable varieties at Dhamaka and Rowdy Rooster. The bread’s neutral lightness is the perfect companion to the meaty richness.  

The echorer kalia ($28) is meaty, too, if you’re looking for that in a vegetarian dish merrily absent any invented animal flesh “substitutes” or “alternatives.” Its green jackfruit (often touted as one of those very things, but an actual plant that’s also great without the caveat) is blanketed in a mix of ginger, red onion and a panch phoron whose blended bouquet conjures whisps of smoke and sweet and the gentlest florals as though through a soothing soft focus. 

Most of these plates do not want for rice and Masalawala & Sons’ is exceptional on its own. It goes lovingly deep on the gawa ghee, to true, redefining, comfort food effect. The buttery, nearly nutty little bowl is soothing and profoundly fresh, like its dairy was churned by the very anthropomorphized grass-fed cow from whence it came. It’s delicious and soul-suffusing in Proustian fashion. 


The Vibe: Busy and buzzy but warm and inviting.    

The Food: “A celebration of India’s yesteryears” with wonderful macher dim, keema kaleji and unforgettably comforting rice.

The Drinks: Great novel cocktails, “mocktails,” beer and wine. 

Masalawala & Sons is located at 365 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

Corner Bar, a restaurant and bar on the corner of Canal and Allen Street downtown, seems designed to be ordinary. The cozy, kindly space at the base of Nine Orchard Hotel has little abstract character, but its bistro aesthetic successfully captures that intended category. It also encapsulates a category I think of as “restaurant in a movie that isn’t about a restaurant.” When an ingénue blows out birthday candles at a round table encircled by friends, it is at Corner Bar. When a brooding antihero stirs coffee as the rain falls outside, it is at Corner Bar. When a beleaguered career gal huffs onto a bar seat and makes a mildly quirky martini order to establish personality, it is at Corner Bar. And this is all fine. 

There is nothing irredeemably wrong with chef Ignacio Mattos’ Corner Bar, which followed his highly-regarded Estela and Lodi in June. That the bathrooms are in the basement is half-annoying but not uncommon at hotel and hotel-adjacent restaurants. And that it’s been particularly difficult to book a primetime reservation, even in these enduring years of reservation booking difficulty, is just a little vexing, especially with the benefit of hindsight given how regular the place is. All that aside, Corner Bar is fine in the lusty way a ’40s movie star would have shaped the word to improve its meaning from vague indictment to approval. It will do nicely. 

The inviting dining room, breezily, barely divided in two by an archway, has high ceilings, a handsome bar, wood finishes, gleaming white tiles and cafe curtains, bistro-ly. It seats 68 and tables are arranged tight enough to limit gossip, but not so much to require excess shimmying. Its menu aims to offer genre classics. 

To start, Prince Edward Island Lucky Lime oysters ($29/half dozen) are as attractively presented as expected. Pack ice into a tray, elevate it a little, and even this entry-level to a seafood tower gets me every time. And these midsized bivalves would still be good even closer to land. The duck foie gras terrine ($34) is also nice, as rich and buttery as hoped for and even served with a fun and spritely, glittering riesling jelly and half a caramelized apple. Its thick accompanying brioche points, while not an outlandish pairing, are a little too sweet and a little too greasy to let the foie gras dazzle. 

With the exception of the $62 hay-roasted chicken, which comes with salad greens, entrées are all on their own. Moules ($38) and steak are friteless. The Atlantic halibut ($44) swims only with its hollandaise. 

Reunited with their rightful skirt au Poivre or bivalve friends, the fries ($13) are very good; one of the things Corner Bar does best. They’re telegenically golden, brittle outside, soft inside and made to soak up liquid. The oversauced steak has plenty of it, befittingly pungent and made with Tellicherry peppercorns, but almost comical, then inconvenient, in quantity, and growing a bit viscous over a few bites. Like the foie gras vehicle, it’s a zag and a miss that obscures a shockingly hard-to-find perfect medium rare preparation (perfected here with the rouge to prove it) rather than enhance it. Uncloaked, its texture is impeccable, its deep, grass-fed beef flavor is abundant and its successful degree of doneness is a marvel.  I wouldn’t drain it entirely, but maybe ask for a dash less sauce than standard. 

A couple of promising pastas are among the mains, including a recurring lobster tagliatelle special ($38 for the appetizer size, which contains 2.5 ounces of lobster; $52 for the entrée size, with three ounces). The long, house-made ribbons are, again, finished to the ideal doneness with a light spring, but their coating of light red sauce skews too noticeably fishy and the lobster is cooked just to the legal limit before rubbery charges can commence.    

Corner Bar should have a rightful place in the middle of the road as an easy, chicer than most, every night kind of place, and a bar where drinks can turn into dinner. But it’s still a puzzlingly tough table and it’s priced more like a special occasion destination. The crowds will thin, but its unlikely prices will drop here or anywhere else in the city. It could split the difference by ironing out everything that makes it singsong-voice-good rather than lower-register-good, but that’s historically only slightly more likely. Until it seems more like an overperforming drop-in spot than an underperforming celebration aspirant, it isn’t worth going out of the way for. 


The Vibe: Bistro film set with flattering lighting.  

The Food: Nice raw bar items, excellent duck foie gras, good but oversauced steak, promising pasta. 

The Drinks: Slow-to-arrive cocktails, beer, a very long wine list and spirit-free drinks.

Corner Bar is located at 60 Canal Street. It is open for dinner Monday-Wednesday from 5:30pm to 10:30pm, Thursday-Saturday from 5:30pm-11pm and Sunday from 5:30pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Lower East Side

There are a lot of bars on the Lower East Side. Restaurants, too. It’s easy to meander all evening in search of a spot that feels just right. But it’s easier to make a reservation at Gugu Room on Orchard street and spend that time saved on sips and skewers. 

Gugu Room opened in May with press materials promising New York’s first Filipino-Japanese izakaya.” Previous occupant Tsismis hosted pop-ups in its final days, including what would become the space’s present iteration. The made-over interior’s once brighter hues are subdued with a new burgundy and black color scheme for more of a date-night ambiance. The old copper-topped bar fits in nicely with the refreshed look. Pop-in spots there seem a cinch to nab at press time, and booking availability is a breath of fresh air. It has real hero potential on those nights nobody knows where to go, or simply can’t get in.  

Chef/Partner Aris Tuazon (previously of Ugly Kitchen) and Chef Markee Manaloto’s (Kissaki)  long menu starts on the snackie side and expands to larger plates. The grilled skewers here are NYC’s new pierced meats to beat; available in pairs or by the hospitable grouping that speaks to a guest-focused operation and lately less-common care for value. A large sampler platter includes one each of Gugu Room’s six varieties ($22; choose four for $15). 

Each skewer’s seasoning amplifies its best form. The buoyant shrimp’s teriyaki baste is restrained enough to amplify its ocean-fed freshness. The yielding pork intestine’s banana ketchup barbecue sauce makes great use of its tangy sweetness. The longanisa, formed into spheres, has a pleasant citrus pop, and the pork belly, grilled chicken in more teriyaki, and ribeye with house-made steak sauce skew faithfully to those proteins’ expected flavors. They’re each distinct all on one plate—a quality that some other preparations don’t achieve. 

The agedashi tofu ($9) doesn’t approach its expected crispness, and its quickly softening bonito flakes further sap any snap, dissolving into sogginess. The truffled mushroom sisig’s ($20) listed trio of fungi—trumpet, shiitake and oyster—come out one note. Most of the preparations here seem designed to linger and chat over, but these lose a heap of appeal after about a bite. 

Spicy yuzu adobo ribs ($24) and hamachi kama ($15) are among better bets. The former is prepared with an animated mix of Asian soy, vinegar, garlic, yuzu and pineapple, piled generously and served with garlic fried rice. The latter is notably moist (as a somewhat sweet yellowtail collar should be but often isn’t), and light. 

Gugu Room’s cocktails are among few exceptions to the new rule that most places would be better off sticking to the classics. The yuzu gimlet combines its titular fruit with gin, orange liqueur and St-Germain to repeat round invitation, but other tipples like the Spicy Bingo ($15; mezcal, maraschino, plum bitters, apple cider, chili) are worth divergence. 

Plenty of new restaurants are easy to identify as good, but fewer merit obvious returns. Gugu Room’s menus, atmosphere and essence of ease make it a great one for the shortlist. 


The Vibe: Casual, fun and welcoming with date-night potential.

The Food: Great skewers and a wide variety of small to large plates with standouts like spicy yuzu adobo ribs and hamachi kama.

The Drinks: Terrific signature cocktails, sake, shochu, wine and beer. 

Gugu Room is located at 143 Orchard Street. It’s open Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm-11pm, Friday-Saturday 5pm-1am and Sunday 5pm-10pm. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

Almost every restaurant space in NYC has its little history—weird midtown developments notwithstanding. There are the “cursed” ones, the curious ones and the classic ones. The one at 241 Smith Street, recently the cooly warm and wonderful Jolie, is now Ruthie’s. Proprietor Marc St Jacques also operates great Bar Bête, which opened down the block in 2019 with partner Joe Ogrodnek, who ran the excellent Battersby located between those two spots for seven years until 2018. 

So, at the corner of Smith and Douglass sits a building recently vacated by a beloved neighborhood bistro and newly occupied by a respected area chef with implied local market knowledge. That it oozes family-friendliness, especially before dark, is not unexpected in the area. And there wasn’t a very good burger place anywhere on Cobble Hill’s one-time restaurant row until Ruthie’s assumed the role in August.

The interior is newly stripped of its previous lived-in richness and looks about as plain as the inside of an egg carton. This is less noticeable when it’s crowded at primetime on weekends, but its too-bright lights bounce off white walls to suffuse the air on quieter school nights. The seats at the bar—which feels more oriented to dining than hanging out and drinking in spite of the rest of the place’s overall apparently casual conceit—are now fixed to the floor. There’s a long communal high-top with backless stools near the center of the room, and leathery banquettes have been swapped with wooden ones and tables to the right, and a few large, cozier (and more private) booths to the left. There’s covered seating outside.

Although only five of its one-page menu’s 23 items (which you could count as more considering variations on a grilled cheese or baked potato) are burgers, Ruthie’s is a capital Burger Place. The cheddar pickle variety’s ($20) thickly portioned patty has a mild funkiness that punches above an everyday blend, topped with horseradish mayo, sharp cheddar and the titular sweet pickles. The s.o.b. ($21) is delightfully untidy with Swiss, caramelized onions and bacon. The blue cheese is cloaked in that distinctive flavor and best left to those who have acquired the taste. And the tuna burger’s ($22) fish is so expertly prepared to a beautiful pink finish, it wishes to be unhooked from its bun, avocado, spicy greens and chili aioli and enjoyed on its own. None include fries, which is always worth an eye-roll, but, for $5 as an addition or $11 as a side, the medium-gauge beef fat potatoes are archetypal; each one possessing the ideal texture dynamic of crisp and soft, brilliantly seasoned and constructed to retain a good temperature to the last one. 

The rest of the menu’s divided into snacks, plates (which are basically sides or apps), soups and salads, “the rest” (those baked potato and grilled cheese options, plus a beer-battered fluke, again, sans its soulmate chips) and weekly specials. Its occasional incongruity (honey-roasted peanuts and popcorn would make more sense at a dedicated drinking bar, and we can save discussion of their $7 and $6 price tags for another day) helps Ruthie’s jump out as a Burger Place, even though those are outnumbered a few times over. Some of the majority are perfunctory, if tickling comfort notes, like the spinach and cheese dip with tortilla chips ($12). 

That same “plates” section’s seafood cocktail ($15) is a terrific mix of octopus, scallops, squid and avocado, all at the right firmness and brimming with freshness even in its cloak of zingy, low-heat-teasing sauce. It’s served in a functionally appropriate sundae glass that suffers the same aesthetic fate as most clear food vehicles, perhaps the most famously horrific of which is martini mashed potatoes and gravy: looking like a whole mess just a few bites in. This one’s tasty enough to gaze the other way, and it’d be even easier to do so if, again, the lights were lower. The Thursday pasta special ($23) also notably meets or exceeds much of what you’ll find at the many old and new Italian restaurants from here to Red Hook. Skinny spaghetti is made in-house, tossed with a mellow marinara and topped with one large, masterfully cooked, Parm-dusted meatball. 

Ruthie’s printed cocktail menu is limited to whiskey drinks like the smooth and not-too-sweet Toronto ($15), which incorporates Cynar, demerara and sassafras, and the bright smash ($16) with blackberry shrub, mint and lemon. It’s a little restrictive, but, being that it’s still a bar, you can order whatever, like the perfectly fine gin martini ($15). Beer on tap includes brews from nearby Threes and Other Half. Its sensible wine selection lists a couple of chilled reds that pair nicely with burgers. 


The Vibe: An everyday kind of place with better-than-routine food; busy on Fridays and Saturdays and a little quieter on weeknights.

The Food: Very good burgers, great fries and seafood cocktails and some truly special specials. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Ruthie’s is located at 241 Smith Street. It’s for dinner Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. Brunch begins at 11am Saturday and Sunday. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Greenpoint

For people of a certain age, Cool World is a hazily-recalled movie poster flickering in the space between eagerly entering a theater and drowsily being carried out, set to a sort of aromatic soundtrack of popcorn perfume. It might have been a first exposure to something that wasn’t quite what it seemed—a cartoon—and especially wasn’t for those younger 90s babies—a sexy, noir human-imation, rated PG-13. 

Cool World is also now a restaurant at the intersection of Nassau and Lorimer that opened in July. That its name surfaced the same patina of nostalgia among the people I mentioned it to is apparently an unintended coincidence. Instead, the restaurant is inspired by a couple of Keith McNally brasseries from that same decade, executive chef Quang Nguyen (previously of Wildair and Cosme) told Resy.

That kind of brasserie also has its own patina of nostalgia. Low, honeyed romance light. Stylishly distressed mirrors. Sweeping space or at least the feeling of it thanks to wide windows or high ceilings, even if the actual seats are cramped. The remembrance of cigarette smoke past. 

Abandon those McNallyland expectations. Cool World, whose owners are also behind Dumbo viewstaurant Celestine, Rock Center’s recently previous hotspot du jour, Pebble Bar, and good Grand Army in Boerum Hill, does not hit those aesthetic notes. 

From the outside, its white facade beams opposite McCarren Park as if somebody turned up the contrast on Nighthawks. The inside’s too bright, too, for any restaurant genre, but at least in keeping with a creeping trend. It’s neither small nor large and the tables are a standard distance apart. Everything seems crisp and new and absent any of those classically Balthazarian elements. It wouldn’t have invited the comparison, had the invitation not been made. 

Dinner lands a little closer to Cool World’s stated conceit, if inconsistent across its one page menu. Certain serviceable staples like oysters ($24/half dozen) and steak frites, served here with umeboshi bordelaise and charred cippolinis ($34), would do just fine for a weeknight; easy to factor into semi-routine, as brasseries intended. 

Pastry chef Amanda Perdomo’s "pretzeled" Parker House rolls ($6 for two) are good, capturing the classic flavors and textures of the original, zhuzhed up with the essence of that NYC cart fave, sans the pesky knot. They’re wisely served with a wonderfully airy butter prudently low on the salt that seems to cloak some other items. 

The moules ($22), another expected brasserie staple, are appropriately plump in their shells and fortunately unspoiled by their slightly overly saline—just too much to discourage soaking their perfectly fine frites—broth. That the liquid’s a little shallow might be a feature in this case, letting the gentle bivalves be gentle bivalves, absent the concentrated oceanic wash below.

Excess salt is any confit’s natural predator, key as the mineral is to its preparation, and great care must be taken to keep it obedient. Cool World’s confit lamb shoulder ($32) doesn’t quite control the entry-level but quick-to-overpower seasoning at the expense of the otherwise nicely-textured, technically adept entrée. Its accompanying roasted cauliflower is on the opposite end of the taste spectrum but again, proficiently done with a fresh veggie snap. And the scallion sabayon bookends are clever in concept but quick to deflate from buoyant poufs seemingly intended to cut the rich confit to fallen deposits of near-tang. 

Classification aside, brasserie, bistro or neighborhood boîte these would be less than ideal finishes in any restaurant. But skill and experience are demonstrably present in the kitchen, evidenced by the doneness of a vegetable or the firmness of a mollusk. And, often enough, the most important, or at least most frequent boxes everyday diners want to check are the ease of entry and welcoming hospitality that blot out a lot of other categories and make a place a local go-to. Cool World has those, plus promise. Even if it might not at first be what it seems. 


The Vibe: Bright and daytime-y even in the evening.  

The Food: Good “pretzeled” Parker House rolls, raw bar items, moules frites with a broth salt-lovers might love and confit lamb shoulder even they probably won’t.

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Time Out Tip: This is the rare new spot where reservations are still easy to come by; perfect for your been-everywhere friends.  

Cool World is located at 905 Lorimer Street. It is open for dinner from Monday-Thursday from 5:30pm-10pm and for brunch and dinner Friday-Saturday from 11:30am-3:30pm and 5:30pm-11pm, respectively. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

Self-billed “neighborhood restaurants” are on the rise and, that category’s increasingly nebulous meaning aside, Gus’s Chop House is among Brooklyn’s latest. The follow-up to five-year-old Popina a short distance away opened in August with press materials further asserting Euro bistro influences and sub-expense account spending. New to the former La Cigogne space, its configuration is more or less the same with a lighter coat of paint, fresh banquettes and other furniture and some new cosmetic accents. 

On the neighborhood note, it’s been—surprise!—a little hard to get a reservation save for shoulder hours, but things have recently eased up a bit and the elevated veranda, three indoor tables and 11 bar seats are set aside for drop-ins. A great local spot will have a good bar, and Gus’s does. It’s a fine place for superb, blessedly textbook Manhattans ($15) and martinis ($16), or/and romantically solo after-work steaks. 

Gus’s has a boeuf duo on its standard menu: a flatiron ($29) and a dry-aged NY strip ($68). A real gem of a tri-tip is only on the Sunday roast menu. The lower-sirloin cut gets the sous vide treatment with herbs and olive oil before a searing turn on the plancha for an uncommonly tender finish nearing incredible. It's sliced and plated with a brothy, appropriately calibrated mushroom gravy. The school night special includes a rich complement of sides like nice fries and Brussels sprouts, terrific creamed spinach and a lovely popover all for $36. 

This and other selections (chicken with its head and feet, fish and lamb for around the same price), give what sometimes feels like the saddest trombone dinner of the week more cheer for a relative value. The spread’s so generous you might want to save other snacks and apps for your next visit when a wonderfully juicy thyme and garlic marinated, binchotan-grilled pork shoulder ($28) is on offer. 

There is one curiosity among the starters. Picture an NYC chophouse shrimp cocktail. I’d bet a hundred dollars I can guess what you imagined. Gus’s poached crustaceans ($21) are served with cocktail sauce, as expected, but on a plate. Turned on their sides in a circle rather than regally perched on the edge of a glass, it’s a little like being handed a bouquet of half-deflated balloons, though the flavor and texture are fine. 

The hash brown with smoked trout roe ($17) is more fun and dynamic. Its crisp, golden block of fried potatoes is topped with crème fraîche and smoked trout roe, bright and bursting. It's a crunchy, creamy, effervescent must. 

In addition to its model, if it ain’t broke, don’t over-mix it cocktails, Gus’s lists a couple dozen bottles of wine priced from $48-$99 alongside more expensive varieties. Glasses are mostly in the teens, presented in a carafe-turned sidecar that looks like a healthy extra splash in the world of four-ounce pours outside these doors. Beer and a few zero-ABV drinks are also available. 


The Vibe: Comfortable and neighborhoody enough with destination appeal.  

The Food: Steaks and chops, a few fish and a head-and-feet-on chicken. The hash brown with smoked trout roe is a standout app. 

The Drinks: Excellent classic cocktails, wine and beer. 

Time Out Tip: Sunday roast is served with copious sides for a relative song: $33-$37, with a $165 prime rib outlier. 

Gus’s Chop House is located at 215 Union Street. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm-10pm and Sunday from 1pm-8pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

If you know anything about Laser Wolf, you know that it is incredibly popular and that nobody can get in. Chef Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia import opened in May with the aim of “celebrating the flavors and colors of Israeli food,” via a variety of skewers and salatim. Pre-bedtime bookings have seldom been available since. 

The shipudiya’s casually flashy location with fantastic views from The Hoxton hotel’s rooftop level, credible accolades, a fun environment and good food have amounted to buzz that influencer content can’t buy. The hot new destination’s aspiring visitors, in fact, line up to wait for Laser Wolf’s vibrations when online reservation stakeouts fail, which they often do. 

Without a reservation, you might spend more time in the hotel lobby than the restaurant. Down a wide staircase, the queue to the host desk sometimes starts forming before Laser Wolf’s 5pm opening time. About a dozen bar seats set aside for drop-ins fill up quickly as lucky ones disappear behind elevator doors. A recent estimate for two was one hour, which ultimately doubled.

There are worse places to wait than The Hoxton’s large lobby. Its couches and chairs are comfortable enough, there is WiFi and a small bar serving hotel-priced beer, wine and simple cocktails. But, although I’m typically a champion of bar dining, I wouldn’t wait 120+ minutes to sit at Laser Wolf’s again, where the stools are fixed to the floor, lap space can’t comfortably accommodate leg-crossing, and elbow room is a little too narrow to fit the bounty most will order. 

The best way to enjoy Laser Wolf’s long, wide-windowed dining room is at a table. They have the view, and, more importantly, they’re better configured for the feast to come. The occasional booking for two will pop up after about 10pm, and sometimes a little earlier for larger parties. If the choice is between biding your time downstairs and eating late, opt for the latter. 

Order the prix fixe. Choose a skewer, and each $46-$52 option begins with a veritable pinwheel of salatim in 11 silver bowls with a flawless hummus at the center. Its olive oil surface gleams gold and vibrant parsley pops like confetti. Dip its accompanying pita, warm and soft between your fingers, like there’s more to come because there is: this and the whole platter’s riches are unlimited. 

The plentiful presentation personifies Laser Wolf’s warm hospitality, amplified by an accompanying card illustrated with a legend detailing what you’re about to dig into. Babaganoush, gigantes with harissa, Turkish celery root and green beans with matbucha are among the best, and those slower to consider for refills (fresh but perfunctory pickled green tomatoes and Persian cucumbers; cabbage with fennel and schug) are still pretty good. It’s all agreeably seasoned if not overly ambitious or unique in NYC to this restaurant alone. 

That the skewers come one to an order might seem paltry on paper, but, keeping in mind the shared spotlight with the salatim, they're appropriately portioned. Each is fired over an open kitchen’s charcoal grill; charred to enhance without overpowering. The beef and lamb koobideh’s ($48) grind achieves a sensational texture and keeps its meats’ distinct tastes intact. The chicken shishlik ($46) perfects its bird to juicy and tender effect that will persuade poultry dismissives. À la carte starters and mains for two (a dry-aged T-bone for $175; whole branzino for $120) are also available, but add-ons are unnecessary and there are enough additional terrific prix fixe sticks (steak for $48, tuna for $54) to plan your next several visits, which, at this wait of rate, will take several more seasons. 

New York city’s best new ice cream ends the meal. Peerlessly creamy soft serve is topped with a brittle, translucent sesame shell and a pair of cherries served in a petite paper cup that you can even take with you to give the next party a better shot. 


The Vibe: Fun, electric and so buzzy it practically vibrates. 

The Food: Mostly prix fixe with a variety of skewers preceded by a bounty of salatim including sensational hummus and baba ganoush.

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine, beer and arak. 

Time Out Tip: Laser Wolf is still one of the toughest tables in town. Be prepared to wait a couple of hours as a drop-in or eat late with a reservation. 

Laser Wolf is located at 97 Wythe Avenue. It is open Sunday-Wednesday from 5pm to 11pm and Thursday-Saturday from 5pm to 1am. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

Getting to Hidden Leaf, by any other name, would be a little annoying. It does not have a Manhattan address in the sense that addresses on the island mostly follow common-sense formulas with accompanying intersections like, say, 33rd Street and 10th Avenue, which is an easier way to identify Hidden Leaf’s approximate coordinates than “75 Manhattan West Plaza,” its formal designation. Imagine trying that in a taxi. 

This is not the restaurant’s fault. As the big malls more swankily referred to as “developments” keep gobbling up Midtown West, rebranding it this or that, we’re going to end up with more made-up destinations. I recently traveled to this one from another, through no fault of my own, at nearby Hudson Yards, which sent my map app into a minor spiral and created more confusion and wasted time than if the locations had just been normally numbered.

Hidden Leaf is the latest restaurant from successful Brooklyn restaurateur Josh Cohen, whose popular previous ventures include Chez Ma Tante and Lilia. It opened in July, cocooned by a concrete plaza bounded by 9th and 10th Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets and obscured enough inside the Midnight Theatre performance venue to invite obvious jokes about its apt name. It is joined in the cloistered rectangle by a Whole Foods and a Peloton showroom. The view of both from some of the cozy, intimate booths that line the roomy space is in contrast to its pretty interior. Chef Chai Trivedi’s (Buddakan, Tamarind) menu is influenced by southern China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam to successful effect. 

Beef for two has recently been in the news, as one famed NYC steakhouse lowered the price of its double porterhouse to $99 and, in a charmingly old-fashioned multimedia campaign, ribbed its contemporaries about their own higher prices. Hidden Leaf is not a steakhouse (it’s billed as “a shareable pan-Asian dining adventure”), but it serves a rather good 28-day dry-aged ribeye that is—and this almost never happens—actually big enough to split for $48. It would not be unexpected to see this explicitly advertised elsewhere for double the price. It's nicely buttery and appropriately funky but, crucially, that expected funk walks a line between subtle and truly pungent. It should please both those devoted and indifferent to the form. The broad appeal also speaks a bit to this part of town, and helps establish Hidden Leaf as an easy option for convenience-seekers (near some offices) and tourist-toting locals (near some sights). 

The wok-fried lobster with XO butter, rice noodle salad and wild mushrooms ($54) is also decently-portioned, though easier to finish for one. Its meat has as fresh an aroma and near-sweetness as any, fun to free from its shell like always, and the accompanying fungi are outstanding: plump, substantial and slightly earthy, paired wonderfully here, and even worth a plate of their own. 

Another seafood standout is listed among the starters, grilled halibut cha ca with turmeric and dill on a duo of skewers ($20). It’s light and flaky and laudably moist with a bit of zippy nước chấm. Rustic cumin lamb dumplings ($19) from the dim sum section are heartier with the punchy notes of their titular ingredients and suitable wrapper thickness. Wood ear mushrooms are also well-prepared with enjoyably chewy wok-roasted rice cakes coated in ginger-soy lime ($19) and grouped in the vegetable/tofu category.

“House classic” cocktails are mostly takes on standards. The Thimble Sipper (amchoor, Japanese whisky, bitters) supposedly “lifts the classic old fashioned,” but it turns out a little too sweet with less body and depth of flavor. A “szechuan spicy pineapple margarita” ($18) is fine, if apparently absent its stated fragrant numbing spices. Beer and wine are also available, as is a $7 carafe of sparkling water that’s unlimited, at least. 

It can feel a little unsettling to enter these seemingly prefab pockets, but Hidden Leaf elevates this one, and it’s a good spot to keep in mind for the next time you find yourself in the area. 


The Vibe: Stylish and a little sexy in spite of its concrete mall surroundings. 

The Food: Billed as “a shareable pan-Asian dining adventure” with standout steak and wok-fried lobster with terrific mushrooms. 

The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer. 

Time Out Tip: Ignore the address. Approach from around 33rd Street and 10th Avenue and head toward the Midnight Theatre facade: Hidden Leaf is inside upstairs. 

Hidden leaf is located at “75 Manhattan West Plaza.” It is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30am to 3pm and dinner Monday-Saturday from 5pm to 11pm. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Flatiron

Chef José Andrés is known both for his work as founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which aims to provide meals amid worldwide crises, and for his hospitality ventures, which presently operate across North America and in the Bahamas. The latter has earned him a United States National Humanities Medal; the former, Beard and Michelin recognition. After returning from near-space last year, billionaire Jeff Bezos bestowed Andrés with the newly created Courage and Civility Award, which comes with a $100 million prize.

Andrés’ Zaytinya first opened in D.C. in 2002, and has two-and-a-half stars (“good/excellent”) in The Washington Post as of 2016. The Turkish, Greek and Lebanese-influenced restaurant’s NYC outpost opened in Manhattan with chef-partner Michael Costa and head chef Jose Ayalathis July. Its location at The Ritz-Carlton, Nomad, would be fine shortly after arriving in the area from out of town, a little fatigued, but still wanting to go “out” before a big day tomorrow. 

Around dinner, the 140-seat space is still bright, maybe not yet calibrated to the newly arriving daylight saving sunsets beyond the big windows outside. Restaurants, in general, are better served to mirror celestial patterns. Things dim a bit a little later, but by then you’re already calibrated for a dining room that seems more lit for brunch than evening feasting. 

These low-point highlights are a little more pronounced at the bar, where, don’t we all want to look twilight-kissed, at most? (Who ever looked beautiful holding a Manhattan in the sunlight? This is not rhetorical; I must know.) The area is pretty, though, curved up toward the high ceiling with shades of blue encased in circles influenced by the evil eye. Most of Zaytinya’s drinks are ok. Its Ankara rye club ($19) is too strong on the vermouth but otherwise fine unless you’re really looking forward to its promise of seemingly absent thyme, cumin and aromatic bitters. The Sidecar to Tangier ($19) is also a serviceable stated mix of the Greek spirit Metaxa, honey, lemon, orange liqueur and a “spice blend,” that all amounts more or less to A Cocktail.

Sadly, it also serves one of the worst cocktails I’ve ever ordered, made or been served. (Including the time I mistakenly shook a daiquiri with old milk instead of lime.) That cocktai is the Just on Thyme ($19) (thyme-infused gin, green Chartreuse, lemon, pistachio orgeat, aquafaba), and it is very bad. 

At the table, and a few days later, I politely described it as dishwater, but more visceral descriptions came, and come to mind. It’s a conversation-starter, at least, raising questions like how soon does aquafaba (typically chickpea water, frequently used as an eggwhite froth replacement) go bad, and could that be the culprit? Best case scenario, Zaytinya keeps the unappetising tipple on the menu, inspires a TikTok challenge and laughs straight to the bank. 

Mediterranean wine selections are the safer bet to pair with mezze, which is divided by spreads, flatbreads, cures and cheese, soup and salad, vegetables, seafood and meat and poultry. Zaytinya recommends three or four plates per person.

The taramosalata ($11) is terrific, bursting with titular teeny-tiny cured carp roe suspended in a blanket of puréed potatoes. It’s vibrant and fun to eat, spread on freshly baked, steaming pita. The Turkish-style pastrama ($11) is also interesting; four transparently thin slices are rich, pungent and exceptionally tender. There’s little else like it in NYC at the moment but the ability to count the addition of (tasty enough) apricots and pine nuts (4 and maybe about ten, respectively) feels a bit stingy for an extra $3. But, if those are pretty good, why the two stars, which in Time Out parlance mean “not good”? A lot of Zaytinya NYC’s hovers around average and, with the above exceptions, seldom zags up to even good’s shallow waters.   

Its hommus ($11) is a clear “it’s fine!,” with a solidly average texture and totally expected proportions of chickpeas, garlic and tahini. Six small, dense falafel balls ($14) also inspire unwelcome comparisons to street favorites, although their accompanying tahini is nicer than most. Four scallops ($21) are admirably prepared to a successful lower doneness than a lot of kitchens, especially in hotels, would shy away from. But aside from crossing the bar low bar of no grit or beards, even their pleasant accompanying chilled corn tzatziki with harissa chili crisp and chives doesn’t do enough to liven up the morsels or make them worth the table space. And the lamb baharat ($16), well that’s fine(!) too, if curiously indistinguishable from “red meat” in general, in spite of lamb’s typical distinctiveness. 

There’s a bit of a home team spirit that comes into play when spending money, and that sentiment is amplified when spending it with a known and respected entity. If it isn’t “good,” or good’s frequent, exaggerated stand-in, “great,” it feels like a defeat. You can’t win ‘em all, but Zaytinya NYC is best left in the visitors’ section. 


The Vibe: Bright and roomy spanning 130 seats with a mostly pale color palette and some vibrant splashes. A hotel restaurant that feels more or less like a hotel restaurant.

The Food:  Turkish, Greek and Lebanese-influenced mezze. The restaurant recommends 3-4 plates per person.

The Drinks: Mostly ok cocktails (avoid the Just on Thyme), wine and beer.

Time Out Tip:  José Andrés’ attractive cocktail bar, Nubeluz, opened on the hotel’s rooftop even more recently. 

Zaytinya is located at 25 West 28th Street. It is open for dinner Monday-Wednesday from 4:30pm to 10:30pm and Thursday-Sunday from 4:30pm-11pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

“Frenchette is impossible,” I texted a friend months after McNally Land alums Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr’s juggernaut opened in Tribeca. “Nothing is impossible,” he texted back. I was right and we ended up someplace else on that occasion, living to visit the talented duo’s polished, popular brasserie and handle its confounding knives (their design appears somewhat counterintuitively upside-down to fingertip-threatening effect) at other times."

Le Rock, the pair’s new, also mostly French effort, opened this July with Walker Stern (Battersby, Dover) as executive chef. The jury’s still out on the insular midtown village’s greater worthiness as a truly local locale, but Le Rock has a more reasonable claim as its marquee than any other legacy or newcomer. (Though it’d be neat if Rainbow Room became a regular restaurant again!) What the expense account spot does right it does very right, and what it does wrong is middling enough to more or less overlook. 

The former Brasserie Ruhlmann space, which I remember being a little too dark and a bit stout in spite of its sprawl, is now lovely—beautifully-lit and airy under high ceilings and Art Deco design elements. As Le Rock, the address has emerged, as if from marble, as what it’s clearly always wanted to be.

A revolving door spins into a glamorous but weirdly small bar area that still somehow takes up a lot of space. It’s anchored by illuminated panels fixed with bottle shelves that wish to reflect vintage dress. It’s pretty, but the configuration feels more like a waiting area, a place to pass through rather than a drinking destination onto itself. There’s room for 30, seemingly evenly split between the boxy bar and a few high-tops. The spendy trio of martinis ($26 with sidecar), including the nicely dry Super Sec with overproof gin and vermouth, and classic Manhattans ($18) are good; this just doesn’t seem to be the place, in spite of its aesthetic appeal, to linger over them separate from dinner arrangements. 

Most of the 130 seats in the larger dining room to the left are tightly stacked, recalling that pre-2020, pre-partition, pack ‘em in agreement Manhattan made some time ago that now, as then, will skew jovial or crowded, depending on your mood. There are also a few, more secluded tables on the periphery that, similarly, track as blessedly-spaced or annexed, also according to temperament. Mine lands on the former, and Le Rock’s best bet for that breathing room is in the back toward the left. 

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Before entrées, the dinner menu’s arranged in shellfish, appetizer and amuse sections, the latter more commonly preceded by “bouche” and signaling a purportedly complimentary (everything costs at the end of the day!) little bite that, here, are more like baby-apps ranging from $6 to $15 with a $45 caviar outlier. That category’s chicken liver mousse ($6) is an adept introduction to the kitchen, smooth and rich under gelée and an excellent spread for the great house baguette (included). Its grilled calamari and shishito brochette is a nosedive better avoided. Five pieces of the grilled squid encase bits of the famously finicky pepper on each $8 skewer. It isn’t bad because it doesn’t taste like anything other than the occasional lick of char or, if you get an active one, naked heat, but most bits are, predictably, untouched by capsaicin. The escargot ($25) is a more vibrant choice, dressed as expected in garlicky green and served in five petite cups under a crouton crown for each that makes flipping them out of their artificial shells easy and elegant. They’re also an ideal vehicle for the rest of the bread. 

Now, this would all amount to a pretty good restaurant so far, truncated bar notwithstanding. But Le Rock’s best plates are high enough above what most of its contemporaries are cooking to catapult it to the realm of very good. 

The agnoletti with corn and chanterelles ($24) sends pillowy pasta into a higher stratosphere of the form: a happy marriage of sturdy and dainty. If this is what pasta can be in NYC, it will be vexing to settle for less. Le Rock’s bison au poivre with terrific French fries ($60) is also imbued with buttery flavor and velvety texture. Both dishes approach that often overreaching cliché, “melts in your mouth” much more accurately than anything it’s ever tried to describe.

Le Rock’s sensational bison is tied with its own menu companion for the best meat I’ve eaten this year. The other is an incredible duck ($48), fragrantly spiced and prepared to that perfect deep pink they’d aim for in “waterfowl: it’s what’s for dinner,” commercials, if those existed. This one, too, is a masterclass of tenderness, deep and dynamic with its own juices and expert seasoning to amplify its natural savory sweetness. 

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I’m a fairly confirmed restaurant dessert denier. Outside of great diners or dedicated shops, they typically disappoint. But pastry chefs Michelle Palazzo and Mariah Neston's excel, including some real showpieces that actually deliver on their appearance. The profiterole’s ($16) a stunner, as is the assortment of sweets (better be at sixty-four freaking dollars), but all night, everybody’s eyes are on the baba cake ($20) with choice of soaking spirit (including classic rum). La Rock makes it one big bundt sliced to order, doused in booze and topped with a generous crown of fantastic whipped cream that all together gets us ever closer to wide acceptance of the word “moist.” Its presentation is rivaled only by its wonderfully finished product; refined and bracing with the exact amount of sweetness and punch for an adult palate. 

Nobody really knows what’s going to happen with Rockefeller Center. A Dimes Square-style destiny seems unlikely. But Le Rock’s mains are better than beloved Frenchette’s and most of its direct competitors. That and surprisingly decent availability at press time might make the micro-neighborhoods new crown jewel the best kept plain-sight secret (though still plenty busy!) across the complex.   


The Vibe: Lovely, loftey and spacious, but crowded and cacophonous, with a small bar up front.

The Food: French-adjacent with nice escargots and chicken liver mousse and excellent pasta, bison and duck. 

The Drinks: House and classic cocktails with a huge variety of natural wines. 

Time Out Tip: Le Rock has a few less crowded tables for two and small groups toward the back. 

Le Rock is located at 45 Rockefeller Plaza. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30pm to 10pm. 

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

Blank Street Coffee first rolled into NYC in August of 2020: A mint green caffeine machine with beans on wheels and people to see by way of Williamsburg. In those late early days of the pandemic, when burgeoning hospitality ventures were more celebrated than they were scrutinized, the uh-oh alarms that previously sounded when suspected disruptors came to town were somewhat dampened. Instead, party lines about the company’s commitment to sustainability, local sourcing and that occasionally eco-friendly five-letter word for cash colorfully covering its very first vessel were the conversation’s loudest.  

A little more than two years later, Blank Street has more than 40 footprints, including that original little cart, another mobile purveyor and enough brick-and-mortar shops to evoke chatter in the town square cloud of social media and headlines like “It’s Not Just You — Blank Street Coffee is Suddenly Inescapable” in The New York Times. Blank Street, founded by friends Issam Freiha and Vinay Menda when they “realized they couldn’t afford the best coffee everyday, and the cheaper options weren’t nearly as good (a tough pill to swallow),” now operates more spots than “any locally owned competitor,” according to the paper. 

They are, as intended, fairly uniform; aggressively nondescript BLANK STREET font stamped on glass doors, walls, cups and at least one attempted meme. The affected anonymity is so successful that, on one recent midtown visit, I would have walked by had it not caught my friend’s keener eye. A large orange and white steam-pipe outside added to its ACME aesthetic, like the whole facade was hastily erected by Wile E. Coyote in another hungry effort to capture the Road Runner. 

Inside, there are a few stools at a large, sidewalk-facing picture window and a couple of high top tables opposite an iPad register beside a pastry case, all reminiscent of a Potemkin village for millennials. We were told that the pastries are from Pain D'Avignon (Blank Street also lists King Street Baking Co, on its website). An afternoon almond croissant ($4.25) was fine; flaky and buttery enough at its peak and chewier like ricciarelli at the ends. 

The beans were described as “generic” by a barista, but their final product is distinctive. The medium-roast Brazilian/Nicaraguan “Speed Dial” blend is intended to have notes of milk chocolate, almonds and strawberries. Charred embers of the former two are perceptible only on suggestion under an unpleasantly funky aroma. Speed Dial’s (small, $2.75) most obvious quality is an acid bite in spite of a splash of whole milk. The cold brew’s (small, $4.25) temperature mutes any sharp notes and it’s an acceptable vehicle for artificial energy. 

That the drip is not to my taste is not why I’d avoid Blank Street. Its funkiness powerfully reminds me of what I used to get at an entry-level expensive, yuppie-trendy shop that I formerly frequented because it was convenient. A lot of people liked more about it than I did. A successful cup of coffee is more subjective than a lot of other food and drinks. I enjoy spendy, novelty-priced varieties, coffee cart bodega brews fairly equally. But I can’t recommend Blank Street Coffee in good conscience because it is all taking and no inviting. 

Although a lot of people live in midtown, it is not considered “neighborhoody.” Another location in leafy Brownstone Brooklyn with that esteemed designation even more clearly demonstrates an inhospitable conceit at the company’s top level.

Blank Street’s mere existence raises a question that was answered more than a decade ago: What should a coffee shop in NYC be? If BS had stayed in trailers, its stated must-haves (“1. much smaller locations (without skimping on culture); 2. investing in technology; 3. quality experience for baristas”) [Sic] would be easier to swallow. But a shop needs to have reasonably comfortable seats, WiFi and a bathroom, even as the first two are mere niceties and the last is only legally required in food service businesses with 20 or more seats and dates later than 1977. It all just adds a little dignity to the whole transaction. 

While its address could fairly be expected to swing cozier, this location has every appearance of intentionally uncomfortable design. The aesthetics are immaterial at this point; each BS is more or less neutrally whatever. This one has a couple of seats outside and some fake potted plants with papery green leaves inside. One small local detail cracks through like a rosebush on the side of the highway; the interlocking black and white floor tiles are identical to what’s underfoot in apartment bathrooms all over this part of the borough. 

None of the seats here (less than 20!) are substantial enough to relax into. Like in midtown, the backs of three stools at a counter that looks out on the sidewalk are too low; the one on an eight-foot banquette is more of a tailbone pillow suggestion. Convince me that the round tables here are not engineered for inconvenience. At about 21 inches high, they’re almost knee-level, just short enough to preclude laptop use or elbow leaning or leg crossing or any function other than supporting a drink. The whole arrangement recalls a car dealership or bank lobby. 

The cappuccino (small, $3.75) is inoffensive. At every location, they’re made on identically programmed machines for consistency. I prefer a little more foam but what’s there is nice and velvety enough, if a little less compact than ideal, and it’s all fairly within the proportions of a cappuccino. Like funk-lovers, there are plenty of people who’ll prefer a manually-pulled espresso drink, but the automation seems necessary given all the distracting WiFi and bathroom-related questions the staff must field from a steady stream of guests. The machinery is also fortuitous in the event of technology disturbances like, say, when Square cuts out and payments must pivot from electronic.

In the absence of answers that speak to what a cafe in NYC should be, there is no reason to enter a Blank Street Coffee. If you do, to save a little trouble: The perennial WiFi network “FBI Van” might be in the air, or a 30-minute trial from a large internet service provider (one hopes); customers might be advised to try the facilities at the Starbucks nearby and bring cash, just in case.


The Vibe: Commissary. 

The Food: Pain D'Avignon, King Street Baking Co, and King David Tacos are among Blank Street’s suppliers. 

The Drinks: Café standards. 

Time Out Tip: A limited-run pumpkin spice latte is among Blank Street’s seasonal fall offerings. 

Blank Street Coffee has several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Lower East Side

Heat and spice are not necessarily synonymous. 

Overheard at Potluck Club, which the team from Milk & Cream Cereal Bar opened on Chrystie Street in June: “Is this going to be spicy?” It is going to be skillfully seasoned, yes, which does not answer the question, I know. But with few exceptions, Potluck Club’s Cantonese American menu items are not intended to be “hot” in the fiery, peppery sense more typically associated with, say, Sichuan cuisine. So, if you’re wondering out of caution, do not worry. Otherwise, plan to ignite another day or ask for extra jalapeños with your salt and pepper chicken ($25). 

The reimagined plate could fairly be described as deconstructed, topping boneless fried thighs amplified by white pepper and a five-spice blend with the green pickled slices, capsaicin somewhat reduced from the process. The chicken is crispy and juicy, portioned to fit between scallion biscuits and spread with a bit of accompanying chili-plum jam for a little DIY sandwich. The biscuits arrive in pairs, their photo-ready surface enticingly gold with flecks of veggie green, abstractly rectangular in handmade fashion. They look delicious, and their best bites are as light and buttery as they appear, with a few drier, denser tastes in between. 

The braised short ribs with kabocha ($38) rise above as Potluck Club’s imperative dish. Inspired by a preparation by head chef Zhan Chen’s father, they’re wonderfully rich and easily separated from bone, fat rendered to silken effect. They’re recommended with sensory-recalibrating with white rice ($3), fluffy and faultlessly executed.  

A few items are plenty to share between a couple, so come with a crowd to try a little more without the commitment to takeout containers at the end of the night. Potluck Club is exceedingly conducive to larger parties. A row of tables easily reconfigured for groups or those even-more-easily-overheard parties of two leads to the bar under a marquee that reads “HERE FOR A GOOD TIME NOT A LONG TIME,” and curves toward the wider dining room. The whole space is attractive, with murals and high-gloss finishes and flattering lights and splashes of sea and coral shades. It all looks like the place to be. 

There are a dozen items on Potluck Club’s dinner menu at press time, with plenty of details to recommend them. The jellyfish tiger salad is daintily arranged with Chinese celery, cilantro, scallions and showered with sesame seeds. A modest tabletop toss mixes its snappy, refreshing flavors. The tea egg supplement ($3) in the XO fried rice with shrimp and sausage ($19) is among the best I’ve had. And the Spicy eggplant ($16) from veggie section is, as billed, one deliberately hot option. Its slices are fried, coated in doubanjiang-garlic sauce and topped with cilantro and fried shallots. It’s a great nightshade, firm and tender and a little creamy with enough of that stated bite to assert itself without shouting. The shallots are terrific, too, giving the already ideally-textured dish a dynamic crunch. It’s likely suitable for most—perky not tear-springing—and a bit more rice can slake sensitive palates. 

One dessert, a tower of swirled pineapple soft serve ($7) harks back to the team’s first operation and, with the additional sprinkle of pineapple bun crumble, the attention to texture that gives some of Potluck Club’s best bets that status. There’s also a fortune cookie on top, but time flies fast in this fun environment, and you may have already glanced up at the message. 


The Vibe: Casual, fun and easy (probably easiest when you make a reservation since it’s pretty popular) with the room and the mood for groups. 

The Food: Cantonese American plates with a “newish take on old classics.”

The Drinks: Beer and wine.

Time Out Tip: Potluck Club is great for large parties, but email to book for 8 or more. 

Potluck Club is located at 133 Chrystie Street. It is open Thursday-Sunday from 5:30pm-10pm. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Soho

Michelin is a 133-year-old French tire company that began publishing guide books to promote road tourism in 1900. It began awarding stars to restaurants a couple of decades later. The stars only began to shine in NYC this millennium, and 65 spots are presently pinned with the anonymously chosen honor, mostly in Manhattan, with 10 in Brooklyn and one in Queens. Many people believe that the restaurants they like are worthy of inclusion, and that the restaurants that they do not like are not. Everyone is correct in every case. 

Oxomoco, in Greenpoint, is a Brooklyn “Mexican, contemporary” entrant, with one star signifying “High quality cooking, worth a stop!”. (Two means “Excellent cooking, with a detour!”; three means “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey!”) Its bavette is one of the finest I’ve had in NYC, it served frozen drinks years before an avalanche of similar-echelon destinations started last summer and it's one of Time Out New York’s best restaurants in the city

In March, Oxomoco’s executive chef-owner Justin Bazdarich followed it and Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient (that one’s for “good value restaurants”) Speedy Romeo with Bar Tulix in Soho. Bazdarich partnered with restaurateur John McDonald (Mercer Street Hospitality) to open the coastal Mexican operation in the space vacated by McDonald’s longrunning Burger & Barrel. Bar Tulix’s menu is influenced by Bazdarich’s “years of traveling throughout Mexico,” according to a press release. 

The polished dining room seats 65 across deep green banquettes, booths, tables and floral-patterned chairs, under attractive lighting warm on varying visions of rouge, high-shine tiles and glassy accents. In frequent restaurant-speak, it’s jewel-toned. In further shorthand, Bar Tulix is also already Michelin-noted, one of 25 additions to its radar published in July that precede both the Bibs and the stars in a sort of pre-pre-engaged fashion that indicates that it might have a more realistic chance of ending up among either than unmentioned ventures. The rubber company/recommendation behemoth/constellation maker’s imprint is so deep that even this low-stakes, passing attachment invites musings on its worthiness. 

Bar Tulix is solidly good, and people who want to feel OK about allocating going-out money here (where a lot feels like it’s a few dollars more than it should be, even in the context of recent headlines) will have fonder feelings than those for whom the guide carries super-luxe connotations. 

The cocktail menu illustrates both notions on the nose. Its $29, 24 Karat cocktail is fine. Reached through a representative, Bar Tulix management attributes the price tag to premium ingredients. The extra añejo tequila (a spirit particularly conducive to sipping and aged for at least three years, 36 months in this case) doesn’t make enough of a splash in the chiltepín chile-infused Grand Mariner, turmeric agave syrup (“100% blue Weber agave and hand harvested from fields in Guanajuato”) and lemon blend to justify the cost, nor does its presentation—poured into a glass and garnished with citrus—seem worth the spend. A classic margarita ($18) is much better and merits second and third rounds, its freshness clearly apparent compared to the synthetic mix you might sip elsewhere. An extra dollar to make it spicy, however, doesn’t, really, and seems only to alter the color of the salt rim. 

Baja guacamole comes in “single” ($17) or “double” ($29) servings, and the former is suitable for two. It's attractively assembled with an abundance of queso fresco, a bounty of cilantro, seemingly a whole serrano pepper windowsill harvest and a couple shots of salsa verde, all obscuring the avocado buried beneath. Its a tasty combination, but light enough on the anticipated primary ingredient to zag expectations. It tastes good, but that fickle fruit in its prime at the bottom of the bowl is surprisingly paltry. The accompanying tostadas are great, and plated in a large enough quantity to break apart and last until the end of the dip with a little extra to sample the nice salsa trio's ($12) ascending heat that maxes out at a pleasant, low-simmer. 

The clam toast ($20) is a hit. Manila bivalves simmer in a broth of Monopolio lager, garlic ancho and butter before their excellently textured interiors are extracted and layered over the thick bread’s surface crunch and softer center. It’s well-portioned between two slices.

Skip the three masa-encrusted branzino tacos ($31 for three, hospitably offered to redistribute to four for sharing), which could be any fried fish beneath an adept batter. The cochinita pibil ($34), though outside of Bar Tulix’s stated seafood focus and from a ways away on the protein spectrum, is the better entrée, its rich roast pork imbued with evenly melted fat and perked up with pickled red onions delicious by the fork-full and piled into corn tortillas. There’s also likely enough to share here, and even take home, depending on how you begin. 

Choose wisely and you’ll be rewarded with appetite space for the esquites, another one of the kitchen’s best that tops a generous dish of plump, sweet corn kernels with Cotija and Chihuahua cheese, epazote, scallions and chives. Go ahead and take a chance on that guac, now that you know what to expect, add the terrific toast, too, and you'll have enough of this fantastic side and the great pibil to enjoy today and maybe even fashion into a special little breakfast tomorrow. 


The Vibe: Slick, stylish and local-enough in a touristy part of downtown. 

The Food: A coastal-Mexican menu with nice shellfish bites like the clam toast, land hits like cochinita pibil and excellent esquites. 

The Drinks: First rate margaritas and a forgettable $29 tipple. 

Time Out Tip: Bar Tulix recently introduced brunch service on weekends. 

Bar Tulix is located at 25 West Houston Street. It is open Sunday-Wednesday from 5pm-10pm,  Thursday-Saturday from 5pm-11pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am-3pm for brunch and Friday-Sunday from 3pm-5pm for “afternoon tacos.” 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Red Hook

If you visited Van Brunt Street in Red Hook once or twice prior to the winter of 2020, it might have seemed like the nautical hamlet’s main street was abundant with places to eat and drink. If you visited 10 times or lived nearby, you’d be well into repeat bar seats and reservations before too long. The apparent plenty was a little deceptive, but almost all of the options were pretty good. The Good Fork, at the base of a brick walkup a few blocks from the water’s edge, was among the best of the bunch. 

Chef Sohui Kim and her husband Ben Schneider opened The Good Fork in 2006 and earned acclaim for Korean-style steak and eggs, chicken and waffles and croque madame at brunch, duck confit, burgers and excellent pork chops at dinner and dumplings whenever, with more overlap here and there. Significant damage during Hurricane Sandy caused the restaurant to close for two months at the end of 2012. 

The next pause would be longer, about two years, due to the pandemic, though a smattering of pop-us bloomed in the interim before a full reopening as The Good Fork Pub last month. Kim and Schneider, who’s fun Korean BBQ restaurant-cum-karaoke bar Insa is a few miles away, also opened one of 2021’s best restaurants, Gage & Tollner, (with St. John Frizell, their hospitality neighbor from Fort Defiance up the block) during the break. 

The Good Fork Pub’s old address is as familiar as its new moniker, with some modifications. Up front, the bar is longer, with fewer tables in the narrow, brick-lined space. It’s a good place to have a drink and achieves the public house intent. The wider, windowed patio dining room farther back is as sunny as ever, should you have hydrated enough the night before to invite the high noon rays to light your face. And the back garden’s capacity has expanded to accommodate more guests outdoors. 

Kim created the menu with head chef Dan Clawson, previously of nearby Pizza Moto. It’s briefer than before but as detailed as ever, with house-cured bacon on the BLT ($19), and an actual veggie burger ($18) in this, the unending era of faux-bloody im-believable this or that. 

Obvious standouts stand out. Kim is a fried fowl champion, with documented hits at the other two operations and previously under this very roof. The fried chicken sandwich with gochujang, mayo and red cabbage on brioche ($18) has an ASMR crunch and a glossy magazine-ad caliber juicy interior that reminds why we thigh. In an area that people love to claim is hard to get to (there is a bus stop one minute away), it’s worth traveling for.

Likewise the wonderful “Korean (by way of Philly) cheesesteak sandwich,” whose only petty crime is explicitly calling it a sandwich, which is implied in the city of brotherly beef but, sure, may be worth spelling out in the borough of deconstructed classics and other culinary surprises. The Good Fork Pub’s contribution to the conversation is a combination of gochujang short rib, American cheese and kimchi mayo on a hero. The understated-to-the-point-of-imperceptible kimchi purportedly present in the mayo is another misdemeanor, but the whole decadent sandwich is still rich and delicious, even in the absence of what could be that welcome element’s more assertive presence. Like a lot of life’s promises, if it hadn’t been mentioned you might not know to miss it. And at least one Philly-by-way-of Brooklyn husband approves of the finished product. 

Yes, The Good Fork Pub’s menu is truncated compared to its previous iteration. The erstwhile accolades that helped make it popular also made it a little tough to grab an impromptu table. The new conceit, including the interior rearrangement, actually makes it easier to pop up to the bar and order fantastic snacks to supplement your beer, wine and cocktails. The soy and beet-pickled seven-minute eggs ($10), with their fresh flavor and creamy center, give a glow to the jarred tavern staple. Their accompanying housemade crisps also polish the potato chip form. 

The bar snack to beat, one that I wish were sold in party quantities so that I could dazzle my friends and best my acquaintances at the next fête, is the kimchi beer cheese with fried wontons ($8). The dip vehicles are an accomplishment: light and crisp while standing up to the spritely, airy blend without shattering until the first bite. It's portioned to share and best to try when you have a little time to spend, as the sensational pair will inspire you to order more from the rest of the menu. 


The Vibe: Carefree, comfortable and casual with drinks and snacks that will make you want to stay for dinner.  

The Food: Great bar food like the kimchi beer cheese with fried wontons and larger plates like the “Korean (by way of Philly) cheesesteak” and the fantastic fried chicken sandwich.

The Drinks: Beer, wine and a full bar. 

Time Out Tip: The dining patio’s a little warm on the hottest days.  

The Good Fork Pub is located at 391 Van Brunt Street. It is open Tuesday-Sunday.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • East Village

If we were attractive, successful but sexily unsatisfied near-youths in a film, dinner would be set at Nudibranch. The new restaurant, which operated as a pop-up for six months prior to opening its 34-seat space in March, is both physically and fantastically in the East Village, the latter in the sense of seeming to have sprung from a sort of idealized notion of downtown cool. The vibes are on. 

It looks a little like a chic, farmhouse library, with a long high-top parallel with the bar near the entrance, a banquette along the far right wall and a row of wood grain-patterned tables in-between. It’s almost equally white and oak-hued across surfaces of exposed brick and shining tiles. Potted plants and a few populated book shelves are poised throughout. It’s electric, but humming, not blaring, surprisingly roomy considering the small space, and, in an infrequent acoustic feat, more or less fine for a low-stakes private conversations. 

Owners Jeff Kim (Atoboy, Eleven Madison Park, Momofuku Ssäm Bar) and Matthew Lee’s (Jua, Jungsik, Momofuku Ko) $75 tasting offers several options across three courses, plus occasional specials and planned seasonal tweaks. A duo of pear wedges from the Union Square Greenmarket is an amuse bouche for the stone fruit’s season, sprinkled with a bit of not particularly additive granola that blasts the bite back to breakfast. 

The first official round’s frog legs are a runaway hit, four juicy handhelds fried to pale golden perfection and topped with beautifully perfumed galangal, ginger, kaffir lime and lemongrass. As simply pleasing as the same category’s littleneck clams are (in spite of their fancy dress in ramp, jangajji, plum and a fingerprint of cab), and against the ever-tempting hamachi, this is the choice to beat. Nudibranch could go fast casual with these amphibious babies, hit Shark Tank and rank in single-digit millions from sports arena, shopping network and licensing sales for quite some time. Nice legs. 

Selections from the mid section are a tick less impressive under this high bar. Shrimp gets a citron kick and it’s paired with more granola. Promising soba is too improved with the addition of marvelous uni ($20 extra). The noodles are studiously prepared with a bright, umami dusting of bottarga, but, instead of veering into gilded lily effect with the two sea delicacies, it all needs the supplement to sing.

Plates ascend again in the last section, which includes a deftly executed grilled steak with Thai basil chimichurri and a buttery finish that’s in a sensation class with that earlier urchin, reaching to top chophouse heights, great aside from forgettable accompanying taro sticks. And stylistically undersold as “mushroom” on the menu, Nudibranch’s are the best I’ve ever had, essential not only to this address, but also to a dining zeitgeist where perfunctory plant based efforts often wilt. An earthy purée at the bowl’s base is crowned with a silken egg yolk that, blessedly, does not recall morning meals. Impeccably prepared fungi varieties like trumpet, hen-of-the-wood and hon shimeji are imbued with flavor and alternately buoyant, crisp, plump texture and an impact that runs over their combined square inches by a mile. It ranks high among NYC’s best new menu items. 

The Vibe: Buzzy and library-cool without the required reading. 

The Food: Many selections across three courses for $75. Order the frog legs, add the uni if you get the soba, and do not leave Nudibranch or NYC without trying the sensational mushrooms. 

The Drinks: Cocktails are $17 each and some pleasing bottles of wine start at $60. Glasses and beer are also available. 

Time Out Tip: Nudibranch will be on break from August 23 through September 7. 

Nudibranch is located at 125 First Avenue. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5:30pm to 10pm and Saturday-Sunday from 5:30pm-10:30pm.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Carroll Gardens

It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. For sure if you’re dining without a reservation, but even if you’ve booked a table, an international superstar’s party could suddenly occupy half the space or a more typical visitor’s companion could arrive so inordinately late that it has a butterfly effect on the rest of the evening’s shift and even the lives of generations to come.   

Cafe Spaghetti opened on the western edge of Carroll Gardens or the eastern reach of the Columbia Waterfront District, depending on realtor-speak whims, in May. There’s an abundance of other, older Italian restaurants all around the former neighborhood and a few in the latter, including charming, 118-year-old Ferdinando’s Focacceria across Union Street. Cafe Spaghetti is chef Sal Lamboglia’s first independent venture after terms at Bar Primi in the East Village and its related operations. 

Inside, the people are happy. I think that this is because, for the past couple of months, it’s been a tough reservation to get. And, on a recent Friday evening, the quoted pop-in wait time was two hours. The exclusivity has cooled even more recently and tables are a little easier to come by at OK times on weeknights and further into earlier and later hours on weekends. 

“Inside” is a metaphor. The majority of Cafe Spaghetti’s seats are situated in a street shed (25) and on the rear patio (40), with a tidy bar and smattering of two- and a few more-tops in between (about a dozen). The front’s more or less what you’d imagine, though handsomer than many similar setups. It approximates pre-vaccine pandemic, sit-down staging more successfully than a lot of buckle-your-seatbelt arrangements, even in sonorous proximity to the BQE. The long, narrow interior would be a terrible place to detail discrete schemes, but fine if you subscribe to the second half of the popular schoolteacher adage. And the manicured back, where umbrellas bloom like inverted petunias, is perfectly serviceable, save for one corner for four that visitors seem quick to vacate apparently due to air conditioner exhaust from a large unit overhead.   

Are your friends, like…odd? About restaurants, I mean, because everybody’s odd about something. But are they oddly competitive about eating and drinking? Always first to ask if you’ve been here or there yet, or having some contrary opinion just for the sake of having a contrary opinion, or treating heat and its friend spice like a test for good taste? Well, you may order the spaghetti Pomodoro ($18) absent fear of scrutiny at Cafe Spaghetti. It is the titular item, after all, lightly coated in tomato’s rouge embrace with a kiss of Parmigiano and basil. 

Pasta’s the thing to beat here, though secondi like chicken Milanese ($28) and eggplant Parm ($24) are also available. A fleeting lobster linguine special ($32) does right by the storied crustacean, preparing its meat to studious tenderness and coating the tangle of accompanying strands in a purposefully thin sauce that my pal thought had a hot kick and I did not and that’s just a palate for ‘ya. A rightfully permanent orecchiette with salsiccia and broccoli rabe ($21) gives the household staple aplomb, with the greens’ low-simmering, bright bitterness, savory sausage’s bite and little ears’ satisfying slight chew. When it’s easier to come by, this is the one you’ll come back to. 

The detail’s in the details, and the ones that make a place good can go unnoticed in a climate of heightened expectations that hot commodities like this can create. Cafe Spaghetti’s food is quite nice, like a lot of places. It’s also notably welcoming once you’ve gotten through the door, theoretical or otherwise. Have you endured paltry wine pours lately? Me too, with sips that skew closer to tasting rations than at some actual tastings that I’ve been to. Here, wonderfully chilled Tuscan Chianti ($16 a glass) and a mood-making Piedmont rosé ($14) flow comfortably. 

That bit of increasingly rare hospitality in a sub-4-oz pour world goes a long way. It’s an invitation to return, even just for a spell at the brief bar for antipasti like the superior cacio e pepe rice balls or homey meatballs in sugo that skew closer to what tops tables the fondly monikered “red sauce” spots in the area, whether you manage to slip in alone or you’re waiting for a late-arriving friend. 


The Vibe: Summer in the city by way of a Brooklyn side street. 

The Food: Italian, including a go-to orecchiette with salsiccia and broccoli rabe, nice specials like lobster linguine and crowd-pleasing meatballs. 

The Drinks: A respectable wine list, plus beer and a few light mixed drinks. 

Time Out Tip: Patches of ground in the back are graveled, but you can probably still navigate them in heels.

Cafe Spaghetti is located at 126 Union Street. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm to 10pm and Sunday from 5pm to 9pm. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Cobble Hill

There isn’t any one single quality that makes a restaurant a “neighborhood place.” The indistinct phrase seems to want to indicate a destination that isn’t too expensive (subjective), where you can reliably get a table (increasingly unlikely in even the most unexpected of places) and you can bring more or less anyone, except for, maybe, your boss’s wife whom you have been tasked to impress in a Bewitched-style madcap caper. 

There’s also a less tangible element, an X factor if you’re a hotshot Hollywood agent or a je ne sais quoi if you’re a moneyed 23-year-old with a pack of airport Gitanes, that makes a place feel neighborhoody or homey or, sometimes even just figuratively, comfortable, and newly opened Nabila’s in Cobble Hill has that, plus some of the other stuff. 

The family-owned Lebanese restaurant opened on Court Street in May. Nabila is Nabila Farah, who was born in Lebanon and runs a catering company in Virginia. She partnered with her son Michael Farah, formerly in finance, to open their Brooklyn venture. Luis Auhet (Eleven Madison Park, Dovetail, Meadowsweet) is Nabila’s chef de cuisine.

Its sweet corner spot is the kind of intersection that a location scout would be lucky to spy early on an assignment and then spend the rest of the day pretending to work. You will, in fact, frequently see those ALL CAPS neon flyers and the film trucks that follow populating the block. The address seems to need to be a restaurant, the opposite of those apparently cursed venues we can all recall, and it was serviceable as Watty & Meg for many years before closing in early 2020. An unloving Time Out writeup about the previous occupant called the greater area’s offerings “famously mediocre,” a truth that comes and goes and seems somewhere in the middle at the moment. Nabila’s is the type of addition that can help recalibrate things back to good. 

“Have you dined with us before?” Nobody asked me that here, but you’ve been asked that before, right? And maybe your friend says, quietly, just to you, something like “I’ve been to a restaurant before,” to imply that the very question is uncalled for. But then there’s some zag and you could have used whatever explanation to begin with.

Nabila’s operates 99% like a standard, sit-down restaurant. You will sit down, for example, especially if it’s closer to opening, before the place crowds up. There are rows of sidewalk seats outside. The large, lofty space inside is bright and highlighted by the sunshine streaming in through tall windows. A few tables are up front, plus specialty pantry provisions for purchase, a register and counter decorated with an abundance of prepared menu items. 

Everything here is made before service and throughout the evening rather than to order, which you’ll do all at once back at the register, including drinks, and pay. This adds the faintest seam to adding rounds, but it’s also a fine excuse to get a bottle because you’re alive and summer can’t last forever. (Glasses start at $12; bottles $42; beer $6.) There is standard table service from there, so it’s only the ordering schema and the batch cooking that could merit a visitors’ quiz. 

Plan most of what you want (a fun challenge for larger groups) before you head up, but save some table space for something good to spy. The harak osbao ($12) is eye-catching, a lovely blanket of green lentils, crispy onions, crunchy bits of pita and plump pomegranate seeds. It is also very good, and likely responsible for many repeat guests. Here, it's light, and each ingredient is performing at its height to achieve a precise blend of flavors and ace texture.

That’s from the “other mezze” section, which is on the menu between dips, small bites, large plates and desserts, with more vegetarian and gluten, dairy and nut-free options than typical. It's a gift to be able to order from each section, and the simple, expert hummus ($7) is great to start, letting those little individual chickpeas swirled beyond recognition into one wonderful sum fulfill their dip destiny unencumbered by more than a bit of lemon and tahina. The small bites are all $2.50 or less so go nuts, but the sfeeha ($2) is a favorite, with concentrated, convincingly garden tomato notes simmering over the more savory beef with a bit of cayenne and green pepper in a pleasant little two-bite shell. 

The mains are substantial and easy to share. The lamb with freekeh ($21) and the chicken hashweh ($17) will, like the harak osbao, probably mint regulars. Everything at Nabila’s is well executed, so the meat is tender and moist and all that—the technical skill here is of an elevated class—which makes the restraint and willingness to season to enhance while otherwise letting the ingredients sing, all the more noticeable. The braised shank breaks apart easily and has a lean richness, and the roast bird recalls fowl’s finest. The former’s slightly puffed accompanying grain’s gentle spring is uncommonly magnetic, inviting taste after taste after you more or less already know what it tastes like. The latter’s basmati is also nicely finished and bolstered by seasoned beef. Additional dip-accompanying pita is offered throughout. 

Relatively inexpensive with a high quality for value, not-too-hard to get a seat at times and inviting, Nabila’s has distinct neighborhood hallmarks worth taking a detour toward. 


The Vibe: Bright and lofty; a little more cafe-style up front with a larger dining room in the back. 

The Food: Billed as “Lebanese home cooking” standouts include the harak osbao, lamb with freekeh and the chicken hashweh.

The Drinks: Beer and wine. 

Time Out Tip: Menu items are made prior to opening and throughout the evening, and Nabila’s gets crowded quickly, so visit early if you can. 

Nabila’s is located at 248 Court Street. It is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30pm to 10pm. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

New York City has almost as many pizza places as it does assertions, superlatives, clichés and burlesque analogies about the official food of the five boroughs. Each of those slice shops and pie emporiums contribute a little piece to the moveable feast that this international pizza capital is famous for. 

The best ones are beloved for a few foundational similarities. NYC's finest pizza, in its most common, Central Casting form, handles well with a crust that’s neither floppy nor rigid. It is substantial but easy to fold, which is especially important for anyone who is presently or wishes to become mayor. Its sauce stops shy of sweet. Its cheese produces a telegenic pull in instances where pull is expected. And its toppings adhere; none of this sliding around like a Fisher-Price baby’s first hospitality business business. Any place that achieves and exceeds those core tenets is, like roasted garlic, anchovies or bitterly divisive pineapple, extra. Brooklyn DOP, which opened its Park Slope storefront in June, successfully executes the critical basics and brings a bit more to make it a good new addition to the never crowded, always expanding field. 

Brooklyn DOP first began as a pre-vaccine pandemic project. Locals Thomas Gian Ardito and Jason Rocco D’Amelio, who each had formative experience in food service before embarking on careers in fitness and and finance, respectively, demonstrated a knowledge of food science, fixation on detail, love of ingredients and burgeoning brand identity in closeup on Instagram. Back then, pies were acquired via DM or at the occasional pop-up. Now, they’re sold alongside slices in a long, narrow space that looks like a classic NYC pizza parlor outside of the monosyllabic first name genre. Its tomato red facade is emblazoned with mixed and matched typefaces promising Margherita, Sicilian and grandma varieties, plus beer and wine. The register’s up front, oven’s in the back, with exposed brick, vintage-effect photos, a row of counter seats and a couple of half moon two-tops throughout. There’s a dining shed off the sidewalk and a no-bones patio in the back with a few tables under umbrellas and an unvarnished wood banquette that might snag delicate fabrics or exposed skin. Most recently a Luke’s Lobster, Brooklyn DOP seamlessly slides in and feels like it’s been at this address for a long time.

Pizzas displayed behind glass in the brief window between bake and plate are more styled than the ubiquitous standard; each surface more carefully arranged than at an everyday stop and scarf spot. A just-finished grandma slice ($4.50 or $32 for a whole pie) is crackly on the bottom with a dainty, lacy interior crust and harmoniously portioned sauce and mozzarella imperatively amplified by a Parmigiano-Reggiano that gives the thin square its uniquely beckoning bite and flavor dimensions. 

This is, of course, outside of that typical cartoon slice; the piping triangle that almost anyone who’s ever had one would recall when asked to conjure the form. Brooklyn DOP does nice takes on those, too, though they seem slightly smaller than the familiar. Its Giusepp’ ($3.75/$25) is closest to that memory, though notably better–more technically adept with more carefully selected components–than the median. Its Margherita ($4.50/$30) is painted with portions of sauce and cheese and kissed with flecks of fresh basil that prove how important all that focus on apparent minutia is to the big picture. It takes a satisfying slice and sends it careening up to good. And, reconfigured once more to right angles, the Sicilian ($5.50/$35) could obscure a pea from a princess, high and light as it is, topped with pepperoni cups that get pleasantly just a little crispy at the edges. 

The counter service spot would land just as nice as it does even absent its origin story, but food and drink ventures that got going after the industry came to a halt in early 2020 and before it formally started moving to the point it is today are also interesting to consider through rose-colored notions of resilience, hope and perseverance. Any place would have needed all that, and more, plus a little luck to survive and thrive into this present moment. Brooklyn DOP also has one more element that sets it apart from its peers—one that got a lot of us through that same period that lingers still. Alcohol. Pair your pie with a few rounds of beer or wine to inspire your own assertions, superlatives, clichés and burlesque analogies.  


The Vibe: Cute and classic NYC pizza parlor style with a whisper of nostalgia. Counter seats and a few two-tops are inside with room for more in two outdoor dining areas.

The Food: Better than standard pizza by the pie and slice.  

The Drinks: Wine and beer on tap and in cans. 

Time Out Tip: Groups of more than a few can fit more comfortably outdoors.

Brooklyn DOP is located at 237 5th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Nolita

Daisuke Nakazawa was already known to many from his appearance in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi when the restaurant emblazoned with his name opened in the West Village in 2013. It was virtually impossible to get into at first, and after, and, it seemed like it may as well have cost a million dollars at the time. (The 20-ish course omakase is presently $150 per person in the dining room and $180 at the counter, which today is hundreds less than many of its peers’ price points.) When I finally got to visit, it was like temporary entrée into a parallel universe where Spanish mackerel, fatty tuna and eel achieved nature’s ideal form; unlike anything available back in the real world. It was disarming, and still ranks high among eating and drinking experiences I’ve had before or since.

Nakazawa opened Saito with partner Hitoshi "Jin" Fujita (Sushiden, Sushi Nakazawa) and head chef Daniel Tun Win (Inakaya, Prime Grill) this past May. The tidy space seats six at tables near the entrance, with room for a few more at the open kitchen-facing counter a little farther back. A separate, narrow, brick-lined dining room to the left can accommodate about 18. Both areas are lean and crisp in warmly-lit shades of white and gray. It is an exceedingly hospitable operation executed in what appears to be effortless fashion that could be studied as an industry model. It’s also curiously easy to book at the moment, even as less impressive affairs are packed. So do that

Half-a-dozen clear, cold sake varieties are available by the glass ($16-$21), and each pick is satisfying enough to start at the top of the list and sip your way down. There, you’ll reach one unfiltered variety ($16) and a lychee-infused pour ($15). A few small bottles start at $37 and larger ones soar from the $80s to aspirational territory. 

The menu’s easy to configure into snacks, app/main format or a DIY tasting. The sculptural toro tartare with caviar is so beautiful to look at it invites first-bite hesitation; the knowledge that once enjoyment of the thing moves between senses, from sight to touch and taste, it’s all over. 

Try to skip the existential pause and enjoy your $35 worth. Look: you have two halves of an elegantly pressed mochi rice biscuit about the size of the inside of a handshake. Its base is pressed to the edges with silken bluefin tuna. The generous dome of pearlescent fish eggs at the center is knighted with a glimmering fleck of gold. It seems like a sin to smother it all with the shell’s floral-imprinted top half, but the hollow sides join to marvelously envelop the smooth layer of fish and vibrant caviar and, sure, you wouldn’t “know” the flickering glimmer was in there, too, but you know the flickering glimmer is in there, too. Yes, this is a bonkers amount of money to pay for a few bites. It's also a bit of luxury for considerably less than those mid-triple-figure menus elsewhere; a culinary equivalent of the lipstick effect

The crispy rice is also a pleasure. Deep fried, pressed sushi rice is topped with spicy tuna ($20), salmon ($20), ikura ($25) or uni ($32). The latter excellently marries the crispy, lightly chewy base with plump bits of full-bodied urchin that could, to be fair, elevate almost anything.  

Bowls are less practical to share. That can be nice, and they are nice, if not among Saito’s most noteworthy options. The mini chirashi ($20) is a pleasant mix of raw sliced fish like salmon and tuna and exuberant ikura over rice. Even with the fun, bursting red roe, its smaller-than-standard surface area minimizes what's typically a kaleidoscopic effect, and makes it a little too reminiscent of a (still better than than normal) grab and go office lunch. The same category’s Wagyu don ($28) lets Wagyu do what Wagyu wants: pack more inimitable, abundantly buttery flavor and texture into a few slices than many other cuts can do at five times the size. Expensively. It isn’t shaking any notions of the spendy beef, but it will please your Wagyu devotee. The fried section’s juicy, lightly-coated karaage ($16) swings back into practical sharing, and skews closer to essential dish status.  

Saito’s sashimi for two ($40) is a knockout. Selections will vary, and items like bluefin tuna, king salmon, sea bream and amberjack are, as expected, expertly sourced and unquestionably high quality. Three slices of each are served alongside brightly perfumed, wonderfully grainy wasabi. Its consistency is a small, giant, telling detail that pulls the whole place’s essence and apparent intentions into focus, all in the space of a thimble; another keyhole peek at the triumphs Nakazawa and his teams bring to NYC. 


The Vibe: Exceedingly inviting in a small, but comfortable space. 

The Food: Excellent sashimi, great crispy rice with uni, a good karaage and a sensational toro tartare with caviar as a splurge. 

The Drinks: Terrific sake by the glass and small or large bottle, plus beer and wine.

Time Out Tip: It’s rare that a highly recommended restaurant such as this has available reservations, so take advantage fast. 

Saito is located at 72 Kenmare Street. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5pm-10pm.


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Lower East Side

Although anything can be romantic—a newsstand in the rain, the bow of the Staten Island Ferry, the Red Hook Ikea parking lot—relatively few restaurants and bars actually are. It takes a lot to conjure real chemistry. In love and hospitality, the right combination of lighting, aesthetic appeal and the yearning for more can make magic. Ye’s Apothecary, which opened in June, has all of the substance, style and intangible qualities that often kindle infatuation. It is New York City’s best new date place. 

The Szechuan tapas spot follows the same team’s well-regarded Blue Willow restaurant, which opened in midtown at the end of 2020. Both are attractive, but Ye’s Apothecary is exceedingly pretty, even dark as it is before the sun sets outside the subterranean space. It has mild speakeasy proclivities (as is law in 2022), situated down a staircase on a relatively quiet (or at least less frenetic) stretch of Orchard Street, and ideally authored menus to turn "getting to know you" into a little more. 

Descend and make a sharp right: a cinematic bar is over your shoulder, set with gleaming emerald tiles and a few seats facing illuminated shelves as studied as a still life. The expanse of the long, jewel-toned venue is to the left, where elegant light fixtures float above banquettes and candlelit, marbled tables. It’s all very intimate, both as a euphemism for manageably tight and as a mood. You will be able to hear surrounding conversations, which all seem to be following the same uneasily promising first date script, but expert design and brilliant atmosphere helps that chit-chat track cute. It’s all very polished but stops shy of feeling overproduced. 

Ye’s Apothecary has as venerable and varied a dinner menu as any more languid destination, but tables here turn over much faster, indicating that those apparent dates went much worse or much better than they appeared. The excellently calibrated options are equally suited to order one or a few, or strain bear hug-sized two-tops with veritable banquets. The potstickers ($15) are wonderful in all scenarios. Goldilocks-density wrappers with swipes of pan-kissed gold encase juicy beef or pork for dual acts of texture in about as many bites. The chili filet-o-fish ($22) is also a stunner. Mild and moist cuts of seafood are coated in a sensational crust with a gently building heat that’s hard to stop returning to. And the Singapore duck fried rice ($24) is a nice, familiar, larger plate. 

The architecturally arranged “thirteen spices” soft shell crab ($26) is serviceable. It's battered too thick to identify the typically unambiguous crustacean at a glance, and it tastes more of fried than anything else, which seems to be emerging as a theme at restaurants citywide. It is still adeptly executed even in the absence of that titular baker’s dozen of flavors. Though not unpleasant, and a better-than-bar-food comfort contender, it’s a little disappointing to bite into what could be almost anything during the starring item’s fleeting season. A pile of Szechuan beef ($16) is also even sweeter and more rigid than expected, landing like a candy apple. It still has some merits as a snack and could be fairly paired with something like a dry martini. Many of the drink menu’s great, detailed cocktails skew a sketch sweeter. 

Beverage selections from the beautiful, boozy jewel box are as lovely as the area suggests. The plum martini ($18) is a vibrant joy, fragrant and blooming with stone fruit notes and bracing strength. The rye-based Lost Hours ($18) is also a kicky tipple, imbued with chile liqueur and star anise bitters. And a dedicated gin and tonic menu (each $18) suffuses the simple classic with interesting bitters, tea elements and herbs. It all creates plenty to talk about on a date, whether you’re destined to simply pass in the night, or one day purchase Swedish furniture together. 


The Vibe: Exceedingly pretty, intimate and romantic with a quick pulse; NYC’s best new date destination. 

The Food: Billed as “Szechuan tapas” with a sensational chili filet-o-fish and wonderful beef or pork potstickers, plus a great truffle mushroom salad and a nice larger plate of duck fried rice.  

The Drinks: A wonderfully detailed dedicated gin and tonic menu, fragrant standouts like the plum martini, plus beer and wine. 

Time Out Tip: Reservations are strongly recommended. A high two-top at the far end of the space is particularly intimate if you don’t mind the backless stools. 

Ye’s Apothecary is located at 119 Orchard Street. It is open Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm-midnight and Friday-Saturday from 5pm-1am.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Financial District

Chef Daniel Boulud’s last NYC restaurant opening, Le Pavillon in May of 2021, seemed like a huge deal at the time. It was among the hospitality industry’s splashiest early post-vaccine pandemic premieres—it landed a lovely location in a flashy new midtown skyscraper and elected officials attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the occasion like it was some kind of midwestern supermarket, rather than the latest on a long list of a celebrity restaurateur’s Manhattan—and worldwide—ventures. The spendy spot’s fanfare was kind of quaint. Then, its mere existence launched a smattering of ‘the way we whatever whenever’ internet word casseroles, and the dining public responded by snapping up La Pavillon’s $125 (now $135) three-course tasting reservations. 

Boulud’s Le Gratin had a more routine introduction to its Financial District address last month. It’s one of those returns to normalcy that people keep wishstablishing: that an excellent restaurant can open without ever severing a single ribbon must mean that New York is back, baby. Again. 

Le Gratin’s sidewalk-level room at The Beekman hotel was previously occupied by Augustine. It feels more like a suite that can accommodate the shy side of 100. Crescent leather booths up front in view of the blushing bar that fit four and feel luxuriously roomy for two, banquettes, and untethered tables all awash in mild amber hues are quick to fill. Slightly fogged mirrors, dainty floral fixtures in handsome dark finishes, more blooms splashed across gleaming tiles that stop short of recalling grandmom’s bathroom and the high-set illuminated Roman numeral clock that divides the space between the front and the back are all familiar from before. 

It's romantic in vaguely precise ways. This is where you’d visit in the midst of a secret, shared with someone unexpected, at what seems like an inopportune time that turns out to be the perfect moment, amplified by nice cocktails like the au soleil (gin, lemon, Grand Marnier, mint, Angostura) and the le début de la faim (rye, Bonal, Campari). This quality comes on stronger a little later in the evening, though the operation is conceivably just as suitable for more festive-than-most business dinners or after-work drink rituals, and, given its location, you’re liable to spy the occasional tourist. But the unifying hallmark here is character. Le Gratin, even while borrowing considerable style from that relatively recently vacated venue, from with a famed chef who could be simply cutting cookies by now, has the hard-to-come-by essence of being a place. Plenty of restaurants get by on that alone, and for years, but Le Gratin’s food is also exceptional. 

“I would have all of that again,” my own, very expected someone said the other night, right after I’d ordered dessert. “Right now.” This, after not-so-secretly wondering if my order design was overly ambitious. 

Le Gratin’s French menu is influenced more specifically by Lyon, Boulud’s hometown. Created with chefs Guillaume Ginther and Jean François Bruel, both of whom previously worked at Daniel, the titular technique appears somewhat sparingly, but brilliantly. The quenelle de brochet au gratin ($32) is essential to Lyon, a staffer says. A cylindrical pike dumpling achieves sensations of airy lightness and buoyant texture to ‘how’d they do that’ magic trick effect. Its preparation is challenging enough (though I’ll spare you a summary of pages 184-190 of my edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) to champion dining out at all, even before considering the rich Gruyère-mushroom béchamel that fills out the dish. 

Generally, don’t-try-this-at-home recipes are second only to the hope that a purveyor will produce something unlike anything commercially available within a reasonable distance on the list of reasons to go out. Le Gratin’s quenelle isn’t its only example of that promise fulfilled, and it’s joined by similarly outstanding offerings. Escargots are made half a hundred ways around town, and here their expert selection suggests individual, labored inspection. They're lightly fried and plated with an herbaceous spinach coulis and terrific three-bite triangles of pig trotter as smooth as swine can be with a crispy exterior ($24). The appetizer abstractly evokes items from the lowkey food film Defending Your Life. Everything here is so good that you’ll search for reasons to reduce the options. The crabe Marie Rose ($28) is on the lighter side of starters, with plump bits of shellfish, improbably ideal avocado, lettuce and grapefruit, but maybe you had seafood salad for lunch. Likewise, the trout roe that tops deviled eggs ($14-$22), or maybe you’re pacing yourself toward the mains. 

The gratin dauphinois comme marie makes a strong case as Le Gratin’s own essential dish: impeccably executed cheesy potatoes available as a standalone side ($14) or served as a matter of course with the spit-roasted chicken (half $37, whole $70), or as a choice with the pan-seared Dover sole ($85) or the côte de boeuf for two ($180). It’s also wonderful to pair with the sliced duck breast ($39), marvelous at the recommended medium-rare, which comes with its own sparse assortment of spring vegetables like a spritely asparagus stalk, a couple of earthy carrots and a mellow turnip that cuts the duck’s concentrated flavor. 

Do order ambitiously; dinner comes but once a day and evenings this exquisite outside of explicitly fine dining destinations, like Boulud’s Daniel, are even fewer and farther between. But calibrate for executive pastry chef Kristyn Onasch’s comprehensively splendid desserts like the choux et prune à la crème ($15), with chantilly that practically floats, and a near-sweetness you’ll keep going in for as if to seek another kiss. Just maybe save that action for those later hours when La Gratin assumes its more romantic posture. 


The Vibe: Effortlessly romantic at dinner hour and beyond, but equally adept as a business or after-work destination. 

The Food: Excellent French fare with a focus on Lyon. The quenelle de brochet au gratin, escargots with pig trotter, gratin dauphinois comme marie and duck breast are highlights among highlights. 

The Drinks: A full bar with some well-crafted cocktails, wines by the glass and sub-$100 bottles and a couple of beer varieties. 

Time Out Tip: The door marked WC leads you through a labyrinth before you reach the bathroom, which is down a flight of stairs, but you’ll pass through a lovely atrium to get there. 

Le Gratin is located at 5 Beekman Street. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 5pm-10:30pm. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


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. 


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 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 Wellington 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. 


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.   

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


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.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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? 


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. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 


  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.  


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


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. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 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. 


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.

  • 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.

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