Inspired by equal parts Louisiana and Newfoundland—where cracklings are called “scrunchions”—chef Jeremie Tomczak’s irresistably crusty cubes of deep-fried pork belly are sticky-good, coated in cane-sugar caramel, crushed peanuts and powdered malt vinegar. Spilling out from a cone of butcher paper and dressed with thyme, you’ll have to pull out serious willpower to not hoover ‘em by the handful. $6.
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Listed in their “Snack” section of the menu, Chef Jesse Schenker has created one of the most craveable dishes all year. First, sweetbreads are poached with onion, garlic and sachet. The skin removed, the sweetbreads are chopped into bite-sized portions, tossed in Wondra flour then deep-fried. The fried bits are coated in Shenker’s homemade buffalo sauce of melted butter, Sriracha and sherry vinegar then topped with petite wands of pickled carrot and celery. A cooling little pot of sauce made with Stilton and creme fraiche is served alongside for dipping. $12
The poultry starter at Gaurav Anand’s uptown kitchen arrives without fanfare, but after a single bite, you’ll realize how sorely you’ve underestimated its spice-packed valor. The dark boneless meat is exceptionally flavorful, not surprising after a marinade bath of ginger, garlic, green coriander and deggi mirch (the ground, dried fruits of Kashmiri red chilies). Pomegranate-seed-infused mustard oil, sour cream and lemon juice give the addictive fowl its tangy thrum, while a blast in a clay oven over lava rocks is to thank for its smoky pitch. $10
This luxurious bird more than lives up to its name—hot from the brass-trimmed rotisserie ovens, chef Chad Brauze pulls a voluptuous Pennsylvania chicken, which has been dry-brined overnight and air-chilled so its skin cooks to a greaseless, textbook crisp. Beneath that crackling skin hides juicy, tender flesh and a rich, fat-fortified panko-mushroom stuffing. A slab of seared foie gras perched on top guarantees this gussed-up fowl a spot in New York’s big-ticket-bird coop. $72 for two people.
Of the wood-fired plates at husband-and-wife team Felipe Donnelly and Tamy Rofe’s Latin canteen, the most striking is the house steak. Once the day’s cut—usually skirt or rib eye—is trimmed, the hulking beef is grilled over embers, with caveman smokiness seeping into its marbled flesh and charred crust. Kicky salsa verde and velveted fire-roasted sweet-potato–romanesco-broccoli puree cranks that dial to eleven. $32.
Remember Daniel Humm’s incredible roasted chicken at the Nomad, the one festooned with foie gras and truffles under its skin to keep the meat moist? It was one of our top picks for 2012’s 100 Best and we haven’t stopped dreaming about it since. At this dark-wood cocktail annex, you can reunite with that same succulent bird, only this time that primo poultry is tucked beneath a butter-glossed pastry crust with fresh green peas and a creamy mushroom sauce. That gorgeous shell is cracked tableside to slip in a skewer of grilled foie and earthy truffles. Your mama may love you, but she never made you a pot pie like this. $36.
Executive chef Matthew Rudofker is no strangers to the large-format menu, but the latest addition to the restaurant’s feasts might just be its best yet. Dry-aged for at least 50 days, a 65-ounce, mineral-rich ribeye is crusted with salt, roasted a la plancha and basted in browned butter, but Rudofker doesn’t stop there. The charred-on-the-outside, rosy-on-the-inside beef comes with a dizzying array of extras, including the salty au gus, pungent onion-red-wine marmalade and creamy bernaise that lustily lacquer the meat. $225.
Of the next-level snacks at Seamus Mullen’s Gotham West Market tapas bar, the deep-fried lamb meatballs have become our go-to wine soakers. Dip the crusty, pop-in-your-mouth spheres, dressed with peppery mojo picón, in the tangy sheep’s-milk yogurt pooling beneath for one exquisite bar bite. $11.
One of the tastiest payoffs of the Crown Heights spot’s sandwich-to-Caribbean makeover is the smoked, Jamaican-spice–rubbed swine chef Michael Jacober pulls off the wood-fired grill. Roasting over an open flame annoints the meat with heady smokiness, a boldness matched by the jerk seasoning’s punch of allspice and chiles. Served as hefty hunks on a platter, the charred, crackly-skinned hog is intended for splitting, but you’ll be hard-pressed to share this prized pig. $8.50 per half pound.
For these scene-stealing flappers at the theatrical dining room in the McKittrick Hotel—also home to Sleep No More—R.L. King (Hundred Acres) marinates the petite fowl wings in a finger-licking malt-and-date HP sauce, but that won’t stop you from giving the supple meat an extra smothering of the accompanying salty-sweet bacon-walnut marmalade. $14.
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Trattoria Machiavelli’s space sweeps you off noisy Columbus Avenue and into Renaissance Italy, with high ceilings, heavy wooden tables, large black and white floor tiles and cross-frame chairs with pillows, not to mention sidewalk seating. Chef Gian Pietro Ferro (Fiorella, Osteria al Doge) offers up classic Italian cuisine, even producing handmade fresh pasta on-site. The menu is so extensive, with sections for carne, pesce, pasta, risotto and pizza, plus appetizers and daily specials, one wonders how the kitchen manages it all. The wine list is similarly infinite, featuring a wide range of Italian options such as a purple, tannins-heavy 2011 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Cerulli Spinozzi. The fritto misto ($13.95) is a pile of crispy shrimp, calamari and show-stealing, buttery baby scallops, plus carrot and zucchini slices. The carpaccio di manzo ($16.95) is delicately arranged like flower petals on a plate, topped with arugula, fennel, shavings of grana padano and truffle oil lightly coating the thinly sliced beef. The ravioli of the cacio e mele con stufato d'agnello ($25.95) is loaded with ricotta, although it’s hard to detect the presence of the apple, and lamb ragù is spooned on top. The risotto vecchia Milano ($23.95) is pooled on a plate, wealthy with sweet fennel sausage and saffron. Unfortunately, neither dish arrives particularly hot. Skip dessert and instead sip a digestif: The torta della nonna ($10.95),a traditional pastry filled with cream and layered with p
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