At the Chez Sardine retool, Little Wisco fixture Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly takes on the cheese-of-the-moment with this creamy mozzarella number, drizzled in fruit-forward olive oil, sprinkled with roasted radishes and pocked with smoked red-pepper crèma. What sets it apart, though, are the boquerones (Spanish white anchovies) that hint at the bar’s namesake and add a welcome onslaught of salt and fresh-from-the-sea brine. $16.
The Williamsburg fried-chicken favorite already had us with their purist take on chicken and waffles, but they really sealed the deal at their LES sophomore effort, where they debuted newfangled combinations like this foie-gras–speckled special. Served alongside their crunchy, 24-hour–brined bird, the fluffy Belgian-style waffles get dotted with luxe slips of liver, with a snowing of extra shaved foie for good measure. And if that doesn’t have you drooling, the luscious duck-fat maple syrup drizzled over the top should do the trick. $17.
What the hell is a buss-up shot, you ask? Formally known as paratha roti, it’s a flaky Trinidadian bread that got its nickname (“busted up shirt”) because of its torn, tattered texture. At this reggaeton-fueled hang, those soft, buttery shreds are made for wrapping around tender grilled shrimp, slathering with sweet tamarind chutney and dipping into the excellent curry vegetable casserole, which arrives thickened with peas and humming with heat. $19
Loads of art benefits from a little illegal-substance lift—hell, we wouldn’t have most of rock ‘n roll without it—and this stoner-friendly fry plate at Ilan Hall’s Space Ninety 8 restaurant is no exception. The brainchild of a line cook’s alleyway ganja break, thrice-cooked frites are heaped Vietnamese-style with pulled pork, pickled carrots, zingy jalapeño and freshening cilantro, Pollock-streaked with sriracha, house Kewpie mayo and hoison gravy. It’s so gimmicky-good, you’ll want to inhale it. $14.
At Patti Jackson’s tribute to the mid-Atlantic, the prix fixe kicks off, appropriately, with a pail of warm, fresh pretzel rolls, the kind Jackson could find in her native Pennsylvania. Dipped in lye, the yeasty bulbs are soft and sweet on the inside, crusted in white salt crystals on the outside, and make for a deliciously chewy vehicle for liberal schmears of garlickly ramp butter. Prix fixe for $48.
Move aside bouillabaisse and ratatouille—instead of those ubiquitous French classics, opt for Koren Grieveson’s take on the granny-chic, nearly-forgotten dumplings of Southern France. The chef subs out customary lamb trotters for fatty pork shoulder and braised beef tripe, stuffing the meaty mixture into delicate, pillowy pouches, and submerges the pockets in a sauce of lamb-neck stock, stewed tomatoes and white wine that’s lighter than the traditional dish, but no less lush. $14.
It’s a quite the feat picking just one of the montaditos—pinxtos mounted on sliced bread like Spanish bruschetta—off the menu at this Basque-country haunt, but luckily enough, the bites are thrifty enough to order a bunch or, hell, all. The crusty open-faced sandwiches come heaped with all sorts of Spanish curios, like a creamy pad of whipped salt-cured cod with caramelized onions ($6) or salty ribbons of jamón paired with delicate, garlicky baby eels ($5).
Inspired by Jamaica’s pickled fish pate, this playful pileup from Hugue Dufour is the madcap answer to classic blinis and caviar. Potato blini batter is given the waffle treatment, crisped, stacked and littered with a smattering of pickled smelt fillets that, along with a generous plop of crème fraiche, melt into the waffle’s crannies like good butter. A fistful of trout roe pearls adds a vital smack of salt. $14.
One of the finest ways to warm up this year is the rich, slow-cooked casserole at chef-owner Jacob Eberle’s ambitious, tucked-away French bistro. For the gut-busting south-of-France classic, Eberle stews Tarbais beans in fond de volaille (roasted chicken-foot stock) and crushed tomatoes for nearly three hours until they’re full-blown creamy, crowning the legumes with glistening slabs of pork belly, garlicky pork sausage crammed with fennel and smoked paprika, and duck confit, rendered nearly floral from a curing in parsley, rosemary and juniper berries. A smart splash of lemon juice and sherry vinegar cut through that meaty decadence. $24.
There are plenty of updated bubbe plates at Theo Peck’s sleek New Brooklyn provisions shop—orange-scented ricotta blintzes, biali dip—but there’s one Jewish classic that even Peck won’t mess with. His rich, restorative matzo-ball soup is as old-school as his deli roots (Peck is the great-grandson of the co-founder of famed kosher-dairy restaurant Ratner’s), swimming with slips of confit rotisserie chicken, carrot and celery batons and one giant sinker, the dill-flecked midpoint between dense and tender. $7.50.