Time Out Love New York Awards 2014: the top local restaurants in New York
You voted in your thousands—here are the top neighborhood restaurants as chosen by you
We launched the Love New York Awards to find out more about the local businesses that make your part of the city awesome. The nominations came so thick and fast they were almost overwhelming, with everything from fine dining bistros to late-night diners nominated for a shot at glory.
Now, after an intense voting period in which more than 10,000 of you had your all-important say, it’s our great pleasure to reveal the independent restaurants you guys love above all others. There were a few close calls (and a few freakin’ landslides), but through it all one thing was absolutely clear: New Yorkers are truly passionate about their neighborhoods.
All of which just leaves us to say congratulations to all of this year’s winners and runners-up, and bon appetit to everyone who voted. Now get out there and show your local businesses some love.
Top local restaurants
Azasu is a casual neighborhood izakaya located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We serve Japanese comfort food and bar snacks – the sort of food best eaten with a drink in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Family-style pork gyoza, crispy fried chicken karaage, comforting Japanese curries, rice, and noodles come to the table alongside icy mugs of Japanese beer and frozen yuzu cocktails. Our food loves booze, so the drink menu overflows with Japanese whiskies, frozen shochu drinks, and Japanese Hoppy (a popular non-alcoholic beer spiked with shochu). Our hand-picked list of almost 20 types of cup sake (individual glass jars of sake with metal pop-can tops) is the only one of its kind in NYC. Azasu is a place where you can stop by for quick beer and a plate of gyoza after work or linger late over shared plates and a round of cocktails (or four) with friends. See you soon. Kampai!
The name means “grandma” in Yiddish, but to celebs, punksters and stroller-pushers who wait all morning for a table, it means brunch. The sun-blasted restaurant, originally a pie kitchen, has morphed into an all-day gourmet picnic; at the front, insulated from the pram parking lot, is the bar. The fluorescent dessert cases and gaudy floral wallpaper will fade after one of the signature “loco” cocktails (the Slow Comfortable Screw blends Southern Comfort, champagne and OJ). Top off your buzz with Bubby’s mile-high apple pie. Then, stick a fork in it you’re done for the day.
Before Buttermilk Channel peeled the butcher paper from its broad bay windows, Frankies 457 owned lower Court Street’s finer-dining beat. But this bright, charming restaurant—and its talented chef Ryan Angulo (Stanton Social)—has pumped some much-needed competition into this quiet corner of Carroll Gardens. Buttermilk Channel has a way with the locals, and the menu emphasizes its hometown flavor. New York State dominates the taps and the wine list; nearby Esposito’s Pork Store provides the links for a satisfying sausage roll; and a first-rate starter layers vibrant local delicata squash with tart buttermilk-based ricotta (made, naturally, in-house). Comfort-food entres also hit close to home. A singular duck meat loaf, packed with caramelized onions and swollen raisins, is served alongside the classic steakhouse accompaniments of creamed spinach fortified with celery root and a fat fried onion-ring halo. A more ascetic dish of flaky brook trout speaks of the South—the fish is rolled in smoky bacon and served over crumbly johnnycakes. Desserts are similarly straightforward: Doug’s pecan pie sundae (named for its creator, owner Doug Crowell) has the simple brilliance of a midnight snack conjured in your parents’ kitchen. The nutty, brown-sugary pie is pressed—crust and all—into an old-fashioned tulip cup, lavished with airy cream and Blue Marble’s butter-pecan ice cream—another local flourish for the consummate neighborhood joint.
The decor and chaotic bustle evoke a brasserie you might see in a Godard film. The large portions of robust, earthy food are served in overgrown vessels that barely fit on the diminutive tables. Bone marrow (la moelle), simply prepared with only sea salt and grilled toast, comes with actual bones in an earthenware crock. Bigger appetites will appreciate the choucroute garni—a sausage-bejeweled heap of cured cabbage with white wine and juniper berries. The 120-bottle-strong beer list is encyclopedic. And for those who can’t tell a port from porter, there’s a dedicated beer sommelier who can pair artisanal brews with just about anything.
Four veterans of Public are behind this seasonal American restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. Paying heed to the current barnyard-chic aesthetic, the rustic eatery showcases a vertical herb garden, grown on a wall dividing the bar and dining areas. The short menu features simple fare, like charcuterie, cheese and raw-oyster platters, and chef Alex Sorenson dispatches more composed dishes—including rabbit lasagna with Swiss chard and ricotta, and oysters baked with Worcestershire sauce, bacon and parsley—from a white-tiled open kitchen. Locavores will be pleased by the drink offerings, focused on regional beers, seasonal cocktails and five wine taps pouring selections exclusively from New York vintners.
Cookshop presents the ideal combination of great American food, prepared by Chef Marc Meyer, warm hospitality and meaningful design to west Chelsea. At the heart and soul of Cookshop lies the owners’ commitment to bringing an honest seasonal dining option to New York City coupled with an exceptional beverage program.
It’s been a banner year for Mexican food in New York City, with cultish casual joints (Dos Toros) and fully articulated restaurants (Mesa Coyoacan) interpreting the country’s oft-oversimplified cuisine. Into the latter category falls Fonda, a dimly lit spot from chef Roberto Santibanez (Rosa Mexicana). Packed with locals since it opened, Fonda has become a South Slope hit. The spare room is mercifully devoid of South-of-the-Border kitsch: red paint on one wall, exposed brick on the other, and a bar wrapped in multi-colored fabric. If the decor is restrained, the food—contemporary, upscale Mexican—is comparatively indulgent. Duck zarape would have been an elegant starter—flavorsome braised fowl sandwiched between two tortillas—if not for the excess of creamy tomato-habanero sauce poured on top. Pink slices of carne asada (roasted beef) in an entre were juicy and beautifully cooked, but a messy blanket of mushroom-cream sauce obscured the flavor of the meat (along with everything else on the plate, including spinach and mashed sweet potatoes with honey). The same sloppy presentation undermined a special of cod envuelto—moist, flaky fish wrapped in serrano ham—which ceded its plate to a slew of shredded vegetables and yet another heavy mushroom sauce. The best dishes were the ones featuring just a few well-prepared components. Fish salpicon—a mixture of fish and spices meant to be spooned into tortillas—was moist chopped cod seasoned with a bright, herbaceous mix of serrano chil
The serious take on tippling offered at Fort Defiance is rare in isolated Red Hook, but the cocktails rank among the best in the borough. The Journalist, made with gin and vermouth, is as clean and crisp as a classic Manhattan. A Prescription Julep is an extra-potent mint julep featuring cognac and rye, poured over hand-crushed ice. If you live in the ’hood, this could be your new local spot (it opens at 7am on weekdays, serving coffee and breakfast). The frontier pricing—most drinks are under $10—helps justify the trek for the rest of us.
A century-long family history in fishmongering is, oddly, not why entertainment lawyer Vincent Milburn built this north Brooklyn seafoodery. After music-industry pal Adam Geringer-Dunn noticed a plethora of butchers but zero fish shops in the nabe, the pair began hosting pop-up lobster bakes. Now they’ve ventured into purveying, sourcing only seasonal and sustainable—and sometimes local—catch like wild Alaskan salmon and Arctic char at a retail counter. They put the fresh goods to use in dishes like lobster rolls, kelp-noodle pad Thai and Baja-style fish tacos dressed with citrus-cabbage slaw and chipotle-lime mayo, doled out in a tiled space outfitted with marble counters and high-top tables. Beers also keep to the coast: Captain Lawrence Kölsch and Cisco Brewers Grey Lady are both on tap, along with Gotham Project rosé.