Welcome to Grub Street’s weekly survey of the most-talked-about, must-visit restaurants in New York City. The list below features spots both new and old ranked according to one important, ever-fluctuating (and admittedly subjective) metric: Who has the most buzz? Perhaps a famed chef has taken over the kitchen, or there’s a new dish you absolutely must order. Maybe the restaurant is just brand-new, or the critics are raving about it. Whatever the reasons, these are the hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. Santina (Last week: 5)
The latest joint from Team Torrisi is open under the High Line, and early reports are that the light, veg-loaded menu is working. In fact, the word-of-mouth is so far more positive than it was for Dirty French — perhaps a result of the group once again working in its Italian wheelhouse.
2. Mission Chinese Food (1)
As you may recall, the Orchard Street version of Mission Chinese held down one of the most impressive Power Rankings runs in Grub Street history. There is no reason to think that the new version, on East Broadway, won’t do the same — especially since in our estimation it is a more accomplished and polished version of the previous spot.
3. Little Park (3)
Last week, Adam Platt offered his opinion on Andrew Carmellini’s latest, the “refreshingly trend-free” spot in Tribeca. The critic writes that Carmellini’s cooking here feels more personal than at some of this other spots — and it’s hard to find a better duck dish in town than Little Park’s excellent version. This is the kind of praise that suggests a place is in it for the long haul.
4. Ramen Lab (6)
You will not be comfortable while you eat in the tiny, cramped space, but, according to early reports back, you will nevertheless be happy, as the Sun Noodle crew is turning out superlative bowls of New York’s favorite cold-weather dish.
5. Shuko (7)
Is this New York’s most impressive new raw-seafood counter? Based on feedback from Grub’s network of sushi-hounds, the consensus seems to be yes. That includes Platt, who says Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau “produce one of the best new omakase experiences in town.”
6. Upland (6)
Frankly, Upland doesn’t really have any right to be as good as it is. It is a big place, on Park Avenue South, and yet Justin Smillie’s cooking makes all the food feel intimate and cared for. The critics all love this place, and you almost certainly will, too.
8. Any of Danny Meyer’s Restaurants
There are, of course, the myriad Shake Shacks around town. But there are also the two Blue Smokes and North End Grill, which Pete Wells this week reported are still quite good. Eater’s critics, meanwhile, sang the praises of Gramercy Tavern. Union Square Cafe is still scheduled to close, so you may want to take a trip there before it’s too late. And then there are also Maialino, Marta, and the dual rooms at the Modern.
9. Barbuto (Off last week)
Blockbuster real estate deals don’t always end well for restaurants occupying space in said real estate. So while the news this week that the building housing Jonathan Waxman’s flagship is to be sold isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you just never know. Grub’s advice is to go and eat as many roast chickens and crispy potatoes as you can, just to be safe.
10. Pies ‘n’ Thighs (Manhattan) (4)
The southern favorite opened its Manhattan location recently, with their already-famous new sourdough doughnuts ready to go. (And it’s right around the corner from the new Mission Chinese Food, meaning it’s a great option if you show up at Bowien’s spot at the wrong time and can’t handle a multi-hour wait.)
11. Vic’s (Off last week)
Tejal Rao wrote a very nice review of this neighborly Five Points follow-up, and a mid-week spot-check revealed a dining room that was both totally full and nevertheless still very comfortable. Hillary Sterling’s not-too-complicated Italian-ish menu kind of seals the deal and more or less makes this place impossible not to like.
12. Momofuku Ko (15)
Finally, food photographer extraordinaire Ulterior Epicure can shoot the food at Momofuku Ko (you’ll remember Ko 1.0 shunned cameras.) What you will see if you click through the impressive photos: chef Sean Gray’s refined, assured food, plated beautifully and looking like it’s very much worth the tasting menu’s $175 price tag.
13. Cosme (9)
The bar was three-people deep and every seat was filled with happy-looking masa fiends when Grub stopped by Enrique Olvera’s Flatiron spot recently. The massive duck carnitas for two — designed to be shredded and turned into tacos — is the must-order dish, so arrive hungry.
14. The Polo Bar (10)
You probably can’t even get in, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ralph Lauren’s country-club-like restaurant is still extremely sought after. If you are one of the fortunate few who has been granted access to dine among the beautiful people, enjoy.
15. SRO (New this week)
You might already know the story behind this pizza “speakeasy”: Dive behind a door inside Espoleta tapas bar and you will find Giulio Adriani turning out impressive-looking pies. Silly, gimmicky concept aside, who can pass up great pizza?
16. Rôtisserie Georgette (Off last week)
Should you find yourself near East 60th Street, cold and hungry, you could do much worse than stopping into Georgette Farkas’s upscale brasserie. In addition to the slow-roasted birds, there is also hot chocolate that is difficult to beat.
17. Mu Ramen (18)
Ramen Lab’s opening may have stolen a bit of thunder from this Long Island City noodle destination, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive — ramen fiends who haven’t made the trip out to Queens yet owe it to themselves to check this place out, stat. Come on: You know you want to eat something that looks like this.
18. Via Carota (11)
This Grove Street Italian-y spot from Jody Williams and Rita Sodi seems to be settling into what it was always meant to be: a top-notch neighborhood place where people can drop in for a drink or two and a few quick bites (just like its sister restaurants Buvette and I Sodi). If there were ever a place where eating at the bar was the best move, this is it.
19. Prova (19)
Manhattan may not need another new high-end pizza place, and the location housing this new opening has cycled through a few restaurants recently, but the name recognition alone of partner Donatella Arapaia should be enough to set this restaurant apart in the early days. And we’ll admit a burrata-colatura-olive pie sounds promising.
20. Tavern on the Green (17)
Stay with us here: Yes, the latest version of Tavern was brutalized by New York’s critics, but Jeremiah Tower was brought in to run the kitchen (or at least put his name on the place), and a newly overhauled menu is full of the good ol’ fashioned American classics everyone wanted to eat here in the first place. There’s hope for this place yet. (Maybe.)