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: 2)
February is finally, mercifully, ending, but this winter still might just go on forever. Who knows? What you need — what we all need — is a restaurant where the servers wear colorful polo shirts; the menu is full of summery things like tomatoes and zucchini and eggplant; and the cocktails are tropical. Santina is that place, and when you go, you will be very happy and you might not ever want to walk back out into the cold.
2. Ramen Lab (6)
While we’re on the subject of this soul-crushing weather: You probably don’t want to stand outside in line for any amount of time these days. And yet: People continue to line up outside Sun Noodle’s new Kenmare shop in hopes of cramming into the tiny storefront to try what many people are calling the very best ramen in New York right now.
3. Mission Chinese Food (3)
This place was always going to be popular, but the fact that it’s starting to garner extremely positive reviews, including a two-star spot over at Eater this week, isn’t helping the crush of people trying to get in. As a reader of Grub Street, you no doubt know that going early or late will help you avoid crowds as best as you possibly can, but you still might want to plan on dropping by to put in your name at least an hour before you actually want to eat, then head to a nearby bar.
4. Dirt Candy (4)
Amanda Cohen’s vegetarian restaurant is back, this time on Allen Street, with more seats, Brussels sprout tacos, and a policy that does away with tipping. All of this sounds very appealing, which is probably why the place is also basically booked solid. Grub’s suggestion: Do whatever you have to in order to find a way in.
5. Shuko (1)
There seems to be a critical consensus on Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau’s three-month-old temple of Japanese luxury: Here’s this three-star write-up from Pete Wells at the Times and one awarding two stars from Bloomberg’s Tejal Rao. A while back, you may recall, New York’s Adam Platt gave the place a whopping four stars, too. Clearly, if you’re feeling spendy, this is your spot.
6. Porchlight (New this week)
Danny Meyer and the Blue Smoke team won’t officially open this west-side spot until Monday, but you can safely assume it will be crowded almost immediately. Even though it’s being billed as a stand-alone bar, the food menu actually looks really impressive: bison burgers, frog legs, and an avocado-and-crab toast should all go well with the drinks.
7. Fifty Paces (7)
Broth boss Marco Canora only recently took sole ownership of the Terroir space that was adjacent to Hearth, and it took him about ten minutes to reopen it as Fifty Paces, which retains much of the original spot’s casual charm.
8. Semilla (Off last week)
Pete Wells this week weighed in on the tiny, ambitious Williamsburg tasting counter and, uh, he likes it quite a bit, highlighting the fact that the set tasting-menu format allows the kitchen to put together food that’s too whimsical, or downright strange-sounding, to earn a place on an à la carte menu where it would likely be ignored by most customers: “There is risk in this kind of cooking. There is reward, too, and the chance to find out how good a rutabaga spring roll can be when you dip it in bittersweet orange juice reduction.”
9. Sevilla (Off last week)
This Spanish institution in the West Village got an unexpected jolt of attention this week when the James Beard Foundation announced it was among the winners of this year’s “America’s Classics” award — a deserving nod for a spot owed some renewed attention.
11. Kao Soy (8)
The Red Hook Thai specialists were featured in Pete Wells’s recent review, and last week the Underground Gourmet weighed in, too. Both agree that the kao soy itself — a coconut milk-based curry noodle soup — is among many excellent dishes to order when you stop in.
12. Lan Larb Soho (9)
Last week, the UG also weighed in on this Manhattan Thai spot and, as you might expect, they suggest that the namesake dish — larb, the traditional Thai chopped-meat salad — is the thing to get. And this week that sentiment was echoed by the Voice’s Zarachary Feldman
13. Little Park (15)
The consensus on Andrew Carmellini’s Tribeca place is that even if the concept calls to mind farm-to-table restaurants of yore, the execution is so out-of-this-world good that it doesn’t really need to be any more innovative than it is. Even the beet tartare has won universal acclaim.
14. Momofuku Ko (14)
It’s getting on to about that time when the critics are going to begin weighing in on Momofuku Ko 2.0, but the word of mouth around this place so far is generally very positive, thanks to the entirely comfortable new setting and executive chef Sean Gray’s refined food.
15. Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (New this week)
Okay, so it’s not technically a restaurant; it’s a cookbook shop. But Grub Street is making an exception, because Bonnie Slotnic’s new East Village location is somewhere every food lover in town should stop into soon, if not to buy a rad out-of-print book, at the very least to say hello and lend your support.
16. Atera (16)
Matthew Lightner will soon leave his post at this downtown tasting counter to work on his own project. If you’ve yet to go, or want to stop in one more time before he’s gone (and you don’t mind dropping the necessary hundreds of dollars to do so), do what you can to find a seat for yourself.
17. Winnie’s (Off last week)
This one hurts: The Chinatown karaoke bar, the site of many Hawaiian Punch-fueled debauched evenings, is going to close at the end of March. You need to go and sing some songs before that happens. Do it as soon as you possibly can.
18. Talde (Jersey City) (17)
Dale Talde and his partners have opened a Jersey outpost of their flagship restaurant. The menu, as you might expect, leans heavily on Asian flavors and ingredients. Considering the unyielding popularity of the Brooklyn location, expect the new one to be just as big a hit.
19. Thirty Acres (18)
Speaking of Jersey City hits, Kevin and Alex Pemouile have officially switched to an all-tasting-menu format at Thirty Acres. It’s $75 (plus $55 for drink pairings), so it’s definitely moving into special-occasion territory, though there’s also a small à la carte menu for people snacking at the bar.
20. The Polo Bar (20)
Ralph Lauren’s restaurant is a ridiculous scene — one with more doormen than most restaurants have entire staff members — and so it will be difficult for you to gain entry. But those who have report back to Grub that the food is, well … hit or miss. And yet: Pigs in a blanket are the thing to get, garnering near-universal acclaim, but be warned that one report back called the crab cakes (also garnering a lot of attention at the moment) “offensive.”