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. Little Park (Off last week)
Andrew Carmellini’s ingredient-focused restaurant already had a packed dining room and plenty of great word of mouth, but this week’s glowing two-star Times review certainly isn’t going to hurt business. As Pete Wells writes, the restaurant’s best dishes “seem more fresh, natural and intuitive than what’s on [Carmellini’s] other menus … It is Mr. Carmellini’s most contemporary restaurant.”
2. Santina (Last week: 2)
While you wait for spring to officially happen, you need 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. It feels like walking into a beach resort, and when you go, you will be very happy.
3. Wassail (New this week)
How about a comfortable bar that pours over 100 varieties of hard cider — on tap and bottled — and offers a smart, concise menu of bar snacks like jalapeño fritters, Scotch eggs, mushroom escabeche, and a duck egg with barley and Brussels sprouts? It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And that is why you should head to this brand-new LES spot to enjoy exactly that.
4. Nooretuh (New this week)
Grub stopped by for dinner earlier this week and came away extremely impressed, not only with chef Chung Chow’s inspired takes on Hawaiian classics — the garlic shrimp entree is outstanding, and we could eat the Kalua pork croquettes every day from now until forever — and the already-polished service, but also with the truly first-class wine list, full of bottles you can really geek out on, almost all of which are completely affordable.
5. Mission Chinese Food (4)
Consider Adam Platt a fan of Danny Bowien’s latest version of Mission Chinese Food. In this week’s New York Magazine, the critic writes that Bowien “has his talents as a cook, but his real genius is for creating a grand sense of occasion, and at this larger, more sophisticated Mission outlet, you get the impression that he finally has a proper New York stage to call his own.” So: go. Go soon, and round up enough people that you can order “Josefina’s House Special Chicken,” easily one of the most impressive whole-bird presentations in the city.
6. El Colmado Butchery (8)
Seamus Mullen’s tapas-and-wine spot in Gotham West Market now has this butcher-focused counterpart on Little West 12th Street. There are salads and sandwiches, and at night you can choose your cut and have the kitchen cook it for you.
7. Le District (New this week)
This grand French dining space — being called something like a French version of Eataly — doesn’t officially open in Brooklfield Place until Monday, but anticipation is already high, owing mostly to the fact that the enormous 30,000-square-foot space is full of restaurants and butchers and bakers and cheesemongers and seafood counters and waffles and basically anything else that sounds delicious.
8. Lois (12)
Do you like expertly chosen wines that are reasonably priced and also poured in a casual setting (from a tap, no less)? How about a small menu of nicely selected crowd-pleasing snack-y food? The answer, of course, is yes, because everyone likes that kind of stuff, and it’s exactly what this new East Village wine bar specializes in. Definitely a new go-to neighborhood option.
9. Bar Bolinas (New this week)
Clinton Hill this week gets a really nice-looking neighborhood spot from the Allswell team. There’s a Northern California vibe, and a menu that’s heavy on simple seafood, fresh vegetables, and grilled meats, not to mention a cheeseburger that looks like a serious contender.
10. Dirt Candy (10)
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.
11. Eleven Madison Park (1)
Lots of people took issue with last week’s four-star re-review from the Times, owing to the high price of entry and relative difficulty of securing a reservation. But hold on: As Grub Street revealed, you can also walk on in with no reservation and have an entirely enjoyable, more wallet-friendly, if slightly less decadent experience in the restaurant’s very comfortable bar area. Trust us: That’s the move.
12. Porchlight (5)
Even though Danny Meyer’s latest is billed as a stand-alone bar, the food menu is really impressive: bison burgers, frog legs, and avocado-and-crab toast should all go well with the (blue) drinks. But be warned: Despite a somewhat remote location way over on Eleventh Avenue, this place fills up early — incentive to get there before the happy-hour crush.
13. The Polo Bar (20)
Bloomberg critic Tejal Rao offered her take on Ralph Lauren’s new gilded clubhouse, and — surprise — she can’t get behind the laughably aggressive door policy (seriously: don’t show up here without a reservation). Once inside, however, Rao also discovers that things are quite pleasant. The attractive staff members are all cheerful, and even the menu — heavy on country-club favorites — is better than it needs to be.
14. Javelina (13)
Everyone loves queso, which is probably why this new Tex-Mex spot is seen as a welcome addition to Union Square. The tacos and fajitas are a far cry from what you’d find somewhere like, say, Cosme, which is sort of the whole point. Whatever you get, wash it down with a frozen marg or some Shiner Bock.
15. Ganso Yaki (6)
This new offshoot of downtown Brooklyn’s ramen hit specializes in dishes inspired by Japanese street food. It’s a welcome, novel addition to an area that could use some more restaurants, and even if you don’t live nearby, it could become a go-to spot before heading to Barclays Center.
16. Bar Sardine (Off last week)
If it ever gets warm again, you’ll want to pop in to Gabe Stulman’s tiny cocktail spot for a drink on a night when the windows are open to the street. In the meantime, though, you might also want to pop in to try the new brunch menu, which just so happens to feature a very fun-sounding meatball-stuffed breakfast sandwich.
17. L’Antagoniste (11)
Chef Frédéric Robert and Amadaeus Broger, of Le Philosophe, just opened this classically leaning French restaurant in Bed-Stuy. The plan calls for a very nice wine list and traditional-ish French cooking, and, really, what’s not to like about that?
18. J.G. Melon (13)
Soon, there will be many new Melon’s outposts around New York. For now, though, there is only the first location, same as it’s ever been, up on the corner of 74th Street and Third Avenue. Grub’s suggestion is that, while you wait for the new location(s) to open, you go to the UES original, you order a beer and a burger, and you enjoy yourself.
19. Seamstress (15)
This attractive new spot on the UES with a killer cocktail list and a comforting menu has been gaining fans ever since opening a few weeks ago. If you’re nearby — 75th and First, perhaps on your way to or from J.G. Melon — definitely stop in for at least a drink.
20. Asia De Cuba (14)
Jeffrey Chodorow’s fusion behemoth is back open, this time in the Noho space that previously housed Butter. If you long for Sex and the City-era Manhattan, this is probably going to be your new favorite restaurant.