Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Lowlife, Combina, and More

By
Photo: iStockphoto

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. Sadelle’s (Last week: 1)
The Major Food team finally launched dinner at its appetizing-y bagel emporium. Think: lots of caviar, fried chicken, and bottles upon bottles of infused vodkas. Seems like a good warm-up for Thanksgiving.

2. Court St. Grocers (Manhattan) (4)
The Carroll Gardens sandwich experts have a new sandwich shop on La Guardia Place. There are some new offerings that are in keeping with these voguish veggie times in which we now live. (The one with squash and a bunch of cheeses sounds very promising.)

3. Combina (New)
Einat Admony’s brand-new Soho restaurant is open, combining Spanish and Israeli influences in dishes like persimmon carpaccio with squid ink, salted-cod doughnuts with paprika aïoli, and eggplant escabeche accented with dill, garlic, and yogurt.

4. The Modern (Off last week)
The day that Jerry Seinfeld was dreading is here: The Modern this week became the first Danny Meyer restaurant to eliminate tipping. Technically, this is a trial period, so if you want to be on the cutting-edge of the restaurant-going experience (or you just want to try chef Abram Bissell’s excellent food), head here.

5. Lowlife (New)
This brand-new LES spot from partners Hugh Crickmore and Alex Leonard looks super interesting. It’s a casual space, but the kitchen is turning out ambitious dishes like lamb tartare, fluke with dashi and caviar, and a — yes — deconstructed borscht with trout roe.

6. Tacombi (Bleecker Street) (7)
Tacombi’s latest outpost is now open, and it’s more or less exactly what you’d expect it to be. Of special note: the panuchos, of which the Underground Gourmet recently said, “You might consider [them] the Yucatecan precursor to the Hot Pocket.” (In a good way.)

7. Pizza Moto (5)
This Red Hook-adjacent pizzeria is turning out above-par pies (with traditional toppings, or more outré options like green-tomato salsa and mozzarella, or pesto made of hearty greens and pistachio that’s paired with castelvetrano olives), and a surprisingly robust selection of non-pizza dishes. The space is comfy and the drinks are good — it looks like a solid neighborhood spot.

8. Quality Eats (8)
The West Village sister spot to midtown protein behemoth Quality Meats is more of a neighborhood spot, with gentler prices and a more laid-back attitude. That means you can expect $25 hanger steaks instead of $53 rib steaks, and some other updates on steakhouse favorites.

9. Arepa Factory (New)
There’s a new spot on Avenue A specializing in everyone’s favorite Venezuelan corn cakes. There are classic versions and healthier versions, including some made with chia-flaxseed cakes.

10. Gabriel Kreuther (19)
The latest critic to embrace Gabriel Kreuther’s midtown fine-dining temple: Eater’s Ryan Sutton. In a three-star review, he writes that the restaurant “feels like pre-crash Manhattan all over again,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

11. Cozinha Latina (10)
In Greenpoint, chef Shanna Pacifico has a menu of (mostly) Brazilian specialities, like a shaved collard-greens salad, picanha steak, and the gloriously cheesy bread balls known as pão de queijo.

12. Vaucluse (14)
Reports back from Michael White’s French truffle destination on the Upper East Side indicate the place is pretty good. As noted previously in this space: The aged duck l’orange for two — priced at $46 per person, or a cool $92 — is pretty special, if you can spring for it. (Everything else on the menu is a winner, too.)

13. Tempura Matsui (Off last week)
It’s two Times stars for this tempura temple, where critic Pete Wells is impressed by much of the technique, but wishes that Masao Matsui offered a few slightly more creative menu choices, as well.

14. Wildair (13)
Grub Street’s favorite new restaurant of the year is still going strong, thanks to an excellent list of funky natural wines; interesting, well-executed takes on classic bistro dishes; and a setting that promotes a casual, laid-back vibe. Go.

15. Cassette (15)
This new Greenpoint joint is from some of the people behind Boerum Hill’s Rucola. There’s the kind of market-friendly menu you’d expect — endive with baby beets, fried Brussels sprouts, duck with quinoa — and a comfortable setting that should speak to potential regulars.

16. Llama Inn (New)
A vet of the Eleven Madison Park kitchen is at the helm of this new Peruvian restaurant in Williamsburg. The goal is a casual place that updates traditional Peruvian dishes — and the early results look promising.

17. Take Root (3)
The much-loved, Michelin-starred tasting room from Elise Kornack and Anna Hieronimus is open again after some renovations. And yet there are still just 12 seats, and the restaurant still only serves dinner three nights a week, meaning reservations are as scarce as ever. Do what you can to get in, because the food really is as impressive as you’ve heard.

18. Barbuto (2)
Jams 2.0 is a total bust, but the silver lining is that the restaurant’s apparent badness only reinforces the greatness of Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto, everyone’s favorite trattoria inside a former garage.

19. Black Seed Bagels (East Village) (16)
The latest outpost of the small-but-growing Black Seed empire is a big hit: A Saturday-morning spot check revealed a line of people snaking out the door, waiting to check out the First Avenue location’s expanded menu of bagel sandwiches and pastries.

20. Fancy Nancy (18)
Any restaurant willing to garnish their burgers with a deviled egg — as this relatively new Bed-Stuy spot does — warrants some attention. There are duck wings, smoked-bluefish dip, and, as required by law these days, tater tots aplenty. Looks fun, really

Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Lowlife, Combina, and More