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. High Street on Hudson (Last week: 3)
The Philly import has already gained a dedicated New York following on the strength of its superlative breakfast and lunch options, and this week they launched a dinner menu that looks extremely interesting, too — expect to hear from the critics on this spot shortly.
2. Lilia (2)
Missy Robbins, one of the city’s most talented Italian chefs, officially has a new spot. As you might expect given Robbins’s involvement, the Williamsburg restaurant specializes in handmade pastas and straightforward Italian dishes like cacio e pepe fritters and wood-fired clams. Yes to all of this.
3. Momofuku Nishi (1)
Quoted wait time during a midweek visit to David Chang’s new Chelsea spot: 45 minutes — hardly the multi-hour stretches some might fear. Inside, it’s all warm service and food that’s even more Italian-ish than you might expect.
4. Le Turtle (9)
Taavo Somer and the Smile’s Carlos Quirarte are behind this fashionable new LES spot. Ostensibly, it’s French, but the early menu leans heavily on the veggie-heavy, New American vibe. The early word so far, and the reason for a big bump on this list, is that the food is extremely impressive.
5. The Pennsy (5)
Midtown’s newest multi-stalled food hall has opened next to Penn Station. There are five choices here from people like Mario Batali, Marc Forgione, and the team behind the popular Cinnamon Snail food truck. If you’re in the area, you could certainly do a lot worse for lunch.
6. Hearth (7)
Marco Canora’s long-standing East Village restaurant has clearly achieved a kind of restaurant-tenure status, and now the chef has revamped the space and put together a new menu that emphasizes fresh, simple preparations (and, of course, plenty of vegetables).
7. El Atoradero (6)
Denisse Lina Chavez’s Cheap Eats favorite has successfully made its move from the Bronx to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. This is very good news and all you need to know in order to check it out.
8. Acme (12)
Chef Mads Refslund has left, and the menu at this downtown spot is now much more in the mold of a classic bistro, thanks to incoming chef Brian Loiacono, a veteran of Daniel Boulud’s kitchens. Given the pedigree, it should be a great place to drop in from time to time.
9. Vaucluse (8)
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik weighs in on Michael White’s UES French spot and offers this bit of wisdom: "That finest of all critics, John Updike, said once, of reviewing authors, ‘Do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.’ Vaucluse, luxurious if not imaginative, delicious if not distinctive, achieves all it seems to attempt, which is to add a humane (and expensive) retreat to what has become something of a restaurant desert in this quaint, old, forgotten neighborhood."
10. Nakamura (New this week)
Tokyo’s own Shigetoshi “Jack” Nakamura is behind this brand-new LES ramen spot, and even with all the other shops in town, this one looks like a winner. There’s a lean menu of just four types of ramen, but all sound very interesting, like the vegetarian XO ramen and one version spiced with curry.
11. Mr. Taka Ramen (18)
Another ramen shop from another Tokyo master. (Seriously, you have no excuse to complain about a lack of new noodle shops in this town.) The specialty here is shoyu ramen in four different styles, and crowds have already started to fill the brightly lit Allen Street shop.
12. Wisefish Poké (New this week)
Will the Hawaiian specialty poké — a classic raw-fish salad — become the next big thing? The owners of this new fast-casual spot near Chelsea are almost certainly hoping so. Based on the early positive response, they might be right.
13. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (Off last week)
Ryan Sutton writes this week that Cesar Ramirez’s tasting counter, famously attached to a grocery store up the block, is better than ever, awarding it his highest honor, calling it "a proper restaurant that’s less about the chef and more about the guest, and a venue that still feels as relevant as ever as its strengths switch from the cutting edge (which it still embodies) to the classic (which it’s becoming)."
14. Insa (Off last week)
Have the heaps of quickly blackening snow and knee-high slush puddles just kind of made your week feel … blah? What you need is some Korean barbecue and karaoke (two things that, science has shown, make literally everyone feel better). Lucky you: This Gowanus spot specializes in exactly those two things.
15. Kopitiam (Off last week)
Even as Starbucks churns out an endless stream of new lattes, there are still unique coffee drinks to find that are actually good. Like the Malaysian white coffee at this Canal Street spot, which chef owner Kyo Pang says is smooth and soft and just the thing to grab on a weekday afternoon.
16. La Chine (11)
A luxury Chinese restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria might now sound like the most intriguing new spot in town, but people who’ve tried it all seem to love it, including Times critic Pete Wells, who last week wrote that La Chine proves "New York could use more Chinese restaurants that are as expensive as our most ambitious French and Italian places."
17. Resto (Off last week)
Speaking of Wells, this week he drops in on Greenpoint’s Achilles Heel and this Belgian-ish spot in Murray Hill. He likes them both, in fact, for their low-key vibes and surprisingly impressive food, especially chef Koren Grieveson’s "robust, emphatic cooking" at Resto.
18. Le Boudoir (19)
The owners of the Brooklyn Heights French spot Chez Moi have opened this underground homage to Marie Antoinette, with nice cocktails and a small menu of snacks. It is, as you might imagine, extremely handsome.
19. Per Se (Off last week)
Is Thomas Keller’s NYC flagship an overpriced temple of empty luxury, a spot that’s slipped considerably from its perch atop New York City’s very best restaurants? Perhaps, but give Keller credit for reacting to the brutal Times review with an open letter that basically owns up to letting customers down, and promises to do better. The staff is no doubt working harder than ever to prove to its guests that it’s worth the hefty price tag.
20. Broadway Panhandler (Off last week)
So, it’s not a restaurant, but it’s nevertheless an important, iconic part of New York’s food world. The much-loved kitchen shop will soon close its doors, so Grub suggests stopping by, grabbing some gear, and saying hi to longtime owner Norman Kornbleuth.