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 12 hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. Ugly Baby (Off last week)
This week, Bon Appétit named this south Brooklyn Thai blockbuster the third best new restaurant in America. It’s not like this place needs any more fans, but neighborhood regulars might want to prepare to see a few more tourists in the dining room in the weeks ahead.
2. Pok Pok Ny (Off last week)
Alas, while Ugly Baby had a good week, Andy Ricker announced he’ll shutter the lone New York outpost of his (very good) Pok Pok empire. You’ve got about just two weeks left to get over to Columbia Street for boar collar with chilled mustard greens, spicy papaya salad, and the best chicken wings in New York City.
3. Manhatta (Last week: 3)
Here’s the equation on this new Fidi spot: Danny Meyer plus killer 60th-floor views plus chef Jason Pfeifer’s straightforward, very appealing menu equals the restaurant where everyone will want to eat in the coming months. Get up there ahead of the crowds.
4. Atomix (2)
It is very much worth taking a trip to the very polished bi-level space on East 30th Street. Owners Junghyun and Ellia Park offer a tasting-menu experience that takes its cue from Korea’s many culinary traditions while grounding it in a Michelin-targeted approach. It’s pricey, but at the moment it’s also one of the city’s more exciting and enjoyable new dining experiences.
5. Existing Conditions (6)
Dave Arnold has teamed up with Don Lee and Greg Boehm (of Cocktail Kingdom fame) for this new Greenwich Village bar that trots out all sorts of high-tech cocktail wizardry. But in a twist, the space itself is big and comfortable, and the drinks are both innovative and (most important) good-tasting. Grub suggests checking out at least one of the nonalcoholic options (they’re very impressive).
6. Frenchette (4)
Take advantage of New York’s late-August emptiness and try to sneak into Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr’s blockbuster brasserie. Bottles of natural wine, some lovely cocktails, and all sorts of French-ish delicacies await.
7. Gem (1)
Last week, Times critic Pete Wells awarded two stars to Flynn McGarry’s tasting-menu spot on the Lower East Side. The almost-no-longer-a-teen chef has found his voice, Wells writes, and McGarry’s “cooking is nuanced, his plating is often lyrical and the flavors, at least this spring and summer, have been delicate, subtle and very fresh.”
8. Hunan Slurp (9)
Adam Platt calls this two-month-old spot “in many ways [the] most-accomplished” addition to the East Village’s ever-growing roster of standout Chinese spots. In his recent review, our critic offered Hunan Slurp two stars: “One robust star for the elevated Hunanese noodles; another for the next-level non-noodle dishes, several of which are worth a special trip.”
9. Lillo Cucina (Off last week)
Here’s the Underground Gourmet on this extremely under-the-radar Italian café in Cobble Hill: Owner Giampietro “Lillo” Remia “is one of those sweet-natured old-fashioned chef-proprietors who believe a chef-proprietor should actually be present at his restaurant … he greets customers at the door, he drapes their table with one of his charmingly mismatched tablecloths with a practiced flourish, he takes their orders … and he bids them a hearty ‘Ciao!’ on their way out. From pulling espresso and making bomboloni in the morning to clearing the last plate of rigatoni alla gricia at night, he’s there.”
10. Leonelli Taberna (7)
Jonathan Benno is a chef’s chef, a technician who eschews gimmicks and fireworks in favor of precision and clarity. Those talents are on display at the new Roman trattoria he’s opened in the Evelyn hotel, where you’ll find all the frutti di mare, formaggi, and pasta you could ever want.
11. Llamita (12)
If you love the Llama Inn — and you do — you’ll be happy to know that chef Erik Ramirez is behind this new downtown Manhattan Peruvian sandwich shop where tender pork shoulder, roasted rib eye, duck sausage, and all sorts of other great things are stuffed between bread.
12. The Four Seasons (New this week)
It’s impossible to deny that plenty of people are talking about this restaurant’s splashy, expensive, extremely luxurious-looking rebirth in midtown, although Grub’s feelings on the whole endeavor remain, at best, “mixed.” To be fair, we aren’t captains of industry, and it all looks very polished and fancy, while chef Diego Garcia’s menu looks to be the height of refinement, but times have changed and it isn’t clear whether the restaurant’s operators, or even its clientele, have, as well.