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. Studio, George Washington Bar, and Simon & the Whale (Last week: 1)
Gabriel Stulman has expanded from the West Village to Gramercy with a trio of projects in the new Freehand hotel. One (Studio) is an all-day café; another (George Washington Bar) is a cocktail bar run by an Angel’s Share vet; the third, and newest (Simon & the Whale), is a very handsome, laid-back spot where you’ll find dishes like squid confit, lamb carpaccio, and pork-collar Milanese. Perhaps it is needless to say, but the crowds have flocked.
2. MeMe’s Diner (2)
Word of advice: If you want to hit up this very, very charming, very, very popular spot in Prospect Heights, head over for dinner instead of brunch — the evening vibe is far more subdued, waits for a table don’t stretch on for hours, and you’ll be able to fully appreciate just how happy this restaurant can make people. (Also, there’s a patty melt at night.)
3. Dumpling Galaxy (Off last week)
This week, the James Beard Foundation unveiled its annual long list of potential chef and restaurant award winners. One of the biggest (and most welcome) surprises was the inclusion of Helen You, one of the city’s true dumpling masters, in the category of Best Chef in New York. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to head to her Flushing shop, but the potential for awards is a nice reminder.
4. Karakatta (New this week)
Do the words “entire shop dedicated to spicy ramen” sound good to you? Of course they do because you are a living, breathing person. This new Greenwich Village Mr. Taka offshoot delivers on that promise with four variations that are more or less ideal for this rainy, cloudy, kinda-cold February weather.
5. Tender Greens (3)
The saladization of Manhattan continues apace: This West Coast chain has landed in the Flatiron District, and you can guess why neighbors are excited. The menu’s got chef specials, lobster salads, soups, sandwiches, you name it. Everything’s like $14, and if you work nearby, you have likely already stopped in for lunch a couple of times.
6. Ho Foods (Off last week)
Trust us when we say: You want some Taiwanese beef noodle soup. You probably want it right now, or if not now, then very soon. This new East Village spot is, for the moment, the place to give it a try — even if it means enduring a potentially hours-long wait.
7. Miznon (4)
Here’s another chain that just opened its first NYC location, a Chelsea Market outpost of Eyal Shani’s global empire. Yes, you can classify it as “fast-casual,” and yes, there are all sorts of marketing mumbo jumbo about a commitment to fresh ingredients and seasonality and blah, blah, blah. The thing you need to really know is that, so far, the signature pita sandwiches are getting extremely high marks.
8. General Deb’s (5)
There is plenty about this Bushwick Sichuan spot to get people excited. The team behind this spot are Faro’s Debbie Adey and her husband, Kevin, and you can expect things like wontons in chile oil, homemade mapo tofu, and slices of local fish in “fiery sauce.”
9. West~bourne (9)
Perhaps you have grown tired of the suddenly ubiquitous term “healthy-ish,” but it really is extremely applicable to any number of new Manhattan restaurants. Like this one! The menu for this Soho spot features a “mushreuben” sandwich (pretty good name), lots of salads and avocados, and a strong California vibe.
10. Mr. White (New this week)
Mardi Gras may be over, but whatever: There’s never a bad time for things like grits, po’boys, and grilled oysters — all of which are available at this new East Village Southern spot. Get to it.
11. JoJo (Off last week)
Here is Adam Platt on Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s revamp of his Upper East Side stalwart: “[I]n a scattered, uncertain world where local dining is increasingly the coin of the realm, I’d be happy to have this new Jean-Georges outlet in my neighborhood,” which is to say, the whole affair is tasteful and pleasant, if a tad bit safe.
12. Monkey Bar (Off last week)
Will the (frankly surprising) addition of David Tanis — a Chez Panisse vet and one of the most appealing recipe writers in the country — be enough to inject some life into Graydon Carter’s midtown tavern? Tanis’s soulful, highly seasonal approach to cooking might be just what this space needed. Or maybe it will be so bizarrely at odds with the pub’s clubby, exclusive nature that it will be a colossal mismatch. Really, whichever way it goes, it’s worth checking out.