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. Russ & Daughters (Brooklyn) (New this week)
The appetizing icon has expanded to Brooklyn’s Navy Yard with a new factory that turns out all the hits you expect, along with some perks like a lot more space than the Houston St. original and — just maybe — shorter lines.
2. Violet (2)
Chef Matthew Hyland helped build the Emily empire, and he knows a thing or two about pizza, so it is very exciting that his new East Village restaurant specializes in something new for New York: grilled pizzas in the style of Rhode Island’s beloved Al Forno. Recently, Hyland has been toying with a new, possibly even more exciting idea: grilled calzones.
3. Momofuku Noodle Bar (Columbus Circle) (3)
There may come a time in the not-so-distant future when every fancy mall in America sports a California Pizza Kitchen, a towering P.F. Chang’s, and … a Momofuku Noodle Bar. The latest outpost of David Chang’s empire, located on the second floor of “the shops at Columbus Circle” (a mall) certainly feels like the template for future, global expansion — which is probably a good thing, because this restaurant is extremely enjoyable. Get the fried prawns, some ramen, and whatever specials pop up on the restaurant’s constantly flipping train-station–style board.
4. Empellón al Pastor (Murray Hill) (6)
On 39th Street, Alex Stupak has expanded his Empellón empire with this new Al Pastor outpost, where the focus is on upgraded bar food (broiled oysters with hoja santa and bacon, “mozzarella” sticks made with chihuahua cheese) and all manner of agave drinks. It’s a party.
5. Leonti (Off last week) and Benno (1)
If you are in the market for high-end, luxury Italian, you are in luck. On the Upper West Side, chef Adam Leonti turns out dishes like artichoke lasagna and salt-baked branzino amid luxe surroundings and white tablecloths. And in the Flatiron, the most polished of chef Jonathan Benno’s trio of Evelyn Hotel restaurants is his fine-dining tasting room in back, where you’ll find tête de veau, rosy duck breasts, plenty of truffles, and more.
7. Cherry Point (Off last week)
In Greenpoint, Times critic Pete Wells finds plenty of meat and much to like at this “modern English restaurant.” Glazed lamb ribs, homemade charcuterie, tongue salad, and more are yours for the taking.
9. The Standard Grill (8)
Rocco DiSpirito (!!!) has taken over the kitchen at this Meatpacking District spot. If you’re in the mood to relive the glory days of Union Pacific, or if you’re just interested to see why DiSpirito still commands so much respect among people who cooked in the late ’90s, stop in for some scallops and uni. The early word from people who have checked it out is that DiSpirito’s food can still impress.
10. Wayan (new this week)
In Nolita, Cédric Vongerichten — he of Perry St. and “son of Jean-Georges” fame — and his wife Ochi have opened this new Indonesian restaurant where satay skewers and “large-format specialties” like Bali-style suckling pig are the big draws.
11. Teranga (9)
At the Africa Center, a new fast-casual restaurant has soft-opened with an emphasis on pan-African cooking. Mix-and-match options include “ruby” red rice, the ancient grain fonio, black-bean salad, and kelewele. It sounds very promising and very much worth checking out.
12. Hunky Dory (New this week)
In Crown Heights, the all-day cafe has finally been mixed up with the “laid-back-but-still-quite-serious cocktail bar” genre to form this newcomer from Claire Sprouse. It’s a neighborhood place through and through, and so, should you be in the neighborhood, make sure you drop in.