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 reason, these are the 12 hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. F&F Pizzeria (Last week: 1)
Would you like some excellently made pizza, with recipes co-developed by some of the country’s most respected dough experts, available in the no-frills environs of a casual slice joint? Yes, you would, and so, it seems, would everyone else, which is why you may have to brave a wait at this new Carroll Gardens shop, but it will be time well spent.
2. Būmu (New this week)
Chef Joaquin Baca has long worked in the shadow of David Chang (given, of course, Baca’s involvement in helping launch the Momofuku empire), but with this new Greenwich Village izakaya, which opened this week, Baca is taking one more step — after two well-regarded Brooklyn restaurants — toward cementing his own legacy. Go see why everyone’s so excited.
3. Llama San (4)
In Greenwich Village, chef Erik Ramirez (of Llama Inn fame) combines Japanese and Peruvian influences inspired by the latter country’s Nikkei cooking. The effect is impressive, especially in dishes like tuna ceviche and dry-aged duck “nigiri” that’s topped with nasturtium leaf. (A recent dinner was one of the most impressive meals Grub has had in a while.)
4. The Riddler (3)
A handsome West Village space, tons of Champagne, caviar, a burger that is the closest you’ll find to a thoughtfully constructed Big Mac: This brand-new bar and restaurant might just be the world’s most perfect place.
5. Babs (Off last week)
Times critic Pete Wells offers his thoughts on this handsome Macdougal Street spot, and finds that “strange excitement” — like a pasta with clams, ham, and mustard sauce — “is what it does best.” Grub would add that it also excels at creating an easygoing atmosphere where diners can instantly feel at ease.
6. The Jones (6)
Speaking of good vibes: Perhaps you are in the mood to spend a couple hours enjoying a leisurely meal with a menu that feels more or less effortless in a space that’s handsomely appointed, served by a staff that is sure to be friendly? If that’s the case, you’d do well to stop by Gabriel Stulman’s Great Jones Cafe revamp, where you will find all of those things.
7. Red Hook Tavern (5)
This spot serves New York City’s most famous new burger, yes, but those who make the trek to this Brooklyn enclave — and who also potentially brave a wait just to get inside the restaurant — will be rewarded with steaks, roast chickens, natural wines, and a very nice take on a wedge salad.
8. Nami Nori (7)
Here is something very much worth paying attention to: a new West Village arrival where three sushi experts focus on affordability and accessibility. That means high-class hand rolls and — thrillingly — the return of the once-fabled dynamite roll.
9. Il Fiorista (Off last week)
This new Nomad spot just sounds lovely in every possible way. There are flowers aplenty. There’s a bright, airy vibe. There’s the menu, which features things like duck-egg pasta with beets, calamari with oranges and fennel, artichoke with preserved lemon, and a very nice-sounding corn tart. There is also the extremely charming story of the couple who built this, their dream restaurant.
10. Win Son Bakery (9)
Williamsburg has a new Taiwanese bakery that arrives care of the people behind the very excellent Win Son. You’ll find pineapple buns made with laminated dough, doughnuts, egg tarts, and yet another very handsome burger.
11. Aquavit (Off last week)
New York’s high-end standard-bearer of Swedish cuisine has a fresh, new look, a revamped bar area, and a new menu from chef Emma Bengtsson. It remains one of the city’s longest-lasting restaurant success stories and, if you haven’t been in a while and would like to enjoy some sophisticated Scandinavian energy, why not head back?
12. Gotham (10)
What was once the Gotham Bar & Grill is now “Gotham” and that is of course not all that is new at this venerable downtown institution. Victoria Blamey is in the kitchen and her new menu has much to like, such chilled foie gras with kombu butter, squid-ink spaghetti bathed in octopus ragu, and — for the old regulars — plenty of rib eye.