By now you’ve read all the various year-end round-ups and even this year’s Where to Eat extravaganza from newly non-anonymous critic Adam Platt. There is a ton of outstanding information out there that will help you eat better in the coming year. But if you’re going to make proper use of these round-ups and actually eat all of the things you may have missed, you’re going to need a plan. (Especially since 2013 was such an outstanding year for new restaurants, and it’s just a matter of time before 2014’s new spots start to open.) This is where Grub Street comes in: Keep reading to see 25 things that were big in 2013 that you absolutely need to do in order to get ready for 2014, then click through the slideshow to read why each of these items is so vital to New York’s current culinary identity.
For Grub Street’s money, no bar currently embraces a casual approach to drink-making better than Toby Cecchini’s reworked Long Island Bar in Brooklyn. The bartenders aren’t trying to impress you with their mixological skills — they’re just on hand to make you some damn fine, no-nonsense drinks. The best is the Boulevardier, a bracing combination of rye and Campari.
Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine
The haute-burger trend has softened in favor of a full-on burger-joint cheeseburger revival, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find a few over-the-top hamburger sandwiches. There is, of course, Umami Burger, which uses all manner of modernist technique (and a not-insignificant amount of truffles) to turn out some of the choicest burgers in town. And Paul Liebrandt puts together an architechturally perfect version at the Elm (pictured), made with dry-aged beef and topped with Comté cheese (currently available at brunch). Lastly, there is the hulking “bone-in” burger served at M. Wells Steakhouse, which is exactly what it sounds like and proves that even as New York’s burger market hits full saturation, there are still new ideas to be found if you know where to look.
The coming year will bring with it plenty of sushi talk, and the one spot that is sure to contine to dominate the conversation is Sushi Nakazawa, which capped off 2013 with a slew of great reviews (including a four-star rave in the Times and inclusion on a whole bunch of best-of-2013 lists). Yes, it’s already almost impossible to reserve a seat at the counter, but it’s only going to get more difficult as tourists start to hear about this place and arrive in droves: So be diligent and get on it.
Danny Meyer’s burger chain says it will contine to roll out its new “fresh” fries, but for the time being you can only get them at the locations on the UES and UWS and in Grand Central Terminal. If you haven’t yet, get thee to one of these spots and give them a try. (Alternatively, if you are a crinkle-cut loyalist, head to any of the other Shacks and continue to show your support, before it’s too late.)
One company that is sure to keep growing its profile in 2014 is Caviar, the third-party restaurant delivery start-up that aims to deliver food all over Manhattan. Grub’s results were mixed when we tried to get some Mission Chinese food sent our way, but Caviar has partnered with plenty of hot restaurants, and one of the best options at the moment is Han Dynasty. Grub’s recs: Make the spicy tripe and the dan dan noodles your new go-to delivery dishes.
New York’s haute-burger trend may be on the wane, but high-end tacos are in full ascent. This is the time to get with the program, which means you’ll want to stop by ABC Cocina to see what chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger are up to (Grub is partial to the short-rib tacos with habanero relish, and sautéed mushroom tacos with mole and kale). Then hit Mission Cantina and check out Danny Bowien’s take with offerings like soft lamb-belly tacos with crema and textbook-perfect al pastor (pictured). A few other spots to check out: Taquitoria, which now counts Iron Chef Marc Forgione among its investors, and the much-raved-about Los Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market.
Along with tacos, the other comfort food that has exploded all over the city is truly excellent barbecue — there is so much of it, in fact, that Grub would be surprised if you haven’t tried at least some. Yet, here are all the spots you need to stop by if you have any hope of keeping up with any new spots that will surely open in the coming year. First up is Mighty Quinn’s (either the East Village location or the Smorgasburg stand are fine — but the East Village spot is quickest), where you will be eating pulled pork and an aplty named Brontosaurus rib. Next, stop by BrisketTown, where you will want the namesake product or owner Dan Delaney’s own beef rib (pictured). Other not-to-miss places: Hometown in Red Hook (another winning spot for brisket), Morgans in Prospect Heights, and Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus, which puts out some serious ribs.
Of all the tony vegetables being sold around town, the one that garnered the most attention was the single-carrot side dish served, in a carrot reduction, at Tribeca’s American Cut steakhouse. The reason: its $10 price tag (the phallic overtones didn’t go unnoticed, either). Is it worth it? Well, it is just a single carrot — but what a carrot it is, and it’s probably worth an Alexander Hamilton just to say you’ve seen it in the flesh.
Cocktails will, of course, always have a place in New York, but at the moment, the tide seems to be turning back to wine — a taste shift led by three outstanding downtown restaurants that manage to make wine feel much more exciting (and accessible) than it does at stuffier restaurants. At Pearl & Ash the list runs more than two dozen pages, which means you will be best served by consulting with wine director Patrick Cappiello (he’ll be the dude in the Van Halen shirt). Wine-world superstar Robert Bohr has made the small, smart wine list the focal point at his spot Charlie Bird (pictured), and Estela’s ten-page list focuses exclusively on producer-driven old-world wines assembled by co-owner (and former beverage director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns) Thomas Carter.
New York diners’ fascination with all forms of raw-seafood preparations shows no signs of abating in 2014, which is good news for pretty much everyone, since it means we can expect even more places to casually serve first-rate fish. For now, though, you can check out plenty of other restaurants in town for excellent fruits de mer: Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere remains the torchbearer, but the spot’s former chef, Jared Stafford-Hill, has a lovely sea bass crudo at Wallflower in the West Village. Michael White makes a point to include raw fish at his restaurants, and two of his newest — Costata in Soho and Ristorante Morini on the UES — both maintain the tradition with options like fluke crudo (pictured) and marinated amberjack with artichoke and sturgeon caviar. Oh, and then there’s this little spot called ZZ’s, too — perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Of course, New York critic Adam Platt famously got booted last October from team Torrisi’s own raw-seafood hotspot, but chances are good that most regular customers won’t be kicked out mid-meal. But you never know! Tales continue to circulate of customers being shown the door prematurely — or simply having their reservations canceled ahead of time — if they plan only to drink and skip the food. Being escorted out because the ZZ’s owners would apparently prefer higher-paying customers to take up the restaurant’s valuable real estate doesn’t quite measure up with Platt’s unceremonious evacuation, but for the purposes of the checklist, feel free to count it.
There are plenty of hangover-busting alternatives to the classic egg and cheese on a roll, but the best one Grub Street has seen in a while is this traditional Vietnamese dish now being served at Kerry Diamond and Robert Newton’s Nightingale 9 in Carroll Gardens. Then again, if you still want a sandwich, there’s also a breakfast banh mi that should do the trick.
One of the biggest stories of the coming year will be the eventual move of Momofuku Ko into a new, bigger location. And so Momofuku superfans will definitely want to make a point of stopping into 163 First Avenue while they still can. (If you’re ready to feel old, know that this August will mark ten years since the original Momofuku Noodle Bar first opened in the same location.)
For all the amazing things that New York got in 2013, there is one thing that we did not get: a new April Bloomfield restaurant. It burns even more to know that San Francisco did get one when Bloomfield and Ken Friedman revamped the classic Tosca Cafe. The other important thing to know: Apparently, everyone in the Bay Area loves Bloomfield’s food as much as New Yorkers do. But the only way for us to try her various anitpasti, pastas, meatballs, and roast chicken is to get on a plane, fly west, and stop by the restaurant ourselves.
There’s no doubt that Brooklyn got one of the country’s best beer bars when Daniel Burns and Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø opened Tørst this past March. But even though it’s been open for nearly ten months, it’s still difficult to parse the draft list and the huge, somewhat-arcane bottle list. (All those foreign beers means you should expect to see a lot of diacritics in the names.) So, before the bar hits the one year mark, Grub’s making a point to stop by during some slow hours and figure out once and for all how to make sense of it.
The phrase “blowfish tails” is almost intentionally designed to conjure up images of a Simpsons-esque death-by-fugu, but blowfish tails, from a fish that’s also sometimes called a “swelling toad,” are harmless. They are also soft, meaty, and excellent accompaniments for beer. They aren’t as pervasive as, say, oysters on New York menus, but they show up fried from time to time at restaurants around town, such as Esca. The spot you’re almost guaranteed to find them is Uncle Boons (pictured), which grills them over charcoal and serves them for a totally reasonable $14. (Wash them down with an equally non-lethal bottle of Singha.)
Even as big-ticket steaks continue to show up everywhere, high-end chickens are staking their claim as marquee menu items at the city’s new restaurants. Among the best: the classic, straightforward version served at Rôtisserie Georgette (in true steakhouse fashion, order some potatoes to go on the side) and the multi-course feast sold at Dover, which starts with a small portion of dark-meat confit arriving at the table before the plated breast arrives with warm radicchio and a side of bubbling root-vegetable gratin.
The big draw at this new food emporium on Eleventh Avenue is the first New York shop from ramen master Ivan Orkin. For good reason! Just look at that bowl of noodles. Yet, some other amazing spots tend to get overlooked, such as a new sandwich shop from Court Street Grocers — seriously, check out this hoagie. There’s also tapas from Seamus Mullen, sandwiches from Saltie’s Caroline Fidanza, and plenty of meat from the Cannibal crew. The best move: Don’t go all-in on the ramen. Try it, obviously, but get a group together so you can try everything else too.
Braised short ribs have been a New York menu workhorse for decades, but it took Betony’s Bryce Shuman to reimagine the dish as a modernist showstopper. The not-so-secret technique requires slow-cooking the ribs for two days in a sous-vide bath then glossing them with all sorts of aged beef fat — a move that plenty of other chefs will surely be copping in 2014. And so, before you eat the inevitable copycats, spend the $36 required to try the original.
Photo: ?2013 Liz Clayman Photography Inc.
Leave it to the Franny’s crew to turn something as simple as rice into a must-eat side dish. At their newer restaurant Marco’s, executive chef Danny Amend starts with Carolina Gold rice from South Carolina’s beloved Anson Mills. He steams it, then mixes with with herbed vinegar and nutty brown butter — it’s only $7 and well worth it. But if you want to experiment with the ingredient yourself (highly recommended), you can also order a bag online and see if you can come up with an even better idea than Amend.
The beginning of last year saw food writers taking a stand against restaurants that only offer too-long, too-expensive tasting menus, but 2014 begins with a number of places that offer totally manageable tasting menus in the five- to seven-course range: There is Greenpoint’s Luksus, which is attached to Tørst (see slide 15 for more on how awesome that place is) where Platt-approved chef Daniel Burns puts together dishes like raw chestnuts with squash broth and bay scallops with sea urchin, cucumber and bacon dashi hidden beneath a seaweed cracker (pictured) in his six-course menu. At Contra, the nightly changing five-course Nordic menu will run you a mere $55, and then there’s chef Ryan Tate’s $100, six-or-so course nightly changing menu at Tribeca’s Michelin-starred Le Restaurant, which tends to feature less-common proteins (wild pheasant, wood pigeon) and forager-friendly garnishes.
Photo: ?2013 Liz Clayman Photography Inc.
The country of Georgia doesn’t exactly conjure up the same idyllic fantasies as France or Japan, but New York’s Georgian restaurants made a serious power play in 2013. (It worked, too, when the Underground Gourmet declared Georgian food the cheap eats cuisine of the year.) If you put off learning about khachapuri, now is the time to reevaluate the bready, cheesy deliciousness that the country has to offer. The place to start: Oda House in the East Village, where the signature doughy dish (pictured) is filled with feta, mozzarella, and a poached egg — then gets finished with an actual stick of butter.
Whether you call it laab, laap, or larb, this Southeast Asian spicy, funky minced-meat salad is poised to reign as New York’s most popular dish for a while to come. There are plenty of standouts available, but the ones you’ll want to make sure you have under your belt going into the upcoming year are the versions served at Larb Ubol, which has variations such as duck, crispy pork, and catfish (pictured). Then check out Somtum Der in the East Village, and, of course, Pok Pok Ny, where you can get renditions made with duck or pork — or you could always pick up Andy Ricker’s outstanding Pok Pok cookbook if you want to try your own hand at the labor-intensive dish.
There’s something comforting about New York’s resurgence of French restaurants: The flavors and rhythms are familiar without feeling tired. Restaurants that are overtly French in their design, such as Andrew Carmellini’s Lafayette and Gabe Stulman’s Montmartre, are leading the way. But Franco influence is elsewhere, too, such as the outstanding sweetbread blanquette and Alsation truite au bleu (fresh-cooked trout) coming out of the kitchen at M. Wells Steakhouse or the spot-on consommé (with celery root and truffle) prepared by chef David Malbequi at Rôtisserie Georgette.
We started the list with a cocktail, so it only seems right to end things with a drink, too. Specifically, all of the amazing vermouths (really!) that have recently hit the market. Applying the local/handmade/small-batch aesthetic to the most famous of aperitifs, companies like Brooklyn’s Uncouth Vermouth, Ransom from Oregon, and New York’s Atsby are creating one-of-a-kind elixirs. You might want to avoid using these in your martinis and to just drink them instead.