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The places you need to know about from 2012

New York

From top-notch yet laid-back cocktail bars, to West Coast Chinese in the LES, New York's top food & drink minds tended to prefer someplace casual to eat and drink -- plus, shockingly, restaurants right next door to their apartments.

Chris Santos, Chef/ Partner at Beauty & Essex and Stanton Social
"I know it probably sounds like I'm always schilling for Josh Capon, but El Toro Blanco is really the first restaurant that comes to mind. It's super comfortable and serves simple, well-executed food at a reasonable price point. I love the Queso Fundido, the intimate, private room behind the bar, and the tequila menu, which has many affordable options."

Shiraz Noor, Front of House at Aska
"Mission Chinese. Danny and his team present flavor, fun, and incredible value."

Luis Bollo, Executive Chef at Salinas
"Rosemary’s. Ingenious idea to have a rooftop farm over a restaurant."

Eamon Rockey, Partner at Aska
"M. Wells Dinette. The food and service are at a level of satisfaction and honesty that all restaurants strive for."

Manuel Trevino, Executive Chef at Marble Lane at Dream Downtown
“This place Kobe Sushi. It’s a great, new place that’s steps away from my house. And they have $3 beer!”

PJ Calapa, Chef de Cuisine at Ai Fiori
"Il Buco Alimentari and The Penrose."

John McNulty, Co-owner of Swine
"El Toro Blanco. I’m a big fan of [Josh Capon's] food. They really didn’t try to hide the fact they’re not doing authentic Mexican, just doing good food."

Eben Freeman, Director of Bar Operations and Innovation at Altamarea Group
"Pouring Ribbons and Booker and Dax. Joaquin and Toby are both excellent bartenders at Pouring Ribbons, and they've got envelope-pushing drinks with no pretension at B&D."

Nick Bennett, Bar Captain at Booker and Dax
"Definitely Booker and Dax. I hear that the people who work there are totally cool and handsome.
Apart from there, Pouring Ribbons. I'm extremely jealous of their amazing Chartreuse selection. The layout of the menu is one of the easiest, user friendly, and smartest designs I have ever seen in a cocktail menu."

Toby Maloney, Partner at Pouring Ribbons
"Mother's Ruin and Evelyn Drinkery. Both are uber-casual but the quality of product they produce is phenomenal. Food-wise, Midnight Ramen at Kamui Den on Ave A, and Ganso in downtown Brooklyn, because you can never have enough noodles."

Nick Anderer, Executive Chef at Maialino
"Maysville on 26th and Broadway. Great long bar with tons of awesome rye and bourbon, and Kyle Knall’s food is killer. I love big comfortable bars where you can eat, so this definitely fits that bill for me. I also love Neta on 8th Street. Nick Kim is an awesome young chef doing great things with Japanese cuisine."

Aaron Polsky, bartender at Amor y Amargo and one half of Bartending Duo Cripple Creek
"Proletariat and Mission Chinese. Really, neither of these need explanation. Just get your ass over to Proletariat. Empellon Cocina also never fails to excite me. Just fearless experimentation in the food and drinks."

Derek and Daniel Koch, Co-Owners at Toy, Partners at Dual Group
"ACME. They have such an interesting take on food and ambience, it definitely deserves the buzz it’s been getting. I also finally got around to trying out Minetta Tavern, which is an impeccable experience, from the stellar service to how busy it is every single night, it’s a lesson in hospitality in and of itself."

Pichet Ong, Executive Pastry Chef at Sugar & Plumm
"Hakkasan. Even though the room is dark and the music is a little loud for my style, it has some of the best Chinese food I've had in the US. I particularly like the dim sum, which are fresh and done with great artistry. It is the next best thing to a trip to Hong Kong, or London in this case."

Victor LaPlaca, Executive Chef at Isola Trattoria and Crudo Bar
"It was great to see all the new restaurants come in from the West Coast -- Pok Pok, Mission Chinese, Atera, etc. I think it’s awesome how independent restaurants can show consistency in delivering their food and gain a following no matter which coast they’re on."

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