Nobody has ever had a serious conversation over tiki drinks. Just try suggesting an open relationship over a $38 large format Hokule’a Punch at this new spot in Midtown’s Pod Hotel. The rum-based fruity concoction is served in a boat, for god’s sake. Pair the outlandish Vaya Kon Tiki (cayenne coconut cream, coconut rooibos tea-infused rum, ginger, juices, skull-shaped vessel, fire) with island bites like the ahi tuna poke and crab rangoon at the polished indoor bar or on the third-floor deck. Seriously, this is a tiki bar for grown-ups.
This is Brooklyn’s latest contribution to the bars-themed-after-other-places oeuvre. The Springs (as in Palm) has huge, U-shaped booths and flamingo wallpaper, and an enormous backyard lined with resort colored fences and plenty of sectional sofa seating and picnic tables. Servers ferry burgers, sandwiches, and tacos from the kitchen, and bartenders shake up cheekily named cocktails like the Date Night at the Drive In (bourbon, allspice dram, coconut milk, date syrup, egg white) behind a 16-seat bar.
Although restaurants have been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner since time immemorial, everything’s called an all-day cafe now. This one is new. And it’s French! You can tell because they have snails, a caviar-laden $65 French onion dip, two types of French fries, and like half the menu is written in French. Try Le Burger.
Like all-day cafes, hyper-designed restaurant spaces have taken over New York. This one is new. And it kind of looks like it’s from a film about a group of attractive scientists traveling aboard a super-classy spaceship in the reasonably near future. (Nobody dies.) It’s got crisp white walls, plants everywhere, and enough natural light to make you look like an old sea witch when you’re just trying to enjoy one of five pho varieties after a night of heavy drinking.
With the opening of this Nicaraguan spot, area restaurateurs’ mission to re-purpose every former warehouse in North Brooklyn into a restaurant or bar continues apace. Chicha’s got both! The bar offers rum flights from a lengthy list and complex cocktails on tap or made-to-order. A roster of quesillos (a cheesy tortilla-like Nicaraguan street food topped with pork or chicken) are nearly as chipper as the colorful dining room.
Lower East Side
Hey, everyone, Una’s back, just nine years after closing shop in the East Village and moving to Tech Town. The new menu of clever, cold small plates (think lobster oil-preserved tomatoes with burrata, chickpeas, and raw lobster), complements 12-inch signature pies, each made from naturally leavened dough in a wood-fired brick oven.
Founded as a pop-up in Red Hook, this seasonal American restaurant is a professional development program for refugees. Students prepare dishes like eggplant caviar-topped summer squash and grilled branzino resting in a pepper stew during two months of paid kitchen apprenticeship and English lessons, before getting help finding jobs in the restaurant industry. And it has five stars on Yelp. Daniel, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, and Jean-Georges have 4.5.
If anyone can figure out who’s behind this eccentric new venture, please @ us. A bacon appetizer is served clipped to a “clothesline,” and hand-cut “Hipster Fries” are smothered under a mess of Parmesan, bacon, shishito, and chili oil. For now, the restaurant is BYOB -- the liquor license is still in the works -- and we’d prefer it stays that way. Anyway, seems like a cool place. Shame nobody wants to take credit for it.
Sister to crowd favorite Korean spot Atoboy, Atomix looks like the inside of the starship sent to destroy the sexy scientists from Di An Di. Ten-course meals of flawlessly plated delicacies like sea bream with uni, and eggplant with smoked eel and fermented soybean paste are served twice nightly at the 16-seat chef’s counter. The subterranean space is an envelope of monochrome slate greige, perfect for plotting to redirect your enemies into the sun. Paper cards explaining each dish and perfectly calibrated chopsticks arrive in advance of every course.
Thrillist’s pick for 2017’s best restaurant of the year
Chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes’ follow-up to their much-lauded restaurant Cosme is a major departure from the former upscale Mexican theme. At Atla, there’s a stronger focus on casual, healthyish, and veg-forward dishes. For brunch, you can expect things like ranchero eggs and flax seed chilaquiles, while the brunch menu features ceviche verde, quesadillas, and an arctic char tostada. Most of the dishes are also affordable, falling around $20.
Mexican cuisine (featuring ingredients sourced from Mexico) with a romantic backyard
From the team behind Freek’s Mill, Claro is an ode to Oaxaca in Gowanus. The bulk of the kitchen's ingredients, in addition to the restaurant’s custom tiles and ceramic dishware, are sourced directly from Mexico. The food leans heavily on barbacoa and corn, in traditional form, and the meat is as tender and flavorful as colorful seasoned veggies. Order a few dishes to share, including duck chile relleno and spicy pork memela, and pair those with a specialty mezcal-based cocktail. Be sure to grab a seat in the backyard when the sun is out.
High-end Korean BBQ where you grill your own food
Cote is a New York novelty: part steakhouse, part Korean BBQ joint. The meat is dry-aged in house, served raw at the table, and cooked on personal tabletop grills. Tee up the $48/person “Butcher's Feast” for four chef’s choice cuts, plus traditional KBBQ accompaniments like banchan, kimchi, and savory egg soufflé
Brooklyn pizza darling slinging crisp, thin-crust pizzas and a cult-favorite burger
If you haven’t tried the pizza -- which might be NYC’s most Instagrammed pie -- we suggest you make a reservation asap. The delectable, thin-crusted creations will certainly give die-hard Roberta’s fans a run for their money. Try the classic Emily white pizza, topped with mozzarella, pistachio, truffle sottocenere, and honey.
Alex Stupak’s Midtown flagship for innovative pastrami- and falafel-topped tacos
After years of growing his Mexican-inspired empire, with three distinct locations bearing the Empellón name, Alex Stupak has finally launched a flagship Empellón. His inventive tacos -- like one made with falafel -- are still the main draw here, but there are also plenty of snacks and large plates worth trying, like crab nachos with sea urchin “queso” and smoked black cod with a chorizo-potato vinaigrette.
A cozy, all day cafe with small plates and wine pairings
The old Perla Cafe space on West Fourth Street has been transformed into Fairfax: another bright and homey spot from the same team, with a focus on wine and small plates (think white bean hummus with flatbread and chicken leg with jasmine rice, cilantro, thai chili vinaigrette). Stop by at 11:30am-6:30pm for one small plate and a glass of wine for $24.
Upper East Side
An upscale -- yet unstuffy -- bar/cafe/restaurant inside the Met Breuer
Thomas Carter and Ignacio Mattos have seen plenty of success downtown with Estela and last year's Café Altro Paradiso, but the duo has proven to be most impressive uptown, at their new seafood-focused spot, Flora Bar, inside the Met Breuer. More akin to Altro Paradiso in size and Estela in menu, Flora Bar feels decidedly not Upper East Side-y. It's upscale but casual, boasting leather banquettes; a long, marble bar; and a menu featuring the likes of tuna tartare, lobster and crab dumplings, and a lobster and dulse seaweed tart.
Gowanus’ go-to for unique small plates and craft cocktails
A stylish brick-walled space with an aromatic wood-burning oven, this oddly named restaurant is one of those seasonally driven, small-plates joints with an ample cocktail list, which seems like standard MO for modern Brooklyn -- but this one does it better than most. The open kitchen is run by Union Square Cafe alum Chad Shaner, who cranks out dishes like dry-aged duck with cranberry beans and red snapper with charred eggplant, cucumber salad, and shiso. In keeping with the seasonal theme, the menu changes regularly. One constant is the wood-roasted oysters, spritzed with lemon and sprinkled with garlic breadcrumbs.
Midtown’s new home for old-world power meals in the former Four Seasons space
This luxe restaurant is an homage to old New York, with a Tom Ford tux-clad staff, newly restored Philip Johnson interiors from 1959, and throwback dishes like lamb chops, New York strip, prime rib, and a daily “chilled crustacean.” Suffice to say, you probably won’t be dining here unless someone else is paying (assuming you can even get a reservation).
Your tried and true go-to for real-deal Texas-style BBQ
Hometown is certainly a destination. Located in the far-flung Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, the roadhouse-y BBQ spot offers some of the most varied meats in all of NYC -- like authentic Texas-style brisket and beef ribs, Vietnamese hot wings, and lamb belly banh mi.
A standing-room only steakhouse for devoted carnivores
The first US outpost of this popular chairless Japanese steakhouse chain is the perfect alternative to a stuffy steak dinner (and a great solution for a crazed New York schedule that still demands meat). At Ikinari, steak is ordered by the gram at the counter, cut by the butcher, and served on a cast-iron platter. From there, you can grab a spot at a standing-room-only table (complete with various steak sauces).
Intimate French/Italian bistro whose menu changes daily
Plopped down on the corner of the mostly non-commercial King Street is the aptly named King, a bright and airy French/Italian restaurant from co-chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt, who met while working together at River Café in London, and GM Annie Shi, previously of London's Clove Club. The slightly upscale but totally frill-less menu changes daily, pulling inspiration from both countries for dishes like hand-cut tagliarini verde and poached ox tongue. Also look out for a number of great wines and house cocktails.
Hand-pulled pasta just like Nonna used to make in a minimalist Williamsburg venue
Lilia straddles the line between hip and comforting better than almost any restaurant in New York. You may be sitting in a packed, converted garage designed to fit the standardized Williamsburg aesthetic (metal chairs, gray banquettes, exposed wood beams, white-painted brick walls), but it's Missy Robbins' simple yet thoughtful approach to homestyle Italian cooking that makes the place feel more like your nonna’s kitchen than a trend-chasing eatery. Try the ever-popular mafaldini -- handmade ruffled noodles, cooked perfectly al dente and tossed simply with Parmesan, butter, and ground pink peppercorns.
An update on classic Middle-Eastern/Israeli eats from a NYC restaurant-veteran
From chef/owner Tomer Blechman (previous of Lupa, Gramercy Tavern & Cookshop), this modern Israeli restaurant, complete with a 30-seat backyard, offers fresh takes on traditional Middle Eastern dishes, like homemade labne, grilled octopus, and three types of hummus. Be sure to kick your meal off with a shot of vodka with pickled mushroom -- an ode to Tomer’s Russian relatives.
Scandinavian cafe-meets-bar-meets bakery in a sprawling Greenpoint design space
Equal parts cafe, bar, and bakery, this Scandinavian spot (from two chefs; one from Denmark, the other from Sweden) takes up a significant portion of a sprawling Greenpoint design space. They offer a rotating seasonal menu of some of the city’s best Nordic dishes -- think ancient grain porridge and smoked salmon smorrebrod. Be sure to stop by at lunch for the daily $14 special (including an entreé and vegetable side dish with freshly baked bread).
Contemporary Middle-Eastern fare from a famed Israeli chef
Some of NYC’s most interesting Middle Eastern food can be found at this newcomer from one of Israel’s most famous chefs, Meir Adoni. Your main focus here should be on the bread (like kubaneh, a traditional Yemenite bread, and a sweet and savory honey and garlic challah) but Nur also has a great roster of shareable dishes that approach traditional dishes from a new angle -- like the smoked eggplant carpaccio and scallop sashimi.
A prohibition-inspired bar/restaurant stationed in the Mandarin Oriental
After years of anticipation, the team behind Chicago’s Michelin-starred Alinea has finally landed in NYC with an upscale speakeasy-style bar/restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental. This strictly special-occasion spot (assuming you don’t have a hedge fund) is decked out in plenty of dark wood and leather, and offers $23 spirit-forward cocktails and dishes like a foie gras terrine, prime ribeye tartare, and one of the best vegetable crudité platters you’ll find in the city.
A South Brooklyn staple for farm-to-table fare pulled straight from its own backyard
Named after Frederick Law Olmsted and located just two blocks from the Olmsted-designed Prospect Park, this charming Prospect Heights spot comes from chef Greg Baxtrom and horticulturist Ian Rothman, both previously of Atera. The seasonal menu features light and colorful fare like grilled scallops, carrot crepes, and Long Island duck two ways, best enjoyed in warmer months in the restaurant's string-light-lined garden, where much of the menu's produce comes from.
Pricey, decadent plates savored poolside in the former Four Seasons’ space
Did you recently marry rich? First of all, mazel tov. Second, now is a great time to dine in the former Four Seasons space, where dinner will cost you your monthly rent (per person). The restaurant maintains the Four Seasons’ iconic pool in the center of the room, and offers a lavish seafood-focused menu, featuring things like caviar service, ribbons of foie gras, scampi tortellini, and a rack of lamb for two.
Family-owned taco counter serving innovative, Mexican-inspired tacos and burritos
Chef Denisse Lina Chavez’s El Atoradero family continues to grow with a new taqueria inside Gowanus’ Parklife venue space. The walk-up window service spot is focused on Mexico City-inspired tacos and burritos ffilled with chorizo, chicken tinga, lamb tongue, and other savory proteins. Also look out for those standout nachos from the original restaurant.
The premier NYC kitchen for dangerously spicy Thai plates
From the chef behind the widely acclaimed (and now-shuttered) Kao Soy in Red Hook, Ugly Baby is your new go-to for traditional, unfussy Thai food. The colorfully designed spot draws inspiration from different Thai regions for spice-centric dishes like the standout kua kling (dry shank beef curry), which is probably one of the spiciest things you’ll try all year.
Simple staple dishes with spectacular twists in a tiny, storied spot
Everybody knows about Prune, that tiny East Side spot with the line that stretches down the street and around the corner. The one that has consistently drawn crowds for 18 years. The one where you can never get a table, so you’ve stopped trying. Helmed by Gabrielle Hamilton, the place serves simple staple dishes, each with a spectacular twist: Grape-Nuts are blended with vanilla ice cream, omelettes are plumped with fried oysters and remoulade, Dutch-style pancakes come studded with blueberries. The waitstaff gracefully moves at a breakneck pace to whittle down the line every weekend, but service never feels rushed.
A cozy Greenpoint hideaway for rich, decadent veggie plates
Among the cascade of new restaurants on Franklin Street, Anella is easy to miss. The little place could have been plucked from a Parisian back alley, with rows of intimate two-tops, a bustling open kitchen and the sort of updated farmhouse decor that has become standard in Brooklyn restaurants. The bread is baked and served in terracotta flower pots, cocktails are garnished with fresh herbs, and the creative vegetable dishes are enough to convert any serious carnivore. Try the spiralized zucchini drenched in house-made pesto and pistachio-crusted goat cheese. Or stick with the perfectly cooked skirt steak, topped with a pat of blue cheese butter.
Kitschy Thai take-out with creative, authentic flavor
The old Mr. Donahue’s space is now home to an Uncle Boons spinoff, focusing on fast-casual Thai take-out at more affordable prices ($9-16) than the OG restaurant. The menu ranges from small plates and soups to large plates inspired by Thai street food and classic NYC takeout -- like the Phat Thai with prawn rice noodles and peanuts in tamarind sauce. While there are a few tables to post up at, the place can get cramped, so your best bet is to take your meal to-go.
Bare-bones pizza with a prestigious reputation
At Lucali, there are no slices, no deliveries, and no reservations. There is no bar -- you can bring your own booze. You’d never glean that this is reportedly Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s favorite pizza place from its nondescript facade. Still, crowds abound. Chef Mark Iacono hasn’t changed the menu since the venue’s opening -- and for good reason. Guests wait hours for thin-crust pies topped with rich tangy sauce, Buffalo mozzarella, garlic, Grana Padano, and fresh basil leaves.
Outlandish Peruvian food in an indoor garden
In spite of its location in the shadow of the BQE, Llama Inn gives greenhouse vibes -- the improbably bright space is lined with a thicket of overhead greenery. Chef Erik Ramirez slings innovative Peruvian fare from an open kitchen in curious combinations: Charred octopus ceviche is tossed with roasted sweet potato, quinoa comes packed with warm banana and bacon, and clams stew in turmeric and mint.