New York, New York
The deal: In a city as diverse and teeming with good eats as NYC, the complaint is rarely that you can't get a great version of a particular food in town, but that you can't get it within a five-block radius. New Yorkers are a demanding bunch. And yet, when it comes to Brooklyn, it's Williamsburg, that ever-skewered epicenter of urban cool, that tends to dominate the culinary conversation. Neither hipster hangout like the 'Burg, nor historic brownstone beauty like Park Slope, Prospect Heights is something of an in-between neighborhood. With industrial strips abutting tree-lined streets, it's not exactly known for destination dining. But in recent times, Prospect Heights has sneakily become one of the city's most exciting places to eat, with standout Thai, Mexican, New American, and Japanese restaurants fortified by two fantastic cocktail bars.
The moves: Ten years ago, the only restaurants of note were the beloved Tom's Restaurant -- better known for its kitsch and warm touches (like serving coffee to people lined up outside) than its food -- and farm-to-table pizza pioneer Franny's, which may very well have been responsible for unleashing the kale salad on America. While technically now in Park Slope after its move across Flatbush Ave -- it's close enough! -- Franny's still serves up the city's best damn clam pie, along with deftly executed seasonal plates. And a slew of new major-leaguers have also set up shop: excellent ramen-ya Chuko from three Morimoto alums, beloved ice cream shop Ample Hills Creamery, and, just recently, Mexican hole-in-the-wall El Atoradero decamped from the Bronx, bringing its famed carnitas in tow.
The Thai restaurant Look by Plant Love House, a spinoff of a Queens favorite, goes beyond the takeout standards, with lesser-knowns like boat noodle soup, while the Intagrammable Tygershark, a hybrid Korean seafood restaurant and surf-shop cafe, adds a bit of eclectic cool. And buzzy newcomer Olmsted, run by two vets of the two-Michelin-starred Atera, has been drawing gastronaut interlopers who lounge in the outdoor garden before retiring to a stylish dining room lined with a living plant wall for imaginative plates like onion chawanmushi with bottarga or an heirloom tomato schnitzel. The next avenue over on Washington, one of the city's first great classic cocktail bars, the white subway tile-lined Weather Up, now has company up the street, with the very fine Tooker Alley boasting a "history of the martini" menu. With all your great eating options, you might not need a drink, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have one... or three. -- Mari Uyehara, executive Food & Drink editor