The Best Dishes We Ate This Year in NYC

From fast-food inspired classics to comfort foods and desserts, these new menu items helped get us through 2021.

Cha Siu McRib at Bonnie’s
Cha Siu McRib at Bonnie’s | Photo by Adam Friedlander
Cha Siu McRib at Bonnie’s | Photo by Adam Friedlander

Even though 2021 was our first full calendar year of the pandemic, thanks to vaccinations and boosters (all the while following the latest safety guidelines), many of us were able to enjoy dining out again (until Omicron came to town, that is). And whether it was for Italian food, brunch in the East Village, ramen joints, or the best restaurants NYC has to offer, chefs and eateries all over the city continued to feed us while offering a much-needed distraction from the subpar food we’ve all been cooking at home.

As we look back on the year, new restaurants also continued to debut despite all of the difficulties the industry faced. And from them, a batch of stand-out dishes helped make 2021 shine brighter. From fast-food inspired classics to comfort foods and desserts, here are the best dishes we ate this year.

Information listed here may be subject to change depending on the developing situation with COVID-19's Omicron variant. Please check for the latest updates or contact each restaurant directly for more info.
BEC&L at Edith’s
BEC&L at Edith’s | Photo courtesy of Edith's

The dish: BEC&L at Edith’s

In a city with bagels aplenty, it’s surprising when a newcomer can command the city’s attention. But that’s exactly what Edith’s did. When New Yorkers flocked to the pop-up at Paulie Gee’s last winter, it was tough to get your hands on a single hand-twisted bagel—let alone a dozen. But after dozens of sold-out days and lines wrapping down the block, owner Elyssa Heller finally found a brick and mortar of her own early this year, bringing plenty of opportunities to feast on the spot’s modern Jewish fare. Now, there’s little worry about getting your hands on the deli’s famous BEC&L, a classic, greasy bodega sandwich that’s been dialed up a notch with the help of a bagel that’s fired to chewy perfection in a pizza oven and a crispy latke sandwiched inside.
How to order: Stop by or order pickup via website
—Liz Provencher, Associate Editor

Beignets at Compère Lapin at Intersect By Lexus
Beignets at Compère Lapin at Intersect By Lexus | Photo courtesy of Compère Lapin at Intersect By Lexus

Meatpacking District
The rotating restaurant-in-residence program at Intersect By Lexus welcomed their seventh participating talent this fall: the James Beard Award-winning chef Nina Compton of the famed Compère Lapin in New Orleans. Here in the Meatpacking District, chef Compton’s menu delivers Big Easy flavors rooted in her Caribbean heritage with a menu featuring ingredients from the Gulf Coast. After dining on dishes like deviled eggs, crispy pig ears, and hot fire chicken, you still have much to look forward to with the must-try beignets for dessert. Made with pecan buttercream and served with a rhum caramel, these decadent (and piping-hot bites) leave a lasting impression.
How to order: Temporarily closed due to the holiday surge of Omicron, book a table via Resy when the dining room reopens on Wednesday, 12/29.
—Tae Yoon, New York Editor

Bonnie's | Photo by Adam Friedlander

The dish: Cha Siu McRib at Bonnie’s

At the recently opened Cantonese-American restaurant named after his mother, Bonnie’s, Brooklyn native chef Calvin Eng (Nom Wah, Win Son) created a whimsical mash-up dish inspired by a fast-food classic. Knowing that he always wanted to add a sandwich to his menu, the good news is, the Cha Siu McRib is a permanent offering that doesn’t just come around once a year. After ribs are steamed and pulled off the bone, a glaze made of a cha siu marinade (ginger, garlic, fermented tofu, maltose, and honey) is assembled along with pickles, raw onion, and Chinese hot mustard for a kick before served on a classic Chinese milk bun.
How to order: Temporarily closed due to the holiday surge of Omicron, book a table via Resy when the dining room reopens.

Chicken Liver & Onions at As You Are
Chicken Liver & Onions at As You Are | Photo by Jordan Strong

The dish: Chicken Liver & Onions at As You Are

Boerum Hill
After opening its doors in Boerum Hill this summer, the Ace Hotel Brooklyn debuted its all-day ground-floor restaurant in the fall. Located at the nexus of several neighborhoods, at As You Are, chef Ryan Jordan (John Dory, The Breslin) uses the locale as inspiration to offer a new American menu saluting the culinary flair of its home borough. A signature starter here is the Chicken Liver & Onions, made with humanely raised and organic chicken liver. Blended with local butter and a reduction of port and madeira wines, the mousse is topped with an onion jam made with coconut oil, red verjus, red onion, and red wine vinegar. The elements are served on a semi-sweet bay leaf brown butter madeleine for a nice balance of fat, acid, and a hint of sweetness in each bite.
How to order: Book a table via OpenTable

Duck Meatloaf at Jack & Charlie’s No. 118
Duck Meatloaf at Jack & Charlie’s No. 118 | Photo by Dillon Burke

The dish: Duck Meatloaf at Jack & Charlie’s No. 118

West Village
Nestled in the heart of the West Village is cozy American bistro, Jack & Charlie’s No. 118. At the helm is chef/partner Ed Cotton, whose supper club-inspired menu is loaded with personal touches that have marked his culinary journey thus far. Among the menu’s exceptional dishes, the duck meatloaf is a must try. With meatloaf being a personal favorite of Cotton’s family, the chef grounds Long Island-sourced duck with butter, duck stock reduction, and creme fraiche along with roasted carrots, onions, celery, and garlic. The meat is then combined with eggs, wild mushrooms, cheddar cheese, parsley, and crumbled cornbread to hold it together. Adding a flourish to it all, a cleaned duck bone is placed back into each portion while they caramelize in the oven. The final result is a plate of amply glazed meatloaf served with whipped potatoes and lightly charred Chinese broccoli that evokes the comfort of a home-cooked meal.
How to order: Temporarily closed due to the holiday surge of Omicron, book a table via Resy when the dining room reopens.
—Izzy Baskette, Editorial Assistant


The dish: Goat Neck Dum Biryani at Dhamaka

Lower East Side
Leave it to chef Chintan Pandya to craft biryani like we’ve never seen it before. The dish is a staple of Indian cuisine and can be found everywhere from award-winning spots to takeout joints. A seemingly similar biryani made with slow-roasted goat is even on the menu at Pandya’s other restaurant Adda—but Dhamaka’s version dials up every aspect of this dish. At this Essex Market restaurant, the dish is served in a clay pot with a layer of thin, crispy bread cooked over the top, holding in all the heat and flavor until it’s time to eat. Servers crack open the dish once it hits your table and then dig in with a spoon to mix up 16 layers of saffron-laced basmati rice and meaty pieces of bone-in goat neck that lie inside. It’s a powerfully spicy and nuanced dish that deserves to be on every table.
How to order: Book a table via Resy

Gorgonzola-Cured Striploin at Carne Mare
Gorgonzola-Cured Striploin at Carne Mare | Photo by Gabbie Reade

The dish: Gorgonzola-Cured Striploin at Carne Mare

Seaport District
Carne Mare is a spot that’s all about presentation. At chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini’s Italian chophouse, the roasted beet is carved right in front of you, the mozzarella sticks are topped with an eye-catching dollop of caviar, and to cap off a meal, the baked spumoni is set aflame tableside. But the dish that may be the least visually striking is the one that stands out the most: the gorgonzola-cured striploin. It’s not out of the ordinary for a steak to come topped with gorgonzola butter, but Carmellini takes that concept a step further and uses the cheese to age this 12-ounce wagyu cut for four days, before letting the steak rest sans cheese to complete the aging process. The result? All the funk and layered flavor one would expect from a dry-aged steak, with a bit of extra depth making it unlike any other steak in the city.
How to order: Book a table via Resy

Pizza Bianca at Ci Siamo
Pizza Bianca at Ci Siamo | Photo by Giada Paoloni

The dish: Pizza Bianca at Ci Siamo

Hudson Yards
Ci Siamo may be the newest restaurant on the Union Square Hospitality Group’s roster, but for chef Hillary Sterling, the restaurant is deeply personal. Open-fire cooking—the style that the entire restaurant hinges on—has always been a passion for Sterling, and many of the dishes can be traced back to specific memories from her travels around Italy. A prime example is the pizza bianca, a somewhat simple starter on the menu that you’ll be thinking about through dessert. The dish starts with a perfect piece of bread that’s soft on the inside and crispy on the outside with a zingy garlic aioli, tarragon-packed salsa verde, and Spanish anchovies draped over the top, providing the simple dish’s final savory note. The hope is that it will transport you to a tiny trattoria in Italy, just as it does for Sterling—and it delivers.
How to order: Book a table via Resy

Suranchae at Genesis House Restaurant curated by Onjium
Suranchae at Genesis House Restaurant curated by Onjium | Photo by Namustudio Heeki Min

Meatpacking District
Located on the second floor of Genesis House, a 45,000-square-foot Korean cultural center from a luxury automotive brand, Onjium in the Meatpacking District is the NYC outpost of the original award-winning Seoul location. With a focus on royal Korean cuisine, a signature item of chefs/artisans Cho Eun Hee and Park Sungbae of the original Seoul Onjium is a dish named Suranchae. Made with abalone, diver scallop, octopus, sweet Korean pear, and snow crab in a pine nut sauce, it’s inspired by a recipe formerly served to special guests of a noble clan. The dish offers an unexpected combination of flavors and textures with a creamy element that especially confounds since its entirety is served chilled.
How to order: Temporarily closed due to the holiday surge of Omicron, book a table via Resy when the dining room reopens by Tuesday, 12/28.

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Izzy Baskette is an editorial assistant at Thrillist.
Liz Provencher is an associate editor at Thrillist.
Tae Yoon was born and raised in Queens, and is the Editor of Thrillist New York.