If you’re looking for something to offset the remarkable lack of sunshine (despite temperatures in the high 40s) and general distress consuming New York City right now, you’re in luck: Over the course of this very un-January January, there have been several notable bar and restaurant openings -- from upscale BBQ to no-frills Vietnamese -- all of which are sure to at least momentarily distract you from your woes.
After lots of summertime success with outdoor BBQ in Gowanus, the team behind Pig Beach (which includes Chef Matt Abdoo, previously of Del Posto) is now doing a more dressed-up version of “smoke-centric comfort food” in the Village at Pig Bleecker. That means dishes like brisket ravioli with truffle butter, a tomahawk steak with smoked beef rib, and a whole-bird Nashville-style hot chicken. While the food may lean more upscale, the bright corner restaurant is decidedly casual (and attempts to be down-home -- which ends up being a very Manhattan brand of down-home) with plenty of rustic wood and antique touches, including a hanging bull’s head. If you’re not up for a whole steak, grab a seat at the bar for a cocktail from Sarah Morrissey (of Dear Irving and Dutch Kills) and pigs in a blanket.
On a stretch of Fourth Ave that’s almost exclusively fast-casual grab-and-go lunch spots, you’ll now find Make Sandwich -- a (surprise!) fast-casual grab-and-go sandwich shop from the collective minds of alums from Bark Hot Dogs and Melt Shop. This one promises to be a bit more exciting than its neighbors, though -- ingredients here go above and beyond your standard turkey and cheese on white bread. If you’re not up for the make-your-own route, opt for steak and salsa verde on a crispy baguette; pork belly and Asian pickles on soft ciabatta; or, if you go for breakfast, the standout sausage, egg, and cheese with both pimento and Cheddar on toasted brioche.
After gaining a devout following at a tiny space in Ridgewood, Chef Jimmy Tu’s Vietnamese street food-inspired Bunker has finally expanded to a 70-seat location in Bushwick. The atmosphere is still extremely laid-back. There’s mismatched furniture and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and while the restaurant has moved boroughs, the surrounding area is still as barren and industrial as it ever was. But like the seating, the menu has also expanded. In addition to longtime favorites like bánh xèo (an omelet-like crepe with egg, shrimp, and a non-traditional use of bacon), you’ll also find new dishes like bún chả (grilled pork and vermicelli) and cá chiên (fried whole fish).
The guys behind The Commodore and El Cortez know how to do tropical drinks and better-than-it-needs-to-be bar food, proven once again at their new spot, The Drift (which soft-opened a couple months ago). In addition to several warm weather-influenced cocktails -- like the Trailways, with grapefruit juice, vodka, sugar, and mint -- the bar, which features lots of wood, leather booths, taxidermy, and even a nice outdoor space for the warmer seasons, is also doing plenty of drink-friendly food. Opt for a Tiki drink and a Hangry Man sandwich, made with chopped ribs coated in South Carolina-style mustard sauce, plus pickles and slaw, on a sesame seed bun, and pretend it’s not January (which, given the recent weather, is not the hardest task).
Though it may seem like the city is overwhelmed with high-end sushi restaurants these days, this one is still worth taking note of (even if you can’t actually afford to eat there): Chef Eiji Ichimura, who previously headed up the acclaimed Ichimura counter at David Bouley’s Brushstroke in Tribeca, has opened his first solo project, with less seats but more food (though at a much higher cost). The extravagant $300 per person omakase (tip included) is being offered at only two seatings each night, for two full hours, and involves both aged and un-aged fish prepared by the chef at a 10-seat L-shaped counter. In addition to high-quality fish, the new Ichimura is focusing heavily on natural wine pairings -- a pretty unique concept for a Japanese restaurant -- curated by Jorge Riera of Wildair.
After lots of success in the Mexican food world, Jorge Guzman (of Ofrenda and Black Ant) is trying his hand at a Spanish tapas and wine bar, called Lamano, in Chelsea. While you won’t find any Black Ant-style grasshoppers on the menu, there are still plenty of interesting dishes to enjoy inside the tiny, 32-seat restaurant, like beer-poached octopus and Catalan flatbread with onions, peppers, anchovies, and Manchego -- which can be paired with several wines and beers.
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This upscale West Village barbecue spot sprung from the success of a well-made burger. After drawing crowds at their Gowanus burger pop-up-turned-restaurant, the Pig Beach restauranteurs turned their sights towards Manhattan. The result is a kitchen helmed by a Del Posto alum and a smoker that yields high-end comfort foods like hot chicken with grits and honey, meatballs with smoked mozzarella, and cod cheeks with crispy ham and vinegar peppers. Of course, an iteration of the burger that started is all is here too, complete with two cheese-covered patties on a potato brioche bun.
You can grab a sandwich at any corner bodega -- and there's nothing wrong with that! -- or you can grab one made by a chef who trained under industry greats like Daniel Boulud. That man is Josh Skarkey, the founder of now-defunct Bark Hot Dogs and the current culinary director at Make, where his gourmet sandwiches are made with ingredients like miso-charred zucchini, maple-ginger sausage, and chili-mustard pork belly. Aside from choosing among curated specialities, you can make your own sandwich with your choice of protein, sauce, cheese, and bread. For dessert, gelato is scooped onto triple-chocolate-chip cookies. A sandwich made in heaven.
Bunker Vietnamese became a destination dining spot when it opened in industrial Ridgewood in 2013, and the regular crowds eventually prompted chef/owner Jimmy Tu to expand into a larger space in Bushwick in early 2017. Tu, whose resume includes Eleven Madison Park, maintains an elevated take on Vietnamese street food with dishes like a clean and light chicken pho and lemongrass short rib banh mi. The colorful, converted warehouse space has an outdoor patio and a bar that’s three-times the size of the Ridgewood location. Live music and weekend DJs set a party tone that fits right into the neighborhood.
The team behind Williamsburg dive bar darling The Commodore and Bushwick's El Cortez expands to Greenpoint with The Drift, a homey spot serving breezy cocktails and Southern-style food. Frozen drinks like The Commodore -- essentially a piña colada -- and the gin-and-Aperol Orange Julio gesture to warmer climates (and the owners' nearby venues), while cans of Modelo are a reminder that simplest is often best. Tufted leather chairs, wooden walls, and taxidermied animals give The Drift a lodge-like feel and set the scene for comfort first-plates like boiled peanuts, a South Carolina-style chopped ribbed sandwich, and pimento on Saltines.
Acclaimed sushi chef Eiji Ichimura's 10-seat dining counter is minimalist for a reason: the immaculate preparation of high-quality fish is all the stimulation you need. This solo project, launched after a departure from his venture at David Bouley's Brushstroke, showcases Ichimura's mastery of the intimate omakase format, in which he crafts intricate plates before your eyes over the course of roughly two hours. The experience comes at a steep price tag, but it's not everyday you come across hard-to-achieve delicacies like expertly aged tuna.
Legs of Iberian ham hang above the bar at Lamanos, a tapas spot from the team behind Ofrenda and Black Ant (you know, the Mexican restaurant with the bug tacos). The menu gives an at-a-glance view of Spanish cuisine but hones in on specific regions in dishes like Rioja-style potatoes and Catalan tomato bread with manchego cheese. High-top communal tables are an indication that this is a place for sharing, and shelves of wine nod at the beverage of choice. Most of the bottles are sourced from the Iberian peninsula, save for a few French and Italian varieties. Even the cocktails are wine-based, like the sherry and beet juice Bloody Mary.