We just told you about the best bars and restaurants that have opened so far this winter, but with February coming to a close, we wanted to call attention to a number of great places that opened this month alone. Plus, with the weather getting warmer again, you no longer have an excuse to stay inside weeping into your delivered pad thai and magnum bottle of Malbec. From Mario Batali’s new Chelsea trattoria, to the buzziest new burger in the city, these are the places you need to get to now.
NYC's Best February Bar & Restaurant Openings
Upper West Side
The Upper West Side was seriously lacking in pizza options, so this new Neapolitan spot from the owners of The Mermaid Inn (in the seafood restaurant's old spot) is a truly welcome addition to the neighborhood. The modern space features white-painted exposed brick, lots of seating and low-hanging lights, and an open kitchen that allows diners to watch the wood oven pump out hot pies like spicy salami with olives and buffalo mozzarella, and prosciutto with arugula, ricotta, and balsamic (the consulting chef is Danny Amend of Franny’s, so they know what they’re doing here). There are also a number of equally good, unfussy pasta dishes and antipasti like bruschetta and salad, as well as a delicious pork sausage with cabbage.
Lower East Side
Getting a high-quality cocktail without any pretension is not easy task in this city. That’s why this cocktail bar modeled after an English pub is so necessary. Giuseppe González (formerly of Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, and Dutch Kills) and Ruben Rodriguez (Havana Café) opened this tavern-style cocktail bar as an homage to the Lower East Side and the New York figures they’ve been influenced by -- seen in the portrait sketches on the walls of people like Ed Koch and Joey Ramone, and in the drinks, many of which are inspired by people like Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner, whom Gonzalez studied under. The menu’s broken down into originals (like the The Tough Room, a Guinness/whiskey sour float), classics, and vodka cocktails. There's plenty to eat too, like the Lower East Side burger and several appetizers.
It’ll be a bloodbath to get a reservation for a long while at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s newest Italian eatery in the Maritime Hotel (their first standalone spot in a decade) but it’s well worth the trouble. The huge indoor/outdoor space features ‘60s mod-inspired interiors, including a beautiful tile floor and an insane 38ft marble bar, plus a spacious outdoor patio for the warmer months. But as striking as the space is, it’s the cooking that’s really memorable, proving Batali still does upscale Italian best. The casual yet refined trattoria menu is comprised of handmade pastas like cauliflower carbonara and cavatelli with spare ribs (plus some excellent ravioli), and heartier meat dishes like truly perfect lamb chops and “old school” beef braciole.
The second restaurant from the team behind Charlie Bird focuses largely on pizza and pasta in a beautiful, open Little Italy space with lots of banquette seating -- though the best spot is at the long wooden bar with a prime view of the restaurant's two pizza ovens. In addition to pies like spicy coppa and little neck clam, the menu features an excellent calzone with sopressata, prosciutto, ricotta, and mozzarella that’s soft but chewy and charred in all the right places. On the meatier side, you’ll find things like an enormous pork shank for two and a flavorful smoked pheasant with roasted cabbage. The restaurant is also hopping on the no-tipping trend, and menu prices are still fairly affordable.
April Bloomfield’s casual burger joint with longtime partner Ken Friedman is finally here, marking a detour from her famed burgers at The Spotted Pig and The Breslin. The menu here is comprised of fast food-inspired burgers (minus the fast food prices) made with beef from Upstate New York, as well as house-smoked hot dogs, salads, and some apps. Skip the more expensive Salvation Burger with caramelized onions and taleggio in favor of the wonderfully greasy, Five Guys-inspired Classic Burger with two patties, pickles, lots of oozing American cheese, and a Thousand Island-style “special sauce.” Also not to be missed: the doughy cheese beignets.
Matthew Kenney makes his return to New York with this plant-based, vegan pizza place (the 00s refer to the high-quality Italian “00” flour), offering far more exciting options than the same old vegan pizza with standard non-dairy cheese and vegetables. Take note of the flavor-packed smoked oyster mushroom pie with walnut cream, green harissa, and lemon, and on the more traditional side of things, the farro-fennel “sausage,” pie with cashew “mozzarella.”
Chef Eduard Frauneder of Edi & the Wolf and The Third Man is now doing modern Austrian fare like onion tartes with Gruyere and onion gravy in the old Bruno Pasticceria location. While the tarte is great (assuming you have zero people to kiss later), there’s also some fantastic schnitzel, and an interesting burger with cheddar, onion jam, and crispy fennel. Be sure to also check out the beer selection -- featuring the likes of Radeberger pilsner, Braufactum Progusta, and Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen -- and the great craft cocktail program by the Third Man team.
The Mermaid Inn retired its Upper West Side spot to rebirth the space in the form of this Neapolitan restaurant under the same ownership. White-painted exposed brick, low-hanging lights and an open air kitchen set the mood for a modern and cool atmosphere where you can watch the wood oven crisp up a variety of pie options, from EVOO and rosemary to spinach, garlic, hot peppers and fontina. The menu also features a roundup of pastas and unfussy appetizers that are simple but full of flavor.
Modeled after an English pub, this LES cocktail bar was opened in homage to the neighborhood and the New York characters that owners Giuseppe González (formerly of Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, and Dutch Kills) and Ruben Rodriguez (Havana Café) were influenced by. (They're featured in sketches hung on the walls). The space serves unpretentious cocktails at the white-tiled mahogany bar, and patrons can grab bites as well, like the Lower East Side Burger and various appetizers.
Nobody does Italian like Mario Batali, and La Sirena in Chelsea's Maritime Hotel is a testament to the Crocs-wearing chef's steadfast ambition to bring mega-restaurants to New York. The indoor-outdoor trattoria is set in a sprawling second-floor space, complete with a gleaming 38ft marble bar, a beautiful tile floor, and '60s mod-inspired interiors. The upscale menu is typical Batali, comprised of antipasti (there's burrata, obviously), handmade pastas, and grilled meats and fish.
A follow up to Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones is a casual Italian in Little Italy whose two wood-burning ovens fill the corner of Kenmare and Mulberry with the tantalizing smell of hot pizza. The ovens are the restaurant's hallmark, and the best seat in the house is at the bar, where you can see everything from clam pizzas to enormous pork shanks go in and out. Pasquale Jones has a no tipping policy, but the prices are still affordable, including wines from the French and Italian list.
Superstar chef April Bloomfield is giving fast-food a run for its money with her fast-casual burger restaurant at Midtown's Pod 51 hotel. The menu revolves around the eponymous burger, made from beef that's butchered and ground in-house then formed into a patty and cooked on a wood-fired grill. The rest of the small-but-mighty menu includes hot dogs, veggie burgers, and fish sandwiches, plus crazy indulgent pies and boozy milkshakes for dessert. Salvation Burger might be casual, but it's definitely high-end.
This plant-based, vegan pizza place, named after the high-quality Italian "00" flour used in its pies, delivers a range of delicious and exciting options for when traditional sauce and cheese just won't do. Small plates, organic pizzas and vegan ice cream are all featured on the menu in addition to a selection of organic wines.
Chef Eduard Frauneder of Edi & The Wolf opened this Greenwich Village spot serving modern Austrian fare alongside a cocktail program by The Third Man team. The space is modeled after modern Vienna brasseries with leather banquettes and marble-topped cafe tables. The menu is seasonal and market-driven, and the restaurant has a signature burger with farmhouse cheddar, onion jam and crispy fennel.