We all know that great eating doesn’t have to mean expensive eating. Still, a lot of the best restaurants in the city will cost you a significant portion of your rent. But in 2015, we got a whole slew of fantastic and affordable new restaurants, so you can go out to eat and not have to refinance your Justin Bieber Purpose World Tour tickets (What? Who!?). Beyond that, these new restaurants each brought something new that was missing from the NYC dining framework. From a strong contender for the best ramen in the city, to Hawaiian food from Per Se vets, these are the best new restaurants that opened in New York City this year.
Having previously mastered modern Portuguese cooking at Aldea, it comes as no surprise that George Mendes can nail more casual, gastropubby Portuguese fare. Lupulo’s a gorgeous restaurant, with an enormous oval bar and tile-lined walls, and the seafood-heavy menu features subtle but flavorful dishes like salt cod croquettes, Manila clams in vinho verde with garlic and cilantro, and chicken with piri-piri sauce. Plus, it’s got some pretty great Portuguese beer (as well as American craft beer).
You know what you were missing your whole life up until this year? Inexpensive Hawaiian food from Per Se vets! This cozy East Village spot serves up authentic Hawaiian dishes like Spam agnolotti, corned beef tongue musubi, and mochi-crusted halibut. Now, just close your eyes and pretend you’re on the beach and not in the East Village.
Michael Chernow continues to kill it with the single-focus restaurants, and the seafood at Seamore's is as impressive (if not more so) as his much-beloved meatballs. The poke appetizer and the spicy squid tacos with kale, apple, cotija cheese, and corn nuts are serious business, but if you’re into fish, it’s really hard to go wrong here.
Sadelle’s truly changed the NYC bagel game in 2015. Major Food Group’s new spin on the Jewish bakery/deli brought us the smoked fish towers of our dreams, alongside great hand-rolled bagels and chocolate babka, and then -- because why stop there -- it continued to pull out all the stops with dinner offerings like caviar service and some very solid spicy fried chicken.
From Korean restaurant vets, this intimate East Village spot is doling out seriously impressive shared plates like slow-cooked oxtail and pork belly, and of course, the much-talked-about honey butter chips (eat them while they’re warm!).
Momofuku maestro David Chang’s fried chicken concept got a lot of hype (and lived up to it) this year, offering one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the country -- habanero puree-marinated buttermilk fried chicken thighs in a Martin’s potato roll with pickles -- as well as an off-menu version worthy of our sandwich bucket list. It was all so good that Chang went ahead and did it again with a surprise opening of a Midtown offshoot, Fuku+.
Lower East Side
The team behind Contra’s new casual spot just two doors down is strictly à la carte, with options like pork Milanese with gribiche, littleneck clams on toast with spinach and lardo, and beef tartare with smoked cheddar and chestnut, which is undoubtedly some of the city's best. And yes, the bread and olive oil is just as great as everyone says it is.
Laurent Tourondel’s take on rustic Italian-inspired cuisine brought the simultaneously-feel-good-and-bad-about-yourself dish of the year: smoked ricotta gnudi with brown butter and shaved truffle, as well as a number of standout wood-fired pizzas, like the sopressata picante.
Sun Noodle (which provides ramen to some of the city’s best spots) finally opened its own standing- room-only restaurant this year, offering just two types of ramen, and featuring a new guest chef from the US or Japan each month. So far, all the guest chef pop-ups have been wildly successful, making Ramen Lab a strong contender for best ramen in the city. Since the place is so small, there are still lines to get in, but the wait is more than worth it.
This vegetable-forward Williamsburg restaurant is giving greens a VERY GOOD name, with a tasting menu that flips the script by having meat and fish in the supporting role. Go with a group (or alone) and sit at the 18-seat U-shaped bar -- and don't miss Pamela Yung's desserts and bread.
From the team behind Lure, Bowery Meat Company, and Burger & Barrel, this stylish Sicilian spot inside the SIXTY SoHo hotel has all your classic Italian needs covered, with pastas like spaghetti A.O.P. and tagliarini with lamb ragu and baked ricotta salata, as well as a great roasted pork chop entree.
Rosie’s brought the corner of 2nd and 2nd some wonderfully authentic and addictive Mexican this year, including a very bubbly queso fundido and a number of delicious tacos. The margaritas are not to be missed either, particularly the Rosie’s margarita with mezcal and serrano-infused tequila.
Over by the highline, Carbone/Torrisi/Zalaznick are doing more good work -- this time, it’s Italian, though Santina is lighter (both in vibe and menu) than Carbone. The space is full of plants, and pastel colors pop from the chandeliers, dishware, wall art, and food. And about that food... the team’s doing a lot of great things with vegetables and fish, including a beautiful squash carpaccio and a spicy shrimp zingara (rice with shrimp, pepperoncini, olives, and capers).
The super-buzzy Bruno Pizza shows off the already-proven pizza chops of Roberta’s alums with delicious Neapolitan pies like the nduja and the country ham with smoked ham, peach, and cured onion. It’s also one of many notable restaurants to hop on the equally-as-buzzy no-tipping trend this year.
Proving you can have a great steak without going broke, Quality Eats popped up in the West Village in November with steaks under $29 (the bavette cut is just $19) and upgraded steakhouse sides, like creamed spinach hush puppies and baked potato monkey bread.
1. Lupulo835 Avenue of the Americas, New York
2. Noreetuh128 1st Ave, New York
3. Seamore's390 Broome St, New York
4. Sadelle's463 W Broadway, New York
5. Oiji119 1st Ave, New York
6. Fuku163 1st Ave, New York
7. Wildair142 Orchard St, New York
8. L'Amico849 6th Ave, New York
9. Ramen Lab70 Kenmare St, New York
10. Semilla160 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn
11. Sessanta60 Thompson St, New York
12. Rosie's29 E 2nd St, New York
13. Santina820 Washington St, New York
14. Bruno Pizza204 E 13th St, New York
15. Quality Eats19 Greenwich Ave, New York
The first thing you notice about Lupulo is how gorgeous it is -- there are blue tile-lined walls, hardwood floors, and a huge U-shaped bar serving craft beer, Portuguese wine, and speciality cocktails until close. The rustic Portuguese restaurant from Chef George Mendes' (the chef behind Michelin-starred Aldea) is inspired by Lisbon's cervejarias (breweries), and though the beer list -- featuring domestic and international varieties -- is obviously excellent, the food is something else. The menu is seafood-heavy with understated but impressive dishes like spicy chicken Piri Piri, squid ink rice with clams and blood sausage, and wood-grilled sardines.
Noreetuh is casual in atmosphere but serious in its Hawaiian inspired cuisine. Like the fare you would find on the islands, the menu here is a coming together of Filipino, Japanese and Korean influences, and the result is fantastic.
Michael Chernow, the guy behind the Meatball Shop, proves he's the master of the single-focus restaurant with Seamore's, his fish-centric restaurant in Little Italy. The concept is simple: you pick your fish from the ever-changing "Daily Landing" options, then your sauce and side. The menu features other fish plates like tacos, sandwiches, and poke. The large space includes a sidewalk patio and open-air windows and is decorated like a New England seafood shack filtered through a West Elm catalogue. Not too shabby.
During the daytime, this elevated Jewish bakery and appetizing restaurant from Major Food Group serves hand-rolled bagels that are of the highest quality: they're parboiled with barley-malt syrup and rise slowly in the oven before taking their crisp, compact shape with a glossy finish. While the bagel sandwiches, like house-cured salmon on an everything bagel made with fennel, are what you’re here for, the homemade babka, cheese blintzes, and sticky buns certainly hold their own at brunch. In the evening, Sadelle's transforms into an candlelit brasserie, featuring a menu that puts an emphasis on freshly baked bread and fish entrees, as well as traditional Russian caviar and vodka.
From two Seoul restaurant scene vets, this intimate East Village spot serves seriously impressive Korean fare. The small plates formats means you can try a little bit of everything, like warm honey butter chips and slow-cooked oxtail and pork belly. You won't really know what you're eating but you won't care because it's so good.
David Chang’s fast-casual chicken sandwich shop features one of the county's best fried bird numbers, featuring chicken thighs brined and marinated in a habanero puree that’s later coated in buttermilk and spices, then fried crispy, and finally, served in a Martin’s potato roll with pickles and house-made butter.
From Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra, Wildair is a sophisticated wine bar/eatery featuring polished slate countertops, vintage bottles, cocktails, and artisanal spirits. Get comfortable, grab a seat at one of the high tables, and be sure to order the bread and olive oil, which goes perfectly with the beef tartare complete with smoked cheddar and chestnuts.
The menu at Laurent Tourondel's L'Amico features Italian-inspired dishes, served in a casual setting. Two copper-clad, wood-burning ovens act as the centerpiece of the open kitchen, so diners can watch the parade of pizzas (we love the guanciale-topped clam pie), pastas, and rustic mains make their way to the dining area. Eating alone? L'Amico's bar area invites solo diners to enjoy a more quiet experience of the space and cuisine.
A culinary laboratory devoted to all things ramen, this pint-sized shop in Nolita cranks out creative iterations of the Japanese noodle soup daily. Run in conjunction with Sun Noodle, the company that makes the noodles used at many of the country's ramen shops, Ramen Lab is constantly experimenting with different broths and toppings. Aside from nightly dinner service, it frequently hosts pop-ups and tasting dinners.
Eating at Semilla in Williamsburg is like attending an intimate dinner party as this slim space features just one 18-seat wooden bar that diners gather around for a vegetable-centric tasting menu. The dinner lineup features 10 dishes that change with the seasons and are based on what's available from Semilla's farmers. Shaking up the menu this often leads the chefs to create inventive meals that are always plated with beauty and precision, like an heirloom tomato tart with shiso & red onion, and rhubarb-marinated scallops. You'll have to make reservations well in advance, but walk-ins are welcome for drinks and light bites when space is available.
Sessanta serves up southern Italian food in an impeccably designed space inside the SIXTY Soho Hotel. Look out for well-executed pasta dishes, like a beautifully al dente and tangy spaghetti pomodoro, alongside larger mains like pork chop and branzino. To top off, quartinos of red or white wine, or a weekly sommelier pick, will ensure you have the luxe coastal Italian experience with none of the jetlag.
Housed in the bright window-walled corner of 2nd and 2nd, Rosie's centers around a central grill and serves up authentic, regional Mexican dishes like tlacoyo (fava-filled masa cakes), brisket tostadas, Veracruz-style octopus salad, and pork ribs stew with plantain, pineapple, olives, raisins, and almonds. The margaritas are equally worth your attention, particularly the namesake version, which is made with mezcal and serrano-infused tequila.
From the team behind Dirty French, Torrisi, Carbone, Parm, and ZZ’s Clam Bar, Santina is situated beneath the High Line and is done up to feel like you're at some tiny restaurant on the Italian coast, even though you're in the heart of the Meatpacking District. The space is full of plants, and pastel colors pop from the chandeliers, dishware, and wall art. The food fits the vibe as well -- the menu is almost entirely made up of seafood and vegetables, keeping everything light, fresh, and delicious.
Bruno Pizza comes from Roberta’s and Acme alums and has a number of solid Neapolitan pizzas available, like the country ham and the nduja. Also look out for market options like diver scallops and local squid, and excellent pastas like bucatini and cavatappi.
Michael Stillman's Quality Meats spin-off in the West Village offers great affordable steaks (all under $29!) and fun plays on standard steakhouse sides, like creamed spinach hush puppies. The"Wine Stack" program allows you to choose three wines that'll each be stacked, in separate glass chambers, to form one bottle. If you can't get a dinner res, try going for lunch during the week for one of the steak sandwiches.