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As their name would indicate, Our 10 Best lists are typically positive affairs. But today we’ve decided to venture into more critical territory to rank Our 10 Most Overrated Restaurants. You know the type: It’s the restaurant you’re told, repeatedly, by everyone who’s ever held a fork and an opinion, that you absolutely must try. The one whose staggering lines, haughty service, or crippling prices are supposedly justified by the simply transcendental morsels that will cross your lips and change your otherwise meaningless life forever.
Not all overrated restaurants are expensive restaurants, just as not all wildly popular restaurants are overrated restaurants. The point isn’t to call out places for the sake of being contrary; the point is to call out places where we’ve been disappointed, underwhelmed, or disgusted despite being told we should feel elated. As with all lists, this is one is subjective. You’ll undoubtedly feel we’ve either missed something or included it unjustly, so please feel free to tell us so and we’ll add your picks on the readers’ suggestions page.
Next: Numbers 10 through 6
10. Freemans (Freemans Alley 212-420-0012) — Yes, the alley’s lovely and the devils-on-horseback still light up the dopamine receptors. But between a waitstaff that tends to be either vacuous or studiously apathetic, and the largely unmemorable food, we have no idea what, exactly, people keep lining up for.
9. Community Food & Juice (2893 Broadway, 212-665-2800) — When it opened, this place was almost immediately hailed as the salvation of Morningside Heights. While it’s definitely convivial enough and a nice alternative to neighborhood slice joints, its slapdash service, uneven food, and relatively high prices (for what you get in return) don’t really justify the adulation.
8. Schiller’s Liquor Bar (131 Rivington Street, 212-260-4555) — Handicapped by long waits, rude service, average flavors, and a squawking brunch crowd, it’s by far the least appealing member of Keith McNally’s mighty subway-tiled empire.
7. Empire Diner (210 Tenth Avenue, 212-243-2736) — When news broke about the Empire’s supposedly looming closure, it was hard to get too worked up. The building itself is deservedly beloved, but the restaurant’s surly service and way overpriced, completely unremarkable grub mean that the only thing we’ll miss is the upright piano.
6. Fatty ‘Cue (91 South 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-599-3090)–It feels like a missed opportunity. The food’s delicious, but the portions are cynically small, the prices cynically high. Sure, the meat is responsibly sourced, but it’s hard to recommend a casual barbecue restaurant where the tab approaches $100 for two.
Next: Numbers 5 through 1
5. SD26 (19 East 26th Street, 212-229-9331) –The room is cavernous and icy, exhausting to sit in. And although chef Odette Fada’s technique is nearly unimpeachable, many of the dishes are forgettable, lacking excitement or soul. The place cultivates its regulars–but if you’re not a regular, prepare to be rushed through your courses with the efficiency of a car wash, and pay through the nose for the privilege.
4. Second Avenue Deli (162 East 33rd Street, 212-689-9000) – Maybe it was great once back on Second Avenue, but the Murray Hill evocation seems lackluster, the cured meats rubbery, the soups pallid and undistinguished. Deli-wise, it’s still Katz’s all the way.
3. Magnolia (401 Bleecker Street, 212-462-2572)–Cake as dry as sawdust and frosting that’s tooth-achingly sweet. And a line to get in.
2. Masa (10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-9800) – With prix-fixe dinners in the $400 to $600 range at Masa, wouldn’t you rather have three exquisite sushi meals at Kuruma Zushi or Sushi Yasuda instead?
1. Babbo (110 Waverly Place, 212-777-0303)– Expensive, impossible to get into, and with food more hit and miss than that at Lupa, Esca, Del Posto, and Otto, yet Babbo still makes the top ten on nearly everyone’s list of desirable reservations.
Next: Readers’ suggestions
Readers’ suggestions (in no particular order)
1. Clinton Street Baking Company
4. Russian Tea Room
5. Momofuku Ko
7. Colicchio and Sons
9. Per Se
12. River Cafe
13. Al di La
17. Gramercy Tavern
18. Momofuku Milk Bar
20. Peter Luger
21. Mile End
22. Union Square Cafe
23. Tom’s Restaurant