The Village Voice is always on the lookout for the next delicious bite, and we’ve scoured New York City in search of the tastiest dishes this year. To celebrate the release of our Best of New York City issue this October, we’ve spent the past few months counting down the 100 very best bites in the city, just for you. As we roll out our Top 10 favorites, which we started doing yesterday, we decided to catch you up on the first 90. Be forewarned: You’ll want to try every last one of these.
100. Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
Dominique Ansel and his Cronut. While his namesake Soho bakery still attracts long lines for the doughnut/croissant hybrid, the pastry virtuoso has moved on.
Ansel’s made-to-order concept, Dominique Ansel Kitchen (137 Seventh Avenue South; 212-242-5111), is Cronut-free. Here he puts a personal spin on classics such as sage-smoked brownies and a pain au chocolat with sea salt. But the star of the show is an under-the-radar laminated blueberry brioche. The tender and airy base of the pastry is filled with bright, sweet blueberry-balsamic compote, fresh berries, and mascarpone cream. Before it’s brought to the table, the top of the brioche is dusted with sugar and brûléed, producing a crisp, caramelized top.
99. Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
There’s no question what comes first at Nolita’s Egg Shop (151 Elizabeth Street, 646-666-0810), but breakfast dishes pale next to chef Nick Korbee’s glistening Golden Bucket after dark, when boneless hunks of prime birds (from neighborhood butcher Pino’s Prime Meats) are chopped, brined, and soaked in buttermilk before they’re pitched into the open kitchen’s fryer. Still sizzling, the cluckers are tossed with sea salt and scallions and smothered in a house-made honey concoction that balances wildflower succulence with a sweltering hit of habanero.
98. Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
Ramen shops have proliferated in NYC like hangovers on Saturday mornings, perhaps in direct relation to each other. However, to our taste buds, many bowls smack of the same super-rich tonkotsu stock and the same spicy sauce. Then Ramen Lab (70 Kenmare Street; 646-613-7522) came to town.
Owned by Sun Noodle, the 30-year-old noodle company that supplies most shops in the city, Ramen Lab focuses on one thing: excellent bowls of noodles in broth. At the standing-only counter, chef Jack Nakamura serves two bowls of soup, each designed with the proper noodle in mind. Of the two, the Torigara Shoyu ramen ($13), an “homage to circa-1910 Tokyo shoyu ramen,” may be the most perfect rendition we’ve ever tried. Schmaltzy chicken stock is ladled over succulent pork chashu, fermented bamboo shoots, nori, and spinach. A naruto fish cake floats on top. In the middle, delicate #0106 24W noodles soak it all in.
97. Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
This cannoli, found at Ferdinando’s Focacceria Ristorante Cucina Siciliana (151 Union Street, Brooklyn; 718-855-1545), blows away the cannoli disappointments of the past: the soggy, the stodgy, the stale, the cardboardy.
It will restore your faith in — well, faith, really. Freshly made, crisply shattering shell, softly billowing mascarpone, thickly dusted powdered sugar, no messing about. “My father-in-law taught me all the recipes,” says Francesco (Frank) Buffa, the owner and supervising chef of the 110-year-old focacceria-ristorante-cucina. “People love them. So why would you change?”
96. Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
A good breakfast sandwich is as comforting and messy as any great romance. It’s unique, and it’s not easy. But Dimes (49 Canal Street, 212-925-1300) makes theirs look that way, in Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner’s afternoon sun-lit room down the east end of Canal Street.
In a kitchen as slight as a whisper, cooks fold plush cashmere-like blankets of scrambled eggs with cheddar and avocado, nubby with pickled jalapeños, stained with a bright bell pepper hot sauce, and burning sweetly with brown sugar and cayenne, for the sleepwalking beautiful people who press as close together as the tables: elbow to elbow, cheek to cheek.
95. Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
Nostalgia seems like an ongoing trend in restaurant concepts; we’ve lost count of the number of places employing vintage-inspired wood wainscoting and faux-antique tin ceilings as part of their design. Old-fashioned ice cream parlors have jumped on that train, as well. But then, there’s Eddie’s Sweet Shop (105-29 Metropolitan Ave #1, Queens; 718-520-8514), the real deal. Since 1909, this corner store has been serving scoops to adoring fans, barely changing a thing. The humongous banana royal ($9) at Eddie’s is a delicious throwback; served on a fluted silver dish, it’s piled high with three scoops of ice cream, sliced banana, syrup (ranging from chocolate and caramel to marshmallow and strawberry), sprinkles, chopped nuts, fresh whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Ice cream is house-made, in flavors developed during the shop’s early days. Expect to see classics like cherry vanilla, mint chip, coffee chip, pistachio pineapple, rum raisin, strawberry, and butter pecan. The Banana Royal is large enough to share, but so good you’ll want it all to yourself.
94. Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
One smell of Fletcher’s (433 Third Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-763-2680) incomparable burnt ends — smoked for an entire day over fresh red oak and sugar maple — is enough to make a person’s mouth water. One bite is enough to convince any BBQ enthusiast of the supremacy of this particular preparation of beef.
The cut comes from the edge of the brisket, positioned perilously close to the fire. The wise folks of Kansas City helped spread the burnt-end gospel in the mid-Seventies, exalting what was once considered throwaway meat. Fletcher’s pitmaster Matt Fisher cut his teeth in this very same region. His burnt ends are caked in a thick layer of deckle, a gelatinous rim sealing criminal amounts of fatty flavor into each smoke-ringed cube of meat. It contrasts beautifully against a caramelized, crunchy-rubbed crust. And at just $7 per quarter-pound, it’s far and away the best bargain per calorie in the entire city.
Although Fletcher’s also excels at a variety of house-made sauces, Fisher recommends trying his burnt ends as is. “It’s such a pure thing that I don’t want to sauce it or fuck with it any more,” he warns. “It’s just like beef candy.” More like beef butter. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
93. Almayass’s Mante
The New York outpost of one of Beirut’s best-known restaurants, Almayass (24 East 21st Street; 212-473-3100) blends the flavors and dishes of Shant and Rita Alexandrian’s Armenian heritage with those of their former Lebanese homeland. Some dishes are more Lebanese, some are traditional Armenian; most are the Alexandrians’ own blend. Manti is on the Armenian side, and it’s absolutely delicious: kind of like canoe-shaped ravioli. They’re filled with ground beef ($18) or spinach ($16) and baked, creating a delectable texture on top that’s like a prime corner-slice of lasagna — crisp and chewy, yet soft and succulent on the bottom from the juices that form in the pan. While the dumpling is still hot, it’s topped with a creamy garlic yogurt sauce and sprinkled with sumac (beef) or red-pepper powder (spinach).
92. Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
Of all the tacos in New York, it’s the fish taco at Empellón Taqueria (230 West 4th Street, 212-367-0999) that most tempts our hunger. First, be sure to request the peerless house-made white-corn tortillas — it matters. Then get ready; the tacos are made to order, delivered mere seconds after tender, battered dogfish emerges from the fryer. The tempura-like crust shatters like Pop Rocks when you bite in, and each palm-size taco (three to an order; $21) has just the right balance of zingy lime mayo, subtly hot green salsa, sparkling-fresh shredded cabbage and jicama, and shaved radish. Accompany the tacos with one of the equally spot-on fresh-juice margaritas from the bar, and go ahead and cancel that flight to Baja.
91. El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
At El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette (100 Stanton Street, 212-260-3950) chef Gerardo Gonzalez draws from his SoCal upbringing with playful baking and cooking. His favorite preparation is also our own. He celebrates fatty, oily Portuguese sardines by arranging the boned fillets around a fragrant and supremely crunchy corn tostada. The fish are held in place by a layer of whipped Greek-yogurt butter, whose low-fat tang mellows out their aggressive brininess. Shaved radishes and carrots accompany carrot-top salsa verde to complete the colorful display with punches of brightness and acidity. This is exciting cooking, a plated party in every sense of the word, and those humble bait fish? They’re vogue battling.
90. General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
While the precise origin of General Tso’s chicken remains sketchy, the Cannibal (113 East 29th Street; 212-686-5480) has discovered a surefire way to up the ante on the Chinese-American staple dish: Sub out the poultry for half a hog’s roasted head. The $85 dish takes nearly 45 minutes to prepare, and arrives in a cast-iron cooking pan with the pig’s profile literally gazing into the void (its eye remains in the socket).
The pork, heightened with a house-made chile-pepper glaze, is joined by a broccoli rabe, fried shallot–studded side salad. A half-dozen thin flour pancakes provide a burrito-like delivery mechanism. Unctuous flavor of coarse tongue, tender jowl meat, and crunchy ear cartilage contrast in a textural odyssey. But the true adventure comes from scavenging the nooks and crannies of the skull in search of hidden caches of carnivorous delight. Cut through the sweet and spice of the sauce with any hop-forward I.P.A. from Cannibal’s exhaustive selection of craft beers on tap or in bottle.
Although the menu claims it’s for two, the pig’s head easily provides enough meat to satisfy four grown humans. The squeamish need not apply. If you can’t look an animal in the eye while you’re eating it, consider vegetarianism. To the true believer, however, this is more than a meal. It’s an experience.
89. The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
The folks behind the beloved Meat Hook butcher shop in Williamsburg serve a somewhat ironic vegetarian option ($13) at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop (495 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn; 718-302-4665). But it might even be better than most of the carnivorous selections on the menu. It includes every sandwich ingredient in the kitchen that isn’t meat, some of it pickled, some fried, some fresh. Fried eggplant, pickled cippoline, marinated artichokes, marinated tomatoes, fennel, cabbage, watercress, escarole, frisée, red onion, herbs, hash browns, and fried onion are piled high on an airy kaiser roll. It’s sealed with an earthy and sweet spread made from fried beets, parsnips, and carrots. With so many flavors and elements mixed in, you won’t even notice there’s no meat between the bun — unless, of course, that’s your goal.
88. The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
It’s no wonder the Prohibition era would give birth to certain overindulgent suppers that are still with us today. Sopping up boozy pours is no less necessary now, at a time when spirited holidays like Negroni Week and National Bourbon Day draw trending hashtags, than when locating bootlegged hooch was a word-of-mouth affair. And while the Hot Brown, a turkey-and-bacon variation on Welsh rarebit, will always be associated with Louisville’s Brown Hotel, creamy chicken hash is the business of midtown’s 21 Club (21 West 52nd Street, 212-582-7200), where regulars continue to pony up for the toasted bounty of hefty poached chicken cubes on a bed of wild rice and spinach, sloshed in mornay sauce, and messily tucked under crusty gruyère cheese. Sure, it may never be the memorable part of a night at 21, but it’s lasted this long because it’s the only reason you can still remember your evening at all.
87. Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
Take a plump green olive, pit it, then stuff it with ricotta. Next, wrap it in sausage meat, dip it in egg wash and breadcrumbs, then fry it until it looks like a tiny scotch egg, only so much better. Intensely savory, briny, crunchy, and ridiculously moreish. Or, better idea, you let Jody Williams and Rita Sodi do all that, and you settle in to your seat at the bar of Via Carota (51 Grove Street; 212-255-1962), order an Aperol spritz and a round or two of fried olives, and experience deep, deep pleasure. We are so goddamn lucky to live in New York and do things like this, you will think to yourself, and the world will be a better place.
86. Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
As soon as you step in the door of Loi Estiatorio (132 West 58th Street; 212-713-0015), a waft of fresh herbs, cucumbers, and something indescribably savory fills your senses; it’s an olfactory welcome mat into chef Maria Loi’s elegantly simple restaurant, where she serves a modern take on the rustic food of her Greek homeland.
Loi’s pougi appetizer is an ode to her childhood; growing up on a farm in the small village of Thermos, her mother would offer guests whatever was in the kitchen, and in their house that often meant yogurt, feta, olive oil, tomatoes, and oregano. She’d combine the ingredients, wrap them in a type of butcher paper called hasapoharto, and put it in the oven, to be served warm with her homemade pita bread.
Loi’s version of her mother’s dish comes to the table wrapped in a clear plastic pouch with a side of crisp pita slices; the top of the pouch is snipped by a server and the contents spilled into a small bowl. The warm temperature of the mixture is a sensual delight — this isn’t the typical cold dip, such as tzatziki, that you’d expect — this is a bowl of creamy feta, thick homemade Greek yogurt, roasted grape tomatoes, and pungent dried herbs with a golden, liquid ring of olive oil, as fragrant and delicious as a Mediterranean breeze on a field of wild oregano.
85. Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
The culinary wizards at Pearl & Ash (220 Bowery; 212-837-2370) actually figured out a way to make butter better. What was it missing all this time? Chicken fat, it turns out. And maybe a wisp of maple syrup. Although it seems so simple, the additions are legitimate game-changers, not only adding an unctuous depth to the cream, but elevating its very texture into something sublimely satisfying.
A spread this decadent demands a suitable delivery mechanism. Thankfully, their housemade smoked bread fits the bill. It’s served warm, and a discerning nose might detect remnants of the smoldering wood chips that helped birth it. You’re only afforded two slices, in all their unapologetically glutenous glory, but that’s more than enough with which to properly attack the cream.
Rendered chicken fat, in the form of schmaltz, has long served as a Jewish culinary staple. Although it obviously informed their chicken butter, Pearl & Ash smears their brand of unique sophistication into a dish that maintains the simplicity of pure comfort. While some are reluctant to sing its praises, don’t be a chicken — at $4, it’s worth rendering your own verdict.
84. Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
If you’ve recently walked by the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and 13th Street during lunchtime, your curiosity may have been piqued by the wide windows on the corner looking into Rossopomodoro (118 Greenwich Avenue; 212-242-2310). Opened late in 2014 by Simone Falco (who owns a slice of New York’s Eataly and a few restaurants back home in Italy), the restaurant is quiet and somewhat empty midday, resting in anticipation of the dinner rush that floods in nightly.
Those daylight hours are the best time to settle in for a lunch meeting or post-imbibing weekend brunch. The staff is energized and attentive, the wood-fired oven manned by pizzaiolo Rosario Granieri is ready to sizzle and char, and executive chef Kenneth Welch is already turning out creamy pastas with house-made mozzarella, thinly pounded chicken, market vegetables grilled until just-soft, and chunks of marinated and stewed meat.
However, the most pressing reason for some particular New Yorkers to race to Rossopomodoro is its phenomenal gluten-free pizza crust. Yes, it exists, and the non-gluten-free eaters who have joined me there for several lunches agree.
The crust, made primarily with a combination of rice and potato flour, is not at all reminiscent of flavorless cardboard. Rather, it’s thin and pliable enough in the center to be folded for optimum slice-devouring; the dough itself tastes salty and chewy and satisfying, and the dark char on the rim provides oh-so-satisfying crunch. Topped with a rich, sweet San Marzano tomato sauce, pickled red onions, buffalo mozzarella, and basil, it’s exquisite; a white version teeming with spring onions and drizzled Neapolitan olive oil is equally satisfying. Order sides of the rotating market vegetables, such as artichoke hearts or asparagus, pair it all with a chilled rosé or classic Italian cocktail, and you’re ready to tackle the rest of the workday (or a walk on the High Line).
A note for those with Celiac disease: The pizzas are made in a shared oven, so if cross-contamination is a worry, opt for one of the many gluten-free pastas (including the gnocchi!), which are also delicious.
83. Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding with Candied Violets
Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself created the Valrhona chocolate pudding at Perry St (176 Perry Street, 212-352-1900), a confection topped with a textured split of whipped cream and candied violets. Like a smattering of dishes preceding it, most similarly a clean, crisp-edged rice-cracker-crusted ahi tuna, this vibrant dessert has been a mainstay on Perry St’s menu since 2005. The pudding, served at Vongerichten’s jewel-box waterfront restaurant, preserves the spirit of a millennial dining scene like a Damien Hirst installation, without the inflation.
82. Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
Whitney Aycock has a filthy mouth, and a menu littered with profanities to prove it. It’s one of the many reasons we love his edgy Rockaway Park pizzeria Whit’s End (97-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard).
Funny, then, that we found ourselves uttering a few expletives of our own after tasting Aycock’s velvety smoked-fish dips, which hit the table next to a towering stack of salted pizza-dough breadsticks. The chef aggressively smokes his catch behind the restaurant, which tames the oily fish (locally caught bluefish or mackerel, depending on what’s in season) and produces a wildly flavorful dip.
A touch of imported olive oil, a sprinkle of chopped scallions and freshly cracked black pepper, and you’ve got yourself some of the most rugged and refined beach cuisine around. Spread the pâté over a slab of charred pizza dough and you’ll wonder why Domino’s wasted everyone’s time with cheesy bread when they could’ve been selling this stuff like figurative fishy hotcakes.
81. Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
The line at Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (2 Rivington Street, 212-209-7684) usually stretches onto the sidewalk, and it serves some of the most delicious and unusual ice cream in the city. On a hot summer day in this concrete jungle, few things are as satisfying as cooling down with a scoop of one of their frozen delights.
At Morgenstern’s, flavors abound — from durian banana to raw milk to burnt honey vanilla. The choices are complex, yet always compelling enough to prompt the urge for a second scoop. Of all the whimsical flavors, their salt and pepper pine nut might be their greatest creation.
The creamy concoction is seasoned perfectly, with just the right amount of salt and pepper in each lick. The pine nuts, scattered whole throughout the scoop, bring a roundness and texture not often found in desserts; it’s somehow crunchy and smooth simultaneously. Served on one of their fresh monster waffle cones, this flavor is well worth the out-the-door wait.
80. Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
Freshly baked cookies studded with chocolate and nuts can be described in one of two ways: good and great. But the chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery (167 West 74th Street, 212-874-6080; 2167 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, 646-455-0952) transcends greatness, beelining from the oven into a realm of unimagined bliss. Ours is an imperfect world. Yet for the two minutes or so it takes to devour this sizable slab of golden-brown goodness, everything is in its right place. Jarring reality anxiously awaits your return, so chew slowly.
All baked goods benefit from obscene amounts of butter, and Levain’s masterpiece is no exception. But their cookie succeeds where pedestrian junk foods fail, bringing a yin/yang balance to its flavor, texture, and consistency. Scattered morsels of dark chocolate anchor the sweetness of the dough, allowing a faint saltiness to declare its presence. The gooey center provides textural relief in the form of crunchy, half-crushed walnuts. The outer crust speaks of an almost biscuit-like quality.
Hardly a city secret, you are likely to endure a (fast-moving) line for the privilege of forking over $4 for a cookie. But we all know of the rewards bestowed upon those who wait, and many folks walk away from here so enamored, they’re left craving a cigarette. A glass of cold milk is far preferable.
79. Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
New York’s best pizzerias serve their communities above all else, and Delmar Pizzeria (1668 Sheepshead Bay Road, Brooklyn; 718-769-7766) has been doing just that for nearly 60 years. The Sheepshead Bay pizzeria brands itself as the first to introduce sauceless “white” pizza to New York, and the classic Italian-American warhorse puts its denaro where its dairy is, loading slices with dollops of ricotta embedded into melty mozzarella. Resuscitated after Hurricane Sandy, it retains an old-school charm (check out the murals and vintage menu posted on the walls). In addition to the white pies, the seasoned ovens churn out nicely crisp grandma slices and cheese pizzas with herbal, savory tomato sauce.
78. Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
At this point in 2015, it’s safe to say that avocado toast has surpassed trend status and become a thing.The healthy snack, originally hailing from Australia, moved beyond its burgeoning role as a Brooklyn “it” food; variations of it are now to be found in cookbooks, on social media and restaurant menus all over the Western Hemisphere — especially in this great city of ours. According to those who keep track of such things, New Yorkers exist in an avocado-toast mecca, apparently craving it more than the residents of any other U.S. city.
While we’re willing to admit the simple fact that the dish is basically smooshed-up (or artfully sliced) avocado on a slice of bread, it must also be said that avocado toast has merits – it’s filling, tasty and nutritious. Come on! The version served in the comfortably lived-in dining room at Cafe Cluny (284 W. 12th Street; 212-255-6900) is a stand-out contender on NYC’s list; the avocado is mashed to a good, chunky texture, seasoned with a subtle, sparky hit of citrusy yuzu, spread on seedy, thick-sliced multigrain toast and topped with a softly poached egg. It’s one of our favorite things to eat, any day, any time.
77. Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
Ahh, the simple pleasures of weekend life: sleeping in on Sundays. The smell and sound of bacon sizzling on the grill. And cinnamon buns?! For a confection so seemingly over-the-top, Brooklyn Star’s (593 Lorimer St, 718-599-8999) entry is surprisingly restrained in the chew. It maintains a satisfying dryness throughout, refusing to surrender into over-sweetened slop.
There’s enough subtlety here to differentiate between alternating layers of pecan-like nuttiness; cinnamon spice, and slightly moistened starch, enveloped within the warm caress of a gooey, saccharine paste rounding out each bite. While it’s rarely envisioned as a brunch mainstay, The Brooklyn Star reapplies relevance to this treat traditionally dismissed as shopping mall fare. Drowning in vanilla frosting, and served piping hot in a cast iron skillet, their bun is a sight worth savoring — its very smell alone is intoxicating. Priced at $6, the side is subversive enough to become your newest weekend ritual.
76. Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
A polarizing pick for sure, but love it or hate it, you have to admire the sheer unexpected whimsy of a pork-belly-filled cotton candy coming out of the kitchen of Carnem Prime (318 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718- 499-5600), an old-school-style steakhouse.
“I love pork belly,” says chef David DiSalvo. “And this is really good quality pork. We skin it, score it, brine it, and braise it; then we crisp it to order and spin it with cotton candy. It’s a dish inspired by Jose Andres’s Foie Gras Cotton Candy. But it’s a bit more familiar and accessible.”
Why does it work? Pork loves sweet, and this is sweet. One melting morsel of meat, shrouded in a cloud of sugar that quickly becomes a glaze in your mouth. One crazy Willie Wonka bite that delights from the moment it arrives, poking out of a specially made serving board like a state-fair snack made by Tim Burton.
You gotta try it.
75. Ippudo’s Pork Buns
New Yorkers are serious about food, but they’re currently crazy about ramen. Few other food items would inspire multi-hour lines in the cold. Yet the prospect of hot bowls of flavorful broth garners such strong desires that intrepid diners are more than willing to do so — as long as it’s good. Ippudo (65 Fourth Avenue; 212-388-0088), one of the first Japanese noodle spots on the scene in NYC, still attracts three-hour wait times on a Wednesday night. The bowls here are rich, deeply satisfying, and utterly delicious. It’s hailed as the best of the best.
The secret, however, is that the star of the show isn’t even what the place is known for. The hirata buns ($9) are the best thing on the menu. Freshly steamed rice flour rolls are warm and pillowy. One order comes with two, filled with juicy pork belly slathered in a tangy and slightly spicy special sauce. Each one is layered with iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise, which lends a bit of cream and a nice crisp crunch. If you don’t do pork, the chicken ($9) and vegetable ($8) are also top-notch.
74. Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
When Danny Bowien reopened his hit Mission Chinese Food (171 East Broadway) in a larger, more stately space, appointing Angela Dimayuga to run the kitchen, the playful chef and restaurateur added so many new dishes to the menu that the incendiary Sichuan cuisine for which he’d become famous all but disappeared into the background. While you can still get your kung pao pastrami fix, there are plenty of hits among the restaurant’s newer offerings.
Taming chile heat with sourness and fat, Dimayuga smothers oil-cured anchovies with a heap of mashed pickled chiles. Served simply in their tin, the fish buzz with brine and spice, set against fresh sprigs of parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Tear off hunks of the accompanying round of puffy sourdough bread, baked in the wood-fired oven the Mission crew inherited from the space’s previous tenant. If you feel like inspiring some of the punk-rock ethos of the restaurant’s original incarnation, consider ordering a pepperoni pizza (the breads are made from the same yeast starter) and topping it — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–style — with some bodacious seafood.
73. Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
LoLo’s Seafood Shack (303 West 116th Street; 646-649-3356) is an island oasis in the middle of Harlem, a full tropical embrace of the Caribbean with a splash of Cape Cod. The eatery itself evokes island vibes, its blue and orange walls lined with vivid artwork that makes you wish you were sipping rum in Jamaica.
The menu certainly mirrors that Caribbean way of life as well. Here, the johnnycake — a cornmeal fritter — makes a delectable debut, slathered in honey butter and infused with thyme and scallions. Carried throughout are sugary notes from the honey butter and piquant overtures from the herbs and green onions.
You could get one of the bakes — we recommend the avocado bake — but the sweetened, savory fritters really do stand alone. LoLo’s also has a profusion of chutneys, salsas, and, if you ask nicely, extra honey butter, which all mate well with the johnnycakes.
72. The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
The longer you’ve lived in New York, the harder it seems to find restaurants that feel like old New York. But in Tribeca, with all of its high-fashioned, high-ceilinged and high-ticketed lifestyle nowadays, a new neighborhood gem, Belle Reve (305 Church Street; 212-680-0101), comes close.
Bedecked in dark wood, orange-tinged lighting and legitimately old odds and ends, it’s the kind of place that draws an eclectic crowd, be they suited professionals, day drinkers or silver-haired tourists enjoying a leisurely sidewalk lunch. Revelers pack in at night for live music, burlesque dancers, and really-late-night festive debauchery. The chef, Paul Gerard, has evidently found fitting partners in fellow New Yorkers Billy Gilroy (of Employees Only, Macao Trading Co., Lucky Strike, Match) and Patrick Fahey (of Macao Trading Co., Naked Lunch, Peggy Sue’s). Together, the three like to push the ambiance above the food which, considering how quickly Belle Reve has found its footing as a good ol’ neighborhood joint, is valid. But the food alone is worth many a return trip.
Among many stellar plates, the Starving Artists Steak delivers Gerard’s gospel of simple, “three-chord cuisine” loud and clear. It’s salted and seared to perfection, drizzled with either a whiskey peppercorn sauce, or (my personal favorite), a robust but refined herb puree. It comes with two sides, meaning that you can indulge in the fatty-salty-crispy fries dredged in bone marrow, or partner up with a cauliflower-cherry pepper-caper pesto combo (above), asparagus drizzled with lemon, or any other equally delicious vegetable sides which could, alone, be a fully satisfying meal. Gerard applies his mad skills and many years at the stove to simple, satisfying dishes that pair perfectly with the upscale-but-down-home bar feel at which his partners equally excel. Yes, the burlesque and go-go dancers and random people tickling the keys are reason enough to head down to Church Street. But the food is, too. Welcome to old New York.
71. The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
The cheeseburger at the Spotted Pig hogs so much attention, it’s tempting to overlook many of the other sensational dishes at the West Village’s premier gastropub. This is a mistake. While you can track down a sensational burger all over our fine city, good luck procuring a plate of pasta to rival the ricotta gnudi on the menu here.
Halfway between ravioli and dumplings, these delicate, moist spheres of savory sheep’s-milk cheese are jacketed by a thin membrane of semolina. An $18 plate features seven of them, bathed in a blend of parmesan cheese, butter, and pasta water. That sauce is deceptively light, delivering a warmth of flavor without any creaminess to speak of. Instead you get to focus on the salty tang of the cheeses, the pleasing chewiness of the semolina “shell,” and the garden-fresh herbal punch of a summer basil pesto, carefully spooned atop each gnudi.
As fall approaches, the house-made summer basil pesto yields to a heartier brown-butter-and-sage topping. But that optimal blend of pine nuts, basil, and parmesan reigns supreme. Don’t wait. They may look petite, but great things come in small packages, and these pasta dumplings certainly won’t leave you wanting for a burger. You won’t be missing it, either.
70. Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
Renowned for their hand-pulled noodles and lamb dumplings, Xi’an Famous Foods (multiple locations) started as a small basement stall in Flushing before serving throngs of Manhattan- and Brooklynites. While the menu leans heavy on carnivorous options, it’s their Tiger Vegetable Salad that inspires return visits. The mixture of cilantro, celery, green onions, and tiny long horn peppers, lightly dressed in sesame oil, is fresh-tasting and textural, a “salad” that seems neither Chinese nor American. Essentially, the dish is a delicious medley of herbaceousness and crunch — miles away from your everyday romaine caesar.
69. Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
Kee Ling Tong started her eponymous Soho chocolate shop Kee’s Chocolates (80 Thompson Street, 212-334-3284) over a decade ago, and today the friendly and knowledgeable chocolatier sells her fastidiously crafted chocolates and macarons from a trio of shops and kiosks. Of her many flavors, which largely incorporate Eastern and Southeast Asian flavors to wondrous effect (like mango–green tea or white chocolate with yuzu), the hexagonal crème brûlée truffle reigns supreme.
Don’t worry if you get the impulse to scarf one down. “Eat the whole thing in one bite,” suggests Tong. Take her advice: Half-assing this chocolate yields messy results, thanks to the luscious vanilla custard locked within the dark chocolate shell. Tong also recommends eating them within two days. And while normally we’d consume our chocolate at room temperature, refrigerating these babies gives the chilled custard some welcome stiffness. Wonka can keep his factory — Tong’s created an enlightened, stylish dessert that’s halfway between an ice cream bonbon and a chocolate truffle.
68. Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong
Andy Ricker, chef/owner of Pok Pok Ny (117 Columbia Street, Brooklyn; 718-923-9322), is a genius — he almost single-handedly reinvented the American idea of Thai cuisine. Once upon a time, most stateside restaurants served watered-down curries and overly sweet pad Thais, but these days determined eaters can find sweat-bursting, funky-hot Isaan-style papaya salad and wings coated in fish sauce much more readily.
Everything on the menu at Pok Pok Ny is worthy of a spot on our 100 Favorite Dishes, but the unsung hero is the Muu Paa Kham Wong($18). The dish begins with boar collar, which is rubbed with garlic, pepper, and coriander root, brushed with seasoning sauce and sugar, then grilled over charcoal. When it’s done, the meat is sliced thin and drenched in a briny, mouth-searing sauce made from lime, fish sauce, garlic, chiles, and coriander leaf — the result is only for serious spice lovers. Iced mustard greens are served on the side for a crisp textural contrast to the rich meat, and also for the sake of authenticity — Thais believe that protein must be balanced with vegetables for nutrition and proper digestion.
The dish is typical pub grub or drinking food in Thailand, as it has all the customary elements: extreme spice, chewy texture, and salt. “All those things make you want to drink more beer or booze, which in turn makes you want to eat more of that kind of dish,” says Ricker. “They go hand in hand.” We’ll most certainly raise a glass (and some chopsticks) to that.
67. Cacio e Pepe at Upland
Although Justin Smillie labels his creation a “grown-up mac ‘n’ cheese,” the head chef at Upland is merely being modest. The only similarity between his cacio e pepe and the classic cuisine of childhood is unmistakable comfort. A menu staple since the establishment opened in October, the $17 pasta dish incorporates bucatini — a thick, hollow spaghetti noodle — into a simple medley of black pepper, pecorino, and parmesan. Minimal ingredients, maximum flavor.
To give the starch its smooth, creamy coating, it’s whipped, to order, in a bath of butter, pasta water, and the two Italian cheeses. It hits the bowl immediately thereafter, doctored only by the addition of pecorino shavings and cracked peppercorns. On the tongue, it delivers a precious, understated tang and space. The true marvel of the dish, however, is the textural contrast of chewy, al dente pasta against the lush backdrop of its sauce.
Inspired by the fare of Rome, the uncomplicated yet elegant cacio e pepe at Upland echoes what Italian chefs have been demonstrating for generations: that less is more.
66. Pulpo at Toro
Complicated as it can be to cook, octopus has emerged as something of a common menu item across the city. Few and far between, however, are the eateries that truly excel at this maritime delicacy. For a high-minded example of tasty tentacles as they are meant to be served, head straight to Toro, a Spanish-styled tapas bar in the West Village. Their pulpo — braised and seared in its own juices — reflects a traditional Galician preparation. An impossibly delicate exterior char provides only a slight crunch, before revealing an unending tenderness within.
Gilding the round tendril of seafood is a golden array of garnishes, including a charred-onion vinaigrette and crisped fingerling potatoes, peppered liberally with garden oregano fresh from the farmers’ market. The starch glides over the excess liquid, soaking up the deluge of flavor — saltiness from the octopus, caramelized sweetness in the dressing, even a subtle nod to smokiness. The tastes run analogous to any number of Toro’s well-balanced mezcal cocktails, most notably its TBD — a tongue tickler enhanced with smoked chile bitters, lime, and grapefruit zest.
Skip the rest — when you want octopus done right, Toro is leading the charge.
65. Junior’s Something Different
What started out as a mostly kosher restaurant in downtown Brooklyn 60 years ago has transformed into a neighborhood institution serving something for everyone, representing the area’s changing demographics. Now at Junior’s (386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn; 718-852-5257) there’s crab and barbecue pork ribs and Caribbean-style lobster tails, though the Jewish staples still top the list of menu items. There’s excellent brisket. Killer latkes. The “Something Different,” which brings both together in indulgent form: tender brisket sandwiched between two well-seasoned potato pancakes, all of it about the size of a construction worker’s fist. Sour cream, apple sauce, and au jus or mushroom gravy come on the side. It’s hearty, maybe gluttonous, actually, and it most certainly is something different. But, after one go, this decadent dish is something you’ll crave.
64. Duck Carnitas at Cosme
Cosme’s rapid ascent to superstardom owes nothing to hype; it’s all about the grub. To earn its status as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, it uses more than high-quality ingredients; it relies on an inventive kitchen to reimagine familiar fare as something entirely fresh: crunchy tostadas topped with arctic char or eel, moistened by bone marrow salsa — a delicate, flaky fish enhanced by spices and fruits typically associated with spit-roasted pork. Each of these dishes would have rightfully contended for a top spot on our list of favorites, if they weren’t eclipsed by the mouth-watering masterpiece that is the duck carnitas.
Served in a skillet, this crisped, sizable portion of fowl, made for two, is probably the best date dish in the city — so long as you don’t fight over who gets the last piece. It arrives at the table with warm, housemade blue corn tortillas, and two types of salsa: a tangy, acidic verde, made with tomato and serrano peppers, and the slightly more picante salsa de árbol. The fajita-style preparation allows you to build your own tacos. Allocate ample chunks of moist, juicy duck meat, crunchy, fatted skin, fresh cilantro, peppers, raw onions; however you see fit.
The $59 price tag is surely enough to deter some. But if you get past the sticker shock, you’re rewarded with half a duck breast — enough to fill nearly a dozen tortillas with tender meat, sweetened slightly by an extended marinade in Mexican Coca-Cola. As savory as that all is, the skin knocks it up to the next level — it has a satisfying crunch of salt and fat that will make it difficult for you to enjoy Mexican food anywhere else in the city.
63. Banana Miso Ice Cream Sandwich at Neta
Neta (61 West 8th Street; 212-505-2610), one of those pricy-stylish sushi places that have mushroomed all over the West Village in recent years, has been a safe bet for smart omakase or a luxurious late-night sliver or two of toro. But we were surprised to hear a new summer addition, an ice cream sandwich, was causing a storm.
Chef Sungchul Shim tells the Voice “the inspiration came from a rice waffle,” a traditional rice-flour wafer, often used in miniature as a topping for ice creams in Japan.“I kept seeing monaka [rice wafers filled with adzuki bean jam] desserts when I was shopping in Japanese supermarkets, and I had the thought to combine the two. I started experimenting, and this is the result.”
The dessert starts with great ice cream, made in-house. The banana miso flavor is particularly good, with an almost savory note and a balanced creamy sweetness. And honestly, a ball or two of that would be worth the trip alone. But then the ice cream is placed within a clamshell of the rice wafers and topped with a sweet huckleberry jam. The crisp of the wafer with the cool, smooth ice cream is serious stuff.
Granted, this is more of a spoon-fork ice cream sandwich than a straight-up, fist-to-mouth one, but if you don’t mind diving in despite the somewhat rarefied surroundings, it’s well worth the sticky fingers. The sandwich is available à la carte and as part of the tasting menu — get it while the summer lasts.
62. Breads Bakery’s Chocolate Babka
It’s hard to pin down the category in which to slot the sweet treat known as babka; is it a bread, pastry, cake — or something in between? The chocolate babka that emerges several times a day from the oven at Breads Bakery (18 East 16th Street; 212-633-2253) is a perfect storm of all of the above. The compact loaf has the heft of a newborn baby, and its lacquered crust boasts the deeply burnished color and crackle of a Peking duck.
Neither too sweet for snacking nor too humble for dessert, this babka is to ordinary yeast bread what a croissant is to an English muffin. And come to think of it, the combination of twisted, buttery dough — folded in a pleasing ratio to the inner coils of oozing, melting hazelnut-scented chocolate — has more in common with a decadent pain au chocolat from a French patisserie than a humble, comforting slice of coffee cake from your neighborhood Ukrainian bakery.
61. Braised Lamb Neck at the Gorbals
Lamb can be tricky to get right. Its gamy nature can easily be bungled by a sloppy preparation, but when cooked properly, it’s a sensory revelation. At the Gorbals (98 North 6th Street, Brooklyn; 718-387-0195) in Williamsburg, celebrity chef Ilan Hall and his adroit kitchen crew offer a mouthwatering, $33 course demonstrating how to knock lamb out of the park.
The first step is in the cut selection — Hall opts for the neck, which is padded in colossal chunks of tender meat. In fact, the portion is hefty enough for the dish to be classified as a shared entrée on the menu. To enhance the meat’s tenderness, the chef stews the lamb neck in a lengthy braise; what emerges is a football-size mass of fatted flesh that slides eagerly off the bone.
Solidifying the magnificence of the meal is the way in which the lamb is dressed before it hits the runway. In the Middle East, where lamb is a culinary staple, mint and yogurt have long served as preferred accoutrements. The Gorbals pays homage to this traditional preparation, while infusing its own spin: Instead of yogurt, a thick layer of creamy oats separates the meat from the plate; the buttery texture of the cooked grain helps blanket the lamb’s subtle gaminess. Augmenting the dish further is a savory red-wine reduction drizzled atop, which packages every bite with a robust juiciness while allowing generous flecks of mint to bind to the lamb’s outer crust.
60. Dough’s Passionfruit Doughnut
It’s not just cops who appreciate a good doughnut these days; gourmet shops proffering fancy circular pastries have been on the rise for quite some time now. Offering flavors ranging from hibiscus and tropical chile to dulce de leche and café au lait, Dough (multiple locations) is one of the best purveyors in town. Still, the passionfruit is number one.
What makes this doughnut so worthy of praise? Everything.
Let’s start with the base — the doughnuts at Dough are yeast-risen, meaning the batter is lighter and airier than their denser cake-based counterparts. Pastry chef Fany Gerson’s doughnuts are even more refined than most, so light and springy that sinking your teeth into one calls to mind a pillowy, steamed hirata bun.
Then there’s the topping: Unlike so many sickly-sweet fried doughnuts, this specimen mixes in tart tropical notes in the crystallized, sugary glaze, made from fresh passionfruit purée. Flecks of cocoa nibs are sprinkled on top of the pastry, mimicking the appearance of the interior of the fruit while adding pops of chalky-dark chocolate.
59. Uncle Jesse Bao at Baohaus
What Baohaus (238 East 14th Street; 646-684-3835) lacks in space (the Taiwanese eatery is small and easily crowded), it more than makes up for in its signature bao dishes — snack sandwiches served on mantou bread, a steamed bread native to China. Though baos aren’t usually vegetarian, owners and brothers Eddie and Evan Huang took it upon themselves to create a meat-free bao as a nod to their vegetarian patrons. The Uncle Jesse bao, which features organic fried tofu, crushed peanuts, and Haus sauce, is simultaneously crunchy, soft, sweet, savory, and spicy.
In addition to making damn good bao, Baohaus offers much in the way of pleasant atmosphere: The Huangs have created a chic, laid-back space. It’s a perfect place to hang out and shoot the shit; tables are stacked with stickers, and a far-back wall is plastered with Polaroids, art pieces, and newspaper clippings — a millennial’s dream.
58. Patatas Bravas at El Colmado
Say what you will about the French perfecting the fry, but when it comes to spicy, salty roasted potatoes, the Spaniards have the market nailed down.
At El Colmado in Gotham West Market (600 Eleventh Avenue; 212-582-7948), chef Seamus Mullen doesn’t stray far from tradition with his patatas bravas. The chunky potatoes are cut on the large side, so it takes a few bites to get through them; their crisp outsides pop open to a firm butyielding, bracingly hot interior. They’re served smothered in salt and paprika and something enticingly bright — lemon? sumac? — and drizzled liberally with garlic-laced aioli — incredibly thick, creamy, and cool in contrast.
What stands out about them is that they’re a simple food done right. Share a plate with a glass of sherry and they’re a satisfying snack. Add some grilled octopus, shishito peppers, and an order of lamb meatballs, and you’ve got a meal. A few too many glasses in or recovering from a long night out, and they’re the best kind of comfort food. Sí, sí.
57. Lupulo’s Razor Clams
At Lupulo (835 Avenue of the Americas, 212-290-7600), the follow-up to acclaimed modern Portuguese restaurant Aldea, camera-friendly chef George Mendes takes a decidedly more relaxed approach, eschewing fine dining and tasting menus in favor of punchy recipes meant to pair with the many beers, wines, and cocktails prepared at the restaurant’s massive U-shaped bar. As such, many dishes — like grilled sardines and piri piri chicken — pack aggressive, bold flavors and sport rustic presentations. Which is why the chef’s ethereal razor clam salad feels like a cooling reprieve, as bright and refreshing as a freshly poured pint.
Rather than serve them whole in their namesake blade-like shells, Mendes chops up the clams so that they resemble plump, briny mini-marshmallows. The chewy bivalves get tossed with a trio of cucumbers: raw slivers, crescents of quick-pickle, and charred nuggets, the fruit’s sweetness multiplied thanks to the searing heat of the restaurant’s wood-burning grill. Anointed with sprigs of dill, which help accentuate the clam’s meatiness with verdant savor, it’s an elegant dish, and one that almost wouldn’t feel out of place at Aldea. That it can be enjoyed in Lupulo’s convivial dining room with a glass of vinho verde makes the offering that much sweeter.
56. Bar Masa’s Spicy Dancing Shrimp
Bar Masa (10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor; 212-823-9800) is not known for being a bargain destination. It’s known as Time Warner Center’s sole clandestine passage, walled in enough beaming igneous to make you forget its location is in a shopping mall. But among the menu’s sumptuous miso-cod bento boxes and toro rolls for the ruling class, there are guilty pleasures to be had out of proportion to their prices; there are Spicy Dancing Shrimp.
For less than the price of a champagne cocktail, Masa’s next-door kitchen fires a towering basket of hulking tiger prawns and delicate lotus root in cottonseed oil, reimagining the bread and butter of a Joe’s Crab Shack with a dusting of ichimi pepper and dip of spicy mayo. It doesn’t melt on your tongue like a sliver of unagi, but sears your palate with a burst of heat. It’s deep-fried bar food, honest American mall food, hiding there in plain sight, and while your girlfriend’s scoring V.I.P. points at Sephora, you can too.
55. Underwest Donuts’ Halva
Retail space is limited, and coveted, in New York these days, and some small businesses are so small that they’re opening inside of other businesses. That’s how Underwest Donuts (638 West 47th Street, 212-317-2359) wound up a stone’s throw from the Intrepid Museum, tucked inside a car wash flanking the West Side Highway.
The brainchild of fine-dining veteran Scott Levine, Underwest traffics in superlative, charmingly whimsical cake donuts — the halva variety in particular. Levine loads the batter with tahini and also uses the silky roasted sesame paste in a glaze. Crowned with shredded halva, the treat wears strands of ground sesame seed confection with enough flair for a couture runway show, melting with each bite. It’s surely the nuttiest, moistest donut in the entire city.
54. The Virgola Platter at Virgola
Virgola (28 Greenwich Avenue; no phone) is the kind of special spot you don’t want to praise too loudly — a minuscule 60-by-6-foot space (and half of that’s the kitchen); a dark, romantic alley that won’t fit too many of your friends. Fortunately, it has enough room for oysters: around 2,500 of them weekly, which is no small feat for a joint with only seven tiny tables. At only a buck each, even the most cash-strapped wanderer can fill up heartily. But if you’re willing to shell out a bit more ($50), the Virgola Platter is the way to go — get ready to impress the person squeezing in next to you.
The platter comes grandly presented on an elevated tray: A dozen of the day’s oysters on a bed of crushed ice, along with a few wedges of lemon, a house-made cocktail sauce with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, fresh horseradish, and a champagne vinegar mignonette are ready for miniature forks, but the mollusks are so fresh that you might just want to slurp them down naked.
The plate is rounded out with an accompanying fluke ceviche, with chunks of whitefish, mango, finely diced peppers and red onion, fresh herbs and a simple tuna avocado tartare, and a few gigantic, extremely fresh shrimp. Wash it all down with a bottle of Virgola’s prosecco or spumante rosé — both bracingly crisp and bottled by Drusian — and you’re good to go.
53. Noreetuh’s Monkfish Liver Torchon
For all the times we’ve heard monkfish liver touted as “the foie gras of the sea,” it’s rare to come across a preparation of the finicky protein that actually lives up to the epithet. At Noreetuh (128 First Avenue, 646-892-3050), the Hawaiian restaurant and oenophile destination opened by three veterans of Per Se, chef Chung Chow prepares a monkfish liver torchon that surpasses its anatine relative.
Balancing on a jumble of jellied passionfruit and cubes of pickled pear, the disk of supremely creamy poached fish offal exhibits only a mild brininess. It spreads like butter onto accompanying slices of eggy, toasted sweet rolls from King’s Hawaiian bakery, which bolster the liver’s richness. Paired with the gussied-up fruit, it’s a ballsy, fun plate, and a wholly original take, evocative of the restaurant’s ethos, which emphasizes the multitude of influences on Hawaiian cuisine.
52. Amarena Cherry Merveilleux
Move over, pavlova. There’s a new confection in town, recently imported from France by way of Belgium — the merveilleux.
Merveilleux resemble cute, confetti-dusted snowballs, but they’re actually marvelous treats, built delicately, but not too fussily, of wafer-size meringue cookies and a mound of whipped cream. Aux Merveilleux de Fred (37 Eighth Avenue; 917-475-1992), the solo U.S. outpost of a small European chain, turns out six different flavors of merveilleux out of a petite shop in the West Village.
While you’d be equally rewarded if your taste veered toward the original, dark Belgian chocolate version (chocolate whipped cream, rolled in shaved chocolate), it’s the L’Eccentrique — amarena-cherry-flavored merveilleux — that stand out. One or two all-in bites of this assemblage deliver a pleasurable mixture of fluffed, sweetened cream and bits of crunchy-to-caky textured meringue, laced with the grown-up, almond-like essence of Italian amarena cherries. The garnish, a candy-crunch shower of Pink Panther–colored sprinkles, brings everything together like a bouquet of tea roses in Marie Antoinette’s updo.
51. Roasted Mushrooms at Bara
Pity poor mushrooms — they’re rarely the star of a plate. Despite the abundant variety that chefs can access year round and their ability to be easily foraged in the wild — even by building-bound New Yorkers — mushrooms are often reduced to supporting players on top of a steak or in a sauce. So when a dish masterfully lets them shine, it’s worth celebrating.
At Bara (58 East 1st Street; 917-639-3197), chef Ian Alvarez combines his classic French technique with a love of Japanese flavors in a mix of roasted beech, oyster, king oyster, enoki, and cauliflower mushrooms. Soubise — traditionally made with cream, onions, and rice, but in this case with sake, short-grain rice, and onion — is set on the bottom of the plate, topped with the mushrooms and roasted sunchokes, all tossed in a bright dressing of lemon, sesame seeds, and pistou; a traditional French blend of garlic, basil, and olive oil.
The varying textures and subtle flavor differences from the mushrooms mean that each bite is somewhat unexpected — first meaty, then super sweet, then tangy, then rich, and then meaty again. Just when you think you’ve fallen for a particular varietal, like the somewhat firm heads of the tiny beeches or the feathery cauliflowers, another will stand out. In the cold of winter, the deep flavors of the roasted mushrooms and sunchokes linger long after the meal is over; in the warmer months, the dish feels brighter, the lemon and seasonal greens slightly more pronounced.
50. Fonda’s Oaxacan Black Mole Enchiladas
Mole is so much more than a sauce; it’s an obsession. I speak from personal experience. While mole assumes countless forms, chef Roberto Santibañez at Fonda (434 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-369-3144) excels at the chocolate-imbued negro style typical to the Oaxacan region of Mexico. Because it’s most familiar to American eaters, the dish needs special attention to stand out in a crowded field. Hisenchiladas de mole negro Oaxagueño kick the competition to the curb.
To set the mole standard, Santibañez starts by stone-grinding a proprietary blend of cacao, nuts, chiles, and herbs until the resulting sauce attains a lush viscosity. Its unctuous, roasted flavors are brightened with a gentle drizzle of sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, cilantro, and sesame seeds. All of this blankets the tender protein at the center of the dish: chicken braised for so long it falls apart with the touch of a fork, rolled into three handmade, soft corn tortillas.
For $21, Fonda’s black mole chicken enchiladas are by no means the cheapest dish you’ll find on a Mexican menu, merely one of the best. As an added treat, pair it with their sensational mezcalita — one of the best mezcal cocktails in the city.
49. Flinders Lane’s Lamb Rump
Australians and lamb are like Americans and apple pie — the stereotype of “shrimp on the barbie” is far less common than baby sheep (and for the record: they’re actually prawns). Modern Australian eatery Flinders Lane (162 Avenue A; 212-228-6900) serves a lamb dish that could convince even the pickiest eater to love the other red meat.
The globally inspired dish nods to the diverse ethnic groups that make up modern-day Oz, starting with its seasoning: The lamb rump is crusted in wattleseed, a native spice that’s been used by the Aborigines for centuries. The cut is sliced then placed atop a Middle Eastern garlic harissa sauce and a cucumber-and-red-onion salad. The whole thing is dressed with a minted yogurt sauce. Tunisian harissa comes from the Arabic population, its heat balanced by the creaminess of the yogurt and the bold coffee-like flavors of the indigenous seed. The result is out of this world.
It’s a high-end riff of an Australian late-night classic, the souvlaki. The combination of Mediterranean flavors and ingredients is intended to mimic the popular pita filled with meat, tzatziki, tomato, chips, and onions. With the largest Greek population outside of Greece, Melbourne has adopted the Hellenic street-food snack as one of its own. Many Aussies host souvlaki nights, as Americans do Taco Tuesdays. While pork is the most commonly used meat in the dish’s homeland (chicken and lamb are used less frequently), the abundance of sheep led to a new Down Under twist on the age-old snack.
48. Blue Ribbon Sushi’s Temaki Honnin
While some industrious folk ferment their own kimchi and cure the meats for their midday salumi break (what, you don’t take daily meat repasts?), Blue Ribbon Sushi (multiple locations) offers a fresher and more instantly gratifying take on D.I.Y., opposable thumbs being the only requirement.
Blue Ribbon’s sushi chefs will happily make you temaki — uncut sheets of nori seaweed rolled into cylinders or cones and filled with rice, seafood, and, occasionally, vegetables, herbs, and condiments. And at most of the brand’s branches, the chefs adhere to a tidy and compact standard (some establishments’ hand rolls can look comically close to ice cream cones). But if you feel like giving the masters a run for their money, opt instead for temaki honnin.
The platter holds all the necessary components for an impromptu sushi-making session: bundles of seasoned rice, crisp nori squares, and five varieties of fish. There’s always tuna, salmon, and yellowtail, as well as imitation crab and avocado for the masochists who enjoy California rolls. Local whitefish like fluke and porgy are the wildcards on the platter, which changes seasonally.
Don’t despair if your handiwork doesn’t look like the pros’: The quality of Blue Ribbon’s raw ingredients ensures that the results will at least still taste great. And the hands-on aspect makes it a great play for date night.
47. Dirty French’s Chicken and Crepes
Unless it comes battered and coated in grease, chicken tends to be the least exciting dish at most restaurants: flavorless, dry, and, in many cases, served for the sole purpose of appeasing the weight-watching set. Dirty French (180 Ludlow Street; 212-254-3000), on the other hand, serves chicken and crepes that are the opposite of boring; they’re dramatic.
This chicken mixes flavors and techniques from across the globe: French confit and mustard, Southeast Asian citrus, Tunisian chile paste, Indian chutney — it’s by far one of the boldest preparations of the farmyard fowl to be found in the city.
Intended pour deux, the bird is served in two parts. The breast is presented first, sliced in a small skillet over a creamy mustard sauce scented with herbs and caramelized shallots. It’s set on a wooden board with a handful of folded crepes on the side. The dark meat comes next, two legs with feet still attached. The legs are marinated in a vibrant inspired blend of soy, kaffir lime, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger before being confited in chicken fat then grilled to order. Alongside, four sauces are offered for your sampling pleasure: spicy house-made harissa, sweet apricot chutney, hot dijon mustard, and crème fraîche. For added freshness and texture, a glass rooster filled with pickled chiles, sliced radishes, and fresh herbs comes on the side.
46. The Vegetarian Combination at Zoma
Harlem is saturated with restaurants serving delicious and plentiful food. For comforting Ethiopian cuisine, locals head to Zoma (2084 Frederick Douglass Boulevard; 212-662-0620).
The space is simple, and the menu is unfussy. All platters come with delightfully sour, spongy injera (like a thick and chewy teff crepe) that you tear with your fingers and use to scoop up your choice of stew. The meat offerings are all delicious. But on hot summer days, a vegetarian combination fills you up without quite knocking you down.
Collard greens (gomen) are stewed until they’ve kept just enough bite, flavored lightly with ginger, garlic, and onions. Atakilt wett, with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and onions, provides numerous shapes and textures. Misir wett is slightly spicy, with lentils cooked just to the point of breaking easily. And shiro wett, with its combination of chickpeas, lentils, and smooth, pulverized peas, is richly spiced with berbere into pure “Ethiopian comfort food.”
The combinations are meant to be shared, and while plenty of wispy women can be seen impressively downing their own platters with gusto, one will comfortably feed two moderate eaters. If you’re particularly hungry/don’t want to wait, start with an order of kategna — injera toasted and rubbed liberally with clarified butter and berbere. It’s perfect for impatient fingers, and alone worthy of the trip to Harlem’s popping restaurant district.
45. Merguez Sausage Flatbread at Irvington
If any flatbread could convince you that it’s an equal brother, not a distant country cousin, to the universal crowd-pleaser known as pizza, the merguez version found at Irvington (201 Park Avenue South; 212-677-0425) would be the one. A robust, distinctly bready base is layered with vivid romesco sauce, topped with smoky, spicy house-made merguez sausage and soft, sweet red onions. The whole dish is brightened with dabs of cool, salty ricotta.
All the flatbreads here are a good bet; there’s usually a special flatbread highlighting whatever’s fresh and inviting at the Greenmarket in neighboring Union Square that day. If you’re dining with a group, especially, you’ll want to add one to the table. However, it’s the merguez —simple, un-showy, almost austere in its commitment to brown, that we come back for time after time.
“We make the sausage in-house,” chef David Nicholls tells the Voice. “I want to be able to control the spices, to get the exact taste I’m looking for. I love to highlight ingredients, so I try to keep things simple and let the flavors really shine.”
Sit at the counter and watch hardworking chefs press the fresh dough onto a paddle before topping it and sliding it into the oven.
Cold beer. Hot flatbread. Heaven.
44. Le Grand Aioli at Marlow & Sons
Mayo is one of those ingredients you either love or hate. So it’s pretty bold for a restaurant to feature the condiment prominently — indeed, as the centerpiece of a dish. That’s exactly what Marlow & Sons (81 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-384-1441) does every summer. On Mondays, the Williamsburg eatery offers one of our favorite audacious dishes, Le Grand Aioli, celebrating the season and the garlicky dip.
One night a week starting at 5 p.m., the local-centric restaurant serves the shareable plate with an ever-changing assortment of farm-fresh ingredients. Recent renditions have included fresh heirloom tomatoes, roasted eggplant, marinated cracked potatoes, dressed wax beans, grilled string beans, shishito peppers, fried zucchini, fried garlic, pickled egg, poached swordfish, and lamb meatballs. But, just like the growing season, you never know what you’re going to get — could be sardines, or potatoes, or pickles, or snap peas. No matter what, it’s like taking a country escape.
The bounty surrounds a big bowl of some of the best aioli you’ve ever had. It’s made from fresh certified organic eggs along with garlic, lemon juice, and a blend of high-quality oils. The grand goal is a shareable platter that truly is of the moment. Available until fall sets in, it’s one of our best-loved summer treats.
43. Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
Shelsky’s of Brooklyn (141 Court St, Brooklyn; 718-855-8817) started off by bringing smoked fish to the borough. Since then, the shop has branched out from aquatic creatures to smoked and cured meats. Everything from the pastrami and corned beef to the tongue is cured in-house, then shipped off to Fletcher’s in Gowanus for a touch of smoke. That’s what makes the hot pastrami sandwich ($18.99) so good. The piles of steamed beef is set between two slices of Orwasher’s plain rye bread (seeded and pumpernickel are also available); one of which is slathered with mustard. The meat is offered lean, moist, or extra moist — go for the extra. The sandwich could throw down with anything you’ll find in the LES, but fortunately, it comes without the crowds.
42. Hippie Banjo at Pies ‘n’ Thighs
Though simple, there’s something about Pies ‘n’ Thighs’ (166 South Fourth Street, 347-529-6090) hippie banjo sandwich ($7.50) that really hits the spot. No ordinary fried egg sandwich, the hippie banjo is a hotbed of textures and flavors: stacked between two pieces of buttery, crunchy, straight-from-the-grill anadama bread sit an over-easy fried egg, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, sprouts and mayo. The sprouts, in particular, elevate the overall sandwich, acting as a palate refresher after the cheese and mayo.
Pies ‘n’ Thighs’ homefries ($5) — classic rosemary potatoes, which have been cooked to crispy perfection — and cheese grits ($5) complete the meal, if you’re really ravenous.
41. Malted Milkshake from Dizzy’s Diner
Milkshakes, it has been suggested, bring all the boys to the yard. Dizzy’s (511 9th Street, Brooklyn; 718-499-1966) malted version is bringing a lot of people to Park Slope, where the classic diner-style eatery excels at a belly-busting dessert drink worth waiting in line for. But surely you won’t be waiting long, especially considering that each shake is handmade to order, with three heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Throwing ice cream and milk together into a stainless steel shaker doesn’t require rocket science. Yet Dizzy’s elevates their milkshake with an ideal proportion of ingredients, yielding the proper result of sugary sweetness, and savory creaminess, delivered with a unfaltering consistency. Going for an old school soda shop feel, the folks behind the counter use locally-sourced ice cream, and jack it up with a spoonful of malt. It leaves your tongue with a faint echo of cereal milk that demands repeated sipping.
Served in a traditional Y-shaped glass, the $5.50 frappe arrives at the table blanketed by a fluffy layer of cloud-like whipped cream. It’s all that, with a cherry on top. Literally.
40. Graffiti’s Graffiti Burger
If Superiority Burger’s namesake sandwich is too extreme a trip into vegetarianism, Graffiti Food & Wine Bar (222 East 10th Street, 212-677-0695) chef Jehangir Mehta’s signature sliders are a gateway drug. The acclaimed former pastry chef has spent years hooking regulars on these exquisitely seasoned guilty pleasures that reckon a global trove of produce and spices and trump a gratuitous heft of Pat Lafrieda beef fat. The diners at his stalwart hole-in-the wall continue to only want more, not different, because Mehta’s menu’s been nearly untouched since he first opened the intimate dining room’s shutters on a quiet stretch in 2007.
Just as they did on day one, Graffiti burgers come by the pair. Divided by a handful of baked garlic fingerlings that absorb the punch of Mehta’s house-made tomato-chipotle mayonnaise, the kick of the burgers is in no way overshadowed. At 60% pure Angus, they’re cut with a blend of fresh, diced onions, tomatoes, green chiles, and mushrooms heady with coriander, cumin, ginger, and mint. And like any business-minded pusher, knowing that media and finance types want a taste of what downtowners want to keep to themselves, you’ll find the burgers farther south when Mehta opens Graffiti Earth in Tribeca’s Duane Street Hotel this October.
39. Beef Rolls at Kottu House
Related to Malaysian roti canai, Sri Lanka’s godamba roti — pancake-like griddled flatbread — enjoys a certain status among street food fiends. Chopped and stir-fried with proteins and vegetables, it forms the base of the eponymous dish at Kottu House (250 Broome Street, 646-781-9222) on the Lower East Side. From a cozy storefront, mother/son team Sandya De Silva and Chelaka Gunamuni serve takeout boxes of filling and fiery Sri Lankan fare, including briny salmon croquettes and french fries jazzed up with chili powder.
And while their lineup of kottu — from black curry chicken to seawater fish — is worth the trip alone, we can never resist an order of the house beef rolls filled with a coarse mix of ground meat, shredded vegetables, and curry powder blooming with explosive spice. Godamba roti forms a texturally appealing shell around the beef hash. It crisps up like an egg roll when fried, at once shatteringly crisp and chewy. Find the rolls listed under the menu’s “short eats” section. They’re two for $5, and come with cups of sriracha hot sauce for dipping, but we like to splurge on De Silva’s insanely flavorful sambals. The coconut and green chili one in particular, while the least spicy, still delivers a cooling, creamy tingle that works wonders on the beef.
38. Cafe Katja’s Wiener Schnitzel
Austria is known for many things: Mozart, Marie Antoinette, the former California governor, Viennese pastry. The most famous (and most frequently consumed), however, is the national dish, wiener schnitzel; the breaded cutlets are beloved across the globe. The Lower East Side’s Cafe Katja (79 Orchard Street; 212-219-9545) serves one of the best renditions in the city.
Breaded and fried meats may be found across the world — like steak Milanese and numerous incarnations of fried chicken — but the simple Austrian preparation found at Katja is hard to beat. To make the dish, pork is pounded into thin cutlets, coated in breading, then fried. The golden crust insulates the meat. Not chewy or the least bit dried out, it’s like the schnitzel version of a fresh baked baguette; soft and pillowy inside with a nice exterior bite. There’s nothing fancy or trendy about this dish, and no heavy sauces necessary — the schnitzel is killer on its own. It gets just a slice of lemon, a sprig of parsley and a smidge of preiselbeeren (lingonberry jam) on the side. Steamed new potatoes with herbs and a side salad finish off the plate.
37. Norma’s Potato Pancakes
When Westchester’s too far for a power breakfast at a Cheesecake Factory, there’s Norma’s (119 West 56th Street, 212-708-7460) at Le Parker Meridien, the hotel’s upscale, upstairs, daytime dining room where the biggest challenge isn’t whether to spend $28 on Nutella-packed flapjacks, or $1000 on a lobster frittata plied with more than a half pound of caviar, but whether you can possibly finish them.
But Norma’s doesn’t just cater to dramatic cravings, it also serves up classic dishes in dramatic doses and poses — case in point their classic potato pancakes, which saddle a pile of crisp and fluffy latkes, shredded then tenderly fried, with a monument of potato straws that can shame your table’s floral centerpiece and provide a crunchy veil to hide behind while sifting through the accompanying green salad, which features a whole, hollowed apple overflowing with a sweetened Indian carrot puree, each slice glazed with a swipe of tart cranberry-apple sauce. Unlike the Cheesecake Factory, there are no desserts on the menu here — unless cheesecake-stuffed French toast served a la mode counts — but you’ll also never blow a deal by being that guy who orders a slice of low-carb cake with strawberries.
36. Goat Milk Soft Serve at Victory Garden
New York City has some of the best ice cream, gelato and soft serve shops in the world, and there’s no better time to explore them than in the sweltering months of summer. But for those who avoid cow’s milk, the Mister Softee jingle is a cold and empty one. For those folks, there’s Victory Garden (31 Carmine Street).
The tiny spot churns soft serve made from goat’s milk and yogurt sourced from Side Hill Acres in New York state. Their happy goats wander and are fed a diet of hay and grass — without hormones or prophylactic antibiotics — which means that the milk is not only tangy and bright, but also has an incredibly clean and fresh taste. It’s then spun into a sweet array of flavors, like salted caramel, chocolate, a seasonal herbal infusion, or a straight-up plain goat milk, which has sour notes underpinning a sweetness that’s neither cloying nor oversaturated.
A cup on its own is heaven; soft and smooth and refreshing. But for those who want a bit more play in their treats, there’s an abundance of other local and artisan products to add-in, like vegan fudge from Coop’s Micro Creamery in Massachusetts, a variety of goat milk caramel sauces from Fat Toad Farm in Vermont, or crushed Heavenly Chocolate Chunk Cookies from New York City’s own Sweet Lorens, which themselves contain no dairy. No matter the combo, this is soft serve so good it’s worthy of being a destination for any and all ice cream fans.
35. Okonomi’s Onsen Egg
At Okonomi (150 Ainslie Street, Brooklyn; no phone) chefs Yuji Haraguchi and Tara Norvell devote their mornings and afternoons to ichiju sansai, a multi-course breakfast of soup, fish, and accompaniments like subtly sweet pickles made with rice vinegar and sour yuzu. Presented in gorgeous ceramic vessels, this regal morning meal also includes creamy cubes of Japanese-style rolled omelet, mixed with soy milk or heavy cream to create a deeply caramelized exterior. But even those elegant ova pale in comparison to the kitchen’s dreamy onsen egg.
Poached in the shell and cooked to the approximate temperature of a hot spring, the egg arrives in its own cup, floating in sweet soy sauce and topped with togarashi — a Japanese chile powder spiked with roasted citrus and sesame seeds. It’s served as a two-dollar supplement, meant to pair with bowls of remarkably fluffy and nutty brown rice crowned with pungent cured bonito flakes. Mix everything together and pour its viscous yolk and barely-there white over the grains to season them. The result is close to a porridge, but with loads more personality than that term suggests. Lush and salty-sweet, its depth of flavor is a delightful surprise in a meal full of them.
34. ‘Njuja Pizza at Obicà
Obicà Mozzarella Bar (928 Broadway, 212-777-2754, and 590 Madison Avenue, 212-355-2217) has locations worldwide, with origins in Rome (which sparked the concept for Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton’s Mozza, in Los Angeles). Obicà showcases handmade bufala and burrata mozzarella cheeses, imported to New York City directly from the Campania region in Italy.
You can order the cheeses individually as part of a tasting board, but we think a pizza is the way to go. Obicà’s dough is made with authentic Italian flour and goes through a long, cool 48-hour fermentation, producing a crisp, chewy, and airy crust. Our favorite pizza takes the basic tomato-and-basil topped margherita two steps further toward greatness, with the addition of addictively salty, spicy, and smoky ‘nduja spread and four delicious blobs of the super-lactic cream bomb known as burrata.
33. Paulaner Sausage Sampler
Step into the mammoth space that is Paulaner (265 Bowery; 212-780-0300) and you may forget you’re in New York City. The ceilings are high and vast, the never-ending communal tables could seat even the largest party of chanting German football fans, and gleaming copper vats of bubbling beer barely even make a dent in the space between the bar and dining room. It’s the kind of place that seems a touch out of sorts on the Bowery, with its raucous nightly energy and, again, largeness standing out next to its somewhat subdued neighbors. That is, until you taste the food, which has all of the attention and precision you’d expect more from a mom-and-pop menu crafted from the most old-school of Bavarian German souls.
There are many dishes worthy of trying, like a bright, chilled pea soup with delicate chiffonade swirls of mint; fluffy yet chewy baked pretzels with Bavarian cheese spread; ethereally light spaetzle with vegetables; or a crisp but yielding pork knuckle you wanna bring home and call your own. But for something truly special, go to town on the sausage sampler and sauerkraut.
The selection may change the night you’re there, but a recent combo featured weisswurst, bratwurst, and merguez, all nestled on a bed of sauerkraut with a trio of mustards. The weisswurst is soft and gentle, unsmoked, the meat and herbs somehow becoming creamy. The bratwurst — traditional in the best sense of the word — is slightly spicy, and rich without being overwhelming. The merguez, with its crisp skin and fragrant balance of warm spice, offers a slightly more heated and rather exotic bite. It’s the kind of plate that’s perfect for a group with very large beers in hand, washing down a long day or smoothing the stomach for a long night ahead.
32. Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies at The Whitney
This is a serious chocolate cookie. Triple chocolate chunks, lightly caramelized edges, a soft, molten heart, sprinkled with sparkling crystals of salt, warm and melting fresh from the oven. Deeply, deeply chocolate.
Whether enjoyed as the comforting crowning indulgence of a sophisticated vegetable-forward dinner at Untitled (99 Gansevoort Street; 212-570-3670) or a sugar-rush snack up on the patio of the Studio Café after a long afternoon of art, if you’re visiting the Whitney, you should be eating one of these cookies.
Why so good? Quality chocolate — white, dark, and milk — rice flour that lightens and gives great chew, and some serious thought and skill: You just know that if chef Michael Anthony has a cookie on the menu, it’s one you’re going to enjoy, and Miro Uskokovic (another Gramercy Tavern alum) is the master of elevated, deceptively simple traditional desserts.
At Untitled, you get a shot of cold, creamy milk to drink alongside. At Studio Café you get a view good enough to make up for the lack of milk. Either way, with this cookie you win.
31. Momofuku Ssäm Bar’s Dry Aged Rib Eye
Large-format meals — feasts that typically feature whole animals or large cuts of meat requiring multiple diners to tackle — offer an exciting alternative in this era of small plates. And the gargantuan rib steak that chef Matthew Rudofker serves at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 Second Avenue, 212-254-3500) is no exception. It’s just exceptional.
Rudofker uses Niman Ranch beef that’s been aged for a minimum of 50 days, and cooks the steaks with their exterior fat intact. Each one comes perfumed with roasted garlic and anointed with its bone — the rosy slices arranged around a massive stainless steel pan. It would be impressive on its own, but the kitchen also supplies thick-cut fries, an architectural caesar salad, and a quartet of condiments — bacon ketchup, dry-aged fat and brown butter jus, shallot red wine marmalade, and a flawless béarnaise.
Such bacchanalian festivities will cost you: $250, to be exact. A contract and deposit are also involved. Sign it. Sign your whole damn life away — the top-notch meat cookery yields incredible bovine funk. For steak lovers, this carnivorous orgy of elevated steakhouse fare has “bucket list” written all over it.
30. Bar Boulud’s Escargots Persillade
If you can’t keep your mouth shut at the theater, begin your evening opposite Lincoln Center at Bar Boulud (1900 Broadway, 212-595-0303), with Daniel Boulud’s classic French bistro staple, escargots persillade, a/k/a eight garlic-sopped Burgundy snails, which arrive sunken deep in the cast-iron trenches they were baked in. A topping of tomato, parsley, and chives swaddles the inside of your cheeks with a warming earthy perfume best kept to yourself as the night goes on.
But as long as it’s still appropriate to open your mouth, while making small talk between big bites at the front dining room’s communal table, continue depleting those aromatic butter cups with four accompanying fried potato croquettes, creamy as gougères, which can be halved to wedge in and sop the remaining sauce, assuming you can resist popping them whole; but they don’t need more butter to melt in your mouth. Just remember afterward, unless you’re asking for more, to then pop a mint.
29. Marta’s Roman-Style Pizza
Tucked inside the lobby of the Martha Washington hotel, Marta (29 East 29th Street, 212-651-3800) — Danny Meyer and Nick Anderer’s like-minded follow-up to their hit Roman restaurant Maialino — traffics in crunchy, airy pizzas with cracker-thin crusts, many of which reimagine classic Roman dishes for their clever toppings. The uneven rounds that Anderer and chef de cuisine Joe Tarasco pull from the flames of the kitchen’s massive wood-burning ovens, above all other offerings, are one of the city’s most constant and reliable pleasures.
With a thin layer of mozzarella and bright, acidic sauce, the margherita is textbook. Start to branch out, however, and you’ll discover that Marta has carved a charming niche for itself in our city’s pizza landscape. When the restaurant opened, there were stewed-tripe pies and pizzas covered in cured pork jowl, onions, and pecorino cheese — a riff on amatriciana sauce. Anderer’s patate alla carbonara — which also relies on guanciale for its meaty funk — loads on the potatoes and cheese. The finishing touch of coddled eggs, poured over the pizza in the same fashion that Di Fara’s Dom DeMarco drizzles olive oil, takes this white-pie-on-steroids to another level. A corner slice never gets old, but if you’ve worn out your tastebuds on too much Neapolitan pizza, Marta does the Roman staple proud.
28. Untitled’s Roasted and Fried Chicken Salad
Untitled (99 Gansevoort Street, 212-570-3670), whose name implies Danny Meyer’s restaurant at the newly relocated Whitney Museum, speaks for itself. And no dish speaks louder than chef Michael Anthony’s roasted and fried chicken salad, which carves out its personality by alternating salty slices of tender rotisserie-roasted breast meat and fleshy hunks of marinated, fried thighs that are as crunchy on the outside as the sharp radicchio and kale underfoot. And while other dishes, like a blueberry peanut butter crunch cake that acts as an edible tribute to the artist Wayne Thiebaud, honor the museum’s collection, cubism has never been the Whitney’s strong suit. So Anthony’s richly textured, contorted birds do double-duty, filling a gap in the upstairs galleries and a void in the bellies of patrons who didn’t know what they were missing.
27. Sweet Corn Goat Cheese Tamal at Confessional
Confessional‘s (308 East 6th Street; 212-477-2400) menu only has a few vegetarian dishes, but it does them well. Case in point: The sweet corn goat cheese tamal with vegetable ratatouille ($10), which features a sweet and spicy tomato stew with zucchini, carrot and corn, and a dollop of goat cheese, all on top of a corn tamal. The tamal itself is soft and melts in your mouth, the butteriness of the tamal rounding out the dish.
You wouldn’t think a Latin restaurant would have a dish like ratatouille on its menu, since it’s traditionally from France. But the catch with Confessional is that it presents the food of Latin America — Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Argentina, among others — with a European spin. As for the name, you’ll understand once you walk in to the eatery. The walls are painted with black chalkboard paint, which have been penned with patrons’ secrets. Confessional might be the perfect place for you if you want to get something off your chest.
26. Crispy Duck Necks at Trestle on Tenth
In the heart of that increasingly trendy stripe the High Line carves through Chelsea, Trestle on Tenth (242 Tenth Avenue; 212-645-5659) is a decade-old neighborhood stalwart and dining destination rolled into one. In cold weather, the intimately proportioned digs and Ralf Kuettel’s Swiss-inspired fare will warm your proverbial cockles. With the arrival of summer, the back doors open to a perfect patio oasis that mutes the traffic of Tenth Avenue to a relative murmur. That’ll warm you, and you might even find actual cockles on the menu, tossed with asparagus and basil and served over pasta.
No matter the season, we’ll always have the duck necks. An appetizer like no other, “Crispy Duck Necks With Rosemary and Garlic Aioli” might best be described as a gourmand’s chicken wing: Cleft into three-inch lengths, the necks are marinated, then dredged in a rosemary breading and crisped till all trace of fat is rendered away and the meat veritably sublimates off the bone. Not rich enough for your demanding palate? They’re served with a garlicky aioli whose tang cuts through the unctuousness even as its substance multiplies it.
Ask your server to help you choose a glass (or, better yet, a bottle) from Trestle’s iconoclastic, Eurocentric wine list — and make sure your napkin is close at hand.
25. Emily’s Emmy Burger
Breakout Clinton Hill pizzeria Emily (919 Fulton Street, Brooklyn; 347-844-9588), run by Brooklyn-raised Matthew Hyland and his wife (the restaurant’s namesake), takes inspiration from Naples as the jumping-off point for its quirky pies, which are categorized according to sauce color (red, pink, green, or white/sauceless).
Hyland’s burger, a two-handed affair, has gained a following of its own by design, thanks to its limited availability. Just 25 of the dry-aged patties are prepared each night (they’re “unlimited” during Sunday lunch) and they sell out quickly. Majorly beefy, the coarsely ground meat hides beneath a veil of melted Grafton cheddar, sautéed onions, and “EMMY” sauce — a garlic-butter-laced Korean gochujang mayonnaise with a funky tang. Its pretzel bun, made by the venerable Tom Cat bakery, manages to be both soft and resilient, containing the whole juicy affair without giving way. The sandwich has proven so popular that Hyland even combined his two specialties into a dastardly “burger pizza” special that sounds like an edible regression therapy session.
24. Manousheh’s Jibneh Manousheh
Inspired by the Lebanese street food of his youth, Ziyad Hermez opened Manousheh (193 Bleecker Street, 347-971-5778) along a busy stretch of Greenwich Village. Named for the crisp-edged flatbread that’s as popular in Beirut as pizza is here, his cheery shop sells eight varieties of the baked-to-order snack.
Enter and inhale the aromas of charred dough freshly sprung from the flames and often perfumed with zaatar, the popular Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. An otherwise nude flatbread dusted with the spice will run you $5, while a wrap stuffed with avocado, cherry tomatoes, Lebanese olives, cucumbers, and mint fetches $8. Best of all may be the $6 jibneh, which melts gooey akkawi cheese — milder and creamier than feta — onto manousheh. Fold the halves like a slice of pizza to eat New York–style, or get additional toppings like mint and cucumber to jazz up this magnificent cheap-eats entrant.
23. Herbie’s International at Ivan Ramen
At Ivan Ramen (25 Clinton Street, 646-678-3859), owner Ivan Orkin gets up to all sorts of East-meets-West shenanigans, like coating cubes of fried tofu in Coney Island–style chili and serving Chinese thousand-year deviled eggs. In the same vein, his Herbie’s International sandwich has us wishing Mel Brooks would Kickstarter a Young Frankenstein sequel, because mad genius Orkin has resurrected one hero of a hoagie.
Based on a sandwich first served at Herbie’s restaurant in Loch Sheldrake, New York, and once popular throughout the Catskills (at the height of their popularity decades ago), the sandwich — named for a sibling restaurant that once operated in Canarsie — stuffs heaps of thinly sliced Chinese-style barbecued pork onto a miso-garlic toasted hero roll. Available during lunch and brunch, it’s served with a shiso-spiked citrus slaw, a slick of sinus-searing Chinese-style mustard, and a ramekin of syrupy roasted garlic duck sauce. Its flavors are unsubtle in a seriously satisfying way, with sumptuous fluctuation between sweet, meaty, and spicy tastes from bite to bite. Like everyone else, we love ramen, but Orkin’s cultural experiments always grab our attention.
22. Bhutanese Ema Datsi’s Namesake
Tex-Mex titans and their viscous queso have nothing on the cheese sauce at Bhutanese Ema Datsi (67-21 Woodside Avenue, Queens; 718-458-8588). At Lekay Drakpa’s modest corner spot, the only restaurant in New York City to offer a full Bhutanese menu, diners spoon the country’s signature dish of soupy cheese sauce simmered with hot green peppers over piles of nutty Bhutanese red rice. Only slightly creamy, the dairy stew can also be ordered brimming with chewy dried beef, potatoes, or beans.
Drakpa, who was born in Tibet, raised in India, and for more than a decade studied to be a monk, commands the dining room with a Zen-fueled generosity. For us, it’s his whey soup, a cloudy and gently milky liquid fortified with potatoes that accompanies the various cheese stews, that puts us in a meditative trance.
21. Lan Larb Soho’s Ba Mee
Isan cooking maven Ratchanee Sumpatboon cooks pungent and fiery northeastern Thai food at Larb Ubol in Hell’s Kitchen, and she’s likewise lent her creativity to the menus at both locations of Lan Larb (227 Centre Street, 646-895-9264). But instead of sticking rigidly to the Isan playbook — which favors intensely sour and spicy flavors — she offers a diversified roster of gems in her role as consultant, including ba mee, a straightforward and wonderfully nuanced street food staple.
The industrious dish piles yu choy greens, slices of barbecued pork, and lump crab littered with scallions over thin, springy egg noodles twirled into a nest. Mix them up and eat them dry, or pour in the accompanying bowl of aromatic pork broth to stir up some pervasively savory surf-and-turf. Both swine and crustacean bring sweetness to the table, mellowed out by rich stock and toothsome noodles. In a city that often doles out wan Southeast Asian soups, Sumpatboon’s recipes cement her status as one of New York’s best Thai chefs. The $11 bowl makes for a hearty and satisfying lunch or dinner.
20. Lobster Roll at Fairway Market
Eating a lobster roll by the water is a tradition that just about every sane person enjoys. And while a supermarket isn’t usually the best place for lobster rolls, Fairway Market (480-500 Van Brunt Street, 718-254-0923) in Red Hook has one of the best (and cheapest).
Located directly on the water, this Fairway has a large and comfortable outdoor seating area — you could enjoy the expansive shipping vessels as they pass while scarfing down the two pounds of trail mix you just bought, but a far better option is getting a lobster roll, made fresh to order and simply prepared on a toasted roll with lightly mayo-tossed lobster meat. At $10, it’s just as tasty as any of those $17 lobster-roll chains found in the city, with its no-fail combination of sweet crustacean and sapid starch.
19. Khinkali at We Are Georgians
Marina Maisuradze-Olivo worked as a seismologist before opening We Are Georgians (230 Kings Highway, Brooklyn; 718-759-6250), her BYOB Georgian restaurant, where groups call ahead to request servings of hearty meat and vegetable stews. Everything’s made to order and from scratch, often to earth-moving results.
Late into the night, Maisuradze-Olivo dispenses platters of dense, weighty Georgian dumplings called khinkali to tables littered with bottles of beer, vodka, or electric-green Georgian tarragon soda. Their dough bulges from a mixture of pork and veal, thin-skinned on the bottom but thick and pleated to form a knot up top that diners use as a handle when dipping. They’re boiled and often have a small amount of liquid in them, so bite with caution. We like them best when doused in ajika, a hot-pepper condiment radiating with spices like coriander and blue fenugreek.
18. Doughnuttery’s Paris Time
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. When they’re warm and golden from the fryer, dredged in crunchy sugar and shaken in a paper bag, it’s hard to beat a mini-doughnut, and the ones at Chelsea Market’s Doughnuttery (425 West 15th Street; 212-633-4359) are all worth a bite. But we think the best of all the place’s flavors is the Paris Time, with its dreamy coating of lavender-vanilla sugar and nubbly pistachios.
“We were actually inspired by a lavender tea from France,” says owner and doughnut maker Evan Feldman. “Hence the name. We tried a lot of combinations before we found that adding vanilla to the lavender let it be really floral without being soapy. Then the pistachios give it a great texture and a light, more exotic flavor.”
The doughnut is truly bite-size, a classic example that the best things come in small packages. “It’s more fun that way,” Feldman says. “No cutting or messing around — you just pop it in your mouth.” It’s a deco beauty, all sparkly mauve and mint, best served fresh and hot. “We fry our doughnuts to order, so you can see them floating down the fryer and flipping out into the sugar,” says Feldman. “That’s how you know they’re fresh. Simple but so good.”
17. Eisenberg’s Patty Melt
Eating at Eisenberg’s (174 Fifth Avenue; 212-675-5096), which has one of the longest deli counters found anywhere, is a throwback to the New York days of old, when spots just like this dotted the entire city. The ultimate in no-frills, Eisenberg’s is a reliable diner in an area now clogged with chain restaurants and overpriced Italian markets. From egg creams to pastrami and fried bologna sandwiches, Eisenberg’s serves all the classic diner hits, including this delicious patty melt. Served on heavenly toasted rye bread with gooey Swiss cheese and sautéed onions along with the burger patty, it qualifies as a two-meal sandwich. Rich and perfectly textured, it’s best enjoyed with a side of pickles and some Russian dressing for dipping.
16. Gabriel Kreuther’s Virginia Quail
At Gabriel Kreuther (41 West 42nd Street; 212-257-5826) the restaurant, Gabriel Kreuther the man finally oversees his very own shiny midtown kingdom after a decades-long career spent serving European-influenced New American cuisine to the discerning masses. In this fine-dining behemoth, which operates with stunning efficiency and grace, the Alsatian chef’s kitchen churns out more than 40 different dishes spread over two separate menus, and many of them are painstakingly intricate.
Kreuther’s finesse is on peacock-like display in the main space, which is decked out in comfortable padded banquettes and stork motifs (including a stork chandelier). With a Mike Tyson–like passion for winged creatures, he gently tends to Virginia quail, matching the game bird’s depth with truffles, maitake mushrooms, and nutty black rice topped with a delicate poached quail egg. It’s one bird that soars even higher than those, depicted mid-flight, that are hanging from the ceiling.
15. L’Artusi’s Garganelli with Mushroom Ragu
As the spirit of fall murmurs through the West Village, the garganelli pasta with mushroom ragu at L’Artusi (228 West 10th Street; 212-255-5757) is everything you could want as the nights begin to draw closer and cooler.
First off, there’s the pasta — soft quills that lounge in the sauce, yet retain just enough chew to elevate the dish from nursery food to sublime satisfaction. And there’s the ragu itself: slow-cooked mushrooms melting into an umami-rich pool, punctuated with salty pops of ricotta salata cheese and nubby black pepper.
“It has a depth of flavor that rivals any meat bolognese,” says Gabe Thompson, Epicurean Group’s executive chef. “Even notoriously vegetable-averse kids are into it — my son Luke can’t get enough.”
This is a mellow dish, a symphony of bosky brown that’s soothing, satisfying, and yet still elegant. It’s very “seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” and not to be missed.
14. Rebelle’s Clafoutis
Daniel Eddy, chef at sleek French newcomer Rebelle (218 Bowery; 917-639-3880), cooks elevated neo-bistro fare like espelette pepper-spiked lamb tartare bolstered by green chickpeas and yogurt. But while most of the food served in the crisp, high-ceilinged Lower East Side room references classics while updating them, pastry chef Jessica Yang’s clafoutis-for-two ($20) takes an old-school route and scores a big, buttery A+.
Delivered to the table in an oval ceramic baking dish, the custard, with its burnished top, hides delectably creamy innards. When the restaurant first opened, the dessert showcased juicy sour cherries. The kitchen now plunks down fat champagne grapes into the batter, nudging the sumptuous treat into flaugnarde territory. Perfumed with the fruit’s floral sweetness and served with lime-zested whipped cream (chantilly here, natch), Yang’s clafoutis adheres to simplicity in suave Francophilic style, with mouthwatering results.
13. Epaulettes at Vaucluse
If there were echelons of pasta royalty in New York City, chef Michael White would wear top crown. Known for running some of the best high-end Italian restaurants in the city, White’s pasta game is on point. At his latest outpost, Vaucluse (100 East 63rd Street; 646-869-2300), a fine French brasserie inspired by his many visits to the South of France, White and executive chef Jared Gadbaw offer just a handful of pâtes fraîches maison. The ravioli-like épaulettes blend White’s elegant Italian style with French flavor and technique, the result of which is pure gustatory perfection.
The merits of Italian versus French cooking can be a source of contention among culinarians, just as intense as the Jets-Pats rivalry. Competition makes this city go ’round, but in the case of this Italophile chef’s new restaurant, reconciliation has created a beautiful offspring.
These handmade squares, named for their resemblance to the shoulder piece on military uniforms, have two raised pockets separating the savory fillings. One side holds tender rabbit, the other buttery French reblochon cheese. Each pouch holds its own, but together, the dish is like a chic Gallic soirée, indulgent yet refined. The pasta would be lovely with just some browned butter, maybe some olive oil, or a simple sauce. When White is involved, though, every detail is well thought-out; the plate is presented with a rich black-truffle reduction, adding some more sweetness, earth, and a hearty dose of that intoxicating truffle aroma beloved by every human (and pig) on the planet.
12. Wildair’s Georgia White Shrimp
At Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone’s leisurely, wine-focused Wildair (142 Orchard Street; 646-964-5624), the Lower East Side’s dynamic duo get up to all kinds of fun, like frying squid and lemons to dip into stormy squid ink aioli and whipping up flawless granita-topped custards and peanut-chocolate tarts. Unlike at Contra, their flagship neo-bistro down the street, recipes here are somewhat less cerebral, but the food’s no less nuanced for it — even when you’re eating with your hands.
Take their Georgia white shrimp, poached in olive oil and served whole. They’re the most elegant peel-and-eat beauties you’ve ever tasted. Briny and crisp, their shells give way to tender, sweet meat accented by grassy cilantro and bright and snappy coins of celery. Don’t forget to suck out the head fat before chomping down on those antennae-riddled noggins. As the setting calls for it, we’d suggest raising a glass of bubbly petillant-naturel (“pet-nat” to oenophiles) with your tomalley-stained shrimp mitts.
11. Trini Gyul’s Doubles
After relocating to Queens, Ro Ramcharan added late-night hours to her charming and communal Trini Gyul (112-16 Liberty Avenue, Queens; 718-659-1020) restaurant in order to fully utilize its new space, outfitted with a J-shaped bar opposite the steam-tray table in back. At night, her intensely flavored cassareep chicken and other Trinidadian snacks rule, but the doubles she sells every morning usually disappear before lunch, and for good reason.
In her new neighborhood, she’s tripled her orders of the breakfast favorite, a sandwich of fried bread and channa, or curried chickpeas. Vendors in Trinidad and Tobago are as common as slice joints here, and each puts his or her own spin on the specialty. Ramcharan’s start with sunset-hued fried turmeric buns, flaky and soft on the inside. She layers cool and tart mango and mint chutneys over the chunky chickpea stew, already brimming with herbal notes of culantro and Cuban oregano. The vegetarian sandwich beats the pants off most wan bacon-egg-and-cheeses, with a delicate crunch that holds up nicely under the stew and condiments.
Stay tuned for the top 10 best dishes of 2015.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 7, 2015
More:Best of NYC