BY GEORGIA KRAL
In the past 10 years, eating in New York City has been marked by a rise in all forms of dining — from upscale haute cuisine to food trucks that sling everything from lobster rolls to artisan tacos to everything in between.
We’ve seen the rise of creative cuisine and “molecular gastronomy," and high levels of participation on the public’s part. Good food is everywhere: at music festivals, in open spaces along the East River and in your Instagram feed. It’s even growing in playgrounds at city public schools. The foodie renaissance is as important to some New Yorkers as the Yankees and the Mets.
For the 10th Anniversary of amNewYork, here are our picks for the 10 most influential and important restaurants of the past 10 years. Tweet us @amNewYork and tell us what we forgot!
Shake Shack, opened 2004
A burger and fries is nothing groundbreaking, but Shake Shack took a simple concept and elevated it to levels never seen before. With Shake Shack, the ingredients are everything. The classic and all-around fav burger in the city, lovingly (and appropriately) called the Shack Burger is simple but perfect: Pat LaFrieda special proprietary blend patty, the airy and buttery roll, special Shack sauce, American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
And Shake Shack is not only national now, it’s international. Danny Meyer’s empire, launched in Madison Square Park, is THAT good.
Per Se, opened in 2004
Fine dining at its absolute finest, Per Se is considered by many, former New York Times food critic Sam Sifton included, to be the best restaurant in New York City. It’s delicate, it’s expensive, it’s creative.
Per Se is the second restaurant from visionary chef Thomas Keller. Per Se is decadent, it’s bold and it set the stage for what is now almost (almost) common: the chef’s tasting menu. At Per Se, both the chef’s tasting and the vegetable tasting are nine courses and cost $295.
Momofuku Noodle Bar, opened in 2004
David Chang’s Momofuku empire began with a simple concept: a noodle bar in the East Village. But Chang is not a simple chef, he’s a culinary magician who creates dishes that people want to eat.
From fried chicken dinners that you have to reserve in advance, to bowls of steaming ramen redolent with umami flavor, to Momofuku Milk Bar and it’s “Compost Cookies,” to the more recent Booker & Dax bar (head up by molecular mixologist mastermind Dave Arnold), Momofuku is the original in the “hipster Asian” trend. (PHOTO: Gabriele Stabile)
Frankie’s Spuntino, opened in 2004
Frankie’s is the defining restaurant of Brownstone Brooklyn. When it opened on the sleepy end of Carroll Gardens’ Court Street, the area was hardly the culinary hot spot it is today. In fact, Frankie’s is likely responsible for the modern foodie explosion in the area and the subsequent population boom, at least in part.
Ironically, the food at Frankie’s -- homestyle, fresh Italian with a focus on vegetables and pastas — isn’t modern at all, and actually pays homage to the neighborhood’s vibrant and strong Italian history. “The Franks,” Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, have since opened Prime Meats next door and a Manhattan outpost of Frankie’s, and are going strong with Res, open now in Red Hook.
Roberta’s, opened in 2008
Pizza has always been cool, but Roberta’s made it really, really cool. With just a great idea, a raw industrial space in Bushwick, a bunch of friends and some capital, the most unlikely of success stories was born. Roberta’s is emblematic of multiple food trends in New York City: artisanal pizza, farm-to-table, rough and tumble fine dining.
The pizza oven is from Italy, the cultured butter is made in-house and the herbs are grown on the roof. It’s everything Brooklyn wanted to be and has since become. And it’s really, really delicious.
Eataly, opened in 2010
Though not a restaurant per se, Eataly -- run in part by partners Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich -- is a temple to the art of eating. A 50,000-square-foot food emporium near Madison Square Park, complete with gorgeous and high-end produce, gourmet pasta, baked goods made on the premises, Italian specialties and numerous eateries, Eataly showed New Yorkers how much food could become a part of their day-to-day culture.
Diner, opened in 1998
The Williamsburg culinary scene is now one of the hottest in the country, and maybe even the world, judging by the high number of tourists who visit the neighborhood. Diner, one of the first restaurants to open there to wide acclaim, set the stage for the future of dining in the neighborhood.
The decision to open was humble in its initial purpose. Owner Andrew Tarlow just wanted a place to hang out with his friends, and so he and a friend Mark Firth opened Diner in an old diner car in South Williamsburg, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. They served simple yet creative food with a farm-to-table perspective, which is now the norm in the ’Burg and across NYC.
Tarlow’s “friends” multiplied as the neighborhood gentrified, and he followed suit with Marlow & Sons, Marlow & Daughters provisions and more recently, the chic Reynard, located in the uber-fancy Wythe Hotel on Williamsburg’s Northside. That trajectory mirrors the neighborhood’s growth pretty conveniently.
Calexico, opened in 2006
Before New York City’s appetite for upscale street food really caught on, Calexico opened a food cart, serving the SoHo masses carne asada tacos with “crack sauce” (basically chipotle mayo, but more special). In year two, they won a Vendy Award for best street food in the city. And things took off from there.
Calexico still operates carts (SoHo, Flatiron, Brooklyn Bridge Park), and the lines are still long, but there are also four restaurant locations, which have proved to be just as popular. Oh, and food carts have since taken the city by storm.
The Spotted Pig, opened in 2004
Chef April Bloomfield opened the much-loved gastropub the Spotted Pig with Ken Friedman, kickstarting New Yorkers extreme love of the bistro burger, deviled eggs and pickles and comfortable yet boistrous ambiance. The Pig never took reservations, a trend that caught on.
Bloomfield expertly mixed British and Italian cooking to create a menu that was both affordable and high-minded. The Pig’s decor, too, comfortable leather booths and curtains, pictures hanging on the wall, set the stage for many restaurants that have come along since.
ABC Kitchen, opened in 2010
The Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened ABC Kitchen inside ABC House & Home and combined the pleasures of fine dining with the hyper-aware (and gaining in popularity) desire of conscientious eaters to go beyond organic.
ABC Kitchen’s website defines its credo: “free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones ... GMO-free and naturally and humanely sourced from regional farmers and fair trade."
With ABC Kitchen, Vongerichten heightened the practice of haute eating.