There are few things New Yorkers like more than good food and inspired cocktails. With that in mind, we set out to fill the following pages with an up-to-date collection of restaurants, bars, dishes, drinks and treats — all of which we think are worthy of a spot on our 2010 Must List. From the best gratis bar snack to the coolest additions to the food-truck canon, we’ve got you covered. Retail therapy more your thing? Be sure to grab tomorrow’s amNewYork for part two of the Must List: shopping and services.
Tourist attraction we actually like: Eataly
A dizzying blend of restaurant, Italian marketplace, bakery, butcher and wine shop, this new sprawling destination could have easily been the next highly themed gimmick to land in NYC. (Ahem, Pop Tart World.) Thanks to the pursuit of perfection by owners (and stars of the culinary world) Lidia and Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, Eataly lives up to every bit of the hype. Next up for the space? The anticipated beer garden set to open in coming months. (200 Fifth Avenue, 212-229-2560)
Shake Shack challenger: Bill's Bar & Burger
The debut of Bill’s Bar & Burger in MePa last fall sent NYC foodies into a blogging frenzy, with good reason – their classic burgers are both affordable and deftly executed, and are joined by treats such as tempura veggie fries and boozy milkshakes. While Shake Shack expands nationally, Bill’s continues to grow its NYC presence, with the opening of the 10,000-square foot flagship location in Rockefeller Center last month.
(22 Ninth Ave., 212-414-3003; 45 Rockefeller Center, 212-705-8510)
Astoria sleeper hit: Vesta Trattoria
A lot of restaurants open with bravado and fanfare, while others quietly slip onto the scene winning locals over with good food and warm hospitality. The later is true for this yearling project run by two childhood friends as passionate about their Queens neighborhood as the Italian and greenmarket-inspired food they serve. Here, the emphasis is entirely on local: The produce comes from the Brooklyn Grange and the walls are a gallery for local artists. (21-02 30th Ave., Astoria, 718-545-5550)
Crosstown transplant: Terroir Tribeca
Terrior — the rebellious, no-phone wine bar from the folks behind Hearth in the East Village — has long been a favorite of the downtown set, so we were nervous when we heard the joint was opening a second location in swanky Tribeca. Happily, Terroir didn’t lose an ounce of its edge in its move across town. This rustic, cozy spot gets bonus points for innovations such as wine on tap – and actually having a land line.
(24 Harrison St., 212-625-WINE)
Bloody mary menu: Prune
Few restaurants in NYC do this quintessential brunch cocktail better
than Prune. Bloody Mary newbies should start with either a classic –
fresh-pressed tomato juice, Absolut, lemon and celery
– or the Chicago match, a lemon vodka-based bloody that’s
served with an array of pickled vegetables. Bloody connoisseurs will
geek out over more innovative renditions, such as the Caesar, which is
made with Boodles gin, clam juice and is garnished with a pickled egg.
(54 E. 1st St., 212-677-6221)
High-concept fast food: 4food
4food is revamping the notion of fast food: burger patties don’t have to taste like cardboard, and sides can be flavorful and healthy. If you’re a first-timer, start with the signature (W)holeburger. You can choose to have your donut-shaped patty made of beef, lamb, pork, turkey, veggie, salmon or egg. Then fill the center with one of 25 “Veggiescoop” centers, including items such as mac and cheese, chipotle hominy and roasted Brussels sprouts. Top off your creation with a variety of condiments, cheeses and sliced toppings. Then wrap it up with “bun” options ranging from bagels to pressed rice.. Sides, sliders, smoothies and sweets are also on the menu. If you think you’ve concocted a winning combination, slap a name on it and market it to others; sell 500 to be diamond, 200 to be platinum and 100 to be gold on the 4food Buildboard Chart. (286 Madison Ave., no phone)
Tasting menu worth the splurge: Colicchio & Sons
It’s a big deal when one of the country’s most influential chefs takes a stand, the way Tom Colicchio did last year when he transformed flashy Craftbar into a modest, market-driven venture inspired by the weekly suppers he’d personally been cooking. The best way to get a true sense of the top chef’s vision is the 8-course tasting menu ($135), which roams from sea to land and back to sea again.
(85 10th Ave., 212-400-6699.)
Most anticipated debut: Fatty 'Cue
There are few things New Yorkers love more than a new pork-heavy barbecue join. Throw into the mix Zakary Pelaccio’s resto cred, an inspired take on traditional South East Asian flavors, a hip Williamsburg address, a gilded pig sculpture and you’re sure to have a slew of happy (and hungry) New Yorkers. (91 S. 6th St., Williamsburg, 718-599-3090)
Willy Wonka protégé: Christina Tosi
From instant classics such as the beloved crack pie and cereal milk to mad scientist experiments with savory soft serve flavors (barbecue, potato chip) and stuffed croissants (kimchi and blue cheese, rye and pastrami), Momofuku’s Milk Bar’s pastry chef is the closest thing this city has to a real-life Willy Wonka. (207 Second Ave., 212-254-3500)
Cocktail flair: Puff-ball flamingos at Painkiller
We’ve seen a lot of cocktail flair in our day – stylized swizzle sticks, pretty paper parasols, all sorts of veggie garnishes, but something about the pink flamingos that top the delectable frozen concoctions at Painkiller — the new LES bar by Dutch Kills team Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato — charmed us instantly. Crafty puff balls and plain pipe cleaners never looked so cool. (49 Essex St., 212-777-8454)
‘Delivery’ Service: Dr. Claw's lobster rolls
The Establishment may have forced Benjamin Sargent (a.k.a. “Dr. Claw”) to essentially halt his popular delivery service in which the goods — in this case, a damn good lobster roll – were handed off at a prearranged meeting point. You can still score one of the contraband rolls at events for the Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association, a recreational fishing league run by Sargent. For the deets, join the Brooklyn Urban Angles Association’s group on Facebook.
Cocktail Empress: Julie Reiner
With this month’s debut of SoHo’s decidedly un-kitschy Hawaiian bar Lani Kai, as well as city staples Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge and Clover Club, Julie Reiner now counts as many cocktail bars in her mini-empire as the city’s reigning cocktail king Sasha Petraske (Milk & Honey). Earlier this year, Esquire Magazine listed two of Reiner’s Manhattan venues in its short list of the best cocktail bars in the U.S. You go, girl.
Chain whose invasion we hail: Trader Joe’s
The Cali-based mega-chain opened its third NYC location in Chelsea this year and despite the atrociously long checkout lines, we’re still hoping for more. Who wouldn’t wait in line for food that’s both super-affordable and truly tasty? Especially Trader Joe’s brand nut and dried fruit trail mixes, ready-to-heat frozen meals and Fage Greek yogurt that’s cheaper than any other market in town. (traderjoes.com)
Best reinterpretation of kid’s staple: Doughnut Plant's PB&J doughnut
There’s something so quintessentially nostalgic about the coupling of rich, nutty, creamy peanut butter and sweet strawberry jam. Doughnut Planet’s take — a square doughnut filled with jam, the outside coated in a peanut butter glaze — does this classic staple justice. (379 Grand St., 212-505-3700)
Raunchiest new menu: Xiao Ye
While the food at this new Asian spot is in hot debate (Sam Sifton of the New York Times last week gave it zero stars), the raunch quotient of restaurateur Eddie Huang’s menu is not. Expect to start off your meal with an order of poontang potstickers or poo poo greens, before moving on general poke-her face prawns and finish with Taiwanese flat booty cake. Needless to say, Huang’s tongue in cheek menu is trying super-hard for a laugh. (198B Orchard St, 212-777-7733)
Taco innovation: Mexicue
With a new food truck rolling out every other week, it’s sometimes tough to stand out from the crowd. Not so with Mexicue, which catapulted to cult status almost instantly for its Mexican-styled barbecue options including kickin’ tacos filled with either oak-smoked short ribs, house chorizo or veg-friendly BBQ beets. (mexicueny.com)
Retreat from Times Square, in Times Square: R Lounge in the Renaissance Hotel
At times, Times Square simply can’t be avoided. Here’s a little secret: Next time around, retreat to the newly redone R Lounge on the second floor of the Renaissance Hotel at the top of the square. Here, Blue Ribbon comfort food (northern fried chicken wings, BBQ pork sliders) is just an order away. (Second Fl., Seventh Avenue at W. 48th Street, 212-765-7676)
Model of sustainability: ABC Kitchen
There’s a lot of buzz around words like “local” and “sustainable” in the restaurant biz these days, but few eateries put their money where their mouth is like this farm-to-table project from Jean-George Vongerichten. It debuted this year with almost unanimous praise — in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad word written or spoken about this place. Oh, and just a warning — you very well might leave with a new addition to your apartment. (The restaurant’s located inside ABC Carpet & Home.) (35 E. 18th St., 212-475-5829)
Gloriously un-Kosher fare: Traif
Believe it or not, this restaurant with a menu devoted to the exploration of pork, shellfish, foie gras and other un-Kosher delicacies (“traif” means “un-Kosher” in Yiddish) didn’t intentionally post up next to one of Brooklyn’s largest Hassidic communities. Thankfully though, these first-time restaurant owners stuck to a program of ambitious small plates and porcine delights. (229 S. 4th St., Williamsburg, 347-844-9578)
“That’s genius!” creation: Beer-laced caramels
In what may be one of the greatest sweet-and-salty mash-ups since kettle corn, the cute young things at Liddabit Sweets had the vision to add some Brooklyn Brewery suds to their line of caramels. The resulting beer and pretzel caramels – and the slurtle, a boozy caramel riff of the classic turtle – are nothing short of epic. (liddabitsweets.com)
Whiskey haven: The Highlands
Why NYC hasn’t had a venue devoted to whiskey and fancy Scottish pub fare before now is one of those “hindsight is 20/20” realizations, and we’re all better for it. Nothing beats a dram of peaty, smoky 18-year old Laphroaig single malt except when it’s coupled a savory lamb sausage roll or a wild mushroom shepherd’s pie. (150 W. 10th St., 212-229-2670)
DIY lobster roll: Red Hook Lobster Pound
It’s been a banner year for these delectable sandwiches made from everyone’s favorite clawed crustacean. And because sometimes we really need to have a lobster roll at really inconvenient hours, we love that Red Hook Lobster Pound sells their signature lobster salad ($40/lb.) and packages of beloved J.J. Nissen buns from Maine ($5/pack) to-go. Late night munchies have never been this good. (284 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn, 646-326-7650)
Place to fill growlers: Brouwerij Lane
Don’t let the fact that you can’t pronounce the name of this temple to craft beer keep you from making the pilgrimage to Greenpoint. Nineteen taps feature rotating selections from breweries including Troegs (PA), Keegan (NY) and Full Sail (Oregon); a couple of half-pints ($3 ea.) before committing to a growler’s worth. Bonus points for the Star Wars wallpaper in the restroom. (78 Greenpoint Ave., Greenpoint, 347-529-6133)
Reopening of a classic: Totonno’s
When this temple to the pizza pie reopened earlier this year -- all signs of the devastating fire eradicated and the pies as pristine as ever -- the city’s slice fanatics collectively exhaled a sigh of relief. Sure, there are newer Manhattan locations that’d have carried the torch, but nothing quite says classic like a brick oven circa 1905.
(1524 Neptune Ave., Coney Island, 718-372-8606)
Best save: The Pink Tea Cup
When this West Village soul food institution faced extinction late last year, passionate advocates mounted a grassroots Facebook campaign to “Save the Pink Tea Cup.” That campaign, coupled with the 11th hour efforts by longtime customer (and owner of the Actors Playhouse) Lawrence Page, saved The Pink Tea Cup – albeit in a new location.
(88 Seventh Ave. S., 212-255-2124)
Museum eats: The Wright at the Guggenheim
It’s been a standout year for museum restaurants, with fine dining concepts opening at several of the city’s cultural retreats. But none managed to trump the Wright at the Guggenheim, which strikes just the right balance between modern and sophisticated.
(1071 Fifth Ave., 212-427-5690)
Best Food Truck Twitterer: Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
From proprietor Doug’s perennially amusing on-the-street observations
(“A question I frequently got last year when in Midtown: tourists
asking for liquor stores, so they didn’t need to crack the hotel
minibar.”), to Twitter-exclusive promos (redeem by mentioning said
promo code at the truck), the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck Twitter feed is
a must-follow. And the soft serve? It's great, too. (Twitter: @biggayicecream)
Spot to score an 8 a.m. buzz: The Randolph at Broome
The Randolph revolutionized the cup o’ joe earlier this when
it debuted its “slow bar” coffee menu, which consists of pressed pots
of coffee from single origin beans; a short list of “augmented coffee”
beverages and yes, in a nod to the Randolph’s evening bar persona, coffee cocktails
available from 7 a.m. Opt for a Cup o’ Jerry, if you must: Sailor
Jerry rum, coffee, Ramazzotti and orange peel. (349 Broome St., 212-274-0667)
Boulevard of bites and booze: Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Metropolitan Avenue between Bedford Avenue and Havermeyer Street –
roughly four blocks west of the BQE – can’t stop blowing up when it comes to food.
At this point, Euro beer bar Spuyten Duyvil and BBQ joint Fette
Sau are considered old school, while the Brooklyn location of the Knitting
Factory has sophomore status. It’s the freshman class that’s really making a splash, counting among its members The Commodore; Saltie sandwich shop, St. Anslem, Custom American Wine Bar, The Shop (a motorcycle garage that serves some seriously strong coffee) and Cupcake Land. Come hungry – and thirsty. (Metropolitan Avenue, btwn. Driggs Avenue and Havermeryer Street, Williamsburg)
Written and researched By Erin Lindholm and Elaine Paoloni