2016 was an exciting year in NYC. We experienced a poke explosion, more rainbow everything and A LOT more pizza and pasta. It was pretty hard to narrow it down, but here are my top ten picks for the best restaurants of the year and what they brought to the table (pun-intended):
Emmy Squared: The child of the beloved Pizza Loves Emily. Emmy Squared has been a hit since it’s doors opened last spring. They’re most famous for their Detroit-style pizza, but the whole menu here is full of crowd-pleasers. Some of my favorites include the Roni Supreme, The Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the Caesar for those looking to get a little green in the mix.
Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen: …Or more commonly referred to as Hao Noodle, is a Chinese import that has really brought something unique to the NYC dining scene this year. To be clear, this is not a hole-in-the-wall dim sum joint, a banquet hall, or even an ABC showroom. Instead, Hao Noodle brings us authentic Schezuan cuisine and dim-sum in a trendy atmosphere in the West Village. If you haven’t been to China, consider this your cheapest ticket.
Lilia: The city is full of Italian American, Farm-to-Table-esque restaurants making it pretty hard to stand out, but Lilia does just that. Missy Robbins, formerly of A Voce, is the mastermind behind this Williamsburg hotspot, which offers a refreshing take on classic Italian dishes like a whole roasted artichoke and grilled clams with Calabrian chili. Basically, there’s a reason why you’ve seen 100 photos of this malfadini on your Instagram feed.
Olmsted: To answer everyone’s question: yes, Olmsted is worth all the hype and then some. The menu here is small and each dish is extraordinarily unique and well thought out. Have you ever heard of a carrot crepe wrapped in little neck clams and sunflower seeds? Didn’t think so. After your meal, be sure to head to the backyard garden. It’s truly magical and worth the destination itself. You can even make your own s’mores for dessert. Pretty epic if you ask me.
Le CouCou: It’s no surprise that Stephen Starr’s newest venture, Le CouCou, is one of the hottest restaurant openings of 2016. Between the stunning interiors, impeccable service, and expansive wine offerings, you might almost (almost) forget why we all really love it: the outstanding food. I can’t remember the last time a classic French restaurant was actually, well, cool.
Bessou: Bessou had a quiet opening this past August. I live in the area and naturally had to check it out right went it opened, especially since it replaced the infamous Bianca. Expect serious Japanese cuisine and unique fusions like matcha black sesame babka. Yes, you read that right.
Leuca: I’m totally impressed with what Andrew Carmellini has done at his newest restaurant, Leuca, located at the foot of the William Vale Hotel. The copious space and approachable menu here makes it great spot for anything from a GNO to dinner with the parents. The open kitchen is also a huge plus; there’s nothing quite like watching hot, wood-burning pizza come out of the oven. The Uni Spaghetti is a must-try.
Freek’s Mill: I set the bar pretty high before venturing out to Gowanus to try Freek’s Mill and am pleased to say that it’s a destination restaurant that’s work the trip. The seasonal, small-plates menu touches on several culinary trends—like reinvented vegetables—with dishes like the BBQ Kohlrabi with grits and greens. Other menu highlights include the Pork Jowl and the Gnochetti in a goat ragu with ricotta. The Michelin starred service here is paired with affordable prices, often hard to come by in New York.
Nickel & Diner: Apart form their truly irresistible cheeseburger sliders, Nickel & Diner has really set the stage for what is soon to be a transformation for the NYC diner-scene. Essentially, Nickel & Diner is an upscale diner that is not The Smith or an old-school diner that’s been around since the 1950’s. Alternatively, they’re offering an eclectic take on modern American cuisine, paying homage to the nostalgic 80’s; something we can all get down with.
Covina: This Murray Hill hotspot (yes, I just said that) is brought to us by the duo behind O-ya and is located in the Park South Hotel. I love Covina because it’s an all-around solid restaurant that covers a bit of everything. More importantly, how often do you come across a restaurant that has great pasta and an outstanding cheeseburger? Pretty rarely, if you really think about it. The Mandilli pasta, which is essentially one massive sheet of pasta prepared with basil, almond pesto and homemade ricotta is a dish I dream about frequently.