Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us back to the best things we ate in 2019.
The restaurant of the year. Yes, I know it's an ice cream parlor, and it's only been open since September, but Hallie Meyer's ever-changing daily menu of delights is more ambitious, adventurous, inventive, and consistently delicious than anything I've seen in years. Every day at Caffé Panna, Meyer and her crew come up with at least three and usually five new flavors. Every day she combines these with an array of housemade crunches, syrups, flavored panna (which is Italian whipped cream), and impeccably-sourced or homemade pastries for a menu of three composed dishes, one of which is always an affogato sundae. And every day, every single concoction, no matter how unlikely or complicated, she nails it. There's a whole menu of "classics," too! Plus single, double, or triple scoops perched atop fantastic homemade cones. The hospitality is unimprovable, there are comfortable places to sit, and there's a growing family of regulars who make it all feel like home. Just fantastic. Get here as much as possible while the weather's cold; I fear it'll be a mob scene come spring.
Located at 77 Irving Place, at the corner of 19th Street (caffepanna.com)
Located just off the gleaming marble lobby of that Art Deco treasure 70 Pine, Crown Shy is far more fancy (and pricey) than my usual haunts. Fortunately, James Kent and Jeff Katz's stellar Financial District restaurant also achieves its stated desire to feel like a neighborhood spot, with unpretentious service, a lively, convivial air, and an approachable menu filled with both "usual favorites" (Gruyere Fritters, White Bean Hummus, Grilled Chicken) and new stuff to try (on my last visit: Octopus with Red Rice, Lasagnette with Chestnut). Lovely for special occasions, or a random Tuesday if you have wealthy friends.
Located at 70 Pine Street, between Pearl and William Streets (212-517-1932; crownshynyc.com)
"Elevated diner fare" is a tired genre to be sure, but goddamn if Sam Yoo and his crew didn't make the concept feel fresh and exciting this year. Golden Diner sits under the Manhattan Bridge in the cool-kid part of Chinatown, and the decor combines old-school diner details (padded round stools, bottles of ketchup atop formica tables) with funky framed art hanging on the walls. But it's Yoo's food, big-flavored takes on comfort-food classics, that lures me here as often as possible, with big winners at breakfast (Honey Butter Pancakes, Chinatown Egg and Cheese Sando), lunch (Vegan Grilled Cheese, Matzo Ball Soup), and dinner (Salt and Pepper Calamari, Sam's Tuna Melt). I could eat here daily and not get bored.
Located at 123 Madison Street, between Market Street and Mechanics Alley (goldendinerny.com)
Rockaway restaurant royalty Andrew Field (Tacoway Beach) and Maribel Araujo (Caracas Arepa) finally opened up a year-round, actual-storefront place out here (and in "town" no less!), and, no real surprise, the vibe at Thank You is chill and the food is excellent. Their secret weapon? Chef Donata Orsi, who serves up a constantly-changing, always-amazing menu of, for example, Slow Roasted Pork, Sweet Potatoes With Chimichurri, Korean Style Pancakes, Challah French Toast, and the best Chicken Salad Sandwich I've ever had. This is a counter-service cafe, warm and welcoming, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food's so good it'll make to rethink which stop you get off the shuttle next summer.
Located at 214 Beach 116th Street, right near the subway station (@thankyou_ny)
Given the Momofuku empire's DGAF, East Village origin story, it's hard to believe that David Chang's last five NYC restaurants have all been opened inside NYC's most corporate malls. And yet somehow he keeps pulling it off, especially at Bar Wayō, where Sam Kang is killing it out on Pier 17 at what they're now calling the Seaport District. I ate Kang's new Happy Hour menu in its entirety the other night, including a phenomenal pile of Fried Potato Skins and an even better sausage patty and melted cheese sandwich called The Popovich, and it shows that—as with his Clam Chowder, Hamburg Dip, Onion Rings—the man is a master at reinventing classics without destroying the integrity of the original.
Located at 89 South Street, along the southern edge of Pier 17 (646-517-245; wayo.momofuku.com)
Bread and Salt
I got a lot of shit for saying that getting to Rick Easton's excellent Jersey City pizza place was a journey... but I mean, it is? For a New Yorker, the trip requires at least two or three different transportation modes (subway, PATH, ferry, Lime scooter, bus, feet) and is more than an hour from downtown Manhattan. But I also stand by my assertion that Bread and Salt is well worth every bit of effort you need to put into getting here. Order all the pizzas, obviously (the plain-looking Rossa may have been my single favorite slice of the year), and whatever else Easton's has going on in the "Other" section of the menu that day. Hours remain irregular, so try to double check before disembarking.
Located in Jersey City at 435 Palisade Avenue, between Hutton and Griffith Streets (@breadandsaltbakery)
Win Son Bakery
Trigg Brown and Josh Ku's Taiwanese-American neighborhood restaurant Win Son is one of those great local spots that quickly became way too popular to be able to swing by for a meal whenever you want. The solution? Win Son Bakery, a counter-service place located across Montrose Avenue that, despite its name and menu of Danielle Spencer's stellar baked goods in the morning (Mochi Donuts, Red Date Cakes, Milk Bun sandwiches), is really more all-day cafe where you can also grab one of best the quick dinners in the area. The Big Chicken Box, with crackling, juicy fried bird and first-rate french fries, and the Chopped Cheese served inside a scallion pancake are my current go-tos, but I've been through the whole menu and there are no clunkers here.
Located at 164 Graham Avenue at the corner of Montrose Avenue (917-909-1725; winsonbrooklyn.com)
A trio of NYC natives, Nate Adler, Flip Biddleman, and Will Edwards, open a pretty, SoCal-vibing "luncheonette and liquor bar" in Williamsburg and guess what? Gertie is a really lovely, really comfortable and convivial place to hang out and eat a lot of great food. It can get a bit raucous at brunch, but there's a more adult feeling to things at dinner, and the Rotisserie Chicken with rice and beans is oh so satisfying. There are scattered events going on here, too. A definite neighborhood winner.
Located at 357 Grand Street, at the corner of Marcy Avenue (718-636-0902; gertie.nyc)
Superstar chef and humanitarian Jose Andres finally came to NYC this year with his Mercado Little Spain, a massive complex on the ground floor of Hudson Yards. There are literally hundreds of good things to eat here, but the simplest way to dive in and enjoy the many-menued operation is at Spanish Diner, a semi-standalone table-service spot with an entrance right off 30th Street. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all terrific (the Huevos Rotos, or runny eggs over french fries with Jamón Ibérico, may have been my single favorite breakfast of the year), and the room is lively and fun. Highly recommended when you're playing tour guide to out-of-town visitors.
Located at 10 Hudson Yards, on 30th Street just west of 10th Avenue (littlespain.com)
Chef Jenny Kwok, who used to cook with her mom at DoWha and Dok Suni in the West and East Villages, respectively, gave Park Slope a great gift last year right around the holidays, a grown-up restaurant that still knows how to have fun, starring a seafood-heavy menu packed with big flavors and fire combinations. Haenyeo, named after the legendary female free divers of Jeju island, is a definite hit in a neighborhood not known for its exciting restaurants, and a recent dinner confirmed that, among the many funky pleasures on offer, the Rice Cake Fundido is one of the best things you can eat anywhere in the city right now.
Located at 239 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of Carroll Street (347-294-4159; haenyeobk.com)
Best New Slice Shops: Upside and Norm's
Noam Grossman, with an assist from pizza-ninja Anthony Falco, opened up two stellar slice shops this year, both serving classic NYC folds in decidedly unglamorous settings: Norm's on a sterile stretch of Downtown Brooklyn, Upside on a grimy corner near Port Authority. Although the menu is different at both (Upside features more "fancy," housemade toppings and a beautiful Sicilian slice; Norm's has a Vodka slice that's among the best you'll ever eat), the love and labor that goes into these long-fermented, sourdough-crusted beauties is the same. Bonus: both are open long, regular hours, and always have plenty of pizza on hand.
Best New Noodles: Niche
"Ramen God" Shigetoshi Nakamura opened the cozy mazeman spot Niche last winter—there's one communal table, and good luck squeezing your way to the bathroom when there are coats hanging on the wall hooks—and at several dinners since then, each many months apart, these hearty bowls of, basically, tricked-out brothless ramen have been deeply satisfying. The Steak Mazeman is probably my favorite (it eats like a Japanese stroganoff), but the Russ and Roe, starring slabs of smoked salmon, is really good as well.
Located at 172 Delancey Street, between Clinton and Attorney Streets (nakamuranyc.com)
Best New Burger: Nowon
I first had chef Jae Lee's meaty, juicy, spicy, oozy, double-decker delight at the start of the summer, when he took over the kitchen at the Black Emperor bar in the East Village. And then I had it again. And again. And then one more time before Lee closed up shop there to open his own restaurant, Nowon, also in the East Village. So I had it again just this week. And you know what? It's been perfect every time. The dry-aged beef patties. The funky kimchi mayo. The double hit of melty American cheese. The dill spear on top for a hit of acid between bites. Amazing. NOTE: served from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only, and there's lots of other good things to eat here as well.
Located at 507 East 6th Street, between Avenues A and B (646-692-3967; nowonnyc.com)
Best New Nachos: Taco Bay
Last summer out at Rockaway Sarah Peltier took over the kitchen at Andrew Field's Taco Bay, an outdoor food stand that operates in front of the huge bar at Rockaway Brewing Company, and oh man did she make it her own. The tacos are terrific, and there are several strong vegan options, but it was Peltier's Nachos Deluxe with Beef Shank that quickly became my usual, an overflowing boat filled with thick salty chips, gobs of guac and salsa, piles of richly sauced, cooked-until-tender cow, and various spicy and pickled things for balance. A complete meal for sure, and because it's in Arverne, and just a couple of blocks from the Beach 67th stop on the A, you can skip the Shuttle altogether.
Located at 415 Beach 72nd Street, between Amstel Boulevard and Failing Ave, CLOSED until May (@tacobay_nyc)
Best New Cookies: Partybus Bakeshop
Jackie Eng's cute new bakery, opened just a couple of months ago on the Lower East Side, is a warm and appealing place to sit and eat some pastries with a coffee, or grab a couple of baguettes, or a pecan pie, and now she's making sandwiches and even a few different personal-size pizzas each day. It's all great, but what really made me fall in love with Partybus was Eng's chunky and chewy Monster Cookies, available in Chocolate Chip, Peanut Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Get a bunch, throw them in your bag, and share them wherever you go.
Located at 31 Essex Street, between Hester and Grand Streets (917-262-0732; partybusbakeshop.com)