photo credit: David A. Lee
After two disruptive, difficult years, dining out in 2022 felt almost, well, normal again. Outdoor dining structures lost their novelty and started to blend in like they’d always been there, restaurants operated with fewer disruptions, and eating out got so popular that getting a table at any good new restaurant was close to impossible. It’s no surprise that our guide to The Most Difficult Reservations And How To Get Them was our most popular new piece of content this year.
A relative return to normalcy, however, didn’t mean things were easy. With food costs at historic highs, both diners and restaurants stared down the reality of $20 cocktails and $40 entrees.
At The Infatuation, we brought ratings back after putting them on pause for a year and a half. With so much changed in the restaurant world, we started fresh rather than repopulating, and spent just as much time checking back in on old favorites as we did discovering new spots. So far, we’ve rated and re-rated over 4,000 restaurants.
Along the way, we spotted a handful of interesting shifts in the restaurant world. Here are five of the trends we noticed and liked in 2022.
We were sad to see certain restaurants close over the past few years, but pleased to see some of them resurrected in ‘22. This took different forms. There were the straightforward, comeback stories like LA’s beloved Here’s Looking At You, which essentially picked right up where it left off, reopening in the same space after a two-year closure. In the case of NYC’s Maialino and Masalawala, we saw successful restaurant groups take shut-down spots and reopen refreshed, rethought versions in entirely new spaces. Others were revamps under new ownership, like Monkey Bar in Midtown NYC, where the iconic space was kept intact, but updated with a new menu. The Au Cheval burger in a legendary midtown space? Smart. S&P, meanwhile, took over the famous Eisenberg’s space in NYC’s Flatiron, honoring its history, but under a new name.
The Rise Of The Dinner Party Restaurant
After all that time cooped up inside, a lot of people were excited to flex their extroverted sides this year by eating in restaurants where both food and personal space are meant to be shared. Across the country, restaurants structured as permanent supper clubs or always-on dinner parties popped up, and became hot reservations. At Her Place Supper Club in Philadelphia (our top-rated new spot in that city, a 9.1), everyone sits at the same time, and you’re encouraged by the chef to introduce yourself to the strangers’ surrounding tables. Awesomely, there were also two notable, always-full supper club-style restaurants specializing in inventive takes on Nigerian food: Department of Culture in NYC and Ilé in Los Angeles.
New Cultural Mashups That Are Full Of Personality
At LA’s Pijja Palace, you’ll find a sports bar, located in a former podiatry clinic known for its cult-status billboard on Sunset Boulevard, that serves green-chutney topped (you guessed it) pizzas, as well as tandoori spaghetti, dosa onion rings, and curry-dusted chicken wings. Yes, it’s “American bar fare through an Indian lens,” but it’s also a personal expression of the owner, of his experience growing up in LA, and a creative, original idea. It’s also a sh*t ton of fun. So is Bonnie's, in Brooklyn, which serves what the chef calls “my version of Cantonese food as an American-born Cantonese chef.” Both of these places aren’t concerned with some textbook, food TV version of “authenticity,” knowing their own experiences are equally compelling—and probably more legitimately “authentic.” Also of note: KG BBQ in Austin, the brainchild of a Cairo-born chef who fell in love with Texas barbecue and infused Egyptian flavors into it.
There’s Good Pizza Everywhere
All year, I’ve heard our writers across the country talk about pizza. The pizza capitals of New York and Chicago continued to pump out new pies, but it felt like a transformative year for pizza in other cities. Interestingly, a lot of the action revolved around [insert city]-style pizza making a splash away from home. Miami Slice and Outta Sight brought a new level of New York-style pizza to Miami and San Francisco. In LA, Phoenix’s legendary Pizzeria Bianco opened up an outpost, while Pizzeria Sei brought a Tokyo-inspired approach. Pecan Square, an all-around Italian restaurant in Austin, takes its inspiration from San Francisco, and Seattle’s West of Chicago, unsurprisingly, makes midwestern-style pies. We have no intellectual explanation for this trend, but we like it.
Former Restaurant Waste Lands Are Now Restaurant Havens (Thanks To Real Estate Developers)
A few years ago, we would have been surprised to hear that both Rockefeller Center and the area around Penn Station are now home to some of the hottest restaurant openings. For that, we can thank real estate developers, who realized that restaurants are bona fide attractions that define spaces and neighborhoods. So some of Downtown Manhattan’s coolest, hardest-to-get-into spots, like Frenchette and King, now have midtown counterparts in the form of Le Rock and Jupiter. And so far, they’re surprisingly great. Overall, it seems like a win for everyone.