NYCGuide

The Hit List: New NYC Restaurants To Try Right Now

We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.
Salu salo at Tadhanà

photo credit: Courtesy Tadhanà

When new restaurants open, we check them out. We subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like Adam Sandler at a sweatpants sale. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List. 

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in New York. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy new restaurant with caviar priced by the bump. Or it might be an under-the-radar lunch counter, where a few dollars gets you something that rattles around in your brain like a loose penny in a dryer.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you'll always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now. (If you're looking for more Brooklyn spots, check out our borough-specific Hit List, too.)

​​New to the Hit List (5/20): Tadhanà and NoMad Diner

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Tadhana

Filipino

Lower East Side

$$$$Perfect For:Fine DiningSpecial OccasionsBYOB
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There are plenty of Filipino kamayan-style meals around town, but the $185 tasting menu at Tadhanà on the Lower East Side is less banana leaf and more liquid nitrogen. The seven courses (with several more small bites) are full of high-end flourishes and made-for-social media moments: like smoke billowing over wagyu ceviche with uni, and a pair of tiny appetizers hidden inside a hollowed-out book. There's a pretty sweet Pinoy hip-hop playlist and it’s BYOB, so plan accordingly for a splashy, fun date. We’ll be back for their punchy house-made aged vinegar, just as soon as they start selling it.

photo credit: NoMad Diner

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerBreakfastBrunch

This stylish new-school diner—or is it just LARPing as a diner?—is in the lobby of the Arlo NoMad Hotel. They serve panisse French toast sticks and green shakshuka at breakfast, but you’ll want to stop in later in the day to try the Arlo Dog. This $15 hot dog (we promise, it’s worth it) comes tucked under a blanket of crispy fried shallots, with kimchi and kewpie mayo. Get it with NoMad Diner’s version of disco fries, with chicken gravy and gournay cheese, loaded with chives, and one of their very good cocktails. We like the Mack the Knife, a dirty martini made with parmesan-infused vodka.

You could, technically, bring a date to Bar Madonna, huddle in a corner on a hunter green banquette, and limit your consumption to mezcal, vermouth, and Fernet Branca. But if you don’t eat here, you’re missing out. Pop into this Williamsburg cocktail lounge, and try what is essentially a messy smashburger made with one giant meatball. Supplement with a grilled caesar and some Calabrian chili wings, and don’t forget to check out the painting in the back from KidSuper.

photo credit: Willa Moore

Watch out, 7th Street Burger—Smacking Burger has arrived, and it’s making $5.50 smashburgers out of a supply-closet sized kitchen in a West Village Mobil. Before burgers, this gas station store was known for their impressive international potato chip collection, so pair your single patty burger with Japanese doritos, and then grab a seat at the singular picnic table outside and learn how to pump gas. We know, we know—a burger from a gas station is pretty normal in the ’burbs. But in New York City, it’s extraordinary, and there’s a line outside to prove it.

As tough reservations and painfully expensive entrees become the norm, Kisa leans in the opposite direction. Modeled on the quick, casual restaurants that cater to Korean cab drivers, this walk-in-only spot on the Lower East Side offers a few set meals for $32. Choose a protein like spicy pork or stir-fried squid, then enjoy it alongside an abundance of bottomless sides. On your way out, grab a black bean latte from the coin-operated coffee machine that blends right in with all the retro decor. It’ll only cost you a quarter—and they’ll give you one with your bill.

We’ve had a little surge of restaurants serving great Levantine food on the Hit List lately: Huda, Frena, and now Sawa in Park Slope. This Lebanese spot has big windows and an open kitchen, so you’ll be welcomed by the sights and smells of pita being rolled out and baked in their domed oven. Start with a minty arak cocktail or a glass of red from a very high-altitude vineyard in Lebanon, and some of that fresh pita, alongside muhammara and a thick hummus—to which you should add beef cheeks and pine nuts. Don’t skip the kibbeh arnabiyeh, a large lamb shank in tahini, or the whole dorade in a tomato-pepper stew, but keep in mind that portions are large. We’d recommend bringing a couple of friends.

Thumping bass, fake vines, and a celebrity chef are all potential red flags. But we’ve had some seriously good food at Bungalow. This East Village restaurant channels the spirit of a retro Indian clubhouse, with sprawling rugs, rattan chairs, and an excess of chandeliers. Its menu, on the other hand, goes the modern route. Try the tart, architecturally interesting purple sweet potato chaat, then spend some quality time with the Rajasthani pulled lamb in a thick, chocolate-brown curry. Reservations are scarce, but you can always put your name in for a table, then find somewhere to hang for an hour or so. The front cocktail lounge, for example.

photo credit: Sonal Shah

There’s an attention-grabbing “ice cream hot pot” at Tha Phraya, but that’s not what makes this Thai spot on the Upper East Side sizzle. From the neon yellow sign at the entrance, to the illuminated cityscape in the back “Temple Room,” everything here is stylishly lit—and that includes the food, which tingles with freshly ground and pounded spices. They have dishes from all over Thailand, but start with the chef’s specialities on the menu’s first page: the pomelo salad is perfectly balanced and strewn with tiny little fishes, and the fried whole branzino comes in a tangy kaeng som curry that’s hard to stop eating, even as it bubbles down into a thicker, spicier sauce over the course of dinner. We’ll be heading back soon to delve into the menu’s back half.

Crudo fatigue is the firstest of first world problems, but just when we thought we were sick of raw seafood and wine, here comes Penny, a new seafood bar in the East Village. The 31-seat counter is situated above its sister restaurant Claud, and you might think snacking here before a full dinner downstairs is the move. But Penny is worth your full attention. Start with the icebox, a luxurious raw bar selection on a  personal tray of ice, and then stick around for stuffed squid, whole lobster, and a creamy oyster roast with puff pastry on top. The shoulder-to-shoulder set-up is slightly chaotic, but when everyone oohs-and-ahhs with you at your rare red rice sake order, you’ll appreciate the camaraderie.

It's not so surprising that this new udon shop in the East Village is fantastic, and already accumulating 50-plus person lines on 2nd Avenue. It's from the people behind another one of our favorite places to eat Japanese noodles, Okiboru House of Tsukemen. Here, they specialize in double-wide Himokawa udon that warrants a 45-minute wait. Not to mention the expertly fried vegetables, shrimp, and bacon tempura that complement the chewy, slurpable noodles. Go on a nice day, because the fact that there are only 20 seats won't exactly get you inside quickly (coming alone should help, though).

photo credit: Tucci

$$$$Perfect For:Date Night
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Unlike so many 21st-century Italian restaurants designed to feel old, this Noho spot from the owners of Delmonico’s is charming not cheesy. Black-and-white photos, brick walls, and that quintessential formal service are conducive to romance over a little shrimp scampi. And 1800s-era stone arches make up for any lackluster pastas, like bland casarecce and agnolotti. Stick to the dishes that share chophouse DNA with Delmonico’s, and sit in the downstairs dining room. The top floor with a shiny bar and large tables looks like it’s from an entirely different mood board, and doesn’t have the same (admittedly manufactured) old-world appeal. 

Between the surf guitar and an affection for citrus, San Sabino feels like the nicest seaside cafe in 1970s Malibu—only they do fancy Italian American seafood and there's a view of a uBreakiFix cell phone repair shop. You might have to know a guy to get a reservation at this limoncello-colored West Village restaurant from the Don Angie team, but dishes like farfalle stuffed with bright chili crab are worth the fuss of getting in. Or do what we did and stand in line by 4:30pm, then kill a few hours at a West Village bar before it’s time to gulp down shrimp parm or a cocktail that tastes like an Italian mojito.

Your next night out should start with a cocktail made with feta cheese and tequila at Theodora in Fort Greene. Then, it should continue with za’atar kubaneh, which looks like cinnamon rolls if you swapped the cinnamon sugar for za’atar, and comes with three sauces for dipping. This Mediterranean restaurant with fish-forward small plates is from the people behind Miss Ada, and it’s where you should bring someone who’s ears perk up at the words “earth-toned” and “open-fire cooking”.

Demo in the West Village encapsulates a whole word-cloud worth of recent trends: a coffee shop by day and a wine bar by night, it sells shoppy-shop items, and shares a kitchen with a bagelry. The pounding R&B deep cuts are working even harder than the staff’s forearm tattoos to make this place feel exciting, but you can get some pretty good snacks to go with a glass of wine made from some grape you've never heard of. A full meal may run you over $100 per person, so unless you're flush with cash, stick to the smaller plates like the lengua tonnata decorated with caper berries. Crudo chasers, your next target is acquired.

Crispy grilled skewers, spicy and funky fruit salads, and cocktails that are described with just enough smut to keep things spicy are all things you can expect at Sappe in Chelsea. This restaurant from the Soothr team brings the drama, with a theatrical marquee and a dining room that's lit bright neon pink, with a mirror on the ceiling. The cocktails are named after seductive characters in Thai movies and novels (the Boonleung is named for a “seasoned widow” who would ask her stepson to rub ice cubes on her back). Only the two $27 drinks have their origin stories on the menu, but you can find the rest on their website, and they’re a perfect pair with the menu’s classic Thai street food and drinking snacks.

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