This year, we went to more restaurants than your average New York City health inspector. When we look at a Rorschach test, we see servers offering us still or sparkling, and when we go to sleep at night, we count paper napkins and demitasse spoons. So now that we’ve accomplished another 52 weeks of eating in places that aren’t our apartments, it’s time to share our list of New York City’s Best New Restaurants Of 2019.
Compared to past years, our favorite restaurants of 2019 are just a little more casual. There are three counter-service spots, for example, which is more than we’ve ever included. This might lead you to believe that we like talking to people with iPads - but in reality these places just serve incredible food. There’s also only one tasting menu restaurant on this list, and, at $70, it’s one of the most affordable six-course options in the city. And, while our highest-rated spot of the year involves a lot of marble and is perfect for a birthday or anniversary dinner, it’s important to note that all the servers there wear sneakers and t-shirts (which means you can as well). We’d also like to point out that you could show up at half of these restaurants for a weeknight meal and spend less than $30. Take a look at this list, and start planning some special dinners.
Crown Shy is the best new restaurant of 2019. And it’s one of the few places we’d confidently send you without feeling the need to explain ourselves. Now allow us to explain ourselves. No matter what you order at this American spot in FiDi, it’s either going to be the best version in the city, like the house bread and the grilled chicken, or pretty damn close. And unlike most other upscale places serving similarly fantastic food, this isn’t just a special occasion restaurant. It is that - the landmarked Art Deco space is impressive enough for anniversaries or dinner with your boss’s boss - but casual servers, affordable wine, and a walk-in-only bar area keep it from feeling stuffy. Crown Shy works for just about any dining situation, and it’s an ideal option for all of them.
In a perfect world, there would be a Win Son Bakery on every corner. That way, no matter where you lived, you could roll out of bed, put on the nearest pair of pants, and get a BEC on a scallion pancake or some fried chicken covered in a sweet glaze you’d lick off your fingers like a hummingbird collecting pollen. This counter-service Taiwanese spot is from the same people behind Win Son (which is right across the street in East Williamsburg), and we somehow like it even more. It’s just so easy to get an exceptional meal here. Even when there’s a line on weekends, you can pretty much always find a seat, and if you ever need a quick weeknight dinner, it’s one of your best options in the city.
Golden Diner is, in fact, a diner. Which means you can drink a beer with your omelette, order a half-sour pickle at breakfast, and start a codependent relationship with a tuna melt. But unlike any other all-day spot with metal stools and kitschy analog clocks, Golden Diner serves updated, often Asian-influenced diner food. All of it is delicious, especially the chicken katsu club sandwich which deserves its own dedicated take-out window. You’ll leave feeling like the diner classics have been missing something all along.
Like Frank Sinatra, Bread And Salt is a product of Jersey that New York can’t really compete with. So we just claim it as our own. This Jersey City counter-service slice shop doesn’t just make great pizza - everything else here, like incredibly tender meatballs, and bread and butter topped with bottarga, is worth a trip across the river. But the main attraction is still the square-shaped slices, and especially the crust, which has a charred base beneath airy dough that’s like the inside of a croissant. The toppings vary based on what just came out of the oven, so bring a couple bottles of wine and hang out for a while until you’ve tried them all.
On paper, Wayla seems like any other cool restaurant on the Lower East Side. It’s dark and loud, the geotag gets more action than most historical monuments, and you have to walk down a precarious staircase to get in. But Wayla’s Thai food, like the plump sai oua pork sausages and eggy noodles that come spilling out of a lobster head, are all so memorable that just calling this place “cool” would be slander. You can get something truly spicy, like the kua kling shrimp, or appease anyone who prefers a milder way of life with the daily vegetable curry, which we’ve considered treating as a milk alternative. Between the excellent and shareable Thai dishes and backyard that Adam and Eve would have happily rented on AirBNB, Wayla is the best new group dinner spot of the year.
The cynical New Yorker part of us sounded the alarm when The Fulton opened. After all, it’s a celebrity chef’s massive, expensive, nautically-themed seafood restaurant on the water. But as soon as you take your first bite of octopus with mozzarella, you’ll realize that even though there are tourists here, this is not a tourist trap. From the simply cooked scallops that taste like briny cubes of butter to the whole black sea bass served inside an ornately decorated pastry shell, The Fulton serves some of the very best seafood in New York City.
Zooba has singlehandedly raised our expectations for all fast-casual restaurants. This Egyptian counter-service spot in Nolita serves sandwiches, salads, and dips with ingredients that work so well together, they could solve bi-partisanship issues, the majority of divorce settlements, and MTA malfunctions. Our favorite is the beef hawawashi, which comes on grilled baladi bread with a spiced beef patty in the center, melted roumy cheese, nutty tahini sauce, arugula, onion, and tomato. Whenever you decide to try this place for lunch, there’s a good chance we’ll already be sitting at the counter.
When we say there’s nothing else like Llama San, we mean it. Where else are you going to find duck nigiri with banana slices hidden under nasturtium leaves? Or a bowl of beef and lobster under a big puffy crisp? Nowhere. Llama San is from the people behind Llama Inn, and they serve the type of Japanese-Peruvian cuisine known as Nikkei. It’s some of the most interesting food you’ll currently find in this city, so this is an ideal spot for when you want to impress someone who thinks they’ve tried everything. Or for when you’d like to eat something you’ll think about for 24 hours straight.
We imagine that all the neighborhoods in the city would place bids to get Lokanta for themselves if they could. But even though Astoria won this auction, you should go out of your way to eat at this Turkish restaurant, no matter where you live. Especially if you enjoy lemon, olive oil, and garlic in excess. You’ll find all three flavors in almost everything on this BYOB restaurant’s menu. Above all else though, prioritize the lamb entrees - Lokanta knows how to braise lamb like the US Mint knows how to make pennies. Our favorite is the hunkar begendi (braised lamb over mashed eggplant), which comes out so tender that it gives knives self-esteem issues.
Oxalis in Prospect Heights feels like any other casual neighborhood restaurant that plays Frank Ocean and serves natural wine. Even when you look at the $70 tasting menu, the simply-listed ingredients won’t give you any sense of what you’re in for. But as soon as the dishes start arriving, you’ll realize that the food is far from casual. The six courses change all the time, but you can expect things like rutabaga noodles covered in foam that tastes like coffee ice cream or chuck steak as tender as filet mignon. You’ll search for ways to explain what you’re tasting, before eventually giving up and just saying it’s fantastic.
The Fly really only makes one thing. It’s called chicken, and you’ve probably had it before. But that doesn’t mean you should skip this place. That would be rude, and it wouldn’t work out well for you. Because The Fly’s rotisserie chicken is crispy and juicy, and makes all other chicken seem like a boring and distant dream you once had. And since even rotisserie chickens get lonely sometimes, there are a bunch of great sides like stewed greens and gumball-sized roasted potatoes in a pool of rich jus. So the next time you want to have a chicken and wine-fueled group hang, plan your dinner here. Or just come by yourself, sit at the big U-shaped bar, and drink a martini while you show some strangers how good you are at eating birds.