NYCGuide

The Best (And Worst) Post-Pandemic Restaurant Revamps

Lots of restaurants are attempting comebacks. Some are more successful than others.
The Best (And Worst) Post-Pandemic Restaurant Revamps image

photo credit: Kate Previte

We're currently living in a golden age of revamped restaurants. Due in part to pandemic closures, there are a lot of spots that recently reopened and/or received big overhauls. All the places on this list are experiencing a second, third, or in one case, a sixth life—and they're all at least slightly different from their previous iterations. We're here to tell you how major the changes are and whether these restaurants are worth a visit now.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Emily Schindler

Pizza

Lower East Side

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightCasual Weeknight DinnerEating At The BarImpressing Out of Towners
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What's Different: After closing this Lower East Side pizzeria and moving it to New Jersey in 2020, Anthony Mangieri has reopened Una Pizza at that same LES location. This time, he's no longer partners with the team from Wildair, which means the focus is solely on pizzas. Also, this place is now only open for dinners, Thursday through Saturday.

Verdict: This is the sixth version of Una Pizza, and we know exactly why this place won’t die. It’s serving the best Neapolitan pies in NYC—and possibly the rest of the world, the Twittersphere, the Metaverse, and any other vaguely habitable place. Since all the pies here have the same otherworldly crust, you really can’t go wrong.

What's Different: The original Masalawala, which was on the LES and closed in spring 2021, featured dishes from owner Roni Mazumdar's hometown, Kolkata. You can still get some of those dishes at this Park Slope spot along with some new items. There's also a market in the restaurant where you can buy spice blends and home goods.

Verdict: Masalawala & Sons is from the team behind Dhakama and Semma. At this point, they know their brand: inventive, hyper-specific regional Indian food you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere in the city. The food is on par with their other restaurants, but you’ll stay longer because the bigger space is a better hang.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

This spot is Temporarily Closed.

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What's Different: The first thing you'll think about when you leave this spot from Union Square Hospitality Group is no longer how one gets a key to Gramercy Park. Now located a few blocks north at the bottom of a Nomad hotel, this restaurant has a new name (with the addition of "vicino"), a more romantic setting, and a shorter—but very familiar—menu.

Verdict: This place continues to serve the same Roman-style food it was known for, and it's as good as ever. You’ll still be thinking about the spaghettini alle vongole and roasted lamb shoulder the morning after your visit, but you’ll remember the razor-thin slices of veal smothered in tonnato and fried capers for the rest of the year. We liked the old rustic space, but the new dark and candlelit room is no better or worse—just different.

What's Different: The Court Street Grocers team has taken the old Eisenberg's space and renamed it S&P—which was actually the original name of this place in 1928. The back seating area doesn't look dilapidated anymore, and the pastrami tastes about 10 times better than before.

Verdict: S&P combines everything you want in an old-school Jewish deli (such as life-affirming matzo ball soup) with modern touches like the option to swap meat for broccoli in your reuben. The menu also has tons of Ashkenazi homestyle classics, including matzo brei, bananas and sour cream, and kasha varnishkes. At the risk of angering all the purists, this new spot is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

What's Different: What started as a delivery operation with weeks-long waiting lists and a subsequent pop-up in a Clinton Hill diner now has a permanent home in Prospect Heights. They retired the duck drumettes and added a spicy chicken sandwich and some new sides like dirty fried rice and charred cucumbers with ginger.

Verdict: Pecking House’s new counter-service location looks a bit like a small cafeteria at a trendy tech company, but it’s a perfectly fine place to consume large amounts of poultry. Your priority should still be their chili fried chicken with thick, crunchy skin covered in a firecracker dry rub. You won’t be disappointed by any of the sides, but make sure to get the duck heart gravy mashed potatoes.

What's Different: Open since the 1930s, this old-school Midtown restaurant has changed hands a few times over the years, and this latest version is run by the people behind 4 Charles Prime Rib. There's a brand new menu with everything from pasta and crab rangoon to fried chicken and various steaks. You can also get the Au Cheval burger here.

Verdict: With its red leather booths and massive mural of Jazz Age celebrities, Monkey Bar still looks like the kind of place where you'd eat with your boss in 1959. But thanks to the expansive dinner menu and ambitious cocktail list, this restaurant feels newly relevant. If you need a fun, classic spot that isn't stuffy, Monkey Bar should be at the top of your list. Get the burger, and take advantage of the walk-in-only tavern area.

What's Different: This longtime Red Hook restaurant reopened in summer 2022 with "Pub" tacked onto its name. And that pretty much explains what's changed about this place. Compared to before, Good Fork Pub is now a more casual place with drinks and bar food. The menu is tighter, and the back garden is bigger.

Verdict: Good Fork Pub has inviting barn doors, brick walls, and British pub food with Korean twists. We'll forever be loyal to their veggie burger, a fried green mung bean patty that gets a slightly smoky flavor thanks to some Vegemite aioli. The menu also has other intriguing items like a Korean cheesesteak. But if you don't want to have a full meal, you'd be just as happy coming with a group to drink some pints and share a pot of kimchi beer cheese.

What's Different: Manhatta, another revamped restaurant from Union Square Hospitality Group, had a staggered reopening. The bar portion of the restaurant returned in March 2022 with an overhauled beverage program. A few months later, they launched a new dinner menu. The menu is no longer prix-fixe, and offerings now include stuff like beef tartare with hazelnut miso and grilled lobster with black garlic.

Verdict: Manhatta is still on the 60th floor of a building in FiDi, and the spectacular views haven't changed, so this place should still be on the shortlist for your next special occasion. The food is New American, which might sound boring, but the kitchen combines ingredients in unexpected ways. There are some things we wouldn't order again, but we'd automatically get a few dishes like barbecued eel with bone marrow on every future visit.

What's Different: The Lambs Club closed during the pandemic, and now it's back with Michael White (formerly of Marea and Ai Fiori) running the kitchen. There's a new menu, but the dishes are still "classic American." Expect fluke crudo, steak tartare, bibb lettuce, and chicken.

Verdict: It isn't especially creative or exciting, but the food at the new Lambs Club is all very well executed. You don't have to run (or even fast walk) here, but if you need to book a last-minute table for an upscale meal in Midtown, this place is a reliable option. The Art Deco decor remains, as do all the candy-apple-red chairs and banquettes.

What's Different: El Quijote, which originally opened in 1930, had to shut down for a few years while the Hotel Chelsea (where the restaurant resides) was being renovated. This spot is now under new ownership, with a new a chef who used to cook in Madrid. The dining room is about a third of its former size.

Verdict: Over the years, El Quijote functioned as a clubhouse where people like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Andy Warhol drank sangria and talked sh*t. A lot of details from the old space, like red leather booths and a portrait of Don Quijote etched in glass, remain. More importantly, the Spanish food here is all better than what’s typically found at other legendary NYC landmarks. Make sure to order the plate of anchovies and boquerones.

photo credit: Adrian Gaut

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions

What's Different: The original iteration of Verōnika opened in January 2020. It was helmed by Stephen Starr and had some impressive Eastern European food. Now, the food is continental European, and Stephen Starr is no longer involved.

Verdict: The new Verōnika, still at Fotografiska Museum, doesn’t make bad food. It’s just kind of boring. Your options are seafood, steak, and—the only distinctive aspect of the menu—various schnitzels. None of the dishes live up to the scene-stealing dining room. But if you want to be in a beautiful space that you can dress up for, you can have an alright time here.

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