We’re somehow over halfway through 2021, which is a fact that our brains and stomachs can’t quite believe. And as all the summer restaurant openings continue, well, opening, there is simply too much good food to eat right now in NYC. Just take this guide as evidence. We ate Detroit-style pizza, an oceany mix of uni, squid, and rice, and much more - here are the best dishes we tried in June.
Detroit-style (or grandma) pizza
Ace’s in Williamsburg makes the best Detroit-style pizza in the city. While they also do Sicilian pies and slices, your first move at Ace’s should unquestionably be some iteration of Detroit-style. Keep it simple and get it topped with pepperoni, and if you’re with one other person, order a small. You’ll get four filling, airy slices with crispy cheese-webbed crust that will provide you with profound joy.
The empanadas here are a must. This colorful blue, white, pink, and yellow Colombian bakery in East Bushwick serves cakes, raspas (snow cones), and cookies too. In addition to the olive-stuffed beef empanadas, there’s also the cheesy “kolache” empanada, chickpea, and plantain and guava varieties, plus gluten-free and vegan options. The sweet offerings rotate often, but we are personally here for the super moist plantain, cardamom, and black pepper bread and chocolate tres leches cakes when they’re available.
A full spread of Dungan dishes
This Dungan spot specializes in hand-pulled noodles, served in both hot and cold variations. Dungan food is the cuisine of one of China’s main Muslim communities, and it pulls influences from all over Central Asia. Go with a group, because there’s a lot to try here. Start with the Dungan-style salad, a zippy mount of shredded carrots with pickled greens and radish. It’s the perfect counterpoint to richer items, like dapan ji, a dish of wide, flat noodles topped with fragrant chicken. The classic lamian, hand-pulled noodles topped with beef, is also required on your table - as is the ash lan fin, a cold noodle dish in a vinegar and soy-based sauce enhanced with fresh vegetables and wobbling batons of bean jelly.
The Gold Medal pizza
Naming a pizzeria after one of the most enigmatic figures of beauty in art history can put a lot of pressure on a place, but Mona Lisa Pizzeria & Ristorante lives up to its name. While the classic cheese pie is excellent, the “Gold Medal,” a decadent creation topped with mushroom cognac cream sauce and truffle oil, is another good place to start. If you’re split between red sauce and white sauce or don’t want to limit yourself to just one pizza experience, they also do a half-white (dripping in mozz and ricotta), half-regular pie.
Nashville hot chicken sandwich
A sandwich is only as good as its architecture. In this case, Chick Chick dredges a juicy thigh and fries it twice, then tops the whole thing with a ton of cayenne and paprika. On the bottom, you’ll find cold butter lettuce, and thick, slightly sweet pickles, all with a cooling white sauce - made with mustard, mayo, buttermilk, and black pepper - seeping down the side. The result is crackly, hot, and balanced.
Depending on how you feel about salads, you might typically overlook this glorious bowl of leafy greens at Outerspace from Vietnamese and Cambodian pop-ups Ha’s Đặc Biệt and Kreung who joined forces for this menu. But as our server told us on our first visit, this is one salad you won’t want to miss. Order this and strap in for a wild ride of crunch.
From the excellent mole selection to mezcal flights, Ruta Oaxaca takes the maximalist approach at every turn. And that’s exactly why we love this Mexican restaurant in Astoria. With the electric pink patio structure to the rich mole-covered enchiladas, you’ll feel like you’re in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot without any of the terror. If you need another reason to make this Oaxacan spot a priority, know that Ruta offers a 2-for-1 cocktail special during brunch service on weekends - all tables are first come, first served until 4pm.
Squid stuffed with uni rice
Much like caviar or gold leaves, uni sometimes shows up on menus for the sole purpose of making a dish feel like it comes with the keys to a Maserati. In the case of Dr. Clark’s squid, the saline taste of uni isn’t for show. It adds depth and richness to the charred rice and chewy squid, like the three ingredients were destined to be together.