Our Favorite Dishes Of 2020

It wasn’t easy, but we made it. And these meals helped get us through.
Our Favorite Dishes Of 2020 image

photo credit: Adam Friedlander

We could easily measure our year in the number of rotten bananas that graced our freezers, our average screen time per week, or how many times we cried during a not-sad part. But we’ve decided to measure ours by logging the only memories worthy of nostalgia in 2020: the best things we ate. These dishes represent a mix of experiences at both new and old restaurants - including pre-pandemic dining, outdoor meals, and takeout. Whether they happened in a dining room before March or on a park bench in October, they were undoubtedly the best parts of the year. And for that, we are so grateful for the restaurants that brought them to life.

Unfortunately, many of the places that fed us so well this year are in danger of closing. More than ever before, everyone who loves restaurants (us, you, your friends and family) needs to pitch in to help fight for their survival. In addition to ordering takeout or delivery, consider donating to Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR) and Robin Hood’s Employee Relief Fund. They’re providing $500 grants directly to restaurant workers who need them in New York City. And if donating isn’t in the cards for you right now, use the Independent Restaurant Coalition’s page here to contact your representatives urging them to support legislation that includes federal relief to small, independent restaurants.

Here are the best things we ate in 2020.

The Dishes



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January 31st

“There’s nothing inherently sexy about borscht. It stains, it’s full of cabbage, and it doesn’t beckon you to lean over the bowl and whisper something about your lower half. But eating the Ukranian borscht at Veronika (a high-end Eastern European restaurant in Gramercy that opened in the beginning of the year and has been closed since March) changed that for me. Slurping its porky broth was one of the more sensory-filled dining experiences I’ve had in an otherwise sanitized year. It was poured tableside, which meant I got to admire a steamy flow of beet soup as it swarmed a little mound of shredded cabbage, onions, and dill. I stuck my face as close as possible to the bowl before I ate it, like I was a beet aromatherapy patient. This was sexy soup.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

Roast Beef and Mutz Sub

February 1st

“On Saturdays and Thursdays only, Fiore’s Deli in Hoboken serves a very special roast beef sandwich with gravy and fresh mozzarella. This spot has been around since 1913, and it’s the kind of place where you get a little stage fright when ordering because the men and women who work the counter are demanding, confident, and efficient, like how I imagine a queen bee or George Lucas to be. One weekend, I waited an hour in line, selected my yard-long baguette, ordered the roast beef with “mutz,” gravy, and hot peppers in a shaky little voice - and now I understand Jersey pride.”

-Arden Shore, Senior Editor

Pasta A La Presse

February 8th

“My understanding of production value has changed quite a bit this year. For example, right now an unusually shaped space heater is enough to grab my attention, whereas back in February, it took quite a bit more. But even back then, as I sat in a giant booth at The Grill, and watched three types of fowl be pressed through a medieval-looking contraption tableside, I realized I was experiencing something pretty special. That realization continued when the jus from those poor birds was mixed with noodles to create pasta about as rich as foie gras.”

-Matt Tervooren, Staff Writer

photo credit: & Sons

Newsom’s Country Ham from Kentucky

March 5th

“I’ll never forget the dinner Nikko and I had at & Sons in Prospect Lefferts Gardens back in March - mostly because it was entirely made up of ham and wine produced in the U.S. And because it was one of the last exciting restaurant meals I ate inside before the shutdown. Nikko and I stayed at & Sons for about three hours, picking at plates of aged ham from Kentucky and Tennessee, eventually asking for a second portion of cornbread madeleines. I remember the ham from Kentucky in particular, since it was sturdy enough to construct a tube top out of, and didn’t need any additional accouterments. I haven’t had such special pork since then.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

Phat Bai Horapha With Fried Chicken

March 10th

“On one of the last days of The Before Times, I squeezed into an indoor booth at Thai Diner with a few teammates, to celebrate the launch of Zagat Stories. I didn’t know then that this type of gathering would soon be a thing of the past, but I also remember every bite of that meal because everything there was so, so unforgettable. I recall we couldn’t decide which protein to get atop the stir fry dish, phat bai horapha – should we do beef? Prawns? And then we noticed the option of fried chicken, which turned out to be crunchy, spicy, and overall perfect.”

-Hillary Reinsberg, Editor In Chief

Potato Pizza

July 20th

“In 2020, pizza should be topped with potatoes. Single-starch pizzas were simply not enough for me this year. This explains why I picked up a slice of Leo’s potato pie anytime I was in Williamsburg after a run or even as a snack before going to dinner at another restaurant in the area. The sourdough base is tangy enough to nearly come to life and sass you. But it’s the sharp provola in combination with the chewy-crispy potatoes that puts this pizza above other great NYC slices. Leo’s potato pie tastes good regardless of whether it’s heated or cold, and regardless of whether you’re momentarily thriving or chaotically existential. It was my ultimate comfort food of 2020.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In NYC image

NYC Guide

The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In NYC

Bún Bò Huế

September 10th

“I’m not going to pretend like any restaurant conceivably made me forget about my mask or the condensation gathering in it. But eating a massive bowl of bún bò Huế outside of this LES Vietnamese restaurant with Arden made me feel temporarily at peace with 2020. The soup is made with lemongrass and spicy beef bone broth, as well as pieces of what they call Vietnamese mortadella and tons of bright herbs on top. It’s punchy and powerful, and travels exceedingly well for delivery.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

Our Favorite Noodle Soup In NYC image

NYC Guide

Our Favorite Noodle Soup In NYC

Fried Chicken

September 19th

Korean fried chicken is my favorite fried chicken, and I finally got around to trying Insa’s in Gowanus this year. This was easier said than done with just one dining partner, because we had to pick between a galbi BBQ spread and the chicken, but months later I’m still feeling confident about the path we chose. As is typical, they use a double-frying method, which keeps both the boneless and bone-in pieces astonishingly juicy. The crunchy exterior holds up against the sweet-spicy gochujang glaze, and I’ll just say that we wished we had opted for the whole bird rather than the half.

-Arden Shore, Senior Editor

Pintade with Attieke

October 1st

“If you combined the best parts of duck, turkey, and chicken into one small, cooked bird, you’d have something nearly as delicious as the pintade at Chez Alain on the edge of Little Senegal in Harlem. The skin of the whole guineafowl is flaky and charred like the best bites of dark meat turkey, while the meat is as rich and salty as slow-cooked duck. Soak up the juices at the bottom of the plate with a side of attieke - slightly sour cassava with the texture of couscous, and chew the last of the fatty meat off the soft bones like they’re chicken wings.”

-Matt Tervooren, Staff Writer

The Best Senegalese Restaurants In Harlem image

NYC Guide

The Best Senegalese Restaurants In Harlem

This spot is Permanently Closed.

Beef Sopapilla

October 4th

“I’ve been eating fried dough for just about as long as I’ve had teeth. I’ve had churros, beignets, funnel cakes, and even fried ice cream. But I’ve never had it stuffed with beef, red chile, refried beans, and cheese until Ursula opened up in Crown Heights. Now, the fried dough at this New Mexican spot is all I need. Even without the stuffing, the fried dough deserves an award for being so crispy on the outside and buttery smooth on the inside. Adding the other ingredients just makes this the gold-plated helicopter of fried dough foods.”

-Nikko Duren, Editorial Assistant

Mapo Tofu

October 11th

“I spent about a month and a half this year eating [mapo tofu] multiple times a week, which made me feel like silky tofu and doubanjiang had become my body’s majority shareholders. Of all the versions I ate, Guan Fu’s in Flushing was the one that significantly raised my standards for the city’s mapo tofu. It has just as much distinct spice from the dish’s chili oil as it does from the tingling Szechuan peppercorns. And even though there’s not a ton of pork visually present, there’s still enough meaty flavor to inspire an image of two happy pigs smoking cigars on a couple of lounge chairs. When you try it, make sure to fish around for the occasional salty explosion from fermented black beans - that’s my favorite aspect of the dish.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

Saigon Bánh Mì

October 13th

“By the time I was wrapping up my search for the city’s best bánh mì, I thought I’d seen just about every variation of pork-between-bread out there. And then I went to Bunker in Bushwick, where I learned the dial on porkiness can be turned up to 10, and then broken off the wall altogether. Between Vietnamese pork loaf, roast pork, sausage, grilled bacon, and pâté, the sandwich has an incredible amount of concentrated pork flavor that coats your mouth before the mass of fresh herbs swoops in to get you ready for another next bite.”

-Matt Tervooren, Staff Writer


October 24th

“Brazilian spots in NYC range from cafes and buffets to all-you-can-eat steakhouses, but there are two things you can find at pretty much all of them - feijoada and, for a solid portion of 2020, me. And after ordering Brazil’s national dish at just about all of the best Brazilian spots in NYC, the version at Berimbau stood out as the best. The various cuts of pork in the slow-simmered bean stew each have drastically different flavors and textures, with pork rib that tastes like it’s been slow-cooked in a smoker, pig ear that has the texture of jerky, pork sausage that adds spice, and pork belly that dissolves as soon as you bite into it. Even bites without any meat give you flashes of a churrasco experience thanks to bacon speckled into the farofa (ground cassava root) that you sprinkle on top.”

-Matt Tervooren, Staff Writer


November 15th

“I had a lot of outdoor meal highlights on the streets of NYC this year, and my favorite didn’t involve a table at all. It happened standing upright at this Bangladeshi food truck in Jackson Heights while eating a wreath of puffed puri that’s filled with boiled yellow peas and potatoes, and topped with raw red onions and shaved egg yolk. Before I popped each one in my mouth, I spooned a little tamarind water over the hollow puri shells. Between the sweet tamarind, the sharp raw onions, and the hot mash of peas and potatoes, this was one of the best snacks I’ve ever eaten in NYC.”

-Hannah Albertine, Staff Writer

Seafood Tteokbokki

November 22nd

“One or two tender rice cakes coated in thick gochujang-based sauce were enough for me to declare the seafood tteokbokki at this Midtown Korean spot the best thing I’d eaten in recent memory. Then a couple spoonfuls of the sauce on its own, which starts out sweet before becoming increasingly acidic and spicy, pushed the timeframe to a month. And once I’d gotten through the huge portion of seafood that’d been bathing in the sauce the whole time - crab, head-on shrimp, baby octopus, and two types of clams - I knew I had a shoo-in for this guide.”

-Matt Tervooren, Staff Writer

Angel Donuts

December 1st

“I’d heard of angels taking human form. But I’d never heard of an angel taking the form of thick, flakey, beignet-like dough ball covered in honey and powdered sugar. That is, until I tried Back Alley Bread. Each angel donut from this delivery-only bakery came topped with a small yellow flower, and upon ingesting one whole, I felt a sense of calm - like a blissful cherub had just released a little extra dopamine and opioids into my body. These sympathetic donuts made it so much easier to survive 2020.”

-Nikko Duren, Editorial Assistant

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