There are only a few different ways to get into a trendy NYC restaurant. You can stay up all night waiting for a reservation, you can open your own place and hope it gets cool, or you can show up to one of them, put your name in, then slowly adjust to your new life in walk-in purgatory. And if none of those strategies sound appealing, here’s a fourth: go to a place on this list.
These restaurants are all trendy in the sense that they all have great food and a fun atmosphere, and the majority of them are somewhat new. They’re perfect for dates or important dinners that you forgot to plan, and they all seem like they’re very hard to get into. But they aren’t. And that’s exactly why they’re on this guide.
Augustine is from the same people behind Balthazar, but it’s significantly less touristy. And, in part, that’s due to location. This place is down in the Financial District, and it was one of our favorite new restaurants of 2017. It’s a good spot to know about if you work downtown or if you foresee yourself having to plan a last-minute dinner at an upscale place that’s much cooler than whatever steakhouse your least-cool friend usually suggests. The food here is uniformly very good, and you’ll probably wind up eating some very French things like steak tartare and duck a l’orange.
Llama Inn is always busy, but it’s never impossible to get a table here. Maybe that’s because it’s a somewhat large space (with big windows and modern furniture) or maybe it’s because people don’t like eating so close to the BQE. Either way, you should get some food here the next time you need a fun, last-minute spot in Williamsburg. The food is Peruvian-inspired, with everything from beef heart to ceviche to a quinoa salad with bacon and banana. It’s unlike anything else in the city, and there’s even a little rooftop for outdoor seating.
Walk down a nice side street Paris, and you’ll probably find a restaurant like Mimi. This is a little spot in Greenwich Village, and it feels like the sort of place where French teens would choose to chain smoke and say mean things about you in a language that you can’t understand. The crowd is a little bit older than that, however, and this place is perfect for any important date you forgot to plan. They serve somewhat fancy and inventive French food, but they don’t really make a big deal out of it - and that’s part of the reason why this was one of our favorite new restaurants of 2016. We also like the fact that the servers wear t-shirts, the tiny space stays fun and lively, and they let you pour your own rum over your rum cake.
Dirty French is from the same people behind Carbone and The Grill, but it’s a little more of a party. Which makes sense, seeing as how it’s on the Lower East Side. We aren’t saying people are dancing on tables here, but the music stays loud, and people will be going through bottles of wine like they’re at a holiday party or a wedding reception. Dinner here will be pricey, but the French food is very good, and, at the end of your meal, you’ll feel like you had a real night out.
Kings County Imperial has been open for a little while now, but it’s still one of the best places in Williamsburg to sit in a dark room and eat some very good food. It’s on a relatively quiet street (around the corner from Union Pool), and if you introduce a friend to this place, they’ll immediately assume that you’re the sort of person who knows about the best restaurants in every neighborhood. Get some dim sum and mock eel, and, if it’s nice out, eat in the big backyard.
If you like seafood, you’ll like Cervo’s. That’s mostly what they serve here - and, if you don’t like seafood, you can always get lamb burger or just drink a lot of wine from Spain and Portugal. Do so at the long bar up front, where you’ll typically find a lot of people swirling liquids in glasses whilst talking about whatever’s currently on HBO. There’s a little dining room in the back that’s perfect for an impressive date night that involves things like beef tartare with clams and tuna crudo, and the whole space sort of feels like a nice, casual wine bar.
When you look at your food at Le Turtle, you might not know what you’re about to eat. You might get a plate of stuff that looks like it was shoveled off the ground of a secluded forest somewhere, and it’ll turn out to be a bunch of mushrooms. And you’ll like them. The food here is inventive and very good, and that’s part of the reason why this place on the LES is still trendy. Another reason is because its website has a video of a person petting a tiger.
You can get a table at Sauvage right now if you want. This restaurant from the same people behind Maison Premiere never seems to be entirely full - which means you should bring your next date here. Sauvage is right across from McCarren Park, and it looks like a big, stylish neighborhood French bistro. The food is more American than it is French, however, and they serve a great burger that you can eat on their sidewalk cafe in the summertime.
Atla is an all-day Mexican restaurant in Noho where you can eat white bean hummus and an arctic char tartare. It’s from the people behind Cosme, and it has floor-to-ceiling windows and a cafeteria-at-a-cool-tech-company kind of feel. If you’ve been to a workout class in Noho before, you’ll probably recognize some of the diners here, and you’ll probably also see some startup founders discussing things like brand strategy and scalability. We like it best in the daytime, but if you bring someone for dinner, you’ll be able to eat some great food with fewer work meetings going on around you.
Most people aren’t just stumbling into Chez Ma Tante. It’s almost all the way to the water in Greenpoint, and there’s nothing about it on the outside that would tell you it’s any different than every other Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant. So take advantage of the fact that you know about this place, and come here for simple, incredible food - like a caesar salad that tastes like every leaf was dipped in garlic and breadcrumbs. Reservations aren’t impossible to come by, but you should make one if you don’t want to have to wait.
New restaurants open every day, which means that certain newish spots inevitably get less-busy. The Loyal, for example, was extremely hard to get into for a few months - but now you can get a table there. And it’s still a great restaurant. We aren’t saying this old-school American spot is going to be quiet (or that you’ll be able to get an easy reservation in a prime time slot), but it’s doable. And if you’re looking for an impressive place in the West Village where you can bring anyone from your vegetarian half-brother to a date who, deep-down doesn’t believe that you’re capable of getting a table at a trendy restaurant, this is an excellent option.
Hart’s is a little place in Bed-Stuy where you can listen to early-2000′s R&B while you eat some clam toast and speak with a date over a candlelit table. It’s from the same people behind Cervo’s, and, if you don’t live nearby, this place is worth a trip. It’s perfect for date night or a dinner with a friend or two, and the vaguely-Mediterranean menu changes frequently, so you can go back often and never get bored.