NYCGuide

19 Trendy Restaurants You Can Get Into

If you’re looking for an impressive place to get a table when you didn’t plan weeks in advance, here are some great options.

There are only a few ways to get into a trendy NYC restaurant. You can stay up all night waiting for a reservation, or you can open your own place and hope it gets cool. Alternatively, you can show up to a trendy spot, put your name in, then slowly adjust to your new life in walk-in purgatory. 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 have great food and fun atmospheres—and some of them also happen to be new. They’re perfect for dates you forgot to plan or dinners with any friends you want to impress, 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.

THE SPOTS

Estela review image
9.2

Estela

$$$$212-219-7693
Hours:MONDAY5:30PM to 12:00AM

We can’t explain why, but Estela almost always has tables available these days. Consider this good news, since those open reservations mean there are fewer logistical obstacles standing between you and America’s most glamorous salad. Bring anyone who has a kink for being nerdy about seasonal food, or come here with someone you want to impress with a best-of-the-best NYC meal that won’t seem like it was planned at the last minute (even though it very much was).

La Vara is Cobble Hill’s best and most charming restaurant. But, since Cobble Hill isn’t exactly known for its restaurants, you can still get in here without much planning. We’ve had great meals at this Spanish spot sitting at the bar and catching up with a friend, but this place is best used for a date night in the area. Some of our favorite food here combines classic Spanish proteins with Middle Eastern and Jewish cooking, like the cantabrian anchovies served with a disc of salted dukkah butter and the fried artichoke hearts lying in hammocks of oil-slicked ibérico de bellota sausage (which is where our hearts would like to hang out, ideally). 

Considering how excellent their Vietnamese food is and the fact that their plant-filled, pastel space could easily be used to sell high-end skincare products, Di An Di is easier to get into than it should be. We don’t know why, and we won’t complain. What we will do, though, is continue to eat things like bánh tráng trộn with quail eggs and papaya and bowls of beef phở here (and we’d encourage you to do the same). Next time you need a semi-last-minute place to impress your mom or the person you’re legally and/or emotionally married to, book a reservation the day before, and expect to have a really good night.

When you walk into Mission Ceviche on the UES, you might get quoted a wait time somewhere in the ballpark of an hour. But plan your meal a couple days in advance, and you shouldn’t have much trouble getting a reservation. This Upper East Side Peruvian restaurant specializes in cocktails and seafood, like a classic white fish ceviche bathing in a zippy leche de tigre. There are also plenty of options for anyone who wants to share—including their lomo saltado and large format cocktails—as well as single-portion entrees. We recommend sitting on the plant-decorated sidewalk patio (which feels secluded from 2nd Avenue) if your dinner crew doesn’t want a loud dining room environment.

The menu at Oxalis is just a sheet of white paper with lists of ingredients like roasted duck, sweet potato, fig, and yogurt. If that makes this place sound like a modernist hellscape where every plate of food consists of exactly half a bite, you should know that it isn't. The food at this Crown Heights spot is consistently excellent, and at $112, the tasting menu is less expensive than most others in NYC. You’ll get things like scallop crudo and rutabaga noodles with fontina foam—or, if you prefer to order à la carte, you can hang out in the back of the restaurant and eat ham, salads, and bread with housemade butter. The space has an open kitchen and the plain white walls of a furniture showroom, and it’s surprisingly casual for a place with fontina foam. So keep Oxalis in mind for a special occasion when you need someplace memorable but don’t want to have to dress like you’re going to a shiva. 

Wildair is the casual counterpart to the acclaimed fine-dining-but-make-it-punk-rock restaurant, Contra. This wine bar has been open for a while now, and it’s not too hard to get a table on the earlier or later end of the spectrum. Build your dinner around a bunch of snacks—like pommes darphin topped with uni or littleneck clams in XO sauce—and drink incredible wine. You could have a great solo dinner or date night here, but the smaller portions and high-top tables make it less ideal for group hangs.

Cozy Royale serves nostalgic Americana food you could very well eat in a mall but with some mildly fancy pizazz to remind you that you’re in Williamsburg. A fried bloomin’ onion appetizer comes with caviar, for example, and the cheeseburger is fat and juicy with mushroom aioli running down the side and a layer of melted Wisconsin cheddar that has a strip of blue cheese in the middle. This restaurant is run by the same team who owns and operates The Meat Hook, which means you can expect much of the menu to spotlight high-quality beef and pork. Come for Happy Hour, or make a reservation for one of their booths—they usually have a bunch of tables available for same-day booking.

Dr. Clark was destined to be cool from its inception. The Chinatown restaurant lives on Bayard Street in the same space that housed sceney spots like Lalito and Winnie’s, and owner Yudai Kanayama also operates time-tested fun destinations like Nowadays in Ridgewood. Also, before the restaurant even opened for service, it was profiled in Vogue. Most importantly, Dr. Clark is the only place in New York City exclusively dedicated to serving food from Hokkaido. Even still, reservations are easy to come by. Bring four-ish people for a group dinner in a dark booth inside or at a covered kotatsu table on the sidewalk, and focus on the seafood. The smoky-sweet salmon jerky and kaisen featuring sweet crab and assorted sashimi are both great.

Diner is still located in an old-school dining car underneath the Williamsburg Bridge, and their thick-patty burger with sharp cheese on a soft bun is still delicious. Even after all these years, this place makes you feel like you might be eating dinner at the coolest restaurant in the city. But these days, you can get a reservation (or walk in) any day you want with pretty much any number of people. Oh, another change: The servers stopped scribbling the menu on the butcher paper on your table. We’re sad about that one.

This Hamilton Heights restaurant specializes in, you guessed it, turkey. OK, that’s objectively false, and we’re sorry for lying to you. You’re destined to eat chicken here, be it in the form of Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, spicy fried chicken sandwiches, or buffalo chicken in a salad. Whichever chicken path you choose, get some sides and dipping sauces. (We usually go for the spicy vodka rice and cilantro green sauce.) Chick Inn typically has same-day reservations available for their covered patio or indoor dining room, both of which feel a step nicer than your casual run-of-the-mill Tuesday night dinner spot.

As long as you’re not hoping for a last-minute dinner on a Friday or a weekend, King is almost always easy to get into. The daily-changing Italian dishes are all a little precious, but maybe you are too, and that’s OK. Don’t be thrown by the white table cloths and expensive-looking wooden cane chairs. Despite having the look of a fancy restaurant, King is a surprisingly low-key place to have a meal. Although it's unlikely you’ll get out of King for under $75-ish (especially if you’re drinking wine). 

If you’re looking for a fun spot in Brooklyn that would easily have lines down the block if it were on the Lower East Side, go to Sally’s in Bed-Stuy. This Caribbean restaurant’s menu incorporates Chinese and Southeast Asian influences, so you’ll see options like curry crab rangoon and pork buns (both of which are very good). Expect rum cocktails, Kaytranada playlists, and some little sidewalk tables on nights where the weather cooperates.

Ops in Bushwick continues to make some of the city’s best naturally-fermented pizza in a room we’d happily get engaged in. If you’ve never been here, picture wooden banquettes, big cans of tomato sauce used as pizza stands on every table, and a wood-fired oven in the middle of the room that smells like a calzone in a sauna. A couple years ago, it used to be impossible to get a table here without waiting several hours. Now, you can pretty much waltz in on a weeknight. (They also take limited reservations online, but half of the tables are saved for walk-ins.) 

Atla is an all-day Mexican restaurant in Noho where you can eat flaxseed chilaquiles and the best chicken soup of your life. During the day, it has a cafeteria-at-a-cool-tech-company kind of feel, and the food—which is from the people behind Cosme—is better than anything else you can get at 3pm wearing gym clothes. In addition to daytime snacking, this is also a great option for a nice dinner with a date. If you get seated next to some startup founders discussing things like brand strategy and scalability, distract yourself with a few phenomenal margaritas.

Le Crocodile is from the same people as Chez Ma Tante, and while it’s a similarly great option for roast chicken and not-at-all healthy salads, there’s nothing low-key about this Williamsburg spot. It’s in a palatial space inside the Wythe Hotel with big mirrors and even bigger windows, and it’s a great option for an impressive night out in Williamsburg after the host at Lilia tells you to come back around 11pm.

Llama Inn review image
8.8

Llama Inn

$$$$(718) 387-3434
Hours:MONDAY5:00PM to 10:00PM
Perfect For:BirthdaysBrunch

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 menu is Peruvian-inspired, with everything from lomo saltado 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.

The Fly is from the same people behind Cervo’s and Hart’s, and much like those places, it’s somewhere we’d eat several times a week. This restaurant is in Bed-Stuy, and the emphasis here is on rotisserie chicken and natural wine. There will most likely be a wait if you stop by on the weekend (and they don’t take reservations), but think of this as an opportunity to hang out at the bar and make friends. Even if it’s 10pm, you’ll find a bunch of people hanging out, and there’s a decent chance you’ll see someone you’ve dated drinking a chilled red from the Canary Islands.

We’ve always liked Win Son. But every time we go, we wind up liking it even more. The Taiwanese food we eat here is always great (the pan-griddled pork buns in particular), and it’s never too hard getting a table. There’s always loud music playing, and it feels like a neighborhood clubhouse where you can show up in sweats or a velvet tuxedo and maybe see one of your friends eating a bowl of noodles with a big Taiwanese beer on the side. Bring a group, and put your name in for one of the round tables up front with lazy susans in the middle. (Win Son only accepts reservations for groups of six to nine people.)

Wayan shares some DNA with Meatpacking club-restaurants. The dark space could be in a beachfront resort in Bali, servers wear custom t-shirts you’d find at a Diesel outlet, and the menu includes several types of shots and $16 chicken satay. But this Indonesian spot from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s son isn’t a place to impress investment banking associates in 1999. It’s a Nolita restaurant where you should go for a casual date and share spicy, perfectly charred octopus and grilled clams topped with coconut flakes. Just know that the entrees aren’t as good as the small plates, so this place is best for drinks and appetizers in the casual bar area.

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