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NYC's Hottest Openings of 2013, Fall Edition

By James Mulcahy
September 17, 2013

It's been a fast-paced year for restaurant openings, and 2013's hottest tables cover a lot of ground. There's a high-end Manhattan chef that brought his elegant plates to Brooklyn, a couple red-sauce joints that are taking classic Italian fare to new (and gigantic) heights, and a couple of Asian imports that are spicing up the city's dining scene. Click through the slide show below to see where you need to dine this fall, and stay tuned, there are still a few months left in the year, and the biggest openings are still on their way. 

  • Photo by: Cherie Cincilla

    Somtum Der

    This East Villager comes to NYC via Bangkok, and the focus is on the spicy Isaan-style cuisine from the Northern region. We dropped by on a recent Friday, and it was packed only a few days after opening. Once we camped out at a communal table we were able to see why - the affordable, flavor-packed dishes are on point. Must-try items include a spicy chicken wing soup that we nominate as NYC's best new hangover cure, and the noodles, which may seem run-of-the-mill but manage to go beyond what you'd find at your local Thai joint. This is some of the most authentic Isaan outside of Queens, so hit it up.

    85 Ave. A; 212-260-8570

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Quality Italian

    The Quality Meats guys have struck again with an Italian eatery that keeps its focus on protein, located just around the block from their Midtown steakhouse. The chicken parm pizza has gotten a lot of buzz - and is worth stopping by for on its own - but chef Scott Tacinelli's take on comforting Italian fare also includes offerings from baked clams to pasta. The bar program is run by Bryan Schneider, who made Monkey Bar a cocktail destination for Midtown boozers. There's a reason the joint is packed with suits - an expense account lessens the blow if you're going to go all out.

    57 W. 57th St.; 212-390-1111

  • Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

    The Bromberg Brothers have imported the signature fried chicken from their Blue Ribbon Restaurants to a standalone, fast-casual joint near the center of the Downtown universe - was there any doubt that this would be on the list of hottest openings? Guests order the super-crispy wings at the counter and can camp out in a spacious dining room. Each table is equipped with a caddy full of sauces that you can slather on, and if you're not feeling like drumsticks you can get equally delicious options like chicken burgers. After 20 years you might think the bros' bird recipe would be a bit stale, but it only takes a few bites to see that they've still got it.

    28 E. First St.; 212-228-0404

  • Photo by: Alden Gewirtz

    Charlie Bird

    This casual, Italian-inspired eatery in the West Village has quickly become an industry hangout after its debut a few months ago. The space is jammed for two reasons. First is the menu, an affordable collection of fare from chef Ryan Hardy that hits the sweet spot between neighborhood comfort food and inspired, destination-worthy fare (that uni pasta is sure worth traveling for). The other reason it's a hit is its jazz-inspired decor, which takes broad strokes of cool from its musical inspiration without incorporating any theme-restaurant-worthy kitsch.

    5 King St.; 212-235-7133

  • Umami Burger

    The Cali-based burger chain opened its first NYC outpost, and the verdict was unanimous: more, please. Lines aren't as bad as when the venue first opened up, so you should be able to slide in without too much trouble and scarf the signature patties, which lay claim to the "fifth flavor" with toppings like Parmesan crisps and shallots. Prices are in the $12 range, and the burgers can be paired with a solid beer selection. Based on the success of the first Big Apple location, we wouldn't be surprised to see more Umamis in the mix on the East Coast.

    432 Sixth Ave.; 212-677-8626

  • East Pole

    For the follow-up to hip LES hotspots Fat Radish and The Leadbelly, the owners decided on an unlikely neighborhood: the Upper East Side. Though the zip code is a world apart in style, the new joint manages to maintain plenty of Downtown cool. It doesn't hurt that the kitchen dishes out some of the same dishes that made Radish such a draw and that the bi-level, townhouse setting feels right for the neighborhood. East Pole also has something else going for it: it's about the only place around here where you can go and get a quality meal without going bankrupt. Not too shabby.

    133 E. 65th St.; 212-249-2222

  • Photo by: Alden Gewirtz

    The Elm

    Chef Paul Liebrandt has ditched the white tablecloths of Manhattan for the once scruffy neighborhood of Williamsburg, and his restaurant in the King and Grove Hotel cements Brooklyn's moment in the culinary spotlight. Guests will find many of the modernist flourishes that earned the chef international acclaim, and although the eatery is still more expensive than many in the neighborhood, you aren't tied down to a tasting menu. That means you can be creative with à la carte ordering (a number of dishes meant for two are in the $50 range) and still have enough money left over for a barhop down Bedford.

    160 N. 12th St.; 718-218-1088

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Estela

    Head into a minimally marked doorway on Houston Street and up a flight of stairs to find the entrance to Estela, a new wine bar and restaurant featuring cuisine by former Iso chef Ignacio Mattos. The way to go here is walking in and nabbing a few bar stools for snacking on the affordable small plates. The reasonable bill isn't the only pleasant surprise that comes out of dinner here - each dish is full of subtle surprises and artfully used produce. The beef tartare is offset with sunchoke, and the ricotta dumplings rival those at The Spotted Pig (blasphemy!). We also loved the mussels (pictured), which are presented on toast in an acidic escabeche sauce. The bartenders were on point with their food and wine pairing suggestions and the vibe was half date night, half hidden hipster haunt. We'll definitely be ascending that staircase again.

    47 E. Houston St.; 212-219-7693

  • Han Dynasty

    One Philadelphia transplant is setting the East Village on fire, and not just because of the chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns used liberally throughout the menu (which thankfully comes with a heat index that ranges from 1 to 10). Han Dynasty, which has six locations in Philly and the surrounding area, has become an institution for its authentic take on spicy Sichuan fare, scoring a 25 for Food in the city's survey. Once the owners dished out all the dan dan noodles that town could gobble up, it was time to conquer the Big Apple. After quietly opening, they've begun to draw 'em in. Order as many dishes as possible, and be sure to share.

    90 Third Ave.; 212-390-8685

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Greenpoint Gems: River Styx and Glasserie

    Greenpoint is so full of awesome new openings that it was almost impossible to pick just one. So we didn't. The Waterfront District has two of the coolest new haunts in NYC, and it's worth visiting both of them to see why this hood is so buzzworthy. Glasserie is in a stunning, industrial space that used to house a glass factory, and even though it is on the outer reaches of the borough, it's worth the trek - especially if you have the whole-cooked rabbit, which is a mini feast meant to be shared. Closer to civilization (aka the G Train) is River Styx, a New American eatery steps away from the water that takes industrial chic to a new level of sexy. With a sunny bar area up front, this joint is as good for a drink as it is for dinner (the items coming out of that wood-fired oven are mighty tasty).

    Glasserie: 95 Commercial St.; 718-389-0640
    River Styx: 21 Greenpoint Ave.; 718-383-8833

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Carbone

    This Italian hot spot takes over the space that used to house old-school red-sauce joint Rocco's, which it pays homage to with a retooled version of the historical restaurant's original neon sign. While you won't find any lackluster plates of pasta here, the menu does provide a modern take on the classics (think linguine with clams). The room's decor was inspired by The Godfather, and waiters are decked out in tuxes. It's run by the team behind Torrisi, and where they go, their fans follow, so you may have a tough time getting a table until the buzz dies down. 

    181 Thompson St.; 212-254-3000

  • ZZ's Clam Bar

    If you'd prefer something on the lighter side, stop by the svelte ZZ's Clam Bar, a sliver of a space on Thompson Street serving crudo and cocktails. Sure, the bites may be expensive, but once you get over the sticker shock there's a lot of fresh fare to enjoy. Be warned: there are only a dozen or so stools so you'll have to work for a reservation at this joint.

    169 Thompson St.; 212-254-3000

  • ABC Cocina

    The 2013 opening that has it all. There are an excellent, market-driven, Latin-inspired menu by Dan Kluger (spoiler: you'll go bonkers for the guacamole with spring peas); stellar cocktails made with farm-fresh ingredients like rhubarb; and a gorgeous space with sparkly hanging lights. Execution has been solid from day one - while most eateries need a couple of weeks to get their sea legs, this ship was steady sailing from day one. The only downside: choosing between this place and sister restaurant ABC Kitchen might just drive a person crazy. 

    38 E. 19th St.; 212-677-2233

  • Uncle Boons

    Last year saw a slew of cool Asian openings, and although spots like Mission Chinese and Pok Pok are busy as ever, 2013 has been more about a return to classic fare. Well, this hip-as-hell NoLita spot carries the torch of last year's trend. A rotisserie and charcoal grill are on full display, meaning guests at the bar area (which is first-come, first-serve seating) can watch chickens on the spit and blowfish tails taking on a deliciously smoky char. The decor takes inspiration from a typical Thai house from back in the '60s, which means you'll find cheeky artwork and old-school movie posters. The accessory du jour here: a beer slushie, served in the bottle with a neon bendy straw.

    7 Spring St.; 646-370-6650

  • Alder

    Wylie Dufresne's sequel to his famed WD-50 follows the molecular gastronomy formula that made him famous, but here he's offering more-playful (and less-expensive) options. The room sports a gastropub-bistro feel that's perfect for both a quick snack with cocktails (served on tap) or a full-on meal. Must-try dishes include a rye pasta that pays homage to neighboring delis like Katz with a delicious hunk of pastrami under the handcrafted noodles. Though the venue didn't offer reservations when it originally opened, there are now a few tables set aside for booking in advance. 

    157 Second Ave.; 212 539-1900

  • Lafayette

    Easily the most hyped restaurant of the year, Andrew Carmellini's NoHo stunner also represents the pinnacle of the old-school French movement that's been sweeping the city. Chef Damon Wise makes classic dishes like bouillabaisse, and a far-reaching menu covers ground that ranges from steak tartare with bone marrow to black linguine with squid and chorizo. The eatery is in the (gigantic) space that used to house Chinatown Brasserie, but the designers found a way to maximize the booth space. As an added bonus, not a single table has that "dumped-in-Siberia" feel. There's also a bakery that serves treats and coffee during the day, if you want to take a peek without a reservation. Speaking of rezzies, this is surely one of the hottest tickets around, but if you take your chances walking in (especially post-9 PM), you might be pleasantly surprised. 

    380 Lafayette St.; 212-533-3000

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