Once again, the East Village is the king of hot new restaurant openings, according to our 2016 NYC Restaurants results. The neighborhood led the pack with 15 Zagat-covered openings (the same as last year), followed by the Lower East Side and the West Village. While the East Village has always been a destination for global cuisine, this year's crop brought some firsts to the 'hood including Acadian food, a gourmet veggie burger, a fast-casual Korean concept and even an upscale take on Hawaiian food. Here's a look at the 15 openings you need to know, plus a handy map to help you on your next dining crawl.
Babu Ji - Lines around the block are not uncommon for this Alphabet City Indian that puts creative twists on both street-food dishes and slow-cooked stews. Australian expats Jessi and Jennifer Singh, who own several acclaimed restaurants Down Under, have innovated ghee-less plates like the papadi chaat (an Indian take on nachos) and gol gappa (a spherical chickpea fritter filled with yogurt and chutney) that's eaten in one big bite.
Bara - Perhaps still a bit of a best-kept secret, this French-Asian mash-up from a Momofuku alum is a must-try for dishes like the whole roasted black bass with ginger soy glaze and togarashi cucumbers and duck meatballs with miso mustard.
Bowery Meat Co. - This homage to 1960s steakhouses from Josh Capon and John MacDonald (Lure Fishbar) brought a formidable meat option to the East Village with items like s $140 cote de boeuf, a bone-in filet mignon and a killer burger. But don't you dare call it a steakhouse; it's a "meat lover's restaurant" that sources its meats from Kansas' Diamond Creek Ranch.
Photo by Clay Williams
Empellón al Pastor - Alex Stupak, the pastry chef-turned-Mexican food wunderkind who brought us Empellon Cocina and Taqueria, is behind this fast-casual taqueria. The menu hinges on al pastor tacos, but also includes options like a tripe, beef tongue and bacon combo and nopales with arbol chile and queso fresco. The spot is so lively it even employs a bouncer.
Fifty Paces - Marco Canora and partner Paul Grieco parted ways this year, which tore apart the Terroir empire. But it was a red-letter year for Canora, who launched his buzz-inducing Brodo bone-broth concept out of a window on the side of East Village mainstay Hearth. As for the former Terroir space on the other side, Canora transformed it into wine bar Fifty Paces, which acts as a more casual extension of the restaurant. Slurp on Brodo bowls and "sloppy Giuseppes" while you rifle through the bar's vinyl collection.
Fuku - Perhaps inspired by the legendary fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A, David Chang caused hysteria when he debuted this fast-casual concept earlier this summer, drawing lines for a taste of the habanero-marinated fried chicken thigh sandwiches, topped with pickle brine butter and optional Ssäm sauce. More recently, Chang extended the concept, opening Fuku+ on the ground floor of the Chambers Hotel above his Ma Peche, which offers the famous chicken sammies as well as an expanded menu and even group feasts.
King Bee - Beverage consultant Eben Klemm and Ken Jackson partnered up to open this spot focused on Arcadian dishes (which some dub the original Creole cuisine). Chef Jeremie Tomczak, an alum of Red Rooster and Aquavit, created a menu of vintage-inspired dishes like poutine râpée with lamb neck, turnips, and partridge berries; fried cod tongue with espellette and rémoulade; and gumbo z'herbes with brown jasmine rice.
Korilla - The Food Network–famous Korean food truck opened its first brick-and-mortar fast-casual concept on the corner of St. Mark's and Bowery earlier this year. Queens-born founder Edward Song is behind this Korean version of Chipotle that offers chosun bowls, salads and burritos.
Noreetuh - Per Se alums Chung Chow, Jin Ahn and Gerald San Jose said "aloha" to this 42-seat East Village space, which ropes in influences from Chow's native Hawaii that span Filipino, Korean and Japanese cuisines. Divided into snacks, starters and mains, the menu features items like pig trotter terrine and mochi-crusted fluke; Spam tortellini with poached egg, yu choy, goji berries and chrysanthemum; and bigeye tuna poke crudo with macadamia nuts, pickled jalapeño and seaweed.
Oiji - Former CIA roommates Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku opened this buzzy Korean spot in the East Village last spring. Both Kim and Ku worked in kitchens in Seoul before moving to the U.S. where they cut their teeth at spots like Bouley and Gramercy Tavern. The menu at Oiji, their first solo project, puts an elevated spin on traditional Korean ingredients, like killer fried chicken (pictured above) and chil-jeol-pan seven flavors, which pairs savory rice crêpes with artful piles of meat and veggie fillings.
Pardon My French - This French brasserie with a twist in the former Casimir space is helmed by Parisian export Yllan Laloum, who whips up creative takes on classics like beef tartare, roasted bone marrow and sea bass en blanquette.
Rosie's - It took a Mexican hot spot from the team behind Cookshop and Vic's to break the curse of a space that's seen many restaurant closures over the last several years. The open-air corner restaurant was an almost instant hit for its comal-cooked specialties including tlacoyos, tacos and more.
Superiority Burger - Del Posto pastry chef Brooks Headley has been cooking his veggie burgers at parties and pop-ups for years but finally got serious this year by opening this East Ninth Street spot devoted to his nonmeat patties, drawing lines and general hullabaloo. But the real showstopper here is the housemade gelato; don't leave without it. (See how Superiority Burger stacks up against the veggie burger competition here).
Tuome - The No. 4–rated top newcomer of the year, from Eleven Madison Park alum Thomas Chen, is one of this year's most impressive openings. But it's still a bit under the radar despite critical acclaim. The unassuming space on a quiet stretch of East Fifth is home to plates of expertly cooked fried deviled eggs with chile; octopus with housemade xo sauce, brown butter and fingerlings; and mains like the "Pig Out for Two," pork belly cooked in duck fat and served with spicy peanut noodles and condiments like housemade lime sambal and ginger scallion sauce.
Virginia's - Christian Ramos (Per Se) and Reed Adelson (Locanda Verde) originally met while working at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago. Earlier this year they opened this 38-seat concept, inspired by European bistros and designed by Sam Buffa and Amy Butchko (Vinegar Hill House, Fellow Barber). The farm-to-table menu offers dishes like Atlantic striped bass with saffron, razor clams and new crop potatoes, while the wine list was developed by an Alinea alum.