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Industry Experts on the Top Restaurant Standbys of 2013

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions, from Meal of the Year to Top Newcomers. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of next week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted and unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

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[Balthazar, a standby for many of the writers that are participating in this survey, by Krieger]


Q: What were your top standbys of 2013?
Ryan Sutton, Bloomberg critic: Roberta's and, until it closed for renovations, Mission Chinese. Can't tell you how vital a place like MC is on Mondays when I often don't leave the office until like 11 p.m. I mean, really, once you get past 10 p.m. on a weeknight, the number of choices you have for an ambitious meal drops precipitously. But MC was an outlier. It's where I went for spice, salt, and gin & tonics late at night. As for Roberta's — I probably eat my way through 80 percent of the menu once every other month, and what chef de cuisine Nick Barker is doing with vegetables is absolutely phenomenal. I mean what else do you expect what you hire an ex-Manresa chef? Imagine: soft pumpkin with boudin noir, buttermilk, and pumpkin butter. Or cabbage "seasoned" with little bits of octopus. It's both forward looking fare yet accessible enough to eat every day.

Foster Kamer, senior editor at Complex: Marlow & Sons. It just gets more refined every year—the food, the service, the drinks program, all of it—and is an all-around wonderful place. The longer answer involves a lot of Jack's Wife Freda, Sel De Mer, Perla,The Balth, Joseph Leonard, a lot of La Superior, Diner, and not cooking for myself nearly enough. Seriously.

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[Rosemary's by Krieger]
Lockhart Steele, Eater co-founder: Rosemary's. I grabbed solo lunch at the bar, ordering orecchiette and some sort of tomato salad in summer, more times than I can count this year.

Talia Baiocchi, Punch editor in chief: In my neighborhood, St. Anselm. And Bamonte's, but not for the food. For the Italians.

Kate Krader, Food & Wine restaurant editor: No restaurant standby this year. And I want to hear what other people's standbys are because NYC has such a deep bench right now; there's just too many good places to eat, and they're spread all across the city. I loved Frank Bruni's piece about the joys of being a regular but I defy him, or anyone, to pick just one place right now.

Nick Solares, Serious Eats meat bureau chief, amNY features writer, and publisher of Beef Aficionado: Momofuku Ssam.

Jordana Rothman, veteran food editor/cocktail expert: I was so into Estela this year. Sneaky the way a longing for those ricotta dumplings or that burrata in salsa verde can creep up on you, and suddenly there you are at the hostess stand and you're all "Yes, yes, me again!" Maison Premiere, meanwhile, continues to be the best bar on the planet, staffed by the warmest and most gracious people. You can basically count on running into me there.

Gabriella Gershenson, Every Day with Rachael Ray food features editor: There are a few: Sakagura, Hide Chan Ramen, Saiguette. Very excited to have Red Farm in my neighborhood, too.

Scott Solish, Eater nightlife editor: Tie - Diner, Rubirosa and Mission Chinese Food [RIP :(]

Helen Rosner, executive digital editor at Saveur: I keep up a pretty steady rotation among Jack's Wife Freda, Parm, the Smile, and Sorella. But the real winner is Lafayette: It's only a very slight exaggeration to say I've eaten there once a week for the last six months. It's exactly what I want, all the time: Good food, good atmosphere, good service, refreshingly easy to get a walk-in table. And pastry chef Jen Yee's jasmine-flavored Yoshi Cake is my favorite dessert in the city right now.

Chris Stang, one half of Immaculate Infatuation: Prima. There's always a table, and the food is consistently excellent. That restaurant still doesn't get enough love.

Joshua David Stein, Observer critic and Eater contributor: The food guy answer is Flat Top, which is around the corner from my house and is for inventive bistro food what Jin Ramen, owned by the same folks who own Flat Top, is for ramen. The real no bullshit answer is a pretty good pizza place run by a really nice guy called Bettolona, whose gnocchi is the only thing my kid will eat.

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[Lafayette by Krieger]
Amanda Kludt, Eater editorial director: I probably had about 1,000 breakfasts, lunches, and coffee meetings at Lafayette. It's peaceful, it's beautiful, they have a loyalty card for the coffee, the roast chicken salad is something I would eat for lunch every day for eternity, and they have a mean pastry basket at brunch.

Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks + Marrow blogger: It's a good thing I don't have a cardiologist or an editor because either or both would tell me to stop eating at and writing about M. Wells Dinette in Long Island City. Foie gras and oats, blood pudding, cox and balls — I just love everything that comes out of Dufour's kitchen. My other go-to, Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, lies on the opposite side of the dining spectrum. This hole-in-the-wall inside a Pakistani bakery in Jackson Heights turns out the best Nepali soul food—the air dried beef jerky known as sukuti, fiery pickles, freshly fried tsel roti, and spectacular thali plates, among other things—in the hood. And then there are Flushing's Chinese food courts.

Danyelle Freeman, Restaurant Girl: Every year, I swear I'll find a restaurant standby, somewhere I can become a regular, but I really can't be monogamous to a restaurant. I've tried. There are just too many good, new restaurants opening every week that I feel compelled to try. The closest thing I have to standby is delivery from Lychee House, a solid Chinese joint in Midtown.

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[Nightingale 9 by Krieger]

Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor: I'm writing a book about Korean food and time after time I find Hooni Kim doing special things at Hanjan, where I visit like twice a month. I justify the expense as "book research" but it's really just a love for his pork fat ddukbokki. Also, Momofuku Ssam (now with Kate!), Roberta's, Nightingale 9, Mile End.

Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News senior editor: Tofu on 7th in Park Slope. Terrible name, great mapo dofu (with minced pork) and beef with tripe in hot oil.

Stan Sagner, Daily News critic: I don't really have a single place…I do have "go to" spots when specific cravings hit: Knickerbocker Bar and Grill is hopelessly old school and has a great burger. I think the M. Well's Steakhouse burger just might top it, but Knickerbocker still feels like home. I never, ever get tired of Sara Jenkins' pasta at Porsena, Uncle Nick's for when I need a taramosalata fix, and Xi'an Famous Food's spicy cumin lamb burger is the single best food deal in NY.

Ben Leventhal, Eater co-founder: Balthazar, Barbuto, Le Bilboquet, Runner & Stone, Littleneck.

Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse: I played the high/low card a lot this year. I spent a good amount of time at Pork Slope with the boys, drinking whiskey, eating Irish nachos and having a ball, eating caramel pork at Nightingale 9, and every Sunday afternoon you can find me at Roberta's. I also swung into a little more upscale places like Perla, Estela and Momo Sushi Shack. Finally, I hit Stan's Cafecito in Williamsburg a good amount for their all day breakfast.

Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen: I keep going back for North End Grill's $38 Sunday-night three-course prix-fixe—a superb deal in a civilized setting. (Get the $18 wine pairing, too.)

Jay Pascual, The Food Doc: On any given year, the restaurants of David Chang and Michael White would be my standby restaurants, but for 2013, my restaurant stand-by is Bun-Ker Vietnamese: outstanding Vietnamese cuisine and just a few minutes away from my apartment.

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[Otto by Krieger]
Kat Kinsman, Eatocracy managing editor: I never get tired of Otto, Hearth, Commerce, A Voce Columbus, Stone Park, Terroir, Soigne, Talde, (why yes, I *do* live in Park Slope — how'd you guess?), but I've probably been to Thistle Hill Tavern more than anywhere else this year other than possibly Tacos Nuevo Mexico. And sure, it helps that it's not far from my house, but I'm constantly pleased by the warm, quirky service, solid cocktails and always well-executed and constantly refined menu. It's also one of the best snow and dog-watching vantage points in NYC, and is rivaled only by Terroir Park Slope for excellent "Did we just listen to a whole side of a Joy Divison record, followed by a Stiff Records tribute? Juuuust making sure." soundtrack.

Michael Kaminer, Daily News critic: Not a fancy newcomer or secret Bushwick hole-in-the-wall, but Market Diner on 11th Avenue. I thank God every day it's still around, still feels real, and still delivers what a diner should. It's so good I've been grateful to schlep to 11th Avenue in a blizzard to eat there. And the coffee kicks ass.

Levi Dalton, Eater wine editor: Charlie Bird. Probably because I know what openings look like from the staff side, I usually give a restaurant five months or more before I go there much. I like to let a place settle in. Not with Charlie Bird. I have eaten there something like 15 times at this point. It is the kind of food that draws me back. It is what I want to eat.

Jamie Feldmar, Serious Eats managing editor: Nightingale 9. It's not that old, but I've been checking in periodically since it opened, and I'm pretty much incapable of having a bad meal there. I've also loved watching Mile End Brooklyn settle in to itself--something so much more than just a smoked meat emporium — while the Manhattan location shakes it up a little. Pok Pok when I have a car and it's a weeknight. Cocoran still turns out great noodles and I eat there whenever I'm working late and need to take a little breather by myself. But by sheer frequency, it was probably Saltie, which is my neighborhood default on every and any afternoon off.

Andrew Steinthal, one half of Immaculate Infatuation: Upstate Oyster & Craft Beer Bar. No other establishment in NYC has this kind of personal service and small town charm. Shane goes above and beyond for his regulars, which is everyone. All 30 seats are usually filled with return customers, which is the sign of a great neighborhood hang.

Marguerite Preston, Eater NY associate editor: Speedy Romeo is my go-to neighborhood spot, and one of the unsung heroes of Brooklyn restaurants. Everything (not just the pizza) that I have ever eaten there is great, and it's one of those places that always feels good to be it. For breakfast, I always end up at Tom's (the diner in Prospect Heights, not related to the diner in Seinfeld) for the perfect service and perfect eggs, and the fact that they hand out coffee and pancakes and french fries and orange slices and bacon while you wait. Doris is a newish bar at the south end of Bed-Stuy that I've been going to almost since the day it opened. It's right in the thick of seedy Fulton Street, but it's beautiful inside, rarely too busy, and has one of the best backyards come summer.

Kim Davis, The Pink Pig: The Elm (followed by Alder).

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[Buvette by Krieger]
Charlotte Druckman, author and senior editor at Medium: Buvette.

Robert Sietsema, Eater contributing editor: Jinya Ramen, an L.A. chain that invaded Greenwich Ave this year, makes spectacular noodles with both tonkotsu (try the spicy one!) and chicken broths.

Mimi Sheraton, former Times restaurant critic: Real standbys are those close to home, meaning Good, Elephant & Castle, Cafe Cluny for breakfast and lunch for which also La Bonbonniere (super Greek coffee shop) Meme for good North African-Israeli, Da Silvano for great antipasto vegetables and pastas. Other step-up standbys would be ABC Kitchen, Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud, and for really great celebratory occasions, I still choose La Grenouille.

Greg Morabito, Eater NY editor: Reynard and Szechuan Gourmet are the two restaurants that I visited the most in 2013.

Reynard is my favorite brunch/dinner/burger at the bar/fancy cocktail after work spot. It is the best restaurant in the Tarlow empire right now. Sean Rembold's food is rustic and always satisfying, and his menu usually includes a few ingredients that I've never heard of or tasted before.

For food and food alone, Szechuan Gourmet might be my favorite restaurant in New York City. The order is: sesame noodles, dumplings in chili oil, scallion pancake (yes), sliced pork belly with chili-garlic soy, crispy cumin lamb filets, and ma po tofu. My favorite weekend move is to call in the order on the East River Ferry ride into Manhattan, pick it up, then hit the next ferry back to Brooklyn.

· All Coverage of Year in Eater [~ENY~]

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