As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. We've already covered best standbys. Now it's time for top newcomers.
[Charlie Bird by Bess Adler]
Talia Baiocchi, Punch editor in chief: I'm torn between Estela and Charlie Bird. Both are fantastically well-rounded restaurants that offer a beverage experience on par with the quality of the food. Having both elements in sync and not having to sacrifice one for the other when dining out is becoming more commonplace, and that's a beautiful thing.
Kate Krader, Food & Wine restaurant editor: This has to be plural — top five. Places I needed an excuse not to go to: Carbone; Estela; Charlie Bird; The Elm; Lafayette (which wins my most improved award).
Also new and very happy they're here this year: Luksus; Uncle Boons; Mission Cantina (already); Ivan Ramen; Betony; Piora; Nakazawa; Toro; Bergen Hill; Pearl & Ash; Han Dynasty; Whiskey Soda Lounge; Dover.
The places I'm embarrassed I haven't been yet: Contra!; Sushi Ko; Lulu & Po; Rotisserie Georgette.
Lockhart Steele, Eater co-founder: Charlie Bird. Everything about the place — the vibe, the staff, the food, the sunlight flooding in from the setting sun to the west — said summer 2013. Good news: it's not so bad in fall or winter, either.
[Carbone by Daniel Krieger]
Ryan Sutton, Bloomberg critic: Carbone. You see here's the thing: Italian-American food, a classic cuisine of New York, New Jersey, and Long Island, has remained relatively unchanged for so long. So what these guys are doing — refining and elevating red sauce fare to the level of Fancy French fare — is absolutely crucial to our shared culinary past and future.
[Rotisserie Georgette by Krieger]
Danyelle Freeman, Restaurant Girl: I think it's got to be Rotisserie Georgette. It's not terrifically innovative or anything, but with rotisserie meats this good, it's got major staying power, especially for the power lunch crowd. I'm still thinking about their chocolate pot de crème, which is by far one of the simplest and best desserts I've had all year and I'm a dessert girl.
Nick Solares, Serious Eats meat bureau chief, amNY features writer, and publisher of Beef Aficionado: I think you have to hand it to Carbone. In terms of publicity and pre opening-hype, in terms of execution of vision and because they are offering such an exalted form of Italian-American cuisine the restaurant really played the game on the highest level. That said I thought that Eater's self-parody of its coverage of Lafayette was hilarious and worthy of some kind of award.
[Lafayette by Krieger]Gabriella Gershenson, Every Day with Rachael Ray food features editor: I have a few favorites, for different reasons. Lafayette — I love how unabashedly French it is, the grand cafe energy, the opulence and the buzz. And M. Wells Steakhouse in LIC. Not only did I have the best oysters I've had in a long time there, it upholds the great tradition of hidden New York restaurants, with the unmarked door and the oasis/party-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel. Everyone loves being in on a good secret. I've also been enjoying the Asian newcomers, cuisines that we could still use more exposure to — Laotian(-ish) at Khe-Yo, Thai at Uncle Boons.
Foster Kamer, senior editor at Complex: It'd probably have to be Sushi Nakazawa or The Elm, right? Wouldn't know. Didn't go to either of 'em! Didn't go to Carbone or Mission Cantina, either. But I did have an incredible meal, and after that, a lot of truly excellent delivery from Bunker. But of all four of those places, I desperately want to go to Sushi Nakazawa, so I'm making that my newcomer of the year, in the shameless hope that they will reach out and give me a reservation.
[Glasserie by Bess Adler]
Scott Solish, Eater nightlife editor: Glasserie.
Matt Duckor, Bon Appetit multimedia editor: I don't feel at all compelled to pick this because of my colleague Andrew Knowlton's list, but 2013 was the year LA's Alma blew onto the scene. Ari Taymor is cooking on another level and with the energy that only a young chef with one project can. Go now.
Helen Rosner, executive digital editor at Saveur: Big fan of Charlie Bird. Thirty Acres in Jersey City technically opened last year, but this year it really came into its own.
[Pearl & Ash by Daniel Krieger]
Levi Dalton, Eater wine editor: From the wine perspective, it was definitely Pearl & Ash. It wasn't so much that they did anything NEW. There is nothing crazy different about it. The wine list is as long as the old wine lists. The service standards are the same as the old wine places. Maybe that was the triumph. They tinkered with the setup just enough that they made it relevant again, but they kept what they cared about. I don't know that that is revolutionary, but it certainly feels damn difficult right now.
Jordana Rothman, veteran food editor/cocktail expert: Estela, obviously. Carbone. Also Bunker out in Ridgewood is doing world-class Vietnamese food, such a surprising place. I've had a great meal at Glasserie in Greenpoint, and the al pastor tacos with fresh masa tortillas at Los Tacos No. 1 are serious.
Chris Stang, one half of Immaculate Infatuation: Charlie Bird. It's like Cheers with really good food, and I want to be their wine-buzzed Norm.
[Estela by Daniel Krieger]
Amanda Kludt, Eater editorial director: It's a tossup between Estela and Charlie Bird in my book. I know everyone is throwing around the same two restaurant names but they really are fun, interesting restaurants where you have to try incredibly hard to have a bad meal and a bad time. Outside of Manhattan, my hat goes off to Paul Liebrandt for changing the game and to all the Sara(h)s at Glasserie and the team at Bun-Ker for creating destinations in the middle of nowhere.
Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks + Marrow blogger: I love M. Wells Steakhouse, but I'm going to have to give this one to Joshua Smookler's Mu Ramen. Only in Queens can you find a French-trained Korean-American chef making top-notch ramen in a bagel shop. Runners-up: Mission Cantina and Ivan Ramen Slrup Shop but only because I haven't been.
Charlotte Druckman, author and senior editor at Medium: Estela & Glasserie.
Robert Sietsema, Eater contributing editor: Estela.
Mimi Sheraton, former Times restaurant critic: Rotisserie Georgette certainly gets my vote as best new restaurant of the year...roast chicken, gnocchi, stuffed baked potato, foie gras, apple tart tatin, and great look, as though it has always been there.
Two more top newcomers for me were the Korean HanJan and Latin ABC Cocina (turn off the dark..and the noise). Also promising in the West Village especially because I love and miss French bistro food, two newcomers: Le Baratin on Greenwich Ave, for a true bistro menu already promisingly executed, and Wallflower, a tiny wine bar on West 12th Street with mostly delicious stylish modern riffs on bistro food, many presented as small plates.
Joshua David Stein, Observer critic and Eater contributor: Gah. Well if you think of restaurants as rocks and New York a body of water, and not analyzing at all the quality or makeup of the rock in question merely how large the ripples are, the newcomer that created the most stir is Carbone, followed by Charlie Bird. Both are restaurants with serious shortcomings but creating a conversation isn't one of them.
Marc Shepherd, NY Journal blogger: Betony.
[Bergen Hill by Krieger]
Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor: Lafayette, Bergen Hill, Whiskey Soda Lounge, Sweetgreen, MaisonO, Mission Cantina. Nightingale 9 is my neighbor, friend and I must have ordered their cha ca catfish like a dozen times. And look beyond the Doritos noodle thing at King Noodle. Nick Subic is about to turn some heads, and without that powdered orange shit.
Stan Sagner, Daily News critic: There was so much to choose from this year. The lower profile openings were among the best of the bunch: Prospect in Fort Greene, Astoria's Milkflower, and Matt Lambert's The Musket Room is probably my favorite. The Elm, despite its slightly weird vibe and location, is a close second. Paul Liebrandt is undeniably a genius.
Ben Leventhal, Eater co-founder: Channeling Kate Krader, I'm playing the four-way tie card. Charlie Bird, Glasserie, Estela, and Rotisserie Georgette.
Jay Pascual, The Food Doc: Betony.
Kat Kinsman, Eatocracy managing editor: I feel slightly guilty, but I traveled so much in 2013 that most of my outings to new restaurants were in other cities like Nashville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta and Charleston. If we can go with "new to me," and allow an opening-day grace period back to late 2012, I was just recently dazzled by the creativity and craft of Prospect, from artful (but not precious) cocktails to the single most impressive and delicious vegetable plate I've ever eaten, to a sweetbread nugget that could put Big Chicken outta business. Build a visit into your next BAM date. Also circa that way-back September '12 era opening date, I've probably consumed more quality ounces of alcohol at Center Bar than anywhere else. It feels faaaaaaancy in its station outside some of the country's most expensive restaurants, but the service is wonderfully un-stuffy and the drinks put a goofy grin on my face every time.
[Mission Cantina by Krieger]
Marguerite Preston, Eater NY associate editor: I'm still catching up on some of the major contenders in this category, but Mission Cantina should get some points for the sheer size of the hype storm combined with what is genuinely really good food.
Michael Kaminer, Daily News critic: Milk River, the Chinese-Jamaican spot in Brooklyn. La-Niece Lyew brings a chef's hand and sophisticated eye to down home fare like jerk wings and chicken and waffles. And the room's beautiful.
Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse: Glasserie, hands down. Seriously, it's in the relative middle of nowhere and it is always packed. It's the type of restaurant I want to climb into at the end of a bad day and know it's going to be all right.
Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen: I'm most excited about Pisillo Italian Panini, an old-school sandwich shop east of City Hall Park that Downtown Lunch turned me on to. The folks running it and all the ingredients are Italian (no Salsalito turkey, no Alpine Lace cheese, no shitty tomatoes...), prices top out at around $12, and sandwiches are big enough to feed two. And I never say that!
Jamie Feldmar, Serious Eats managing editor: Glasserie. Everything about it — the gorgeous room, the unusual drinks, that epic rabbit three ways. Estela has a sultry atmosphere that makes me not ever want to leave, and a killer beef tartare. Bunker still needed to work out some service issues when I went, but it's some of the better Vietnamese I've come across, and it's in Ridgewood, which is a nice change of pace. Carbone, of course, which burned hard and fast from day one but mostly lived up to the hype. And I was pleasantly surprised by how straight-up *fun* my meal at Alder was.
Andrew Steinthal, one half of Immaculate Infatuation: Luksus at Torst. Had a couple amazing meals here, and overall just love the juxtaposition of eating high end cuisine while a Matthew Dear track pulses, loud, through the soundsystem in the back of a world class beer bar in the middle of nowhere/Greenpoint.
[Alameda by Krieger]
Greg Morabito, Eater NY editor: Lafayette. A lot of foodies acted too cool for school right after this place opened, and some people complained that it was watered down Balthazar...which is a shame, because Lafayette was performing at a very high level on day one and it's only gotten better since then. If Lafayette opened anywhere outside of New York, it would be the hottest ticket in town and New Yorkers would brag about visiting it on their vacations. Rest assured, someone is going to open a copycat of Lafayette in the next three years — possibly in San Francisco — and the local critic will give it three stars.
In 2013, I was impressed by the crop of openings in North Greenpoint, which I define as the zone between Greenpoint Avenue and Newton Creek in Brooklyn. I've lived in this enclave for six years, and the non-Polish food has sucked for most of that time, with Paulie Gee's being the big exception (it's always been great). But now, finally, there are three hip, reasonably priced new restaurants with exciting food and the type of service you expect in downtown Manhattan: Glasserie, Alameda, and River Styx. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.
And finally, The Elm, Mission Cantina, and Gotham West Market all exceeded my very high expectations. I can't wait to go back to these places, and order things that I haven't tried before.
· All Coverage of Year in Eater [~ENY~]