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Friends of Eater on the Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2014

The best places to eat right now.

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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 running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. Their answers will appear throughout the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Please, add your answers in the comments.

Michael Kaminer, New York Daily News restaurant critic:
I loved Warren Baird’s Chapter One, which opened on Greenwich Avenue — the West Village’s Restaurant Row — this summer. Madiba, an offshoot of the beloved South African spot in Fort Greene, spiffs up the surroundings for its Harlem crowd, but sticks with Mark Henegan’s beautifully executed "home cooking."

Lockhart Steele, Vox Media editorial director; Eater co-founder:
I tend to binge on restaurants when they open, which is what I did this summer at Bar Primi and Claudette, and this fall at Dirty French and Marta. Love all those spots, but my newcomer of 2014 is the restaurant I wish I'd dined at way more often: Narcissa. I first ate at John Fraser's reinvention of the haunted Standard East Village restaurant space in January, right after it opened, and was blown away. I dined there again early in the summer, and then outside, tucked into the garden, in early September. Each meal was among the best I had all year. Three times just didn't cut it; I'm doubling down on Narcissa in 2015.

Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse:
Contra, Birds & Bubbles.

elan

Mimi Sheraton, restaurant critic and author of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die:
North End Grill (new chef, Eric Korsh), The Clam, Gato, elan, Sushi Nakazawa, Cherche Midi, Batard.

Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation:
Dumpling Galaxy: OMG! The most incredible dumplings, an incredible selection, and the other food is superb, as well. Blows my mind how good the food is.
Cosme: So unexpectedly comfortable and delicious. Smart, creative, but still totally yummy. The duck carnitas and the corn husk meringue stand out.
Little Park: The food feels like retro Carmellini, resonant with his Cafe Boulud days. The butternut squash and burrata dish is remarkable. There's a softer environment and softer food. It's really lovely.
The Nomad Bar: Who knew that hot dogs, chicken pot pie, and other bar food could be so delicious?
Batard: Love the Mitteleuropean flourish. It's more comfortable than in it's Corton iteration.
Momofuku Ko (Redux): New, with a more comfortable space and a great menu.

Kim Davis, The Pink Pig:
Cosme, by a mile. Honorable mentions: Gato, Batard, All'onda, Delaware & Hudson.

Jordana Rothman, food writer and editor, cocktail expert:
Cosme is really the beginning and the end of the best new restaurant conversation as far as I'm concerned. I don't love the cement room (or the resulting acoustics), but Enrique Olvera's food is astonishing. Enfrijoladas, scallop aguachile, pozole, duck carnitas, husk meringue...I waited all year to be this moved by a meal.

I also had wonderful dinners at Via Carota, Upland, and Tuome. And I'm obsessed with this anonymous little Thai place in Red Hook called Kao Soy — it looks like a janky takeout spot but they are actually serving super meticulous and complex curries, noodles and snacks. Feels like a real discovery (and they deliver). Marta is great too, especially that lamb mixed grill, and definitely Ivan Ramen.

There were also a few great new bars to talk about this year. Long Island Bar is everything I have ever wanted in a local spot: Relaxed with good cocktails that aren't self-conscious and easy-drinking food. I also love Rocka Rolla in Williamsburg because there's a good juke, bad-girl bartenders, and because I am gross and I like drinking slushy bourbon out of fish bowls.

Cosme is really the beginning of the end of the best new restaurant conversation.

Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen founding editor:
Arcade Bakery, Racines NY, Semilla, Evening Bar, Bâtard, Grand Banks.

Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News senior food editor:
Limani, the Gander, and Bacchanal. I suspect Decoy, Cherche Midi, Marta, Root & Bone, Bâtard and Elan are great, but I haven't been yet.
I'm also positive that I've forgotten a bunch.

Hillary Dixler, Eater associate reports editor:
Hands down my favorite 2014 additions to the NYC dining scene are Russ & Daughters Cafe and Marta. These are places I just keep going to back to.

Ben Leventhal, Resy co-founder; Eater co-founder:
Upland, Cosme, Marta, Claudette, Narcissa, Ivan Ramen, Bowery Meat Company.

Danyelle Freeman, Restaurantgirl.com:
Tuome snuck in at the tail end of 2014 and killed it. Thomas Chen's Chinese fusion is both innovative and inspiring. I think we'll see a lot more young gun chefs taking chances like this in the near future.

Coming in a close second for me were Cosme and Narcissa for different reasons. Cosme is the kind of restaurant I hate to love because it's such a tough reservation, but this modern Mexican joint with a decidedly global bent is undeniably awesome. Take the burrata and weeds with salsa verde, for example. It's such a simple, yet genius combination of flavors and cuisines. (And I'm still dreaming about the Swiss chard tamale and husk meringue!)

Then, there's John Fraser's Narcissa, with its SoCal, vegetable-centric cooking — that perfect combination of trendy, tasty, and healthful. And last, but in no way least, is John McDonald & Josh Capon's Bowery Meat Company, a terrific new breed of chophouse; the kind that considers the seasons. The kind with a real deal chef in the kitchen who doesn't throw a stick of butter on the top of every steak because the cuts here are too top notch to drench in butter. Besides, how often do you see deckle served as the house steak? That's one underrated, underserved piece of meat deserving of more air time.

Cherche Midi for Sutton review Nick Solares

Nick Solares

Helen Rosner, Eater features editor:
Cherche Midi, NoMad Bar. And it's not a newcomer, but this was really Del Posto's year. God, what a great restaurant, and it's only getting better and better.

Max Falkowitz, Serious Eats senior features editor:
I could happily live off Donostia's aioli-slathered tortilla and canned seafood menu (the sherry helps), and it's one of the few tapas bars in this city that feels like it'd truly be at home back in Spain. Is it the most ambitious opening of the year? Absolutely not. But it's one of the best calibrated. They accomplished exactly what they set out to accomplish, and they've done it beautifully.

I could happily live off Donostia's aioli-slathered tortilla and canned seafood menu.

Bar Bolonat is a damn fun place to eat. I'm looking forward to it developing some age, and for the shoutiest of the West Village dining set to move on somewhere else.

Once we dig past the hyped-up restaurants, here's one I'm really hoping will stick around: Au Za'atar in the East Village. Because every neighborhood deserves Middle Eastern cooking this fresh, flavorful, and detail-oriented. Particularly when it comes to lamb tartare.

Devra Ferst, Eater NY associate editor:
Cosme is stellar, but I also loved some of the smaller openings like Au Za'atar and Kao Soy.

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief:
Cosme, Marta, Cherche Midi.

Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks and Marrow/enabler of gluttons:
Helen You launched Dumpling Galaxy taking a Flushing hawker stand and turning it into a one-star New York Times operation offering 100 kinds of dumplings. Meanwhile in Queens' other Chinatown Elmhurst Eim Khao Man Gai perfumed the streets with the scent of Thai chicken and rice and Plant Love House brought super teen gai-a sour and spicy Thai chicken foot soup-to the masses in what once housed a Tibetan joint.

Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor:
French Louie, GG's, Tuome, Sushi Dojo, Ivan Ramen, Kura, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong.

Kat Odell, Eater editorial producer:
Marta, Arcade Bakery, Dimes, Ivan Ramen, Tuome, Root & Bone, Cherch Midi, Russ & Daughters

Andrew Steinthal, The Infatuation co-founder:
Bar Bolonat, Kura, Delaware & Hudson, Underfinger.

Nick Solares, Eater NY, senior editor
Batard, Cosme, Cherche Midi, Dirty French, Marta.

Chris Stang, The Infatuation co founder:
Upland and Gato are in the mix, but The Eddy might might be the most impressive for what they're doing with about 400-square-feet of restaurant. I still can't figure out why more people aren't on to Contrada.

Batard

Greg Morabito, Eater, Engagement Editor
Batard exceeded my very high expectations, both in terms of food and overall experience. That restaurant added a jolt of fun to the fine dining world. I also love that Batard doesn't have a lofty concept or theme — it's just a comfortable place with great food, attentive service, and a lively spirit.

I was surprised by the pizza, pasta, and salads at GGs. That place is not blazing any trails, but Bobby Hellen is clearly putting a lot of care into the cooking.

Also, on the pizza kick, I loved all my meals at Marta. That food is just so satisfying and I weirdly dig that clean, comfy dining room and Danny Meyer mega-hospitality vibe.

Tejal Rao, Bloomberg, restaurant critic
Semilla is just a couple of months old and I think it's already one of the loveliest and most exciting places to go for dinner in New York. It's rare for a restaurant to be so smart, but also so unpretentious. I loved it.

Foster Kamer, Complex / First We Feast, senior editor
Russ & Daughters Cafe, which is the only new restaurant that will outlive every other restaurant on this list, and possibly, The Singularity. Despite being insurmountably, comically overhyped, Cosme is legitimately great and an important new player, and almost lives up to the hyperbole all the other cretins here like me have hoisted upon it. But, even though it opened last year, more than anything else, this seemed like the Year of Estela, a restaurant that without theater or bombast ,or scene-driven bullshit-quietly exists as of the most delicious, great, and accessible places to go for dinner in our city, now. Everything else felt redundant. The best new fried chicken/ramen/whatever is great, but it's still fried chicken/ramen/whatever.

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