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Friends of Eater Discuss the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2014

On the restaurants that exceeded expectations, the restaurants that didn't, and everything else people just didn't see coming.

Daniel Krieger

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.

Jordana Rothman, food writer and editor, cocktail expert:
The fact that we aren't making a bigger deal out of the fact that New York City is hemorrhaging talent. Damon Wise, Gavin Kaysen, Michael Toscano, Peter Cho-we're losing our chefs to other cities and it's going to keep happening because the barrier to entry here has become impossible to clear.

Mimi Sheraton, legendary critic and author of 1000 Foods To Eat Before You Die:
How great creamed corn can be, as at Elan

Michael Kaminer, New York Daily News restaurant critic:
Even with the hype, the flavor fireworks at Cosme surprised me — nice to know a jaded mouth can still experience new sensations. Also a surprise to see the prices — like $19 for three see-through, inch-wide pieces of hamachi.

Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen founding editor:
The Harrison closing. It was always in the top five list of Tribeca restaurants you might go on a given night.

A swing back to the middle of giving people what they want.

Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News senior food editor:
Limani, a terrifyingly expensive transplant from Long Island that opened across from Del Frisco's Grille in Rockefeller Center. Delicious food.

Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse:
A swing back to the middle of giving people what they want.

Charlotte Druckman, food writer:
The excellence of Del Posto (better than ever).

Root & Bone

Hillary Dixler, Eater associate reports editor: 
For me, the biggest surprise was Root & Bone. Here is a restaurant run by two Top Chef alums. Its design is ripped from Pinterest. There are long lines of beautiful people. And yet. The fried chicken really is outstanding. The non-fried chicken items I've had are also outstanding. Now, if only they had a bar space.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY restaurant critic:
African restaurants in the Bronx are thriving, and making their dining rooms more friendly to the general public. In fact, the Bronx is rapidly becoming the best borough to dine cheaply and well.

Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation:
Dumpling Galaxy. Who'd a thunk you could have so many dumplings, each so delicate and delicious and with distinct flavors.

Ben Leventhal, Resy co-founder; Eater co-founder:
That Park Avenue South was the best dining neighborhood.

A foreign chef like Enrique Olvera tempting his fate in New York and killing it.

Danyelle Freeman, Restaurantgirl.com:
A foreign chef like Enrique Olvera tempting his fate in New York and killing it here. So often chefs roll the dice here and get chased out of town, but Cosme has lived up to all the hype and then some.

Lest I forget to mention my favorite new donut shop, Underwest, tucked inside a dingy car wash on the West Side Highway. It's admittedly a pretty miserable location for highbrow halva donuts, but totally worth going out of your way for.

Helen Rosner, Eater, features editor:
Cosme. Not because it's good (that's not a surprise) but because the New York food scenesters finally decided they were emotionally ready to fall in love with a Mexican restaurant run by an actual person from Mexico.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY restaurant critic/data lead:
The biggest surprise for me was that New Yorkers, myself included, seem to be embracing Cosme. Sure, Enrique Olvera is well known in his home country, and around the world. But so is Gordon Ramsay, Yūji Wakiya, Gaston Acurio, Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, and others who, despite critical acclaim and multiple Michelin-stars, have never found a thriving base of support here in the Big Apple. Olvera got it right.

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief:
I was lucky enough to go on the review dinner with Ryan Sutton at Per Se and I thought it would be the meal of the year. I was incredibly surprised when it wasn't.

Per Se Daniel Krieger/Eater

Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks and Marrow/enabler of gluttons:
Definitely finding spinach pies at N.C. BBQ shrine Arrogant Swine.

Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor:
Sweetgreen. Holy fucking shit those lines. For salad. I gave up sometime in July. But credit where credit is due, it's the model that will be copied and copied and copied for several years to come. The low-impact lunch – both nutritionally and environmentally – is really the future.

Kat Odell, Eater editorial producer:
That bone broth is a thing?

Andrew Steinthal, The Infatuation co-founder:
Krupa Grocery in Windsor Terrace. The ideal neighborhood restaurant.

Nick Solares, Eater NY senior editor:
That Cosme's prices are fully justified.

Chris Stang, The Infatuation co-founder:
Underfinger.

Cosme Interior

If you're not stunned when a chef as great as Toscano decamps for the fuckin' sticks, you're part of the problem.

Greg Morabito, Eater engagement editor:
The Canora/Grieco split threw me for a loop.

Although he's doing great stuff at Upland now, I still kind of can't believe that Justin Smillie left Il Buco Alimentari. I just loved the combination of his food in that dining room.

But the biggest surprise is Dirty French, a totally weirdo restaurant that works because the Torrisi Boys want to win and always do. I hope they keep churning out eccentric, obnoxiously hot restaurants like this to balance out the boredom that's prevalent in so many other parts of the dining landscape.

Foster Kamer, ComplexFirst We Feast senior editor: 
Michael Toscano decamping to South Carolina. I'm sure some of the assholes here are gonna be like, "Well, obbbbbbviously, because Charleston is the nex-" and no, sorry: If you're not stunned when a chef as great as Toscano decamps for the fuckin' sticks, you're part of the problem.

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