Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
A couple of weekends ago, during the annual James Beard Foundation Awards festivities, it seemed that every time I checked Twitter or Instagram a chef or food writer was posting about their meal at Estela. It was one of three New York hopefuls up for the year's Best New Restaurant prize (which ultimately went to Peche in New Orleans). Estela's Manhattan competition, glittery Betony in Midtown and red-sauce fantasy Carbone in Greenwich Village, both had much higher profiles. A 55-seat charmer housed in a former knitting factory on East Houston Street, Estela earned solid reviews after opening in June last year. Its renown kept building, though, on the strength of Uruguayan-born chef Ignacio Mattos's idiosyncratic cooking and the seductive beverage list assembled by co-owner Thomas Carter, previously the wine director of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Visiting food pros were curious about the place. I know I was.