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Ugly Baby Is Low-Key NYC’s Top Restaurant Newcomer of 2017

The openings that mattered most, according to the city’s top food writers

A dining room table with several dishes, two orange beverages with ice cubes, and a few ornamental, palm-sized cacti.
Ugly Baby
Photo by Jessie Jacobson

Welcome to Year in Eater 2017, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2017’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Today’s topic: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2017?

Serena Dai, Eater NY editor: The Grill was hands down the best new restaurant. Ugly Baby was a lovely surprise, and Ferris and Uncle Boons Sister are both places I hope to visit again and again.

Khachapuri adjaruli at Georgian Dream
Khachapuri acharuli at Georgian Dream
A. E. Davis

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic: Upscale, I loved Evelina, Claro, Tomino, Chez Ma Tante, and Clay; downscale, While in Kathmandu, Victoria Deli (a new Mexican bodega taqueria), Georgian Dream, Gumbo Bros., 108 Food; in between, Ugly Baby, El Atodero Taqueria, Santa Panza.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY chief critic: Cote, Nargis, The Grill, Atla, Empellon Midtown Desserts, Uncle Boons Sister, Little Tong, Corner Slice, Chinese Tuxedo, Vini e Fritti, Reynard 2.0

Stefanie Tuder, Eater NY senior editor: Hanoi House, The Grill, Uncle Boons Sister, Nur

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief: Cote, The Grill, abcv, Union Square Cafe

Daniela Galarza, Eater senior editor: Atla, Caffe Marchio

Sonia Chopra, Eater director of editorial strategy: I spent a lot of time at Parklife, eating tacos from the El Atoradero crew in a fun open backyard space with great drinks. And I'm already loving Claro, when I can get a table.

A man in a white tuxedo stands behind the bar at the Grill, in front of a giant arrangement of pink and red flowers
The Grill
Gary He/Eater NY

Patty Diez, Eater editorial coordinator: ​Unsurprisingly, ​The Grill is practically perfect, and Uncle Boons Sister is all I've ever wanted. In 2018 I'm also excited to revisit late joiners like Ferris and Scampi.

Devra Ferst, Eater contributor: Ugly Baby for racily spicy food, Otway for the food I could eat almost daily, The Office for drinks and hauntingly good mussels.

Mayukh Sen, Munchies staff writer: There’s a bunch I still haven’t tried, but Birds of a Feather sticks out to me. And, sorry, I still love Made Nice in spite of the double whammy of it getting middling reviews from both Ryan Sutton and Pete Wells on the same day!

Kevin Nguyen, GQ senior editor: I cried figurative tears when Sirichai Sreparplarn's Kao Soy closed its Red Hook location. The dish that the joint took its name from is a curry topped with a crown of crispy fried egg noodles, a satisfying Northern Thai dish with a wicked range of texture and flavor. Guys, it was so good. I still dream of it.

So I was thrilled when he opened the delightfully named Ugly Baby, conveniently located on Smith Street in Cobble Hill (or is that Boerum Hill? I can never tell which is which (wait I just googled, it’s Carrol Gardens)). The menu is slightly more sophisticated, and a hell of a lot spicier. I'd always thought my heat tolerance was good, but my god, the new version of kao soy is another level. This one has a different broth base—coconut instead of chicken—heartier and just as delicious. This time I cried literal tears from the heat.