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The NY Food World’s Biggest Surprises of 2017

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Unexpected desserts, Saltie’s departure, and more

An avocado and lime purée, eucalyptus yogurt, and lime snow plated on a black dish and set on a light wooden table.
Empellon’s avocado dessert
Photo by Nick Solares

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 was the biggest dining surprise of 2017?

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief: Getting to try Alex Stupak’s desserts again at Empellon Midtown. Nothing against his savory food at Empellon, but I was a huge fan of his desserts at wd~50 and getting to get a taste of that in such an unexpected place was pure joy.

Daniela Galarza, Eater senior editor: I wasn’t treated like complete shit when I walked into the Pool without a reservation.

Mayukh Sen, Munchies staff writer: Maybe it’s just the recency clouding my memory here, but Saltie announcing its closure blindsided me.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic: Ugly Baby — that there could be an approach to Thai food we hadn’t experienced yet, and we could still fan our mouths in pain.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY chief critic: Cote. Here in New York we have all sorts of exorbitant chain steakhouses charging absurd prices on porterhouses and mashed potatoes. And then Simon Kim, a guy with a single restaurant, a guy who doesn't benefit from nationwide economies of scale, shows up and finds a way to hawk tastings of American beef for $45 per person — sides and dry-aged options included. The chain steakhouses have always been ripping us off.

Sonia Chopra, Eater director of editorial strategy: I loved what Wifey was doing in Prospect Heights this summer: Great food and coffee in a super chill space. More pop-ups in 2018, please.

The dessert tower at Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe
The dessert tower at Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe
Photo by Jessie Jacobson

Stefanie Tuder, Eater NY senior editor: That Tiffany’s finally capitalized on its Audrey Hepburn-era fame with a touristy, gimmicky cafe in which to, yes, eat breakfast at Tiffany’s. And that I, along with hordes of other hardened New Yorkers, desperately want to go.

Patty Diez, Eater editorial coordinator: That Bobby Flay has a restaurant other than Gato?​

Devra Ferst, Eater contributor: I wish this year had contained more pleasant surprises.

Kevin Nguyen, GQ senior editor: Fuku. I mean, it's not new to 2017, but when I visited the first location in the East Village back in 2015, I was deeply underwhelmed. The spicy chicken sandwich was uneven and a little unwieldy — not to mention expensive for what it was. Danny Meyer made the elevated fast food game look easy. Maybe David Chang had underestimated it.

But I gave Fuku another shot this year, and man it has come a long way. Sure, the sandwich is a little cheaper now, but Fuku has finally nailed the most important part of fast food: consistency. Even if it’s just hipster Chik-fil-A, the sandwich is a comfort.

Serena Dai, Eater NY editor: Ugly Baby! What a delightful comeback that I didn’t realize I wanted.