It’s been a particularly strong year for casual dining in NYC, and it showed in 2018’s Eater Awards for the city. Despite an increasingly difficult economic market for restaurants, the best new restaurants in New York have excelled at the art of everyday dining. They’re places with comfort food — warming noodle soup, perfect french fries, stellar Caesar salad — but they’re also restaurants proving that it’s possible to serve dishes outside the staples of NYC — like spicy fried duck tongue, calf’s brain, pig’s head terrine — in a space intended to be for regulars. Better yet, the ongoing obsession for natural wine and indie producers continues to great effect, meaning that some of the world’s best wines are being served in restaurants that are trying to feel like a New Yorker’s version of home.
Winners were tight last week during the reader’s choice voting, and now, it’s time to announce which restaurants, chefs, and designers won both the readers’ and editors’ choice awards in the ninth annual Eater Awards. See below for more on why these restaurants earned their place as winners, receiving Eater’s illustrious tomato can trophies.
Restaurant of the Year
From the moment it debuted in April, Frenchette has been white-hot — a marked accomplishment for a restaurant that at first glance amounts to just another French bistro. But it was immediately clear that this version from chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson is different from the tried-and-true, recognizable formula perfected by their former boss Keith McNally. Through warm hospitality, updated food, and an exciting, all-natural wine list, Nasr and Hanson have taken the staid genre and turned it on its head, making the mature cuisine feel fresh again.
Nasr and Hanson take seriously the mantra to change offerings regularly, but menu highlights run from duck frites in place of the classic steak to rotisserie lobster with curry butter, not to mention the thrilling wine that accompanies it all. Yes, it is tough to score a reservation, and yes, walking in almost guarantees a wait. But the generosity of service and spot-on food and drink more than make up for it. All together, the restaurant has managed to capture both the city’s most critical food lovers and neighborhood locals, making it an easy pick for 2018’s restaurant of the year.
Readers’ choice: Atomix
Chef of the Year
Kyo Pang, Kopitiam
For a couple years, plenty of people knew that Kyo Pang was a talent. Her tiny version of Malaysian cafe Kopitiam had a cult following for her deft take on sweets and classics from her native country. But it closed due to a rent hike — and as far as shutters go, turns out this one might have been a blessing. Her bigger and more ambitious version of Kopitiam, opened along with restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai, has been one of the most satisfying new restaurants of the year, and with it, Pang’s following has reached an expanded audience.
The chef consistently dishes out homey dishes like the warming pan mee (made-to-order hand-pulled noodles in an anchovy broth), addictive chilled spicy sesame noodles, and oh chien (fried oyster omelette). Her robust sweets menu, too, continues to shine in its expanded form, with stunning options like a honeycomb cake and a lychee-infused mochi with rose petals. It’s comforting yet complex fare executed a high level, bringing to New York a new standard of everyday dining.
Readers’ choice winner: Kyo Pang, Kopitiam
Design of the Year
Di An Di, owned by Kim Hoang, Tuan Bui, Dennis Ngo, designed by Huy Bui with consulting help from Michael Yarinsky
Brooklyn Vietnamese newcomer had a lot of things going for it: Dennis Ngo’s cooking, which brought a fresh level of creativity to Vietnamese dining in New York; solid cred from LES hit An Choi; an increasingly attractive street for dining. But the Greenpoint Avenue’s lush look tied it all together — neutral palettes, neon signs, rounded corners, copper-colored accents, and lots and lots of well-placed plants. It started getting attention on social media for its design even before it opened.
Co-owner Tuan Bui told Eater that being inside is supposed to evoke the tropical countryside in Vietnam; though plants are trending as decor on Instagram anyway, it’s difficult to execute and few are doing it at Di An Di’s level. It’s no wonder that Di An Di immediately became a scene after it opened in May. A combination of lively food, surprising cocktails, and a beautiful setting made it irresistible for the hip Brooklyn crowds.
Readers’ choice winner: Hunan Slurp
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year
Chez Ma Tante, Aidan O’Neal and Jake Leiber
New York happily continues to live in an age of the destination neighborhood restaurant — places with sharply executed and creative yet simple fare and geeky yet approachable drink lists. These restaurants evoke a sense of place within their surrounding homes, and most of all, accompany it with warm service that had us wishing we lived nearby so that we could dine there every week.
Greenpoint bistro Chez Ma Tante nailed this, serving food that’s pulled from French-Canadian traditions in a minimalist but warm room. All cuisine inspirations aside, it’s a restaurant serving clean, flavorful fare with just enough edge to keep things interesting. That means dishes like a pig’s head terrine next to a particularly stunning Caesar salad, or a pate as an appetizer before a standout chicken confit. In 2018, it also became a favorite for brunch — particularly for slightly charred pancakes that aren’t overly sweet or dense. All that, plus an exciting but approachable wine and cocktail list, made it the kind of restaurant both worth riding the G train for and a staple for locals who have increasingly sophisticated options.
Readers’ choice winner: Fausto
Dessert of the Year
Una Pizza Napoletana, Fabián von Hauske Valtierra
Devastated fans of the original Una Pizza Napoletana — which migrated to San Francisco in 2009 — were delighted to learn the cult-favorite pizzeria would make a return in 2018. But the twist no one saw coming was the desserts standing on their own, thanks to the talent of new co-owner and pastry chef Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra, Wildair).
At the now-Lower East Side restaurant, Von Hauske Valtierra takes Italian dessert classics like tiramisu and gelato and adds his own, brilliant flourishes. Vanilla gelato becomes addictively salty, while tiramisu uses lemon sponge cake soaked in espresso, Cynar, and aged rum in place of the traditional ladyfingers. Beyond that, there’s occasionally an equally elevated panna cotta, so it’s a slim offering — making it all the more remarkable that Von Hauske Valtierra has managed to make such big waves. A pro move would be stopping by Una Pizza simply to order the entire dessert menu.
Readers’ choice winner: Fabián von Hauske Valtierra at Una Pizza Napoletana