Every year, Eater celebrates the best in new dining — a look at the top chefs, restaurants, and design that have opened in the last 12 months and made a big impression on the city. It’s the tenth annual edition of the Eater Awards, happening in 24 cities around the world.
Opening a new restaurant in New York isn’t getting any easier, and in a year where the biggest new influx of restaurants came from the $25 billion Hudson Yards project from controversial mogul Stephen Ross, many of our nominees stood out for delivering creative, quality restaurants to their communities as independent entrepreneurs. And at one of the few stand-outs at Hudson Yards, a new star chef was born in Eunjo “Jo” Park — who is making a name for herself even in a challenging space, and with a globally famous boss.
Take a look at our winners below, and why they were such vital additions to the dining scene in 2019.
Restaurant of the Year
This publication hasn’t shied away from Hudson Yards skepticism, so the fact that a restaurant in the mall is Eater NY’s top opening of the year is saying something. Despite its less-than-desirable locale, Kāwi stood out from the pack for its downright delicious, yet playful Korean-centric fare, stemmed from chef Jo Park’s unique point of view. Park’s Korean upbringing and French fine dining training shines through in dishes that put twists on Korean classics, like with a wagyu ragu over rice cakes, a savory tofu dish that’s reminiscent of crème brûlée, and kimbap that incorporates ingredients such as foie gras terrine and candied anchovy.
Though many are likely called here by the Momofuku name, Park is showcasing her individuality and unapologetic cooking style that both fits in with and stands apart from the rest of David Chang’s restaurant empire: The restaurant may be owned by Chang, but like the menu, it’s ruled by Park.
It’s at once both a shame and a delight that her refreshing point of view is broadcasted on the fifth floor of the Shops. The restaurant is out of the way from the typical dining neighborhoods that locals visit, but it’s heartening to imagine tourists stumbling upon the gem, and perhaps coming away from New York with a glimpse of one of the city’s most creative new restaurants. Even in a city full of excellent modern Korean fare, Kāwi impresses with its confident, bold cooking.
Design of the Year
Williamsburg counter-service cafe Gertie wasn’t the only all-day restaurant to open in the last couple years, but it’s certainly one of the most appealing. The deceptively simple menu of classic American fare like rotisserie chicken, a bacon and egg plate, and chocolate chip cookies nail the genre — it all feels light and is ideal for everyday eating. It also helps that the light-filled and airy space makes spending time in the restaurant so comfortable.
Co-owner Nate Adler drew inspiration from his grandmother Gertrude, a Queens woman who was “eccentric, playful, colorful,” he told Eater in February. The vibes can be spotted from the outside, which has murals from artist Sean Steed. Once inside, find pastel-colored geometric murals and blonde woods all over the space, along with retro seating and a record collection.
Tony-Shaba Shiber and Zach cohen of Commoncraft designed the space, while husband-wife duo Dan and Halley Strongwater of Otherness Studio handled that color scheme and signage, including commissioning artist Lea Carey for the mural inside that covers an entire wall.
The whole thing feels on-trend with modern restaurant design, but in a way that feels honest — and perfectly comfy for a leisurely breakfast or lunch in Williamsburg.
Bakery of the Year
Win Son Bakery
Chain bakeries from Australia, Denmark, Sweden, and elsewhere have been sweeping New York this year, but it’s hard to think of a more vital addition to the pastry community than Josh Ku, Trigg Brown, and Jesse Shapell’s standalone Taiwanese-American spot in East Williamsburg, where pastry chef Danielle Spencer oversees the baked goods.
On any given morning, hungry diners queue up for something with scant availability throughout the city: mochi doughnuts. Those warm snacks exhibit a nourishing weightiness, a pronounced saltiness, and most importantly, a stretchy qq texture. There’s also a plethora of other invented goods that aren’t classically Taiwanese or American or French — a yeast doughnut with fermented red rice frosting, a pineapple bun with laminated bottoms that resemble a croissant. Many of them are destination-worthy.
Then at night, patrons drop by for squid sandwiches and duck rice bowls, sometimes to cope with the epic waits at Win Son proper across the street.
Sinosphere bakeries constitute a vital slice of the New York pastry experience, but they’re largely confined to Chinatowns in Flushing, Manhattan, and elsewhere. Win Son suggests there’s a larger market for these treats.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.