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NYC’s Biggest Dining Surprises of 2019

From new bakeries to the mainstreaming of an Indian street snack, here are some of the best restaurant surprises of the year

A selection of pastries from Pilar Cuban Bakery on plates of various sizes.
Pastries from Pilar Cuban Bakery
Carla Vianna/Eater

Welcome to Year in Eater 2019, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2019’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. Next: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2019?

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief: Just that we keep getting great, new, delightful bakeries. I love the addition of Ciao, Gloria to Vanderbilt Ave, Win Son Bakery to East Williamsburg, and Bien Cuit to Crown Heights. I love the cardamom buns at Fabrique, the creme brûlée tart at Bourke Street, the guava pastelitos and empanadas at Pilar Cuban Bakery, the babka at Michaeli, and the socials at Ole & Steen.

Amanda Mull, staff writer at The Atlantic: I had been looking forward to Red Hook Tavern’s promised fried chicken for like two years, and then it opened and didn’t have any fried chicken!

Chris Gayomali, GQ site editor: That the new power lunch is just hitting up the closest Juice Press.

Joseph Hernandez, food and drinks writer: For a few months, I worked down the street from the non-descript Hall, and its brand of un-presuming Japanese-ness was always a delight, from morning coffee through their impeccably executed wagyu burger at the bar. I had never heard of them before I had worked in the Flatiron district, and man, what a treat.

Matt Rodbard, founding editor of TASTE: West~bourne. I mean, every time I stop by there’s something new that surprises me in the best way.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic: The widening availability of regional Indian cooking at every price point.

Korsha Wilson, writer: I was surprised by the amount of attention NYC food media lavished on two things: Hudson Yards’ food court for the 1 percent and that goddamn Popeye’s chicken sandwich. If you told me a year ago that these two things would dominate so much of the New York conversation I wouldn’t have believed it.

Sonia Chopra, Eater director of editorial strategy: I can’t believe David Chang put vada pav, an Indian street-snack favorite, on his menus at Fuku. What a fun surprise and a testament to Indian food’s staying power (finally!).

Chris Crowley, staff writer at Grub Street: I did not think I would like Nami Nori as much as I did. I did not remember how much I used to like dynamite rolls.

Monica Burton, associate restaurant editor at Eater: Bad surprise: City Bakery closed! Good surprise: Peoples Wine is a delight, despite its food hall location.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY’s chief critic: Haenyeo, for sure. It brings me life force to see a chef who’s been going at it for so long get their proper due — by taking some serious risks, no less. While Hudson Yards felt the need to pack copycat chophouses and brasseries into its sleepy mall, this corner spot in Park Slope is knocking it out of the park with Mexican-Korean rice cake fundido. Second place: the awesome influx of very good cheung fun rice roll joints into Manhattan, including Joe’s (which opened late last year), Yin Ji Chang Fen, and best of all, Yi Ji Shi Mo.

Rachel Wharton, food writer and author of American Food: A Not-So-Serious History: I guess I am surprised I was not surprised by anything. Or maybe I am a little surprised we all still get super crazy excited about new pizza places, but then again, I do too.

Cathy Erway, food writer: Lucky Lee’s — the fact that someone in NYC was so ignorant about Chinese food that she opened a restaurant devoted to supposedly more healthful (than lo mein or other takeout, according to their Instagram) Chinese food so that people who shared her suspicions or charges against Chinese food didn’t have to worry about being poisoned/sickened/bloated or something(?)... was just so very not New York.

Serena Dai, editor of Eater NY: Surprising yet completely not surprising: Related CEO and Momofuku investor Stephen Ross’s Trump fundraiser.

Tanay Warerkar, reporter at Eater NY: The appetite for food halls in NYC is not slowing down

Alex Staniloff, Eater NY photographer: Man — that Stroopwafel McFlurry! I miss it so.

Charlotte Druckman, food writer and editor of Women on Food: Nothing surprises me anymore. But I am disappointed by the willingness of New Yorkers to so readily get on board the deep-dish, Midwestern-style pizza trend express.

Stefanie Tuder, senior editor of Eater NY: That despite restaurateurs facing ever-higher costs, they still managed to open even more exciting and cool and delicious restaurants.

Anna Hezel, senior editor at TASTE: I ate a lot of great crudites and a lot of great dips at restaurants in 2019. I feel like we could be moving back in a ’90s direction of putting “assorted dips” back on every menu.

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.


24 E 81st St, New York, NY

Win Son Bakery

164 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206 (917) 909-1725 Visit Website


17 West 20th Street, Manhattan, NY 10011 Visit Website

Red Hook Tavern

329 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 Visit Website

Nami Nori

33 Carmine Street, Manhattan, NY 10014 (646) 998-4588 Visit Website

Yi Ji Shi Mo

88 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan, NY 10013 (646) 233-6311

Lucky Lee’s

67 University Pl, New York, NY 10003 Visit Website


, Manhattan, NY Visit Website

Ciao, Gloria

550 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 (716) 666-2426 Visit Website

Bien Cuit

721 Franklin, Brooklyn, New York


1315 3rd Street Promenade, , CA 90401


137 Sullivan Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (347) 534-3050 Visit Website

Pilar Cuban Bakery

1074 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11216 (347) 350-9037 Visit Website


239 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (718) 213-2290 Visit Website

Ole & Steen

518 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10017 (929) 209-1544 Visit Website