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. Now: What was your best restaurant meal of 2019?
Stefanie Tuder, senior editor of Eater NY: The zany delight of dining at Chinese hot pot chain HaiDiLao in Flushing was something that stands way out. Beyond features like massage chairs and a children’s playroom inside the waiting area, the dining room had roving robot servers, dancing chefs, stuffed companions, and all-you-can-eat soft serve — not to mention deeply flavored broths and fresh ingredients. The food itself was enough to make the restaurant rise above, but the quirky details made HaiDiLao unforgettable.
Cathy Erway, food writer: A ladies’ night dinner at Rahi, in the West Village. The shareable menu was exciting and great for our great of vegetarian and non-vegetarian eaters.
Anna Hezel, senior editor at TASTE: A whitefish melt and a cheese blintz from B&H Dairy.
Serena Dai, editor of Eater NY: I’m lucky to have had many fantastic meals, but it’s hard to beat my first time at the new Pastis. My friend and I were chatting and laughing after a long hiatus — with her, fresh off of getting a big raise where we discussed the negotiation process together. The room was packed and lively, the lobster-frites was ginormous, the service was warm, and we sat in clear view of an A-List actor the entire time. It was hard to not feel on top of the world.
Chris Crowley, staff writer at Grub Street: Maybe a day spent eating around some old and new favorites in Queens, including Lhasa Fast Food, 5 de Mayo Food Market, La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, and others? (Also Nico’s in Mexico City...)
Tanay Warerkar, reporter at Eater NY: A lunch at the Adda — the food reminded me of the places my parents used to stop at during childhood trips to the mountains in India.
Chris Gayomali, GQ site editor: Miss Ada, for dinner in the dead of winter, with good friends and a variegated spread of vegetables. (Except for the chicken livers.)
Sonia Chopra, Eater director of editorial strategy: I had some really good meals at sit-down spots, including newer ones like GupShup and Wayan, but nothing makes me happier than a good spread from Superiority Burger.
Ryan Sutton, Eater NY’s chief critic: It was pretty special dining at Bavel in Los Angeles, one of my favorite restaurants in the U.S., the moment I turned 40, and I’m still thinking about the energizing meals I had at Dana Rodriguez’s Super Mega Bien in Denver. But in New York, I’d say it’s a tie between dinner with my dad at Kāwi (which I already wrote about), and the first of three review dinners at Le Bernardin. After a long, draining week in August, I walked over to the restaurant’s bar and ordered the tasting menu. The culinary fireworks that ensued — due in no small part to the black truffle salmon — helped straighten out my Sutton Soul.
Korsha Wilson, writer: If I’m honest, my best restaurant meal of the year wasn’t in New York. It was at Mexico City’s Maximo Bistro. A close second would be a beautiful pescatarian feast at Gloria over the summer that culminated in a large fried fish head with lots of herbs and shiso to use as wraps.
Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic: A communal meal with my Eater colleagues at the new hot pot import HaiDiLao in Flushing.
Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief: I Sodi
Amanda Mull, staff writer at The Atlantic: Ogliastro Pizza Bar in Prospect Heights makes a pizza with potatoes, pancetta, and gremolata that is stunningly good.
Rachel Wharton, food writer and author of American Food: A Not-So-Serious History: It’s not in New York City, but close. My favorite meal was at a Haitian place in Pleasantville, New Jersey called Prestige. I had the fried turkey with the best brown sos, or sauce, and the best djon djon, or black rice made with mushrooms, and they brought in pate from this killer bakery in Baltimore. OH! Also a pizza tie from both Ernie’s and Bobby’s pizza in New Haven, CT during fresh tomato season. The bread basket at Park Side in Corona was also a highlight. When was the last time you had a bread basket?? When was the last time it came with prosciutto bread and olive oil and chile toasts??
Alex Staniloff, Eater NY photographer: Olmsted. It was my first time dining there this year, and it won’t be the last.
Monica Burton, associate restaurant editor at Eater: I’m going to limit this to New York (for obvious reasons) and to recent memory (because this is a very difficult question), and I’ll say Llama San. But a dinner of sizzling, spicy fish at Chuan Tian Xia in Sunset Park earlier this year also comes to mind.
Charlotte Druckman, food writer and editor of Women on Food: Dinner at Pim Techamuanvivit’s Nari in San Francisco, no contest. But a late supper at Jen Agg’s Bar Vendetta in Toronto was right up there. And a birthday dinner at Wu’s Wonton won’t be forgotten soon (the CRAB, three ways); neither will a late-night bistecca alla fiorentina at I Sodi with loved ones (best steak in NYC). Oh, not a “normal” restaurant meal, but the pizza night High Street on Hudson hosted for the launch of “Women on Food” was incredibly special: it turns out Melissa Weller’s as good at making pizza as she is everything else, and it was so cool (and impressively delicious) to see what Kyo Pang, Simone Tong and Tracy Oblosky put on that dough — not a dud in the bunch. I’m still thinking about these little turmeric bundt cakes Charmaine McFarlane made for dessert. The Single Thread dinner at Atomix was pretty spectacular, too. Finally, a half-birthday celebration at Tomita at Cagen (and thanks for the rec, Dan Saltzstein) in the East Village was one of the best omakase sushi meals on record, and, bonus, introduced me to some species of fish I’d never heard of let alone eaten before.