Wayan! Wayla! Wāyo! It’s hard out there for people trying to differentiate hip New York restaurants. People reportedly end up at the wrong one of these restaurants all the time, taking a cab to the West Village (Alta) instead of Noho (Atla), or making a res for a friend at Wayan instead of Wayla. Confused? That’s fine! Google maps searching Niche Niche versus Niche will do that to you.
Thankfully, most of these restaurants are solid. Here’s a guide to help your dinner party nail down which one you’re actually talking about, plus suggested shorthand for easier reference.
Wayan vs. Wayla vs. Bar Wāyo
Location: Nolita, 20 Spring St., between Mott and Elizabeth Streets
Vibe: Kind of dark and sexy! Definitely date night appropriate.
Stand-outs: Chicken satays, baby back pork ribs with tamarind glaze, the rice dish nasi goreng, pandan custard dessert
Price point: About $100 per person
Critics say: “If chicken satays sound boring, consider this: The thigh meat exhibits the silkiness of tofu, while a beige peanut sauce flaunts the richness of cream. It’s like blanquette de veau on a stick, albeit energized with coconut and red curry.” — Ryan Sutton
Nickname: That sexy Indonesian restaurant Wayan
Location: Lower East Side, 100 Forsyth St., between Grand and Broome streets
Cuisine: Thai street food
Vibe: Casual and convivial, with a chill backyard with communal tables
Stand-outs: Moo sarong (meatballs wrapped in crispy noodles), any cocktail
Price point: Most entrees under $30
Critics say: A New Yorker writer dug that meatball appetizer, but word from Eater staffers is that though it’s popular and has a fun vibe, the menu’s not that much more interesting than New York’s many neighborhood Thai restaurants. Drinks are on-point, though.
Nickname: That cute Lower East Side Thai restaurant with a backyard
Location: Seaport (and FiDi-adjacent), 89 South St. on Pier 17
Cuisine: Momofuku-style global bar food and takes on tiki drinks
Vibe: Like if a mall bar had a killer view of boats and downtown Brooklyn skyline
Stand-outs: Curry doughnut, clam soup, beef tartare, imitation krab roll
Price point: $80 per person for a full meal and two drinks — or it could work for just one post-work drink ($12 to $18) and a curry doughnut ($8)!
Critics say: It just opened in late July, so nothing yet.
Nickname: That new David Chang bar near FiDi
Niche Niche vs. Niche
Location: Lower East Side, 172 Delancey St., between Clinton and Attorney streets.
Cuisine: Mazemen, Japanese ramen without the broth but with Italian and Jewish influences
Vibe: TINY (there’s a single communal table, do not go alone and do not go with more than three other people)
Stand-outs: Steak mazemen, tomato mazemen, yuzu dashi vongole
Price point: Ramen, one beer, tax and tip is about $40. All mazemen are under $30.
Critics say: Critics have been digging the innovation and flavors at Niche, which is the only restaurant in New York to entirely dedicate itself to mazemen. The steak mazemen is “novel, straightforward, refined, unruly, and impure of heart,” and “has the makings of a classic New York dish,” according to Pete Wells at the Times. Eater critic Ryan Sutton said it’s one of New York’s most creative new pasta spots.
Nickname: That popular brothless ramen spot
Location: Soho, 43 Macdougal St., at King Street
Cuisine: Changes! Chefs here change the menu based on whoever’s choosing the wine that night, which could be sommeliers or winemakers from places like Eleven Madison Park.
Vibe: It’s supposed to feel like a dinner party for the two seatings, but after that, it turns into a wine bar.
Price point: $80 per person
Nickname: That chill Soho spot for wine geeks
Atla vs Alta vs Alta Calidad
Location: Noho, 372 Lafayette St., at Great Jones Street
Cuisine: Light and breezy Mexican
Vibe: Fashionable folk come here both in their athleisure and in their downtown Manhattan best, but you won’t get laughed out of the room if you didn’t spent $120 on your plain white tee.
Stand-outs: Chicken soup, arctic char and farmer’s cheese tostada, any taco, herb guacamole, split pea tlacoyos, any of the agua fresca for the day
Price point: $50 or more per person for a full meal, but less if you aim to snack
Critics say: It’s become one of the essential restaurants of New York since opening in 2017. The restaurant works for workday meetings, for breakfast, and for late=night snacking, and all of it feels unified.
Nickname: That breezy Mexican place in Noho
Location: Greenwich Village, 64 West 10th St, between Fifth and Sixth avenues
Cuisine: Mediterranean tapas
Vibe: Homey and rustic. It’s in a townhouse, and there are two wood-burning fireplaces!
Stand-outs: Fried goat cheese with lavender honey, octopus a la plancha
Price point: Everything’s under $30
Critics say: Alta’s been around for more than 15 years and is definitely more of a charming neighborhood spot than restaurant critic bait. It reportedly lost some business when Atla opened, but the owner said it’s “water under the bridge.” Go for a group meal or a date; it’s got spaces for both.
Nickname: That low-key but charming tapas restaurant. No, not Atla.
Location: Prospect Heights, 552 Vanderbilt Ave., at Dean Street
Cuisine: Inventive yet comforting Mexican
Vibe: It’s what happens when a neighborhood spot opens in an area of Brooklyn that has a lot of hip young professionals. Good for catching up with friends, a night out without leaving the neighborhood, or for brunch.
Stand-outs: Queso fundido with honey, pumpkin seed, and chile; pumpkin blossom quesdilla; charred steak tacos; Mexican Coca-Cola lamb ribs
Price point: Everything’s under $20, and cocktails are under $15
Critics say: It hasn’t been on the review circuit, but it’s a popping spot that’s gained popularity in the neighborhood. Owner and chef Akhtar Nawab is well-respected among other people in the industry.
Nickname: That creative Mexican place on Vanderbilt
Attaboy vs. Atoboy
Location: Lower East Side, 134 Eldridge St. between Broome and Delancey streets
Cuisine: Bespoke cocktails
Vibe: It’s a speakeasy where you have to ring the doorbell to get in. Once there, it’s narrow and low-lit, with limited booth seating. Best for smaller parties; no reservations.
Stand-outs: Bartenders make drinks based on customer preference, but the Penicillin is well-known
Price point: $19 a cocktail
Critics say: It’s one of the best cocktail bars in New York. Go on off-hours to avoid a long wait.
Nickname: That bespoke cocktail speakeasy
Location: Nomad, 43 East 28th St., between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South
Cuisine: Upscale Korean
Vibe: A quiet room with a very industrial look, including lots of concrete and gray. Kind of sedate, but not in a bad way.
Stand-outs: The menu — which is sold as an elegant, fine dining interpretation of banchan, the Korean small dishes — changes regularly, but the beef tartare and mackerel have been called out as particularly well-done.
Price point: $46 for three dishes
Critics say: It’s the first restaurant from chef Junghyun Park, who has landed on the map nationally for the even more high-end Atomix, and Pete Wells at the Times found “smart, surprising dishes” here. Dessert, too, was “clarifying,” including a refreshing ginger panna cotta with pink grapefruit. It’s a more affordable way to try Park’s food for anyone who’s not ready to drop more than $200 at Atomix.
Nickname: That fancy-ish Korean place that’s still affordable
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.