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The Top NYC Restaurant Newcomers of 2020

Restaurants including Rangoon, Francie, Thai Diner, and Ras Plant Based stood out this year

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The interior of Burmese restaurant Rangoon which has white counters, wooden stools lined up against it, and exposed brick white walls in the back
Rangoon in Crown Heights
Alex Staniloff/Eater

Welcome to Year in Eater 2020, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months. In 2020’s final days, Eater NY will be posting questions about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from food writers, photographers, chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and even a few local legislators who helped to support the industry through this enormously difficult year. Now, we ask: What newcomer on the scene excited you this year?

Erika Chou, co-owner of restaurants including Wayla and Kimika: Pecking House. I’m from the South — raised on fried chicken and my mama’s excellent Chinese food, so this concept really hits home! It is also an inspiring message of hope to see a family’s lineage continue and grow, even more so during a year of hardship.

Nikita Richardson, senior staff editor, NYT Food: I was most excited by the arrival of Boca Santa, a Mexican restaurant from Mexican-American chef Natalie Hernandez. Unfortunately, they closed this month, which is a real shame.

Keith Powers, NYC council member: I have been eating at Soothr (pronounced “Sood”) in the East Village, which opened this year, because of its specialty Thai dishes and its much-needed backyard garden. It has good food, a desirable backyard location, and doesn’t break the bank. All perfect for 2020.

Chris Crowley, staff writer, Grub Street: Before March, I was really excited about Rule of Thirds, which seemed like a cool, ambitious place. Since then, a lot of people in the industry are out of work, a lot of people have seen all the work they put into the restaurant, bars, shops go up in flames. So it’s been good to see some people make something out of a bad year for the industry. Andrés Tonatiuh Galindo Maria with Nene’s Taqueria, Doris Ho-Kane with Bạn Bè, every out-of-work chef who has been doing their own thing and selling it on Instagram.

Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: A recent meal at Leland Eating and Drinking House in Prospect Heights had me pretty excited. The spot just opened last week from industry veteran Randi Lee, on a corner of Underhill Avenue and a block away from the hubbub of Vanderbilt Avenue, which gives it a great neighborhood vibe. The menu consists of plenty of baked goods like focaccia and vegan cinnamon buns to help stay layered throughout the winter, in addition to a great jook and chicken dish. With a debut like this, I’m excited to see what 2021 holds for the restaurant.

Mimi Sheraton, food writer, critic, and cookbook author: When the pandemic is over, Portale and Mark’s Off Madison. Mark Strausman was original chef at Coco Pazzo. He’s now opened on 26th and Madison; he’s also selling wonderful baked goods there, including bialys. (Mimi Sheraton is the author of The Bialy Eaters.)

Jackie Wang, project manager of non-profit Welcome to Chinatown: Public Village, which opened early this year, specializes in Sichuan snacks and noodles. Their crispy, spicy and snacky dishes were great for park picnics this summer, and flavorful, exciting at-home feasts this winter.

Brad Hoylman, New York state senator: Crop Circle. Affordable and unique takeout.

Carlina Rivera, NYC council member: Bun Hut, which has great Caribbean flavors in their steamed baos and rotis big enough to split.

Kat Kinsman, senior editor, Food & Wine: I can’t not be biased here. John Winterman is a longtime dear friend and watching the opening of Francie be endlessly delayed just broke my heart because I know how much blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul (not to mention cash) he and Chris Cipollone put into the place, and it broke my heart to see them in limbo. They were able to open for just seven services before dining was shut down again. I’ve had the food and I know John’s service and the incredible care that the whole team has put into every aspect of the restaurant and I can say with confidence that when they open properly, it’s gonna blow people away.

Priya Krishna, food writer and author of the best-selling cookbook Indian-ish: I loved all of the new Instagram food businesses that popped up. One of my favorites was Bowl Cut Table. They did a tea-themed butter mochi box that I bought for my partner, but then I just ate most of the mochi myself.

Adam Friedlander, freelance photographer for the New York Times, Eater, etc.: For All Things Good! I was blown away by what they are doing with corn. It is on the top of my list to revisit.

Kim Pham, co-founder, Omsom: Rangoon in Crown Heights was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Their back garden was a dream, even during rainy autumn evenings.

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President: Ras Plant Based is a great addition to Brooklyn’s flourishing plant-based eating scene.

Gary He, food writer and photographer, author of Astrolabe newsletter: Thai Diner, which was exciting at first because it was the next phase of the restaurant group run by Ann Redding and Matt Danzer — Uncle Boons all day! What’s not to love? — but then it became essential after the closure of the OG during the pandemic. It served as a place where people could revisit and say goodbye to some of their favorite dishes. Going forward, Thai Diner is how the duo is keeping their core team members employed as they plot their next move… which I am told may or may not include a Boons reboot.

Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.