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 was your best restaurant meal of 2020, either takeout or dine-in?
Kat Kinsman, senior editor, Food & Wine: I’m not sure if this counts because it was sort of a random treat but Ari Miller drove up a bunch of Frizwit cheesesteaks from Philly to feed a bunch of us who were deep-cleaning a restaurant and they turned my knees to jus. Locally, there’s a restaurant called Domo Taco that I’ve ordered from and never been to. There was a night I was on my own for dinner and I sat at my coffee table with their Japanese nacho tots, five-spice pork tacos, and frozen margarita while watching the entirety of The End of the F***ing World and felt like a human being for the first time in a while.
Keith Powers, NYC council member: I dined way less this year, but I had a really good dinner at Oiji in the East Village and good winter cocktails at Hutte, a new pop-up on the Upper East Side.
Clay Williams, food photographer and co-founder of Black Food Folks: My wife and I only had two occasions to go out post-lockdown. Once at Gramercy Tavern and the other for our anniversary at Haenyeo — both were amazing and made us miss “real” dining out. Beyond that, we’ve done meal kits from Oxalis and Jeepney, which were wonderfully elaborate and felt very special.
Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: There’s a roasted chicken dish — the Pollo Nanni il Valetto — from Mark’s Off Madison that I still think about often. It comes with this roux/gravy that is absolutely divine, I could do shots of it for breakfast.
Priya Krishna, food writer and author of the best-selling cookbook Indian-ish: In January, Woldy Reyes and Lani Halliday held a Kamayan feast at Ferris where all the food was laid out on a long table and eaten communally. I met so many wonderful people, and all the food was so bright and vibrant. When I think of meals that remind me of the joy of dining out, I think of that one.
Victoria Lee, co-founder of non-profit Welcome to Chinatown: Jing Fong’s dim sum is the best it’s ever been this year. They also have a Jasmine Tea Lager imported from China that’s only available there. Jing Fong takeout is a staple for our team lead meetings.
Brad Hoylman, New York state senator: The Thanksgiving dinner kit at Loring Place was phenomenal. The turkey may have been the most tender I’ve ever eaten and the pecan pie was truly memorable.
Connie Chung, chef and co-owner of Milu: Red Hook Tavern. We had been meaning to go and the stars never quite aligned for our time off and getting a reservation. But because of COVID, they started delivering and we seized the opportunity. Incredible burgers, delivery or otherwise! And truly delicious salads to go with it, to make the meal at least “feel” healthier, ha!
Gary He, writer and photographer, author of Astrolabe newsletter: Early-stage Momofuku Ko outdoor dining. They offered their tasting menu at half the normal price with just the hits, and it completely destroyed my body and made me forget about this dumpster fire of a year for a few hours.
Mimi Sheraton, food writer, critic, and cookbook author: Some braised squab with giblets and perfect oysters at Beatrice Inn.
Nikita Richardson, senior staff editor, NYT Food: A month or so ago, I sat in the freezing cold and enjoyed the most delicious Mexican meal I’ve had in a very long time at Wildair, courtesy of Fabián von Hauske Valtierra and his sometimes pop-ups The Güeros. That Milanese torta, my god.
Emma Orlow, writer for the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and Eater: Eating with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time at the outdoor set up at Buddha Bodai. Also, all the picnic-y to-go meals I had in the park this summer felt especially joyful.
Vanessa Pham, co-founder, Omsom: Never thought I’d say this... but they were tater tots. Not any old tater tots though. The honey butter tater tots topped with labneh and seaweed seasoning from Nowon in the East Village are to die for. Head there for the tots and bumpin’ hip hop, stay for the decadent Korean-inspired soul food.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President: I love the turmeric stew at Ital Kitchen BK.
Carlina Rivera, NYC council member: Atoboy was a great dine-in experience outside. As for takeout, early in the pandemic I definitely was seeking out comfort food like most people. I was particularly a fan of the delicious spread from Pinks Cantina, which included a chopped cheese burrito and loaded quesadilla that were definitely repeat favorites.
Joanne Kwong, president of NYC institution Pearl River Mart and Pearl River Mart Foods: My best restaurant meal was not exactly about the food, though it is delicious, it was more about a sense of comfort. Our first family outdoor dining experience was at City Diner on the Upper West Side. Since my kids were little, we’ve gone every Saturday for brunch after Chinese school, often bumping into friends and neighbors. Throughout the spring and summer, my kids said they couldn’t wait for the pandemic to be over so that we could go back to our regular routine of eating there every weekend. It was so nice when we finally were able to return in October. And we’ve eaten there every weekend since!
Adam Friedlander, freelance photographer for the New York Times, Eater, etc.: This is the hardest question to answer… I’ll say that a meal that really excited me was at Tong. I tried flavors unlike anything I had experienced. The goi neu (Isan-style beef tartare) and yum pla duk fu (catfish salad) blew me away. Bonus points for being literally across the street from my apartment!
Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.