Judging by the week so far, the financial impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on New York’s restaurant scene will likely continue well into the spring. On Thursday, the state mandated that all restaurants and bars reduce capacity in half in hopes of curbing the virus’s spread. But even before such a mandate, reservations were down, particularly in Manhattan, and more people are staying indoors. In Seattle, where the virus has spread further, famed chef Tom Douglas is closing 12 restaurants for as long as two months due to declines. Which is all to say, restaurants — in New York and across the country — debuting this spring will be opening in a very different environment than they first expected.
Many of these restaurants have been in the works for months or years, and for the most part, businesses are making plans to open as initially planned — at least for now, when it’s still hard to tell what it will ultimately take to curb the public health crisis. Most restaurateurs are taking things day-by-day; most likely, things will be delayed and adjustments will need to be made. Restaurant groups have called for measures on how to soften the economic blow, but even if all of them come into fruition, it will be a tough year for restaurants.
So consider this list of anticipated spring openings a wish list — and a guide of what could be coming when we’re out of the weeds.
Key players: Chintan Pandya, Roni Mazumdar
Target open: Late April
Few restaurant groups have done more for buzzy Indian food in New York than the hit team behind Adda and Rahi, and this spring they’re set to debut their third NYC restaurant with Dhamaka, part of the Lower East Side megaproject Essex Crossing. Once again, the focus will be on regional Indian cooking, and prices here will be similar to those at the duo’s casual Long Island City restaurant. Though the menu is still being fine tuned, expect plates like goat pulao, a Punjabi chicken curry called tariwala murgh, and baida roti, which is an egg-stuffed flatbread that’s a common street food item in Mumbai. The restaurant will have 56 seats spread out over tables and at the bar inside, and an additional 16 seats outdoors. 88 Essex Street, at Delancey Street, Lower East Side
Key players: Brent Young and Ben Turley
Target open: May
Hip Williamsburg butcher shop the Meat Hook is opening its first full-service restaurant just a few steps away, and the stellar cheeseburger that Young and Turley serve at Threes Brewing will most certainly be on the menu. The tavern-esque new space will also serve inventive charcuterie spreads and relatively inexpensive steaks, among other items. It’s the first full-service restaurant from the duo, which is known for an ethos of selling meat that’s more humane and conscious of climate change. Cozy Royale takes over from the space from neighborhood bar Humboldt and Jackson, so expect a relative open space and a good amount of seating. 434 Humboldt Street, at Jackson Street, Williamsburg
Key players: Simone Tong
Target open: Late spring
With Little Tong, chef Simone Tong managed to add something new to a neighborhood already ripe with noodle bars and restaurants. The East Village is where Simone Tong made a name for herself, but her upcoming project in Greenwich Village is headed in a bit more personal of a direction. At Silver Apricot, Tong hopes to explore her Chinese-American identity and “show, rather than tell,” what it means to be a Chinese American in New York City right now. Her new 28-seat restaurant in Greenwich Village will call on her training at places like Wd~50 with housemade cheeses, charcuterie, and breads, while nodding to her heritage with traditional Chinese cooking techniques. A tasting menu, chef’s counter, and outdoor garden may also be on the menu. 20 Cornelia Street, between Bleecker and West Fourth streets, West Village
Key players: Patrick Lin and Ly Nguyen
Target open: May
Acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant Em will be expanding to Dumbo this spring following the success of its Bensonhurt location. Owner Patrick Lin and chef Ly Nguyen opened their first location back in in 2018 and quickly developed a cult-following in the neighborhood, including from New York Times critic Ligaya Mishan. For their sequel, Nguyen and Lin are planning to bring back many of the dishes that made their first location a hit, including Nguyen’s signature hu tieu Nam Vang, a noodle soup from the south of Vietnam made with pork and seafood broth. Come dinner, Em will pivot into what Lin is calling “a French-inspired Vietnamese tapas spot” that serves buttery noodle and seafood dishes that are meant to be eaten with hunks of baguette and pitchers of beer. 57 Front Street, between Main and Dock Streets, Dumbo
Key players: Yoshinori Horii
Target open: April
New York has no shortage of esteemed ramen restaurants directly from Japan, but the soba scene hasn’t enjoyed as much international exchange. In April, though, Tokyo shop Sarashina Horii will be making its way to the U.S. for the first time with a location in Flatiron, serving the same buckwheat noodles that it’s been making since 1789. The owner, Yoshinori Horii, is the ninth-generation of the restaurant. More than 12 hot and cold soba options will be available, including the popular clam one and one with duck and leek. Though plenty of New York restaurants serve soba, this debut is quite the heavyweight addition. 45 E. 20th St., near Park Avenue South, Flatiron
Key players: Sho Boo
Target open: Late March or early April
Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Kosaka has tapped Sho Boo — a Kosaka chef who formerly ran Bugs, a 15-seat sushi spot that drew praise from the Times during its run — to lead its first entry into a more affordable sushi lineup. The new restaurant, called Maki Kosaka, will be split into two sushi bars: The main 22-seat bar and a smaller 12-seat bar, dubbed Maki Omakase. While the menu is still in early stages, the team plans on leveraging the weight of the Kosaka brand to source both high-quality local and Japanese fish. For lunch, there will be $30 seasonal sets of sushi hand rolls served at both bars, with the option to pick and choose from an a la carte menu. And at dinner, the 22-seat bar will continue to serve the hand rolls while Boo heads up a seven-course omakase menu at Maki Omakase with variations of rolls for $80. 55 West 19th St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Flatiron
Key players: James Kent and Jeff Katz
Target open: May
This will likely be the biggest high-end opening this spring — in part because of the team, and in part because of the space, which is on the top four floors of a historic Art Deco skyscraper. At Saga, executive chef James Kent and general manager Jeff Katz of the acclaimed Crown Shy team are throwing out the chef-knows-all attitude of longer-running tasting menus in favor of a more relaxed meal with communal items, more choices, and sky-high mobility. Dining style, too, will be less regimented; for some courses, diners can go out to one of the 12, open-air terraces. As for the menu, the pair imagines a six- to seven-course, seasonal tasting menu that is executed with less rigidity than the kitchens where they came from. It won’t be exorbitantly priced, but it won’t be cheap: Where Crown Shy would never advertise foie gras or caviar on the menu, Kent says, Saga will be the place for the team to experiment with more expensive ingredients and techniques — and to contemplate the future of fine dining in New York City. 70 Pine St., between Pearl St. and William St., Financial District
Key players: Jeffrey Miller, Yoni Lang, and TJ Provenzano
Target open: May
The carbon footprint of NYC’s sushi scene has received a bit more scrutiny in recent years, and the East Village will soon be home to the city’s second environmentally-conscious sushi restaurant. Chef Jeff Miller and sommelier TJ Provenzano previously worked together at Mayanoki, an inventive eight-seat sushi bar that opened in Alphabet City. For their next joint project, called Rosella, they’re teaming up with Yoni Lang of Nomica, a now-shuttered Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. Like at Mayanoki, the focus here will be on a regionally sourced fish that are sustainable to the species, environment, and seafood industry. Details on the menu at Rosella are still thin, but a spokesperson for the restaurant says that its sustainability efforts will include local and regionally made sauces.
Key players: Eddy Buckingham, Jeff Lam, Paul Donnelly
Target open: May
In a city where the term “Asian fusion” typically signals mediocre restaurants with clubby vibes, the Chinese Tuxedo team managed to keep the scene while delivering highly acclaimed pan-regional fare. They’re going for it again with their new restaurant on the border of Soho and Chinatown called the Tyger, a sunny corner spot that will criss-cross the cuisines of Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Their second act will be far more casual than Tuxedo, though. Expect lower prices, more windows, patio dining, and a lunch menu with curries and lots and lots of seafood. The drinks list will be tighter, too, with plenty of non-alcoholic and low-ABV selections for the daytime crowd. 1 Howard Street at Centre Street, Soho
Key players: Manoella (Manu) Buffara
Target open: Late spring
Brazilian chef Manoella Buffara is bringing her acclaimed small plate cooking to the United States for the first time this spring. She’s a rising star chef in Brazil, where her tasting menu restaurant Manu in Curitiba, Brazil landed on the World’s 50 Best “discovery” series, which highlights “the next generation of dining destinations.” Similar to at Manu, Ella will focus on seasonal small plates featuring Brazilian cuisine, like black beans with okra and sea urchin; leeks in a mussel sauce with lardo; and baby corn with citrus pork fat and dried bottarga, a type of fish roe. This 6,000-square-foot Chelsea restaurant will feature an open-kitchen, wood-fire grill, and robust cocktail program helmed by Brazilian mixologist Marcio Silva of Sao Paulo. 436 W. 15th St., between Ninth and Tenth avenues, Chelsea
Disclosure: Eater has a video series, Prime Time, hosted by Ben Turley and Brent Young of the Meat Hook.