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The Restaurants We Became Regulars at in 2021

Why we kept returning to Fat Choy, Semkeh, Mariscos El Submarino, and other restaurants this year

A spread of dishes including a mushroom sloppy joe, longevity noodles, and rice rolls sit on lunch trays on an orange outdoor table.
Rice rolls, mushroom sloppy joes, and noodles from Fat Choy.
Louise Palmberg/Eater NY

Welcome to Year in Eater 2021, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2021’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 were your regular go-to destinations in 2021? What newcomer on the scene excited you this year?

Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: Even before 2021, Golden Diner’s food and laid-back energy always made it one of my go-tos. And because the majority of my meals are eaten solo, I liked fast casual newcomers like Electric Burrito because their burritos are great and I can easily devour them anywhere alone.

Mahira Rivers, food journalist: As a parent with a toddler at home, my kitchen remained my number one destination in 2021. But Ernesto’s was one exciting new restaurant I went to this year. It was truly the closest thing I’ve experienced to a trip since the start of the pandemic — the pintxos whisked me away to San Sebastian for an hour and I am so grateful for that.

Kayla Stewart, food journalist: Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, Win Son Bakery, Bar Pisellino, Via Carota, Kopitiam, Teranga, Roland’s, and Indian Summer saw a lot of me this year. I’m probably the only NYC food writer who hasn’t been yet (I had a lot of out-of-city assignments this year — give me a break!) but I’m super excited to get to Dhamaka. I’m also super excited about Cadence, which is masterfully changing the narrative on our understanding of southern and vegan cuisine.

John deBary, drinks expert, co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: I tried to be vegan this year and I made it most of the way through and the proximity to Fat Choy was a huge factor in my success. Even though I’ve dropped the dietary restriction I still go there all the time.

Deanna Ting, senior writer, Resy: Phayul, Momo Crave, and Khampa Kitchen Inn. Jackson Heights is blessed with excellent Himalayan and Tibetan restaurants and these three are always in my rotation: Phayul for their fried beef momos, especially; Momo Crave for their sukuti momo and jhol momo; and Khampa Kitchen Inn for their gyu thug noodle soup, a perfectly balanced, spicy herbal soup that always hits the spot.

Patty Diez, project manager, Eater: Winner. I took the M to G countless times from my apartment this year for a chicken salad sandwich (occasionally swapping for a BLT). In the warmer months of the year I’d sit at a nearby bench or walk over to Prospect Park, but when it was colder I’d gladly sit in my coat on Winner’s patio, basking in the fresh bread aromas coming from the kitchen’s vent. When they expanded to Runner Up next door, it was exactly what I imagined as a sibling for Winner. Semkeh, too, was another big repeat for me.

Ryan Sutton, chief food critic, Eater NY: Three Roosters for fried chicken delivery. Salento in Washington for empanadas and pandebono con bocadillo. Aldama for tacos and mole and mezcal. Dhamaka for doh kleh pork face salad and literally everything else. Gallaghers for clams casino and cocktails. Thai Diner for crab fried rice. Taqueria Ramirez for tripe tacos. And inasmuch as I got some quality Denver time in this year, I continued to visit Reunion Bakery for Venezuealan golfeados and Work & Class for goat birria.

Grace Young, cookbook author: I’ve been very loyal to the old Chinatown restaurants like, Mee Sum Cafe, Hop Lee, Hop Kee, Wo Hop upstairs and downstairs. These restaurants are a throwback to old Chinatown and represent our last connection to immigrant cooking and our cultural past. We lost some great classic Cantonese restaurants in 2020, some which had been part of Chinatown for over 50 years so I’ve been extra vigilant about making sure we don’t lose more living treasures.

Robert Sietsema, senior food critic, Eater NY: Looming disaster sent me running to old comfort-food favorites like Ennju (katsudon), Taiwan Pork Chop House (grilled chops with pickled mustard greens), and John’s Pizzeria (Italian sausage and black olive pie), but I quickly learned to crave the food at newcomers like Semkeh (Lebanese tuna sandwich), Electric Burrito (hot rod breakfast burrito, bristling with fries), and El Submarino (aguachiles).

Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chef, Punch: Four Horsemen, King, Shukette, Leo. Newcomers: Dhamaka, Dame, Shukette.

Amanda Kludt, editor-in-chief, Eater: I spent a lot of time at For All Things Good, and I’ve loved seeing them evolve over the last year and a half to a real neighborhood staple. Haenyeo became a new favorite of mine during the pandemic — due to both the gorgeous food and the advanced outdoor dining setup — and it’s still one of my favorite places to dine outside.

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