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The Neighborhoods Dominating NYC’s Dining Scene in 2021

The neighborhoods that the city’s food writers and critics kept returning to this year

The top of a suspension bridge can be seen over trees and brick buildings.
Bay Ridge is home to a cluster of standout Palestinian restaurants.
Robert Sietsema/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 neighborhood were you most excited to dine in this year?

Amanda Kludt, editor-in-chief, Eater: As many neighborhoods turned sleepy, The Lower East Side maintained its (often abhorred) energy throughout the pandemic, and I found myself gravitating to Cervo’s and Wu’s and 169 Bar throughout the summer and Dhamaka and my old favorite dives (like The Magician) throughout the fall.

Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: I guess it’s not technically a “neighborhood,” but newer restaurants like Ci Siamo and Zou Zou made checking out Manhattan West definitely worth it. The area (aka development?) has that new car smell and offers plenty of elbow room when eating there, which feels much needed in our current times.

Mahira Rivers, food journalist: Greenpoint has been an exciting neighborhood to eat in this year. I had some really unique meals there, like Mariana Villegas’ pop-up at Fulgrances, Taqueria Ramirez, and Xilonen. I also enjoyed the food and home shopping at Big Night, Edy’s Grocer, Home of the Brave and the little mart outside the Japanese bento shop ACRE.

But I’d say Manhattan overall had its strongest year in about a decade as far as exciting restaurant openings, though it’s bittersweet to think about why that is (closed restaurants, rent deals, etc.). Also, surprisingly, the Rockefeller Center.

John deBary, drinks expert, co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: My own: The Lower East Side.

Patty Diez, project manager, Eater: Bushwick! Which is, luckily, my own neighborhood. For one, my favorite wine bar Ten Bells opened nearby. Then there’s Semkeh, which is all I ever want to eat. Ops remains perfect; and there are nothing but bangers coming out of Taqueria Al Pastor. We recently got Sobre Masa too, and Palmetto and Yours Sincerely serve excellent nightcaps in the neighborhood. Oh and Falansai and Tong, which I can’t wait to try.

Ryan Sutton, chief food critic, Eater NY: The Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen. Broadway got hit hard and so did tons of nearby restaurants that serve an amazing breadth of global cuisines to nearby actors, artists, journalists, tourists, fellow hospitality workers, and so many more good people. Seeing my neighborhood come back to life has been a balm for my soul. There will be more tough times ahead, but we’ll bounce back on the West Side. I know it.

Robert Sietsema, senior food critic, Eater NY: Increasingly this year, I found myself in South Brooklyn, eating Goan seafood at Indian Table in Cobble Hill, Thai food at the revamped Ugly Baby in Carroll Gardens, pastrami and ramen in Industry City, Chinese dumplings in Sunset Park, and shawarma laffas, Korean pickles, Sicilian pastas, birria tacos, Georgian casseroles, and homestyle Palestinian dishes in Bay Ridge.

Grace Young, cookbook author: I was extra grateful to be able to dine in Chinatown this year. There were moments in 2020, as we kept losing the old legacy restaurants that I thought Chinatown might slip away from us.

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

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