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Mole negro with duck leg at Claro
Amber-Lynn Taber

The 38 Essential Restaurants in New York City, Summer 2018

From hip daytime Mexican to old-fashioned Greek fare, here’s where to eat in NYC right now

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Mole negro with duck leg at Claro
| Photo by Amber-Lynn Taber

Welcome to the Eater 38, an elite collection of restaurants from across the city that define New York City’s dining scene right now — and that will satisfy the restaurant needs for locals and visitors alike: Find an NYC classic as well as a top-notch neighborhood restaurant, mind-numbingly spicy Chinese, and cutting edge Korean fare.

Every quarter, a few restaurants drop out of the list to make room for places that have stepped up their game or have increasing relevance. To warrant inclusion, a restaurant has to have been open for at least six months.

Rather than having a stage-four meltdown over the exclusion of a favorite restaurant from this list, wouldn’t it be more productive to just nominate it for inclusion?

Added in July 2018: This summer, the 38 is swapping out six restaurants. Always on-point yakitori restaurant Torishin returns to the 38. Stylish Sichuan stand-by MáLà Project joins, as does Gowanus Oaxacan hotspot Claro. Two old-schoolers land on the 38 this round, Chinatown seafood restaurant Ping and Astoria Greek restaurant Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna. And finally, the still very hip Noho Mexican all-day restaurant Atla makes it in.

To make room, Sakagura, Prune, Flaming Kitchen, Flora Bar, Boulud Sud, and Mu Ramen have left for now.

Note: Restaurants are listed based on geography, starting with lower Manhattan, then over to Queens, and down through Brooklyn.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Ping Seafood Restaurant

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22 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 602-9988
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Open since 1998, this Chinatown stalwart was part of a slew of upscale Cantonese restaurants that once dominated the conversation around Chinese food in New York. Ping’s, run by chef Chuen Ping Hui, was a favorite among food critics, and it’s still pushing out elegant fare. Go for a whole fish, which will likely be alive until the moment it’s ordered, or noodles with lobster, which is also alive until ordering. Accompany the meal with one of the French or Californian wines. Good for groups.

Robert Sietsema

2. Spicy Village

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68B Forsyth St
New York, NY
(212) 625-8299
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This postage stamp sized, low-fi, BYOB, cash-only restaurant punches far above its weight class, offering some of the city’s best noodles. The Chinatown restaurant is operated by the husband and wife team of Wendy Lian and Ren Fu Li and specializes in the cuisine of the Henan region. Order the big tray of chicken with noodles and several pork pancakes. For the less carnivorous, the sweet and tangy egg and tomato noodle is a good bet.

Photo: Eater Video

3. Le Coucou

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138 Lafayette St
New York, NY
(212) 271-4252
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Restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Daniel Rose take cues from traditional French restaurants, transforming their place into one of the most exciting upscale restaurants in New York. The dining room offers perfect light in a room adorned in stately yet stylish decor. The menu is obvious in its luxuries: Lobster, foie gras, and oysters all make appearances. Also look for dishes like the caviar course and the halibut beurre blanc. For dessert, do not miss the omelette Norvegienne, essentially a baked Alaska.

4. Wildair

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142 Orchard St
New York, NY
(646) 964-5624
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At Wildair, Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske — the chef-restaurateurs behind Contra down the block — serve inventive small plates that don't easily fit into any one culinary classification. A meal here might include Southern-style white shrimp, rich pork rillettes, crispy squid with green onions, bright scallop ceviche, and spicy chopped tuna on toast. To drink, this Lower East Side neo-bistro offers an exciting selection of natural wines, available by the bottle or by the glass. It’s minimalist decor and a tight squeeze, yet the vibe is super convivial.

5. Uncle Boons

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7 Spring St
New York, NY
(646) 370-6650
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This Nolita lounge is still turning out some of the city’s most captivating Thai fare, courtesy of Per Se alums Ann Redding and Matt Danzer. Look for dishes like green curry snails, wood-fired yellowtail collar, a spicy lamb laab, or a savory crab fried rice. The space is an eclectic way to start a night out; order an overflowing beer slushie to get in the mood.

6. Balthazar

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80 Spring St
New York, NY
(212) 965-1414
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Restaurateur Keith McNally's enduring Soho brasserie is the best everyday restaurant in New York City. Period. The Balth is a terrific choice for a breakfast meeting, a steak frites lunch, or special-occasion dinner. For a splurge, get the Balthazar plateaux and the chicken for two.

7. Katz's Delicatessen

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205 E Houston St
New York, NY
(800) 446-8364
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In more than 125 years, little has changed at Katz's. It remains one of New York's — and the country's — essential Jewish delicatessens. Every inch of the massive Lower East Side space smells intensely of pastrami and rye loaves. The sandwiches are massive, so they are best when shared. Order at the counter, and don't forget to tip the slicer.

8. Atla

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372 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012
(646) 837-6464
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Mexican cuisine gets a sleek, uber-hip setting at Atla, the highly-acclaimed all-day restaurant in Noho from Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes. Expect a fashionable crowd and lots of light yet flavor-packed dishes, including a split pea tlacoyo, an egg white omelette with zucchini, and an herb guacamole. Fresh juices, coffee, and cocktails are available. The sunny space works well for daytime meetings, as well as late-night snacking.

Photo by Nick Solares

9. I Sodi

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105 Christopher St
New York, NY
(212) 414-5774
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For the ideal neighborhood Italian restaurant, I Sodi is the answer. Open since 2008, I Sodi channels Tuscany, where chef-owner Rita Sodi grew up. Locals may recognize Sodi's name from her other venture — Via Carota with partner Jody Williams — but I Sodi is all her own, and that passion shows. The osteria-style menu is simple, letting ingredients shine in dishes like whole baked branzino and housemade pastas. It's a tiny West Village space, lending a cozy feel to the whole experience — though expect to wait in line for it.

10. Hanoi House

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119 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009
(212) 995-5010
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Hanoi House — from chef John Nguyen and owners Sara Leveen and Ben Lowell — is decorated with tropical storm shutters, wooden lattice work, and potted foliage. One of the city’s first restaurants to specialize in the cuisine of the northern Vietnamese capital, Hanoi House offers a sublime version of pho, assertive with the flavor of onions and green onions and based on a strong beef broth. The noodles are delicate, and the beef add-ins include a great brisket and a good filet. Other dishes like the goi du du (papaya and pig ear salad) are worth ordering as well.

Photo by Nick Solares

11. Superiority Burger

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430 E 9th St
New York, NY
(212) 256-1192
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Brooks Headley’s tiny East Village cafe is so much more than a veggie burger spot — it's one of the best restaurants in Lower Manhattan — because he’s shopping for the finest ingredients and offering the same vegetables served at a fine-dining spot for a far more affordable price (most dishes are under $6). In addition to the must-get burger, go Mondays for the fried tofu, or other days for whatever seasonal vegetable dishes are on offer. Do not miss the spectacular gelato and sorbet.

12. Momofuku Ssäm Bar

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207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500
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Though superstar chef David Chang doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen at Ssäm anymore, newly promoted executive chef Max Ng has breathed new life into the menu at the East Village restaurant, adding addictive dishes like spicy shell-on shrimp with Sichuan garlic butter and skate roasted in banana leaf. The greatest hits — pork sausage rice cakes and pork buns — are still there by request, but the restaurant as a whole has grown up as Chang has, with soundproofing and more comfortable seating. It’s also an excellent option for brunch.

13. Shuko

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47 E 12th St
New York, NY
(212) 228-6088
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Masa alums Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau, the proprietors of Shuko, will serve diners personally at the bar — and the fish is stunning. They’re not afraid to use heat to jolt the palate and take the edge off richness, such as the Thai bird chiles added to a torched tuna sinew. Take note it’s $155 for sushi-only, or $195 for a tasting of composed dishes plus nigiri.

14. Aldea

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31 W 17th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-7223
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Quietly putting out top-notch Portuguese fare since 2009, chef-owner George Mendes’ food has not faltered. The Flatiron restaurant has had a Michelin star for most of its life, for dishes like mussel soup, suckling pig terrine, and the ever-popular duck rice, served in a comfortable room with a very open kitchen. It’s an upscale option with a price that’s comparatively low — it’s possible to get four courses for $89 — making it an accessible way to experience one of NYC’s top fine-dining restaurants.

Photo via Aldea

15. Los Tacos No. 1

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75 9th Ave
New York, NY
(212) 256-0343
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While this isn’t the most relaxing or comfortable place on the Eater 38 — it’s in Chelsea Market, with too few seats and long lines — there’s good reason to visit: It’s where you’ll find some of the city’s best tacos asada, adobado, pollo, or nopal. Flour tortillas here are just as good as the corn ones. There’s also a location near Times Square. Don’t forget the chips and guacamole.

Photo: Los Tacos

16. Cote Korean Steakhouse

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16 W 22nd St
New York, NY 10010
(212) 401-7986
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One of New York’s most exciting debuts of 2017 was Cote, a Korean barbecue restaurant in Flatiron that takes inspiration from New York’s classic steakhouses. Owner Simon Kim and chef David Shim earned a Michelin star for their slightly sceney and upscale version of classic Korean barbecue using dry-aged meats. First-timers will want the Butcher’s Feast, a $45-per-person option with four cuts of beef, banchan, egg souffle, spicy kimchi stew, and a soft serve dessert. Repeat visitors will want to experiment with variations on funky beef, which are dry-aged in a room downstairs.

Photo by Daniel Krieger

17. Sullivan Street Bakery

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236 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 929-5900
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Jim Lahey’s pioneering breads make this a must-visit for a take-home loaf and a quick espresso. Or stay awhile and order a breakfast sandwich like the verdura with eggs and seasonal vegetables, or a ceci sandwich — chickpea fritters with cucumber, red pepper, onion, basil, and more. Don’t miss the bomboloni, the most underrated doughnuts in the city.

Sullivan Street Bakery

18. Her Name is Han

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17 E 31st St
New York, NY 10016
(212) 779-9990
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Korean soul food gets a modern edge at Her Name is Han, a stylish Midtown restaurant from Kihyun Lee’s HAND restaurant group. Go for an on-point rendition of bulgogi, which arrives perfectly-seared with slightly crunchy edges, and yangnyeom gejang, a spicy raw crab. The budae jjigae, a stew with Spam, hot dogs, rice cakes, and kimchi beef broth, is also a rich, comforting order for the table. A rotating selection of banchan come with every meal. The restaurant also offers some solid lunch specials, though it only takes cash midday.

Gary He

19. MáLà Project

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41 West 46th St
New York, NY 10036
(917) 261-7520
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Sichuan dry pots are the main event at MáLà Project, a restaurant with a hip downtown Manhattan aesthetic and uncompromising spice levels from first-time restaurateur Amelie Kang. Diners can choose what to put in the dry pot from a long and diverse list of options, from beef tenderloin to chicken intestine to fried gluten balls. Starters and dim sum items like dandan noodles and sweet, sticky rice-stuffed lotus are also worth ordering to round out the meal. Vegetarians can have a field day here, and it’s an ideal option for groups. The original location is in the East Village.

Photo by Anthony Bui

20. The Grill

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99 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 375-9001
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Major Food Group’s revamp of the historic Four Seasons space — one of the few landmarked interiors in the city — will be worth visiting for the stunning room alone, but the group also makes a meal there feel like a lively, theatric, and delicious ode to Midcentury New York chophouses. Visit the Midtown bar for a drink just to check things out, and for a splurge dinner with a see-and-be-seen vibe, book a reservation well in advance. Chef Mario Carbone’s standouts include the prime rib, pheasant Claiborne, and pasta a la presse, a dish where the server first comes to the table to dramatically squeeze juice out of duck bones using an antique press.

Photo by Gary He

21. Victor's Cafe

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236 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-7714
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This old-school Cuban restaurant first opened in 1963 and remains an elegant, multi-level destination for some of New York’s best Cuban fare. Now run by the founder’s daughter Sonia Zaldivar, Victor’s feels like nightclubs of the 1950s with its live music, tropical decor, and brightly colored art. It’s ideal for a celebratory family meal or a special date night, particularly before a nearby Broadway show. Try the ropa vieja, a Cuban national dish of shredded beef, or the lechon asado, roast pig with crackling skin.

Photo via Victor’s Cafe

22. Torishin

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362 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 757-0108
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In Japan, yakitori — or chicken skewers grilled over charcoal — is a popular street food, but at Torishin in Hell’s Kitchen, a whole chicken gets broken down into a finer dining experience. Open in NYC since 2007, it’s a Michelin-starred chicken skewer restaurant currently helmed by chef Atsushi Kono, where its take on less-ubiquitous parts of the chicken like the knee, main artery, and heart is renowned. First-timers should go for the omakase, which at $70 is one of the more affordable tasting menus in the city.

Photo: Nick Solares

23. Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken

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2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10027
(212) 281-1800

Chef Charles Gabriel started his Harlem soul food institution out of his house, moved onto a food truck, and then to a storefront. The latest rendition of the restaurant is in a more prominent location, though he’s still serving the same tender, crispy chicken cooked in a cast-iron pan that pushed him into the limelight. This new outpost is still humble, with a menu above the counter and cafeteria-style ordering, but also, thankfully, has more seating.

Photo via Yelp

24. Gregory's 26 Corner Taverna

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26-02 23rd Ave
Long Island City, NY 11105
(718) 777-5511
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Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna has been dishing out homey, traditional Greek fare in Astoria for years, always with a friendly demeanor. Everything from grilled lamb chops to the Greek salad are solid options, and any fish, which come fried or grilled, is a particularly smart order. Entrees stay under $30, with many options under $20. The petite restaurant with red-and-white checkered tablecloths also has a few outdoor tables in warmer weather.

Robert Sietsema

25. Cheburechnaya

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9209 63rd Dr Ste A
Flushing, NY
(718) 897-9080
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Cheburechnaya is tucked in a no-frills dining room that offers Kosher Uzbek fare like chebureki, deep fried turnovers bursting with potatoes and meat, rice pilaf, and lamb kebabs grilled over a charcoal trough. Don’t miss the borscht as well as lagman with handmade, irregular-shaped noodles, beef, and plenty of dill.

26. Dumpling Galaxy

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42-35 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 461-0808
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Inside a Flushing mall, chef Helen You delivers an expansive menu of dumplings — pan-fried, steamed, and boiled, with variations of seafood, lamb, pork, vegetable, and beef. Spicy beef dumplings with ginger, lamb and squash, and pork and chive are all solid orders, as are the har gau. Bring a big crew and try a bunch.

Photo by Bill Addison

27. Lilia

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567 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 576-3095
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At this always-hip Williamsburg restaurant, chef Missy Robbins serves an inventive and highly-personal style of Italian cuisine. Standouts include the veal steak, the cacio e pepe fritters, and the mafaldine pasta with pink peppercorns. The dining room is a repurposed auto body shop with soaring ceilings that somehow manages to feel intimate. It’s an ideal date night restaurant.

28. St. Anselm

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355 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 384-5054
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The tender, butter-drenched butcher's steak is a great slab of meat, but the pricier cuts at Joe Carroll's Williamsburg steakhouse are even better. The New York strip offers a lot of bang for your buck, and the ax handle rib-eye, which ranges from 35 to 60 ounces, has developed a loyal following.

29. Peter Luger Steak House

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178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400
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Peter Luger was founded in 1887 when Williamsburg was a city onto itself, and some say Luger is the greatest steakhouse in the world. Even if that’s an overstatement, the steaks are damn good, especially the signature dry-aged prime porterhouse, which flies from the kitchen sizzling and already sliced. Don’t miss the bacon appetizer or lunch-only hamburger either, in these bare-bones and charmingly antique premises."

30. Marlow & Sons

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81 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 384-1441
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Marlow & Sons has a lively dining room in the back and a sunny cafe in the front serving excellent pastries and great coffee. On the menu, there are oysters and the famous brick chicken, as well as rustic, seasonal specials. Like its next-door sibling Diner, Marlow & Sons has had an influence that extends far beyond its Williamsburg neighborhood.

31. Win Son

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159 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(347) 457-6010
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This casual, lively restaurant on an unassuming corner of East Williamsburg delivers some of the most exciting food in New York right now. Owners Josh Ku and chef Trigg Brown use classic Taiwanese fare as a base for the menu, but don’t expect tradition here. Marinated cucumbers reach levels of umami bliss with the addition of mullet roe, and a fluffy, fried egg-coated scallion pancake arrives stuffed with beef tartare. Also worth ordering: Win Son’s version of pork-over-rice classic lu rou fan and the Breakfast of Champions, a cocktail with rum, peanut milk, black sesame, and lots of toasted coconut shavings. Try brunch, too.

Gary He

32. Roberta's

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261 Moore St
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 417-1118
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Roberta's is the epicenter of the modern Brooklyn food scene, with its rec room meets reclaimed wood vibe. The pizzas are great, but the Bushwick restaurant really flexes its muscles with the vegetable dishes. In addition to the pies, consider ordering the radishes, the romaine salad, the roasted beets, and some of the charcuterie. Brunch is also one of the neighborhood’s best.

33. La Vara

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268 Clinton St
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 422-0065
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At the Michelin-starred La Vara in Cobble Hill, chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero are serving Spanish cuisine with Moorish and Jewish influences. Plates will please conservative and adventurous diners, which include lamb meatballs, paella-style fideúa, and chicken hearts.

34. Olmsted

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659 Vanderbilt Ave
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 552-2610
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Alinea, Blue Hill, and Per Se alum chef Greg Baxtrom has crafted the perfect 21st century neighborhood restaurant. This includes having a backyard garden that serves to both supply the Prospect Heights restaurant with fresh ingredients and provide a charming spot to wait for a table. The quirky and often earnest menu is constantly evolving. Must-orders do exist and have included a novel twist on crab rangoon, the carrot crepe, and watermelon sushi. It now also offers brunch, though expect wild wait times.

35. Peppa's

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738 Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
(917) 673-6225

Some of the city’s best jerk chicken can be found in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in take-out spot Peppa’s Jerk Chicken. Gavin Hussey has perfected his own recipe over the last two decades and started slinging the perfectly spiced, perfectly charred bird at Peppa’s on Flatbush in 2004. Add a couple festivals (long sticks of fried dough) to an order of chicken, and bring it to nearby Prospect Park for a picnic. Peppa’s also has a second location in Crown Heights with a few seats and delivery.

36. Claro

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284 3rd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(347) 721-3126
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Oaxacan fare has yet to become ubiquitous in NYC, and at Claro in Gowanus, chef T.J. Steele puts a decidedly New York — and widely acclaimed — spin on the cuisine. Go for one of the rich, smooth moles or any of the memelas, a flatbread topped with options like pork rib and cheese or chorizo. The yellowfin tostada, a crisp tortilla loaded with fresh raw tuna and bright blood orange, is also a standout. The dimly lit restaurant with both indoor and outdoor space is good for dates or other intimate dinners. Brunch is available as well.

37. Ugly Baby

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407 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(347) 689-3075
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Brace for heat at Ugly Baby, a 25-seat restaurant in Carroll Gardens from chef Sirichai Sreparplarn that dishes out Thai fare at levels not often found in NYC. Dishes like the khao soi nuer, a curry soup with egg noodles and beef shank, and the laab ped udon, a duck salad, will light up the insides without sacrificing on flavor. Cool off with tue ka ko, fried coconut milk cakes, or something from the ambitious wine and beer list. Expect a wait at prime time; Other Half Brewing down the street is a decent place to hang.

Photo by Jessie Jacobson

38. Hometown Bar-B-Que

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454 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY
(347) 294-4644
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Barbecue aficionados agree that Billy Durney is cooking up some of the best Texas-style barbecue in the city. Straightforward classics like smoked brisket and baby back ribs are always a strong choice, but there are also options like pork belly tacos and a lamb belly banh mi. The space is sprawling in a way that feels like the real deal, and Durney himself can usually be found working the room, and keeping a watchful eye on the smoking meats. It's counter service only, and there's often a line, but for the scene and certainly for the meat, it's easily worth the trip to Red Hook.

1. Ping Seafood Restaurant

22 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Robert Sietsema

Open since 1998, this Chinatown stalwart was part of a slew of upscale Cantonese restaurants that once dominated the conversation around Chinese food in New York. Ping’s, run by chef Chuen Ping Hui, was a favorite among food critics, and it’s still pushing out elegant fare. Go for a whole fish, which will likely be alive until the moment it’s ordered, or noodles with lobster, which is also alive until ordering. Accompany the meal with one of the French or Californian wines. Good for groups.

22 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

2. Spicy Village

68B Forsyth St, New York, NY
Photo: Eater Video

This postage stamp sized, low-fi, BYOB, cash-only restaurant punches far above its weight class, offering some of the city’s best noodles. The Chinatown restaurant is operated by the husband and wife team of Wendy Lian and Ren Fu Li and specializes in the cuisine of the Henan region. Order the big tray of chicken with noodles and several pork pancakes. For the less carnivorous, the sweet and tangy egg and tomato noodle is a good bet.

68B Forsyth St
New York, NY

3. Le Coucou

138 Lafayette St, New York, NY
Read Review |

Restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Daniel Rose take cues from traditional French restaurants, transforming their place into one of the most exciting upscale restaurants in New York. The dining room offers perfect light in a room adorned in stately yet stylish decor. The menu is obvious in its luxuries: Lobster, foie gras, and oysters all make appearances. Also look for dishes like the caviar course and the halibut beurre blanc. For dessert, do not miss the omelette Norvegienne, essentially a baked Alaska.

138 Lafayette St
New York, NY

4. Wildair

142 Orchard St, New York, NY

At Wildair, Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske — the chef-restaurateurs behind Contra down the block — serve inventive small plates that don't easily fit into any one culinary classification. A meal here might include Southern-style white shrimp, rich pork rillettes, crispy squid with green onions, bright scallop ceviche, and spicy chopped tuna on toast. To drink, this Lower East Side neo-bistro offers an exciting selection of natural wines, available by the bottle or by the glass. It’s minimalist decor and a tight squeeze, yet the vibe is super convivial.

142 Orchard St
New York, NY

5. Uncle Boons

7 Spring St, New York, NY
Read Review |

This Nolita lounge is still turning out some of the city’s most captivating Thai fare, courtesy of Per Se alums Ann Redding and Matt Danzer. Look for dishes like green curry snails, wood-fired yellowtail collar, a spicy lamb laab, or a savory crab fried rice. The space is an eclectic way to start a night out; order an overflowing beer slushie to get in the mood.

7 Spring St
New York, NY

6. Balthazar

80 Spring St, New York, NY

Restaurateur Keith McNally's enduring Soho brasserie is the best everyday restaurant in New York City. Period. The Balth is a terrific choice for a breakfast meeting, a steak frites lunch, or special-occasion dinner. For a splurge, get the Balthazar plateaux and the chicken for two.

80 Spring St
New York, NY

7. Katz's Delicatessen

205 E Houston St, New York, NY