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The 38 Essential New York Restaurants, October '12

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

This time around, after much reflecting and poring over reader emails and comments, Blue Ribbon Brasserie is swapped for Commerce, a fantastic date night restaurant that is making its debut on the Eater 38. The superb 456 Restaurant in Chinatown is getting dropped to make way for Midtown gem Szechuan Gourmet. And, the lovely ABC Kitchen is nudged out to make way for Jean-Georges's Nougatine, a modern classic that is firing on all cylinders right now.


Rather than a stage-four meltdown over our having excluded your favorite restaurant from the list, wouldn't it be more productive to just nominate it for inclusion?

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Locanda Verde

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Though owners include one Robert DeNiro, chef Andrew Carmellini is the real star here. After almost three years, this rustic neighborhood Italian restaurant is still one of the hottest tickets in town.[Krieger]

Barbarini Alimentari

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Part restaurant, part Italian grocery, Barbarini serves solid Italian sandwiches and simply prepared pastas, salads, and fish dishes. When the weather's nice, their sidewalk cafe space is a great place to sit and snack on cheese and salumi while gazing out at cobblestone-lined streets of the Seaport.
[Photo: Barbarini]

Torrisi Italian Specialties

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Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone's 20-seat restaurant is one of the more unique dining experiences in New York right now. Soulful Italian-American food, cooked by two vets of some of the city's best kitchens, in a highly personal, totally charming space. [Photo]

Balthazar Restaurant

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Restaurateur Keith McNally's enduring Soho brasserie is the best every day restaurant in New York City. Period. [Krieger]

Rubirosa

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This stylish Little Italy restaurant serves stellar thin crust pizzas, plus a number of classic Italian dishes from Olana-vet Al DiMeglio. The pies are made from a family recipes developed at Joe & Pat's on Staten Island, and they're well worth the trip alone, but don't overlook the pastas — they're phenomenal. [Photo]

Lure Fishbar

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Great for dates and business lunches alike, the subterranean Lure Fish Bar offers up a solid roster of sushi offerings as well as seafood, steak, and one of the best burgers in the city.

Commerce

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At Commerce, chef Harold Moore serves terrific fresh pastas, a monster pork chop, and one of New York's very best chickens for two. The space here has a cool old-school vibe, and the bar is a fun place to grab a drink at the beginning or end of the night. Commerce is a great date night restaurant. [Photo]

Red Farm

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Joe Ng and Eddie Schoenfeld's charming contemporary Chinese restaurant is one of the hottest tickets in New York right now. The best things on the menu here are chef Ng's playful dim sum creations, like the 'Pac man' dumplings, The Katz's pastrami egg roll, and the pan-fried lamb dumplings. The mains are great too — especially the grilled Creekstone rib steak with asparagus and the black cod. Head here for brunch if you want to avoid the crowds. [Photo]

Takashi

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Takashi is a meat-lover's paradise. The menu features a long list of top-quality raw beef which you cook at your table on little electric grills. Offal-freaks will want to try the stomachs, intestines, and tongues, but there are a few steaks on the menu for less adventuresome diners, too. [Krieger]

The Spotted Pig

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One might expect owners and regulars like Jay-Z and Bill Clinton to distract from the food, but chef April Bloomfield holds her own and then some at New York's top (wait … for it) gastropub. One of the best restaurant burgers in New York is served here, as anyone who has braved the two-hour wait for a table can tell you.[Krieger]

Kin Shop

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Harold Dieterle and Alicia Nosenzo's contemporary Thai restaurant has a relaxed vibe, a great wine list, and awesome food. Dieterle has a knack for fusing Thai cuisine with his own New-American style, and the result is one of the most unique menus in New York right now. [Krieger]

Momofuku Noodle Bar

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David Chang's first restaurant is still turning out inventive, deeply satisfying, affordable food, and the buns and ramen are just as good as you remember. [Kalina]

Hearth only gets better with age. Marco Canora's East Village restaurant still serves one of the best ragus in the city, and the menu always includes a few terrific vegetables dishes, monster meat entrees, and gracefully prepared fish courses. If you really want to see what the kitchen is up to these days, consider the seven-course tasting for $80.[Krieger]

Casa Mono

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The lone Spanish baby of Molto Mario’s empire, Casa Mono has been an Irving Place destination since it opened in ’04. Chef Andy Nusser has crafted a menu of substantial tapas and medium-sized entrées, done mostly “a la plancha” with unmistakably Catalan flavors; get the duck egg with mojama. NB: If you have trouble securing a table, and chances are you will, little sister Bar Jamon is right next door. [Photo]

John Dory Oyster Bar

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The food at April Bloomfield and Ken Friendman's fish restaurant is a mix of English/Italian/Mediterranean cuisine that's completely original. If it's not too busy, The Dory is a cool place to pop in for oysters and cocktails. For a special occasion, ask about the chef's table tasting in the kitchen.[Photo]

Hill Country Barbecue Market

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Barbecue buffs generally agree that Hill Country is the best place for smoked meat in New York City. Order the brisket, the Kruez sausage, and the baked beans with burnt ends. Pro tip: on Monday nights from 5 - 10 PM, Hill Country offers all-you-can-eat brisket, ribs, chicken, and sides for $25. [Krieger]

Legend Bar & Restaurant

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This generic-looking Chelsea Chinese restaurant serves some of the best Sichuan food in New York City. The chef here, Ding Gen Wang, is something of a star in his native China. Although everything here is very good, the best dishes are off-the-menu. Make sure to ask about the vegetable specials, and if you're in a large party, get the incredible fish soup. [Photo]

Keens Steakhouse

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Get a mutton chop with a side of history at this century old steakhouse that offers classic delicious food, perfect cocktails, and a killer ambiance. Those on a budget can hit up the bar room. [Krieger]

Benoit Bistro

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Alain Ducasse's casual French restaurant serves faithful versions of all your bistro favorites like coq au vin, cassoulet, and escargots. The bar room is a cool place for after-work cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and on the weekends, Benoit serves one of the best brunches in Midtown (it includes a dessert buffet). [Photo]

Szechuan Gourmet

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Head to this Chinese gem near Bryant Park for crispy cumin lamb, soft tofu with spicy pork, and braised whole bass with chili and scallions. The Sichuan specialties here are all excellent, and the dining room has a certain charm that you don't often find in Midtown Chinese restaurants. Go in a big group, and order a lot of food. [Photo]

The Modern

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Gabriel Kreuther cooks French-American food that looks great and tastes even better. You can have a fine light meal mixing and matching the small plates from the first two pages of the menu, but the restaurant is also a great pick for a serious three-course meal. Pro tip: the tarte flambee is one of the best bar snacks in NYC. [Photo]

Non-theatre-goers sometimes forget about Esca due to its Siberia-adjacent location, but in many ways Esca is as good as the four-starred Le Bernardin. If nothing else, it's cheaper, more relaxed and, bonus, also serves Baltali-brand pasta.

Danji has been receiving raves from critics big and small for their casual, modern take on Korean fare in the Western edges of Midtown. It's fast without being hurried, delicious without being expensive. Just be ready for crowds.[Photo]

Nougatine at Jean Georges

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The 15-year-old casual counterpart to Jean Georges recently received a design refresh that added some sizzle to the dining room. And, as Pete Wells noted in his two star review, the kitchen is still turning out inventive, satisfying seasonal fare. This is a choice for great weeknight splurge.

Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto

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Cesare Casella’s small plates parlor is great place for a few bites of premium imported antipasti and a glass of wine, or a larger meal of more substantial meat and pasta dishes. It's the perfect spot to hit up before any event at Lincoln Center, or after long stroll through the park. [Photo]

Boulud Sud

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Daniel Boulud's foray into Mediterranean cuisine is a solid choice for date night on the UWS, or a meal before a show at Lincoln Center. Even the most exotic dishes like the zaatar baked cod have that signature Boulud touch. [Photo]

Sushi of Gari

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The original location of Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio's chainlet is still one of the best sushi restaurants in NYC. Start with an omakase tasting, finish with the tempura-fried ice cream. Photo]

Donguri

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One of the best places in the neighborhood for Japanese food. You won't find any sushi rolls on the menu at Donguri, but there are a few excellent soba and udon dishes, and a number of lightly-composed fish and vegetable items. The lobster miso soup is a must-try dish. [Photo]

Red Rooster

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Marcus Samuelsson's hot Harlem global soul food joint is luring the food lovers and critics from across the city uptown. A gamechanger for the neighborhood and totally worth the trip. [Krieger]

Roberta's Pizza

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One of the Brooklyn new school of locavore-crazy, market-driven ingredients, Roberta's is in many ways what happens when hipster chefs get it right. See also the Heritage Radio Network, which broadcasts from the dining room.

Frankies 457

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Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli have opened several great restaurants in the past few years, but their original is still a total classic. The cavatelli pasta alone is worth the trip to Carroll Gardens, but, then, so is the rest of the food and scene here, which is quintessentially Aging Hipster in the best possible way.

Mark Iacono's pies are the stuff of legend. His crispy thin crusts are topped with vibrant tomato sauce, a rich blend of three cheeses, and a few sprigs of fresh basil. Lucali still serves some of the city's finest pizzas, and the dining room is a real beauty.

Franny's

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Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg's charming Prospect Heights restaurant is most famous for its rustic, market-driven pizzas, but the charcuterie and pasta dishes here are also very good. Franny's still draws huge crowds of locals and Manhattanites, but some dishes like the clam pie are absolutely worth the wait.

The Good Fork

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The menu at this homey Red Hook restaurant has a little something for everyone: you can get a textbook roasted chicken, a serious pub burger, homemade pork dumplings, Korean-style steak and eggs, or a Peking duck leg, if you like. The Good Fork just launched a $25 three-course prix fixe menu that's serve Tuesday-Thursday.

Vinegar Hill House

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Vinegar Hill House has one of the most unique dining rooms in NYC — it feels like a slightly warped storybook cottage, or maybe a hip Woodstock bed and breakfast. The food's great, too, especially the cast-iron chicken and the salads, and there are plenty of great finds on the budget-friendly wine list. [Krieger]

Ayada Thai Restaurant

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Head to this Elmhurst Thai restaurant for fiery curries, perfectly composed salads, and awesome whole fish dishes. No meal is complete without an order of the fried bananas and the mango over sticky rice, when it's in season. Ayada is one of New York's best Thai restaurants, and you'll never have to fight monster crowds to snag a table. (Photo)

Tortilleria Nixtamal

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Corona's Tortilleria Nixtamal is famous for its homemade tortillas and all the delicious things that are stuff inside of them. Try the chicken mole enchiladas, the fried skate tacos, or the never-dry tamales. Many Mexican food snobs say that this is the best taqueria in NYC. (Photo)

Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen

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Queens' only Michelin-starred restaurant, Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen is a great place to go for wine and inventive bar snacks, or for a full-blown meal. Chef Danny Brown's menu features a number of American classics like chicken under a brick and roasted pork tenderloin, as well as a few seasonal Italian dishes, like wild mushroom risotto and grilled calamari with white beans. And if you just want a serious burger, Danny Brown serves a 10 oz Creekstone Farms patty on an English muffin for $15.

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Locanda Verde

Though owners include one Robert DeNiro, chef Andrew Carmellini is the real star here. After almost three years, this rustic neighborhood Italian restaurant is still one of the hottest tickets in town.[Krieger]

Barbarini Alimentari

Part restaurant, part Italian grocery, Barbarini serves solid Italian sandwiches and simply prepared pastas, salads, and fish dishes. When the weather's nice, their sidewalk cafe space is a great place to sit and snack on cheese and salumi while gazing out at cobblestone-lined streets of the Seaport.
[Photo: Barbarini]