The Ten Best Brunches in NYC, 2016

In NYC, brunch offers a perfect opportunity to sample the city’s veritable smorgasbord — you can find everything from roving booze carts to D.I.Y. gourmet breakfast sandwiches to Mediterranean spreads of seasonal small plates. Here are our favorite places to indulge:

Smoked eel roll with cornflakes
Smoked eel roll with cornflakes

10. Mission Chinese Food (171 East Broadway, 212-432-0300)
Last year around Christmastime, Danny Bowien and executive chef Angela Dimayuga’s Mission Chinese Food crew debuted a playful take on dim sum brunch, complete with carts. The only catch is that you’re more likely to find tartare-topped congee and bagels smeared with chicken liver than crystal shrimp dumplings. If he’s around, Bowien himself may serve you bowls of sinigang, a Filipino soup soured with tamarind or wobbly rice rolls stuffed with smoked eel and sprinkled with cornflakes. He works the room harder than his waitstaff, whose indifferent attitude feels identical to what you’d get in Flushing, Sunset Park, or Mott Street. Barring the mimosa bottle service, the check’s nearly on par with Chinatown, too.

Mek-muffin breakfast sandwich
Mek-muffin breakfast sandwich

9. Mekelburg’s (293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-2337)
Every day of the week at Alicia and Daniel Mekelburg’s subterranean grocery and pub, the couple transforms the shop’s soft, dense babka into luxurious French toast. The brief menu also features smoked salmon and whitefish toasts, as well as a “Mek-muffin,” which puts the golden arches to shame with a crème-fraîche-and-chive frittata covered in melted cheddar, slab bacon, wilted arugula, and Malaysian hot sauce. The signature breakfast sandwich clocks in at $10, but a naked frittata on Mazzola Bakery brioche is just $3.75, with toppings like serrano ham or broccoli rabe available for about $2 each.

Meze spread
Meze spread

8. Glasserie (95 Commercial Street, Brooklyn; 718-389-0640)
In addition to brunch fare like lamb phyllo pies and ricotta-smeared grilled bread with stewed fruit, Glasserie’s Israeli chef Eldad Shem Tov offers a meze deal that comfortably feeds two. The $19 feast includes ten small tastes (bowls of yogurt, hummus, and seasonal vegetables) to pair with grilled flatbread. For $25, the kitchen throws in a choice of entree — think poached egg shakshuka, house-cured sardines, or more flatbread (this time with lamb and charred vegetables). Sure, the restaurant’s a bit remote, but that’s part of what makes it such a gem.

Chicken and waffles
Chicken and waffles

7. Delaware and Hudson (135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn; 718-218-8191)
Patti Jackson satisfies all your Mid-Atlantic desires at this charming and relaxed Williamsburg retreat known for its killer beer list. Scrapple, a Pennsylvanian pork-scrap treat, is made in-house. The kitchen serves the hash in thick golden-brown slabs with eggs any style. And Jackson forgoes fried fowl for crisp and airy waffles ladled with luscious chicken stewed in gravy. She’s even gotten into the breakfast sandwich game with “the Moose,” a mess of cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onions, and creamy special sauce on a hard roll — skin-on potato chips and seasonal pickles included.

Hot chicken biscuits
Hot chicken biscuits

6. Joe and Misses Doe (45 East First Street, 212-780-0262)
Opinionated restaurateurs Jill and Joe Dobias slay the weekend daytime meal Beyoncé-style at their stalwart East Village shoebox of a restaurant. Joe lets loose with inventive brunch riffs (BBQ chicken Benedict) and some seriously fierce biscuits. Enjoy them on their own, or split in half for a hot chicken sandwich that’s just begging for Queen B’s handbag hot sauce. Jill is a big fan of encouraging folks to have “sexy time” with her cheeky sidewalk chalkboard signage, and serves quirky goblet drinks, like a Michelada for two, perfectly attuned to the meal’s bacchanalian tendencies.

Smoked sturgeon and salmon platter
Smoked sturgeon and salmon platter

5. Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-724-4707)
New York’s oldest surviving appetizing shop and restaurant, Barney Greengrass has served the Upper West Side since 1908. You can sit in the timeworn beige dining room eating lox and eggs while the wait staff banters, grabbing cans of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda or your pick from the cold case. These days, third-generation owner Gary Greengrass oversees the action. The outfit also offers pastries, cheeses, matzo ball soup, blintzes, and other Jewish comfort dishes. But undoubtedly, the “sturgeon king” deserves his crown: the flaky, thick slices of pink-hued fish are subtly smoky, with remarkable unctuousness and a firm, meaty chew.

Affogato with rye-caraway ice cream
Affogato with rye-caraway ice cream

4. High Street on Hudson (637 Hudson Street, 917-388-3944)
Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin’s breezy spinoff of Philadelphia’s High Street on Market rouses weekend customers with provocative pastries (hello, Benton’s ham danish with coffee gravy), cured fish presentations, and bold breakfast sandwiches layered with everything from pastrami and bologna to seared king oyster mushrooms. Kulp even delivers a biscuit-bound homage to NYC’s bacon, egg, and cheese with a malted breakfast sausage patty and aged cheddar. That same sausage anchors a full breakfast involving spicy coppa, potatoes, eggs, and rapini, and the chef balances his meatier offerings with lighter plates like ginger yogurt and oatmeal. The breakfast menu is available until 3:30 p.m., but the kitchen begins offering lunch items starting at 11:30 a.m., so time your arrival accordingly. You don’t want to miss the salads, vegetable sides, and mouthwatering sandwiches like roast pork with fermented broccoli rabe, and a duck meatball sub that tempers sweet marinara with earthy duck liver. Lunch desserts are also available.

Korean tortilla española
Korean tortilla española

3. M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060)
Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, the trout-farming owners of this charming, offbeat steakhouse built inside a former auto-body shop, added brunch early last year. Dufour, long known for his unconventional creativity in the kitchen, turns the indulgent weekend meal on its head. The menu changes frequently, but seared foie gras plunked into a bowl of creamy oats is a mainstay, and depending on the season you might encounter jacked-up avocado toast drizzled with sea urchin vinaigrette, or an inverted and stately frittata with explosive pockets of kimchi and blood sausage, the eggs stained a Seussian purple thanks to Okinawan sweet potatoes. There’s also kimchi in the Bloody Mary, which comes garnished with a cocktail onion and top neck clam.

Green beans and hot sauce at the buffet
Green beans and hot sauce at the buffet

2. Lakruwana (668 Bay Street, Staten Island; 347-857-6619)
Wife-and-husband team Jayantha and Lakruwana Wijesinghe first opened their Sri Lankan restaurant, Lakruwana, in a midtown office building, surreptitiously. Then they went legit and moved to Staten Island, joining some 5,000 other Sri Lankan expats, the largest community of its kind in the U.S. At their stately restaurant, lovingly decorated with Buddha statues and gilded wall etchings, the Wijesinghes serve a $13.95 all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet on Saturdays and Sundays with more showmanship than anything Vegas has to offer. Dozens of dishes — many of them Jayantha’s family recipes — line the wall, bubbling away in clay pots of all shapes, sizes, and patterns. They hold heady fruit and vegetable curries (pineapple and cassava among them) and heftier dishes like chestnut-brown “black curry” pork. There’s enough variety here to encourage multiple trips, with a truly vast number of flavor and texture profiles on display. Even the condiments, often overlooked on a buffet, take star turns here — add the coconut and onion sambals to everything.

Tableside bloody cart
Tableside bloody cart

1. Rebelle (218 Bowery, 917-639-3880)
Taking a cue from its name, Daniel Eddy, Patrick Cappiello, and Branden McRill’s sleek French bistro initially eschewed the weekend meal altogether, advertising “weekend lunch” instead. They’ve since surrendered, though Rebelle’s brunch offerings feature several star players from their dinner menu: fluke crudo laced with brown butter, capers, and lemon; beef tartare with snappy sunchokes and bracing horseradish, and a superlative plank of roast chicken and sorrel leaves, which gets a lift from lemon preserves. There’s no French toast to be found, but devoted brunchers will appreciate the eggs Eddy fries and stuffs between brioche halves, producing messy, $16 breakfast sandwiches stacked with a gonzo combination of house-made duck sausage, Swiss chard, and Comté. The chef also drops a soft-poached egg into shallow bowls of deftly cooked lobster and cabbage (prepared eggless at dinner), and goes the sunny-side-up route for shareable plates of hanger steak with potatoes and bordelaise sauce. Adding to the daytime excess, Rebelle employs a cocktail cart for tableside Bloody Marys, Caesars, and Bulls. Choose your tomato mix, booze (vodka, gin, or mezcal), and a pickle from the Pickle Guys, like green bean and brussels sprout, which the roving mixologist will skewer and set over your drink with fanfare.


The Best Pizza on Staten Island, Old and New

If you haven’t hopped on the ferry or trekked across the Verrazano in the past few years, you may not realize the quality (and quantity) of new pizzerias that have popped up on Staten Island. Of course, it wasn’t exactly short on excellent pies — with a strong Italian-American presence, the borough has been a pizza stronghold for decades. We recently paid a visit to a number of pizzerias with storied histories, as well as ones that have only just begun to break in their ovens, and present the best of both worlds below. Mangia!

Old School:

The pie to get at Denino's is the M.O.R., a wonderful mess of meatballs, onions, and ricotta cheese.
The pie to get at Denino’s is the M.O.R., a wonderful mess of meatballs, onions, and ricotta cheese.

Denino’s Pizzeria and Tavern (524 Port Richmond Avenue, Staten Island; 718-442-9401)
Originally opened in 1923 as a confectionery, Denino’s introduced the pizza we’re still ordering today way back in 1951. And it’s not just us — nearly every night you’ll find the expansive restaurant and tavern bustling with kids coming from soccer games, friends meeting to split a pie (or three), and tourists who made the long journey from midtown. The pie to get is the M.O.R., a wonderful mess of meatballs, onions, and ricotta cheese spread atop a crust that’s halfway between the puffy rendition emblematic of Staten Island and the borough’s equally notable cracker-thin variants.

Joe & Pat's serves the epitome of the Staten Island cracker-crust pizza.
Joe & Pat’s serves the epitome of the Staten Island cracker-crust pizza.

Joe & Pat’s (1758 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island; 718-981-0887)
This is the epitome of the Staten Island cracker-crust pizza. Opened by the Pappalardo brothers in 1960, the restaurant extends the sense of family throughout, with neighbors greeting one another as they pick up their pies to go. Skip the larger seating area to the side of the pizzeria and eat at the counter instead, where you can watch the well-choreographed staff joke around while they slap dough (a practice that can take a year to master), spread tangy sauce, cubes of mozzarella, and small slices of pepperoni whose edges curl and crisp when cooked, and tend to the pies in the rotating oven.

Adventurous eaters shouldn’t miss the clam pie at Lee's Tavern.
Adventurous eaters shouldn’t miss the clam pie at Lee’s Tavern.

Lee’s Tavern (60 Hancock Street, Staten Island; 718-667-9749)
There’s no sign, no street number, no internet presence, but everyone in the neighborhood — and those who’ve hopped off the Staten Island Railway stop across the street — knows the spot, which has been serving up thin-crust pizza since 1940. Pull up a stool, chat with a jocular bartender, and order a bar pie, which is just the right size to finish alongside a pint — though the atmosphere will probably invite you to stay for at least one more. Like at many of the borough’s pizzerias, you can order the fried calamari as an appetizer or as a topping on the pizza, but the adventurous shouldn’t miss the clam pie.

New School:

You won’t go wrong with any of the pies at Campania.
You won’t go wrong with any of the pies at Campania.

(3900 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island; 718-227-3286)
The owners, who have another coal-oven pizzeria of the same name just over the bridge in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, fashioned their former upscale Italian eatery into this more family-friendly space in 2014. The pies get a decent char in the oven, and you won’t go wrong with any that are topped with the perfectly creamy fresh mozzarella, though the Calabrese, which also features spicy soppressata, fresh basil, and big flecks of pecorino, is a standout. While this is a great spot to fill a table with everyone from toddlers to grandmas (who won’t have to worry about parking — they’ve got valets), the lone eater can also grab a pie at the bar along with a Staten Island–brewed Flagship beer, available on tap.

Paulie's Pizzeria, the newest kid on the block, has quickly shown its might, dishing up cracker-crust pies with a sweet tomato sauce.
Paulie’s Pizzeria, the newest kid on the block, has quickly shown its might, dishing up cracker-crust pies with a sweet tomato sauce.

Paulie’s Pizzeria (500 Bay Street, Staten Island; 718-981-5111)
Opened just last year, the newest kid on the block has quickly shown its might, dishing up cracker-crust pies with a sweet tomato sauce that fans of Joe & Pat’s should make room for. Paulie’s is currently focused on takeout and delivery, and you can also eat at a counter at the window, but they expect to have a spacious, adjacent dining room open very soon, where you’ll be able to linger over a pie and a drink. The easiest on this list to reach from the St. George terminal, it’s worth the mile-plus walk (or quick bus ride) to grab a slice, rather than just turning around to take the ferry right back to Manhattan.

(7339 Amboy Road, Staten Island; 718-966-6610)
Though you can get a good standard pie at this Tottenville pizzeria and restaurant that opened in 2012, the ones from the wood-fired oven are the way to go. The crust is thin but tender and comes topped with some of the most flavorful ingredients to be found on any pizza in the borough, like the one with pancetta that’s complemented by smoked mozzarella, or the pie with sweet Italian sausage (sourced from a local Staten Island pork store) and fiery hot peppers. If you stay to eat dinner in the bustling neighborhood favorite, you’ll also enjoy those peppers, mixed with small bits of soppressata, with the healthy dish of olive oil served alongside the bread set out for your table.


Here Are the Top Ten Locations for Parking Tickets in New York

Forget driving — finding parking in New York City is its own special level of hell.

Sometimes you just need to grab your dry cleaning real quick…who cares if you’re in a yellow zone? Maybe you just need to pick up a prescription…no one’s going to mind that much if you double-park, right? By that little orange envelope nestled underneath your windshield wiper, you can tell the City of New York has a thing or two to say about it.

In fact, parking enforcement had 10 million problems with your shitty parking job last year. That’s right — 10 million tickets were given out last year.

The folks at RentHop have compiled data from NYC Open Data and determined which were the worst neighborhoods in which to park your car from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015…and the top ten places in New York you’re likely to find one of those pesky fines waiting for you. So don’t park (illegally) at any of these places — you’ll probably get a ticket.

And here are the top ten most-ticketed locations in all of New York City:

10. Bridge Dry Cleaners
Address: 204 Livingston Street, Brooklyn
Tickets given: 1,759 tickets

9. Verizon Wire Center
Address: 82-23 Broadway, Queens
Tickets given: 1,788 tickets

8. North Shore LIJ Medical Group
Address: 95-25 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park
Tickets given: 1,901

7. Richmond University Medical Center
Address: 355 Bard Avenue, Staten Island
Tickets given: 2,022

6. 101-99 Warren Condo Complex and Shopping Center
Address: 99 Warren Street, Manhattan
Tickets given: 2,049

Continue to see the top five places New Yorkers get parking tickets… 

5. Manhattan Fruit Exchange, Chelsea Market
Address: 448 West 16th Street, Manhattan
Tickets given: 2,239

4. The Packer Collegiate Institute
Address: 170 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn
Tickets given: 2,335

3. New York Presbyterian Hospital Employee Housing
Address: 1330 First Avenue, Manhattan
Tickets given: 2,866

2. MetroTech Center, BellTell Lofts
Address: 365 Bridge Street, Brooklyn
Tickets given: 3,374

1. Staten Island Mall
Address: 2655 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island
Tickets given: 4,668 tickets


The Ten Best New York Beers of 2015

There was a time, not so long ago, when compiling a list of the city’s best beers was a breezy task, merely a matter of cataloging the limited amount of good grog the five boroughs had to offer. Things have changed. Drastically. As of 2015, the Tri-State area is brimming with micro-breweries, dozens of which released ales and lagers worthy of inclusion here. If you are currently drawing breath within the five boroughs, congratulations: There’s never been a better time to be a craft beer fanatic than right now.

Listed below are the top ten reasons — a selection of releases from throughout the year demonstrating how the scene continues its ceaseless climb. Ever upward, New York.

10. Flagship Brewing – Metropolitan Lager (5.6% ABV)

As a fairly uncontroversial style, lager often fails to captivate the attention of “loud” beer lovers. That’s a shame, as a brewer’s steady hand is never so apparent as in a gentle, nuanced offering. Staten Island showed the craft crowd how it’s done with its Metropolitan Lager: a smooth-bodied refresher with a beautiful balance between Old World malt and hops. No single ingredient takes center stage, yet each provides a pivotal supporting role in every sip.

Superf*cking Yawn
Superf*cking Yawn

9.Threes Brewing – Superfucking Yawn (9.5% ABV)

There’s IPA, and then there’s IPA! Entering a supremely dense field of highly hopped craft ales, Gowanus’s favorite brewpub knew they had to bring theirs with a bang. Mission accomplished. This explosive hop bomb with undertones of tropical fruit and sticky pine resin hits you hard. As it should, with its elevated alcohol content, hovering near double digits. But any brewer with a lone limb can dump endless amounts of hops into a batch. Setting Superfucking Yawn apart is its floral aromas, whisper-light body, and a satiating juiciness that lasts for days in the finish. Nothing sleepy about any of that.

Revenge of the Emu
Revenge of the Emu

8. Cuzett Libations – Revenge of the Emu (5.4% ABV)

It was quite an eventful year for brewers Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett. The two prominent members of the local craft scene formed their own brewery, tied the knot, and took a trip to Australia to explore the fermented flavors of the Southern Hemisphere. The voyage Down Under informed the couple’s second release, a sessionable blond ale named after the outback’s most notorious flightless bird. Revenge of the Emu was fruit-forward, hinting at white grapes and passionfruit. Reining in the sweetness was a dry blanket of kölsch yeast and pilsner malt. A thoughtful and complex arrangement suggesting a bright future — professionally and personally — for the newly minted husband-and-wife brewing team.

Seeking Alpha Triple IPA
Seeking Alpha Triple IPA

7.Captain Lawrence – Seeking Alpha (11% ABV)

Unapologetically bitter from start to finish, Seeking Alpha was the beer New York hop-heads were waiting for. When it hit shelves this past February, it didn’t stick around for long. Which is appropriate, as IPAs are meant to be consumed fresh. The name of the beer itself refers to the alpha acids responsible for bitterness. Yet Seeking Alpha was almost as much about its dank, citrusy aroma, courtesy of a dynamic bouquet of four separate hops, including bold Citra and assertive Tomahawk. A faint two-row malt backbone teased out dryness upon the discerning tongue. Be on the lookout for its return later this winter.

Long Island City's finest
Long Island City’s finest

6. Transmitter Brewing – H1 Zinfandel Harvest Saison (6.5% ABV)

Saisons are on the rise. Complex, with hints of fruit and funk, they come equipped with many of the characteristics to make connoisseurs gush with glee. And no one in this part of the world has the style on lock like the folks at Transmitter. In 2015 they flexed their muscles with this crisp, effervescent ale, aged in oak alongside a hearty dose of zinfandel grapes. The resulting liquid was brimming with berries, tannins, and any number of adjectives commonly associated with high-end wine. Although H1 will never be precisely replicated, if you missed it, learn from your mistake: When Transmitter releases a saison, you grab it, and you don’t let go for quite some time (the style ages gracefully in the bottle).


Finbacks aging in their Queens barrelhouse
Finbacks aging in their Queens barrelhouse

5. Finback – Plumb and Proper (6.3% ABV)

With a rapidly evolving sour-beer program, Finback brings serious street cred to the Queens craft scene. Originally brewed near the end of 2014, this dark and tart offering became considerably more accessible after a bottle release in August ’15. Made with plums and wild yeast, there are notes of brown sugar and molasses to accompany an unexpected smokiness. A creamy mouthfeel is accentuated by ever-so-slight carbonation. For those seeking a bold drinking experience, Plumb and Proper is not to be missed.

A taste of the dark side
A taste of the dark side

4. Carton Brewing – Irish Coffee (13% ABV)

Carton Brewing (out of Atlantic Highlands, NJ) continues to push craft beer in an unexpected direction with ingredient-forward releases, designed to emulate all sorts of food and drink heretofore unassociated with suds. In 2015, they tackled the classic combination of caffeine and whiskey, their Irish Coffee evoking the familiar flavors of its namesake. There’s an immediacy of mint on the nose, followed by acidic, roasted bean notes that are first to hit the tongue. The darker elements soon fade, however, revealing oak, hazelnut, and cream in a lengthy finish. And that creaminess will leave you coming back for more. To find a beer this smooth containing this much alcohol defies imagination. Par for the course for a brewery proving themselves as the Willy Wonka of craft.

Double Negative in the barrel
Double Negative in the barrel

3. Grimm Artisanal Ales – Barrel Aged Double Negative (10.2% ABV)

Overflowing with oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel, and anything else needed for a delicious dessert, Double Negative is the pinnacle of what a bourbon-barrel-aged beer can offer. The jet-black stout, produced by Brooklyn husband-and-wife gypsies Joe and Lauren Grimm, was injected into Heaven Hill casks in 2014, where it rested patiently until ready for 22-ounce bombers last winter. Some could come close, but you won’t find a more well-rounded imperial stout in the land. And after winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival this September, Double Negative now has the hardware to prove it.

Whole lotta hops
Whole lotta hops

2. Other Half Brewing – Street Green (7% ABV)

It’s hardly a secret how Other Half Brewing has ascended the ranks to claim the mantle of New York’s Greatest Craft Brewery: hops. A whole helluva lot of them. Although the all-star operation on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens excels at any number of more esoteric styles, they attract the greatest fanfare for consistently producing the freshest, fiercest IPAs in this part of the world. With so many of them deserving inclusion on this list, the primary reason why Street Green edges out the rest is because it’s, well, the freshest and the fiercest. Brewed with an ungodly abundance of Amarillo, Simcoe, Galaxy, and Equinox hops, Street Green hit cans just last month, reeking of grapefruit, pineapple, and kiwi juice. It flogs the palate in a wondrous, tongue-tingling tropical bath. You’re gonna want to sit down for this one.

1. Greenpoint Beer and Ale Company – Pendulum (6.1% ABV)

This one-off from early 2015 was a wild ale like none other. Brewed entirely with Brettanomyces, an unruly yeast commonly associated with funkier notes, Pendulum relied on a variant called Brett C. This offshoot strain endowed the beer with juicier esters, arriving as over-ripened citrus fruit on the tongue. Best yet, these tonalities tangoed effortlessly with the resiny hop strains at its core. In the aroma, and in the mouth, Pendulum provided an unforgettable drinking experience. Brewers of Greenpoint Beer: On behalf of New Yorkers everywhere, please bring this beer back in 2016!


The Ten Best New Bars in NYC, 2015

Far from an arduous task, keeping up with the drinking scene in NYC is one of the ongoing pleasures of living in this exhilarating place. This year we saw mixologists experimenting with exotic spices, spirits and infusions, much to our heady delight. Here’s our top ten list of 2015’s best new drinking establishments. Cheers!

(649 East 9th Street, 212-673-1190)
The real miracle on 9th Street wasn’t the Christmastime pop-up former Experimental Cocktail Club barman Nico de Soto brought to the East Village these past two holiday seasons, but what sprung up in-between. Last spring, he transformed the former Louis 649 space into Mace, a steely, muted Parisian boite colored only by the herbaceous ingredients that sharply season each drink on the menu. While the narrow space doesn’t offer much room to breathe, it offers plenty of flavor to inhale deeply, from the assertive Celery Seed, wrapping an infused mezcal with a chipotle tincture in a haze of sherry, to the creamy Chamomile, which swaddles floral notes with brown butter fat-washed cognac. (Adam Robb)

Holiday Cocktail Lounge (75 St. Marks Place, 212-777-9637)
Most beloved dives can’t afford to update their offerings while maintaining their charms, but the spring reopening of Holiday Cocktail Lounge was a happy surprise. The address hasn’t changed but the building has, thanks to a bountiful investment by its owner (and the inventor of Pirate’s Booty.) And the mural dedicated to Holiday’s predecessor has endured as well as the bar’s former patrons, as perennial an ornamentation as Holiday’s twinkling Christmas lights. And if they look a little lost sipping on a menu revamped by Michael and Danny Neff – most recently responsible for invigorating the enduring charm of the Hotel Edison with their Rum Bar – they can still feel at home with the prices, which include $5 cans of Rolling Rock and $7 Long Island iced tea on draft to wash down $6 grilled cheeses. (Robb)

Lumos is the place for baijiu
Lumos is the place for baijiu

Lumos (90 West Houston Street, 646-692-9866)
NYC is filled with specialty bars. There are thousands of whiskey joints, tons of tequila taverns, tiki bars, rum pubs, mezcal haunts. If it exists, it’s in the Big Apple. Baijiu, an ancient Chinese spirit made from sorghum and/or rice, has only recently been acknowledged by bartenders in the West. Baijiu cocktails have been popping up on beverage lists at speakeasies and Asian-inspired eateries over the past couple years, but Lumos is the first bar to deal solely in the celebratory liquor. Since last spring, lead bartender, Orson Salicetti (formerly of Apotheke), has been mixing up a seasonal list of cocktails that enhance the varied aromas of the booze. Look for interesting drinks like the Goji ($15), a rich and smoky riff on a paloma with goji berry-infused Baijiu shaken with mezcal, pink grapefruit, lime, agave and orange bitters. With rare grog and an underground cabaret vibe, a trip here is an experience. Stop by on a Saturday: they offer burlesque shows in  the back room. (Sara Ventiera)

Dullboy's menu leans heavily toward classics such as the Last Word, Paloma, and Gibson.
Dullboy’s menu leans heavily toward classics such as the Last Word, Paloma, and Gibson.

Dullboy (364 Grove Street, Jersey City; 201-795-1628)
Liquor licenses in Jersey City don’t go unused for long, so last February,shortly after Park & Sixth owner Brian Dowling relocated his original restaurant to the south side of Grove Street, he teamed up with The Garret’s Adam Fulton to open Dullboy in its place. It was a quick turnaround, its low-lighted ambiance evoking the drafty chill of The Shining with billowing dime-store paperbacks and disused typewriters mounted to the walls. The menu was limited; fresh oysters shuffled through the pass of the former sandwich kitchen, and the drinks menu was a rough draft at best. Now at year’s end, the room is packed – extending to the benches outside – and you can’t see the decor past someone you know, even as competition’s proliferated over the past ten months. Now bartenders Gabriel Reiben and Grant Wheeler execute a menu of original libations like the mezcal Alejandra, packed with the earthiness of achiote syrup and chocolate bitters. Now clean slurps of oyster are still an option, but so are hot, buttered bar steaks and marrow-slathered burgers. Now’s the time to check it out. (Adam Robb)

Serious drinks in a laid-back atmosphere
Serious drinks in a laid-back atmosphere

Porchlight (271 Eleventh Avenue; 212-981-6188)
When Danny Meyer is involved, you know a place will be worth its salt. This Chelsea pub offers serious drinks in a laid-back atmosphere, comforting mixology novices while challenging booze connoisseurs — a win for everyone. Head bartender Nick Bennet breaks down the selections into four categories: Guzzlers; Classics, Sippers, and Nerdy (“late-night experiments that worked”). You can’t go wrong with anything, but the latter section is worth paying special attention to. There’s a whiskey and cola ($15) that’s a high-end riff on a Jack and Coke with mellow corn whiskey, Fernet Vallet, and homemade cola syrup. The IPA-Mazing is as good as it sounds — a refreshing and slightly bitter mix of Tanqueray, grapefruit, passion fruit, and Other Half IPA. (Ventiera)

Mother of Pearl (95 Avenue A, 212-614-6818)
Even when it’s 70 degrees in December, New Yorkers will forever appreciate an escape to a tropical destination. However, while conga lines and frozen margaritas do have an upside, its the modern tiki bar Mother of Pearl, helmed by Jane Danger, that provides the best excuse to break out a floral-patterned shirt. By maintaining serious cocktails within the wacky world of tiki – think quality balanced ingredients being slurped out of shark’s mouth – the bar demonstrates Polynesian isn’t passé. Mix in a menu of crudos, fried rice, and Southeast Asian-style bites, and you’ll be able to postpone that long awaited vacation just a bit longer. (Billy Lyons)

Loosie Rouge (91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn; no phone)
2015 should be remembered for the resurgence of the piano bar as a reason to go out, mostly because of the efforts of Loosie Rouge. On any given night, you’ll find bartenders whipping up vieux carrés while patrons quietly tap their feet – or perhaps dab in plain sight. Simplistic, refined, and overall straight-up cool, the bar may be named after a loose woman, but its reputation is tight. The New Orleans-style subterranean bar embraces the idea of a cocktail as a global agent of change. Though your ideas may never leave the room – which might happen given the strength of the cocktails – you’ll nonetheless be reminded that when a bar has the lights on and music playing, something good is bound to happen. (Lyons)

Bar Goto (245 Eldridge Street, 212-475-4411)
Although the Lower East Side is flush with drinking destinations, few operate with as much finesse as this handsomely appointed, eponymous offering from Tokyo expat and respected barman Kenta Goto. Behind an L-shaped bar, he and Mat Resler stir and shake inspired cocktails ($15), from the Tom Collins-esque Yuzu-Calpico Fizz (which uses Japanese milk soda and receives a marshmallow topping) to the cherry blossom-garnished Sakura martini, and even a mushroom-inflected bloody mary. While the drinks and atmosphere drip with understated class, chef Kiyo Shinoki’s bar snacks get down and dirty. Tackle joyfully messy miso-glazed wings, burdock root fries, and rectangular slabs of okonomiyaki pancakes studded with meats, seafood, and atypically, sun-dried tomatoes and three cheeses. (Zachary Feldman)

Latin flair in Cobble Hill
Latin flair in Cobble Hill

Leyenda (221 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 347-987-3260)
Inspired by the South American travels of her youth, Ivy Mix opened this Latin-inspired Cobble Hill cocktail bar with her mentor, Clover Club’s Julie Reiner. Mix, who won Best Bartender in America this year at booze industry convention Tales of the Cocktail, fleshes out her drinks list with around twenty offerings, highlighting spirits like cachaça, pisco, and Bolivian brandy, plus plenty of rums, mezcals, and tequilas to boot. Consulting chef Sue Torres complements tipples like the Tia Mia — which melds mezcal, rum, orange curaçao, and almond-like orgeat syrup — with a pan-Latin menu of pupusas, flautas, ceviche, and mofongo. (Feldman)

Slowly Shirley (Downstairs, 121 West 10th Street, 212-243-2827)
With this buttoned-up subterranean watering hole, owners Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns perfectly complement the Happiest Hour, their raucously popular West Village saloon that sits right on top of it. Descend past palm tree wallpaper to a low-ceilinged chamber lined with plush maroon booths and a bar stocked to the brim. Down here, Kearns runs a fastidious program, mixing signature drinks with esoteric spirits and pointed presentations. Don’t miss his Tahitian Coffee (for two). Served in a Chemex coffeemaker, the $35 tipple shakes up Barbados rum with pisco, cold brew coffee concentrate, falernum, honey, and tropical fruits. Slowly Shirley also graciously offers the same In-n-Out-inspired cheeseburger that’s made the upstairs such a hit, should you wish to partake of your meat sandwich in windowless semi-privacy. (Feldman)


The Top 10 Most Popular Village Voice Food Stories of 2015

In New York, there’s no shortage of dishes and drinks, legendary chefs, and fascinating stories from the kitchens of your favorite eateries. As we count down the hours to 2016 (with a glass of bubbly in hand, natch), here are the tastiest tidbits from the Voice‘s restaurant coverage in 2015:

10. Luksus Will Take Its Michelin Star Back, No Questions Asked
People swipe stuff from bars all the time. Pint glasses with fancy logos, delicate stemware, Spuds MacKenzie posters, coasters, and self-worth are pocketed every night. Some bars and restaurants screw stuff right onto the walls, but Daniel Burns, chef and partner of Tørst and Luksus , the Scandanavian restaurant and bar in Greenpoint, didn’t think he had to take extreme measures when it came to a simple plaque noting a prestigious achievement by his restaurant: the awarding of a Michelin star. Read more about Luksus’s missing Michelin star…

9. Two Entrepreneurs Set Out for War-Torn Yemen in Search of a Brew That Could Change Coffee Drinking Forever
The small fishing boat carrying two Americans and a local captain bounced and skidded across the choppy waves of the Red Sea. As they sped away from Yemen toward the African nation of Djibouti, Andrew Nicholson and Mokhtar Alkhanshali kept a close eye on the heavy suitcases they had tucked away beneath a protective blue tarp. Inside was the cargo they had driven for seven hours, past Houthi rebel checkpoints and Saudi Arabian airstrikes, to bring back to the United States: ninety kilos of Yemeni coffee beans. Facing violent waves and a waterway stalked by Somali pirates, Nicholson and Alkhanshali could only hope their cargo would end up in American coffee drinkers’ cups, and not at the bottom of the sea. Read more about Andrew Nicholson and Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s quest for Yemeni coffee…

8. Brooklyn Whiz Kids’ Chef’s Knife Is Blowing Up on Kickstarter
A newly launched online kitchenware company, Misen — pronounced meez-en (as in mise en place) — sparked into being with an intent to create affordably priced, essential cooking tools “to get people back into the kitchen.” It’s the brainchild of Brooklyn-based co-founders Josh Moses and Omar Rada, along with Peter Müller, an industrial designer from Chicago. The trio of self-described avid home cooks, designers, and entrepreneurs launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $25,000 to finance the manufacture of their first product: a professional-quality eight-inch chef’s knife. It took them all of one hour to reach their goal. Read more from our interview with Josh Moses… 

7. These Vegan Chicharrones Converted Carnivorous Chef Tracy Obolsky
“I was a little nervous when I saw that most of the menu was vegan. I’m slightly anti-vegan, being a pastry chef and all. But I’d been hearing about these vegan chicharrones, and I couldn’t quite believe they’d be as good as people were saying they are.” Read more about Tracy Obolsky’s venture into vegan territory…

6. At Nearly 80, Jacques Pepin Keeps On Educating and Entertaining
With photos of his family and their gatherings, Jacques Pépin’s new book outlines his idea of a great get-together. He talks about his entertaining ethos: “The first requirement for anything I serve at my house is that it taste good. No compromises!” He explains his favorite game, boules (bocce), and what to drink while playing — Pernod or rosé. Pépin recalls foraging with his parents and older brother in Bourg-en-Bresse and describes how he’s continued the tradition with his daughter — and, now, granddaughter — in Connecticut. It’s all enough to make you wish you were part of the Pépin brood. Read more from our interview with the legendary Jacques Pépin…

5. The Best Bacon in NYC Could Be at This Queens Butcher Shop
One of these fine types of bacon is a crusted slab known as “white bacon” or slana. Pure fatback (all fat, no meat), it’s heavily salted and smoked (the store advises that the salt should be washed off before eating). You wouldn’t typically describe bacon as “delicate,” but this diaphanous specialty is just that, more akin to the buttery richness of fresh sea urchin than something on a BLT. Read more about this shop’s incredible bacon… 

4. NYC Enacts Styrofoam Ban; World Does Not End
On July 1 New York implemented a controversial citywide ban on Styrofoam. Pursuant to Local Law 142 of the city’s administrative code, the new policy does away with single-serve foam cups, beach coolers, takeout containers — even those pesky packaging peanuts. Because these items can’t be recycled, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office estimates the ban will remove up to 30,000 tons of annual waste from landfills and waterways. Sounds like something we can all get behind, right? Not exactly. Read more about NYC’s new styrofoam ban…

3. In the Per Se Kitchen With Executive Sous-Chef Matt Peters
This legendary restaurant in a shopping mall has secured iconic status as one of the most unimpeachable homes of high-level cuisine, committed to creating a dining experience unlike any other. In the morning, the mall is dead, but the chefs have been cranking it out since before sunrise. Read more about our behind-the-scenes look at Per Se…

2. GMOs are Haunting in New Thriller Consumed
Consumed is the first dramatic film to present the GMO debate onscreen, pitting those who believe that GMOs in our food are extremely safe against those who believe they’re contributing to chronic health issues. Offscreen, in real life, no long-term studies have been done with enough clarity to shut down either side. Small farmers fight huge farming corporations. Health companies fight food producers. Politics and economics muddle research. Of course, this kind of material runs the risk of being snore-inducing when projected onto the big screen. But filmmakers Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones were prepared for that. Read more from our chat with the filmmakers… 

1. Here’s the Recipe for Junior’s Original New York Cheesecake
Over the years, Junior’s has changed quite a bit, but its soul has remained the same. And its famous cheesecake recipe, painstakingly developed by Allen Rosen’s grandfather in the mid 20th century, is exactly the same, though new toppings have been added and some older ones have changed. Read more about Junior’s and cop their cheesecake recipe… 


The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015

Another madcap year of NYC dining comes to a close. Here are nineteen dishes (and one meal) I couldn’t stop thinking about — and that I hope to taste again sooner rather than later.

20. Beef rolls, Kottu House (250 Broome Street, 646-781-9222)
Godamba roti, the flatbread Sandya De Silva chops up for her namesake dish at Kottu House, also deep-fries sensationally. The chef, who serves up Sri Lankan street-food gems with her son, Chelaka Gunamuni, from a jewel-box storefront on the Lower East Side, rolls the roti and fills their crisp shells with ground beef, shredded vegetables, and fragrant curry before dropping the bundles into hot oil. Hot sauce comes with an order of the enlightened Hot Pockets, but throw down a few extra bucks for the house sambals. The raw onion and coconut condiments deliver chile-spiked fireworks.

19. Caramel mille-feuille, Vaucluse (100 East 63rd Street, 646-869-2300)
Oh, you like fancy, huh? At the Altamarea Group’s latest venture, Alina Martell complements Michael White and Jared Gadbaw’s unabashedly buttery, savory French cooking with a cadre of grown-up and posh sweets. Her mille-feuille sandwiches gorgeously light lemon-inflected cream between layers of flaky puff pastry. That caramelized shell, plus sweet milk ice cream on the side and a deeply flavored caramel drizzle on the plate, render this classic dessert contemporary.

18. Indian aster salad, Gui Lin Mi Fen (135-25 40th Road, Queens; 718-939-2025)
Noodle soups, a signature of the southern Chinese city of Guilin, get top billing here, but I kept going back for tastes of this salad of finely diced tofu and herbaceous Indian aster. When cooked, the plant has a texture similar to boiled tea leaves, with a grassy finish. And while it arrives looking like lawn clippings, the chilled appetizer — with its bouncy bean curd cubes — makes for a refreshing counterpoint to the warming noodle soup.

17. Korean tortilla española, M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060)
Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, the trout-farming owners of this charmingly wacky steakhouse built inside a former auto body shop — are well suited to brunch, a meal that can simultaneously cause and soothe hangovers. The duo added the indulgent weekend meal earlier this year, with stupendous results. This inverted and dressed-up frittata made me chuckle and then woke me up with explosive pockets of kimchi and blood sausage, the eggs stained a Seussian purple from Okinawan sweet potatoes.

16. Fisherman’s okonomiyaki, Bar Goto (245 Eldridge Street, 212-475-4411)
Okonomiyaki popped up a lot this year, and nowhere did I enjoy the Japanese comfort food more than at veteran barman Kenta Goto’s tastefully appointed drinks lair, which slays with a combination of thoughtful, fun cocktails and righteous bar snacks. The savory pancakes — made with grated yam and cabbage and served in rectangular cast-iron pans — arrive wearing artful squiggles of Worcestershire-like sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. My favorite (with a shout-out to the wonky sun-dried-tomato-and-cheese version) is the Fisherman’s okonomiyaki, a friendly assemblage of perfectly cooked rock shrimp, squid, and octopus. Sprinkled with wispy bonito flakes, it eats like the drunk-munchies of Aquaman’s dreams.

15. Cobia al pastor, Cosme (35 East 21st Street, 212-913-9659)
Tacos al pastor are having a moment in NYC, with industry professionals using the pork-and-pineapple dish as a point of inspiration for pizza and even beer. At Cosme, Enrique Olvera’s progressive Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron, chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes translates the hearty recipe into a gorgeously balanced plate of spice-rubbed cobia with chile-pineapple purée, cilantro, and paper-thin pineapple slices. Reimagined in Soto-Innes and Olvera’s hands, the rough edges of this street food are softened into something elegant that hits on both a referential and a guttural level.

14. Fig & olive dessert, Timna (109 St. Marks Place, 646-964-5181)
Nir Mesika cooks with an erratic but overwhelmingly successful creativity and isn’t afraid to take risks seasoning assertively. Although a porcini dessert perplexed me, his take on the Israeli rosewater pudding called malabi was the best kind of contemplative dessert — one that’s hard to stop eating. Salty dehydrated olive crumbs offset the sweetness from rose syrup and a mound of yuzu custard layered with black mission figs, fresh berries, and shredded halva — a symphony of fresh fruit, brightness, and brine.

13. Sunchokes with gruyère-cider foam, Wassail (162 Orchard Street, 646-918-6385)
At Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler’s Lower East Side cider bar, chef Joseph Buenconsejo cooks with confidence and plates with whimsy. In these vegetable-mad times, this lovely bowl of sunchokes stuck out for its clever and seamless oscillation between cold and warm ingredients. Cider-spiked gruyère foam obscures tender and crisp cooked sunchokes. A top layer of shaved sunchokes, arranged like reptile scales, balances the rest of the dish’s deep, nutty elements.

12. “Fuckin’ Mackerel” dip, Whit’s End (97-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Queens; no phone)
Fine-dining expat Whitney Aycock runs a very particular kind of pizzeria out in Rockaway Beach, with occasionally flexible operating hours (check Instagram) and a menu littered with profanity. An avid fisherman, the chef aggressively smokes his catch behind the restaurant, taming the oily, locally caught bluefish or mackerel (depending on what’s in season) and producing a stunningly rich and pungent appetizer. Forget toast points — Aycock stacks a pyre of char-speckled pizza-dough breadsticks next to the dip. Topped with a puddle of imported olive oil, chopped scallions, and cracked black pepper, it’s well worth the money you’ll have to drop in your swear jar.

11. Herbie’s International, Ivan Ramen (25 Clinton Street, 646-678-3859)
Ivan Orkin put this throwback sandwich on his L.E.S. lunch menu after a friend mentioned eating the original in Canarsie at Herbie’s International, an offshoot of Catskills restaurant Herbie’s in Loch Sheldrake. Both of those places are long gone, but Orkin’s kitschy regional excavation yields gustatory pleasure. The kitchen piles thin slices of sweet and tender Chinese-style barbecued pork into a miso-garlic toasted hero roll and serves the bulky sandwich with sinus-clearing Chinese mustard, shiso-spiked citrus slaw, and syrupy roasted-garlic duck sauce.

10. Khinkali, We Are Georgians (230 Kings Highway, Brooklyn; 718-759-6250)
These dumplings from the Caucasus aren’t quite as soupy as Shanghai’s delicate, glutinous soup-concealing jewels, but they’re no less fun to eat, and these are my favorite in town. Co-owner Marina Maisuradze-Olivo stuffs her sturdy skins with pork and veal; it’s up to you to add the hot-pepper condiment known as ajika, which fairly buzzes with coriander and blue fenugreek.

9. Georgia white shrimp, Wildair (142 Orchard Street, 646-964-5624)
So many of the small plates at Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske’s funky wine bar are fun to share, but none more than a bowl of shell-on, olive-oil-poached shrimp. Unsheathe the briny creatures from their shells and snag some of the accompanying cilantro and celery garnish on the way up to your mouth. When’s the last time you wiped your shrimp hands clean before taking a swig of pét-nat, Champagne’s lightly effervescent, often cloudy cousin?

8. Pastrami and eel sandwiches, Harry & Ida’s (189 Avenue A, 646-864-0967)
Chef Will Horowitz’s obsession with preservation techniques has never been more keenly focused or better presented than at his rustic apex delicatessen, which he opened with his sister Julie Horowitz this past summer. At the small but well-stocked East Village shop, live eels are plucked from a tank, killed, and smoked. You can take the slippery bastards home or let Horowitz and his team tame them in an otherworldly sandwich layered with smoked butter, maple sauce, and a spiced relish made from parsnip, onion, and horseradish. The justly famous pastrami sandwich, first sold at sister restaurant Ducks Eatery, delights here as well, with fatty and supple smoked meat sassed with dill and buttermilk-pickled cucumbers.

7. Sardine tostada, El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette (100 Stanton Street, 212-260-3950)
Of the many fresh and refreshing small plates on the dinner menu (launched this past winter) at Nick Morgenstern and chef Gerardo Gonzalez’s quirky café, an open-faced fish sandwich beguiled me most. Gonzalez arranges meaty, oily, smoked Portuguese sardines over a crunchy corn tortilla slathered in whipped Greek-yogurt butter. Brightened with shaved radishes, carrots, and carrot-top salsa verde, this fragrant, vibrant tostada eats like a Vogue Battle on the palate.

6. Lamb coppa pizza, Bruno (204 East 13th Street, 212-598-3080)
What started as an off-menu nightly special at Justin Slojkowski, Dave Gulino, and Demian Repucci’s stark East Village pizzeria eventually became a menu mainstay. And for good reason: The talented kitchen team melds barnyardy lamb coppa, béchamel, sheep’s-milk cheese, fennel, and tomatillos. Such rambunctious toppings might otherwise inundate more subtle crusts, but the nutty, caramel-brown dough that Slojkowski and Gulino mill in-house is a perfect foil to the onslaught of strong flavors.

5. The entire Kitchen Table menu (more or less), at Empellón Cocina (105 First Avenue, 212-780-0999)
This past spring, chef Alex Stupak renovated Empellón Cocina, the most ambitious of his three Mexican restaurants, and reopened with a semiprivate dining area overlooking his kitchen. There, the New England native serves extended menus ($95 for 10 courses at 6 p.m., $165 for 22 courses at 8 p.m.) that amount to some of the most ambitious and original cooking in town, Mexican or otherwise: cerebral and interactive; elaborately composed yet altogether relatable. I won’t soon forget squash with chilmole, an obsidian sauce made from pepper ashes; the choose-your-own salsa adventure; or Stupak’s cheeky inverse al pastor with a swatch of melting pig fat layered over spiced and caramelized pineapple. For those who yearn for the restlessly creative chef’s return to his pastry roots (and who lament the loss of Cocina’s briefly offered dessert tasting), the Kitchen Table is where to find his particular brand of sweet sorcery, like white sesame and black mole sorbets. Beverage pairings are some of the most affordable of their kind ($30 and $50, respectively), likely because you’ll swig micheladas and frozen margaritas. What other tasting menu lets you do that?

4. Tum kanoon, Chiang Mai (293 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 646-858-5185)
The porky salad of shredded jackfruit stirred with curry and tomatoes that Kanlaya Supachana and Sirichai Sreparplarn served at their welcoming pop-up had me wondering why northern Thai cooking isn’t more prevalent in NYC. The chefs anoint their heady mash with slivers of fatty pork belly and fried hibiscus blossoms and pile crisp pork rinds on the side. Mixed up into one lush, piquant, crunchy salad, it will ruin you for all other meat salads — even the fiery, sour larbs of nearby Isan.

3. Squid ink strozzapreti, Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201)
In a former Bushwick warehouse, Kevin Adey cooks some seriously provocative pasta from house-milled grains. His knobbly, hand-rolled squid ink strozzapreti have remarkable heft and chew and are tossed with shreds of olive-oil-poached skate wing that coat the noodles like a maritime ragù. A topping of pumpkinseed breadcrumbs adds a pervasive nutty crunch. You’ll never yearn for lobster mac-and-cheese ever again.

2. Wild sesame soup, Oiji (119 First Avenue, 646-767-9050)
Do you like tahini? OK, do you love tahini? You probably should have deep-rooted feelings about sesame seeds (or wild sesame, a/k/a perilla seed) before ordering Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku’s outrageously rich and slightly bitter wild sesame soup. Missing the heaviness of other nut soups like West African peanut-based maafe, this velvety purée is silken and almost airy. The chefs ladle the beige and burnished liquid over tender oyster mushrooms, black truffle, and chewy coins of rice cake for a truly impactful and comforting bowl.

1. Baked potatoes, Mekelburg’s (293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-2337)
Alicia and Daniel Mekelburg’s baked potatoes redefine the staple comfort food as an affordable luxury. You’ve never seen spuds so glamour-shot ready, their creased and cracked salt-baked skins split down the middle and stuffed with lavish fillings. One oozes raclette and wears a crown of sour cream, pickled peppers, and double-smoked slab bacon; the other supports flaky smoked sablefish under a cloud of crème fraîche and a gargantuan quenelle of briny caviar. The rest of the menu has thrills aplenty (from monstrous porchetta and NOLA-style BBQ shrimp sandwiches to a “Mek-Muffin” brioche breakfast sandwich featuring more of that slab bacon). Still, in a million years (and hundreds of meals over the course of this one), I never thought I’d be dreaming about baked potatoes.


The Ten Best NYC Restaurants, 2015

In a dining climate as exhilaratingly precarious as New York City’s, restaurants live and die by their ability to stand out in such a massively competitive market. Here are the openings that held our attention the most this year.

Yuba Philadelphia
Yuba Philadelphia

10. Superiority Burger (430 East 9th Street, 212-256-1192)
Punk-rock drummer and erstwhile pastry pro Brooks Headley didn’t miss a beat opening this vegan and vegetarian fast-food joint that’s short on space but unbridled in its creativity. The $6 signature sandwich – a petite seared puck of nuts, beans, and quinoa covered in melted muenster, roasted tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, honey mustard, and pickles – merits a try, but don’t miss out on Headley’s jazzed-up specials. Mock-Philly cheesesteak shames the beefy original with a stack of floppy yuba (tofu skin). Soups and sides mash-up market vegetables with a thrilling, casual playfulness, and desserts belie the chef’s pedigree with peerless soft serve in flavors like hibiscus-yogurt and toasted burger-bun. We only hope that Headley considers expanding to a location with more seating.


9. Oiji (119 First Avenue, 646-767-9050)
With time spent at Bouley and Gramercy Tavern respectively, Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku give Korean home-cooking a meticulous contemporary facelift at their sleek East Village canteen. You’ve never seen a prettier yukhoe, the chopped beef arranged into a plank dotted with ramp aioli, pickled mustard seeds, Asian pear, pickled cantaloupe, and a runny slow-cooked egg yolk. And mackerel hot-smoked over pine needles arrives with its own pine-needle brush for slathering on citrusy soy sauce. Even with painstaking care taken in the kitchen, Oiji tends to get boisterous during primetime – though that could just be the free-flowing soju.


8. Trini-Gyul (112-16 Liberty Avenue, Queens; 718-659-1020)
Although Ro Ramcharan was forced to relocate her Trinidadian restaurant from Bed-Stuy to Queens earlier this year, the new digs thankfully came with a boozy silver lining (a liquor license and bar area). In the morning, there are doubles — fried dough stuffed with stewed chickpeas and piquant chutneys. Show up during the day and delight from a staggering array of Caribbean staples occupying the steam tables in back, or hit up the lively, bare bones tavern after 9 p.m. – that’s when the former Carroll Gardens nanny busts out seriously flavorful bar snacks like jerk wings, shrimp wontons, and chicken glazed in peppery cassava molasses. On any given night, there might be cricket on the TV or live music blaring through the boxy dining room, and if you’re lucky, Ramcharan will emerge from the kitchen to school you and the rest of her customers on how to properly bust a move.

Sunchokes with gruyere-cider foam
Sunchokes with gruyere-cider foam

7. Wassail (162 Orchard Street, 646-918-6835)
Of the many vegetable-focused restaurants to open in the past few years, Wassail – from Queens Kickshaw owners Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler – might be the most convivial. Whether that’s because of the bar’s many taps and 100+ cider options or chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s unlikely and charming vegetarian menu is anyone’s guess. All we know is we’ll gleefully show up during happy hour or brunch for the toniest, heftiest veggie burger we’ve ever encountered and fizzy pours from limited-edition kegs and carboys. Pastry whiz Rebecca Eichenbaum embraces sweet-savory combinations in her modernist desserts, mixing beets and buttermilk for a sherbet to pair with fudgy chocolate.

Pepperoni pizza with house-made ranch dressing
Pepperoni pizza with house-made ranch dressing

6. Bruno (204 East 13th Street, 212-598-3080)
In a city that loyally champions no-bullshit pizzerias both old and new, a place like Bruno – with its criminally unforgiving seating and starkly bright lighting – was bound to polarize both enthusiasts and the slice-eating public at large. But while you risk numbing your ass when eating here, we’d argue that it’s your icy heart that’s truly numb if you’re unable to find inspiration in Justin Slojkowski and Dave Gulino’s experimental pies. The chefs at the helm of this progressive pie parlor mill the dark, nutty flour for their ambitious pizzas and pastas, and complement their carbs with a menu of devotionally seasonal small plates. As the kitchen tinkers with the dough and learns the ins and outs of their wood-fired oven, Bruno’s fascinating rounds (lamb coppa with béchamel and sheep’s milk cheese; country ham and winter squash) have only improved.

Georgia white shrimp
Georgia white shrimp

5. Wildair (142 Orchard Street, 646-964-5624)
Chefs Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone have always cooked with fastidiousness while keeping things laid back in the dining room – first at their progressive neo-bistro Contra, which opened in 2013, and now at Wildair, the wine bar they opened a few doors down from their flagship restaurant this summer. Graze on shareable small plates, like peerless fried squid with ink aioli for dipping or black bass crudo done up al pastor-style with pineapple and ‘nduja vinaigrette, or split a blowout, $85 wagyu steak. However you use the menu, you’ll easily find something interesting to sip thanks to Jorge Riera and the many natural wines that populate his list.


4. Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201)
Chef Kevin Adey opened this spacious, Italian-inflected New American restaurant with his wife Debbie in a former MoMA storage facility last spring. Adey mills his own grains, turning them into breathtaking pastas and porridges, like vivid green spinach gnocchetti with mushrooms, foie gras butter, and popped sorghum. The chef and his small kitchen staff also make ample use of the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, roasting hulking cuts of meat and greenmarket vegetable specials. Despite the looming, colorful graffiti murals spray painted onto restaurant’s surrounding buildings, Faro’s affable, attentive service (props to Debbie’s Jean-Georges training) is wonderfully, refreshingly anti-Brooklyn.

Kao kan jin, steamed rice with pig's blood
Kao kan jin, steamed rice with pig’s blood

3. Chiang Mai (293 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 646-858-5185)
From a pop-up restaurant inside Red Hook’s Home/Made, Kanlaya Supachana and Sirichai Sreparplarn cook uninhibited northern Thai food matched with what is easily the best beer and cider list of any Thai restaurant in the five boroughs (looking at you, Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie on tap). The duo’s silken coconut milk based curry soup, khao soy, remains a worthy signature dish, but kudos go to the whole crew here for embracing spice and not shying away from pig parts. Chiang Mai offers a multitude: from shoulder to ears, belly, skin, and even blood.

Smoked sable baked potato
Smoked sable baked potato

2. Mekelburg’s (293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-2337)
People get up to some depraved things in basements, but we’re certain none are as delicious – or satisfying – as Daniel and Alicia Mekelburg’s subterranean grocery and restaurant. Make your way past aisles of specialty foods to the bar and dining room in back, where chalkboard menus tempt with the promise of earth-shattering baked potatoes and mountains of thinly shaved porchetta piled into sesame seed rolls. Place your order at the bar and peruse the sixteen available beers and ciders on draft, which rotate whenever a keg kicks. By that same measure, cocktails are ordered by name rather than from a list. Arrive before 11 a.m. and spend some quality time with the Mek-muffin, a breakfast sandwich with gravitas that tops chive and crème fraiche omelets with arugula, slab bacon, melted cheddar, and the same southeast Asian sambal the Mekelburgs use for broiling oysters at night.

Foie gras terrine with cantaloupe sauce
Foie gras terrine with cantaloupe sauce

1. Gabriel Kreuther (41 West 42nd Street, 212-257-5826)
The setup might be familiar (a la carte in the lounge area, prix-fixe in the main dining room) if you dined at the Modern under his tenure, but Gabriel Kreuther hit the ground running this year with his stylish and opulent namesake Midtown retreat set within the ground floor of the W.R. Grace building across from Bryant Park. It marks a triumphant return for one of our city’s most treasured European chefs. From deep within an elegant and airy space decorated with wood beams and stork motifs, Kreuther oversees the execution of some 40 dishes between his two menus. Bookended by a procession of amuses, bread courses, and petits fours, the standard $115 four-course dinner feels like actual value for the Benjamins you’ll throw down — especially when paired with pastry chef Marc Aumont’s stunning desserts and beverage suggestions from sommelier Emilie Perrier. This is Kreuther, having finally struck out on his own, realizing his dreams. After eating there, you’re likely to have some nice ones of your own. Whether tucking into tartes flambees and hearty plates of tripe gratin in the glossy lounge or settling in for the multicourse main event among couch-like banquettes and handbag stands, Kreuther’s team provides a seamless experience to match the chef’s artistry on the plate.


The Top 10 Most Popular Village Voice Online News Stories of 2015

The year is drawing to a close, and the Village Voice is taking the opportunity to look back on the incredible stories of 2015. Some were of great social import and others were more playful, but they all ignited conversations and brought us a little closer together. Without further ado, here are the top 10 blog posts that you, our dear readers, read most.

10. NYU Student Who Fought Housing Costs Is Ordered to Move Back to Campus or Drop Out
A New York University student who grabbed headlines when she accused the school of pulling a bait-and-switch with its sticker price has been forced to move in to university housing under threat of expulsion. Nia Mirza, who, after being told by university officials that she could live with relatives near NYU’s Washington, D.C., campus in order to help offset the cost of her tuition, says she must now move in to campus housing if she wishes to continue her education there. Read more… 

9. This Brooklyn Artist Took Nude Self-Portraits at New York’s Slave-Trade Landmarks
For the last several years, however, artist Nona Faustine has worked to shine a light on New York City’s buried legacy of slavery in a striking series of self-portraits titled “White Shoes.” The photographs feature Faustine posing before famous New York landmarks and locales: City Hall, the State Supreme Court Building, Wall Street — forgotten marketplaces where African men, women, and children were once bought, sold, and rented into slavery. Read more… 

8. Mayor of Whitesboro, N.Y., Insists This Village Seal Is Not Racist 
Despite the criticism, Whitesboro village officials maintain that the wrestling match was an important event in the village’s history and helped build relations between White and the area’s Native American population. Read more… 

7. Prosecutor Says Freddie Gray’s Knife Was Legal Under Maryland State Law
In what has become a much-too-familiar pattern, there are questions about how Freddie Gray died and whether the officers who arrested him used excessive force, causing the neck injury that severed his spinal cord and, apparently, killed him. The municipal code under which Gray was arrested resembles New York’s law in several ways, and its peculiar wording is equally ill-suited to modern technology; as we discovered when we looked at gravity knife laws in New York, knife statutes often have not kept up with current knife designs. Read more…

6. Meet the Two New Yorkers Who Are Starting a Preschool for Adults
A preschool. For adults. That’s right. Anyone 18 or older can enroll in Preschool Mastermind, a month-long course where adults can relive their pre-K days with activities like finger-painting, show-and-tell, nap time, and even a class picture day that prompts you to “dress your 4-year-old best.” Read more…

5. A New York Photographer Dresses Up Penises in Cute, Tiny Costumes (NSFW)
Dick pics will always be gross, but they could stand to be a little funnier. That’s the goal of New York–based photographer Soraya Doolbaz, who showed off her collection of tastefully photographed dick pics — each penis is turned into a character via rather cute, doll-sized costumes — earlier this year. Read more…

4. This Video Shows NYC Exactly 25 Years Ago, on July 18, 1990
Even for midtown, there’s a lot going on in this brief video, shot 25 years ago. The scene opens with a stumbling man who leans on a fire hydrant before it gets weird. The video was shot by a man visiting Manhattan with his two sons and their friend, during a summer weekend in 1990. Read more…

3. A Fervent Cop Supporter Changes His Mind About NYPD After Gravity Knife Arrest
Carsten Vogel, who has always been a police supporter and even counts some cops among his friends, was arrested by police for possession of what they deemed an illegal gravity knife — the problem is that it was actually a legal blade manipulated by the arresting officer to act like a gravity knife. Read more…

2. Here’s a Very Brief Tour of a 100-Square-Foot Upper West Side Apartment 
“My living room is Central Park,” says the man who rents a 100-square-foot apartment on the Upper West Side. Grayson Altenberg recently moved to New York from Wisconsin to work in a restaurant at Lincoln Center. Altenberg was gracious enough to give us a brief tour of his small living space. Read more…

1. A Manhattan Landlord Is Evicting an Entire Block of Latino Business Owners
“Buildings are being sold in the community, new landlords are coming in with no regard to the community, to the businesses, even the residents that have been there a long time,” Quenia Abreu, the president and CEO of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, tells the Voice. “You can open a business and invest your life’s savings, $100,000, $200,000. And when the lease expires, the landlord can say, ‘I don’t want you anymore, goodbye,’ and give you 30 days.” Read more…


The Ten Best Old-School Pizzas in NYC, 2015

If you’d described pizza to the average New Yorker in 1904, chances are they’d kiss you on the mouth for dreaming up something so incredible. It wasn’t until the following year that Gennaro Lombardi began selling the simple and mouthwatering combination of bread, cheese, and tomatoes that has since become as synonymous with this city as the subterranean rats that now enjoy it.

More than a century later, our city’s pizza scene has exploded to the point where local diners can choose between pillowy Neapolitan rounds and bulky Sicilian slices, fried pizza, deep-dish, and several subsections of the thin-crust genre — including Roman pizza and bar pies (please, let’s forget the time we went all Nineties Madonna and experimented with pizza cones).

New York’s longest-enduring pizza legacy is undoubtedly the style that formed indigenously in Italian-American kitchens — our longest-standing pizzerias attest to that. We’d like to think that Gennaro would be mighty proud of what he started 110 years ago, though he’d probably be pretty miffed about all the new competition. Whatever his deal, he’d eat well digging into any of these, our ten best old-school pizzas:

10. Joe’s Pizza (7 Carmine Street, 212-366-1182)
After forty years slinging exceptional slices in Greenwich Village, Pino “Joe” Pozzuoli and grandson Sal Vitale finally branched out, and the perennial favorite now operates both in the East Village and across the East River in Williamsburg. But the original location thankfully still stands as a testament to cheesy gas-fired New York–style pizza. Plain slices are textbook, featuring bright, lightly sweet sauce melded with gooey low-moisture mozzarella and flour-forward crusts. Vitale also bakes up bulging, doughy Sicilian pies sporting nicely browned caps of melted cheese.

9. L&B Spumoni Gardens (2725 86th Street, Brooklyn; 718-449-1230)
Bensonhurst’s landmark Italian-American nostalgia complex — spread out over three buildings that include a formal dining room and pizzeria — is as famous for its wonderfully airy Sicilian pies as it is for its namesake frozen dessert, a milky not-quite-ice-cream offered in chocolate, pistachio, and cremolata  (almond-spiced vanilla). A summertime favorite since 1939, slices here, pulled from rectangular trays, have real height, with crisp crusts and yeasty, just-baked interiors supporting gobs of mozzarella and richly herbal sauce ladled on top. But regardless of weather or season, when the craving for robust square pizza hits, a trip to L&B is a must.

John's of Bleecker's coal-fired pie
John’s of Bleecker’s coal-fired pie

8. John’s of Bleecker (278 Bleecker Street, 212-243-1680)
In 1929, former Lombardi’s employee John Sasso struck out on his own with this Bleecker Street pizzeria that likewise eschews slices in favor of table service and faintly smoky coal-fired pies. The restaurant’s split dining rooms ooze with history, its walls and tables bearing the hungry etchings of diners past. Lines to get in the door move fast, and so do the dough-slingers in the back. Their handiwork arrives at the table hugging the edges of its metal tray. While the sauce could use some acidity, the gooey fresh mozzarella that John’s uses has a broad creaminess when melted that harmonizes with heartier toppings — all of it supported by crust with an admirable crunch.

7. Luigi’s Pizza (686 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-499-3857)
Visit this South Slope staple, with its handful of seats, charming vintage signage, and pressed-tin ceilings, for quality thin-crust and Sicilian pies. Luigi Lanzo opened his namesake shop in 1973, and it’s now run by his children, Giovanni and Marisa. Lightly sweet tomato sauce (their mother’s recipe) cradles milky puddles of mozzarella — plain slices with nicely chewy, burnished crusts. And like his father before him, “Gio” seasons the olive oil he drizzles over finished pizzas with homegrown basil and turns the aromatic herbs into a zesty pesto that elevates white slices.

Slices from Sal & Carmine's
Slices from Sal & Carmine’s

6. Sal & Carmine Pizza (2671 Broadway, 212-663-7651)
Founded in 1959 by Sal and Carmine Malanga, this family-owned pizzeria slings superlative slices and gorgeously amorphous pies that bank on a floury crust baked terracotta-brown underneath. The bready canvas soars when sloshed with the pizzeria’s sweet, bold sauce and aged mozzarella. Now run by Carmine and Sal’s grandson Luciano Gaudiosi, the Upper West Side parlor retains a simple allure. We could wax poetic about the towers of pizza boxes stacked high, Carmine’s no-bullshit attitude, and the shop’s resistance to delivery, but the parlor’s success could easily be predicated on its product alone.

5. Lee’s Tavern (60 Hancock Street, Staten Island; 718-667-9749)
Staten Islanders popularized skinny, thin-crust pizza in New York (with Joe & Pat’s and Denino’s battling it out for saucy supremacy in that regard), but when it comes to bar pizza in New York City, Leroy Morocco’s Dongan Hills pub takes the cake. For 75 years, locals have congregated under pressed-tin ceilings to delight in the modest cracker-thin, extra-crisp rounds. The kitchen’s piquantly sweet sauce pairs perfectly with the salty funk of pepperoni or sausage.

4. New Park Pizza (15671 Cross Bay Boulevard, Queens; 718-641-3082)
Since 1956, this Howard Beach pizzeria has supplied city-dwellers with some of the cheesiest and most archetypal pizza in the five boroughs. Pizzaioli here scatter the bottom of the brick ovens with salt, which flavors the crust’s underside, giving it a more pronounced yeastiness. New Park’s concentrated and saccharine marinara cuts through both the crust’s bold smokiness and the onslaught of creamy, slightly scorched mozzarella. Per the city’s pizza cognoscenti: Order your pies and slices well-done or risk having to deal with a somber droopy dough triangle.

3. Louie & Ernie’s (1300 Crosby Avenue, Bronx; 718-829-6230)
First operating in Harlem before a move north, this Pelham Bay slice shop has served locals and raving pizza pilgrims for more than seventy years. Brothers Cosimo and Johnny Tiso bought the current space — which sits below a small house — in 1987 from Ernie Ottuso, one of the original owners (immortalized via a street sign at the pizzeria’s corner intersection). Their plain pizza finds a commendable balance between golden-brown crust, full-cream Wisconsin mozzarella, and gently sweet tomato sauce, and their white pies pile on the ricotta. To either of them, make sure to add crumbles of tender, fennel-accented pork sausage, imported all the way from right down the street at S & D Pork Store.
2. Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-372-8606)
A beloved slice of historic New York City, Brooklyn’s oldest pizzeria has stood the test of time, battling and persevering in the face of Hurricane Sandy and a fire. Then again, half a decade is nothing for this Coney Island pizzeria, which Anthony “Totonno” Pero opened in 1924 after working at Lombardi’s. Seasoned from more than a century of use, the shop’s coal ovens produce pizzas boasting darkly charred crusts that are sturdy enough to support generous layers of sweet, herbal tomato sauce and melted fresh mozzarella.

Di Fara
Di Fara

1. Di Fara Pizza (1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn; 718-258-1367)
New York City’s patron saint of basil-snipping, Dom DeMarco opened this Midwood dough shrine in 1964 and has presided over it ever since. From his spare corner shop, he and his family turn out beautiful, imperfect rounds drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with punchy grana padano cheese. While the oven occasionally lends pies a good deal of char, Di Fara’s recipe — which includes a mix of buffalo and cow’s-milk mozzarella and both canned and fresh tomatoes — yields a pie that’s better than most even when it’s verging on burnt. The place was swamped even before jerks like us deified the poor guy. Some will tell you to get there early, but we prefer to double down on delicious by placing an order at Di Fara and then walking around the corner to split one of the Italian comfort food dishes served at sister restaurant MD Kitchen (the DeMarcos just opened a sweets shop nearby as well). If you’re going to suffer a two-hour wait, you should at least take solace in a plate of shrimp parmigiana.