To keep tabs on every New York restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Bon appétit.
Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
On the sly, Brooklyn Kolache Co. owners Dennis Mendoza and Autumn Stanford opened a Filipino/Tex-Mex taco joint. It’s very low-key and very fun. There’s not much on the menu outside tacos, queso and pack-a-punch drink specials. But this makes it all the simpler to eat all the tacos (literally: order them all) while playing the board games stockpiled behind the bar. The in-house fresh tortillas seal the deal.
1013 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn (map)
From brother-sister culinary duo Assaf and Naama Tamir and Chef Joey Scalabrino comes Lighthouse’s second iteration. The quaint ten-seat space is jumping off with breakfast and lunch service only, with plans to open for dinner on the near horizon. Expect the original locale's thoughtful and bold dishes, all also available for takeaway. If it’s the break of day, you’ll not want to pass up the freekeh bowl with smoked white fish, soft egg, capers and feta. For midday meals, go for the duck in pita.
LaRina Pastificio & Vino
Ft. Greene, Brooklyn
Fresh pasta is the high-thread count sheet of the culinary world. Once you have the real thing, you’re never going back. Enter LaRina, Brooklyn’s charming new mini pasta factory. The restaurant is a partnership between Giulia Pelliccioni and Roberto Aita and Chef Silvia Barban, formerly of Giovanni Rana. The 26-seat backyard is something you’ll want to visit before the chill sets in. And you’ll be in store for a black ink bucatini that knocks it out of the park, along with five varieties of Negronis. Pasta can be ordered à la carte in tastings of three, five or seven for sharing. Good for one of those dinners that accidentally lasts four hours. Brunch soon to follow.
387 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn (map)
Ft. Greene, Brooklyn
Owner and Chef A. Napadol has long held a dream to bring a healthier — i.e., less heavily sauced and sugared — style of Thai food to New York City. Now the dream is realized. The categories are what one would come to expect from traditional Thai (small plates of raw food, soups, salads, noodles, noodle soups, fried rice) but refined with a bit of contemporary flare, and even some European influence. Napadol’s personal favorite is the turmeric garlic chicken wings, and we hands-down surrender to the pick. They’re worth cheating on your local noodle shop time and again for.
15 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn (map)
Acclaimed Chef Anita Jaisinghani's Houston-based hit is now here in NYC. If you’ve had the fortune to visit the original, you can expect more of the same greatness with some new dishes exclusive to the East. Aside from the Bake Lab, an open-all-day creative space led by Pastry Chef Ashley Dickson, Pondicheri is an asset to the community ... not just a good place for dinner. They plan to serve “Community Breakfasts” every second Saturday of the month, with 50% of the proceeds from sales benefiting a local organization, beginning with the Stella Adler Studio for the theater arts.
15 West 27th Street (map)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
At its heart and soul: a wood-fired oven. Chef and owner Jake Novick-Finder is churning out a rotating selection of savory shared plates, pizzas and sweets pies. His first solo project, Gristmill functions under a “no-waste if possible” ethos, translating to cooking and inspecting every single stem, skin, leaf and shell to determine if there is a culinary application or use. The dough is taken very seriously — the cooks even have their own personal starter named Daisy — which explains why we've been recommending it to anyone who’ll listen based on the garlic knots alone. More sophisticated than it sounds, the pizza and milkshake are total highlights. Brunch forthcoming.
289 5th Avenue, Brooklyn (map)
Healthy(ish) soul food. No joke. A collaboration between mother and daughter team Linda and Zora Browne with the help of Chef Eugene McCall Jr., Zora’s still hits all of the Southern sweet spots. The fried chicken is brined overnight, soaked in buttermilk and expertly fried. But, in welcome contrast, there are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options in abundance, such as collard greens wherein the pork is optional. And you’d be a fool to leave without trying the fried green tomatoes — they'll have you tipping your hat in customary gratitude.
712 Ninth Avenue (map)