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.
Lower East Side
You’re here because: You want great BBQ and interesting cocktails, and you figure Jared Male (Hill Country Barbecue, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que) knows what he’s doing. Plus, he designed the restaurant to look like his grandparents’ basement, so there’s kitsch.
You’re dining on: Brisket, pork spare ribs, Chinese-style five-spice smoked duck, mac and cheese, country fried portobello and — this is a necessity — a thick smokehouse bacon with spicy bourbon syrup. Wash it down with The Winterburn, a wonder of bourbon, birch beer, amaro and bitters.
359 Grand Street (map)
Hwaban (3 images)
You’re here because: It’s one of the most tastefully designed spots we’ve seen this year. The name means “beautiful as a flower” in Korean, and with soft lighting, whitewashed brick walls, wood accents and plenty of greenery, the place lives up to it.
You’re dining on: Updated South Korean small plates like an organic egg with king crab in pine nut sauce or the excellent grilled New York strip steak with Korean mountain greens and mustard dressing.
Elsie Rooftop (2 images)
You’re here because: David Burke is now serving a beautiful new rooftop.
You’re dining on: Grilled cheese with freakin’ caviar, for starters. And also tons of small, decadent sandwiches: lamb sliders, lobster rolls, pastrami smoked salmon.
Henry Nomad (2 images)
You’re here because: Pan-African fare combined with Latin techniques from the decorated Chef JJ Johnson is too curious to pass up.
You’re dining on: Dishes culled from the Chef’s childhood, including seasonal vegetables, Bird Eye Chilis, curry, West African Peanut Sauce and Yassa (a plate of spicy, marinated meat and veggies).
Baker’s Pizza and Espresso (2 images)
Baker’s Pizza and Espresso
You’re here because: You can trust a Bronx native to do pizza right.
You’re dining on: Breakfast pizza, dude. Our favorite being the Benedict, which involves over-easy eggs, Canadian bacon, hollandaise sauce and scallions.
Gazala’s Place (2 images)
Upper West Side
You’re here because: Four letters: BYOB.
You’re dining on: Druze fare. It’s a Middle Eastern religion, so expect flavors from Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. The whisper-thin pitas are not to be missed.