Out of the hundreds of restaurants that have opened in the five boroughs within the past 12 months, we were especially delighted by several new arrivals to New York’s eating and drinking scene—including the following 10. Food execution and high-quality hospitality were givens when it came to picking these as our favorites of the year. But beyond that, we recognize that they brought something different to New York’s expansive table in 2018—these restaurants introduced us not just to new flavors, but to new experiences.
Some of our finalists for WSWD’s first annual Best New Restaurant Award for 2018 (yes, there’s an actual, physical award—we’ve seen a photo of it and it’s quite handsome!) boast pedigreed backstories and were destined to become instant hits in New York City’s crowded and competitive dining scene. But more often than not, our choices were not among the big-name, openings-to-watch-for lists that so many eaters and critics rely upon. What Should We Do’s food writer, Jess Bender, takes exceptional care to find the hidden, perhaps out-of-the-way gems that are more than worth the journey. She praised several of the finalists—Prospect Heights’s Sofreh, for example, as well as Greenpoint’s Di An Di and Cobble Hill’s Saint Julivert Fisherie—long before other food critics recognized their merits.
From Bender’s varied and unpretentious picks, we’ll choose the one outstanding eatery that impressed us the most to win our Best New Restaurant Award for 2018.
In these difficult deliberations, we’ll have help from our esteemed panel of judges, including: Michael Anthony, executive chef of Gramercy Tavern; Dana Cowin, host of the podcast Speaking Broadly on Heritage Radio Network, former creative director of Chefs Club, and former editor in chief of Food & Wine; Tracy Pollan and family, authors of The Pollan Family Table; Chris Scott, Top Chef finalist and owner of Butterfunk Kitchen; and Hong Thaimee, owner and head chef of Thaimee Table. Look for the announcement of our winner in mid-January.
Without further ado, these are the new restaurants that had Bender’s mouth watering this year (in alphabetical order):
“Queens’s fine dining scene has remained under the radar for years. Now it’s ready for a breakthrough moment—and the new Indian canteen is leading the borough’s culinary game.”
“Forget what you know about British food. Executive chef Nicholas Houlbert flips the script on the region’s love of hearty pub grub and elevates signature comforts to sophisticated new heights.”
Brooklyn Cider House
“Each cider glassful is defined as a snapshot of the moment in which they’re harvested (at the Hudson Valley family orchard) and fermented. There’s a guarantee your palate has never tasted something quite like a Basque-style sparkler.”
Di An Di
“From printed palm wallpaper to hanging ferns and succulents to skylights flooding the back dining room with natural light, the exotic interior transports you far away from Kings County. Combined with a soundtrack filled with beachy indie rock and atmospheric instrumentals, you’ll almost forget you’re on the cusp of the East River.”
“Retro jazz instrumentals can be faintly heard from the speakers, but energetic conversations—over organic and regional wines—coming from every which way will double as your soundtrack the moment you walk into Frenchette. And that’s a good thing.”
Henry at Life Hotel
“Consider Henry an all-encompassing introduction to the vast range of JJ Johnson’s influences. The kitchen touches on tastes from the continent, along with the Caribbean, Latin America, and the South, creating a globe-trotting trip on your table.”
“The stars of the seasonal Italian show are the coastal crudo and handmade pastas, but their accompaniments make them almost revolutionary.”
Saint Julivert Fisherie
“While Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s dishes lure you in, it’s the sense of community that will keep you coming back.”
“New York has its fair share of eateries where the customer doesn’t come first—waiters forgetting that you exist, dirty dishes abandoned at your table, shoddy pours of wine, and the like. You’ll find none of those unfortunate scenarios playing out here. In fact, you’ll want chef-owner Nasim Alikhani to adopt you the moment you meet her.”
“While most dining destinations aim to change the way you think about food, Alvin Cailan and company are instead asking you to reminisce on the foods you’ve grown to love.”