With everything in the world so uncertain these days, it’s nice to know that we can at least look forward to some excellent new restaurants shaking up the city’s food scene. As usual, New Yorkers can expect a high-low mix of fully realized concepts and casual mom-and-pop affairs, which may very well land on restaurant critics’ radar. (To see the top spots that landed on our radar from last year, check out the contenders for our first annual WSWD Best New Restaurant Award.)
Be among the first to try the cutting edge of dining out in 2019.
Vegan comfort food will become more mainstream.
Who says carnivores get to have all the fun? New veggie-focused concepts take on the challenge of transforming healthy greens into slightly less healthy faves. Recent arrivals include Brooklyn’s new-wave greasy spoon Rip’s Malt Shop, which smashes plant-based patties for overflowing bodega bites like BECs and the chopped “cheese”; Hartbreakers, the Champs Diner team’s new fast-casual eatery in Bushwick specializing in piggish dishes like fried chik’n sammies and bomb breakfast burritos; and Carroll Gardens’s Sans, where Eleven Madison Park alum Champ Jones veganizes wintry standbys like pho (star anise replaces the usual beef broth) and tacos (lovingly filled with tempura-fried avocado slices). Two incoming East Village spots, meanwhile, come from the mind of restaurateur Ravi DeRossi: an exploration of vegan dim sum at Fire & Water, and the whiskey- and barbecue-centric Honeybee’s inside his former Cuban eatery, Cienfuegos.
Out-of-town concepts are disrupting the pizza scene.
Drop that slice! While 2018 was the year of the single-serve slice of pizza, 2019 is about the pies that are new in town. Continuing their reign of having New York’s trendiest pizza concepts are the Romans, with Italian pizzaiolo Stefano Callegari’s first U.S. venture, La Rossa, and first-time restaurateur Christopher Manta’s Dia in the East Village. Closer to home—but just as foreign tasting to New Yorkers—are grilled pies from Pizza Loves Emily Group’s Rhode Island–inspired Violet, and superthick Detroit-style pies at Serhan Ayhan’s ever-buzzing pop-up inside Astoria’s Boston Pizza.
The inspiration behind this year’s It cuisine? Central Asia!
Plenty of attention has been given to the recent influx of high-quality noodle shops, hot-pot hangs, sushi sensations, and izakaya concepts inspired by major Asian destinations, but we’re focusing our sights on the middle of the continent. Low-key newbies have garnered increasing buzz with unfamiliar-to-most Uzbek and Georgian bites that are as delicious as they are comforting: Afandi Grill’s miniature steamed beef dumplings, Farida’s savory samsas stuffed with pumpkin and aromatics, Rayhon Cafe’s stewed meat kebabs, and Argo’s extremely cheesy khachapuri (aka what I lovingly call a cheese canoe). Considering New Yorkers’ love for all things comforting, we won’t be surprised to see more cozy Central Asian nooks open up around town.
Food halls will continue to step up their game.
The recently opened Hill Country Food Park and Japan Village found inspiration from specific destinations—Texas for the former, the Pacific-adjacent country for the latter. Dekalb Market Hall, meanwhile, is consistently welcoming acclaimed vendors (the Southern-fried specialists at Delaney Chicken, Fish Cheeks’s fast-casual Chicks Isan), along with speakeasy-style cocktail bar Understudy and a sprawling cultural space called Dekalb Stage. Washington Heights is even getting in on the food hall game, with uptown gems (Jin Ramen, Harlem Public) and Salt + Bone Smokehouse, the dearly departed barbecue joint that’ll have Astorians making the M60-SBS cross-borough bus ride a regular occurrence.
Staten Island could have a breakthrough year.
Rarely do “Staten Island” and “trendy dining” end up in the same sentence, but that very well may change in 2019. Newcomers to the borough blend Manhattan sophistication and Brooklyn cool—South American coffee bar Coperaco, family-friendly and family-owned Seppe Pizza Bar, and the rib-sticking Corner House BBQ—while up-and-coming projects like Alan Dakhlallah’s Syrian sit-down Laila and RZA’s kung fu–themed bar inside Alamo Drafthouse are some of the most anticipated openings of the year. Will a Staten Islander be a future contender for 2019’s Best New Restaurant? Only time will tell.