Where to Eat in NYC for Spring 2014

© Jon Selvey

Spring is just about to arrive, but New York City’s dining scene is already abuzz with a crop of newcomers that haven’t waited for warmer weather to open their doors. Recent months have seen the debut of a welcome range of airy, design-focused spaces; eateries tucked inside hotels; and small, charming neighborhood spots. The cuisines offered are similarly diverse, with new options for seafood and vegetable-focused menus to French-Mediterranean-inspired fare and farm-to-table spreads. Whether you live in New York or are planning your next visit, these are the city’s hottest new restaurants you should be making reservations at now.

By Kate Donnelly

Kate Donnelly is a freelance writer based in New York. She’s the founder of the creative collaborative, From Your Desks. She’s a Contributing Editor at Fathom and her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Forbes, The Huffington Post and Refinery 29. She travels for the food. Follow Kate on Twitter @k8bdonnelly.

© Jon Selvey

The Clam

Located on a corner in the West Village, The Clam is an attractive, 50-seat spot run by chef Mike Price and Little Owl owner Joey Campanaro. As you might have guessed, the focus here is on clams. Stick with the house specialties like the clam dip, a creamy recipe concocted by Price’s grandmother and served with perfectly salty crisps. Clam fried rice and spaghetti and clams in a spicy gravy (a welcome kick) are perfectly textured and pair well with a crisp white wine.

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© Chris Mosier

Narcissa

Located in the Standard East Village hotel, Michelin-starred chef John Fraser’s relaxed Narcissa is housed in an inviting room with wooden furnishings, pretty fabrics, and marble touches. A seat at the bar affords you prime views of the chef and his kitchen staff. Expect local farm produce and plenty of fresh vegetables and dairy from hotelier André Balazs' upstate New York farm. The preparation is all about slow cooking and roasting; dishes include the rotisserie sweet potato, charred beets, fresh fluke crudo, and sliced bone-in rib eye. Save room for the distinct fennel cheesecake and a welcome jolt of espresso.

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Chicane

Perched on a cool SoHo corner, Chicane (a French verb describing the tight, hairpin turns in motor racing) is an homage to the Monaco Grand Prix, with obvious touches like rounded leather bucket seats and racecar-striped Eames chairs. The dusty-pink-and-light-blue room honors the playful seafood of southern France, with a touch of the whimsical and the nautical. Chef Andres Grundy does a nicely seasoned steak and a warm, brothy bouillabaisse. Undoubtedly, spring will usher in a fashionable SoHo crowd drinking Pouilly-Fuissé and chilled rosés. Stay tuned: Brunch launches in late spring.

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© Annie Schlechter

Margaux

Inside Greenwich Village's cozy, Wes Anderson-esque boutique Marlton Hotel, you'll find the sweet, 98-seat Parisian-inspired bistro Margaux. Dressed in varying shades of green with low ceilings, leather banquettes, leafy plants, tiles, and antique mirrors, the seasonal menu steers toward healthy French-Mediterranean dishes. Start with the crispy sunchokes, and spoon over some fluffy cauliflower custard with your rotisserie chicken. Homemade pastas and diver scallops with celery root are both delightful. Meat lovers should opt for the hamburger topped with slabs of English cheddar and pickled jalapenos. 

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Courtesy of Daniel Krieger

Empire Diner

After sitting empty for years, the iconic Empire Diner has reopened as a mod, comfort-food spot with classics and little unexpected twists. Led by chef Amanda Freitag (of Chopped fame), the friendly staff dishes up classic breakfast staples like omelets, fluffy pancakes, and more surprising items like fish and chips, vegetable lasagna with herbed ricotta, and oyster pan roast with pork belly. Dessert should be easy, like ice cream scoops or a chocolate milkshake. Look for a mixed crowd of Chelsea locals, High Line strollers, and foodies alike. They're only serving dinner currently, but look for a 24/7 sign soon.

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Kendra © Nathan Rawlinson

All’onda

Chef Chris Jaeckle’s marriage with industry heavyweights Chris Cannon and Jeffrey Chodorow (China Grill) has resulted in a handsome bi-level space with emphasis on contrasting textures. All’onda's storefront style mixes exposed wood beams, white tile, brick, and industrial-chic flourishes. Foodies will relish the smart, unlikely fusion of upscale Italian with Japanese, including polenta with miso-cured egg yolk and wild mushrooms, and homemade garganelli (an egg-based pasta) seasoned with citrus, tarragon, and peekytoe crab. Short ribs for two with saffron risotto is perfect for sharing. Add an accessible, albeit affordable wine list to the mix and it’s easy to be happy here.

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Courtesy of General Assembly

General Assembly

The folks behind Quality Meats and Quality Italian have opened General Assembly, a spacious market-driven grill that seats 170 diners. Designed by regarded firm AvroKO, look for art nouveau-inspired touches including the custom-made chandelier, curved leather banquettes, and light wood chairs. Chef Craig Koketsu’s menu showcases a bounty of oysters, fresh vegetables, and cured meats. Main dishes like the unique lamb frites and rabbit wellington surprise and delight. The handsome oak bar is a great place to unwind with a Loose Cannon (tequila and house-infused herbs) or a KelSo craft beer.

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© Adrian Gaut

The Monarch Room

The Meatpacking District gains some more style at The Monarch Room, a warm, elegant, Art Deco-style room in a renovated 1930s-era warehouse. Thanks to its mahogany bar, brass hardware, and leather banquettes, the look is cruise ship-inspired, courtesy of the design duo Roman and Williams. Wet your whistle with a Kitty Foyle Cooler (Absolut Citron with a rose liqueur) or Highline (Bombay Sapphire, celery juice, and dill). Chef Michael Citarella’s food is a proper mix of raw bar (coupled beautifully with Champagne), seafood platters, and plates like ribbon pasta with short ribs. Downstairs, the Gilded Lily whips up cocktails and spirits for the late-night set.

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Courtesy of Tanya Blum

Bodega Negra

Pop into Bodega Negra, located inside the Dream Downtown, for a seductive, low-lit atmosphere coupled with executive chef Michael Armstrong’s modern Mexican fare with a Yucatán spin. Similar to its London sibling La Bodega Negra, the crowd here is hip and likes to eat. Commence your meal with the guacamole, shrimp ceviche, and heaping lobster tostaditas. Feast on the Peking duck and vegetable tacos with grilled kale. Signature cocktails like the spicy Blood + Fire spell out the beginnings of a perfect date. Your meal should always end with the interactive Don Huevo dessert, a hollow white chocolate egg revealing a sinful chocolate cake.

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Courtesy of Daniel Krieger

Telepan Local

Chef Bill Telepan (of uptown mainstay Telepan) has opened a casual, 80-seat rustic farm space in TriBeCa. Telepan Local focuses on shareable tapas-style plates in a comfortable wood-beamed room resembling a chic barn. Sample the sourdough pizza, grilled short ribs, and bone marrow with arancini (Silician fried rice balls), coupled with Parmesan aioli. Vegetable-driven dishes are locally sourced and include the finely balanced fried watercress with chili oil and cashews and cauliflower gratin. Dessert lovers flock to the decadent peanut butter chocolate pretzel sundae, while coconut fans will beam at the layer cake.

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