When it comes to dining in New York City, there’s always a hot new place to try, if not half a dozen. Here, we bring you the latest restaurants that have New York food enthusiasts talking.
Back Forty. Pioneering Chef Peter Hoffman, a longtime leader in promoting local, sustainable food, attracts a devoted crowd at this casual restaurant that feels like a neighborhood joint. Despite Hoffman’s pedigree, Back Forty displays plenty of humility. Prices on the short menu are extremely low, and the homey décor features a pastoral mural behind the bar and rusty farm tools on the walls. Begin with bar snack bacon-and-shrimp beignets washed down with a fine house cocktail, like the rum and Concord grape fizz. The simple family-style dinner selections include a perfect grilled trout, a moist shareable whole rotisserie chicken, and a wide array of seasonal sides including the cauliflower gratin and roasted Brussels sprouts with dried cherries. 190 Ave. B, at 12th St., East Village. 212/388-1990. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: $15.
Hill Country. This enormous barbecue joint is perfect for big groups and carnivorous appetites. The pit master from Queens has a championship knack for real Texas barbecue. The beef-heavy menu features meaty ribs and exceptionally succulent slow-smoked brisket (check your diet at the door and go for the moist fatty option). Plump pork sausages, in regular and jalapeno cheese versions, are flown in direct from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas. The “market-style” setup can mean long lines for meat, sold by the pound, or ribs at cutter-manned stations. Bring your tray downstairs for a fine bourbon selection and nightly live music. 30 W. 26th St., btwn. Broadway and 6th Ave., Flatiron District. 212/255-4544. AE, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $17 per pound.
Centro Vinoteca. You might have to shout over dinner to be heard at this bi-level West Village hot spot, the debut from Iron Chef Mario Batali’s longtime Kitchen Stadium sidekick Anne Burrell. Acoustics aside, the popular trattoria is a great spot for a quartino of wine and an after-hours snack from the piccolini— small bites — menu. The list of tiny nibbles greets diners even before bread or water arrives, enticing patrons to whet their appetite (and inch up the bill) with piquant sautéed olives or fluffy ricotta and zucchini fritters. The extensive main menu features ample portions and big bold flavors, from crispy gnocchi with rich lamb Bolognese to a gargantuan rib-eye with a creamy potato-fontina cake. 74 Seventh Ave. S., at Barrow St., Greenwich Village. 212/367-7470. AE, MC, V. Brunch and lunch on weekends. Median entrée price: $25.
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Momofuku Ssam Bar. New York foodies have been talking about Chef David Chang since he opened his first restaurant in 2004. Momofuku Ssam Bar, the wunderkind’s much larger follow-up, is packed nightly with downtown diners cut from the same cloth as the pierced and tattooed wait staff and cooks. The no-reservation policy means you’ll likely have to wait for your chance to perch at the communal food bar and nibble on Chang’s truly original small-plate cuisine. Dishes from the seasonally changing menu arrive like tapas for sharing. Although the chef works mostly with Asian flavors, his food is impossible to pigeonhole. Chang’s not-to-be-missed riff on a classic Chinese pork bun helped build his cult following. 207 Second Ave., at 13th St., East Village. 212/254-3500. No reservations. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: $23.
Park Avenue Summer/Autumn/Winter/Spring. New York’s most self-consciously seasonal restaurant swaps out much more than its menu as temperatures change. Four times a year the restaurant — the formerly staid Park Avenue Cafe — shuts its doors for a head-to-toe makeover, switching, for instance, from a summery blonde-wood beach-house motif to dark wood and copper fall foliage tones. Chef Craig Koketsu’s seasonal food lives up to the striking surroundings. Summer brings a bounty of fresh-shucked corn, with a big juicy veal chop and heirloom tomatoes. Come autumn, the kitchen turns its focus to mushrooms, truffles (on a flaky John Dory fillet) and game (local quail, big venison chops). Desserts by award-winning pastry chef Richard Leach include elegant and homey creations like caramelized banana crêpes with sweet crumbled bacon. 100 E. 63rd St., at Park Ave., Upper East Side. 212/644-1900. AE, DC, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $34.
P*ONG. Lately New York pastry chefs have been migrating en masse from their usual supporting roles into the restaurant spotlight. Pichet Ong, who previously worked for top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was one of the first to open his own stand-alone restaurant. The Asian-inflected menu at this cozy West Village spot, filled with cushions in bright pop-art colors, blurs the line between entrée and dessert. His beautifully constructed, small-plate cuisine includes dishes that straddle the sweet-savory divide, including a foie gras-dark chocolate truffle and lamb with green curry and cardamom ice cream. Desserts, like pineapple tiramisu and jasmine rice pudding, remain, thankfully, pure sugary indulgences. 150 W. 10th St., at Waverly Pl., Greenwich Village. 212/929-08998. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $17.
Spitzer’s Corner. In warm weather, this sprawling Lower East Side gastropub throws open its windows and doors, and the party inside seems to consume the whole block. After you see the crowd at the bar tasting the 40 beers on tap, you’ll likely be tempted to pop in for a pint. Once inside, seated at one of the long wooden communal tables, you may be inclined to stick around for dinner or snacks. The upscale pub grub includes a full raw bar selection (briny just-shucked oysters) and bar snacks like extra sinful popcorn cooked in pork fat and topped off with bacon. 101 Rivington St., at Ludlow St., Lower East Side. 212/228-0027. MC, V. Median entrée price: $20.
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Photo credits: (1) courtesy Back Forty; (2) courtesy Centro Vinoteca; (3) courtesy P*ONG.