"You call this the Great Recession?” said one of my incredulous guests as we waited for a table at yet another newly opened, jam-packed restaurant. The Great Bust of ’09 may have momentarily obliterated the city’s collective appetite for icy canisters of Sevruga caviar and $5,000 magnums of Château Pétrus, but even in the depths of last year’s gloomy winter, it never came close to extinguishing the frantic, theatrical bond between New Yorkers and their food. Now, at the dawn of this new decade, green shoots are sprouting up all over the fine-dining landscape. Posh new Italian joints are proliferating like so many retail-bank outlets. Discerning gourmets are forking over $28 for trendy, high-concept hamburgers in clamorous faux speakeasies downtown, and despite the prognostications of doomsaying pundits (including this one), glittering old-world seafood palaces are back in vogue. In Meatpacking Land, celebrities are eagerly bull-rushing into scene restaurants again, with crowds of voyeurs trailing them. Down in the East Village, hipsters are booking tables months in advance to feast on $100 platters of gourmet fried chicken, and farther uptown, ambitious new restaurants are springing up in the city’s fancy hotels, just like they did during the boom years.
In this, our annual compilation of everything that’s good to imbibe, gobble, and otherwise devour in the booming, buzzing, constantly evolving restaurant galaxy that is New York City, we break down all of those trends and more. Where can you procure the finest gourmet meat-loaf sandwich in the city, and probably anywhere? We have the answer. What’s that dynamite new Northern Italian restaurant on the fringes of Chinatown? We’ll tell you that too. We’ve also singled out the best breakfasts, the best places to eat in Brooklyn, and—because this isn’t, in fact, 2007—the best bargains in town. For your debating pleasure, we’ve also compiled our answers to some of the urgent, Talmudic questions food-mad New Yorkers love to argue about around the table. We give you our lists of the city’s best new restaurants, young chefs, and desserts, plus the eleven stupid restaurant trends we’d like to see disappear. Finally, we offer our take on the most deliriously potent, mind-addling gourmet cocktails to enjoy, while pondering the most important question of all: what to order for your next meal.