From the Meatball Shop and Ramen Burger to S'MAC and Rice to Riches, single-concept restaurants are a longstanding and profitable trend in NYC. But there's always room for more eateries that cater to really specific food cravings. Here's a short list of new and buzz-worthy specialty spots.
Grilled cheese: Melt Shop
Who doesn't love a gooey grilled cheese sandwich? And that captive audience has made Melt Shop a local success story.
"[Our] inspiration was to create a high-quality, food-focused, fast-casual concept that was stylized, yet approachable to the masses," founder Spencer Rubin says of the franchise, which has grown to five locations in Manhattan, one in Long Island and a new outpost in Washington, D.C, in four years.
Menu standouts include the 3 Cheese with gruyere, Havarti, goat cheese and roasted tomatoes on sourdough, and the Buffalo fried chicken melt with pepper jack and Buffalo blue cheese sauce on sourdough. Plus, don't skip a side of yummy tater tots. Multiple locations.
Dumplings: Mimi Cheng's
Authentic, mouth-watering Chinese dumplings are the specialty at Mimi Cheng's, which opened this past summer in the East Village. The family Taiwanese recipes come from Mimi, the restaurant's namesake and owners' Hannah and Marian Cheng's mom.
Patrons can watch as dumplings are handmade daily with fresh, quality meats, free-range dairy and organic vegetables. For example, the Reinvented Classic is made with pasture-raised pork, local baby bok choy and organic cabbage. It's impossible to eat just one, so the pan-fried or boiled dumplings are sold six for $8 or eight for $10. 179 Second Ave.
Olive oil: We Olive
This olive oil and wine bar opened in December, one of the latest additions to Brooklyn's booming Boerum Hill food scene. Husband and wife Angelo and Patricia Incorvaia, who have roots in the neighborhood, chose it for the first East Coast location of their California-based franchise.
At the front of the inviting boutique, patrons are invited to peruse and sample a wide variety of organic, extra virgin olive oils. In the back, an understated wine bar serves crisp California wines and delectable light bites like flatbreads, panini and salads prepared with flavored olive oils (Meyer lemon, basil) and balsamic vinegar (Mission fig, blood orange) available for purchase.
We Olive's garden patio will open soon, too, offering an idyllic setting for parties and in-store events. 116 Smith St., Boerum Hill, 718-855-2907
Burgers and lobsters: Burger & Lobster
OK, so this one's more like a double-concept restaurant. With six locations in London, this popular Brit import opened its first U.S. restaurant in a bi-level space in Flatiron earlier this year, where it only serves, yes, burgers and lobsters.
Choose from a 10-oz. burger, one-and-a-half-pound lobster (steamed or grilled) or a hearty lobster roll, all served with a tasty side salad and thin-cut fries. The menu could use a veggie burger, but the uniform price of $20 per entrée makes splitting the bill less of a headache for groups. 39 W. 19th St., 646-833-7532
New York's first cider bar and restaurant, Wassail, opened this week. This is not, however, your cloyingly sweet farmer's market apple cider. Owners Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim's passion for hard cider, an alcoholic beverage made with fermented apples, began in 2011, when the husband and wife team opened The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria with a small cider list. Since then, the drink has increased in popularity.
"If you've never tried cider, prepare to be really surprised by its wide range of flavors and styles," says Lim. "It can be like wine in some cases, even like beer or scotch, while being totally unique and its own special thing."
Wassail will offer between 80-100 ciders on draught, by the glass and in bottles, as well as ice cider and apple brandy, plus a full cocktail program. The veggie-focused menu will complement the cider selection. In some cases, dishes will be prepared with cider or apples and pears. 162 Orchard St., 646-918-6835