LATEST PAPER
46° Good Evening
46° Good Evening
Eat and Drink

Best restaurants: NYC's top new chefs, food halls, bargains and more

It’s that time again -- time to take stock of the past year and the people, places and things that have shaped New York City and continue to make it, by some regards, the best city in the world.

At the top of our list of great things about New York? The food, of course.

2016 brought us a great stable of new chefs, restaurants and food halls -- and saw plenty of restaurants grow into must-visit destinations.

In this installment of amNewYork’s 2016 Best Of New York guide, we take a look at the restaurants and bars that debuted in the past year and left a mark.

Best new restaurant: Lilia

The hype is real at Missy Robbins' first
Photo Credit: Evan Sung

The hype is real at Missy Robbins' first restaurant. One word used to describe everything at the classic Italian spot is "perfection." From the signature cacio e pepe fritters to the delicious pastas to drool-worthy burrata panini to the wood-fired seafood to warm atmosphere, a meal here is memorable -- and immediately inspires a second visit. And third. And fourth... (567 Union Ave., Williamsburg, 718-576-3095, lilianewyork.com)

Best new chef: Claus Meyer

The influential Danish chef is only
Photo Credit: Grand Central Terminal

The influential Danish chef is only "new" in terms of working in New York City. But the Noma co-founder has already left quite an impression. From his Nordic restaurant Agern to his Scandinavian-stocked Great Northern Food Hall, both in Grand Central Terminal, to his Danish-style bakery Meyers Bageri to even a new culinary school in Brownsville, this ambitious chef is working to change how New Yorkers eat and think about food.

Best bang for your buck: Olmsted

This neighborhood restaurant has quickly gained a reputation
Photo Credit: Meredith Deliso

This neighborhood restaurant has quickly gained a reputation as the place to go for a refined meal that won't break the bank. It's easy to see why -- the most expensive entree on Greg Baxtrom's seasonal, gourmet-level menu is $24. One of the simple pleasures here is the lavender frozen yogurt for $8. It's not without some playfulness, either -- the kale crab rangoon comes in Chinese takeout containers and hot cocktails are served in the outdoor patio in fun mugs emblazoned with words like "super dork." (659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights, 718-552-2610, olmstednyc.com)

Best-looking restaurant: Le Coucou

From the food to the space itself, Stephen
Photo Credit: Ditte Isager

From the food to the space itself, Stephen Starr's latest is a stunner. The French brasserie has become almost an instant classic since opening in June inside the 11 Howard Hotel, with simple, flavorful dishes that don't chase after the latest trend. And the space -- the restaurant exudes Parisian charm with pewtered-steel chandeliers with hand-blown glass shades, vintage chairs and blue-grey banquettes. (138 Lafayette St., 212-271-4252, lecoucou.com)

Best food hall: The Pennsy

Food halls are a dime a dozen nowadays,
Photo Credit: The Pennsy

Food halls are a dime a dozen nowadays, but this Penn Station eatery managed to stand out. There are only five food stalls -- small by some standards -- but they offer a variety of options, such as Pat LaFrieda, plus give a home to celebrated vegan food truck Cinnamon Snail. And there is coffee from La Colombe, a bar perfect for happy hour and plenty of seating -- a food hall necessity. 2 Penn Plaza, 917-475-1830, thepennsy.nyc)

Best food stall: Burgers by Hard Times Sundaes

This Mill Basin food truck developed a cult
Photo Credit: Hard Times Sundaes

This Mill Basin food truck developed a cult following for its no-frills, roadside burgers. But you don't have to venture out deep into Brooklyn to try them (or the milkshakes), thanks to its outpost inside midtown food hall Urbanspace Vanderbilt. It's a standout among some 20 vendors. (East 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, 646-747-0810, urbanspacenyc.com)

Best pizza: Pasquale Jones

This has become one of the hardest reservations
Photo Credit: Robyn Lehr

This has become one of the hardest reservations in town. And you have the pizza (and Beyonce, who had her VMA after-party here) to blame. Another winner from the Charlie Bird team, the small spot has quickly become a must-visit for pizza aficionados, especially for its clam pie. Though you can't go wrong with any of the exceptional wood-fired pizzas. (187 Mulberry St., no phone number, pasqualejones.com)

Best bakery: Mah-Ze-Dahr

This has been a banner year for pastries
Photo Credit: Mah-Ze-Dahr

This has been a banner year for pastries and baked goods, from Pondicheri to High Street on Hudson. Though the first brick-and-mortar location of Umber Ahmad's bakery is full of sweet delights, such as its signature doughnuts made with brioche dough and filled with pastry cream. Become an uber-fan? Join the loyalty program for $300 and you can get a pastry every day for a year. (28 Greenwich Ave., 212-498-9810, mahzedahrbakery.com)

Best cheap eat: Arepa Factory

As the name implies, this little Venezuelan hole-in-the-wall
Photo Credit: Meredith Deliso

As the name implies, this little Venezuelan hole-in-the-wall churns out a variety of filling arepas, most under $10. Though not to be missed are finger foods such as tequenos and cachapas. And the cachapa with just cheese is memorable. (147 Ave. A, 646-490-6828, arepafactory.com)

Best food delivery service: UberEATS

The food delivery field has never been more
Photo Credit: UberEATS

The food delivery field has never been more crowded, with delivery-only restaurants and services competing for your stomach -- and wallet. But none have quite taken off as quickly as UberEATS, thanks to tons of top options, such as Mighty Quinn's (pictured), a wide reach and an easy-to-use app that lets you track your food in real time. It's hard to remember life before Uber (hailing cabs?). And now, the tech disruptor has forever changed our lunch habits.

Best trend: Vegetarian and vegan dining

No, not poke (this year's most redundant dish).
Photo Credit: Stephen Johnson

No, not poke (this year's most redundant dish). Vegetarian and vegan dining is becoming more accessible, creative and mainstream as chefs, both established and rising, focus their talents on meat-free meals. From David Chang's meatless "Impossible Burger" to By Chloe's growing vegan empire to Michelin-starred chef John Fraser's Nix to Ravi DeRossi's Ladybird, "vegetable-forward" dining has only gained prominence in New York City.

Best place for your next birthday party: Insa

The Korean BBQ restaurant is perfect for group
Photo Credit: Insa

The Korean BBQ restaurant is perfect for group dining, from the long communal tables to the shareable food and, thanks to large-format cocktails like the Scorpion Bowl, drink. Even better, you can book a room for karaoke following your feast and let the good times continue til late. (328 Douglass St., Gowanus, 718-855-2620, insabrooklyn.com)

Best food moment: Pete Wells’ Senor Frog’s review

Nothing will quite reverberate online again as much
Photo Credit: Senor Frog’s

Nothing will quite reverberate online again as much as Pete Wells' legendary takedown of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant in 2012. But as far as memorable Times reviews go, this comes pretty close for three reasons. One: The fact that the critic even reviewed the tourist chain. Two: That it was somewhat of a rave ("I had more fun at Senor Frog's than at almost any other restaurant that has opened in the last few years," Wells wrote). And three: That it was followed a few weeks later by a less-than-stellar two-star Per Se review. And though Times reviews can make or break restaurants, Wells' praise for Senor Frogs didn't help -- the restaurant croaked in August, less than a year after opening.

Eat and Drink photos & videos