The 5 New York restaurants we loved the most in 2021

Since the start of the pandemic, restaurants around New York City have faced a seemingly endless onslaught of challenges outside of those they already face (the city’s competitive culinary landscape, sky-high rental prices). , etc.). But the best restaurants in town rolled with the punches through it all, figuring out what to do with their quickly erected outdoor dining structures, dodging and squeezing through the sudden changes in safety guidelines, and bracing themselves. to what was to follow as the new COVID variants reared their ugly heads.

“I am honestly glad that a restaurant remained open [through the pandemic]Says Samantha Safer, owner of Otway. “There was a point in August 2020 when we started seeing closures, and it was heartbreaking to read. I cried for people I had never met but knew had worked incredibly hard to open their restaurants.

This year the restaurants did more than survive, they managed to come out even stronger on the other side. Beloved institutions like Jing Fong have closed and resurfaced from their ashes in new places, while others, like Otway and Greg Baxtrom’s Maison Yaki, have turned to unique new concepts both suited to pandemics and philanthropic. Speaking of philanthropy, many New York restaurants and bars have done the unthinkable: raise money for deserving causes and those in need rather than focusing solely on their own survival. And putting caution to the wind, new places have opened up for business across the city, offering New Yorkers even more to look forward to as we head into the unknown of 2022.

While most year-end roundups tend to focus on new stuff (and for good reason!), We’ve put together a short list of some of the restaurants we’re grateful to still have available to us in New York City. . Bon appétit, and see you soon around a bowl of noodles for the New Year.

Dim sum at Jing Fong

Jing Fong / Instagram

Since Jing Fong moved to its old location on Elizabeth Street in Chinatown in 1992, it has been considered the largest dim sum hall in the city. Technically, the beloved restaurant has been around even longer than that, it first opened in 1972. Now in its third generation of owners, the news of its closing earlier this year has undeniably touched a lot of people. It also doesn’t help that Chinatown has been one of New York’s hardest hit areas for the past two years, with a third of its more than 300 restaurants facing permanent closures.

Now, as the restaurant is slowly reopening in its new location on Center Street, it’s no longer the largest – but it is perhaps the most powerful dim sum spot in town. “The sign said ‘Jing Fong Big Restaurant’ in Chinese,” owner Truman Lam recently told Eater. “We have the same sign here, but we have removed the word ‘large’. “

Jing Fong’s return is not only great news for local dim sum lovers, but signals a hopeful next step for Chinatown’s future. To help support their reopening (and for some amazing dumplings and more), you can order take out and deliver, or visit their still open location on the Upper West Side.

Oysters on the half-shell at Otway

Oysters on the half-shell at Otway

Emile askey

Clinton hill

Over the years of owning Otway, a beloved neighborhood coffee shop in Clinton Hill, owner Samantha Safer has had her fair share of bumps and battles. No one could have prepared her and her staff for the continuing madness that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, she’s managed to bring up one of the most attractive outdoor seating structures and spin the business into a cafe display case that seems to draw a line up the street almost every morning. Through that small window, his team handed eager patrons freshly baked morning rolls and steaming oat milk lattes.

“At Otway, we’ve been fortunate to have been open for five years before closing and to have a well-established day and baking program in addition to our dinner menu,” shares Safer. “It allowed us to shut down dinner and put all of our energy into breakfast, baking and selling wine, which was legal during much of the pandemic. “

Safer has removed the popular Otway cafe window for the time being in favor of diners re-entering the space, but Omicron’s fears weigh heavily on the mind of the small business owner.

“The industry is going to have a hard time after this wave of Omicron… being in early 2022 dreading payrolls with the majority of employees taking sick leave – I can’t imagine how we’re going to pay for it all. “

A spread at Maison Yaki

Noah Feck / Maison Yaki

Two entirely different restaurant concepts, Maison Yaki and Olmsted, are both owned by restaurateur Greg Baxtrom and share the same street in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, on opposite sides. Olmsted is revered for its lush green garden and inventive uses of local produce, while Maison Yaki combines French cuisine with Japanese flavors. At least that’s what the two restaurants were known for before the pandemic.

Once it became apparent that things were heading south, Baxtrom was forced to lay off its entire staff of 60. He then began working with the LEE Initiative, a foundation that helps restaurants nationwide provide meals to restaurant workers on leave. Olmsted began operating as a food bank before eventually adding a concept of a grocery market in the same space called the Olmsted Trading Post. Meanwhile, Maison Yaki launched a pop-up series featuring eight local black chefs spinning in the kitchen.

In the summer the two restaurants finally reopened and the same team even launched a new bakery in the same neighborhood called Evi’s Bäckerei. Its doors opened several days before Christmas, now serving yeast donuts and other German-inspired baked goods.

The interior of Bessou

The interior of Bessou


Small but welcoming restaurant in Manhattan‘s NoHo district, Bessou rightly means “second home” in Japanese. Its menu is (equally fitting) inspired by owner Maiko Kyogoku’s childhood in New York City, with flavors that transcend the traditional boundaries of Japanese cuisine.

During the pandemic, Kyogoku had to make the difficult decision to close the doors to this second home for several months, as she and Bessou chief Emily Yuen retreated to their respective first homes after giving birth. Yes, that’s right: the owner and chef found out around the same time that they were pregnant.

Before and after the reopening, Bessou partnered with charities such as Heart of Dinner to provide hot meals to those in need. “It’s a way to connect and cook with my parents, especially since I haven’t seen them since the pandemic,” Yuen said recently. Charm in reference to their continued partnership with Heart of Dinner. “In Chinese culture, cooking is a way of showing love, so in a way, I show love to my family.”

A number of iconic red rooster dishes from Marcus Samuelsson

A number of iconic red rooster dishes from Marcus Samuelsson

red rooster

A Harlem landmark, Red Rooster is known for reliably serving quality comfort food such as shrimp and oatmeal and chicken and waffles, as well as for its roaring jazz brunches. He’s also known to be the beloved idea of ​​celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson – one of the few familiar culinary names who still seems to use his platform for good, including his work as a Harlem co-founder. EatUp!

Samuelsson’s philanthropic streak was only strengthened during the pandemic, as he teamed up with fellow chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen to distribute free take-out food almost every day to everyone who came. claim them.

More than a decade after its debut, Red Rooster remains a vital part of one of New York’s most vibrant and diverse communities.

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