Two of the great handheld foods of the world—the burger and the chicken sandwich—have been ingeniously reinvented at two new East Village spots. One of them is vegetarian, but you wouldn't necessarily guess it. In our slideshow we divulge the details, plus fill you in on the best Portuguese restaurant in the City and two new neighborhood joints you'll wish were in every neighborhood. Read on for more.
163 First Ave., no phone, East Village, Manhattan
What used to be the high-end Momofuku Ko is now a magnet for the masses. When David Chang's Fuku opens at 11am (Wednesday–Sunday), people are already lined up for his spicy chicken sandwich. Juicy thighs soaked in buttermilk and hot chilies are encased in a crunchy, nubbly golden crust, layered with pickles and served on a buttered potato roll. Spice fiends take note: it's not that spicy. Squeeze bottles of tangy Ssäm Sauce, a chili-laden condiment, bolster the heat. It's a fast, straightforward operation, with ordering done at the host stand followed by a swipe of a credit card (no cash accepted). Supplement the sandwich with french fry planks and salad. Drinks include beers, shots and simple cocktails. The small, standing-room-only shop is lined with counters to rest your metal tray; the sound system pumps out loud rock 'n' roll, typical of Momofuku Noodle Bar on the same block. Friday and Saturday night hours (6–11pm) have been added, and the menu will be further fleshed out down the road.
336 State St., 718-422-7867, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Just south of Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill is a pleasant residential enclave with brownstone-lined streets good for picturesque strolls. When you need a break, head to this corner spot, outfitted with big picture windows, a curvy bar and banquettes in back. Expect strong cocktails, well-chosen wines, craft beer, a raw bar and snacks like burrata with smoked salmon, Surryano ham with bread-and-butter pickles, and a soft poached egg with fava beans, clam broth, bacon and brown butter. At happy hour (weekdays from 5pm to 7pm), oysters are $1 each. Brunch holds its own pleasures, including toast topped with lobster and saffron mayonnaise, and a bloody mary platter that matches drinks with oysters, chilled crab and shrimp cocktail. Behind the operation is the all-star team of Noah Bernamoff (Mile End), Julian Brizzi (Rucola), Damon Boelte (Prime Meats) and photographer Daniel Krieger (whose work has appeared on nycgo.com). Chef Jon Bignelli, formerly of WD~50, conceived the menu.
508 Greenwich St., 212-641-0654, SoHo, Manhattan
On a quiet block of West SoHo near the stylish Hotel Hugo is a soothing, New American restaurant whose chef-owner, Ned Baldwin, hails from the adored Prune. He and co-chef Adam Baumgart (ex-Le Bernardin and Fort Defiance, among others) often change the menu, but happily the hamburger and roast chicken are perennials—and both amazing. Epitomizing summer is the “beach dinner for two,” a tremendous spread of lobster, littleneck clams, shrimp, corn, potato salad and super-ripe tomato wheels. Looking for something lighter? The spicy mixed seafood salad is small yet satisfying, flush with crunchy almonds and cilantro. Vegetable dishes, such as fried fava beans or roasted eggplant with sesame sauce and basil, reflect what's at the farmers' market. For dessert, there's nothing better than vanilla ice cream with plump preserved strawberries atop a crunchy biscuit.
835 Sixth Ave., 212-290-7600, Chelsea, Manhattan
Unbelievably tender octopus, fragile yet crisp salt cod croquettes and ember-charred, super-moist organic chicken with piri-piri pepper sauce await diners at Lupulo, a Portuguese gem. George Mendes, whose nearby restaurant Aldea is Michelin starred, further explores his heritage at this soaring, urbane Chelsea tavern with a horseshoe bar as its centerpiece. To match the food is a compelling list of local and Portuguese beers, wonderful Portuguese wines and generous cocktails. Baked items also make a strong showing, from a basket of irresistible bread with a pool of grassy olive oil to pastéis de nata, classic, fluffy custard tarts with whiffs of butter and cinnamon. Only a few reservations are accepted each night, making it easier for people to spontaneously stroll in and find a seat.
430 E. 9th St., 212-256-1192, East Village, Manhattan
The original home of Amanda Cohen's Dirt Candy is now Superiority Burger, which keeps the vegetarian flame burning. Heading it up is Brooks Headley, former pastry chef at Del Posto, having perfected a veggie burger of beans, grains and tofu that looks and nearly tastes like beef. The fat puck is compact, topped with Muenster cheese, pickles, tomato and lettuce, managing to be juicy yet not crumble within its squishy bun. There's also a tasty sloppy joe (called “Sloppy Dave”) with bell pepper and frizzled onions and “burnt” broccoli salad whose char, cilantro, red chilies and bits of eggplant imbue extra zip. The tiny, white-tiled diner has seating for six—a window nook for two and a bench with four swiveling TV trays. If those are occupied, enjoy your healthy fast food on the sidewalk or take it to a bench in nearby Tompkins Square Park. Packaging is extra thoughtful: items are wrapped in wax paper and, in the case of the Sloppy Dave, the sesame seed bun kept separate from the filling to prevent any sogginess.
5 Madison Ave., 2nd fl., 212-413-4300, Flatiron District, Manhattan
An awesomely designed spiral staircase leads to The Clocktower, a classy new restaurant in the Flatiron District's New York Edition hotel. Named for the clock tower atop the landmark Met Life building, the mahogany-paneled, capacious space was once a lair for executives. Walls adorned with archival photos of literary lions and music legends stare down at tables in a labyrinth of dining rooms. There's also a billiard room with a purple felt table and a library-like bar where titans of industry and hotel guests mix. The trio of names to know behind it are Stephen Starr (Morimoto, Buddakan), Ian Schrager (Studio 54, Royalton, Gramercy Park Hotel) and Jason Atherton, a hotshot British chef with global reach: he oversees restaurants in London, Dubai and Hong Kong, among other destinations. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, with a menu ranging from tavern fare (fish and chips, dry-aged burger with bacon and cheddar) to ritzy (Dover sole, uni risotto with peekytoe crab and bottarga).
221 Smith St., 347-987-3260, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Cocktail mavens Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix joined forces to found a Carroll Gardens watering hole across the street from Reiner's seminal Clover Club. Leyenda focuses on Pan-Latin drinks and elevated street food. The space exudes warmth, with church pew seating and glass prayer candles flickering in the fireplace. Mix has lived in Guatemala, Argentina and Peru, and her tropical cocktail menu goes heavy on rum, cachaça, pisco, tequila and mezcal. The Central American bias on the culinary front comes courtesy of Sue Torres, formerly of Sueños. Goat picadillo tacos, pernil (slow-roasted, marinated pork shoulder) and black bean and cheese pupusas with chicharrón are delicious foundations for soaking up two or three drinks. It's nearly impossible here to stop at just one.
119 First Ave., 646-767-9050, East Village, Manhattan
Honey butter chips are heaven at Oiji, a progressive Korean bistro replacing the long-running Dok Suni in the East Village. The fragile homemade potato chips are sturdy enough to absorb a glaze of honey and French cultured butter without collapsing, though their stickiness means they're best plucked with chopsticks instead of fingers. The crispy chips are featured as a side dish, but they work well as dessert (and have inspired a craze in Korea). No one-trick pony, Oiji also excels at soft beef tartare with ramp aioli, delicately pale fried chicken that had been dredged in tapioca flour and lush, slow-cooked oxtail with root vegetables. The sparely designed space is packed every night, a great place for groups to gather and try a little bit of everything, including premium aged soju and experimental cocktails. Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku, the Korean-born co-chefs and co-owners, were trained at the Culinary Institute of America. They've cooked at Bouley and Gramercy Tavern, respectively, resulting in an ideal combination of tradition and technique.
29 E. 2nd St., 212-335-0114, East Village, Manhattan
A breezy, indoor-outdoor Mexican cantina has fired up a corner of the East Village. The restaurants Heartbreak and Boukiés never quite caught on in this space, but Rosie's is bursting with boisterous young crowds every night, swilling fruity spiked agua fresca and margaritas by the pitcher. The team behind it includes Marc Meyer and Vicki Freeman, who have a first-rate track record with their other eateries (Vic's, Cookshop and Hundred Acres). Meyer has traveled in Mexico for years and chef de cuisine Angel Andrade grew up in Tehuacán, so there's deep-seated passion in the tacos with braised lamb and tomatillo-chipotle salsa, green chile chicken enchiladas and sugary churros with stone-ground Oaxacan hot chocolate. Despite ample seating at the bar, a vast dining room and sidewalk tables ringed by a profusion of flowers in metal tubs, be prepared to wait for a table to open up.
339 E. 75th St., 212-288-8033, Upper East Side, Manhattan
A pair of scissors is emblazoned on the door to Seamstress, a Prohibition-style tribute to illicit speakeasies, where barkeeps wear multi-pocketed tailor's aprons to “fool the authorities.” The front vestibule is a carefully edited gift shop selling American-made Shinola watches, Lotuff leather goods and Pendleton Native American–style blankets. Push through a burgundy curtain to enter a dark, romantic, candlelit lounge that's devised for grown-ups—compared with the post-college bars that dot the Upper East Side. Properly made drinks and an impressive whiskey selection call for food. Start with warm, crusty sourdough bread paired with seasonal condiments (right now that means fiery, intense tomato jam and lemon-garlic butter flecked with fresh herbs). Other booze-friendly items are fresh oysters and littleneck clams, warm olives with baked chickpeas and a mutton burger with triple-crème cheese.