Best Dishes of 2016

Wow 2016 is almost over and what crazy year it was.  If I was to look simply at the year in American culture I would have to use the word devastating.  So many incredible artists passed away, the political state of the nation was a non-stop roller coaster ride of shock, disgust, anger, frustration and for the first time in a while the future feels incredibly uncertain.  Of course the NYC dining scene took a huge hit this year with the closing of classic restaurants like The Four Seasons, Les Halles and most recently Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen.  I was saddened most by the closing of my two favorite cocktail bars; underground vodka great Pravda and the gorgeous Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal.  We also lost the fabulous Juni, my go-to spot for a fancy lunch from Shaun Hergatt.  

But I'm always one to look on the positive side and 2016 was actually a good year on a personal level.  Mr. T and I had some great East Coast trips to BostonVermont and Philadelphia all of which included fun times with family and friends.  I actually got to see the play Hamilton with the entire original cast and followed up the matinee with a fantastic dinner at David Chang's newcomer Momofuku Nishi, which made this list as having one of my top dishes. Danny Meyer's classic Union Square Cafe came back to life in a new spot even closer to my apartment (review to come in 2017) and Mr. T learned to love brunch.  Well maybe not love it but love a brunch dish which is a step in the right direction :) Oh and the Cubs won the World Series.  Which gives a bit of hope for other sports teams who are trying to end that long championship drought.  (Bwahaha!!  I couldn't get through that last sentence with a straight face) Here are my picks for the best of food and drink in 2016.

Best New Burger- Bar Sardine

There were a lot of good burgers this year but this cozy little spot won my heart with the Fedora Burger; a blend of chuck and brisket topped with smoked cheddar cheese, thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, fried potato sticks and BBQ mayo.  Everything on this burger just worked- the cooling cucumber, the smoky/sweet BBQ sauce and crispy potato sticks ensuring a salty satisfying crunch with each bite.

Best Baked Clams- Dominicks

There's almost always a wait at this Arthur Avenue classic and the tight communal seating isn't exactly comfortable, but it's all worth it for fall off the bone Chicken Scarpiello and delectable Baked Clams stuffed with hunks of garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs.

Best Pork Sandwich- Prohibition Pig Brewery (Vermont)

As the name suggests any sort of "pig" at Prohibition Pig should be fabulous and this sandwich was absolute perfection.  Pulled Pork piled high with crunchy onion rings, chipotle sauce and a sloppy top of coleslaw on a soft Portuguese bun. I wish this sandwich could be in my life every day.

Best Pancake Spot- Hi-Collar

Hi-Collar has been around for years but it took me until 2016 to discover its magic. Cafe by day, sake bar by night with the most amazing Japanese pancakes in town served with maple syrup, yuzu butter and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Best Brunch Dish- The Llama Inn

Being a huge fan of Llama's in general (probably my favorite animal of all time) this Williamsburg spot already scored some points with decor but the Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry launched it into the lovesphere. Two fried eggs with tender slices of beef, french fries, tomato and banana with a rich, slightly spicy sauce drizzled with rocoto pepper crema.  This dish is absolutely amazing, so amazing Mr. T actually suggests we go there for brunch on a regular basis which is just CRAZY.

Best Pasta- Carbone

Spicy. Rigatoni.Vodka.  Three words that shattered my feelings towards pedestrian pasta forever.  Perfectly al dente shells layered with a rich spicy sauce of onion puree, cream, tomatoes, pecorino cheese and Calabrian chilies is beyond words.  It may not look like much to the naked eye but this is one of the best things I have eaten in my life.  Even with the hefty price tag just shy of $30 this is worth each and every penny.

Best Pasta Runner Up- Ceci e Pepe at Momofuku Nishi

Two pasta dishes making the list... maybe my taste buds are changing or maybe David Chang just knows what I love in life.  His incredible Ceci e Pepe (now known as Butter Noodles) with chickpea hozen and black pepper creates a subtly sweet, buttery flavor that is simply outstanding especially since there is no actual Parmesan used in this cheesy dish. 

Best Rainbow Cookies- Madonia Bakery

These cookies may look like those rock hard tri-colored squares scattered around the city but the similarities stop there.  This cake is actually light and spongy with the strong flavor of almond paste and fresh raspberry jam balanced by a topping of creamy chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles.  Just one bite of these makes a rainbow cookie believer forever.

Best New Restaurant- Row 34 (Boston)

It's so wonderful to find a restaurant while traveling that just feels like home. In Copenhagen it was Manfred's and Vin, London J. Sheekey, Philadelphia the sadly departed Matyson and now Row 34 in Boston.  As soon as I saw their mantra I was in love "If we could eat oysters and drink beer for every meal period, we probably would."  Well of course! Fresh plump oysters, a fantastic scallop crudo, smoked uni and buttery lobster rolls paired with a stunning menu of craft beer.  `

Best New Neighborhood Spot- Covina

It's extremely rare that Mr. T and I dine at the same place in a month but we were so in love with Convina we actually had dinner there back to back nights! Located inside the Park South Hotel the space serves as two different spots; a cozy cafe up front by day and a sleek, sexy restaurant by night with an open kitchen and gorgeous bar perfect for dining.  I highly suggest the bright market vegetable hummus plate, the salt crusted wagyu burger and the special house cocktails.

Best of the Rest

Best New Sushi SpotSugarfish
Best New Craft Beer Restaurant- Lupulo
Best Breakfast Sandwich- Milk Bar
Best Vegetarian Sandwich- Cinnamon Snail at The Pennsy
Best Mac & Cheese- Hometown BBQ
Best Sweetbreads- Pumpkin BYOB (Philly)