The best New York dishes so far in 2022, according to Eater reviewer Ryan Sutton

At Chinese American Bonnie’s, elegant patrons can sip shots of mezcal and vermouth while waiting to order char siu McRibs. At Taiwanese Wenwen, hosts cite serious waits as groups of four sip a single giant Long Island iced tea with flaming limes. Waves of brothers in button-down shirts fill Zou Zou’s bar as waiters carry $35 plates of sauce; a swear-spewing sushi chef hosts all-you-can-drink omakases every night near Elmhurst; and even the bar at the new Moynihan station always seems to have a live DJ in case anyone wants to light up while waiting for the train to Manhasset.

If I were to sum up the year in restaurants so far, part of the answer would be: more and more restaurants are embracing party vibes, either in celebration (“we’ve come this far”), or perhaps resigned (“the world is on fire” ). Restaurants are attracting diners who got used to eating out less with a bit of theater, conviviality and booze. It’s late-night escapism and much-needed forced fun in a work-from-home era when sometimes the only time some of us interact with other people is at a restaurant.

The restaurant as a party, of course, is only part of the story for hospitality in 2022. Hospitality workers across the country, battered by the pandemic, continue to forgo at one of the highest rates in the American economy, even though their salaries are skyrocketing beyond before. -pandemic levels. Diners are seeing some of their beloved dishes transform from staples to luxuries as inflation pushes the economy to the brink of recession. And the rise of more omicron subvariants means many more workers and employers could be reinfected.

New York’s positivity rate has soared more than 15 percent as current COVID strains prove adept at evading immunity from previous infections and vaccines; Personally, I just recovered from my second bout with the virus. It is in this context, and in the fragile state of our nation, that the spirit of celebration that arises in restaurants can feel a touch. It’s hard to blame the operators for giving people a good time, or for packing them in after an era of social distancing that drained profits. Ideally, our city government would speed up its efforts to come up with new plans to keep us safe rather than simply scrapping old ones. But for now, as I present my favorite dishes of the year so far, it’s hard to stop thinking that getting sick and losing wages seems to be an increasingly permanent reality. Some of the preparations below, therefore, are best enjoyed not in a noisy dining room but on a rooftop, in a park, or in one’s own apartment.

Mole, raja and green tamales from Evelia’s.
Clay Williams/Eater NY

Evelia’s mole tamale

Evelia Coyotzi, who has said she has been arrested more than 15 times for street vending, starts selling her tamales most mornings at 4:30 am in Corona. And what tamales are they? She could go on with the grassy green sauce with chicken or the slippery chicharrĂ³n, but the mole tamale is a particular masterpiece. The fragrant dough acts as a delivery mechanism for the potent sauce, whose flavors come in waves: restrained sweetness, astringent bitterness, and blazing heat. She also checks out Evelia’s new brick-and-mortar flagship store in East Elmhurst. Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Corona

Rowdy Rooster Bone-In Fried Chicken

Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya bring the glory of Indian roadside birds to the East Village, the best of which are bone-in nuggets cut up, fried and drenched in so much fragrant, flavorful oil that you keep eating, even if it feels like dip your tongue in hot melted wax mixed with chili peppers. Perhaps one day, South Asian fried chicken will achieve the ubiquity of excellent Korean, Japanese and Southern versions all over town? 149 First Avenue, off East Ninth Street, East Village

Ten small bowls filled with sauces, vegetables, and salads are arranged around a larger bowl of hummus on a shiny, round metal platter.  Pita and fries are on the right side.

A plate full of salatim at Laser Wolf.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Salatim in Laser Wolf

Michael Solomonov’s rooftop Israeli grill spot serves very good skewers, but the stars of the show are really the Manhattan skyline and the salatim. You sit down and, minutes later, a waiter brings you a sampler of canned vegetables and spreads. There are bright turkish tomatoes, buttery navy beans, pickled pineapples, green tomatoes, rich hummus, and smoked eggplant. He eats fresh pita bread while watching the Empire State Building glow in the distance. 97 Wythe Avenue, near North 10th Street, Williamsburg

Cacio e pepe at Bonnie’s house

As cacio e pepe continues to clone himself absurdly throughout the city, Calvin Eng does something a little different. The chef tosses fat bucatini into a sizzling hot wok with not only pecorino but also MSG and fermented tofu. It’s pasta pretending to be dry-cured steak, a hint of salt, umami, and funk, all meant to overwhelm the palate, until you take a sip of a strong martini (just make sure to skip the MSG version). 398 Manhattan Avenue, near Frost Street, Williamsburg

A tricolore cookie sundae and a mint brownie sundae sit side by side in ornate glasses

Quaint sundaes at Mel’s.
Christian Rodriguez/Eater NY

Sundaes at Mel’s

Sundaes can usually be simple and delicious meals, but pastry chef Georgia Wodder makes more nuanced delights. If that sounds like a bookish explanation for a light-hearted summer treat, just try the mascarpone ice cream with grated tricolor biscuits, and you’ll understand how the technical subtleties of pastry go hand in hand with an uncomplicated child’s delight. 85 Tenth Avenue, near West 16th Street, Chelsea

Curried oxtail pie at Cuts & Slices

Randy McLaren’s Caribbean-themed pizzeria is a welcome and rare counterpoint to a citywide pizza scene that remains overwhelmingly Italian-leaning. Best of all might be McLaren’s green curried oxtail slice, loaded with so much gelatinous meat and topped with so many aromatic spices and onions that it’s as if someone decided to paint the pizza in military camouflage. 93 Howard Street, at Halsey Street, Bed-Stuy

Anticuchos in Kausa

For further proof that Hell’s Kitchen remains one of the city’s premier South American food hubs, do this: Stop by the Peruvian Kausa on Ninth Avenue, order a plate of anticuchos, and appreciate the salty, ironic, smoky flavor. of expertly roasted beef. hearts. Consume with beer. 745 Ninth Avenue, near West 50th Street, Hell’s Kitchen

Confit tuna sits on top of rice;  the hands of a chef are visible on the roll

A chef prepares the confit tuna roll at Mari.
Erik Bernstein/Eater NY

Tuna roll in Mari

While New York sushi chefs continue to serve up absurd amounts of bluefin tuna, chef Sungchul Shim takes a more innovative approach at Mari, slowly confitting more sustainable bigeye tuna in garlic oil, adding gochujang, and topping it all with crispy potatoes. Some might recognize it as a haute riff on kimbap, but it’s also a great spicy temaki tuna roll. 679 Ninth Avenue, near West 47th Street, Hell’s Kitchen

Celtuce in Wenwen

To cool down on a hot Brooklyn night, order a small cup of celtuce from Chef Eric Sze. Each bite of crisp lettuce provides a satisfying crunch, a proper chill, and a numbing sensation, thanks to a dose of Sichuan peppercorns. 1025 Manhattan Avenue, near Green Street, Greenpoint

White cream cheese sits between layers of filo and beneath a nest of red-tinted kataifi.

This cheesecake alone is worth the trip to the Manhattan West development.
Noah Fecks/Zou Zou’s

Cheesecake at Zou Zou’s

Chef Madeline Sperling and Chef de Cuisine Juliana Latif take this rich New York staple and turn it into something so smooth and textured, one could eat it for breakfast. There is at least as much kataifi and puff pastry sprinkled with strawberries as there is cheese, a perfect ratio of crunch and cream, and hands down one of the best cheesecakes in town. 385 Ninth Avenue (best entrance from West 31st Street), Manhattan West

Pepper soup at the Department of Culture

Ayo Balogun’s oba eja tutu, as it is known, is a master class in the use of heat. The clean, clear soup, laced with cilantro, infused with rolled chiles, and fortified with chunks of pink snapper, belies the throat-warming ball of fire that hits you seconds later. 327 Nostrand Avenue, near Quincy Street, Bed-Stuy

Pepper soup sits in a white bowl with a swordfish floating near the top.

Hot-packed pepper soup from the Department of Culture.
Clay Williams/Eater NY

Caviar with dill in Joomak Banjum

Many chefs leave caviar alone or combine it with something rich and salty like butter or crab. Chef Jiho Kim has something completely different in mind, serving a dollop of golden oyster on top of a fragrant dill mousse. One might call it a clever deconstruction of a sweet dill pickle, but like so many things sweet and savory, it’s just plain tasty. 312 Fifth Avenue, near West 32nd Street, Midtown

Kubdari in Chama Mama

The mountainous region of Svaneti in Georgia is responsible for the glorious creation that is kubdari, a pizza-shaped leavened bread filled with an aromatic mix of beef, pork, garlic, onion and chili peppers. I’ve been to Chama Mama before, but somehow never found this particular delicacy, until I ordered it for delivery during my COVID infection and quarantine last week, and then again a few days later. And while I’m looking forward to trying it at Chama Mama soon, it’s quite a nice feeling when a New York restaurant can evoke a sense of joy and surprise when we, as New Yorkers, can’t necessarily make it to the restaurant itself. . 373 Amsterdam Avenue, near West 78th Street, Upper West Side

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