In the last year, hundreds of restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries, and shops have opened across New York. Experts in hospitality see the beginnings of a "restaurant renaissance." Critics suggest that Tribeca's exploding art scene has "given the neighborhood its first unifying theme in 60 years." While big chain shops are struggling, indie boutiques in Brooklyn (some with new rent agreements) innovated, experimented, and are doing a-okay. Many NYC hotels are reporting occupancy and room rates at nearly 2019 levels. Live dance, opera, music, and theater, including those at 41 Broadway venues, are back up and running. Not bad for a city that's totally dead.
We haven't been able to do or see it all (yet!) — but we're keeping tabs and making our way slowly but surely. Here's a not-so-short list of the new places worth knowing about.
Black Wall Street Gallery, Soho
Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the new Wooster Street gallery features contemporary black artists from around the world and fosters conversation, education, and preservation. Besides shedding light on the history of the original Black Wall Street, the gallery is interested in using art as a catalyst for discourse, cultural exchange, and progress.
An exciting showplace for old friends of Marlborough veteran Pascal Spengemann, as well as ambitious emerging artists like the Native American filmmaker Sky Hopinka and illustrator and transgender activist Edie Fake.
Chapter NY, Tribeca
What began as a weekend project and then a fleeting Chinatown space is now a full-fledged storefront that supports artists in all stages of their careers, including non-represented artists who need a flexible platform.
52 Walker, Tribeca
David Zwirner's new space, under the direction of Ebony L. Haynes, will slow things down by offering space for conceptual work that is hard to categorize and "nearly impossible to capture in an Instagram post." The artists showing here are not represented by Zwirner; the gallery won't be participating in art fairs.
Public Access, East Village
Right on the parade route that is St. Marks Place: a hidden little basement spot for experimental drawings and illustrations, painted skateboard decks, vibrant photography, and community hangs.
Dia Chelsea, Chelsea
After a two-year renovation and expansion across three industrial buildings, the headquarters for Minimalism (which has a sprawling sister site in the Hudson Valley and a satellite space in the Hamptons) has reopened — and it's a breath of fresh air.
Clean-cut and nostalgic footwear, knitwear, and homeware with high-quality supply chain of artisans and craftspeople.
Sweet Pickle Books, Lower East Side
A Strand vet stocks pre-loved, used books as well as a line of in-house pickles (a nod to the romance between a pickle seller and shopkeep in the '80s flick Crossing Delancey) in her chock-a-block shop, which already feels like an old-school neighborhood staple.
Little Words Project, West Village
A good one for the kids on a rainy day, the bubble gum pink decor sets a cute mood for making DIY beaded bracelets ($20-$30 a pop).
T.A., Meatpacking District
Fashion fans have been keeping this funky new boutique afloat (it opened during the pandemic). Its young, stylish, gregarious owner (who also runs the shop by day) keeps the racks filled with cool and up-and-coming brands and lots of statement pieces.
The Somerset House, Williamsburg
Eclectic furniture and design collectibles for buying, renting, and staging. Lots of cool vintage pieces, custom stuff, and thoughtfully refurbished beauties are housed together in a big, light-filled space.
Chickee's Vintage, Williamsburg
These finds are fun and funny: norm core T-shirts, novelty shirts, corny beaded key chains, framed posters, and handmade knits from local makers — very on-point for the neighborhood.
Lichen, East Williamsburg
A chance encounter (over Eames chairs) on Craigslist linked two young men with a passion for design and spurred a shop and incubator for collecting, selling, and trading furnishings and small home goods throughout the city.
Big Night, Greenpoint
A clever curatorial niche — the dinner party — from a former restaurant reviews editor, the colorful Brooklyn shop carries the best in the small biz circle when it comes to tinned goods and conservas, pantry staples, snacks and beautifully packaged goods, platters, ceramics, and eye-catching tablescape items.
Lolo, Cobble Hill
Mostly ugly-cute ceramic mugs, candles, blankets, sculptures, and accessories that make for great gifts for fellow Brooklynites.
Bike Plant, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Bike sales in the city went through the roof during the pandemic. Now we all have to make those two-wheelers our own. The shop has lots and lots of bicycle accessories — from bells to bags — in addition to offering services like wheel builds, tire installation, break adjustments, safety checks, and bicycle repair classes.
Thank You Have a Good Day, Red Hook
As it goes with pretty much anything that opens up in these parts, the clothing and accessory gems here are unique, makeshift, and marching to a different drummer. Patchwork textiles from Belgian lace table coverings to quilts are turned into robes, coats, kaftans, totes, and ponchos. Kind of crazy and fun and cool.
Carne Mare, South Street Seaport
Andrew Carmellini's old-school-new-school Italian chophouse in the historic Seaport District has a waterfront setting and views of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's going to be our new go-to for special occasions and out-of-town visitors. The room is all warm tones, inviting banquettes, and roomy booths for conversing and chowing down.
Mother Duck, Lower East Side
The best kind of fast-casual is Japanese fast-casual. This cool izakaya serves crispy rice, gyoza, skewers, noodles, and hand rolls. Baby Duck is the cozy downstairs party space.
We love it when family is at the center of the kitchen! Homestyle Mexican cooking from the Toloache chef Julian Medina is inspired by the roots and traditions of the people who work in his restaurants.
By drawing inspiration from India, Mexico, South America, Portugal, and the Middle East, chef George Mendes invents a very American menu, which guests can enjoy in a beautifully appointed and very flexible indoor/outdoor restaurant with a retractable greenhouse (perfect in this Covid era). Multiple terraces, a fireplace, and lots of greenery make it a sweet retreat for drinks (by craft cocktail dude Johnny Swet) in the streaming sunlight or under the stars.
There's a good reason diners are going crazy for Brooklynite Ayesha Nurdjaja’s absolutely delightful, herby, fresh, and flavorful Middle Eastern feast in her new High Line-adjacent restaurant, but you should try and get a table anyway. The menu is f-u-n, with a section of breads to rip and dip and a "mic drop" dessert: tahini oat milk soft serve with halva floss and candied butternut squash. Boom!
Come for the big, bold Latin American flavors from the folks behind Brooklyn's Colonia Verde. Stay for the very cute, welcoming atmosphere (and alt WFH vibes) of the Freehand Hotel.
While we were binging Netflix during the pandemic, former Eleven Madison Park chef Bryce Shuman was perfecting his ribs recipe and delivering racks and riesling all over town (orders were taken over Instagram and drop-offs happened from his Subaru). Now he's stoking the fire and turning out upscale (but not stuffy) barbecued meats, corn bread, slaw, and other American comfort foods to hungry crowds in a cozy dining room with an enormous bar.
Ci Siamo, Midtown West
Hilary Sterling's primo Italian cooking (bountiful bowls of pasta, fire-roasted meats, sophisticated Italian spirits) in a great-looking room comes — not a moment too soon! — to a drab Midtown block. The private events space offers an outdoor terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Empire State Building.
Agi's, Crown Heights
Grandma is calling you over for Hungarian-Austrian Jewish food, served for breakfast and lunch in a kitchenette near Prospect Park. The park's proximity is key, as you'll need to take a long walk after indulging in a delicious Alpine cheddar egg sandwich served on a Hungarian buttered biscuit. Followed by an old-fashioned doughnut. Followed by hot chocolate with cream and sea salt.
King David Tacos, Prospect Heights
The new, small storefront slinging Austin-inspired breakfast tacos (flour tortilla, eggs, cheese, chorizo, migas, gold foil wrap) has a large all-weather outdoor patio and a fleet of zero-emission canary yellow taco carts stationed at Madison Square Park, Grand Army Plaza, and South Street Seaport.
Taqueria Ramirez, Greenpoint
The lines are long at night but the festive mood is right — it's a party for bite-sized CDMX street tacos sold out of a tiny white tile storefront with a big window.
Nami Nori, Williamsburg
The very tasty and cute temaki-style hand rolls securing successful date nights in the West Village can now be had in Williamsburg, too. The casual but elegant Japanese snack bar is filled with blond woods, slim furnishings, and soothing tones. The better to showcase all those fun crunchy, salty umami bites.
Sobre Masa Tortilleria, Bushwick
Two Mexican pastry chefs in NYC searched high and low for good tortillas but kept coming up empty-handed. The obsession lead to the pair creating a micro factory, bar, and restaurant where a wild variety of heirloom grains form the foundation for griddle tacos and costras al pastor.
A crew of Gramercy Tavern vets opened up delightful neighborhood restaurant, cafe, and market for staying in or taking out (think: fresh pastas and breads, prepared sandwiches, wood-fired chicken, pickled vegetables).
Sushi on Me, Jackson Heights
Good luck getting a reservation at this tiny basement sushi counter, which serves a 15-course omakase and unlimited sake for under $100. Live music, neon lights, and speakeasy stylings give it a party vibe. Bring cash.
Overstory, Financial District
Head high up into the clouds of the Art Deco jewel that is 70 Pine for the latest, most glorious extension of the Crown Shy story helmed by chef James Kent and restaurateur Jeff Katz. (Their also-new SAGA fine dining restaurant is one floor down, and don't try coming to either without a reservation.) Head bartender Harrison Ginsberg has crafted a tight cocktail menu befitting those outrageous 64th floor views, which can best be enjoyed on the outdoor terrace. Feel free to dance for the planes flying by: It's that kind of celebration around here.
Great Jones Distilling Co., Noho
Craft cocktails and lots of whiskey inhabit a multi-story building downtown that is also home to a slick distillery, restaurant, and events spaces like a library lounge (projector screen, private bar) and subterranean speakeasy.
Temple Bar, Noho
The '90s-era martini bar is back at the too-cool-for-school bar that helped define the NYC martini bar — complete with moody lighting, leather two-tops, checkered floor, steak cubes, and outrageous prices.
Bandits, West Village
An all-day hang that's both diner and dive channels the '70s in a Muppets Take Manhattan kind of way with its eclectic mix of textures (formica, carpet, wallpaper), fringe and lava lamps, and hanging disco ball. Drinks are plentiful and wide-ranging, from signature cocktails to tiki style to frozen. The food menu has a sizable chunk of real estate devoted to various tater tot varieties.
Special Club at Niche Niche, Soho
The wine-driven dinner party that is Niche Niche has a special, somewhat secret basement spot, the aptly named Special Club, where you can hear live music and eat a great meal in an intimate, Marvelous-Mrs.-Maisel-esque setting. Feels a little like you walked into a 1940s secret, and doesn't that feel great?
Bakeries, Cafes, Ice Cream Shops
Tagmo Indian Kitchen, South Street Seaport
Small plates and sweets in the form of plant-based Indian delights are sold in small batches in an adorable and very teal jewel-box shop.
Lodi, Rockefeller Center
Sister restaurant to downtown hot spot Estella, the Deco-inspired grab-and-go gem (with a small full-service area) offers high-quality Italian snacks (fancy cheese and meats, aperitifs) and bites in Rock Center. Perfect for a morning espresso or afternoon spritz. Keep it in your back pocket when shuffling out-of-towners around.
Baba Cool, Williamsburg
The little Fort Greene Cafe That Could opened an ambitious space in Williamsburg (with room for petanque) serving an expanded menu of healthy grain bowls, chewy toasts, and small plates all day and into the evening (with wine).
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, Midtown East
Perhaps as a response to Midtown's mass pandemic-related exodus, real estate developers are thinking out of the box by utilizing high rise space in new ways for tourists. Glass floor elevators lead to a fun house-style room of mirrors and glass with insane city views. Stay for sunset viewing and snag a spot at a cafe and terrace bar curated by Danny Meyer's Union Square Events.
Citizens, Midtown West
Developers have branded this area of shiny new high-rise buildings and activated public spaces "Manhattan West," and though it lacks the organic matter NYC neighborhoods rely on to really thrive, it does not lack big name brands, star chefs, or money to try new things. Nine food hall kiosks, two full-service restaurants, a grab-and-go spot, and a wine shop share a sprawling mall-like space close to new shops and a new hotel.
Moore Hotel, Chelsea
Simple and stylish, the well-priced neighborhood hotel has a gym, cafe, rooftop bar, Noguchi-inspired furnishings, and fashionable following.
Pendry Manhattan West, Midtown West
A sleek and sophisticated new business-leisure option in the mixed-use retail, dining, office, and residential development just south of Hudson Yards. The focus is on dining and entertainment — with multiple cocktail bars, dining venues, and rooftops for mixing and mingling.
Ace Hotel Brooklyn, Boerum Hill
The new build has a spacious and inviting lobby filled with concrete and oak and a double-sided fireplace plus all the things you've come to expect from the hotel brand: great artwork collaborations, cozy meeting areas, a strong coffee game, lots of Apple computers, and a great seating-to-outlet ratio. Read more on Fathom: An Ace Grows in Brooklyn