The Best New Restaurants To Pop Up During The Pandemic

Welcoming a new eatery to town is always a fun and delicious treat. Especially with the year we've experienced, it's well-deserved for both the restaurant owners and the community. 2020 was a year to be remembered — or perhaps, a year to be forgotten. But there were also unexpected good things that happened throughout such a year. For instance, families spent more time with one another. And many business owners reinvented their brands or tweaked their services to ride out the storm the best way possible.

It's so exciting to hear that there are a ton of new restaurants across the country that have actually opened during the pandemic. According to Fox Business, approximately 6,500 restaurants opened in the U.S. in September 2020 alone. Truth be told, starting a restaurant during any given time of a normal year is an enormous risk and huge undertaking, but doing it amidst a nationwide shutdown? Well, not only do we thank these new eateries for giving us some excitingly fresh dining options, but we also support and commend each and every one of them.

We'd like to share some spectacular new restaurants throughout the U.S. so you can plan a visit when you're in their area. Whether you happen to be planning a road trip or just a simple family getaway, put these new dining options on your itinerary pronto.

Sestina Pasta Bar

If you love the East Village, there's a new gem in the neighborhood. Sestina Pasta Bar is serving up homemade pasta dishes that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. And their wine list, is, well, nothing to wine about. This fresh, new pasta bar concept, brought to you by Matthew Kenney Cuisine, opened up in August 2020 and is inspired by the traditional and fancy foods of Italy. Oh, and the vegetarians and vegans out there will be pleased to hear that this eatery is entirely plant-based.

At Sestina, you can start your dinner off with an appetizer to be remembered, such as stuffed peppers, Caprese salad, or arancini. Then, be prepared to have a difficult time choosing from an assortment of pastas that are truly to die for, from tagliatelle with a rich truffle sauce, to mafaldine pasta with mushroom ragout sauce. Last but not least, wrap up your delectable evening of dining with a decadent chocolate hazelnut budino. Their wine and cocktails selection is a fun one (limoncello margarita, anyone?) and you can be sure to find just the right sup to complement your meal with absolute perfection.

If you'd prefer to cook at home, you can still show your love to this amazing restaurant by visiting and shop their dried homemade pasta, jars of sauces, and a large artisanal pantry selection.

The Charles

The Charles was the new kid on the block in Wethersfield, Connecticut during the pandemic. Opened by Bryce and Kerri Hardy in June 2020, this restaurant is a definite must-try. If their mouthwatering photos aren't enough to coax you, the plethora of five-star rave reviews on Open Table will.

Check out their English pub fish n' chips with tempura fried Boston cod, house remoulade, coleslaw, fries, and smashed green peas (which is gluten-free). Or maybe the roasted beet salad is more your jam, complete with shaved red and yellow beets, honey-laced goat cheese, frisée lettuce, toasted hazelnuts, pickled onion, avocado, and a lovely hibiscus vinaigrette dressing.

They offer many vegetarian and gluten-free choices, filling their menu with something delicious for just about everyone. Already voted "Best New Restaurant in Hartford County" by Connecticut Magazine, it's clear this restaurant is a total gem you'll be missing out on if you don't check it out.

Porch & Swing

Porch & Swing located in Irvine, California is a farm-to-table restaurant with Charleston, South Carolina and SoCal flair, complete with a dog-friendly patio for a woofin' good time. What's not to love about dining with your BFF, aka best fluffy friend? According to this eatery's website, Porch & Swing offers "stellar food and drinks prepared with the highest quality ingredients" As a matter of fact, the head of their bar planning is master mixologist Andrew Parish, who has also been dubbed "Mixologist To The Stars."

This charming restaurant opened its doors on April 1, 2020, amid the pandemic lockdown. Because of the lockdown, they actually started with just delivery and takeout options, per Voice of OC. They offer a fresh, seasonal menu for lunch and dinner that will be sure to grab your attention. Some examples of their delectable entrées include roasted pork jowl coddled in creamy grits and black tiger shrimp drizzled in nutty tahini dressing. If you want the full experience, round up at least five of your friends to book the intimate chef's table, where you'll experience masterful chef-created dishes, a special cocktail to welcome you, and two wines selected by a sommelier.


Charlotte, North Carolina has a super cool new restaurant in town that debuted during the pandemic, according to The Charlotte Observer. If you're a local (and even if you aren't), you should cure your FOMO by checking it out. Alchemy offers a stellar menu with fresh, local ingredients that are sure to please vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat-eaters alike. 

The restaurant strives to provide each guest with an "artful dining, mindful life" with healthy, beautiful entrées. You can enjoy a traditional or vegetarian charcuterie board, and a small plate of diablo filet, which consists of black pepper-crusted pan-seared filet, balsamic reduction, and grilled baguette. Or perhaps a blackened trout sandwich? The decision is entirely yours, but trust us when we say Alchemy will be a top pick on your list for happy hour, date night, brunch, and everything in between.

When you're done dining, you can enjoy Alchemy's art gallery or check out its inspiring workspaces. Not only do they offer shared space for work teams, but their C3Lab has art studios and private office space. Alchemy is an amazing community dining concept, but with so much more that they offer, we love it.

Tribeca's Kitchen

You will surely adore Tribeca's Kitchen in lower Manhattan for its amazing menu, but you will love their heartwarming story even more. Owned by Andreas Koutsoudakis, Jr., Tribeca's Kitchen was originally his father's creation. After his dad's death in 2020 from the coronavirus, Andreas Jr.'s dream and vision were to step in, renovate, create a new menu together with his team, and give Tribeca's Kitchen a brand new life (via Eater).

Tribeca's Kitchen in New York City wants you to feel at home in the neighborhood, and you most certainly will. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they pride themselves on serving up a "unique Tribeca twist." As for ingredients, they use organic eggs and produce, while their meats have no antibiotics or hormones.

The only issue with going here is there are so many spectacular dishes on the menu, you'll have a difficult time deciding between menu items like the custom blend burger with bacon jam, taleggio, and Tribeca sauce on a potato bun, and the roasted Maine scallops with ham hock broth, lentils, and cheddar cheese. And that's before you have to decide between orange olive oil cake with passion fruit cream and basil oil, or a cold glass of milk and chocolate chip cookies.

Felipes 109

Felipes 109 in Colorado Springs, Colorado has a success story to love and be inspired by. Felipe's 109 is a taco burger restaurant that actually began as a food truck. The food truck served up eats like fries slathered in green chili and trash nachos piled with gourmet burger pieces, tomatoes, sour cream, and more of that wonderful housemade green chili. 

According to KOAA News, Felipe Velasquez decided to open up a food truck to the community in May 2020, smack dab in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. This was a way for the community to eat locally while staying safe and socially distanced. It was a major success and, in February 2021, Vasquez was able to live a dream and turn his food truck business into an actual freestanding restaurant. And according to the five-star reviews that can be found online, customers loved the food truck. We are sure that they'll love the brick-and-mortar restaurant, too.

Cafe Colline

If you're in Arlington, Virginia, or if you're road tripping through the area, adding Cafe Colline to your ever-growing dining bucket list is a must. It's bright, absolutely beautiful, and will transport you to a quaint, charming café in France. 

Chef Brendan L'etoile is dishing up French-inspired regional dishes that'll surely please the palate, such as moules frites (which is Maine mussels prepared with white wine, pastis, fennel, tarragon, and cream) and the infamous croque madame, complete with Parisian ham, mornay sauce, Gruyère, and fried egg. Round out your meal with something sweet like "riz au lait," which is a creamy vanilla rice pudding, salted caramel, and popcorn on top.

Open for lunch and dinner, Cafe Colline is a true winner. It appeared in The Washington Post's 2021 Spring Dining Guide, and its listing is chock-full of five-star reviews on Open Table. One reviewer said it's no less than a "perfect date spot," while another said the restaurant's "frites are the best in town." So, why not grab your honey for a sweet date night at the cutest spot in town, and order the frites to see for yourself?


Utopia, located downtown in Bangor, Maine, is the place to go if you're looking for delicious Mediterranean cuisine. They even serve mouthwatering local crafted beer. Lead by head chef Albert VanDine and owned by Rachel Moyes, this restaurant opened up in August 2020 during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (via Bangor Daily News).

Start with their roasted garlic hummus, complete with za'atar, toasted pine nuts, and charred baby peppers. Or maybe you'd like to sample their farro salad, prepared with farro, pistachios, mixed herbs, golden raisins, dried cherries, roasted butternut squash, and red onion, all finished with a refreshing poppyseed vinaigrette dressing. Then again, you could choose from the many dishes inspired by the Mediterranean coastline, such as swordfish souvlaki, complete with grilled vegetable skewers and a tabbouleh salad. Many of Utopia's dishes are presented on slate cheese boards, making them even more aesthetically pleasing for any Instagram pics you may snap (because we know you will).


Vals is a Mexican restaurant located on Freret Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although this lively restaurant was a project in the making prior to the pandemic, Vals opened its doors in June 2020, complete with courtyard dining and takeout window pick-up. The vibe here is undeniably cool, as the building Vals is in was actually a gas station originally built in the 1930s (via

In addition to happy hour every day of the week from 4 to 6 p.m., you can get yourself some pretty amazing tacos, nachos, guacamole, salads, veggies, and more. From shrimp ceviche to kale, apple, and quinoa salad, Vals offers a super fun menu for food and beverages that vegetarians and meat-eaters both will totally love. You can even order a margarita pitcher for six to really complete the evening out. Or, if you don't want to share, check out their baller margarita, which is made with Ocho Plata tequila, lime, and agave.

The Barbecue Pit

If you love a warm, hearty, smokey plate of good ole fashioned barbecue, well, we have your new favorite spot. The Barbecue Pit in Seattle, Washington opened its doors on the Fourth of July weekend in 2020. This restaurant location has quite a bit of undeniably cool customer history. In its former days of being the Good Bar-B-Q, its customers apparently included Jimi Hendrix, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Quincy Jones, and many other notables (via The Seattle Times). So, you'll basically be soaking up a bit of rich history while you enjoy some quality BBQ.

Owner Edward Whitfield (also known as Pookey) offers pork ribs, beef, and hot links dinners, in addition to your favorite BBQ sides, such as baked beans, potato salad, and cooked greens, just to name a few. Round out your delicious meal with a blackberry cobbler for dessert, and you'll soon be coming back for more. Keep in mind that the restaurant is currently cash-only, so be sure to visit an ATM first.