Newish Restaurants You Should Know About

You heard that right: New places opened their doors during the pandemic

We've got a running list of NYC-area restaurants that are opening in the pandemic, a feat in itself. These spots represent restaurateurs and staff with chutzpah and hope.  Here we go.

Hay Hay Roasted (81 Mott St., Manhattan) has opened a Guangzhou-style barbecue in January in what had been Hoy Wong, which closed last February, after a 40-year run. It was one of the closings that have mobilized support for Chinatown from organizations like Welcome to Chinatown from Victoria Lee and Jennifer Tam, an advocacy organization that has grown to include a newsletter and the Longevity Fund that has raised over $250,000 for small business grants. Hay Hay Roasted offers a menu of chicken, duck, and pork, its namesake fried rice, and more. Hours listed are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hutaoli Music Restaurant and Bar, a Chinese chain, has opened in Koreatown (42 W. 33rd St. Manhattan), and if it's the real deal (unlike this one in Toronto) it's among the first branches, if not the first branch, in the U.S. Inside, look for an almost baroque wall display of snapshots, drawings, and flyers; cutout bookcases for displays; and light fixtures dolled up with hanging plants. Dishes include beef stew with sauerkraut, griddle cabbage, baby cucumber with chiles, pork ribs, Sichuan-style fried chicken, and more for around $12 to $25. Hours are TBD; we tried to order twice and the restaurant canceled our online order. Stay tuned.  

Winter pop-up Evil Katsu is making a mark on the Lower East Side (101 Rivington St., Manhattan) from Casa Mono alums Asher Sendyk and Chris Wagenlander, as well as Hai Oliveira. The go-to sandwich is the pork katsu sando, a marinated, twice-fried cutlet with nori Kewpie, carrots, radishes, and cabbage on milk bread for $15. In addition to pork, chicken, or portobello sandwiches, there's a parallel set with garlic rice, a choice of egg or potato salad, and coleslaw or mushrooms served with pickles and tonkatsu sauce for $19.50. Lunch and dinner hours vary, Wednesday to Sunday.

Temaki and ramen restaurant Hachi Maki has opened on the Upper West Side (522 Columbus Ave., Manhattan), a new spot from sushi chef Max Zumwalt of the now-closed Satsuki and Usumoya. Zumwalt teamed up with Jeremy Wladis of The Restaurant Group, behind Good Enough To Eat and Harvest Kitchen. Look for straightforward sushi starters like salmon-avocado and tuna-cucumber temaki ($5.50-$6.50) or more unusual ones like Kanpachi crudo (Japanese pear, jalapeño ($13) or wagyu tataki ($19). Mains range from a shortlist of ramen ($16-$18), mains like karaage or miso cod ($15, $22), and market-priced items like uni. Don't be shy about getting your drink on here; there are lots of options. Open noon to 10 p.m. 

Over in Brooklyn, Xilonen (905 Lorimer St., Brooklyn) has us intrigued, the new spot from Oxomoco folks, chef-owner Justin Bazdarich and chef Alan Delgado. The all-day spot features an all-veg (and heavily vegan) menu with dishes like purple potato tacos, sweet potato al pastor, and carrot tostadas. Expect heirloom corn tortillas, a draw on its own. Reservations here, as well as takeout and delivery.  

Revived from the owners of The Good Fork, Insa, and Fort Defiance, the 125-year-old Gage & Tollner (372 Fulton St., Brooklyn) has (re) opened after a yearlong delay. It's the awaited return of the classic Brooklyn restaurant whose legend has only increased with the renown of its former chef, the late Edna Lewis. The reopening includes the debut of the upstairs bar, the Sunken Harbor Club, with its own menus (think shrimp chips, yuba spring rolls, and mapo tofu). 

Open Wednesday through Sunday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., Gage & Tollner from Ben Schneider, Sohui Kim, and St. John Frizell offers two meal kits to go: a rib-eye dinner ($275) that serves two to four people with French onion soup, a wedge salad, broccoli gratin, and chocolate-walnut brownies with salted caramel sauce for dessert. The second option is braised heritage pork ($180) for four to six people and includes six sweet cream biscuits, roasted carrots, a winter salad, and ready-to-bake double chocolate chip cookies with hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. In addition to an impressive list of martinis, look for bottled cocktails in batches of three or six. You could always lean toward Sunken Harbor cocktails like the Mai Tai and Hawaiian Sunset ($15). 

Over in Jersey City, the first Automat Kitchen has opened, a work in progress for at least four years, says principal owner Joe Scutellaro. The native New Jerseyan, Florida resident, and CPA says the challenge has been figuring out how to navigate the technology so that it's modern but still evokes the feel of a midcentury automat. This is the first of a handful of locations on track to open in Manhattan, South Jersey, and Philadelphia. For now, he says most people are opting for delivery, so they're missing out on the automat experience. But we went and were charmed by the novelty. The menu will rotate, with March ushering in mac 'n' cheese month, with eight options on the menu. Other items include retro-slash-comfort food dishes like chicken pot pie, chicken parm, breakfast tacos, pb&j toast, and more. Most items fall in the $6 to $16 range. And yes, there are ice cream floats and smoothies. 

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