Explore New York City

Nine NYC Restaurants that Opened during the Pandemic

These restaurants bucked the odds to bring cheer and culinary creativity to the city.

Mokyo

Some say that timing is everything. Mokyo couldn’t have predicted that their February 2020 opening would occur at such a precipitous time for NYC restaurants. Despite all odds, the cozy Asian-inspired tapas restaurant has become a neighborhood staple with all the right ingredients for an easy, delicious night out. Building on the reputation of its sister restaurant Thursday Kitchen, Mokyo, a playful way of saying Thursday in Korean, shows off Chef Kyungmin “Kay” Hyun’s skillful blending of Korean and international flavors. Order the corn dumpling with truffle salsa verde and fennel for a sample.

Bar seating at the attractive new Mokyo from Chef Kay l Where Traveler
The bar at Mokyo (Courtesy Mokyo)

Mark’s Off Madison

Chef Mark Strausman has returned with a restaurant and bagel bakery by Madison Square Park. Many will remember him from Campagna and lunchtime fave Fred’s at Barney’s on Madison Avenue. Mark’s Off Madison brings Strausman’s brand of comfort to a city in need of solace with a menu of “greatest hits” like lasagne della nonna, eggplant parm and Estelle’s chicken soup. His aptly named M.O.M. “Home Service is a recipe for a dose of MOM care. Satisfying cravings you didn’t know you had, Straussie’s hand-rolled bagels are a blessing indoors, outdoors or now at home.

Outdoor seating at new Mark's Off Madison l Where Traveler
Mark's Off Madison (©Alex Staniloff)

Dante West Village

Offspring of buzzy Italian-inspired bar, Dante, and extension of this winter’s smash, Greens on the Rooftop at Pier 17, Dante West Village has premiered with drinks clustered in categories like negroni sessions, spritz selections and martini hour. Adding a seafood-heavy menu focused around a fire and charcoal oven, Dante takes its culinary cues from the coastal cuisines of Northern Spain and Southern Italy. Pair your Mezcalita with roasted branzino with sauce gribiche or make it spicy with a Toasted Martini and shrimp cocktail with pimenton aioli. There’s even more good news – Dante’s signature drinks are available to go via their high-tech app (food purchase required).

Outdoor seating at new Dante West Village l Where Traveler
Dante West Village (©Giada Paoloni)

Kuxé 

Chef Julian Medina brought Manhattan a taste of contemporary Mexican cuisine with tacos-and-margaritas hit Toloache. Kuxé takes Medina’s cooking one step backward, introducing a regional Mexican concept that celebrates the roots, traditions and upbringings of his staff. Named after the Totonac word for corn in Puebla, the just-opened Greenwich Village restaurant offers a menu of “Cocina de Pueblo” (hometown cooking). Each dish comes with a list of ingredients and an explanatory quote from a member of the Kuxé team. The delicious mole de Olla is a standout: when it’s chilly outside, nothing beats the soupy short ribs bathed in chile costeño broth, a grandma special.

A sample of homestyle cooking at Kuxe l Where Traveler
Mole de Olla ©Marconi Gonzalez

Piccola Cucina Uptown

Save the airfare to Italy this year and grab a cab to the Upper East Side where Chef Philip Guardione has opened the beautiful Sicilian lookalike Piccola Cucina Uptown. Sit in their very-Sicilian outdoor structure, staying warm from heaters doubling as the Sicilian sun, and enjoy flavors that Guardione learned from his island Nonna. The menu is pure Nonna-speak: maccheroni alla Norma, cacio e pepe, lasagna della Mamma Rosa. What’s even more wonderful? The restaurant offers a specially priced weekday lunch.

Black Seed Pizza

From the East Village’s Black Seed Bagels comes a first-rate spinoff, Black Seed Pizza, in collaboration with Chef Bobby Hellen, the pizza genius formerly of GG's. Sicilian-style pizza, baked in the bagel shop’s wood-fired oven in a personal round or larger square size, is available for takeout or delivery. While you can order classic cheese, tomato or white pizzas, the signature Green Pie and Bob’s Pies might just rock your world. What makes these all-organic pies truly different is the pizza dough which is fermented for 36 hours and made from stone-ground flour. Customize yours with gluten-free and vegan versions along with unusual add-ons like chimichurri, chili crunch and banana peppers.

Black Seed Pizza's Green Pie (©Shay Harrington)
Black Seed Pizza's whole green pie (©Shay Harrington)

Kokomo

After this long year, a dose of Caribbean sunshine is in order. Enter Kokomo, the colorful pan-Caribbean experience near Williamsburg’s waterfront. With strains of the Beach Boy’s island ode echoing, Mitchel Bonhomme invites you to enjoy original tropical dishes like oxtail flatbread, chicken and waffles with scotch bonnet sauce and coconut whipped cream, jackfruit tacos, saltfish avocado toast and sweet plantain pancakes. Wash it all down with a coconut negroni or mango rum punch. And the setting? With the colorful mural outdoors and the vibrancy of the restaurant, you’ll swear you feel island breezes.

Caribbean food on the menu at new Kokomo l Where Traveler
Jackfruit Tacos at Kokomo (©Katrine Moitre Photography)

Kimika

Kimika ignores any international travel ban, bringing an Italy-Japan mashup to Nolita. Chef Christine Lau offers a menu of fusion dishes, tempting and mysterious because even the names sound improbable. But improbably delicious is more accurate with choices like wagyu braciola with uni, mochi and shiso, incorporating local produce with Japanese and Italian ingredients. Brunch is a fun experience, but should you decide to sleep in, Kimika will deliver a DIY meal kit that also includes a cocktail to help you revive. How does a kaga milk punch in your pajamas sound?

Fusion cuisine at Kimika l Where Traveler (© Evan Sung)
Mushroom bigoli at Kimika (©Evan Sung)

Winona’s

If you love The Crown and Bridgerton, Winona’s might feel a bit familiar. The English-inspired restaurant-café from Chef Cressida Greening draws from Greening’s British roots and serves pub faves like scotch eggs with a parade of EU plates including tortilla Española or sardine toast on housemade focaccia. Dating from 1910, the re-imagined Backroom hides behind a mirrored door. Leanna Favre has created cocktails that could fit comfortably on the Great British Baking Show – try the hot Brown Buttered Rum, a potent concoction of aged rum, amontillado, cream, brown butter and baking spice.