Does it feel like your new favourite restaurant is shrinking? It’s not your imagination. Smaller spaces mean lower rents, a motivation for chefs to innovate, and fewer waitstaff and cooks at a time when both are hard to find.
Best of all, smaller restaurants blend in better with their neighbourhoods. Many offer takeout and smart line-management systems in case you can’t get—or don’t want—a table. Here are some small spaces to try.
The Barbary: Serving food of the Barbary Coast—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya—Palomar’s even smaller sister has only two dozen counter seats.
Hoppers: There are just 36 seats at this Sri Lankan hot spot from the folks who brought us Gymkhana. Don’t miss seriously spiced curries, their take on the ubiquitous prawn cocktail, and cocktails.
Marianne: The modern British restaurant you wish you had around the corner. Marianne Lumb’s food isn’t threatening; the service is more Notting Hill than Mayfair. A gem.
Kitty Fisher’s: The leader of the trend. Part pub, part gastropub, part celebrity nightspot, part neighborhood hangout. Now that the hype has died down (a bit), you can try the famous lamb chops and sample one of London’s best wine lists.
Mimi: A tiny bistro/bar that spills out onto the street when the weather is good. Young chef Liz Johnson adds twists to avant-garde French classics.
Pasquale Jones: Two luxurious round booths await the Jay Zs and Beyoncés while the rest of us are happy to eat exquisite pizza and slurp pasta at the bustling cook’s bar or the handful of tables.
Mr. Donahue’s: Carved from the old takeout window behind Lombardi’s Pizza, the eclectic American home-style fare is spot on, from roast beef to fried chicken. Don’t miss the desserts. You can arrange pickup.
Bergen Hill: A bit of Brooklyn comes to Manhattan in a stylish boîte hidden on Cooper Square. A mashup of its original crudo-based menu, it now includes sushi, killer pasta dishes, and a great wine list.
Bad Saint: The hottest restaurant in America right now, and the second-best overall, according to Bon Appétit. A tiny, quirky, Bohemian trip to the Philippines with giant lines. Can’t get in? Hang out at the bar next door, Room 11.
San FranciscoThe Starling: In a city not short of small darlings (Tosca Cafe), the Starling is a soon-to-open take on tiny, chic omakase-style spots, specializing in fish from the Bay Area.
ChicagoTemporis: This is a more grown-up version of Mr. Donahue’s or Bergen Hill. A serious small tasting menu from Les Nomades alumni Sam Plotnick and Evan Fullerton. I like to think of this as an homage to the late, great Charlie Trotter.
Instagram: Instagram photo by Temporis Chicago
Hong KongBo Innovation: With only 24 seats, a few more at the counter, and a private dining area, there’s no mistake you’ve stepped into Alvin Leung Jr’s “rock ’n’ roll” chef experience. It’s Chinese to the core, married to molecular technique and avant-garde presentation. It makes all the others seem quaint.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland