There were actually more women running the kitchens of New York’s top restaurants in the 1980s and ’90s. But these days, they often add entrepreneur to their titles, owning or co-owning their places and calling the shots at the stove and in the front of the house.
Here’s my list of where the city’s best chefs who happen to be women are cooking:
1. The Breslin: April Bloomfield’s gastro-dive, which I named the best new restaurant of 2010, might be the city’s loudest and most crowded Michelin-starred spot. It serves a delicious lamb burger ($21).
2. Momofuku Milk Bar: Christina Tosi’s genius is expended on her haute homage to American junk food. Here you’ll find cereal milk ice cream, birthday cake truffles and bacon bagel bombs.
3. La Vara: Alex Raij’s best restaurant is her only Brooklyn restaurant, a Cobble Hill spot that takes its culinary inspiration from Spain’s Sephardic and Moorish traditions. La Vara’s half chicken, roasted over spiced onions and rubbed with coriander and cumin, is a steal at $18.
4. Red Hook Lobster Pound: Devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Susan Povich’s seafood shack reopened earlier this month, and the distinguishing feature remains the same: Povich serves the city’s best lobster roll. That mayonnaise-light sandwich costs $16, about half the price of lesser creations around town.
5. A Voce Columbus: This fine Italian restaurant is located in a forgotten corner of the Time Warner Center shopping mall. Missy Robbins has no ownership stake, but she’s cooking up a storm. You won’t forget A Voce’s knockout nduja (Calabrian spreadable sausage), a carnivore’s nod to Nutella.
6. Annisa: Chef Anita Lo’s flagship is one of the quietest and most adult places to eat in the West Village. Try the foie gras soup dumplings and you’ll understand why this place is always packed.
7. The Spotted Pig: This is the West Village pub where Bloomfield started it all, dishing out haddock chowder and sage brown butter gnudi. Beware: Waits can exceed two hours.
8. Pig & Khao: Leah Cohen, who rose to fame on Bravo’s Top Chef, has proven she can compete on the New York culinary scene with this estimable Filipino-inspired joint. Expect red curry rice salads and bottomless beer for $15.
9. Porsena: Sara Jenkins makes a killer pork sandwich at Porchetta, but she lets her pasta skills shine at this fine East Village spot, which offers three-course Monday meals that highlight a different region of Italy every month, for $40.
10. Pies ’n’ Thighs: This one’s easy: Carolyn Bane serves some of the city’s best fried chicken. The Williamsburg venue, which now takes credit cards, also cooks up some mean mac and cheese.
11. Dirt Candy: Amanda Cohen isn’t a vegetarian, but she pretends to be one at her vegetable-only restaurant, where she uses cream and eggs to ensure things don’t get too healthy. Grits with corn cream ($19) is the right call.
12. The Good Fork: This Red Hook restaurant, shuttered by Sandy, reopened just before New Year’s under the helm of its chef and Korean-born owner, Sohui Kim. The menu remains the same, so locals can still feast on skirt steak with kimchi rice for $24.
Food For Two
13. Pearl Oyster Bar: For those who like mayonnaise-heavy lobster rolls, there’s no better version than this one, compliments of chef-owner Rebecca Charles. Smart diners will also order the bouillabaisse, a steal at $23.
14. The John Dory: Leave it to Bloomfield to improve upon one of the city’s most iconic dishes, the Grand Central Oyster Bar pan roast. Her version, laden with uni butter, cream and briny bivalves, costs $15 and easily feeds two.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com).
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s interview with Dave Barry and Craig Seligman on books.