Photographer: Evan Sung/Bloomberg

Small Is the New Big: Hot New Restaurants Go for Intimacy First

Giant Zen palaces of food are no longer the thing: Lately, the world’s top chefs want a cozy experience for their diners.

Does it feel like your new favorite 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 neighborhoods. 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.

Photographer: Carol Sachs

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.

The Hoppers samosa.
The Hoppers samosa.
Photographer: Karan Gokani

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.


New York

The pizza oven at Pasquale Jones.
The pizza oven at Pasquale Jones.
Photographer: Eric Helgas/Bloomberg

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.

Apr 24, 2016 - TEJAL -  REVIEW: Mr Donahue's restaurant for review// Roast Beef with Steak Sauce and sides of Crab Imperial and Potatoes

Roast beef with sides of crab imperial and potatoes at Mr. Donahue’s.

Photographer: Evan Sung/Bloomberg

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.


Washington, D.C.

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.

The Interior of Bad Saint in Washington, D.C., an airbnb guest favorite.

The interior of Bad Saint.

Photographer: Farrah Skeiky


San Francisco

The 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.

388 Fulton in San Francisco, future home to the Starling.

The Starling’s future home: 388 Fulton in San Francisco.

Source: 388 Fulton



Temporis: 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.


Hong Kong

Bo 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.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.