All week long, Metro will be highlighting our selections of the city's best -- from dining spots to health and beauty oases -- of 2012. Check back tomorrow for our picks in nightlife and culture.
Most life-affirming chicken shawarma sandwich we've ever had: Tanoreen
7523 Third Ave., Brooklyn
This celebrated Middle Eastern restaurant is one of the crown jewels of Bay Ridge's restaurant row. While you shouldn't miss the opportunity to sample the wide variety of delicious cold and warm apps -- or their delectable Kafta or Kibbe entrees -- our lunchtime favorite is the chicken shawarma wrap sandwich, stuffed with pickles and beets that perfectly complement its zippy dressing.
Best banh mi in the Financial District: Baoguette
75 Nassau St., 212-510-8787
With another location in Murray Hill, this tiny sandwich shop in FiDi is an island of savory Vietnamese goodness in a neighborhood otherwise devoid of options for this type of cuisine.
Bruschetta that'll make you reevaluate anything you ever thought about bread and tomatoes put together: Peppino's
459 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
7708 Third Ave., Brooklyn
So many pizzerias lay claim to having the best pie in the city, but we can assure you that Peppino's owns the best bruschetta category. While their brickoven-fired pizzas are certainly some of the tastiest we've had, eating the freshly baked bread topped with a lovely tomato, onion and herb concoction is something close to euphoria.
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Best place to eat snails and not regret it: Tertulia
359 Sixth Ave., 646-559-9909
If you're a newbie, we swear you won't even taste the escargot that dot this Spanish eatery's arroz a la plancha, a hearty mix of rice, wild mushrooms, celery, fennel, Iberico ham and the little mollusks. The menu features both traditional and novel takes on tapas, all of which will have you daydreaming about a trip to Spain.
Best new take on rice pudding: Home restaurant
20 Cornelia St., 212-243-9579
Your diner's got nothing on this: Chef John Cordova fries his rice pudding into little fritters, making for a crispy crunch that envelops a gooey, warm, sweet filling. The restaurant's other food (use the homemade ketchup!) and cozy vibe ain't so bad either.
Best fried chicken above the Mason-Dixon line: Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter
94 Avenue C, 212-228-2972
Fifty bucks for a dinner for four seems unbelievable in this city, but it's a reality at Bobwhite. The fried chicken supper for four, clocking in at a mere $12 per person, comes with the joint's succulent fried chicken, plus your choice of three yummy, Southern-fried sides, like black-eyed peas and mac and cheese.
Best lunch spot to take a potential client: Marx
208 E. 58th St., 212-223-0014
"X" marks the spot at this Midtown eatery, which serves food that tastes expensive but isn't (your accounting department will thank you). Drop by for a blackened chicken ciabatta or Kobe beef sliders in a space that is unpretentious enough to avoid any awkwardness between you and your dining companion -- critical when it comes time to close the deal.
Best tucked-away Japanese restaurant that goes beyond the California roll: Hibino
333 Henry St., Brooklyn
Stylish, friendly wait staff serve fresh, homemade tofu in adorable glass jars in this hidden Japanese gem. Other popular menu items include the inventive Kyoto-style obanzai Japanese tapas and modern takes on sushi. (Fear not -- they make your favorite rolls, too). Their standard salmon entree, however -- a broiled filet marinated in a simple, sweet miso sauce -- will make its way into your dreams.
Best non-Japanese restaurant to get sushi: Catch
21 Ninth Ave., 212-392-5978
There's no tranquil music playing in the background at this carnivorous two-story eatery, but you won't mind -- you'll be too preoccupied with your MRC Roll (seared tuna, tempura shrimp, ponzu butter) and Indian-reminiscent Zulu Roll (coconut shrimp, curry aioli, toasted coconut). The wide-reaching menu also boasts baked clams, lobster rolls and scallop dumplings.
Sweet Brooklyn sandwich spot that will have you contemplating what's better: The Ball jars overflowing with gorgeous flower creations or the scrumptious fried chicken sandwich: Van Horn Sandwich Shop
231 Court St., Brooklyn
This charming outpost serves Southern favorites like juicy buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches, North Carolina BBQ pork and hush puppies on wooden tables decorated with sunny wildflowers or artfully arranged succulents. Vegetarians indulge in fried goodness, too, thanks to dishes like the Sweet PLT (smoked sweet potato, lettuce, tomato) and sides and specials galore. And for dessert, pie is the staple sweet offering. We're guessing this is what a picnic in the South feels like.
Best place to try Indian dishes other than tandoori chicken: Moti Mahal Delux
1149 First Ave.
We’re practically obsessed with this Upper East Side eatery, the first U.S. location of this famous-in-India Mughlai restaurant. Try the signature murgh makhani (butter chicken) and daal makhani (black lentils). What you see here is what you get: No artificial dyes are used, so if you see a bright hue in your dish, chances are the spice used in it was flown in from India.
Brooklyn health spot to get (an affordable!) fresh juice, smoothie or sandwich that isn't overrun by health freaks or anyone 'juicing': Nectar
198 Court St., Brooklyn
A healthy green juice for $3! A blueberry-packed smoothie for $4! Finally, an affordable place to get your health fix. Bonus: You won't run into pretentious jerks or anyone discussing a new cleanse at this cheery neighborhood spot. At Nectar, 4-year-olds dance in the aisle as their PB&Js are grilling alongside young professionals waiting for their pick-me-up.
Best bar/restaurant to celebrate Oktoberfest year-round: Brooklyn Buschenschank
320 Court St., Brooklyn
This is your boyfriend's idea of a good time. At Brooklyn Buschenschank, German and Italian brews and bites bro-down. The menu includes a blend of items like house-made pretzels, pizzas and bratwurst. Add communal tables and giant floor-to-ceiling windows, and you have a tavern ideal for large groups and man brunches.
Best venue for forgetting you live in Manhattan: New Leaf Restaurant & Bar
1 Margaret Corbin Dr. in Fort Tryon Park, 212-568-5323
Take the train all the way up for a glimpse of nature you probably didn't even realize existed in Manhattan. Working up an appetite playing in Fort Tryon Park or visiting The Cloisters, when it's time for dinner, hit New Leaf. Executive Chef Scott Campbell's take on local fare is all the more enjoyable when you get to taste it in this kind of natural environment.
Best place for a burger that'll save the world: Bareburger
Bareburger uses grass-fed meats, organic vegetables and organic and all-natural cheeses to make its signature patties. Think beyond beef when you order: ostrich, wild boar and elk are just a few of the options you have for your base. Or, skip the meat altogether and order the veggie burger -- we promise, it's life-changing. Don't forget a milkshake, made with organic milk and ice cream while you sit at your booth -- which, by the way, is made of recycled, post-consumer vinyl.
Best Earth- and health-conscious dumplings: Brooklyn Wok Shop
182 N. 10th St., Brooklyn
Brooklyn-phobes, fear not: This artisanal Asian eatery won't send you deep into the borough. Right off the L, this gem of a husband-and-wife-run business serves "Chinese Food 2.0," meaning you'll find favorites like General Tso's Chicken and pork buns, just made with some classier ingredients (hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, no MSG) and cooked to order.
Best spot to meet that OKCupid hottie: Grape and Grain
620 E. Sixth St., 212-420-0002
You've been making a ton of headway with that OKCupid cutie, and now it's time to meet face to nonpixelated face. Our vote is Alphabet City's Grape and Grain. They walk that line of being noncrowded without feeling empty. It's quiet, homey and friendly. It's even a bit of walk from the subway so you can get to know your date better -- or burn off some calories running away.
Best reason to trek up to the Second Avenue subway construction zone: La Tarte Flambee
1750 Second Ave., 212-860-0826
Tarte flambee -- kind of like a cross between a pizza and a crepe -- is the celebrated dish of the Alsace region of France. To taste it on this side of the ocean, visit cozy La Tarte Flambee -- and come hungry. Order the all-you-can-eat deal: $21 gets you unlimited "flammies," and it's well within reach to put back three, four or even five of 'em.
Best 2 a.m. slider: Mark
33 St. Marks Place
Actually, even if it wasn't 2 a.m., we'd still recommend this subterranean St. Mark's joint. Pop by for patties with bacon and onion cooked right in them (not any less messy despite having the toppings inside). Wash it down with a Guinness or bacon milkshake, sure to sop up anything lingering in your booze-soaked tummy.
Best place to grab chocolates and a beer (or beer chocolates):Nunu Chocolates
529 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Need to impress the in-laws? Win back a girlfriend? Conquer an army? All can be achieved with a box of Nunu Chocolates' ganaches in hand. Handmade in the company's cozy Boerum Hill shop, the candies are created with sustainable, single-source cocoa beans and other fine ingredients, including craft beers such as Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which is also available on tap -- just in case you choose to drink a pint of (delicious) bravery before delivering your victory.