The best restaurant meals in 2021 according to BA staff

No, we are not talking about the smartest places. Or the most hyped. Or even the latest. The best restaurant meals for us were the ones that stayed burnt in our memory long after the last french fries were dipped and the last sip of a perfect pét-night thrown back. These are all the places we approached for quiet, solo dinners with a book, brunch with missing friends and boxes of dinners when we just could not cook anymore. In other words, these, our best restaurant meals, are all the ones that meant the most. From the streetcar spears transporting lifestyle editor Karen Yuan back to the Beijing neighborhood she grew up in, to senior chef editor Sarah Jampel’s best bagel ever after baby and assistant editor Chala Tyson Tshitundus’ flagged, perfectly fried catfish biscuit sandwich – “a gift” from the ancestors – here are all the meals we ate (and loved) this year.

Photo courtesy of Mi Tocaya Antojería

To my left: margarita. To my right: a couple arguing. In front of me: a dish of goat birria covered in bubbling cheese from Mi Tocaya Antojería. These three things are my restaurant dream combination. I do not think, at any point in 2021, I was happier than eating that meal. You make a taco with the cheesy birria and then dip it in a bowl of hot cosommé while the tasty broth drips down your hand. We also ate a spicy, light aguachile, chili-rubbed fish collar and a side of chicharos, green peas with baby corn and cotija and other delicacies. I loved this meal so much that I went back a week later to do it again. —Alex Beggs, senior staff writer

Photo by Evan Sung

Lady has been one of New York’s tougher reservations, so when I got one, I did not cancel, even when it started pouring minutes before my outdoor dining. The food was perfect: crispy whitefish croquettes, small smoked mussels, a whole mackerel with capers and herbs, fish and chips with the crispiest golden coating. It was delicious seafood, treated with care and it was perfect even though the rain was blowing in sideways. I loved the meal not despite the conditions, but ultimately because of them. We got the most out of what we had to work on and found the benefits, and for me it sums up 2021. —Bettina Makalintal, Associate Editor


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