Slideshow: Bar Eats' 10 Best New York Bar Bites of 2012

Creamy Polenta from Saint Austere
Creamy Polenta from Saint Austere
Humble polenta rarely tastes so exquisite. At Williamsburg's Saint Austere, run by brother-and-sister team Fabrizio and Jackie Pirolo, their most popular dish has been hand-churned for hours until it becomes liquid velvet (akin to a fine porridge), then topped with a ragu of spicy sausage and cipollini onion. It's certainly not the only great dish there, but it's the only one that I always order when I go. Read the full entry »
Oxtail Soup with Liver Dumplings from Fort Defiance
Oxtail Soup with Liver Dumplings from Fort Defiance
This soul-warming dish featured a trio of delicate liver dumplings, firm but yielding like matzoh balls, in a rich oxtail broth. I tried this great dish early in 2012, long before Sandy came in and severely damaged this popular Red Hook spot. It's been a difficult road to recovery, and they've been doing all they can to get back to normal, including selling these clever "Junk Bonds" to help raise money to rebuild. You buy a $100 junk bond, you get $50 in gift certificates—not a "deal" in the traditional sense, but completely worth it to get Fort Defiance back on its feet. Read the full entry »
Sausage Bread with Ricotta from The Wayland
Sausage Bread with Ricotta from The Wayland
This East Village cocktail-centric dive may not have much in the way of a real kitchen, but the bar still serves up amazing food, especially this plate of Sausage Bread & Ricotta. Slather on a generous spoonful of fresh ricotta over thick slices of Pecoraro Bakery's fresh sausage bread, an Italian-style loaf cooked with bits of homemade pork and veal sausage; the aromas and juices of which enrich the bread. Read the full entry »
Pork Belly Watermelon Salad at Sake Bar Satsko
Pork Belly Watermelon Salad at Sake Bar Satsko
We have Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab to thank for making the pork belly and watermelon combo mainstream, so much so that the dish now serves as booze fodder for a long night of sake-bombing in the East Village. Sake Bar Satsko serves its version with generous helpings of crispy fried pork belly mixed with chunks of barely ripened watermelon. Aside from the elegant blend of salty-sweet-crispy-crunchy, slivers of ginger and a spoonful of pickled ginger juice (the same stuff they keep for the sushi) add a spicy-sour kick to the already brilliant dish. Read the full entry »
Ceviche Bar at Raymi
Ceviche Bar at Raymi
Raymi's separate ceviche bar churns out beautiful interpretations of this classic Peruvian dish. Unlike other styles of ceviche, where the seafood marinates in citrus until the flesh turns white, Raymi adds it just before serving so the fish is nearly raw. Each version features a unique blend of leche de tigre and spices, such as the corvina (a common South American fish) with habanero and cilantro; rock shrimp with aji rocoto (a common Central and South American pepper); and octopus with aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper). Read the full entry »
Double Diablo Deviled Eggs at 508 Gastrobrewery
Double Diablo Deviled Eggs at 508 Gastrobrewery
I've seen my fair share of deviled eggs this year, including excellent versions at Prospect and Barraca, but my favorite thus far is the "Double Diablo," a pair of spicy deviled eggs skewered with a beer-battered fried oyster, then topped with a pickled jalapeno, horseradish mayo and bacon crumbles. The oyster is fried perfectly—not too oily and barely cooked on the inside. It's over the top, sure, but how else are you going to make a deviled egg interesting? Read the full entry »
Squash Blossom Quesadillas at Tequileria Maya
Squash Blossom Quesadillas at Tequileria Maya
Quesadillas should all taste like Tequileria Maya's version, which resemble elegant empanadas more so than the circular flour tortilla pies of American and Jack cheeses. These chewy fried pockets of corn masa are stuffed with squash blossoms, poblano chiles, roasted corn and cheese. Read the full entry »
Nutella & Goat Milk’s Ricotta Pressed Sandwich at Huckleberry Bar
Nutella & Goat Milk’s Ricotta Pressed Sandwich at Huckleberry Bar
Essentially a dessert-style grilled cheese, this dangerously good sandwich has just the right proportions of chocolaty Nutella and creamy ricotta lightly pressed between two slices of plain white bread. It's a perfect sweet pairing to the salty popcorn they offer for free on their Monday movie nights. Read the full entry »