There are two desserts at M. Wells Dinette by Pastry Chef Bethany Costello that you may not have had anywhere else. The first is a time-sensitive parfait that you have eat as soon as it's served to you, or else it collapses like an old souffle. The second looks like a standard ice cream cookie sandwich, but is far lighter—and contains no ice cream.
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The croissant from M. Wells Dinette appears to have more butter worked into it than should be physically possible.
You know a restaurant opening is an important one when, a few months later, you can't imagine New York without it. 2012, despite plenty of closures even before a catastrophic storm that crippled, closed, or delayed so many restaurants, was a fantastic year for eating in the city. Here are my favorites of the year: not just full-service restaurants, but the odd bakery, cocktail bar, and Mediterranean lunch joint thrown in for good measure.
This list isn't everything, but it is eighteen ways to answers to the question. From Flushing to Bay Ridge to the Lower East Side...and back to Flushing, here are the bites that made my year.
In 2010, M. Wells Diner emerged in Long Island City, and before long it became something of a white-hot legend. Critics heralded the arrival of a new gastronomic genius to New York's food world, and it commanded two hour waits for eaters from Queens, Manhattan—even Brooklynites came hungry. And then fourteen months after it opened, it closed. A rent dispute couldn't be resolved, the place disbanded, and M. Wells the legend went quiet.
It's now re-emerged in a new form, M. Wells Dinette, the new cafe of MoMA's PS1 also in Long Island City. The retro diner trappings have been replaced by a bright, airy space housed within a postmodern museum (the aesthetic theme is school cafeteria redux, which is thankfully not overdone). The menu is smaller, both in number of dishes and in terms of their size—not small by any means, but no megaburgers either. And it appears more focused and pared down. We know Dufour and his team can cook. But will this pared down menu and more focused approach make for a more consistently pleasurable dining experience? After our recent visit, we'll—cautiously—say that it can.