While 2020 was a catastrophic year for restaurants, 2021 gave us reasons for at least some level of renewed optimism. Long-shuttered businesses reopened, and we all started to (carefully) return to the places and experiences we’d been missing. In turn, we ran into an entirely fresh set of problems: staffing woes, ingredient shortages, and even masking etiquette in the age of partial vaccination.

On Grub Street, we asked ourselves big questions (When a neighborhood begins to gentrify, what does it mean for longtime residents?) and small questions that had surprisingly big answers (Why is it suddenly so hard to find bucatini?) in an effort to make sense of this new way in which we work, eat, and have fun. Are things back to “normal”? Certainly not, and 2021’s most-read stories offer a look back through a truly peculiar year filled with highs, lows, and far too many espresso martinis.

Photo: Melissa Hom

As the horchata-coffee hybrid’s popularity grows, so does the controversy around its origins. Read the story ➽

Photo: Olena Ruban/Getty Images

Crucial service journalism. Read the story ➽

Photo: Gabriela Bhaskar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A career server on why the prevailing narrative rang false. Read the story ➽

Photo: Poupay Jutharat

A night at the door with the legendary bouncer. Read the story ➽

Photo: Maggie Shannon

Betrayal. Revenge. Bomb-ass sandwiches. Read the story

Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Of course they’re mediocre, and that’s sort of the whole point. Read the story ➽

Photo: Christian Rodriguez

A gentrification battle erupts in Ridgewood. Read the story ➽

Illustration: Margalit Cutler

“I wolfed down the last Pumpkin & Spice Siggi’s while flipping pancakes for the kids.” Read the story ➽

Illustration: Frankie Huang

If you’re only focused on the outrage, you’re missing the point. Read the story ➽

Photo: Kim Patrick P. Aguirre/Getty Images

Why bartenders hate the hottest drink on the planet. Read the story ➽

Photo: Hannah Whitaker by New York Magazine

The post-COVID, post-Manhattan plans of the most Manhattan of restaurateurs. Read the story ➽

Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Are the third-party delivery platforms actually in trouble? Read the story ➽

Illustration: Elly Rodgers

“Not to be dramatic, but this is something I genuinely hate about myself.” Read the story ➽

Illustration: Ryan Inzana

“I missed lunch because a very angry lawyer was attempting to persuade me that I could not disclose private communications between government officials, which is not how journalism or the First Amendment works.” Read the story ➽

Photo: Dina Litovsky

No takeout, no pasta kits, just 66 of the best new (or newly relevant) places to eat. Read the story ➽

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“Hot girls are ditching the alternatives and are going back to basics.” Read the story ➽

Photo: Melissa Hom

“It’s always a good thing to know who your enemies are.” Read the story ➽

Photo: Jessica Pettway

Can the Pizza Pusha survive pot legalization? Read the story ➽

Illustration: Ryan Inzana

“One of the greatest gifts in New York is the discovery of everywhere else.” Read the story ➽

Photo: Melissa Hom

The very real, totally bizarre bucatini shortage of 2020. Read the story ➽