At first, I thought it would be easy enough to update my list of the 100 best restaurants in New York City.

The New York Times had published my first guide in April 2023. The second guide, to be released a year later, would only require a simple refresh, right? I would add a few places that had just opened, send some of last year’s crop to the bench, spruce up the copy and file the text to my editor.

A week into the assignment, I realized I had been wrong.

To write the first edition of the 100 Best Restaurants list, I had drawn on 10 years’ worth of meals and reviews. It had been several years since I’d dined at a few of the places I ranked, but that was all right. The article was a summation of what I’d learned about eating in New York.

But what would I draw from for this year’s list, in which some restaurants would rank higher than their position last year, and others lower? I couldn’t explain why a restaurant had moved up 35 positions by saying I’d made a mistake. If the revisions were going to be meaningful, they had to be based on fresh information — new meals, in other words. I had to be able to tell readers I’d eaten at all 100 restaurants at some point in the past year.

I had three months before the deadline, which worked out to about one meal a day. Or so I thought. Restaurants that had thrilled me before didn’t live up to my memories, and I removed more restaurants from the list than I’d expected to. Replacing them sometimes took more than one meal at a new place.

It was at this point that I started eating out twice a day. For lunch, I’d go to casual restaurants, where getting a table was easier. Dinner was set aside for the toughest reservations, particularly in the first month or so. I wanted to get those out of the way.

To a civilian, my calendar might have looked scary. But I wasn’t scared until about two weeks in, on the day I woke up with no appetite. Usually, I’m hungry after my first cup of coffee. On this day, just thinking about breakfast made me clutch my stomach. I couldn’t imagine going out to the lunch I had scheduled, and dinner wasn’t much more appealing.

Many meals in those early weeks were tasting menus: course after course after course, the number and the overall quantity of food chosen by the chef, not me. One tasting menu can be a fun adventure. Seven in a row feels like an experiment dreamed up by a sadistic gastroenterologist. So I began skipping breakfast.

I also gave up drinking almost entirely because I needed room for every spare calorie I could accommodate. I also walked every chance I got. If I didn’t walk at least an hour in the afternoon, I’d have no appetite for dinner. I needed more time for walking. I needed more time for everything: Simply making reservations, finding people to go out to eat with, and traveling to and from two restaurants a day took up almost every waking moment.

In the beginning, I kept a spreadsheet with the name of every restaurant that might conceivably make the top 100, along with its status: Reservations made? Meal eaten? Decision made? But as the spreadsheet grew, just looking at it made me anxious, and I stopped updating it. So I’m not exactly sure how many restaurants I visited in the end. My best guess is somewhere between 130 and 145.

Was it worth it? Restaurants can vary from year to year, even from night to night, but I believe this year’s recommendations are more reliable than the ones in the first edition of my list.

I’m still skipping breakfast. But now I call it “intermittent fasting.” It’s just one piece of an eating and exercising program meant to undo some of the damage done by the past few months, not to mention the past few years. When I go for afternoon walks now, I do it for my health and not simply to work up an appetite. I even lost some weight while I was eating my way through my 100 favorite restaurants.

How do you celebrate the end of a project defined by overindulgence? The idea of a fancy restaurant meal held no appeal. Instead, I treated myself to something I’d been putting off for too long. Right after the 100 Best Restaurants list was published, I went in for a colonoscopy.



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