Best of 2011: Our Random Favorites

In this week's print edition of the paper, you'll find a comprehensive guide to dining around the world without leaving the confines of New York City. We trekked high and low to unearth the best Albanian joint, Chilean eatery, Istrian hub, and Japanese sushi bar. We also covered ingredients from A to Z, beginning with the city's best use of anchovies and ending up with the top za'atar-enhanced dish. But we also took the time to highlight some random favorites, too. New York City's best smoking patio, anyone? Find out in this "Best of 2011" online exclusive.

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Lauren Shockey
Red-velvet cupcakes from Molly's

Best Cupcake: The death of the cupcake has been predicted for some time now, but that hasn't stopped Chicago-based confectionery Molly's Cupcakes from setting up shop in town. It even had the gall to open only a few blocks down from Magnolia Bakery, that temple of cupcakerie and other awfulness. And good thing it did, because its mini frosted cakes are far superior. The extensive roster offers flavors ranging from Nutella-peanut butter to blueberry cheesecake to classic vanilla, plus Molly's even offers a build-your-own option, should you want, say, red-velvet cake topped with vegan chocolate icing and gummy bears. Best of all: no middle-aged women on self-guided Sex and the City tours. 228 Bleecker Street, 212-414-2253,

Best Smoking Patio: New York City banned smoking in restaurants a while back, so the city's best smoking patio is whatever fire escape or rooftop you happen to find yourself on, hopefully with a friend whose cigarette is filled not with tobacco but with marijuana. Citywide

Best Late-Night Eats: By late night, we mean really late night! Sarge's Delicatessen -- founded by an NYC policeman known as "Sarge" in 1964 -- hosts a hopping scene 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months a year. Slide across the Naugahyde upholstery into your booth and enjoy the epically smoky pastrami (ask for it to be sliced thick), or the corned beef hash with a trio of sunny-side-up eggs, the way they serve it here. And note that the hash has never seen the inside of a can, buster! 548 Third Avenue, 212-679-044

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