Eater’s roving critic Bill Addison selected just twelve restaurants across the United States to recognize as the best of the new in 2017 and Ann Kim’s Northeast restaurant Yong Joni made the cut. Kim along with her husband and business partner Conrad Leifur opened restaurant in the winter of 2016. Named for the couple’s mothers (Young and Joni respectively) it’s a pizza restaurant, plus so much more.
At the front is an expanded pizza restaurant. Kim’s first restaurant was the still wildly popular Pizzeria Lola which was followed by Hello, Pizza. The chef has built a reputation on a thin, chewy crust topped with fennel spiked sausage and thin pepperonis that curl into adorable little meat cups. Young Joni takes that concept a step farther by added a menu of starters and sides that reach around the globe and rely heavily on being cooked over an open flame. Addison describes these as, “Exactingly fine-tuned small plates: lamb kofta kebabs over pureed eggplant; a riotous take on bibimbap featuring two grains du jour, farro and Job’s tears; and Japanese sweet potatoes covered in bonito flakes that undulate from the heat like coral reefs in a strong current.”
Of the pizza Addison said, “She and her team ace the pies, baked to a light char in a copper Le Panyol oven.”
In the back, off the alley and just beyond a glowing red neon light is the entrance to the back bar, named for Leifur’s mother Joni.
It’s here that bar manager Adam Gorski reigns. Says Addison, “Gorski pours refreshingly offbeat cocktails.” The current menu made entirely of drinks inspired by the many celebrities who passed to the great beyond last year. The room feels like a cabin basement from rural Wisconsin, complete with custom music mixes played over a vintage reel to reel tape system and 70’s era Bose speakers.