The best restaurant of 2011 was Beauty & Essex, located on the lower east side of Manhattan. At first, when reviewing the restaurants that have wooed us this past year, we were reluctant to choose B&E due to an unfortunate reservation mis-hap, but after receiving a personal apology email from owner/chef Chris Santos himself, we are back in love. How can you not love a completely posh space, adorned with decadent interior details from tiered pearl chandeliers to pony hair walls? The ‘beauty’ is evident throughout this three-story building, yet the vintagey exterior and jewelry pawn shop entrance provide a downtown flare that brings your initial reaction down to earth. Make no mistake, the decor isn’t the only attraction. Santos is a veteran at creating delicious tapas style small plates that remix traditional American cuisine. Some favorites on this yummy menu are the Lobster Tacos and Oven Braised Chicken Meatballs, finished by the sinful Box of Doughnuts. If you’re still not convinced by the lovely loungey atmosphere, unique jewelry retail displays, and divine cocktail and food menu, a big selling point for Beauty & Essex is the gratis champagne offered in the ladies lounge. It’s like the best kept secret, and it keeps the party going (at least for the ladies:) Lots of time has been spent in those quarters over the past year, and the experience comes highly recommended!