Is NYC takeout joint Ursula America’s ‘best new restaurant’?

Ursula is not America’s best new restaurant. Ursula is barely a restaurant at all — only a takeout storefront in Crown Heights with a few outdoor seats.

But this sweet little spot is, ridiculously, a James Beard Award nominee for Best New Restaurant in the entire U S of A — a coveted honor previously earned by the Big Apple’s Momofuku Ko, Le Coucou and Frenchette. (This year’s winners will be announced in June.)

It isn’t just Beard lavishing praise on this New Mexico-inspired eatery, which serves breakfast burritos and a few lunch sandwiches. Grub Street extolled, “Ursula might be America’s best new restaurant.” Eater New York and the New Yorker went bananas over it. It’s one of the New York Times’ “next great breakfast destinations.” prominently featured the recipe for Albuquerque-born chef-owner Eric See’s chorizo-and-scrambled eggs burrito.

The exterior of Ursula Brooklyn restaurant
The exterior of Ursula in Crown Heights.
James Keivom
Green chile fried chicken sandwich, left, and stuffed ground beef sopaipillas
Green-chile fried chicken sandwich (left) and stuffed ground beef sopaipillas.
James Keivom

Sorry to burst the burrito bubble, but despite having the best burrito in town, Ursula isn’t even the best restaurant in Crown Heights, which has many fine places to eat that actually let you sit indoors.

It’s easy to fall for this inexpensive neighborhood eatery that didn’t ask to be thrust into the national spotlight. Ursula lets you eat very well for peanuts. (Burritos for $11 each are large enough to feed almost as many people.) Smiling employees deliver dishes from the tiny kitchen to al fresco tables with an abundance of cheer.

See’s menu draws overdue attention to the ingredients of New Mexico — especially red and green chiles from the state’s Hatch Valley region — which he correctly says are under-represented in New York.  

Steve Cuozzo samples chorizo and vegan breakfast burritos at Ursula Brooklyn restaurant on Thursday, May 5, 2022 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo tried both the chorizo and vegan breakfast burritos at Ursula.
James Keivom
Peanut butter and jelly donut, guava passion fruit Pop-Tart, rum cake, and Mexican wedding cookie at Ursula Brooklyn restaurant on Thursday, May 5, 2022 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
From left to right: peanut butter and jelly doughnut, guava passion fruit Pop-Tart, rum cake and Mexican wedding cookie.
James Keivom

But does that make Ursula more worthy of a national prize nomination than New York’s Le Pavillon, Iris or Carne Mare, marvelous, fully realized establishments led by great chefs? In fairness, Beard did also nominate thrilling Indian restaurant Dhamaka. But it’s hard to tell what Beard even means by “new” — Ursula opened in 2020.

Reality check: In the end, even the finest burrito is just a burrito. Ursula’s oft-Instagrammed version with chorizo, scrambled eggs, hash browns and cheddar stuffed inside a flour tortilla delivered a payload of multiflavored, multitextured pleasure. Skillfully calibrated New Mexican red chile lent a satisfying spark to the perfectly cooked ingredients — without scorching them.

The interior of Ursula Brooklyn.
Ursula’s interior includes friendly staff and a New Mexico-inspired menu.
James Keivom

But for my money, the vegan number, anchored by pinto beans, had a pasty texture and limited flavor. Green-chile fried chicken and ground beef sopaipillas were palate-pleasing sandwiches too big for normal human hands.

Ursula’s lease is up this year. See launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise dough for a new home. I sure hope he finds one. He deserves a proper setting with indoor seats and a full-size kitchen to show us what he can do beyond burritos.

Ursula is open from 8 or 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Burritos and other breakfast items are available only until noon, or earlier if they run out; the rest of the menu is available from 11:30 a.m. till closing. No phone.