A Diner’s Guide to New York City
By one estimate, New York City is home to almost 8,000 restaurants—add in cafés, delis, and smaller places, and the count is closer to 24,000. This list is, needless to say, a mere starting point to the many restaurants—and bars—worth a visit.
11 Madison Ave
In April 2017, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List (produced by the British magazine Restaurant) bestowed the title of the greatest restaurant anywhere on Eleven Madison Park. It marked the first time in 13 years that an American establishment secured the top spot. (The previous U.S. winner was Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, in 2003 and 2004.) It’s not the restaurant’s only laurel: It has also received three stars from Michelin and four from the New York Times. If you want to judge for yourself, be prepared to spend $295 for an 8-to-10-course tasting menu (or $155 for the smaller five-course bar menu). Both prices include tips, but not beverages. Executive chef Daniel Humm’s menu could be called haute American—local ingredients are highlighted in dishes with preparations that border on, but don’t cross into, the fussy. The dining room itself complements the meal. Right after the restaurant was named the world’s best, it closed for a four-month renovation, and its new light- and art-filled interior pairs perfectly with Humm’s dishes.
155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Le Bernardin, on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, is one of the handful of New York restaurants that is regularly awarded four stars by the New York Times (it is also one of five restaurants in the city with three Michelin stars). Chef Eric Ripert’s specialty is fish, and the menu is divided into three categories: “almost raw,” “barely touched,” and “lightly cooked.” If you like your tuna cooked medium, this isn’t the right place for you. Ripert often finds his inspiration in Japanese cooking, with his sashimi and light broths, and adds some Latin American influences, in his ceviches and some other dishes. The fish is always allowed to take center stage, and typically any sauce is merely intended to accent its flavors. The dining room has an understated, contemporary style with light-wood walls and high ceilings. Unlike some celebrated chefs, Ripert has chosen not to build a restaurant empire, increasing the odds that on any visit he will be at Le Bernardin, presiding over its kitchen and dining room.
42 East 20th Street
Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron District can fairly be described as a New York institution. When the restaurant opened in 1994, Tom Colicchio, who has gone on to fame as much as a television chef as one who cooks in his kitchens, presided over the restaurant. In 2006, he passed the reins to Michael Anthony. Gramercy Tavern is actually two restaurants in one. The Tavern, in the front, is a lively, buzzy space where the menu is à la carte; the more formal Dining Room, in the rear of the restaurant, also has an à la carte menu—as well as prix fixe and tasting ones—at lunch, though only set menus at dinner, when a three-course version is $129 and a seasonal tasting one is $179. The vegetable tasting menu at dinner, for $159, is perhaps among the most gourmet vegetarian meals anyone will ever experience. (All prices include gratuities.) The dishes in both spaces could be described as American comfort food elevated with some gourmet touches. You can expect fresh produce to be emphasized in plates like the duck meatloaf and the cobblers and pies—the restaurant is known for its desserts.
200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010, USA
There are now 35 locations of Eataly, the massive Italian food hall, around the world, with 18 of them in Italy itself. The New York City one at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, which opened in 2010, was the first in the United States (it’s been joined by others in Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as by a second outpost in Manhattan, near the World Trade Center site at 101 Liberty Street). For connoisseurs of all things Italian, this is a must-visit—or, more accurately, a must-shop and must-eat stop. Covering more than 50,000 square feet, Eataly NYC Flatiron includes five different restaurants (plus occasional pop-ups) offering opportunities to graze on antipasti, fish, pizza, and other dishes. A popular rooftop beer hall is open all year round (thanks to space heaters and a retractable roof). While you will want to eat your gelato on the spot, there are also a number of stores where you can buy gifts from biscotti to olive oils to take home a little bit of Italy via New York.
46 Bowery, New York, NY 10013, USA
New York City’s Chinese and Chinese American populations total around 570,000, making this the largest concentration of Chinese outside the mother country. The first Chinatown in Manhattan dates to the 1870s, and while it continues to grow, it has also been joined by other Chinatowns, including one in Flushing, Queens. That is where Joe’s Shanghai opened its first location, in 1995—though the two in Manhattan, on Pell Street in Chinatown and West 56th Street in Midtown, will be more convenient for most travelers. You can expect a wait for a table, and when you are seated you may be sharing it with strangers. The restaurant can be noisy, and as soon as you have finished your meal, you’ll be encouraged to settle up and leave. In other words, people don’t come here for the atmosphere or the service. Instead, the excellent and generous renditions of favorite Chinese dishes, especially the restaurant’s signature soup dumplings, are the draw. The dumplings are served in bamboo steamer baskets and each one holds a pork or crab meatball in a hot broth, all wrapped up in a doughy package. It may prove to be the most flavorful moment of your trip to New York.
278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014, USA
New York abounds in corner pizzerias selling pizza by the slice—it’s the default meal on the go for many residents. Those neighborhood spots are decidedly humble, even if the pizza is often very tasty. But should you want to make an evening out of trying one of New York’s signature dishes, John’s of Bleecker Street is a good option. The restaurant has been around since 1929 (though it was originally located on Sullivan Street). All of the pizzas are baked in a coal-fired brick oven, giving their thin crusts some blackened edges. While there are a few pasta dishes and salads on the menu, the reason to come here is for the pizzas and calzones served in a casual setting with black-and-white tiled floors and diner-style banquettes.
567 Hudson Street
The White Horse Tavern in the West Village is about as old-school as any bar can get. Founded in 1880, its long dark-wood bar is backed by a mirror and lined with stools; vintage prints and photos adorn the walls. It’s also a cultural institution, with James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Anaïs Nin among the many legendary writers who were patrons. The White Horse’s most famous literary moment took place in November 1953, when Dylan Thomas finished his 18th whiskey (beating his own record) and stumbled into the street. He collapsed and was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital where died. Travelers today can enjoy the atmosphere and order pub-bar favorites and whiskeys too, if that’s your poison—just avoid Thomas’s fatal excess.
433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009, USA
When Death & Company opened in the East Village in 2006 it was not among the first wave of that period’s cocktail revival, but it would prove to be one of the most enduring of the second generation of lounges. The original owners opted for an old-school, speakeasy look that is still maintained—there’s a dim, candle-lit interior with a dark wooden ceiling, a marble-top bar, and waiters in ties and vests. The menu is extensive, with selections accompanied by meditations on the art of craft cocktails. More than 10 years after it first opened, it’s still a beloved spot. You may have to leave your cell number and wait for a call when a space opens up (the bar does not take reservations). Along with the many signature drinks, Death & Company has a menu of bar snacks: Candied bar nuts, cheese curds, and beef sliders, as well as cheese and meat boards, are popular choices.
2 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022, USA
The King Cole Bar is about as legendary as any bar in New York. Located in the St. Regis Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, it has been the place to go for a cocktail since it opened in 1932—Salvador Dalí, John Lennon, and Marilyn Monroe are just a few from a long list of famous names who have dropped in for a drink. The bar sits off the St. Regis New York’s lobby and is presided over by the famous King Cole mural painted by Maxfield Parrish, with John Jacob Astor IV playing the part of the king, jesters to each side of him. Today it is still the ultimate setting to start a celebratory evening, or end one with a nightcap; it cemented its place on most lists of New York’s top bars with an extensive renovation in 2013. While the bartenders can prepare anything you might be in the mood for, you may want to order a Bloody Mary. The King Cole Bar boasts that it was the first spot where the drink (then known as a Red Snapper) was served in the United States (a claim, it should be noted, that is disputed by some other bars).
90 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA
Brooklyn has become a dining destination in recent years, with dozens of restaurants preparing local, organic, and sustainable American dishes—and others serving everything from Korean bibimbap and Scandinavian specialties to Ethiopian stews and Mexican tacos. The borough has an overwhelming abundance to choose from, but Smorgasburg makes it easy to graze and sample a variety of Brooklyn’s dishes. From the beginning of April to the end of October, food trucks and stalls representing around 100 restaurants and other establishments set up at East River State Park, in the Williamsburg neighborhood, every Saturday; on Sundays, you’ll find them farther south, in Prospect Park. The largest weekly open-air food market in the country, it’s popular and draws thousands of visitors, but don’t be deterred by the crowds: Much of the fun is the people-watching and the general festival-like atmosphere. Even if you aren’t visiting New York in the summer, it’s worth checking out the Smorgasburg website as they sometimes have smaller off-season pop-ups, including the Winter Flea & Holiday Market.
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206, USA
Arguably one of New York’s best pizza places, Roberta’s would surely be more crowded than it already is if it wasn’t so hard to get to—at least for residents of Manhattan (or travelers staying there). This Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas is in the Bushwick neighborhood, six stops into Brooklyn on the L train; once you arrive, you may find yourself having to wait in line for an hour for a table. All the effort, however, is worth it for the thin-crust pizzas that range from the traditional (Margheritas, white pizzas) to those with surprising toppings, like picked onions and jalapeños. There is also a bakery on-site, if you want to grab a sweet treat to enjoy after your excursion to Bushwick.
Basement Level of City Point, 445 Albee Square W, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
Much of the buzz around Brooklyn in recent years has focused on Williamsburg and, to a lesser degree, the nearby Bushwick and Greenpoint districts. Downtown Brooklyn and its neighbor, Fort Greene, have been enjoying a renaissance too, however. One welcome addition to the scene in that part of the borough is the Dekalb Market Hall, which opened in the summer of 2017. It’s sort of a small, and year-round, version of the popular Smorgasburg, offering an opportunity to sample dishes from some 40 different vendors. In the basement of the City Point shopping center on Fulton Street, many of New York’s venerable and upcoming restaurants are represented. Katz’s Deli, the Arepa Lady, and Dekalb Taco will satisfy your longing for something savory, while Ample Hills ice cream and Steve’s Key Lime Pies cater to your sweet tooth. New York’s first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is also here if you want to have a cocktail and see a movie before or after your meal.
383 Carroll Street
The Gowanus Canal has long been a scar on Brooklyn, a toxic Superfund site that the city, state, and federal governments have spent millions of dollars to return to something somewhat closer to a pristine state. With Brooklyn enjoying a red-hot moment, however, developers aren’t waiting for the cleanup to be completed. Alongside new condos are a handful of restaurants and bars attracting intrepid travelers to this part of Brooklyn. Lavender Lake’s name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the canal and the sheen created by pollution on the water’s surface. On a sunny day on the bar’s patio, however, the setting feels more bucolic than post-industrial. The bar’s cocktail menu features spirits infused with chai, yerba maté, and chamomile, as well as its own house-made syrups. The limited menu has some innovative vegetarian options, like the cauliflower Reuben, while carnivores can order burgers and steaks. Lavender Lake is especially lively on summer weekends, when DJs spin in the evenings.
43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA
Husband-and-wife team Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have pulled off a remarkable feat, managing to entice gourmets to travel to Long Island City in Queens for a meal. While Obraitis manages M. Wells Steakhouse, Dufour presides over the kitchen. Having honed his craft at Montreal‘s celebrated Au Pied de Cochon, here Dufour reimagines an old-school chophouse by venturing beyond the typical prime cuts of beef to include sweetbreads and pig’s head on the menu. Among the sides, the poutine is a nod to Dufour’s Quebecois roots as are seasonal dishes like the meat pies sold during the winter holidays. Other steak-house classics are updated with touches like candied nuts on the wedge salad. If you want to sample Dufour’s contemporary Quebecois cuisine and aren’t in the mood for steak, the M. Wells Dinette at MoMA PS1 is another option, though it has a limited menu.
112 Lincoln Ave, Bronx, NY 10454, USA
Of all New York’s boroughs, the Bronx has had the hardest time shaking the reputation left over from darker periods in the city’s history. The South Bronx is not, however, the lawless, crime-ridden neighborhood you might imagine if you have watched too many Al Pacino and Robert De Niro movies of the ‘70s. Adventurous travelers are crossing the Harlem River to visit long-established destinations like the area’s Antiques Row and new additions like the Bronx Brewery. A good way to start or end a day of exploring the district is with a meal at Charlies Bar & Kitchen, a lively local favorite that serves comfort-food favorites like barbecue ribs, burgers, and mac and cheese.
505 West 23rd Street
At almost 20 years old, the Half King has become a Chelsea institution, but back when it was founded by journalists Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm) and Scott Anderson (Lawrence in Arabia) and filmmaker Nanette Burstein, this part of the neighborhood was relatively desolate after sundown. The three wanted a place for writers and artists to be able to meet for drinks and to share ideas over meals. Today, on many nights, the patrons aren’t cultural icons, just people looking for a good burger and a cold beer. The menu here is decidedly unpretentious: Chicken tenders, jalapeño peppers, and club sandwiches are among the choices. There’s a patio that’s popular in the summertime. The bar and restaurant stay true to their roots with a series of book readings, while works by young photographers hang on the walls.