Balthazar. Photo: Alex Lopez
New York City’s dining scene is bouncing back from the pandemic. Despite the shuttering of more than 1,000 restaurants over the past few years (according to Eater), a host of dynamic new spots have opened their doors and many of the City’s longtime favorites continue to serve remarkable fare across the five boroughs. Here we’ve boiled down the undisputed classics for everyone’s checklist and identified the intrepid restaurateurs who are in perfect sync with NYC’s pulse. If you want to know where to eat, you’ve come to the right place. Find the City’s most essential eateries with our cheat sheet below, then head out on the town to experience them for yourself.
Nathan’s Famous. Photo: Matthew Penrod
A restaurant that’s stood the test of time, as great today as it ever was, is quite a feat. In that category, we salute Keens Steakhouse for its old-fashioned atmosphere, excellent steaks and chops, great drinks and exemplary service. Busy Katz’s Delicatessen, on the Lower East Side, has its own burnished pedigree, the overstuffed pastrami sandwiches and grilled hot dogs worth the inevitable wait. Speaking of hot dogs, Nathan’s Famous, in Coney Island since 1916, has expanded its empire globally, but a trip to the source is still a delight.
Neir's Tavern. Photo: Simbarashe Cha
For a juicy hamburger, head to the historic Neir’s Tavern, a bar in Queens not far from JFK that claims to have been around since 1829. The joint has had its ups and downs, most recently during the pandemic shutdown, but locals are jubilant that the doors are still open. Staten Islanders wax sentimental about Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, especially the potato pancakes, potato-cheese pierogi and bacon-cheddar wursts.
Veselka, a cherished Ukrainian staple in Manhattan’s East Village, has seen its popularity turbocharged recently for obvious reasons. We love the pierogi and blintzes but the mushroom barley soup even more.
The Odeon. Photo: Alex Lopez
Raoul’s, a French hangout in Soho, remains a classy place to get steak au poivre with pommes frites along with other bistro standards. Balthazar, a few blocks away, never gets old either, with thick onion soup gratinée and boeuf bourguignon. The Odeon, a Tribeca magnet for its perfect French omelets, roast chicken and burgers on brioche, is still in style too.
Italian restaurants have long figured in NYC’s restaurant history, none more so than Barbetta, open for nearly a century on Restaurant Row in the Theatre District and still owned by the immigrant founder’s daughter, Laura Maioglio. Go there and get lost in time. The Piemontese food is fabulous.
Denino’s. Photo: Julienne Schaer
At Dominick’s in the Bronx the waiters are the menu and will tell you what you want. Go to Denino’s, serving Staten Island since 1937, for out-of-this-world pizza. In Queens, the most famous Italian institution is Don Peppe (best for fried peppers, stuffed shells and linguine with white clam sauce).
Courtesy, Randazzo's Clam Bar
Brooklyn has a slew of tremendous Italian stalwarts, highlighted by Ferdinando’s Focacceria (great seafood salad and rice balls), L&B Spumoni Gardens (Sicilian pizza), Randazzo’s Clam Bar (shrimp fra diavolo, spaghetti marinara) and Marco Polo Ristorante (ricotta gnocchi and pork chops with hot and sweet cherry peppers).
Grand Central Oyster Bar. Photo: Alex Lopez
Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal is elegantly designed and unmatched for cherrystone clams and seafood pan roasts. London Lennie’s, in Queens, has boasted the best seafood in Rego Park since 1959. In Astoria, Taverna Kyclades offers the essence of Greek cuisine in what’s still a center for Greek culture; the grilled octopus with lemon and olive oil, lightly broiled scallops and grilled sardines are sublime. Sushi and black cod with miso still draw folks to Nobu Downtown and Nobu Fifty Seven, both beautifully designed and frequented by a fashionable clientele.
Sylvia’s Restaurant. Photo: Brittany Petronella
Gage & Tollner. Photo: Lizzie Munro
Exciting restaurants like Gage & Tollner, an iconic steakhouse gloriously resurrected in Downtown Brooklyn, and Ernesto’s, a Basque-cuisine hot spot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, barely cracked open their doors before the March 2020 shutdown (the former didn’t even make it to its planned debut). Both managed to triumph in 2022—scoring reservations at either proves a challenge. St. John Frizell, an owner of Gage & Tollner, also retooled and relocated Fort Defiance, his New Orleans–inflected neighborhood joint in Red Hook that served as a vital general store and cocktail dispensary during the dark days of the pandemic.
The other coolest places to hit in Brooklyn right now include Bonnie’s, a creative, Cantonese-American-Italian restaurant from Calvin Eng (get the cacio e pepe fermented bean curd), and Dept of Culture, a minimalist tasting-menu venture featuring Nigerian fare from owner-chef Ayo Balogun (fish pepper soup is one of the stars). At Laser Wolf, Israeli American chef Michael Solomonov charcoal grills skewered meats and whips up creamy Middle Eastern dips, served alongside cityscape views from atop Williamsburg’s Hoxton hotel. For vegans, Aunts et Uncles in Flatbush is a godsend, an all-day café with plant-based Caribbean-spiced sandwiches and Beyond Meat burgers. Also in the borough, Greenpoint’s Wenwen gets accolades for its Taiwanese-style hot honey popcorn chicken.
In Elmhurst, Queens, you’ll be thrilled by the Thai-spiced prawns and catfish stuffed with pandan leaves at Zaab Zaab, one of NYC’s most compelling new restaurants for its use of seldom seen herbs. For an authentic Moroccan tagine, head to Dar Yemma in Astoria, where halal chicken, olives and preserved lemons are melded in a savory, aromatic stew.
Back in Manhattan, All’antico Vinaio is an ambrosial Italian sandwich shop near Times Square. There is almost always a line out the deli’s door, but it moves pretty quickly (try around 3pm when it typically dies down). Elsewhere in Midtown, there’s the stylish new location of Café China for Sichuan meals and John Fraser’s Greek-Turkish wonder Iris for shellfish-rich Aegean stew and quail kebabs. Over in the Manhattan West area, near Hudson Yards, is Ci Siamo, an elegant Italian restaurant courtesy of Danny Meyer, where the gifted chef Hillary Sterling has patrons clamoring for her caramelized onion torta and wood-fired whole trout. Up in East Harlem, Contento is a chic, Peruvian-ish restaurant with a top-flight wine list and an emphasis on accessible design since two of its owners, Yannick Benjamin and George Gallego, use wheelchairs.
Dame. Photo: Evan Sung
Fried-food lovers should head to the Upper West Side, where Charles Pan-Fried Chicken, a Harlem legend, now serves up crusty, browned thighs and wings. The West Village is where you’ll find the best fish and chips, at Dame, from British chef Ed Szymanski. He offers several other lighter items but, really, don’t miss the battered stuff. The neighborhood also holds the best fried olives in the city, at Emmett’s on Grove, although it’s more known for its great Chicago-style pizza (the thin “tavern” variety).
Speaking of pizza, Una Pizza Napoletana, on Orchard Street in Manhattan, had a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, but famed pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri is slinging pies again. He keeps things simple, with classic, high-quality toppings like San Marzano tomatoes, wild oregano and buffalo mozzarella flown in fresh from Italy.
The same Lower East Side neighborhood is the setting for Dhamaka, a happening Indian spot named best new restaurant in New York by The New York Times and in America by Esquire. Get chef Chintan Pandya’s fiery potato patties and tiger prawns with roasted garlic.
Sona, in the Flatiron District, also has stellar Indian fare, including shrimp fritters, Goan fish curry and charcoal-smoked butter chicken with tomato-cream gravy. One of the owners is actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, so be assured the elegant space has panache.
El Quijote, the reborn Spanish restaurant at the base of the Chelsea Hotel, is another fashionable haunt. Serrano ham croquettes and Andalusian-spiced rotisserie chicken are the way to go.
In the mood for Thai? Go to Soothr, in the East Village, which has a swanky interior and outdoor seating in front and in back. Tom yum seafood hot pot and caramelized duck breast over egg noodles are highlights.
Beloved French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud’s long-running Café Boulud did not survive the pandemic, but he’s come back with two new entries: Le Pavillon, a seafood and vegetable-focused showplace in Midtown, and the Lyonnaise styled Le Gratin, in Lower Manhattan. Both are exceptional places to splurge.
Courtesy, Via Carota
It’s always good to have a list of restaurants that never disappoint. Via Carota, a wonder in the West Village, remains on every Italian-food lover’s lips. Must-haves are the insalata verde and cacio e pepe pasta. Partners Jody Williams and Rita Sodi have a clutch of great downtown restaurants, including French bistro Buvette.
Il Buco Alimentari. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
If you’re looking for pleasant outdoor dining options, some of the best places in Manhattan include Cookshop (New American), the revived Pastis (French), Shuka (Middle Eastern), Il Buco Alimentari (Italian) and Thai Diner, where Asian greens chowder and disco fries coated with curry, peanuts and coconut cream should be on every table. The back garden at Maison Premiere, in Williamsburg, is lovely as well (open May to roughly November, weather permitting), specializing in oysters and absinthe.
The Dining Room at Gramercy Tavern. Photo: Evan Angelastro
You’ll find attractive interiors at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, the Tribeca brasserie Frenchette, Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern and Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, in Harlem. Better still, the food at all of them is amazing.
Williamsburg’s Diner, a lively spot for a delicious burger, is housed in an old railroad dining car. Lilia, also in Williamsburg, used to be a garage and is where you’ll find marvelous pastas by Missy Robbins. M. Wells, in Queens, was once an auto body shop. Its Canadian chef, Hugue Dufour, always has something interesting cooking, from a savory pie with blood sausage and conch to brisket bourguignon.
Casa Enrique. Photo: José A. Alvarado Jr.
Many of the restaurants we’ve catalogued here have been singled out as superior by the Michelin Guide, so if you use that distinction as a barometer, these also meet the can’t-go-wrong test: Casa Enrique in Long Island City for gourmet Mexican; Oxomoco in Greenpoint (more amazing Mexican fare); Olmsted in Prospect Heights (seasonal American); Dirt Candy on the Lower East Side (creative vegetarian); Rezdôra in the Flatiron District (beautiful Italian food); and David Chang’s recently renovated Momofuku Noodle Bar, the East Village flagship of his restaurant empire.
Carmine’s in Times Square. Photo: Brittany Petronella
Festive restaurants with shareable food heighten special occasions. Celebrate being together at the handsome Carmine’s, in Times Square (there’s a second location on the Upper West Side), passing around plates heaped with fried calamari, penne alla vodka and chicken marsala. Bond 45, another vast restaurant in Times Square, gets approval for the vegetable antipasto bar (eggplant parmesan is a must) and the toasted whole garlic loaf.
Zero Otto Nove. Photo: Joe Buglewicz
The Bronx’s Arthur Avenue teems with family-friendly Italian establishments, including Zero Otto Nove, Enzo’s and Mario’s. The East and West Village locations of Fiaschetteria Pistoia are on the smaller side but big in spirit. House-made pastas and lively hospitality mark them as consistent favorites.
Italian is not the only game in town when it comes to group dining. Malecon Restaurant, with easygoing outposts in Washington Heights and Manhattan Valley, has huge portions of Dominican dishes like arroz con pollo and mofongo (mashed green plantains) with fried pork. Cote, a Michelin-starred Korean steakhouse in the Flatiron District, provides an interactive experience, with smokeless grills at every table. Same goes for the lovely Yoon Haeundae Galbi, in Midtown. Insa, a more casual but no less delicious Korean barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, provides state-of-the-art karaoke rooms for small (up to 10 guests) or large parties (11 to 20).
A money-saving alternative is Peking Duck House, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where the low-priced Chinese specialties are high quality and there’s a BYOB policy. Dim Sum Go Go, also in Chinatown, is fail-safe. And go with a group to Szechuan Mountain House, in Flushing, Queens, or on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, to sample as much of the menu as possible, including shredded pork with spicy garlic sauce and mapo lobster and tofu in chili sauce.
Yemen Cafe, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is a spectacular spot for creamy hummus, fresh-baked flatbread and lamb stew, everything in bounteous portions. The Middle Eastern-Mediterranean food at Dagon, on the Upper West Side, is similarly amazing, with chicken tagine, whole roasted black bass and fresh-baked flatbread to swipe through a variety of luscious dips.
French Louie. Photo: Amy Lombard
Freemans is one of those restaurants that always feels special. Open since 2004, it’s hidden down an alleyway on the Lower East Side. The American menu (hot artichoke dip, five-cheese macaroni, pan-roasted salmon) always punches above its weight. And if you’re planning a (nice-ish) party, consider French Louie, in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill. The restaurant creates set menus that might include mussels in bouillabaisse broth, steak frites and bananas foster profiteroles, to be taken in the covered outdoor garden (April–October).
Russ & Daughters. Photo: Matthew Penrod
Street food is just the ticket when you’re in a hurry and on a budget. And it’s a fun, delicious way to sample global flavors. Russ & Daughters, a Jewish appetizing shop, has been at the same location on East Houston Street since 1920 and still attracts lines down the block. Some might not think of bagels with smoked salmon and a schmear of cream cheese as street food, but tell that to the hordes of people on the sidewalk who can’t wait to eat it anywhere else (note: the same great smoked fish and much more is available at the sit-down Russ & Daughters Café a few blocks away).
Scarr’s Pizza. Photo: David La Spina
The Lower East Side, East Village and West Village are rife with cheap, casual food stalls, most likely influenced by the crush of students and young people in the area hitting the bars. St. Mark’s Place, a short but busy stretch in the East Village, has an abundance of such spots to choose from; a favorite is 886, where everybody goes crazy for the big, spicy Taiwanese fried chicken sandwich called the Notorious T.F.C. Another phenomenal Indian-spiced fried chicken sandwich is found a few blocks away at Rowdy Rooster, owned by the same team behind Dhamaka. Scarr’s Pizza, African bites specialist Berber Street Food and NY Dosas, a popular food cart on Washington Square South, are also worth seeking out.
Ayat. Courtesy, CrescentRating
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is a multicultural mosaic where many recent immigrants test out new businesses with their signature dishes from home. Ayat traffics in Palestinian street food, such as stuffed grape leaves and fried cauliflower enhanced with tahini and pomegranate molasses. Kimchi Kooks offers Korean comfort food in a smart little storefront, and newly minted Yucusiama vies for best Oaxacan-style quesadillas and tlayuda (akin to a Mexican pizza) in the City.
In Greenpoint, don’t miss Taqueria Ramirez for its blow-torched tacos. Los Tacos No. 1, with locations at the Chelsea Market, Times Square and elsewhere, has delectable low-priced bites. Birria-Landia has made a splash with braised meat tacos, which are even juicier with a dip in consommé; two trucks serve them up in Jackson Heights and Williamsburg.
Asian bites make great street food, such as the divine Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, found in Flushing and Chinatown’s Canal Street Market. Bánh Vietnamese Shop House, on the Upper West Side, has killer sandwiches.
Gray’s Papaya. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite
In that neighborhood is the iconic Gray’s Papaya, feeding hungry New Yorkers hot dogs since 1973. It’s not far from Lincoln Center, nor is Old John’s Diner, where you can grab an egg sandwich or veggie burger. They also have a good outdoor setup.
Farther uptown, Harlem’s Fieldtrip is a healthy quick-serve venue, featuring bowls of freshly milled grains with shrimp, seafood gumbo or vegetables. Teranga, also in Harlem, has a similar fast-casual system, with African-spiced vegan bowls and roasted salmon over jollof rice with plantains and black-eyed peas.
New York Times food critic Pete Wells recently awarded three stars to La Piraña Lechonera, a Puerto Rican food trailer in the Bronx. The high rating is justified for the dreamy roast pork and salt cod fritters. If you’re determined to beat a path here, keep in mind it’s cash only and just open Saturdays and Sundays.