How to Eat Your Way Through 33 Countries Without Leaving Manhattan
One of the best things about dining out in NYC (beyond great pizza and bagels) is the sheer variety of international food. In Manhattan alone, you can eat your way through India, Jamaica, Russia, and Venezuela, all without leaving the confines of the borough. To help you accomplish just that, we've rounded up 33 different global cuisines you can find in Manhattan.
This casual neighborhood spot specializes in North African fare that melds together influences from Berbers, Middle Eastern Jews, Turks, and the French. Traditional dishes include heavily spiced merguez sausage, plenty of couscous (Algeria’s national dish), lamb tagine, and chicken pastilla: a mix of sweet chicken, almonds, cinnamon, and sautéed onions wrapped in phyllo, scented with rose water, orange blossom, and honey, then topped with powdered sugar. Do note that the restaurant has no affiliation to the trendy NoMad Hotel near Madison Square Park -- it’s run by Algerian natives Salima and Mehenni Zebentout.
Armenian by way of Lebanon, this Beirut import has a loyal fanbase that spans the globe. Here, you can try a mix of Armenian-infused Lebanese fare and traditional Armenian dishes like lentil kafta (essentially a vegetarian kebab), soujuk (beef sausage), and mantee (canoe-shaped ravioli-like dough pockets filled with ground beef or spinach, and topped with garlic yogurt sauce and a sprinkle of spices). Be sure to order the sweet and sour, charcoal-grilled ground-beef kebabs, which get coated with a preserved white cherry and cooked into a bold stew-like sauce.
Argentine: Buenos Aires Restaurant
Argentina is like the Texas of South America: It’s big, has cowboys, and is obsessed with beef. Just like the Lone Star State, the country also has longstanding grilling traditions. Get a taste of the national custom at Buenos Aires Restaurant, where chefs cook in-house butchered cuts over indirect heat with just a sprinkling of salt. Instead of wood charcoal, the restaurant uses ceramic tiles on the grill for a hint of smoky flavor in the porterhouse (24 or 42 ounces), filet mignon, and parrillada de Buenos Aires -- a mixed grill that includes Argentine-style short ribs, skirt steak, sausage, blood sausage, and grilled sweetbreads.
Australian: Flinders Lane
Australian food has grown from its British meat and potatoes roots into an incredibly diverse, multicultural cuisine. At Flinders Lane, chef-partner Chris McPherson showcases dishes from his native Melbourne, including his home city's hangover meal of choice, Malaysian-style laksa with rice noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, crab meat, and grilled shrimp in fragrant curry broth. The seafood-heavy menu offers some classic Aussie picks like abalone (oyster-like mollusks served like sashimi) and barramundi (sea bass), which McPherson pan-roasts with carrots, peas, and mint, similar to the typical Sunday roast accoutrement. If you’re not feeling seafood, you can still get a meat pie or sausage roll from the specials board.
Austrian: Cafe Katja
Lower East Side
Wiener schnitzel, apfelstrudel, Grüner Veltliner, schnapps, and other Austrian classics can be found at this Lower East Side neighborhood joint, which started as a sausage-slinging watering hole (wurst and beer used to make up the bulk of the menu) before taking over three neighboring storefronts and transforming into a full-fledged gastropub. Locals fill the wood-covered dining room nightly for house-made brat platters, liverwurst with red-onion jam, and imported pretzels paired with European beers and an impressive selection of Austrian wine and schnapps.
Brazilian: Churrascaria Plataforma
Buffets may seem like an American invention, but Brazilians have been indulging in all-you-can-eat rodízio-style restaurants since the early 1900s. At Churrascaria Plataforma, servers walk around the dining room with massive skewers of meat, cutting off slices tableside for guests upon request. For a set price, guests get unlimited access to the salad bar and as much meat as they can eat. Options range from top sirloin, garlic steak, and bacon-wrapped filet mignon, to chicken hearts, octopus, and lamb chops. Plan to go on a Wednesday or Saturday when there’s traditional feijoada -- a black bean, pork, and herb-filled stew. Just be prepared for some serious meat sweats.
Cambodian: Angkor Cambodian Bistro
Upper East Side
One of the city’s few sit-down Cambodian restaurants, Angkor is a recent addition to NYC, opened by mom-and-pop Mandy and Minh Truong, who ran Chelsea’s Royal Siam for 20 years. Amok, a pudding-like coconut-seafood curry is a must-try that resembles Thai hor mok, except that the fish is grilled before the curry sauce is spooned atop. Lemongrass satay, sour soups, chili-laden salads, and traditional Khmer dishes are all worth exploring here as well, particularly the spicy Siem Reap noodle with your choice of meat or vegetables plus flat rice noodles, herbs, chili, and a thick soybean paste sauce.
Chinese: Mission Chinese Food
Lower East Side
China’s fiery Sichuan cuisine has been in the US spotlight for the past half decade, due in no small part to Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese. The NYC outpost of the acclaimed San Francisco eatery offers exciting interpretations of the spicy fare, such as cumin lamb ribs, mapo tofu, and Chongqing chicken wings. Here, dishes are intended to be shared, but not in that terrible two-bite-per-person small-plate format. It’s best to dine with a crew to take full advantage of the family-style menu, and pre-order the Beggar’s Duck before you arrive. The $100 bird, roasted in lotus leaf and clay and cracked tableside, is one of the juiciest, most flavorful dishes served in NYC.
Dominican: Lali’s Restaurant
Lali’s is one of Manhattan’s most straightforward, no-frills spots. The food is cheap, the doors close at 4pm, and aside from a few small tables, the dining room consists of just one long counter with stools abutting the open kitchen. The tiny storefront is ideal for taking in Dominican and Puerto Rican home-style fare while chatting with the friendly mother-daughter-duo who own the place. If you come in the morning, opt for the tortilla espanola or mashed green plantains with fried egg, fried cheese, and fried salami. For lunch, get beef stew or baked chicken, served with heaping piles of rice and beans.
Upper West Side/East Village
For more than two decades, Awash has been expanding New Yorkers’ palates with its heavily spiced Ethiopian cuisine. The restaurant, now with two locations, makes a fantastic doro wat, a traditional stew of spicy chicken and hard-boiled eggs. Another speciality, kifto, is similar to steak tartare but boldly flavored with kibe (spiced clarified butter) and mitmita, a spice blend with African bird’s eye chili, cardamom, and other spices. Bring some friends to work through the combination dishes, which offer multiple options on one large plate with terrific house-made injera flatbread.
French: Le Coucou
An American chef has to be legit to be praised in Paris, and such is the case with Illinois-born chef Daniel Rose. He received great acclaim while working at Spring and La Bourse et La Vie in Paris before teaming up with restaurateur Stephen Starr for his own restaurant in NYC, which was the 2017 recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best New Restaurant” award. Le Coucou, located in the 11 Howard hotel, offers modern takes on French classics, like pike quenelle fish with rich lobster sauce, sweetbreads with tarragon and cream, and duck breast with foie gras and fruit. The decor matches the food’s decadence, with softly toned wood and brick and grand custom chandeliers.
Upper East Side
In 1936, when Heidelberg opened its doors, Yorkville was an epicenter for NYC’s huge German populace, housing dozens of beer halls and German restaurants. Now the restaurant is the last of the OGs left standing, but it offers a large enough array of traditional dishes and brews to keep locals sated. Inside the old-world dining room, guests fill up on mainstays like platters of wurst, potato pancakes, and fried wiener schnitzel. The menu also goes well beyond the old reliables with hearty Southern German dishes like schweinshaxe (oven-roasted pork shank) and käse-spätzle -- essentially a German-style baked mac & cheese, and an ideal base for a two-liter boot of lager.
Greek: Taverna Kyclades
Astoria has long been the NYC go-to for authentic Greek cuisine, and while Manhattan has some fantastic high-end options as well -- like Molyvos, Loi Estiatorio, and Estiatorio Milos -- but when it comes to casual seafood and traditional classics, Taverna Kyclades (an outpost of the Astoria original) is best. The corner spot serves giant portions for a relative steal, including Lavraki (Greek sea bass), Mediterranean dorada, and some of the best octopus in the city, all accompanied by a choice of side. Go for the lemon-scented steamed wild greens (known as horta), and make sure to start the meal off with the assorted Greek-style spreads.
Italian: Lupa Osteria Romana
NYC has a red sauce restaurant or a pizza joint on nearly every block; few, however, are more reminiscent of a Roman trattoria than Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Lupa Osteria Romana. Nearly two decades in, the place still draws in hordes for its house-made pasta, like the decadent bavette cacio e pepe, a traditional dish from Lazio with chewy strands of pasta perfectly coated in sharp pecorino and fresh black pepper. Spaghetti alla carbonara, the quintessential Roman dish, is cooked just as the Romans do, with al dente pasta in a sauce of egg, pecorino, and a hint of starchy pasta water, dotted with guanciale and a heavy sprinkling of black pepper.
Indian: Indian Accent
Curry Hill may be home to many of NYC’s Indian restaurants, but this Michelin-rated offshoot of one of New Delhi’s most popular high-end restaurants, located inside Le Parker Meridien Hotel, will completely change your perception of Indian cooking. As the name suggests, the food is modern with an Indian accent: You’re not going to find your average chicken korma and saag paneer here. Instead, you’ll find upscale takes on traditional dishes like fresh phulka (puffy Indian flatbread) with pulled jackfruit and green chili sauce. Keema, a heavily-spiced rustic lamb and pea stew, is heightened here with raw quail egg and makrut-scented Portuguese pao bread. Ghee roast lamb -- inspired by Peking duck -- is served with fresh-made roomali roti and multiple chutneys, which guests assemble themselves.
Iranian: Ravagh Persian Grill
Midtown/Lower East Side/Upper East Side
First opened in 1998, this family-owned and operated eatery has evolved into a small Persian-restaurant empire, with three locations in Manhattan and two more on Long Island. It’s known for kebabs, stews, and specialty rices like zereshk polo, a blend of barberries, currants, and saffron mixed with basmati rice. Other standouts include the lamb shank and the ghourmeh sabzi, a traditional Iranian stew of parsley, scallions, beef, kidney beans, and dried lemon.
A meal at Balaboosta (named after the Yiddish term for the perfect homemaker, cook, and host) feels like dining in a warm Mediterranean home with shelves of books and wine bottles. Chef-partner Einat Admony’s Sephardic-inspired fare nods to her Israeli upbringing with a selection of Mediterranean-Middle Eastern dishes like DIY mortar-and-pestle hummus and crispy cauliflower with lemon, currants, and pine nuts. The food here is simple but incredibly well done. Boneless organic half chicken “under a brick” is tender and juicy, served with a pile of Israeli couscous, apricots, leeks, and gremolata, while the shrimp katif is sweet and succulent, wrapped in crisp shreds of phyllo and served with cucumber salad and a green tobiko sauce.
Jamaican: Miss Lily’s
This buzzy Caribbean spot has all the necessary components of a classic Jamaican restaurant: jerk chicken, ginger beer, and booming reggae. Consulting chef Bradford Thompson, a James Beard Award-winner, has created a heavily spiced menu that features perfectly moist and spicy chicken, tender goat curry, and island-inspired cocktails, available by the glass or pitcher.
Japanese: Sushi Nakazawa
Did you watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi and dream of saddling up at Jiro’s acclaimed sushi bar? Save up some cash and reserve a bar-front seat in front of Jiro Ono protege, Chef Daisuke Nakazawa. A meal here may cost you a significant portion of your dining-out budget ($150 at the bar, $120 in the dining room), but it’s still cheaper than a ticket to Japan. Nakazawa and a handful of enthusiastic chefs hand out 20 courses of pristine fish prepared in traditional Edomae style, on top of rice with with simple seasoning. The menu changes according to what’s fresh and in-season, with pieces ranging from live scallop with yuzu pepper paste to California and Japanese uni, to wagyu skirt steak nigiri. Book a reservation far in advance: Seats here are still a hot commodity.
Korean: Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
There’s no dearth of Korean barbecue options in NYC, but this outpost of a Seoul-based chain is certainly the most popular KBBQ place in the borough. Founded by comedian and wrestler Kang Ho Dong, the restaurant has developed a celeb chef following -- Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, and Rich Torrisi have all dined here -- for its high-quality meat and convivial vibe. Servers stand near the circular tabletop grills to cook prime cuts like rib-eye steak, thin-sliced brisket, and sesame-scented kalbi while guests sit back and enjoy banchan, the small side dishes, like kimchi, steamed eggs, and warm cheesy corn.
Khe-Yo is one of NYC’s only Laotian restaurants, but that’s not the only reason you need to try it. Kansas-raised executive chef Soulayphet “Phet” Schwader elevates traditional dishes with classical techniques without losing any of the sour, spicy, and funky notes the cuisine is known for. The restaurant riffs on Lao’s unofficial national dish, laap, in its Jurgielewicz duck salad that swaps out the customary minced meat for crisp-skinned pieces of tender duck. The pork curry noodles are another must-try, with tender slow-cooked pork steeped in yellow curry with wide rice noodles, pickled chili, and banana flower.
NYC has plenty of restaurants that serve a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, but this Bleecker Street pizza spot focuses on one very specific aspect of Lebanese fare: manousheh, the staple breakfast flatbread found at corner bakeries and street vendors all over the country. Here, guests can pick from a mix of sweet and savory toppings, like olive oil and za’atar spice or grass-fed beef with tomatoes, onions, and Aleppo pepper. The beverage menu looks to Beirut, too, with strong Arabic coffee and a selection of Lebanese beer and wine.
Take your pick from more than 150 different options at this Chinatown Malaysian favorite. The cash-only spot offers dishes like roti canai (the crispy Indian-style pancake with curry dipping sauce), Hainanese chicken (poached chicken served at room temperature with rice), and slow-cooked beef rendang, but you can’t come here without trying nasi lemak, a bright mix of coconut rice, pickled vegetables, crispy anchovies, curried chicken, and hard-boiled egg.
Chef Enrique Olvera’s contemporary Mexican spot ranks at No. 40 on the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list. Here, Chef de Cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes serves technically challenging fine-dining dishes that combine a mix of high- and low-brow ingredients. The four-day duck carnitas are a testament to what New York City can do with tacos -- for a crisp, browned skin the bird is cooked in evaporated and condensed milks, as well as Mexican Coke, before being served as a DIY hunk of meat. Diners can shred the bird into pieces, then stuff it into warm, house-made tortillas.
Moroccan: Cafe Mogador
Since 1983, this Moroccan spot has been one of the most consistent restaurants in the constantly evolving neighborhood. Breakfast goes well beyond the typical bacon, egg, and pancakes -- although, Mogador does all of that well, too. Here, diners fill up on spiced dishes like halloumi eggs with roasted tomatoes, greens, and zahatar pita. Later in the day, the menu gives way to mezze, bastila, and tagines with choice of chicken or lamb.
Russian: Mari Vanna
Mari Vanna oozes Russian opulence with a dining room full of ornate Louis XV chairs, cascading chandeliers, and elegant wallpaper. The food at this Moscow-born mini-chain is just as impressive as the decor. The cured herring appetizer has just the right about of brine, and classic beef stroganoff gets upgraded with strips of filet mignon in a nicely spiced mustard sauce -- providing a solid base for those indulging in house-infused vodka shots. For the true Russian experience, consider the extensive caviar menu (as long as you can get someone else to pick up the tab).
Singaporean: Chomp Chomp
Inspired by the storied Chomp Chomp Food Centre in Singapore, chef-owner Simpson Wong’s West Village restaurant specializes in the nation’s hawker fare. The dining room, with backlit wooden screens and vintage schoolhouse-style chairs, is often packed, but it’s still warm and inviting and perfect for sharing family-style dishes. The food takes cues from the multicultural stands of the market with plates that lean Indian, Chinese, and Malay -- except here, you don’t need to line up at a stall to get a sampling of curry mee laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, and hah zheung gai (shrimp paste-coated chicken wings).
Spanish: Casa Mono
Tapas bars are a way of life in Spain, where locals linger with wine and little bites without servers over-explaining how many dishes should be ordered per person. Sample real tapas done right at this Gramercy spot, part of the Batali and Bastianich empire. The seafood-heavy menu features dishes like razor clams a la plancha, harissa marinated Spanish mackerel, and creamy eggs with sea urchin, along with plenty of chorizo-infused plates and a section dedicated to whole organic animals. The tiny space oftentimes feels jammed, but locals and tourists don’t seem to mind being packed like sardines while sipping wine in the casual, communal space.
Before Noma, or Fäviken, or any of the other world-renowned New Nordic restaurants earned spots on “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” lists, there was Aquavit in NYC, offering elegant Scandinavian cooking. It’s where celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson made his first mark in the city, and now, Swedish chef Emma Bengtsson has elevated the the 1987 stalwart through her years of experience cooking in her nation’s best restaurants. The food here seamlessly melds Scandinavian flavors like dill, juniper, and lingonberry into graceful dishes, ranging from Halibut and sea lettuce to Mangalitsa pork and rutabaga. Those often-briny and smoke-scented tastes are matched with a wide selection of the namesake spirit, some steeped in-house (think fig-cardamom or elderflower-Meyer lemon), others imported from Europe.
Thai: Somtum Der
Originally from Bangkok, Somtum Der features the cuisine of Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region, where the food is funkier, hotter, and more sour than in other parts of the country. The US outpost offers eight versions of somtum (green papaya salad) that are so spicy, even die-hard hot sauce fanatics will be sweating profusely. Variations of the namesake dish run the gamut from the original papaya salad with small dried shrimp to the bolder Isaan papaya salad with tum poo-plara (field crabs). Deep-fried chicken thighs, marinated pork skewers, and sticky rice are more mild dishes, but if you’re looking for more heat, order larb -- spicy, herbaceous minced meat salads native to the region.
Open since 1954, this 24-hour Ukrainian diner has long been recognized as one of the best places in Manhattan for traditional comfort food dishes like pierogies, cabbage soup, and borscht. Service is efficient, the dining room is no-frills, and the prices are cheap -- it’s like walking into an Old New York time machine.
Venezuelan: Caracas Arepa Bar
Kind of like a sandwich-corn muffin hybrid, arepas are essentially the ambassador of Venezuelan cuisine. At this East Village spot, you’ll find crisp and pillowy pockets filled with de pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, cheese, and sweet plantains) and la de pernil (roasted pork shoulder, tomato slices, and spicy mango sauce) as well house-designed variations like the vegetarian leek giardiniera with grilled leeks, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and guayanés cheese.
Vietnamese: Pho Vietnam 87
Lower East Side
When it first opened, Pho Vietnam was a casual neighborhood joint frequented by local Vietnamese diners. Then, word got out to the food-loving masses, and the crowds began descending on the place. The pho is aromatic yet light. The spring rolls are fragrant. The banh mi is crisp, chewy, and filled with pork and pickled vegetables. The best move here is to go beyond the mainstays and opt for harder-to-find dishes like crispy Vietnamese pancakes (banh xeo) filled with pork and shrimp and bun bo hue, a Vietnamese noodle soup perfect for those looking for something beyond pho, with gamey pig knuckles and floating cubes of congealed pig blood in a lemongrass and chili oil-infused beef broth.
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