Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
Best gastropub: The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th Street
Even after 13 years, it’s still hard to get a table at Chef April Bloomfield’s OG gastropub/celebrity magnet, thanks to a strict no-reservations policy. Still, the wait is worth it for the famous Roquefort burger, chicken liver toast, deviled eggs, and silky sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi. To beat the line, go late -- the kitchen is open until 2am every day.
Best French bistro: Buvette
42 Grove Street
This tiny all-day cafe from Chef Jody Williams is a cozy French bistro in its ideal form. The small plates here are simple but elegant, whether it’s soft scrambled eggs with prosciutto and Parmesan for breakfast, steak tartare for dinner, or a wedge of mahogany-colored tarte Tatin for dessert.
Best fancy tacos: Empellón Taqueria
230 W 4th Street
If you want $2 tacos, go to a taco truck. If you want fancy tacos, go to Empellón Taqueria. Chef Alex Stupak uses some very traditional Mexican ingredients and techniques, but also fills his tortillas with things like short rib pastrami or lobster. Whether you go for those, or something like lamb barbacoa, the result is always worth the steep price tag.
Best falafel: Taim
222 Waverly Place
Chef Einat Admony’s fast-casual Israeli spot makes some of the best falafel in the city. Get it in one of three different flavors -- harissa, olive, or green (i.e., herb) -- on a pita generously loaded with hummus, Israeli salad, tahini, pickles, and more, and you’ve got one of the greatest lunches $7 can buy in this otherwise pricey neighborhood.
Best chicken: Barbuto
775 Washington Street
All too often, chicken is the most boring thing on a restaurant’s menu, put there for the least adventurous diners. Not so at this beloved Italian staple, where chef Jonathan Waxman’s pollo al forno, roasted with lemon and served with an anchovy, caper, and herb salsa verde, is legendary. Plus, when the garage door windows open up in the summer, Barbuto becomes an ideal spot for those warm, breezy nights when all you want to do is sip wine outside.
Best fancy burger: Minetta Tavern
113 Macdougal Street
The Black Label Burger at Minetta is rightfully renowned as one of the best burgers in town. The juicy dry-aged patty needs no cheese, just a mound of caramelized onions on top, a buttery brioche bun, and a heap of shoestring fries on the side. Yes, $33 is crazy-expensive for a burger, but you won’t regret shelling out at least once for this masterpiece.
Best weird eats: Takashi
465 Hudson Street
How do you feel about beef tendon casserole? What about grilled stomach? If the answer is “Sure, why not?”, head to Takashi. The menu is full of eccentric eats like calf’s brain cream served with caviar, or “testicargot” (that’s cow testicles cooked escargot-style in garlic shiso butter), but if you’re not feeling brave enough for that, there’s also options like mini foie gras-stuffed Kobe burgers, and a late-night ramen special on Fridays and Saturdays.
Best sushi: Sushi Nakazawa
23 Commerce Street
Daisuke Nakazawa is, famously, a disciple of Jiro Ono -- the Jiro of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. That means you can expect to pay a considerable amount to dine here ($150 at the bar, $120 in the dining room), assuming you can even get a reservation. But it’s worth it for the 20-course Edomae-style omakase, prepared with incredibly fresh fish and simple seasoning.
Best slice: Joe’s Pizza
7 Carmine Street
Picture the kind of New York slice joint you see in the movies, with wobbly round tables, old snapshots all over the walls, and big, beautifully greasy pizzas. That’s Joe’s. Every neighborhood needs a source for late-night pepperoni and cheese, and around here this is it.
Best for meat lovers: Beatrice Inn
285 West 12th Street
Under the new ownership of Chef Angie Mar, the once-clubby Beatrice Inn has become a meat-eaters' paradise. There’s whole smoked rabbit and ox heart au poivre, a duck & foie gras pie, and a mammoth 120-day aged tomahawk ribeye. Even dessert involves beef, in the form of a bone marrow creme brûlée.
Best Italian: I Sodi
105 Christopher Street
I Sodi is pretty much the ideal neighborhood Italian restaurant. The space is warm and welcoming, and Chef Rita Sodi serves hearty, rustic dishes like fried chicken with fried artichokes and fried bread, spinach and ricotta ravioli cooked in cultured butter, and a legendary multi-layered lasagna. It’s also probably the only restaurant around with seven different Negronis on the menu.
Best seafood: Mary’s Fish Camp
64 Charles Street
Save for a couple of salads and dessert, absolutely everything on the menu at Mary’s Fish Camp involves seafood. The vibe is very summer in New England, but the food ranges far beyond a (great) lobster roll to include everything from Louisiana crab au gratin to red snapper posole.
Best BYOB: Tartine
253 W 11 Street
BYOBs are few and far between in New York, which is part of what makes this tiny French bistro such a treasure. Grab your favorite $15 bottle of wine, order a big bowl of steamed mussels or a classic steak au poivre, and you’ll understand why people keep lining up for a spot at one of these cramped tables, even after 20-plus years.
Best brunch: Perla Cafe
234 W 4 Street
When restaurateur Gabriel Stulman, whose small empire of beloved West Village restaurants also includes Jeffrey’s Grocery and Fedora, moved his Italian restaurant Perla to West 4th, he rechristened it Perla Cafe. The space is lighter and brighter and, as the name suggests, much more conducive to daytime eating. In other words, it’s the perfect brunch spot, with dishes ranging from Parmigiano biscuits topped with poached eggs, Italian sausage, and broccoli rabe pesto to spaghetti carbonara, plus a great bloody mary.
Best neighborhood restaurant: Joseph Leonard
170 Waverly Place
Another neighborhood staple from restaurateur Gabriel Stulman, Joseph Leonard is a French bistro that manages to be great every time of day. At breakfast there’s croque monsieur and avocado toast, at dinner there’s steak frites and oeufs mayonnaise, and in between there’s lunch and late-afternoon snacks. The kitchen even stays open until 2am, serving a late-night menu that ranges from a burger to a goat cheese omelette. All in all, it’s one of those rare restaurants guaranteed to feed you well no matter when you show up.
Best old-school diner: La Bonbonniere
28 8th Avenue
New York’s classic diners are dwindling, but luckily there are still holdouts like La Bonbonniere, a narrow, wonderfully divey greasy spoon on 8th Avenue. In a neighborhood full of fancy brunch options, this is your go-to for a stack of fluffy pancakes, an omelette the size of your plate, or a good old-fashioned BLT.
Best bar burger: Corner Bistro
331 W 4th Street
This dark old tavern is usually packed at night, full of people waiting for a fat, bacon-and-cheese-topped Bistro Burger. The burger is rightfully famous, and attracts its fair share of tourists, but Corner Bistro is still a total New York dive, with no-nonsense bartenders and beers under $5 on tap. If you really want to avoid the line, just go during the day.
Best Peking duck: Decoy
529-1/2 Hudson Street
Sure, there are cheaper Peking ducks in Chinatown, but the crispy-skinned, $78 version at this subterranean offshoot of RedFarm is worth every penny. The duck is cooked to order and super juicy, the stack of pancakes is homemade, and the whole thing comes with a round of duck consomme shots.
Best tapas: Tertulia
359 6th Avenue
When it comes to tapas restaurants, Tertulia is about as authentic as you’ll find in NYC. Opt for big platters of paella simmered in the wood-fired oven, or two-bite options like jamon iberico and a classic tortilla (Spanish omelette), paired with a glass of dry, nutty sherry. The big bar up front and the warm wood banquettes in the back made this place equally ideal for a solo meal or a cozy date.
Best meatballs: The Little Owl
90 Bedford Street
This tiny neighborhood mainstay has plenty of great, Mediterranean-leaning dishes on the menu, but it’s best known for its meatballs. Specifically, the gravy meatball sliders, made from a tender blend of beef, veal, and pork, doused with tomato gravy, and squeezed between two halves of a tiny garlic roll.