To come up with our definitive list of the 100 most important dishes in NYC, we polled some of our favorite NYC chefs, prominent New Yorkers, and our food-obsessed colleagues here at Thrillist, about the local foods that matter the most. We then whittled that list down to those dishes that truly made the greatest impact on the city’s dining culture, or otherwise helped to define what makes the NYC experience so unique and special in the first place. The list includes foods that exemplify NYC cooking at the highest levels, foods with history, foods that changed perceptions -- as well as foods from your local bodega. These are the 100 most important dishes in NYC.
Chicken & rice platter at The Halal Guys
East Village (& other locations)
NYC has countless halal carts lining the streets, but only one franchise has earned a distinctive “THE” in front of its name. The beautifully simple chicken over rice platter (tossed with vegetables, optional hot sauce, and the non-negotiable white sauce) is a staple of a wide variety of New Yorker diets -- the cab driver, the post-party NYU student, the Midtown office worker, the 20-something looking for a cheap but filling meal -- and the reason THG, which started as a single cart on 53rd St & 6th Ave and has now expanded to nearly 200 restaurants across the globe, truly deserves that “the” in front of its name. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Bee Sting pizza at Roberta’s
The irreverent pizzeria that put Bushwick on the must-visit map has one pie that every pizza-obsessed New Yorker simply has to try. It’s called the Bee Sting, and it injects your tongue with all the right flavors: savory tomato, salty sopressata, sweet honey, and spicy chili. In a town that takes its pizza traditions more seriously than traffic laws, simply adding an uncommon element like honey might draw swift rebuke, if the end product weren’t so damn delicious. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Gnocchi at Hearth
As someone who cooks pasta for a living, I am constantly seeking out great pasta from other chefs. Marco [Canora]’s gnocchi is pure perfection from texture to flavor. It is as simple as can be but warms the soul every time I eat it and inspires to keep pushing me to make the perfect pasta. It is always consistent and you can count on it as a staple on his menu. - Missy Robbins, Chef/Owner at Lilia
Passion Fruit "Tart" at wd~50
Lower East Side (now closed)
I'm not quite sure how relevant this dish is for other people, but for me it marked a great time in New York dining. When I moved to NY from Mexico City there was a sort of boom in progressive pastry that was fascinating, Alex Stupak at wd~50, Sam Mason at Taylor, Johnny Iuzzini at Jean Georges, all of them doing unique and mind blowing desserts. They were the ones who gave pastry the same importance as savory in NY, at least for a while. This kind of thought is something that inspired me and Contra to take pastry seriously and make it a big part of the experience.
This dish consisted of a passion fruit curd encapsulated by a tahini gel that was shaped to be the tart shell, so in essence everything was "liquid" -- there was a little bit of merengue and some different components of argan oil and black sesame. When I tasted this for the first time I understood that no matter what you are trying to do, whether it is trying to shock someone or do something completely out there, the most important thing is to share something familiar and delicious with whoever is eating it; there has a to be a connection between the product, the maker, and the consumer. This dish was so different but so familiar at the same time. - Fabián von Hauske, Chef/Owner at Contra & Wildair
Pierogies at Veselka
Pierogies are the most perfect post-drinking food and no restaurant has proven that more than Veselka. The 24-hour Ukrainian diner, which has fed hoards of inebriated revelers in the East Village since 1954, makes about 3,000 of the popular dumplings every day. While Veselka does make the occasional trendier pierogi (filled with things like short rib), the perfectly pan-fried or boiled classic flavors like potato, cheese, and meat are what keep lines out the door over half a century later. - Khushbu Shah, Senior Food & Drink Editor at Thrillist
Oysters at Grand Central Oyster Bar
If you’re ever craving a real “New York” moment -- the kind of moment that reminds you what you love about living here (despite all the high rents and rat kings) and maybe makes you feel a little bit like Don Draper (minus all the personality disorders) -- grab a seat at the counter at Grand Central Oyster Bar and order a dozen oysters and a dirty martini. You can find good oysters at any number of places across the city, but no other place has such diverse clientele, servers that appear to have been around since the place opened in 1913, or a “whispering wall” just outside its doors. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Spring pea guacamole at ABC Cocina
When The New York Times published the recipe for ABC Cocina’s green pea guacamole in the summer of 2015, the internet -- from denizens of the Twitterverse to President Obama and even the Texas GOP -- freaked out. Whether you’re of the camp that the peas are a positive or a negative addition (for what it’s worth, they do soften the heat of the jalapeños and give a textural boost), you can’t deny that it’s a dish that got people talking. - Meredith Balkus, Video Homepage Editor at Thrillist
Grandma slice at Best Pizza
While dollar slice shops are prolific and rapidly multiplying, Best Pizza opened a perfect representation of the greatest food in New York. The square grandma slice has creamy melted cheese with pungent and robust red sauce interspersed. It tastes like the ideal dream of what pizza used to taste like "when you were a kid." The city needs more Best Pizza and less cheap pizza. - Matt Hyland, Chef/Owner at Emily & Emmy Squared
Hundred-layer lasagna at Del Posto
Part of the allure of this gourmet take on your favorite Italian-American casserole is obviously the impressive tally in the title, which sort of begs the question: Are there really a full 100 layers of pasta, sauce and cheese inside? Maybe, if you also count the layers of mystery. Each pasta sheet is razor-thin, making a proper fact-check nearly impossible. One thing is certain: There are an awful lot of layers, and the entire build-out is a thing of beauty -- a bolognese-stained monument to the lofty culinary status that Italian cuisine has finally achieved in NYC and rightfully deserves. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Pollo al forno at Barbuto
I have been a fan of Chef Waxman’s cooking since the first week he opened JAMS in 1985. His cooking is classic American comfort food, superbly executed -- it’s what New Yorkers want to eat every night of the week. And to make fickle New Yorkers loyal to your food -- that’s iconic! Chef Waxman cuts Bell & Evans birds in half, seasons, and grills them before roasting in the oven. But the magic is the basting! The herb-based salsa verde makes the dish pop. - Daniel Boulud, Chef/Owner at Daniel, DBGB, and other Boulud restaurants
Any bagel (untoasted) from Ess-a-Bagel
Stuy-Town (& Midtown East)
New Yorkers have strong opinions about where to find the best bagel, but the only way to really judge a bagel is to try it in its natural form -- without any cream cheese or toasting. A plain, untoasted Ess-a-Bagel passes the test. The bagel is dense but not bloated, and has a nice crunch that gives way to a pillowy and slightly salty interior. When the original Ess-a-Bagel closed its First Ave location in 2015, everyone who lived remotely nearby was distraught (even with a new location in Midtown). Luckily, it’s since returned to its original location, complete with Ess-A-Bagel's first-ever toaster (though it should be noted, Ess-a-Bagels still do not need to be toasted). - Elaheh Nozari, Restaurant Venues Editor at Thrillist
Nachos from El Atoradero
California transplants will forever bemoan the fact that New York has no good Mexican food, which, if we’re using California as a point of comparison is mostly still pretty true. One of the few exceptions, however, is El Atoradero, which evolved from a Bronx bodega to a full-fledged sit-down restaurant in Prospect Heights. El Atoradero is best known for Chef Denisse Lina Chavez’s carnitas, but it’s her nachos that prove New York does indeed have good Mexican food. Far from your average microwaved version, these come with perfectly crispy homemade chips (made from the restaurant’s tortillas) topped with beans, cheese, jalapeños, crema, and optional chorizo (which really isn’t an option). - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Porterhouse at Peter Luger
The porterhouse steak at my neighborhood's iconic Peter Luger is such an institution that you barely have to order it. Just tell the gruff-but-lovable waiters that you're ready for steak and they take care of the details. Presentation counts here -- with the steak still sizzling as it's whisked from the 800-degree broiler to your table. - Pat Kiernan, anchor at NY1
Beef cheek ravioli at Babbo
Former Times critic Sam Sifton once described Babbo’s beef-cheek ravioli as “one of the singular pleasures of eating out in New York City in the early years of the new century.” A lot has changed in New York culinary-land since then, but neither Mario Batali’s ravioli nor the joy of the pasta wrapper yielding to the meltiest, meatiest beef beneath a shower of pecorino and black truffles are on that list. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Khao Soi at Pig & Khao
Lower East Side
There is nothing I love more than being apologetically noisy as I slurp up a big bowl of this perfect spicy turmeric coconut broth, braised chicken, and both crispy and tender egg noodles. Balanced with a squeeze of fresh lime, pickled mustard greens, and brunoise shallots, it has been my savior on many a cold New York night! - Janine Booth, Chef/Owner at Root & Bone
Cheese slice at Joe’s Pizza
West Village (& East Village)
If you're looking for the quintessential "New York" pizza slice, you'll find it at Joe's. The slices here are everything they're supposed to be: big, cheap, cheesy, easy to fold, and perhaps most important, available after all the bars close. While the original Bleecker St location has been closed since 2005, the legacy lives on at the Carmine St location -- in addition to two others on busy streets (14th St and Bedford Ave) which perpetually garner late-night lines out the door. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Peking duck at Peking Duck House
Chinatown (& Midtown)
A meal at the OG Peking Duck House is as much of a show as it is dinner. The birds are done up as they traditionally are -- puffed with air, dried, and roasted -- then carved up tableside into thin slices with equal parts juicy meat and burnished, crackly skin. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Black & white cookie at Glaser’s
Upper East Side
There was a time, BC (Before Cronut®), when the most exciting dessert you could get in New York was a cookie that let you have both chocolate and vanilla frosting at once. For over 100 years, Glaser’s on the Upper East Side has had the best rendition of the black & white cookie, opting for dry fondant icing over the fudgier kind you’ll still find at your local bagel shop. Sure, there are more elaborate desserts these days, but how many of them can you easily split down the middle to share with a more chocolate (or vanilla)-inclined friend? - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Falafel at Mamoun’s
East Village (& Greenwich Village)
From tourists seeking out an iconic shop to over-served NYU students looking to get in one last bite of fried food before the restaurant shuts down at 2am, Mamoun’s falafel may be New York City’s great equalizer. Frying up crispy, herb-specked falafel balls on plates and wrapped in pita since 1971, Mamoun’s moist, flavorful falafel is some of the city’s best -- and the semi-secret spicy sauce available by request only is no joke. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Gnudi at The Spotted Pig
Going to The Spotted Pig feels like you’re walking into beautiful NYC, and this dish makes the experience even more beautiful. What’s great about it is that you don’t expect this dish to be on the menu there, but when it arrives, it’s perfect. It’s literally only six ingredients, yet you can feel and taste the love and history in this dish in every bite. It’s apparent when you bite into it, that a real authentic grandma showed April how to make this dish. You can feel/taste the history behind it. I’ve never had a gnudi like it before, even to this day. April’s food is always quality. The restaurant feels old and feels like it’s been here forever. The bones of the old space -- it’s a true experience to dine there, and you can’t say that about too many places in NYC these days -- royalty has been there and you can feel it when you enter. - Dale Talde, Chef/Owner at Talde & Massoni
Tomato-basil spaghetti at Scarpetta
Like Mario Batali before him, Chef Scott Conant rekindled New Yorkers’ love for Italian food when he opened Scarpetta in 2008. His Cupid-like arrow: this simple pasta dish, which, he claims, earned him dates during his bachelor days. It certainly worked on the critics, anyway. The spaghetti is homemade and the sauce comes from fresh tomato and a special olive oil infused with basil, crushed red pepper and garlic. Conant is no longer affiliated with the NYC restaurant that he made famous, but his spaghetti is still on the menu -- and at the exact same price: $24. Talk about staying power. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
BBQ ribs at Sylvia’s
This legendary soul-food restaurant in Harlem is perhaps best known for the famous pundits and politicians who have patronized it over the years, people like Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and, most infamously, Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly. Another thing it’s known for are the ribs, brushed with a sweet reddish, lemon-laced sauce. It’s the kind of down-home comfort food that makes you forget about all the awful things going on in the world, no matter what O’Reilly says. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
The house turkey sandwich at Parm
Nolita (& other locations)
While the namesake Parm platters at this beloved Major Food Group restaurant are superb, the secret star is the Italian-American turkey sandwich, piled high with slow-roasted, thick-cut turkey breast and cushioned with shredded iceberg lettuce and sliced tomato in an Italian hero. It’s a sandwich that’ll make you think twice about your go-to bodega order. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern
Riad [Nasr] and Lee [Hanson], the [Minetta Tavern] chefs at the time, were the first to take the burger to another level by using a dry aged blend from Pat LaFrieda. Many have followed in their footsteps, including Michael White with the White Label burger and myself with the Bowery Meat Company Burger. They say imitation is the best form of flattery. - Josh Capon, Chef/Partner at Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, El Toro Blanco, and B&B Winepub
Cupcake at Magnolia
West Village (& other locations)
Getting a cupcake from Magnolia may make you feel like you’re on a Sex and the City bus tour, but the ultra-sweet, buttercream-icing topped cakes hold an important role in NYC dessert history. Magnolia cupcakes are frequently thought of as a catalyst for the early 2000s cupcake trend, and even had a starring role in one of the very first SNL digital shorts. Sure, it’s hard to consume more than one without all of your teeth falling out (and the line is still, to this day, one of the least tolerable lines in New York) but when you're really craving something sugary, it's still hard to beat a vanilla cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Pastrami sandwich at Katz’s
Lower East Side
When I was a kid, I used to come to New York with my dad and eat Katz’s pastrami, so there’s something really nostalgic about it for me. But it’s also just such a New York staple. You go in there, everyone is yelling at each other, there’s all these lines. Katz’s is an institution. And from a chef’s perspective, the meat there -- it’s insane. I actually get that meat sent to my father [in Seattle]. It’s so good. - Angie Mar, Chef/Owner at the Beatrice Inn
Fusilli with octopus & bone marrow at Marea
Pasta king Michael White’s homemade curly noodles echo the shape of skinny tentacles, which curl themselves like question marks around the al dente pasta, all tossed in red sauce. Crispy breadcrumbs add some crunch to the dish but the real textural interest is in the gooey, melt-in-your mouth globs of bone marrow that will make you wonder why anyone ever added cheese to pasta when savory animal innards can taste so good. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Vegetables at Blue Hill
Dan [Barber] is perhaps one of the most forward thinking chefs out there in the way that he merges agriculture with the kitchen, from seed cultivation through to a finished dish on the table. It’s the vegetables you’re welcomed with at the start of the meal at Blue Hill that really stand out. You’re presented with the most beautiful baby vegetables just-picked from the farm, all lined up along a little fence. It’s the first ‘salad’ I’ve had where you really stop for a moment and pay attention to every single element, tasting them one by one in their truest form. You also never have the same dish twice, as the selection changes with the seasons so it’s a moment where you really learn too -- there might be few kinds of radishes or a variety of lettuce that you’ve never before. What you’re served one day might be different than the next, and there’s something so beautiful about that. - Dominique Ansel, Chef/owner at Dominique Ansel Bakery & Dominique Ansel Kitchen
Omakase at Sushi Nakazawa
A Bronx-born Italian restaurateur (Alessandro Borgognone) and a Japanese sushi chef (Daisuke Nakazawa) are the unlikely pairing behind this Michelin winner. Nakazawa, who famously apprenticed under Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame), takes a traditional Edomae approach to nigiri, allowing pristine slips of raw fish to shine with few accoutrements. Unlike his mentor, however, the chef takes a lighthearted approach to service, but since he’s only there on weekdays, booking a table is still notoriously tough. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Octopus at Taverna Kyclades
Astoria (& East Village)
The heart of Astoria’s Greek food scene, Taverna Kyclades is the kind of restaurant that can fully transport you to an island via one single dish: octopus. It’s grilled octopus in its purest form -- two enormous, well-charred tentacles that are perfectly tender and not at all chewy, dressed simply with olive oil. The only thing as impressive as the dish itself? The knife skills of the servers, who quickly cut the tentacles into small pieces at your table. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Carrot crepe at Olmsted
There are so many great dishes out there, too many to name, but what really stands out the most right now is a recent meal at Olmsted. My favorite dish was Chef Greg Baxtrom's Carrot Crepe with Clams. He takes two very humble ingredients and showcases them in a luxurious manner, with a lovely balance of flavors and textures -- sweetness, earthiness, and crunch from the carrots (cooked and raw), brininess and chewiness from the clams, and an acidic tang from preserved lemon. There was a nice richness from the crepe and carrot butter. It was a really surprising dish, and fun to eat. Very wholesome and satisfying. - George Mendes, Chef/Owner at Aldea & Lupulo
The Dennis at Parisi Bakery
There's arguably no better hangover meal in all of New York city than The Dennis. The sandwich, which comes from the exceedingly modest, 100+ year-old Parisi Bakery on Mott St, is no mere Italian sandwich. This one comes stacked with fried chicken cutlets, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, balsamic, and pesto on freshly baked Italian bread. Even the most ambitious eaters struggle to get through a single half of it, but it’s fair to say that even a few bites will cure whatever ails you. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Steak au poivre at Raoul’s
One of the very first restaurants I went to when I arrived in New York in 1988 was Raoul’s. A friend brought me to the restaurant and told me two things: one, bring every date you ever have here and two, only order the Steak au Poivre. I'm married now so the dating part doesn't quite apply, but that dish has been my go-to for nearly 25 years. - John McDonald, Owner of Mercer Street Hospitality (Sessanta, Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, El Toro Blanco, B&B Winepub)
Bone broth at Brodo
East Village (& West Village)
What started as a small counter to-go joint attached to Marco Canora’s Hearth turned into something of a mini-trend in 2016. Brodo’s signature bone broth in a coffee cup (made with organic chicken, organic turkey, and grass-fed beef) may not get New Yorkers off of coffee, but in the winter, there’s almost no better way to get yourself warm and full quickly. And now that Brodo has its first brick-and-mortar location in the West Village, it's clear the trend isn't going anywhere. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Rock shrimp tempura at Nobu
Tribeca (& Upper West Side)
Walk into any Japanese restaurant and I will bet you a dollar that you see a version [of Nobu’s spicy rock shrimp tempura] on the menu. I have a version on the menu at Lure Fishbar, because it's undeniably delicious. It's a riff on the classic Grand Marnier shrimp served in many upscale Chinese restaurants, which is fried shrimp with mayo. Genius! Nobu took it up a notch with bite sized rock shrimp and spicy mayo. - Josh Capon, Chef/Partner at Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, El Toro Blanco, and B&B Winepub
Chocolate babka at Breads Bakery
Union Square (& other locations)
The first time I ate the Babka was three years ago when Pig and Khao participated in Madison Square Eats. I quickly became obsessed with it and got a babka at least once a week. Since then I have continued the obsession and bring it to family/holiday functions. I most recently bought the chocolate babka pie for Thanksgiving. What I love about it, aside from it being delicious, is that it is always consistent. Each babka tastes exactly as delicious as the last. - Leah Cohen, Chef/Owner at Pig & Khao
Eggs Benedict at wd~50
Lower East Side (now closed)
There is and will never be another New York restaurant quite like Wylie Dufresne's now-closed wd~50, and never another dish quite like his eggs Benedict. Though plays at gastronomic deconstruction of everyday staples have gotten out of hand these days (Chopped cheese? We're really doing that?), in 2005(ish), Dufresne's fresh, unseen take on the common brunch classic was met with genuine intrigue, instantly becoming The Dish of the Moment. A fried cube of hollandaise, smudges of custardy sous vide egg yolk, paper thin slices of bacon, artfully sprinkled English muffin crumbs, and chives made for visual splendor and textural delight while still retaining the familiarity of flavors. - Leanne Butkovic, Cities Editor at Thrillist
The Recession Special at Gray’s Papaya
Upper West Side
In a city that rises and falls with the whims of Wall Street, it’s comforting to know that some form of affordable sustenance exists, so you can still eat during the next inevitable fiscal crisis. Since the late 1980s, that reassurance means two franks and a drink -- the aptly titled “Recession Special” -- at venerable Manhattan hot dog stand Gray’s Papaya. Like virtually everything else in this town, the price has gone up over the years (and even that wasn’t enough to prevent owner Nicholas Gray from closing two of his three locations). But the deal at his remaining Upper West Side store still falls below $5, which is remarkably cheap for modern NYC. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Crème brûlée donut at Doughnut Plant
Lower East Side (& other locations)
You can choose from a plethora of fancy fried-dough varieties at Doughnut Plant, an early pioneer of the gourmet donut trend in New York City. But the crème brûlée truly stands out as the most unique. Inspired by the French dessert of the same name, the donut comes filled with sweet custard and topped with sugar that gets caramelized with the blast of a blowtorch. It’s crunchy on the outside, rich and creamy on the inside. The style has been replicated at other bakeries around the country, but you really can’t beat the NYC original. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Tuna tartare at Gotham Bar and Grill
Gotham was one of the first restaurants in New York City to bring Asian ingredients into the American cuisine fold. The tuna tartare is a dish that has stood the test of time, helped introduce Asian ingredients and techniques, and usher in a new flavor palate for American restaurants. - Matt Rudofker, Executive Chef at Momofuku Ssäm Bar & Momofuku Má Pêche
The Spicy Spring at Prince Street Pizza
New York’s no stranger to the square pizza slice -- from Sicilian to Detroit-style -- but there’s no better regular square than the Spicy Spring at Prince Street Pizza. Made with a moderately hot fra diavolo sauce, dippy, fresh mozzarella, and tons of small crispy pepperoni cups that curl up at the sides and fill with pools of grease, the Spicy Spring is the perfect counterpart to all the booze you drank at Spring Lounge, and one the least fussy, easy-to-grab, perfect slices the city has to offer. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Mutton chop at Keens
Of all the historic steakhouses in New York City, Keen’s offers something truly unique for this day and age: a classic mutton chop. It’s a type of sheep’s meat that typically gets a bad rap, due to its reputed strong flavor. But somehow, the Keen’s crew makes it work (perhaps by selecting sheep somewhere between the lamb and mutton stages of their lifecycle). The broiled chop is exceptionally flavorful, drizzled with a delicious mint-infused au jus and served with buttery escarole. No place else makes a mutton chop quite like it. Heck, no place else really even tries. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Artichoke slice at Artichoke Basille’s
East Village (& other locations)
There is no slice more indulgent than the creamy white sauce-dribbling, artichoke heart- and spinach leaf-coated artichoke slice at Artichoke Basille’s. Topped with a layer of crisp baked Parmesan and mozzarella, this red sauce-free slice puts traditional artichoke dip to shame. While waiting in line at the original 14th St pizza shop used to be the only way to acquire this indulgence, Artichoke has since expanded throughout the city, making the thick-crusted, cheesy slice far too easy to come by when temptation sets in. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Hot dog at Nathan’s
Coney Island (& other locations)
The only thing more satisfying than that distinctive snap of your first bite into a Nathan’s hot dog is the great American success story behind it: Poor Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker borrowed $300 from friends, quit his job as a roll-slicer at a German sausage joint and opened his own hot dog stand on Coney Island, selling franks for a nickel -- half the price of his former employer. The company he founded, Nathan’s Famous, is now the preeminent hot dog chain in America, with locations all over and a nationally televised hot dog-eating contest to boot. But the best place to get one is still the original Coney Island landmark, with that hot-off-the-grill smell wafting in the ocean breeze. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Crudo at Wildair
Lower East Side
Lower East Side Wine takes me to Wildair and the food keeps me coming back. After being introduced to a funky sparkling orange wine from Campania, I tasted the latest crudo dish: sea scallops, concord grapes, radish, and toasted pine nuts. The ingredients spoke to the season, the land and the sea, and the flavor and texture combination was unparalleled and left me curious. Food and wine is influential when it inspires, and that night I planned my next trip to Europe. - Ali LaRaia, Co-founder/Chef at The Sosta
Jamaican jerk baby back ribs at Hometown BBQ
The brisket and beef ribs earn lots of accolades for Billy Durney’s acclaimed barbecue restaurant in Red Hook. But those are Texas traditions, faithfully and lovingly recreated with delicious precision. It’s the local spins at Hometown that really help put New York City on the national BBQ map, like the Jamaican jerk baby back ribs. Inspired by the street-food aromas of a neighboring Caribbean community during his childhood in Brooklyn, Durney marinates the ribs in his own special blend of spices for a day or longer before smoking and adding a final touch of char on the grill. The flavor is unlike anything you get at your typical barbecue joint and it’s distinctively New York. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Ricotta dumplings at Estela
This is a dish you won’t want to disturb once it lands on your table. The dumplings aren’t actually visible at first glance, hidden under a delicate array of shaved mushrooms -- but once you break into those, you’ll unearth the softest pockets of dough, floating in a savory mushroom and leek broth. This dish is what makes Estela stand out among other high-brow restaurants in NYC -- simple but beautiful execution of the most comforting food. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Bagel with lox at Russ & Daughters
Lower East Side
There are few New York City lines made up of both tourists and locals, and the Russ & Daughters line is one of them. It’s important to note that the bagels from the nearly 103-year-old appetizing store are not especially good -- they simply serve as a convenient vessel for the exceptional lox. There’s countless varieties to choose from here (and the guys behind the counter are always more than willing to help) but you can’t beat the mildly salty, glossy Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, sliced directly in front of you. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Cheese plate at Casellula
A decade ago, serious cheese plates were the sole domain of fancy, white-tablecloth restaurants. Then Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, a tiny wine and cheese bar -- emphasis on the cheese -- opened and everything changed. The fromager will make you a selection from their dozens upon dozens of cheeses and imaginative pairings. Think nutty Pawlet from Consider Bardwell in Vermont with pickled asparagus, or smoky ricotta with chocolate ganache. The cheese plate has never been the same since. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Mapo tofu at Mission Chinese
Lower East Side
The Mapo tofu is Danny Bowien's obsession. The Mission Chinese chef and owner has altered the Sichuan recipe so many times over the years that it might be unrecognizable to those who tasted the early iterations when the NYC outpost opened in 2012, but the fanatical tweaking has paid off in the form of an inimitable and complex dish. With a lingering buzzy mouthfeel unlike any other aftertaste, the dish is spicy without being overwhelming, the aged beef fat and heritage pork melding into the doubanjiang. Though the Mission franchise is bicoastal, the Mapo tofu feels most at home in New York in the hands of Executive Chef Angela Dimayuga where she's introduced whimsical takes on Asian cooking to the hip crowds of the Lower East Side. - Leanne Butkovic, Cities Editor at Thrillist
Cheese slice at Patsy’s
Every time I go to Patsy's, two thoughts go through my head. One, I will stop myself after two slices (one more slice at dinner yields one less slice at breakfast); and two, if I were stuck on a deserted island with nothing but this pizza crust, I would be happy. The coal-oven pies are thin and round with a slightly charred crust, and though meat and vegetable toppings are available, the specialty margherita proves that simpler is often better. The complementary flavors of mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, and dough in each bite are what your tastebuds are pretty much always craving. - Elaheh Nozari, Restaurant Venues Editor at Thrillist
Clam pizza from Franny’s
The clam and chili pie at Franny’s has been a star on the menu since the pioneering farm-to-table Brooklyn restaurant opened in 2004. Franny’s uses more than 1,500 littlenecks a week to keep up with demand. They’re steamed in a garlicky broth and fortified with cream, which becomes the sauce for the happily chewy pizza, along with plenty of chili flakes and fresh parsley. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Steak frites at Balthazar
Since 1997, Keith McNally’s SoHo-by-way-of-Paris brasserie has been perpetually packed, and one in 10 guests within this fashionable crowd will order the steak frites. On a busy day, Balthazar will sell 200 orders of them. The steak is succulent, tender, and finished with maitre d' butter or béarnaise. The mountain of crispy fries is excellent, too. This is not a chichi steakhouse steak, just some totally solid everyday meat happiness. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
"Milk and Honey" at the NoMad
“Milk and Honey” is quite possibly the perfect dessert. Three picturesque quenelles of milk sorbet are drizzled with a honey and sit on top of dehydrated milk foam, honey brittle, and an oat shortbread. These five components combine to create a dessert that satisfies anyone’s sweet tooth, but it also appeals to those who tend to lean more savory. I have ordered this every time I've eaten at the Nomad and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. - Flynn McGarry, Chef at Eureka pop-up
Egg cream at Gem Spa
Both egg-less and cream-less, this fizzy, milky beverage may have a bit of an identity crisis, but it’s been a New York classic for almost 100 years. Stopping into this old-school East Village newsstand offers a sweet sip of history -- and not with just the print publications. Mixed with seltzer, milk, and U-Bet chocolate syrup to order so that it foams at the top and sparkles throughout, the New York City egg cream is a simple mixology feat unlike any other in the city. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Crinkle cut fries at Shake Shack
Flatiron (& other locations)
Yes, it's a great burger. But the burger experience isn't complete without french fries. For reasons I don't fully understand, Shake Shack messed with its crinkle-cut fries in 2013. It was a mistake. Wisely, they brought the crinkle-cut back, and cemented its position as an essential New York taste. - Pat Kiernan, anchor at NY1
Chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery
Upper West Side
This pint-sized cookie mecca is home to some of the city’s heftiest baked goods. Weighing in at a whopping 6oz, the chocolate chip and walnut-studded behemoths boast the ideal ratio of crackly shell to gooey interior. Time your visit right and they’ll be warm, too. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Roquefort Burger at Spotted Pig
Before opening the fast-food inspired Salvation Burger, April Bloomfield’s most talked-about burger was the Burger with Roquefort at her first restaurant, the Spotted Pig. This is about as bare-bones as a cheeseburger can get: an ultra-thick beef patty topped only with stinky cheese inside a fresh-baked bun branded with criss-crossed grill marks. While there are plenty of fancy burgers in the city, Bloomfield does the fancy burger best by keeping it simple. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Matzo ball soup at Second Avenue Deli
Whether you grew up in New York with a doting Jewish bubbe or moved to the Big Apple solo, the best substitute for the care of any relative is a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup at Second Avenue Deli. The clear chicken broth flecked with fresh dill is a cure-all for everything from commuter woes to the inevitable winter plague, and the buoyant matzo ball swimming alongside soft poached carrot discs and tiny noodles make every warm spoonful oh so comforting. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream
East Village (& West Village)
Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff started slinging ice cream cones from a truck before food trucks were a big deal, harnessing the power of social media to sell their cutesy named flavors: Bea Arthur, American Glob, and best of all, the Salty Pimp -- vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche and sea salt dipped in chocolate. Now they have three storefronts in NYC, usually with a line outside. Pay attention: Everyone is smiling. The Salty Pimp is proof that life in New York can be very, very good. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Wontons in chili oil at White Bear
The No. 6 off the menu posted above the small ordering counter at White Bear, i.e. wontons in chili oil (no soup), are necessary to any Flushing dumpling crawl. The thin-skin wrapped wontons, decorated with a sprinkling of scallions and pickled vegetables, glide across their red chili oil coated styrofoam plate, tempting you to pop an entire wonton in your mouth, where the delicate skin breaks upon first bite to release a flavorful pork meatball packed with preserved cabbage. At 12 to an order, this $5 dish is nearly impossible to replicate or beat throughout the city. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Pork bun at Momofuku Noodle Bar
There might be no greater culinary trend of the early 21st century than taking the low and making it high. NYC’s shining example of such is the pork bun -- in particular the one from David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar. Now in its second decade of dominance, this “eat on the go” menu option featuring the once frowned-upon pork belly teamed with Hoisin, cucumbers, and scallions has been elevated to a level of near omnipresence in NYC. But of course, it’s that bun that brings it all together. - John Mihaly, Deputy Cities Editor at Thrillist
N1 (spicy cumin lamb noodles) at Xi’an Famous Foods
Flushing (& other locations)
New York's obsession with Xian Famous Foods' spicy cumin lamb noodles began in 2005 in a subterranean food court in Flushing, Queens, where a father-son team nurtured what is now one of the fastest-growing food franchises in the city. Famous Foods' menu is broad and well-worth sampling, but the lamb noodles are the best and most beloved dish. With tender pieces of lamb sautéed in cumin, red onion, hot peppers, and a secret, generations-old family recipe of chiles and spices, the flavors are bright, spicy, and satisfying -- the perfect compliment for Famous Foods' signature hand-ripped noodles, which deserve an entire entry of their own. - Bison Messink, Deputy Editor at Thrillist
Spicy chicken sandwich at Fuku
At the height of the friend chicken craze in NYC came David Chang’s spicy fried chicken sandwich. It looks comically lopsided -- a massive slab of fried chicken jutting out of a Martin’s potato roll, but that’s the point. The chicken is undoubtedly the star, a juicy thigh packed with heat from a habanero puree brine and dredging spices. Pickles and house-made butter help cut the heat, so don’t skimp on the Momofuku Ssäm sauce. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Tortellini at Carbone
I love the pasta at Carbone, which really helped make red-sauce Italian food glamorous again in New York City. The tortellini with the bolognese, that’s my go-to... I think it’s perfectly constructed -- it’s perfectly light, it’s perfectly heavy, it’s perfectly cheesy, it’s perfectly meaty. Everything about that dish is so well constructed and so well thought out. - Angie Mar, Chef/Owner at The Beatrice Inn
ShackBurger at Shake Shack
Flatiron (& other locations)
First came the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Then came the lines wrapped around 23rd St. Then came the “Shack Cam” which would quickly answer the question on every New Yorker’s lips in the summer of 2004: “Do we have enough time to get Shake Shack?” Was it the Shack Sauce? The soft and chewy bun? The cooked-while-you-wait (and boy did you wait) burger itself? Or was it the anticipation of the entire experience that turned the ShackBurger into the foundational menu item of Danny Meyer’s unstoppable fast-casual food chain? So many questions, sure, but the most important one still remains today: “How long is the line?” - John Mihaly, Deputy Cities Editor at Thrillist
Bacon, egg, and cheese from your bodega
One way to know that what you’re eating is important in New York City: when locals correct you on your pronunciation. Such is the case with the ubiquitous bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, as served at your neighborhood deli or bodega (really, any will do) -- and which, as any true New Yorker will tell you, must be ordered in a single, quickly spoken word: baconeggandcheese. It’s the fuhgettaboutit of NYC food. And, it is good. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Any milkshake at Black Tap
SoHo (& other locations)
Do I drink it? Or eat it? Or do I just Instagram it? Chances are, if you’d had a Black Tap milkshake, you’ve done all three of these things. Imagine taking a child’s Halloween candy haul and carefully curating all those sweets into a handled mug full of ice cream. How does one even begin to ingest such a concoction? (Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time waiting on line to puzzle out that one.) At $15, it might actually be a deal if you can finish it. But you may pay the true price in the form of an inescapable sugar rush/crash. - John Mihaly, Deputy Cities Editor at Thrillist
Soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai
Chinatown (& other locations)
Part of what makes Joe’s Shanghai a “place” is the experience -- taking a number and waiting outside until you’re certain you could eat 35 soup dumplings, then pushing your way past what feels like hundreds of bodies, and finally, sitting down in the hurried dining room, desperately trying to catch your waiter's eye. The payoff is worth it, though: The dumplings are plump and doughy and filled with what is probably the thickest and most flavorful broth in the city. If you’re a regular, you know to get at least three orders, and skip just about everything else. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Cote de Boeuf at Minetta Tavern
The cote de boeuf at Minetta Tavern is so important and is the best steak that you will eat in this city. It is the ideal dish and restaurant to celebrate an affair, or host an important power lunch. When I decide that I’m in the mood for a steak, it’s the very first one that comes to mind. The 40oz steak is super dry-aged and seasoned perfectly and is absolutely one of the finest cuts of meat I’ve ever eaten. It comes out with three giant marrow bones -- it is literally gluttony to the max. They baste it and sear it so that the crust is just right. I also really enjoy going to Minetta Tavern -- it’s an important restaurant that makes you feel like old New York is still alive. It’s great that even with all that’s happened in this city, people like Keith McNally champion old NY and carry on its soul. - Dale Talde, Chef/Owner at Talde & Massoni
Superiority Burger at Superiority Burger
When was the last time a veggie burger was the hottest food to get the city? Never. That was until Brooks Headley, the talented pastry chef from Del Posto, left the high-end Italian restaurant to sling the city’s most iconic meatless burger (plus a number of rotating, but all excellent, vegetarian and vegan sides) from a teeny tiny shop just feet from Tompkins Square Park. The namesake burger, which is quinoa based and comes on a Martin’s potato roll, tastes like, well, a superior fast food burger, just without the animal parts. - Khushbu Shah, Senior Food & Drink Editor at Thrillist
Frrrozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3
Upper East Side
Yes, the concept seems contradictory -- hot cocoa that’s, well, not hot. But one sip of the dreamy concoction -- a decadent blend of 14 cocoas, milk, and ice, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, served up in round bowls at the Upper East Side shop -- will make you forget about the paradox. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Roast chicken at The NoMad
It’s the roast chicken that launched a thousand more. Years before pricey poultry became a menu staple in NYC, there was Chef Daniel Humm’s now iconic dish. Shipped in daily from Amish country, the birds get a luxe foie gras, black truffle, and brioche stuffing before they’re roasted ‘til succulent and paraded through the dining room to eagerly awaiting guests. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
General Tso’s Chicken at China Gourmet
Love it or hate it, the crisp, saucy chicken dish is a quintessential Chinese-American staple, seen on menus all across this MSG-laden land of ours. And while it’s technically a Taiwanese invention, it became fully Americanized and popularized right here in NYC. Peng’s, the original purveyor, isn’t around anymore, but China Gourmet in Hell’s Kitchen does it about as good as anyone. By good, that means cheap and filling. As it should be. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Cronut® at Dominique Ansel Bakery
When Dominique Ansel’s hybrid treat debuted in 2013, it became an instant pastry classic -- flaky, croissant-like rounds finished with donut flourishes (sugar coating, cream filling, glaze topping). Ansel keeps fans on their toes with rotating flavors -- peach-bourbon one month, bergamot-Earl Grey the next -- so it’s no surprise that a line still snakes down the block every morning. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Carrot fries at Narcissa
Leave it to vegetable whisperer John Fraser to coax carrots into irresistible finger food. Sourced from the restaurant’s Hudson Valley farm and cured in cumin, coriander, and maple, the tempura-battered sticks are fried to a greaseless crisp and served with a spicy jalapeño-tofu dip. Potato who? - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Frozen yogurt at Bloomingdale's Forty Carrots
Upper East Side
Before Pinkberry, before even TCBY, there was Forty Carrots, which first introduced New Yorkers to frozen yogurt way back in 1975. To find the place, you have to venture deep into Bloomingdale’s, up to the seventh floor, past the fancy bedding and tchotchkes. Then you see it -- that line of ladies who lunch, all waiting for their fix of the best frozen yogurt in town. Even the “small” is a veritable Mount Everest of tangy-sweet creaminess. Choose from toppings both classic and strange: Gummi Bears, chocolate-covered goji berries, wheat germ. Eating it all before it melts requires Olympic dexterity. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Bistro Burger at Corner Bistro
It was the first "artisanal" burger I paid more than $5 for, and holds the title for one of the best in the city for years and years. - Michael Chernow, Owner at Seamore's, Co-Owner at The Meatball Shop
Hummus at Cafe Mogador
East Village (& Williamsburg)
On a mezze plate that has risen to cult status with regulars sits the city’s freshest hummus. Both the East Village and Williamsburg locations of this Moroccan restaurant serve a crater of freshly blended chickpea hummus indented with whole chickpeas, olive oil, and fresh parsley, to be mixed with a swatch of homemade naan and scooped up accordingly. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Potato knish at Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery
Lower East Side
Those in search of New York’s heaviest pastry venture down to this old-school Jewish knishery, which has been turning out mashed potato-stuffed pastries since 1910. The potato knish, wrapped in an egg-washed dough not unsimilar to a bagel, is filled with a dense mound of mashed potatoes, and though this sand-colored pastry may not be New York’s most attractive, the carb-on-carb recipe is undeniably delicious, especially when dipped in deli mustard. - Melissa Kravitz, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Masala dosa at Temple Canteen
The absolute best dosas in New York are found in a cafeteria hidden beneath a Hindu temple in Flushing. The $4.50 Masala Dosa, a crispy and buttery pancake that comes filled with potato, onion masala, and spices and served alongside chutney and sambar for dipping, is one of the most filling cheap meals you can get in the city. It’s also lovingly prepared by the temple’s volunteers, who are happy to talk you through your order if it’s your first time. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Hot roast beef sandwich at Brennan & Carr
Since 1938, this working-class joint in Sheepshead Bay has been serving up one of Brooklyn’s most famous dishes: the hot roast beef sandwich. It sounds pretty mundane, but Arby’s this is not. What makes it different than your typical roast beef sandwich is that the entire thing -- bun and all -- gets dunked in the house au jus. Soggy? Sure. But you won’t mind when you get that first salty, savory taste. Just remember to use your knife and fork. Otherwise, ask for a lot of extra napkins. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Cheesecake at Junior’s
Downtown Brooklyn (& other locations)
New York is synonymous with cheesecake, and no place is more synonymous with New York-style cheesecake than Junior’s, which opened its original (and still standing) Brooklyn location back in 1950. Simply put, Junior’s does it right: densely loaded with genuine Philadelphia cream cheese -- no ricotta. And unlike most cheesecakes, Junior’s version eschews the typical graham-cracker crust and instead goes with a distinctive, thin layer of sponge cake on the bottom. All in all, a New York original. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Bialy at Kossar’s
Lower East Side
All too often are bialys are dubbed bagels’ lesser-known cousins, but good ones need no such asterisk. Crisp and puffy with a center punctuated by a fragrant puddle of onions, the hole-less breads from this Lower East Side institution (which has been making them since 1936) are indisputably New York City’s best. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Honey butter chips at Oiji
A shortage of this popular South Korean snack spurred hoarding frenzies, inspiring a homemade take from Seoul natives Brian Kim and TK Ku of the East Village’s Oiji. The sole dessert at their restaurant arrives as a warm, sticky mess that’s all at once chewy and crunchy, sweet and spicy. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is optional but highly recommended. - Patty Lee, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Duck carnitas at Cosme
New York’s longstanding reputation for mediocre Mexican food came to a screeching halt in 2014 with the arrival of Cosme, run by one of Mexico City’s most famous and influential chefs, Enrique Olvera. This sleek modish restaurant, opened in a former strip club (so long, Old New York!), redefined for many New Yorkers what to expect of south-of-the-border cooking. Take the show-stopping duck carnitas. The meat is cured over several days and marinated in a mixture that notably includes Mexican Coke. The result is slightly sweet and ultra-tender, served with soft homemade tortillas made from imported Mexican corn. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Emmy Burger at Emily
Matt Hyland played us all. The chef and co-owner of Emily and Emmy Squared opened two pizza-focused restaurants, only to bury the lede by also serving perfect burgers at both. At Emily, that’s the Instagram-famous Emmy Burger, the recipe for which Hyland has toyed with since the restaurant’s inception: a dry-aged Fleischers patty dripping in Grafton cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and Buffalo-esque Emmy Sauce inside a pretzel bun. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Cereal Milk at Milk Bar
East Village (& other locations)
Served in a simple small plastic milk jug with a pink lid, the cereal milk at Momofuku Milk Bar is exactly what it sounds like: ice-cold milk steeped in toasted corn flakes and brown sugar. More salty than sweet, the cereal milk leaves a lingering taste that will have you trying to figure out how pastry chef Christina Tosi was able to bottle the taste of your childhood. Inspiring countless imitations around the city, cereal milk is nostalgic novelty food in New York City done best. - Ciera Velarde, Editorial Production Assistant at Thrillist
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese at Emilio’s Ballato
The free homemade sausage bread is what should bring you to Emilio’s to begin with, but it’s the bolognese with al dente homemade noodles topped with hearty beef, pork, and veal ragu that will make the old-school red sauce a Sunday night staple for you. It’s safe to assume that Rihanna agrees. - Lucy Meilus, New York Editor at Thrillist
Belgian fries at Pommes Frites
West Village (previously East Village)
When most New Yorkers detail Pommes Frites for the uninitiated, they tend to focus first on the vivid memories of the tragic 2015 fire that engulfed the beloved Second Ave French fry haven (and my go-to dinner spot). The place burnt to the ground, and plans to re-open were questionable. Thankfully, it eventually did -- this time across town in the West Village -- and the thick-cut Belgian fries and 32+ dips are just as perfect as ever. You can taste all of said dips for free in-house, but the best move is to go with the Wasabi Mayo, War Sauce, and Rosemary Garlic (3 for $3.75). I can finish a large order of fries by myself, and you can too. Whether you’re going at 2am after a night out, or at a slightly more reasonable hour for dinner, it’s hard to find something more comforting than an overflowing paper cone of fries and a trio of dips from Pommes Frites. - Julie Cerick, Managing Editor at Thrillist
Korean pork belly at Jongro
At this convivial second-floor spot in the heart of K-town, New Yorkers gather around sizzling samgyeopsal, banchan, and more than a few bottles of soju. The thick, greasy cuts of pork belly here are perfectly fatty and those in the know will stuff them in lettuce wraps with a slice of grilled kimchi. But above all else, it's the rare social opportunity to cook the pork belly yourself with a large group of friends that makes the dish an irreplaceable one in the city's dining scene. - Michelle No, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Oysters and pearls at Per Se
The seemingly endless procession of tweezer foods at Thomas Keller’s Per Se can make it hard to remember any particular one -- except for the oysters and pearls, a mound of caviar and warm, buttery oysters atop savory tapioca pudding. It’s been on the menu since the mid-2000s, yet still elicits audible moans. (The hushed restaurant makes it easy to hear them.) The dish’s enduring popularity suggests that molecular gastronomy is far from done in this town. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
Chopped cheese at Hajji’s (aka Harlem Taste)
Is hole-in-the-wall food the next big NYC craze? Maybe, if the sudden rise of chopped cheese is any indicator. This cheap and simple bodega sandwich -- essentially, New York's version of the cheesesteak, made with griddled ground beef, peppers, onions, and melted cheese -- has already inspired at least one chef-driven gourmet version as well as a Whole Foods variety (both widely ridiculed) and naturally prompted intense debate about cultural appropriation. Some partisans will tell you the best versions are found in the Bronx; others simply refuse to say, likely out of fear of spoiling their local spot with hordes of newbies. But it’s believed to have started at Hajji’s in Harlem, where it remains an affordable, highly popular, and satisfying indulgence. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Lobster Newburg at Delmonico’s
Dating all the way back to 1837, Delmonico’s is NYC’s oldest restaurant and probably the first fine-dining establishment in all of America. As such, it lays claim to a number of culinary innovations, including Baked Alaska, Eggs Benedict, and the classic Lobster Newburg -- that’s lobster cooked in butter, cream, cognac, sherry, and Cayenne pepper. The recipe also comes with a contentious backstory. In short: The guy who actually invented it wound up fighting with the restaurant’s owner, whose own chef revised the recipe, then later rebranded it with a different name and made it famous. To this day, the refined version remains on Delmonico’s menu, and its legacy looms large, setting the stage for future intellectual-property battles over innovative dishes in the city (see: Cronut®). - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Spicy rotisserie chicken at Uncle Boons
The Spicy rotisserie chicken at Uncle Boons is prepared with a banana blossom salad that incorporates classic Thai flavors into a simple but extremely tasty dish. Chicken is not the most exciting meat and is often presented in a bland or uninspired manner, but at Uncle Boons it is spicy, juicy, and exciting. The ability to solidly execute a simple ingredient in a dish with such precision and punch is special and stands out. - Manish Mehrotra, Executive Chef at Indian Accent
Duck rice at Aldea
One major factor [of an iconic dish] is how a dish transforms and or relates to a specific genre or cuisine. For me, tasting the duck rice at Aldea brought on a whole new perspective to Portuguese cooking. Growing up in New Jersey my family would go to the Ironbound district of Newark which has a number of Portuguese restaurants. Eating this rice made me look at the food of Portugal in a different way. Add to the fact that it is supremely delicious and never waivers in consistency. - Josh Laurano, Executive Chef at La Sirena
Regular slice at Di Fara
I was in Naples, Italy, within the last six months. The pizza you get there, the crust is bready and soft. And when I go to Di Fara, the crust has this crunch that I prefer. I've been going to that pizza parlor for 40-plus years -- and I'm not even a big pizza fan. Dom Demarco, who makes the pizzas by himself, stands there over each pizza, he knows what to do and he does it the right way every time. He uses this very buttery cheese and fresh herbs, really tasty pepperoni -- very classic. That's great New York City food. - Ed Schoenfeld, Owner of RedFarm and Decoy
Manhattan clam chowder at Randazzo’s Clam Bar
Food historians will tell you that this tomato-based seafood stew went by many names before it commonly became associated with Manhattan. So it’s not at all absurd to suggest that the city’s most wholesome version is actually found in Brooklyn -- specifically, at this longstanding waterfront restaurant in Sheepshead Bay. Randazzo’s has a developed a destination-worthy reputation for its tomato sauces and the red chowder is no exception. Just $6 for a bowl. Try finding that price in Manhattan. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
Ippudo Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo
East Village (& Midtown)
Ippudo did a lot to usher in New York City’s golden age of ramen. Since its founding in 1985 in Japan's ramen capital of Hakata, the chain has been making bowls full of extraordinary depth, quality, and deliciousness, especially the signature Akamaru Modern ramen -- silky noodles in super rich Tonkotsu (pork) broth, with a pile of goodies including but not limited to pork chashu, garlic oil, and sesame kikurage mushrooms. For such a serious Japanese ramen brand to succeed here and expand here -- both locations are always packed! -- is proof that the ramen craze is here to stay. - Hannah Howard, Contributing Writer at Thrillist
The pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co.
Lower East Side
In this city, breakfast doesn’t always get the respect that a so-called “most important meal of the day” truly deserves. But here at this 32-seat mom-and-pop restaurant on the Lower East Side, the morning meal is the star attraction -- especially the pancakes, whose heavenly lightness is unrivaled in this town. (The famous flapjacks, made with blueberries, banana, and walnut, or chocolate chunks, are also available during dinner.) New Yorkers line up for hours on weekends to get a table, which is understandable once you taste what’s coming off the griddle. - Chris Shott, Senior New York Editor at Thrillist
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1. The Halal Guys6th Avenue at 53rd, New York
2. Roberta's Pizza261 Moore St, Brooklyn
3. Hearth403 E 12th St, New York
4. Veselka144 2nd Ave, New York
5. Grand Central Oyster Bar89 E 42nd St, New York
6. ABC Cocina38 E 19th St, New York
7. Best Pizza33 Havemeyer St, New York
8. Del Posto85 10th Ave, New York
9. Barbuto775 Washington St, New York
10. Ess-a-Bagel324 1st Ave, New York
11. El Atoradero Brooklyn708 Washington Ave, Brooklyn
12. Babbo110 Waverly Place, New York
13. Pig and Khao68 Clinton St, New York
14. Joe's Pizza7 Carmine St, New York
15. Peking Duck House28 Mott St, New York
16. Glaser's Bake Shop1670 First Ave, New York
17. Mamoun's Falafel119 Macdougal St, New York
18. Scarpetta355 W 14th St, New York
19. Sylvia's Restaurant328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York
20. Parm248 Mulberry St, New York
21. Magnolia Bakery401 Bleecker St, New York
22. Katz's Delicatessen205 E Houston St, New York
23. Marea240 Central Park South, New York
24. Blue Hill75 Washington Pl, New York
25. Sushi Nakazawa23 Commerce St, New York
26. Taverna Kyclades33-07 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria
27. Olmsted659 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn
28. Parisi Bakery Delicatessen198 Mott St, New York
29. Raoul's180 Prince Street, New York
30. Brodo496 Hudson Street, New York
31. Nobu105 Hudson St, New York
32. Breads Bakery18 E 16th St, New York
33. Gray's Papaya2090 Broadway, New York
34. Doughnut Plant379 Grand St, New York
35. Gotham Bar and Grill12 E 12th St, New York
36. Prince Street Pizza27 Prince St, New York
37. Keens Steakhouse72 W 36th St, New York
38. Artichoke Basille’s328 E 14th St, New York
39. Nathan's Famous1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn
40. Wildair142 Orchard St, New York
41. Hometown Bar-B-Que454 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn
42. Estela47 E Houston St, New York
43. Russ & Daughters179 E Houston St, New York
44. Casellula401 W 52nd, New York
45. Mission Chinese Food171 E Broadway, New York
46. Patsy's Pizza2287 1st Ave, New York
47. Franny's348 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn
48. Balthazar80 Spring St, New York
49. Levain Bakery167 W 74th St, New York
50. The Spotted Pig314 W 11th St, New York
51. 2nd Ave Deli162 E 33rd St, New York
52. White Bear135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing
53. Big Gay Ice Cream Shop61 Grove St, New York
54. Momofuku Noodle Bar171 1st Ave, New York
55. Xi'an Famous Foods648 Manhattan Ave, New York
56. Fuku163 1st Ave, New York
57. Carbone181 Thompson St, New York
58. Shake Shack11 Madison Ave, New York
59. Black Tap529 Broome St, New York
60. Joe's Shanghai9 Pell St, New York
61. Minetta Tavern113 Macdougal St, New York
62. Superiority Burger430 E 9th St, New York
63. Serendipity 3225 E 60th St, New York
64. The NoMad1170 Broadway, New York
65. China Gourmet877 8th Avenue, New York
66. Narcissa21 Cooper Sq, New York
67. Dominique Ansel Bakery189 Spring St, New York
68. Forty Carrots on the 7 at Bloomingdale's1000 3rd Ave, Fl 7, New York
69. Cafe Mogador101 Saint Marks Pl, New York
70. Corner Bistro331 West 4th Street, New York
71. Ganesh Temple Canteen45-57 Bowne St, Flushing
72. Kossar's Bialys367 Grand St, New York
73. Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery137 E Houston St, New York
74. Brennan & Carr3432 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn
75. Junior's Restaurant386 Flatbush Avenue Ext, Brooklyn
76. Emily919 Fulton St, Brooklyn
77. Oiji119 1st Ave, New York
78. Cosme35 E 21st St, New York
79. Momofuku Milk Bar251 E 13th St, New York
80. Emilio's Ballato55 E Houston St, New York
81. Pommes Frites128 Macdougal St, New York
82. Jongro BBQ22 W 32nd St Fl 2, New York
83. Per Se10 Columbus Circle, New York
84. Blue Sky Deli (Hajji's)2135 1st Ave, New York
85. Aldea31 W 17th St, New York
86. Delmonico's Bar & Grill56 Beaver St, New York
87. Uncle Boons7 Spring St, New York
88. Di Fara Pizza1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn
89. Ippudo65 4th Ave, New York
90. Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant4 Clinton St, New York
91. Randazzo's Clam Bar2017 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn
The culinary magic that is Halal, served typically out of sidewalk hot dog carts, is something of a dining staple for New Yorkers. It's not unusual for lengthy lines to form beside these trolleys, while city-folk salivate over shredded chicken and lamb-topped rice, drenched in creamy white sauce and stuffed into flimsy styrofoam containers. The brainchild of three former Upper West Side Halal cart owners, The Halal Guys is the brick-and-mortar incarnation of one of these popular street-side food dispensaries. Now with several outposts and a diverse crowd of loyal customers, The Halal Guys serves traditional gyro and Halal dishes on plates rather than in styrofoam boxes, and guests are offered the luxury of chairs and tables in leu of local stoops.
Don’t be dissuaded by the gritty, graffiti-splattered cinder-block facade, Roberta’s is among New York’s most celebrated pizzerias, having made an international footprint (sauce print?) with visiting Europeans and local Bushwick loft-dwellers alike who endure long waits on nights and weekends for a table. Inside the red front door, you'll find a warm dining room and open kitchen where blistering discs of dough are pulled out of an Italian-made wood-burning oven and given names like Speckenwolf (mozzarella, crispy speck, cremini mushroom, red onion, oregano) and Millennium Falco (parmesan, pork sausage, red onion). The final product is Neapolitan-like in taste and structure, and since you probably won't have any leftovers, do yourself one last favor and buy a loaf of bread from the on-site bakery on your way out.
An East Village mainstay for more than a decade, Marco Canora's Italian-American restaurant focuses on healthy cooking, which means good-for-you animal fats, fresh grains, and no processed ingredients. The result is a sophisticated menu where every dish feels like it's home-cooked, especially the meatballs. The restaurant feels like home too with wood floors, an open kitchen, and cozy leather banquette seating. Perhaps the most unique thing about Hearth is Brodo, its take-out window on First Ave that solely serves broth.
Since 1954, New Yorkers have depended on Veselka’s cabbage soup as the cure for a hangover. And where else can you get some of the city’s best banana pancakes alongside pierogies and a cheeseburger? Nowhere. On the pierogi front, it doesn’t matter what filling you choose, each fork-tender pocket feels like it came straight out of baba’s kitchen and tastes like a Polish heaven.
Grand Central's landmark Oyster Bar has been around since 1913 and, despite losing business due to the decline of long-haul train travel, its reinvention around the mid-'70s revived it into what's now an award-winning American restaurant serving super-fresh, top-quality seafood. It also has an extensive wine list.
With shareable small plates, twinkling lights, and music so loud that you're often forced to lean in to hear your date speak, it's no wonder dinners at ABC Cocina tend to be intimate. Helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, this Union Square restaurant serves inventive, Latin American and Spanish dishes like sweet pea guacamole, crispy fish tacos, and a standout paella. The wine list is accessible, but it's the speciality cocktails like a basil-jalapeño margarita that attract the masses. If you find yourself hooked on the decor -- gauze tapestries, seashell accents, pinkish light bulb -- you can buy it next door at ABC Carpet & Home.
Opened by Roberta's alum Frank Pinello, Best Pizza is paper-plating thin-crust and grandma-style pies with toppings like LaFrieda shortrib/brisket meatballs, chicken, anchovies, and bacon. Sometimes, however, simplicity is key, so we recommend giving the plain white slice a try as well. Best Pizza utilizes a century-old wood-burning oven, but the joint's other accents are decidedly no-frills -- the walls are covered in paper plates that are adorned with crazy drawings by customers, and the space in general is very reminiscent of an old-school pizza shop.
Brought to you by Mario Batali et al., Del Posto is arguably one of the best upscale Italian restaurants in New York. On a Chelsea block near the High Line, the large, loft-like space has an elegant interior with lots of black, red, and gold decor, as well as a candle-lit marble staircase in the center of the dining room. In true Batali fashion, the menu is rich but classic in nature, featuring delicious house-made pastas (gnocchi with caviar, oxtail ravioli) and beautiful cuts of meat (seared lamb chop, braised veal).
This popular West Village eatery serves upscale American-Italian plates in a repurposed garage. The open kitchen, tucked between walls of white-washed exposed brick, hosts a culinary team helmed by celeb chef Jonathan Waxman. The dining room is lined with Italian wine-crammed shelves, vintage tin signage, and communal tables built of heavy re-claimed wood. The menu focuses primarily on small plates and antipasti, while the brick oven pizzas are made-to-order, and the entrees -- think orange-roasted duck breast over Brussels sprouts -- are equally unforgettable. The wine list is an event of its own, stretching across pages (at Barbuto, there is no such thing as too much wine), and brunch here is something of a hand-made sausage fest, well-worth attending. Last but not least, when weather permits, the window-studded back-wall of the dining room slides up, in true garage-door fashion, to make room for airy side-walk seating.
After Ess-a-Bagel's original location in Stuy Town shut down in 2015, fans were forced to trek to its outpost in the corporate jungle of Midtown East. A year-and-a-half later, it came back to its home turf on First Ave with a storefront a few doors down from the original. Ess-a-Bagel 2.0 still serves its beloved hand-rolled bagels, extensive selection of cream cheese spreads, and add-ons like egg, whitefish, bacon, and lox, but in a departure from the original policy, they'll toast your bagel should you so please (though, it really doesn't need it).
El Atoradero evolved out of a bodega next door to its original (now closed) Bronx location, where proprietress Denisse Lina Chavez became known for her renowned carnitas that she served out of a gargantuan cauldron in the middle of the store. Now, she has a proper sit-down restaurant in Prospect Heights serving a roster of homey Mexican fare. Alongside exemplary forms of the standard tacos, tortas, and cemitas, El Atoradero also offers incredible daily specials, like mole poblano, braised ribs, and quail egg-stuffed meatballs.
Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant is a charming former carriage house in the West Village serving high-end Italian fare with an elevated, chef-inspired twist on classic dishes. The pasta here is certainly worth the hype, like the pillowy potato gnocchi, cuddled in shreds of tender oxtail that’s been sautéed in a robust red wine and tomato-based ragu.
Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen’s Filipino-Thai fusion restaurant on the Lower East Side is known just as much for its pork-centric menu as it is for its killer playlists. Pig and Khao’s menu is divided between small and large plates, and with fatty but delicious dishes like the Sizzling Sisig (cubed, salty nibs of pork head topped with a whole egg), you might want to consult your cardiologist before making your way to the narrow Clinton Street spot. A perpetually sick R&B playlist acts as a soundtrack to your meal, while drinks like the Bangkok Fire from the rye-focused menu complement it. Why quit while you’re ahead? End the caloric night right with Halo-Halo, a crowd-favorite dessert comprised of shaved ice, leche flan, ube ice cream, and toasted Filipino sweet rice.
Joe's Pizza is the epitome of an NYC slice joint. The West Village original has been doling out perfectly simple slices of New York and Sicilian-style pies since 1975. The process is simple: wait in line, pay for a slice, fold it in half, and eat it while standing.
At both the Midtown and Chinatown locations, Peking Duck House offers up quality Chinese at white tableclothed and lazy Susan-equipped tables. The main attraction is, yep you guessed it, Peking duck. Fancy-pants waiters bring the whole made-for-sharing shebang to your table, slice it in front of you, and let you fold the succulent meat into house-made pancakes.
If there's one thing this century-old, family-run bakery does well, it's the black-and-white cookie. Glaser's take on the New York classic is really more cake than cookie, but still light enough to let the flavors of the half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosting shine through. After just one bite of its doughnuts, cakes, or muffins, you'll see why it’s a safe bet Glaser’s will be here for another century or two.
Mamoun's is the premier Greenwich Village spot for 3am falafel. On weekends, the place is open as late as 5am, serving rowdy throngs of post-bar millennials, and hungry sleepless locals, alike. Open since 1971, the Manhattan mainstay has become something of a staple, consistently dishing out high quality Middle Eastern food with rapid-fire service. The standout item on the menu is the pita sandwich, stuffed with warm falafel and fresh veggies, and coated in tahini sauce, while the bread pockets can be stuffed with shawarma or chicken kebab, instead. The house-made tabouli and baba ganouj are vegetarian delicacies, the hummus is expertly spiced, and while you await your home-ward bound Uber in the fast-casual, hole-in-the-wall eatery, the baklava is well worth a try.
Scott Conant's Meatpacking Italian is a perpetually hip restaurant that serves knockout pastas to a ritzy crowd. The handmade pasta options range from ravioli to tagliatelle, but the signature dish is the least complicated: spaghetti with tomato and basil, which has a mind-blowing simplicity that keeps people coming back again and again. More than carb specialist, Scarpetta serves a multi-course tasting menu and vegetarian dishes sourced from local farms.
Founded by the self-proclaimed "queen of soul-food," Sylvia's has been has been serving up Southern delicacies since 1962. At this Harlem staple, all-white-meat fried chicken is served alongside either eggs or grits, and for breakfast, the Southern-style chicken can come piled atop hotcakes, fresh off the griddle. The baked ham and the mac & cheese are equally worthy of note, and the full service bar at the helm of the casual, unpretentious eatery, will help you wash it all down. But for a truly enlightening experience, stop by for Sunday Gospel Brunch, where steak & eggs come with Bloody Marys and Hail Marys, courtesy of live gospel musicians -- a gentle reminder that food, itself, is something of a religious experience (even while you consume a sinful number of hot butter-drenched waffles).
This Italian-American restaurant from the Torrisi crew serves rich but simple veal, chicken, and eggplant parm, in sandwich or platter form. Parm's menu reads like a "best of" list of red sauce classics, featuring clams casino, mozzarella sticks, penne pomodoro, and of course, giant meatballs. The Nolita spot is small and cozy with a long bar in front and small tables in the back, but take-out is available if you'd rather eat your sauce-drenched hero in the privacy of your own living room...or cubicle.
What started out as a tiny West Village cupcake shop has since expanded across the world (it has a location in Hawaii). Magnolia's frosting-laden cupcakes are definitely worth the hype, but it's the tubs of banana pudding, thick layer cakes, oversized muffins, and dense cheesecakes that make this bakery such a destination. The West Village location, which opened in 1996, is also the best spot to catch a glimpse of the expert cake decorators icing cupcakes in the window.
Open since 1888 on the corner of East Houston and Ludlow Street, Katz's is synonymous with iconic New York City food, specifically, slow-cured pastrami and corned beef. There's usually a line filled with a mix of tourists, die-hard New Yorkers, and everyone in between, and the wait is nothing but proof of the stacked sandwiches' pure goodness. You receive a paper ticket when you walk in, order at the counter (be ready!), and wait while the servers sling layers of pink meat onto cafeteria trays. If pastrami on rye (or better yet, a hot reuben) is your kind of late-night food, then you're in luck -- Katz's is open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Words to the wise: stock up on napkins, order a generous side of pickles, and whatever you do, don't lose your ticket.
Michael White’s seafood-centric destination off Central Park aims to impress with its elegant interior and high-end Italian ingredients. The house-made pastas will have you coming back for more, like the fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow, an elevated homage to surf-n-turf with baby octopus braised in red wine and buttery Pat LaFrieda marrow.
You’ve heard of Blue Hill, maybe even of Chef Dan Barber, the brains behind the iconic restaurant in Greenwich Village, and Blue Hill at Stone Barnes, the Pocantico Hills iteration that’s situated on a Chef’s farm. You’ve also heard the term “farm-to-table;” a movement pioneered by Barber. When Blue Hill opened in the city, Chef -- along with every other chef at the time -- sought to use fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients. But at Stone Barns, he took it to a whole new level, which makes sense, because his restaurant is… on a farm. Stone Barns is also home to Barber’s research and education program wherein he works with agriculturalists to control what grows, how it grows or is raised, in turn controlling how it looks and how it tastes. So you should probably spring for a meal at either of the Blue Hills, because even though it’s a tall order for your wallet, it’s a culinary experience that might just change how you feel about eating your vegetables (and grains, and meat).
Chef Daisuke Nakazawa’s 20-course omakase features some of the absolute freshest sushi you will ever experience (second to Japan), as well as some of the most interesting (you can expect torches, live shrimp, and lots of rare sakes at this West Village favorite).
A staple in Astoria’s massive Greek scene, this lively seafood slinger has played host to the likes of Bill Murray and George Clooney, and probably countless other grey-haired old white men, too. It doesn't take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table, but you’ll have your pick of indoor or outdoor seating. Delicious side dishes of fried cheese and outrageously lemony potatoes are certainly must-orders, but don't miss the standout dish: Greek-style grilled octopus, dressed in olive oil and lemon and made as tender as a fine steak.
Named for Frederick Law Olmsted, this Vanderbilt Ave restaurant -- located just two blocks from the Olmsted-designed Prospect Park -- is reminiscent of a garden of its own, with an airy dining room full of white brick, spreads of greenery, and repurposed wood. Both the food and cocktail menus are seasonal, ingredient-driven, and inventive, and most of the restaurant's produce is grown in wood-framed boxes in its stone-laid, spacious back patio.
In a city that's constantly reinventing itself, the 106-year-old Parisi Bakery Delicatessen stands as a true holdout of Old New York charm, just North of Little Italy. The bread-baking operation may have moved a few blocks down (the original brick oven it used to bake its first loaf is still in the basement, however), but bags of breads, rolls and bagels are on sale here, as well as Italian-style sandwiches from the deli counter. Still in the original owning family, Parisi has maintained it's character with a totally unpretentious storefront where sturdy heroes are stuffed with mozzarella, roasted red peppers and a torrent of balsamic vinegar. Expect gold from specialty loaves: a prosciutto-roll walks the line between meat treat and baked good, while a large hunk of the semolina the perfect sponge for pretty much any sauce. Why did Frank Sinatra used to buy bread here back in the day? Because it's damn good.
If you’d never been to an old school-style steakhouse before you stepped into Raoul’s, you’d know -- from the moment you crossed the threshold from Prince St. to the bistro’s bohemian, time capsule of an interior -- that this is what it’s supposed to feel like. This is what it’s supposed to look like, sound like, and taste like. This is the real, live version of that place in your parents’ favorite movies. From front dining room to bar to covered atrium behind the kitchen, a night at Raoul’s, no matter where you sit, is an experience in French dining from decades past and as it was meant to be. It’s a New York institution that has remained unchanged since the 70s, because Raoul’s is perfect just the way it is… especially that steak au poivre.
Brodo is all about broth -- that age-old base for gravies and soups -- and nothing else. What started as a singular-focus East Village window stand has expanded to meet popular demand at this West Village brick-and-mortar. The casual shop from Chef Marco Canora features three bone broths (chicken, beef, or a mix of chicken, turkey, and beef) that you can spice up with elixirs like ginger juice, seaweeds, pulverized herbs, and fats like Moroccan-spiced butter. Don’t get it wrong: you’re not enjoying the stuff as a host for noodles or shredded meat. You’re sipping the stuff from a cup, because why settle for tea when you can have a restorative liquid meal?
From master chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro, this original location of Nobu opened in the 90s when Tribeca was still a burgeoning neighborhood and not yet the playground of well-bred preschoolers and Taylor Swift. Nobu has been an A-List restaurant from the start, serving Matsuhisa's signature Japanese fusion dishes like black cod miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. The David Rockwell-designed space has a ritzy zen-like feel with birch wood accents and a wall made of river stones.
Right off of Union Square (and with a second location on the Upper West Side), Breads bakes sweet and savory bread, pastries, and cakes on-site. The bakery is most known for its braided chocolate babka loaves that burst with ribbons of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Breads is also a good option for a grab-and-go midday meal -- the lunch menu features cheese and smoked fish sandwiches, plus soup and salad.
This New York City staple, open since the 70s, slings franks like it's nobody's business. It's opened a few outposts across the city throughout the years, but the Upper West Side joint is the longest-running and the most iconic, if only because it's had quite a few cameos in its tenure (You've Got Mail, for one). There are only two words you need to know at Gray's: Recession Special, which'll get you two 100% beef hot dogs topped with all the basics you want (ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, etc) and a drink. Aside from the fact that Gray's is cheap, like really cheap, it's open 24/7. Huzzah!
Doughnut Plant laid its roots in owner Mark Israel's Lower East Side basement in the ‘90s, and grew to be a leader of New York City’s new-wave donut craze. DP now has outposts in three boroughs and Tokyo, and its popularity continues to spread thanks to seasonal specialty items (coconut-lime and rose petal) and beloved inventions (a jelly-filled peanut butter doughnut). But it’s the game-changing creme brulee doughseed with a crisp shell and creamy vanilla innards that takes the cake -- or glazed icing -- every time.
Since 1985, French-trained chef Alfred Portale has helmed the kitchen at this iconic Greenwich Village eatery. Gotham serves Michelin-rated American eats in a trendy and palatial space, defined by its relaxed sense of elegance -- black-framed windows, a granite bar, soft lighting. The 12th st. staple serves expertly prepared dishes like steak frites, tartare, and foie gras, each presented with a careful attention to detail, while the sommeliers' personalized recommendations off the house-curated wine list ensure the perfect pairing. For those mainly looking to drink, there is a full menu of house-cocktails available, while the most indulgent of the liquor options comes in the form of Gotham's famous dark chocolate bonbons, hand-made by the kitchen's very own chocolatiers, and filled with rosé champagne.
This popular Nolita pizza shop specializes in square pizzas and New York-style pies. Available by the slice or as a whole pie, all of the pizzas are named after streets in SoHo. The signature is hands down the Spicy Spring, a square pie topped with spicy fra diavolo tomato sauce, mozzarella, and crispy pepperonis. The space is tiny and aside from a few counters, there isn't much seating so your best bet is to eat your slice on the street like a true New Yorker.
Keens was the gentlemen-only meeting place for all sorts of playwrights, publishers, producers, and newsmen of the Herald Square Theatre District back in the day... which was 1885, by the way. Today, the legendary steakhouse maintains its reputation and continues to deliver quality eats in an old-timey atmosphere, and women are now allowed in (!!). Wondering what to order? Try the mutton chops, word is you won't regret it.
New York City nightlife and Artichoke Basille's were made to go together. The pizza joint is known for fantastically large slices of creamy, red sauce-free artichoke-spinach pizza that are available well past midnight. Since opening its original East Village location in 2008, Artichoke has expanded across the city and become something of an NYC staple -- largely due to a grateful throng of late-night diners. In addition to the white sauce-drenched signature (a personal favorite of Keith Richards), Artichoke serves margherita, vodka, and Sicilian slices, all of which are equally indulgent and oversized. And if greasy but gourmet pizza at 3am isn’t enough to satisfy your fix, the cheese-topped artichoke, stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley, and pignoli nuts, should do it.
Sure, Nathan's is a supermarket brand these days, but going to the actual joint in Coney Island should be on everyone's New York bucket list. You can't go wrong with the original grilled hot dog with ketchup, mustard, and a side of crinkle-cut cheese fries. The Surf Ave location is literally plastered with Nathan's signage, which somehow makes your hot dog-eating experience feel more authentic than what you'd get from any old cart.
From Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra, Wildair is a sophisticated wine bar/eatery featuring polished slate countertops, vintage bottles, cocktails, and artisanal spirits. Get comfortable, grab a seat at one of the high tables, and be sure to order the bread and olive oil, which goes perfectly with the beef tartare complete with smoked cheddar and chestnuts.
Pitmaster Billy Durney's Red Hook restaurant is smoking authentic regional barbecue like Texas-style brisket and St. Louis-style ribs. The menu is inspired by Durney's New York childhood spent eating eating at the international food carts along Flatbush Avenue, so options like lamb belly bánh mì and Vietnamese hot wings make the cut as well.
From sommelier Thomas Carter, Chef Ignacio Mattos (formerly of Isa), and Mark Connell (Botanica), Estela is a tiny Houston St walk-up focusing on carefully constructed small plates like burrata with radishes, raw scallops with fennel, and beef tartare. Part-bar, part-restaurant, Estela is also known for a serious wine list.
Open since 1914, Russ & Daughters is the NYC standard for cured fish, spreads, and other “appetizers,” which are the traditional Jewish food eaten with bagels. This piece of New York history (which, in 2014, opened a more formal cafe that is also located in the Lower East Side) is still the place to grab a bagel and schmear or one of its near-perfect deli counter sandwiches, like the Super Heebster, a mammoth bagel sandwich with Whitefish & baked salmon salad, horseradish-dill cream cheese, and wasabi flying fish roe.
A haven for cheese-mongers, this Upper West eatery has an arsenal of over 40 cheeses, ranging from mild to sharp, classic to obscure. The menu of available cheeses is constantly rotating -- several new strains are available weekly -- and each variety of cheese is expertly paired with its very own condiment (because not all cheeses are meant to pair with quince paste). The tasting menu allow guests to select their cheeses of choice, from French camembert to Brooklyn smoked ricotta, each of which is then carefully plated alongside its prescribed counterpart -- things like chocolate wafers, tomato relish, or candied pecans. House-curated cheese flights are also available for the indecisive eaters, and beyond the cheese program, the kitchen offers a full menu of snacks and small plates -- think chicken liver mousse, and mustard miso pickles -- all served in a minimalist, white-washed dining room. And because great cheese is nothing without great wine, the upscale snack bar offers over 100 different wine pairings.
The New York outpost of Danny Bowien's buzzy Chinese restaurant had a shaky start in the city -- after opening on Orchard Street in 2012, the restaurant closed down due to landlord issues and relocated to East Broadway. The Lower East Side spot is a destination for trendy and original Chinese food, far different from what you'll find at the family-owned banquet halls in Chinatown. Some dishes are spicy Szechuan, but for the most part, the menu draws from all over China and just about everywhere else (there's pizza on the menu). Make sure you get the fried rice, it's unbelievable.
As evidenced by the continual crowds at its various locations across the city, Patsy's is a New York institution. The original location opened in Harlem in 1933, and it still serves the same big cheesy pies without the pretense. The menu lists plenty of speciality pies, but the go-to order is the original made with a thin and soft crust and topped with no-frills tomato sauce and mozzarella. The big portions and ample seating make Patsy's great for groups.
Franny's, a family-style restaurant, serves up pizzas made from sustainable, local ingredients that are Neapolitan in their balance and simplicity. The pies are cooked in two enormous wood-burning ovens that produce a perfect char on the crust, and all toppings are considered on a seasonal basis & added with a minimalistic touch. Appetizers and pasta dishes sprinkle the menu, but the pizzas are what Franny's has gained such a strong reputation for. Order one at the bar or from one of the cozy wooden tables in the dining area.
Keith McNally’s bustling Balthazar embodies the image of a French brasserie ripped from a francophile fantasy, drawing brunching celebrities, steak frites fanatics, and throngs of tourists willing to pay top dollar for poached eggs. The people-watching is a chief lure -- and how could it not be when so many people are packed into the high-ceilinged space? The menu features the kind of dishes you'd find at Brasserie Lipp or Les Deux Magots, and though the twice-fried, sea salt-dusted fries are a must-order, the onion soup gratinée and duck confit are not to be missed. If you aren't looking to wine and dine at one of the red leather banquettes, stop by the adjacent bakery for baguettes, brioche buns, and pastries to-go.
This tiny bakery on the Upper West Side has been a New York City institution since it first opened in 1995. Levain sells fresh baguettes, quick breads, and other baked goods, but it's the thick and gooey cookies that draw a line out the door most days of the week. Weighing in just under a half-pound each, the giant cookies come in rich flavors like walnut chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. They taste best when fresh out of the oven, and they usually are.
April Bloomfield's West Village restaurant and bar is a fan-favorite among celebrities, lifetime New Yorkers, and tourists, known for its bucket list-worthy chargrilled roquefort burger with shoestring fries. The British-meets-Italian gastropub famously doesn't take reservations, but it's also open until 2am nightly, so if you can't get a table during peak dinner hours, then a late-night seat at the bar is your best bet -- and probably the most quintessential New York experience.
There are a few Jewish delis you need to know about if you live in New York. There's Katz's, that tourist-clogged Lower East Side bastion of pastrami, and there's 2nd Ave Deli, whose two locations (one is in Murray Hill, the other is on the Upper East Side) are newer replicas of the original East Village one. 2nd Ave Deli is more low-key than Katz's in the sense that there's no rigid ticket system, but the food fits into the same category of Jewish deli fare. If you like pickles and coleslaw, then you'll be happy to know that they're free here, which is the first sign that you're in for an authentic deli experience. The menu is extensive and filled with typical diner items like knishes, triple decker sandwiches, and burgers, but keep it simple and order the Jewish Penicillin (matzoh ball soup) and the Twin Double (a duo of hot pastrami and corned beef sandwiches).
This Chinese spot arguably makes the best dumplings in Flushing. The spot is pretty bare bones (a paper menu is taped to the wall and there are only a few tables), but the chili oil wontons -- served 12 per order on styrofoam plates -- draw lines every weekend. White Bear's menu also includes wonton soups, noodles, and fried rice. All of the dishes hover around $5, so it's safe to say the price is right.
A funky and elegant twist on Mister Softee, this ice-cream-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar operation has reinvented the art of soft-serve with kitschy-named creations that breed snaking lines around the block in the summer. Take the Salty Pimp, an ice cream cone filled with vanilla soft-serve, drizzled with thick dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, then dipped in chocolate. Aside from the elaborate speciality cones, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop also churns out sundaes, shakes, and seasonal flavors. On the corner of 7th Ave and Grove St, the West Village location is hard to miss with its rainbow ice cream cone logo.
Momofuku has the OG pork bun that spurred a million copycats, and it’s surprisingly simple: steamed bao, roasted belly, cucumbers, and scallions. By now, most people are familiar with David Chang's culinary empire. The chef's Midas touch has blessed diners with a slew of Momofuku-associated venues offering cocktails, pastries, and fine-dining -- but above all is his ramen. Chang worked in Japanese shops way back in the early aughts before jump-starting the NYC ramen craze in 2004, and the varieties here are loaded with pork belly and pork shoulder, smoked chicken, and veggie options with chickpea and kale.
Pronounced "shee-ahn," this New York City mini chain garnered a cult following after Anthony Bourdain declared it one of his local favorites. The ubiquitous fast-casual specializes in northwestern Chinese dishes, most notably, hand-ripped noodles and burgers in flatbread-like buns. Don't be fooled by the noodles' to-go serving containers -- they're best enjoyed on the spot when they're still hot and fresh from the kitchen.
David Chang’s fast-casual chicken sandwich shop features one of the county's best fried bird numbers, featuring chicken thighs brined and marinated in a habanero puree that’s later coated in buttermilk and spices, then fried crispy, and finally, served in a Martin’s potato roll with pickles and house-made butter.
With all due respect to Italian grandmothers everywhere, Carbone -- under the leadership of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick -- may just have the best red sauce, ever. It's not a surprise that this Greenwich Village restaurant requires a reservation a month in advance. If you can get in, be sure to order the outstanding spicy rigatoni vodka. You can believe the Instagram hype.
Long before Shake Shack was an international chain with outposts as far as Dubai, it was a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park. The original location is still in the park, but instead of a roaming cart, it's a large kiosk surrounded by a sea of outdoor tables. There are two lines, an express one reserved for cold orders (that would be the frozen custard and concretes -- get them, they're good) and a regular one for everything else, which includes the signature ShackBurgers, crinkle-cut fries, and flat-top hot dogs.
Black Tap is rolling seven burgers deep with creations like the steak au poivre prime steak burger (with blue cheese and green peppercorn sauce), the lamb burger (with Swiss and homemade pickles), and the falafel burger (with tahini, pickled onion, feta, and hummus). Michelin-starred Chef Joe Isidori’s burger & milkshake spot is doing a very serious brunch burger and cocktail list, too, including a spicy Bloody Mary and sangria.
In Chinatown's sea of soup dumpling spots, Joe's Shanghai has emerged as a standard bearer -- which is saying a lot. The steamed, doughy pockets filled with gelatin broth and crab or pork have a cultish following among locals and tourists alike, and you'll find it's worth waiting on line for table in the simply adorned space. If you snag a seat, order several rounds, as the signature dumplings really do outshine the rest of the pan-Chinese menu, which veers in and out of Cantonese and Sichuan with dishes like spicy sliced beef and limey jumbo prawns. Those wanting to make a pilgrimage to the Flushing, Queens branch can see where the legend started in 1995.
In the heart of Greenwich Village, Minetta Tavern boasts a classic oak bar, vintage photos on the walls, and supremely delicious burgers (amongst other menu items). Its Black Label Burger has quite the reputation -- it's an 8oz blend of Pat LaFrieda prime dry-aged beef, cooked until there's a nice, light crust on top, then dressed with caramelized onions on a custom brioche bun.
When Superiority Burger opened its doors in 2015, it started a bonafide veggie burger boom in New York. The hole-in-the-wall fast-food-like joint specializes in vegetarian food, and the menu centers around the namesake burger, made with a patty of beans, nuts, and grains and topped with Muenster cheese. There isn't much seating aside from a few chairs and a bench outside, but Tompkins Square Park is less than a block away.
Welcome to a teahouse wonderland. Serendipity 3 fulfills every pink-frilled childhood fantasy you've ever had in an American restaurant geared towards kids (and their generous parents) that would make even Alice feel like she's fallen down some kind of rabbit hole. Already fun food -- foot-long hot dogs topped with chili, a challah BLT, savory crepes, and caviar and truffle-butter burger -- are made even more playful by the giant clocks and stained-glass lights that surround the all-white bistro tables. The Guinness World Record has made note of the gargantuan Golden Opulence Sundae that sells for a hot grand, but you can't go wrong with any of the standard desserts, with still-huge ice cream bowls piled high, a famous paradoxical frozen hot chocolate, and all the pies a little princess (or piggie) could pray for.
Housed in a historic arts building, The NoMad hotel is a stylish, Parisian-inspired luxury hotel with hardwood floors and handmade rugs. Inside the hotel is a bi-level library, an opulent lounge with a mahogany bar, and an upscale restaurant. Around the corner from the hotel is the much-lauded NoMad Bar (10 W 28th St), serving refined cocktails and upscale pub fare in a hip, lively space.
New Yorkers' relationship with Americanized Chinese food is a lot like our relationship with the city itself: we know it's probably not the best for our health, but, hey, we love it. Midtown West's China Gourmet is a textbook city stop for the saucy stuff, and above the counter you'll see pictured highlights from the menu that you can pick from. You shouldn't go into the neon-lit storefront with anything in mind other than the General Tso's chicken -- it's a heaping portion of sweet, sticky glaze over deep fried chunks of chicken in a plastic container. It may not be authentic Chinese, but it's authentically inauthentic. And that's why it's so tasty.
Inside The Standard East Village, Narcissa crafts a seasonal menu based around farm-fresh Hudson Valley ingredients that are both light and filling. Two dining rooms and an outdoor space with a private garden view give off a cozy, upscale vibe complemented by a crowd of downtown regulars and hotel guests. The menu gives equal play to meat, fish, and vegetables, with an emphasis on roasted dishes. Be sure to order a side of the carrot fries -- they give their fried potato counterparts a run for their money.
Master pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s eponymous SoHo bakeshop is best known as the birthplace of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut mash-up that attracts lines of tourists every morning. There’s a limit of two Cronuts per customer, but luckily the hybrid pastry isn’t all Ansel has in store. The shop sells bite-size fruit tarts, rich chocolate cookies, and Ansel’s other signature sweet, the kouign amann.
This casual, family-owned Moroccan/Mediterranean cafe is perpetually packed on the weekends with the East Village brunch crowd, but it's seriously worth the wait. Since 1987, Cafe Mogador has offered a number of traditional menu items -- such as lamb tagine with a spicy green chermoula sauce and couscous -- alongside elegant cocktails and an impressive wine list.
From the outside, Corner Bistro seems like an unassuming dive, but step inside this iconic NYC establishment, which touts itself as one of "the last of the bohemian bars" in West Village, and you'll find plenty of local charm. A timeless NYC tavern and dive, Corner Bistro is renowned for its burgers; piled high with juicy beef, crispy bacon and melted American cheese, they're tasty, satisfying, and affordable.
Authentic, buttery dosas are waiting for you in the basement cafeteria of a Hindu temple in Flushing. Open to anyone, Ganesh Temple Canteen serves a full menu of vegetarian south Indian food that includes tiffin items like puri roti and deep-fried lentil donuts, rice dishes, and of course, the aforementioned dosas. Made from a thin dough of rice and lentils, the dosas are huge, flaky, and served with toppings like red chutney and green chiles.
The Lower East Side may be swarming with hipsters in search of swanky bars with happy hour deals on lychee martinis, but there’s one relic from the neighborhood's past that still pays homage to its days as a Jewish immigrant section with overcrowded tenements. Through all of the Lower East Side's changes, Kossar’s, a Jewish deli that opened in 1936, has remained the New York spot for bialys: the doughy roll that hails from Bialystock, Poland. You might expect the staff at an institution like Kossar’s to be snippy if you don’t know exactly what you want, but when I told the guy behind the counter that I hadn’t quite decided on my order yet, he quipped, “No rush, we’re open ‘til 8!” If you find yourself stuck on the difference between bialys and bagels when deciding, here’s how it breaks down: bialys are baked and slid out of the oven before their yeast has a chance to fully rise. They don’t have a hole in the middle and are soft, chewy, and powdered with flour on the bottom. “It’s like a Jewish English muffin,” the server told the customer ahead of me. Bagels, on the other hand, are boiled then baked, and turn out tougher, crisper, and (because their yeast fully rises) a bit bigger. The only real move is to order both (and throw in some babka and rugelach, too). The kitchen makes its first batch at midnight and continues until 4pm, so everything is supremely fresh. When it comes to the bialys, you have a handful of flavors to choose from: onion, garlic, sesame, sun-dried tomato, and olive. As if the seasoned rolls didn't already beg you to mix up your typical breakfast routine, the made-to-order sandwich menu will too: go for an egg and cheese combo on an onion bialy, made with roasted bits of onion in the center, or get The Classic, a pungent sandwich with sliced nova, everything cream cheese, tomato, red onion, capers, and a dill pickle, on a sesame bialy. Bagels and bialys are available by the dozen, and spreads range from blueberry and scallion cream cheeses to whitefish salad and lox schmear. Once you’ve made your pick, savor every bite on a red stool inside the bright, bare-bones deli, or on one of the outdoor benches that hosts a cast of neighborhood characters. Come here often enough, which you’ll undoubtedly want to, and you just might become one of them.
This hole-in-the-wall Jewish bakery has been serving authentic, quality knishes on the Lower East Side since 1910. Once a downtown pushcart, the spot is unwavering when it comes to age-old un-adulterated recipes. The doughy dumplings are served hot, stuffed with stone-ground mustard, potato, and onion, while various meat, cheese, and veggie add-ons can be tucked inside, as well. Something of a New York landmark, the walls at Yonah's are lined with photographs of celebrities and New York politicians enjoying the iconic knishes by the store front (apparently The Beastie Boys were big fans), and the counter-service joint has made a handful of cameos in Woody Allen's filmography. And while the unpretentious eatery has already outlived many a downtown restaurant, the streams of city folk, hungry for classic gnosh and egg creams, show no signs of slowing down.
A mainstay on New York City food bucket lists, Brennan & Carr sits in an unremarkable, dark brick building in Sheepshead Bay whose wood-paneled walls, Civil War paintings, and plaid curtains resemble a dining room in the rural Midwest fifty years ago, not south Brooklyn of the now. Don't be turned away by the moody exterior though: open since 1938, the restaurant is known for its roast beef sandwiches, made with thinly sliced, steamed Iowa beef and a soft, soggy roll that sits in a pool of pan juice. There are also hamburgers and hot dogs, which are charred and juicy in their own right, but that's not really what you're here for. You want the hot beef, and whatever pie is on the menu that day.
Since 1950, this Downtown Brooklyn diner has been serving up incredibly dense slices of its famed cheesecake. Unlike many cheesecakes, Junior’s version skips the graham cracker crust and ricotta filling in favor of a thin layer of sponge cake and tons of cream cheese. Though every table at the landmark restaurant orders the cheesecake, the menu features all the New York diner staples, like loaded corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, steakburgers, and all-day breakfast.
This cozy Clinton Hill spot was founded by two foodies who sparked a relationship in college over a shared pizza. Today, they're serving up an overwhelming selection of creative pies in their intimate restaurant. In addition to pizza -- split between red and white on the menu -- Emily is known for the critically-acclaimed Emmy Burger, featuring a dry-aged patty topped with rich cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and a buffalo-like sauce inside of a pretzel bun. A limited amount of burgers is served every night, but luckily, they're available in (near-unlimited) amounts during Sunday lunch service.
From two Seoul restaurant scene vets, this intimate East Village spot serves seriously impressive Korean fare. The small plates formats means you can try a little bit of everything, like warm honey butter chips and slow-cooked oxtail and pork belly. You won't really know what you're eating but you won't care because it's so good.
The brains behind the traditional yet unique and modern Mexican restaurant, Cosme, is superstar chef Enrique Olvera, who is aiming to change the way Americans eat and think about Mexican food. What makes the menu so contemporary is the absence of familiar Mexican cuisine markers. While you won't find enchiladas on the menu anytime soon, the core flavors are Mexican, and many of the ingredients are sourced locally.
The original, pint-size location of pastry wizard Christina Tosi's Milk Bar serves all of her signature confections: the sugar-and-butter-based crack pie, birthday cake truffle balls, and the pretzel-potato-chip-coffee-oatmeal-butterscotch-and-chocolate-chip creation known as the compost cookie. Milk Bar's most famous outpost is arguably its cereal milk soft serve, which tastes like a creamier and sweeter version of the leftover milk in a bowl of cornflakes.
While Emilio's Ballato may be best known for serving the occasional celebrity patron, it remains a Houston Street hidden gem, serving up satisfying Italian fare sans pretension. The well-worn storefront belies a gloriously old school dining room strewn with chandeliers and vintage knickknacks that's helmed by a fast talking waitstaff that'll gladly recommend primi and secondi to those overwhelmed by the extensive menu.
After the original East Village location burned down in the 2015 gas explosion, Pommes Frites reopened with a fresh start in Greenwich Village. The MacDougal St storefront serves the same twice-fried Belgian frites piled high in handheld paper cones with dipping sauces that range from traditional European mayonnaise to the more complex, like curry ketchup and organic black truffle mayo. Aside from the signature frites (which come in three sizes), the menu includes Canadian poutine made with cured cheddar and gravy. The shop is small and narrow and the frites' disposable packaging, complete with plastic fork, make it ideal sidewalk-eating food, but there are a few tables to sit and stay.
A regular stop in the late-night K-Towner’s Saturday night, Jongro is a not-so-secret second floor Korean barbecue restaurant. Due to the long lines and young, soju-thirsty crowds more for eating and imbibing pre- and post-night-out with friends than it is for formally sitting down with the family. Diners can cook their own cuts of raw, thinly sliced beef on a barbecue disc right at their table. Brisket, Korean marinated short ribs, and skirt steak are the centerpiece prepared foods here, but orders of spicy rice cakes, kimchi stew, and thick, fried seafood pancakes can also be seen at almost every other table. The high-capacity space makes it the ideal group destination, so roll in with your six favorite friends, and an appetite for soju.
Per Se, looming over Columbus Circle since 2004, has grown to become synonymous with haute French-American fine dining. It’s all one would expect from Chef Thomas Keller, the man responsible for internationally lauded French Laundry —widely considered to be America’s best restaurant. In the most formal of dining rooms, a straight-laced and buttoned-up staff serve refined and extravagantly plated (and priced) nine-course contemporary tasting menus that entice the eye as much as the palate. No single dish has elicited more gasps of delight than his signature starter: warm oysters and a scoop of caviar in a savory tapioca pudding. In the time since its peak, critical applause has wained somewhat, but Per Se remains emblematic of haute, and costly, dining in the city, nonetheless.
Locally known as Hajji’s, Harlem’s Blue Sky Deli is a bodega unlike any other thanks to one particular sandwich: the chopped cheese. Hajji’s is said to be the birthplace of the historic sandwich, which has since made its way into hip hop lyrics, Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Whole Foods, and April Bloomfield’s upscale Upper West Side butcher shop, White Gold. Essentially the New York version of a Philly cheesesteak, the pressed hero sandwich is stacked with chopped and griddled ground beef, melted American cheese, peppers, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Though many Harlem bodegas serve their own iteration of the chopped cheese, the one from Hajji’s started it all.
George Mendes’ bi-level restaurant in the Flatiron features a modest and restrained design juxtaposed against a complex menu that pays homage to the chef’s Portuguese heritage. Mendes’ innovative dishes are further reflective of his experience in molecular gastronomy-focused restaurants like Bouley, Arpège, and Tocqueville. Aldea’s open kitchen -- illuminated by glass sheets -- gives diners a view of Mendes creating artistic takes on Portuguese dishes, like he does with the Arroz de Pato featuring duck confit rice with chourico, black olives, citrus, and duck cracklins. The eight-course tasting menu showcases a wide range of flavors, while the à la carte menu is small but packed with soul. The wine list is similarly compact and many of the eclectic pours are, unsurprisingly, from Portugal and Spain.
This Financial District steakhouse is straight-up historic. Open in one form or another since 1837, Delmonico's was the first fine-dining restaurant to open in New York -- and reputably the first restaurant to serve dishes like eggs Benedict, baked Alaska, and lobster Newburg. Today, you'll still have a plush experience filled with old-school grandeur, thanks to white tablecloths, an attentive staff, and massive murals that depict turn-of-the-century New York. The signature Delmonico steak is excellent, as is the filet mignon and 40-day dry-aged bone-in ribeye.