You already know where to beer it up like Teddy, Babe, and Abe did back in the day. Well, now it's time you learned where to steak/pizza/oyster it up like Teddy, Babe, and Abe did back in the day: here are 11 century-old NYC restaurants that, like your Grandfather at bingo night, still got it.
Still the standard for cured fish, spreads, and other “appetizers”, this piece of NY history (which has since opened a more formal restaurant around the corner) is still the place to grab some fish, a bagel, or one of its near-perfect deli counter sandwiches. (Get the Super Heebster. Trust.)
One-Line Save Venue
This spot for shucked bivalves has been around since Grand Central Station itself. It may be known for its fresh-as-can-be fish today, but it wasn’t a seafood-centric restaurant until 1974. Slurp East and West Coast oysters while taking in the décor (here’s looking at you, arched tile ceilings). And don’t miss the oyster pan roast, one of NYC’s most iconic dishes and one that made this spot a famous go-to among locals, passerby commuters, and tourists.
Columbia Street Waterfront District
This family-run Sicilian restaurant (with a crazy-long history) was initially a lunch spot for longshoremen who worked close by -- you can actually still find traces of its early days there in black-and-white photos and statues of St. Francis and the Virgin Mary. A little off-the-beaten-path it may be, but the hearty Sicilian eats, like cheesy rice balls, sandwiches (get the meatball topped with ricotta), pastas, and panelle won’t disappoint.
For a taste of real old-school Italian Brooklyn head to this Williamsburg eatery, where the waiters still wear tuxedos, the clientele is refreshingly non-hipster, the tablecloths are white, and the food is hearty red sauce fare (check out the clams casino and the pork chop with hot and sweet peppers).
This LES hole-in-the-wall started selling knishes from a pushcart in 1890 before moving into a full-blown storefront in 1910. Travel back in time the moment you step in -- the knishes are still made the same way as they were during the pushcart days: chewy, potato-y, mustard-covered masterworks. You’re also gonna want to wash them down with one of the city’s last remaining spots for an authentic egg cream.
This Jewish deli might have swapped names three times (first as Iceland Brothers, then to Iceland & Katz when Willy Katz joined the biz, and finally to Katz’s when Willy took it over), but it has always stayed true to its roots -- its delicious, pastrami roots. Come for breakfast or late-night drunchies in the form of piled-so-high pastrami sandwiches, a great hot dog, or matzo ball soup in the same digs where Where Harry Met Sally and Donnie Brasco were filmed.
Originally named Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley, this iconic steakhouse opened its doors in what was then a very German part of Williamsburg. Go for lunch -- dinner reservations are hard to come by -- and the lunch-only burger is an experience unto itself. There's a reason this place has been ranked the number one steakhouse in New York City by many for almost three decades, and that reason is USDA-only prime steaks that are dry-aged on site.
The sole survivor of the Herald Square Theatre District, this long-standing restaurant serves a mean 26oz mutton chop along with some excellent steaks, and a pretty damn good burger. There’s no doubt the meat is legendary, but the real talking point here might be its Pipe Club, which boasted members like Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and "Buffalo Bill". Home to the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world, it also honors the pipe tradition, where customers can check and store their pipe during their meal, ready at a moment’s notice.
Before there was Peter Luger and Keens, there was this Meatpacking District steakhouse, which somehow outlasted all of the actual meatpacking done there. Don’t let the cheesy cow sculpture out front turn you away from the insanely flavorful prime rib. Beware: portions are large -- legend has it that doggie bags were invented here because of the generous plates/dogs requesting bags.
If it weren’t for this Financial District restaurant -- which started as a small shop doling out coffee, chocolates, liquor, and cigars -- you may have never found your all-time favorite brunch food. It was the first to offer eggs Benedict and the first to have a printed a la carte menu. Plus, it has attracted diners like Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Napoleon III. These days, you can house steaks with bankers. I think the word you’re looking for is: bawse.
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1. Russ & Daughters179 E Houston St, New York
2. Lombardi's Pizza32 Spring St, New York
3. Grand Central Oyster Bar89 E 42nd St, New York
4. Ferdinando's Focacceria151 Union St, Brooklyn
5. Bamonte's32 Withers St, Brooklyn
6. Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery137 E Houston St, New York
7. Katz's Delicatessen205 E Houston St, New York
8. Peter Luger178 Broadway, Brooklyn
9. Keens Steakhouse72 W 36th St, New York
10. Old Homestead Steakhouse56 9th Ave, New York
11. Delmonico's Bar & Grill56 Beaver St, New York
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.
If pizza is an essential fixture in New York's culinary history, then Lombardi's is an essential fixture in the grander history of pizza as a whole. Established in 1905, the place is cited as the first American Pizzeria, aptly stationed for the past full century on Manhattan soil (or pavement, I should say). Still located in Little Italy, the iconic red-brick pizza joint has checkered plastic tablecloths, a smoking coal oven, and a white-tiled open kitchen. The menu offers a handful of traditional sides -- meatballs, calzones, Caesar salad -- but you'd be remiss to walk away from Lombardi's sans pizza-related food coma. The pies are smoky-crusted and coal fired, topped with house-made san Marzano tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella, and served on rotating, silver pizza platters with toppings like ricotta, black-pepper garlic sauce, pancetta, and sweet Italian sausage (we recommend you go half and half on the toppings). And while nowadays, the place certainly caters to its fair share of tourists, it has yet to lose its sense of old-school New York character.
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.
This family-run Sicilian restaurant (with a crazy-long history) was initially a lunch spot for longshoremen who worked close by -- you can actually still find traces of its early days there in black-and-white photos and statues of St. Francis and the Virgin Mary. It may be a little off-the-beaten-path, but the hearty Sicilian eats, like cheesy rice balls, sandwiches (get the meatball topped with ricotta), pastas, and panelle won’t disappoint.
Forgo the hipster stigma of Williamsburg eateries by heading to Bamonte's, a classic red sauce joint that serves as a time capsule in both product and presentation. The waiters are tuxedoed, the dining room tables are draped in white cloth, and the menu features every item you'd expect an Italian grandmother to make. The price point is reasonable, so stock your table with the classics in a space that's been around longer than most in this city.
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.
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.
This New York institution (opened in 1887) is specifically known for its old-school, impeccable waitstaff and its sizzling, perfectly cooked, buttery porterhouse. The wine list sticks to a strict but to-the-point number of options that pair perfectly with the dishes, and the lunchtime hamburger -- a mix of ground chuck and trimmings from the aged steaks -- is simply something you can't get anywhere else.
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.
A classic, multi-level spot, Old Homestead in the Meatpacking District offers hip takes on old-school steakhouse fare. Originally opened in 1868, OH was one of the first in the States to serve Japanese Kobe beef. It's kept up with the times, adding shareable apps like yellow fin tuna tartare and kobe beef meatballs, as well as premium craft cocktails to its extensive menu of dry-aged prime cuts.
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.