Food & Drink

The Best Thing to Eat Near Every Major NYC Museum

Published On 04/21/2016 Published On 04/21/2016
met museum
Nick Krueck & Jennifer Bui/Thrillist
Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

American Museum of Natural History 

Shake Shack

Address and Info

Upper West Side
Just steps from all the dinosaurs is this ultimate win-win: an “NYC spot” for tourists that locals actually love, too. Word to the wise: order a double ShackBurger, a Smoke Shack, and the slightly newer Chick’n Shack to try a little of everything. And don’t you dare not get one of the concretes. 

Brooklyn Museum

Barboncino

Address and Info

Crown Heights
Warning: it’ll be hard to concentrate on the third largest museum in New York when you know crispy, thin slices covered with stuff like sopressata picante, pancetta, and honey are in arm's reach. Remember, we did tell you it’s one of the best pizza spots in Brooklyn

Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

Cooper Hewitt

Sarabeth’s

Address and Info

Upper East Side
The move here is to hit this spot up for breakfast/brunch to ensure you score the buttermilk pancakes and short rib hash. It’s just the fuel you’ll need to stroll a few more blocks to the museum itself to look at some cool design. And then take a nice nap afterwards. 

The Frick Collection 

J.G. Melon

Address and Info

Upper East Side
Just a couple avenues down from this fancy old mansion-turned-museum full of sculptures, porcelain, and paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, is J.G. Melon -- a classic UES pub that's been offering one of the city's best (and most classic) cheeseburgers and cottage fries (basically Ruffles, but fries!) for over 30 years. 

Flickr/Jocelyn & Cathy .

Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Cafe Sabarsky

Address and Info

Upper East Side
You won’t want to walk too far after going to the MET, given that just looking around that humongous space takes years off your life, so luckily, this Vienna-inspired cafe is only two blocks away. Discuss the antiquities wing over authentic goulash, Bavarian sausages, German lagers, and a slice of Sachertorte (that’s Viennese dark chocolate cake). 

Lukus Hasenstab/Penelope

Morgan Library and Museum

Penelope 

Address and Info

Midtown East
Head here for one of the New York’s most essential breakfasts (Punkin’ Waffles!) or for a post-Medieval manuscript snack of polenta fries. It’s worth the five blocks down and one avenue over for both.

Museum of the City of New York

Earl’s Beer and Cheese

Address and Info

East Harlem
Everything on the menu at this comfort food spot has either beer or cheese in it. Or beer cheese. Sure, learning the history of this city is incredibly cool, but it maaay be outshined by beer cheese.

Museum of Modern Art 

The Monkey Bar

Address and Info

Midtown East
No matter how many times you say you're going to visit the MOMA, you probably only actually go when a friend or a relative's in town, so why not go the full touristy route and hit this swanky eatery for a smoked scallop spaghetti, a Moscow Mule, and if you’re smart, the cookie plate.  

Courtesy of The Astor Room

Museum of the Moving Image

The Astor Room

Address and Info

Astoria
This is as about as close to eating in the museum as you can get without actually eating in the museum. (Plus, museums typically frown on that.) Just cross the street from the museum dedicated to all things media is this famed restaurant with a rich history (it was a movie studio commissary in the 1920s). Be sure to start with the grilled oysters. 

New Museum of Contemporary Art  

Cafe Habana 

Address and Info

Nolita
True story: I once literally ran into Alexander Skarsgård at this museum while taking in a contemporary exhibit that featured ‘90s troll dolls. Afterwards I took in quite possibly the best Cuban sandwich (and I’m from Florida!) at Cafe Habana. The second part could totally happen to you. 

Flickr/Edsel Little

New York Public Library 

Keens Steakhouse

Address and Info

Midtown West
After you take your parents to see some very famous books, cruise a couple blocks over to one of the classiest steak joints in the city. Dad will like the classic NY Strip. Mom will like worldly ambiance achieved via antique pipes dangling from the ceiling. You will like the free meal.

Flickr/Premshree Pillai

New York Transit Museum

Pok Pok Ny

Address and Info

Columbia Street Waterfront
Whether you down authentic Thai fare at this waterfront eatery before or after the museum (located just a five minute cab ride away), it’s possible you forget to go/forget what you even saw there (and you’re going to see some pretty cool old trains). That’s how good the fish sauce-coated chicken wings at Pok Pok are. 

Caffe Storico

New York Historical Society

Caffè Storico

Address and Info

Upper West Side
This restaurant is actually inside the museum, but somehow that doesn’t equal terrible or over-priced. Plus, the “late-afternoon menu” coincides perfectly with the exact time you’re undoubtedly going to want burrata and Bolognese in lieu of more historical culture. 

Queens Museum

White Bear

Address and Info

Flushing 
You’re going to need to get over to Flushing, otherwise your closest option is pretty much the concession stands in the neighboring CitiField. But after just a short train ride, the world will literally be your dumpling -- and the chili oil-covered spicy wontons from White Bear just happen be some of the best ones in the city.  

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 

Via Quadronno

Address and Info

Upper East Side
Just a few steps from the museum entrance, you'll find this charming Italian panini spot offering traditional Milanese sandwiches in a variety of options (get the open-faced salmon tartine) in addition to other classic Italian antipasti, pastas, and larger fish and meat dishes.

Sarah Anderson/Thrillist

Tenement Museum

Katz’s

Address and Info

Lower East Side
After visiting a museum so rich in New York City history, it only makes sense to eat somewhere that is as well, especially when it’s just a few blocks away. Plus, whether or not you’ve got visitors with you, it’s never a bad time to indulge in the city’s best pastrami

Whitney Museum of American Art 

Untitled at the Whitney

Address and Info

Meatpacking District
Another exception to the rule of never dining inside a museum, Danny Meyer's modern American restaurant inside the new Whitney offers a high-quality (but moderately priced) seasonally-driven menu with a focus on vegetables and seafood. It's on the lower level, so you'll have to head into the actual museum for those sweeping city views, but the modern decor and beautifully plated food are sights in their own right.

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1. Shake Shack 366 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Upper West Side)

It may have started as a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park, but the Shack's now a national purveyor of seriously delicious burgers, shakes, custard, and hot dogs that everyone's come to love. Located across the street from the Museum of Natural History, the Upper West Side outpost (the second Shake Shack to ever open) has an enclosed sidewalk cafe and a downstairs rec room with a big screen TV. There are two lines, a C-line 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.

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2. Barboncino 781 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238 (Crown Heights)

Supplying light, crispy pizza, this Crown Heights spot serves inventive brick-oven creations topped with goodies like artichoke, smoked pancetta, and clams. Dessert-like pies -- like sweet apple, ricotta, and brown sugar pizza , and the banana Nutella calzone -- dominate Barboncino's popular brunch menu.

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3. Sarabeth's East 1295 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128 (Upper East Side)

Which came first, brunch-as-a-New-York-institution or Sarabeth's? We'll never know because this posh city chainlet has been serving New Yorkers everything they crave on a weekend morning since 1983. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, the Upper East Side location sits on prime real estate near Museum Mile and Central Park. The lemon and ricotta pancakes are a fan favorite, but no matter what you order, be sure to try the fresh-baked muffins and fruit spreads -- they're the house speciality.

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4. J.G. Melon 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021 (Upper East Side)

One of New York's most classic burgers can be found at this prepster pub that's been serving the Upper East Side since 1972. The hallmark of J.G. Melon is the hamburger, comprised of a griddled beef patty and American cheese on a toasted potato bun. If you aren't a regular who lives within a five-block radius, the bar burger really is the only reason to go to J.G. Melon, whose melon decor and green-checkered tablecloths haven't changed much since it first opened.

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5. Cafe Sabarsky 1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028 (Upper East Side)

Inside the Neue Galerie, this elegant Viennese cafe proves that museum dining isn't synonymous with pre-made sandwiches and weak coffee. Decorated like a turn-of-the-century intelligentsia hangout, Cafe Sabarsky serves Viennese pastries and coffee, as well as savory dishes like goulash and wiener schnitzel. It's expensive, but the rich chocolate cakes are worth every penny.

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6. Penelope 159 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

Equal parts cafe, bakery, and wine bar, Penelope has been doling out some of the city's best chicken pot pies, house-baked pastries, and homey comfort foods like mac 'n cheese and roast sweet potatoes since 2003. The seating in this country-casual spot is packed but not elbow-to-elbow, and the vibe is Montauk-on-a-summer-afternoon, which for you means comfy goodness at an even comfier price.

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7. Earl's Beer & Cheese 1259 Park Ave, New York, NY 10029 (Harlem)

Earl's Beer & Cheese is part of a small group of Upper East Side bars that's bringing cool and laid-back nightlife to the historically barren blocks of the mid-90s. Earl's great craft beer selection changes daily, and though it's definitely more of a bar than a restaurant, the food is hard to resist. The cheesy options include three kinds of grilled cheese, pork tacos, and goat cheese mac & cheese.

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8. Monkey Bar 60 E 54th St, New York, NY 10022 (Midtown East)

This glamorous restaurant in Midtown's Hotel Elysee epitomizes jazz-age New York elegance. Monkey Bar has gone through a lifetime of changes since first opening during the Great Depression, and its most recent iteration began when Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter took the reins in 2009. Nostalgic and elegant, Monkey Bar is where you go to eat classic American food and drink Moscow Mules alongside the power elite...and a few tourists.

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9. The Astor Room 34-12 36th St, New York, NY 11106 (Queens)

This glamorous old-school restaurant opened in the 1920s as the dining room for Paramount Pictures, whose Astoria studios were part of the same building. Now called Kaufman Astoria Studios, the building is still home to TV sets and the restaurant is an homage to a bygone New York. The white tableclothed dining room is dark and jazz age-y, with a working piano and wooden bistro chairs. The solid American menu includes pastas, burgers, and house signatures like lasagna based off of Tony Bennett's mother's recipe. The Astor Room is right across the street from the Museum of the Moving Image, so why not make a museum trip out of it?

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10. Cafe Habana 17 Prince St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)

Inspired by the historic Mexico City lunch joint where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara planned the Cuban Revolution, this tiny, retro luncheonette in Nolita serves Cuban-Mexican eats to a mixed crowd of hipsters, celebrities, and old-school New Yorkers. Cafe Habana's Mexican-style grilled corn and Cuban sandwich are must-trys (and are probably responsible for the lunchtime crowds).

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11. Keens Steakhouse 72 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018 (Midtown West)

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.

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12. Pok Pok Ny 117 Columbia St, New York, NY 11231

Andy Ricker's Michelin-starred restaurant on Brooklyn's Columbia Street Waterfront specializes in Northern Thai food, a regional cuisine that favors pork and deep-frying over spiciness and coconut milk. Pok Pok's menu is filled with family-style plates like deep-fried pork riblets, minced pork salad with crispy fried garlic, and insanely good chicken wings, deep-fried and coated in fish sauce. There's usually a wait at peak dinner times, especially for a table on the back patio in the summer.

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13. Caffe Storico 170 Central Park W, New York, NY 10024 (Upper West Side)

The New York Historical Society's sit-down dining spot is the perfect museum restaurant: it serves actual, waiter-service food and wine, isn't overpriced, and has a late-afternoon menu that'll satisfy any pre-dinner cravings. Also open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, Caffe Storico's simple Italian menu includes salads, light pastas, and meat-centric mains.

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14. White Bear 135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (Queens)

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.

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15. Via Quadronno Carnegie Hill 1228 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128 (Upper East Side)

Via Quadronno, with two locations on the Upper East Side, is a neighborhood institution that looks and feels like a quintessential Italian cafe. Its known for its Milanese sandwiches and paninis, but its all-day menu also includes breakfast pastries, hot dishes like lasagna and risotto, and an outstanding tiramisu. It's the kind of place you can stop by anytime -- to grab a coffee before work or a sandwich on your way to Central Park, or for a leisurely glass of wine at 5pm and a sit-down dinner.

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16. Katz's Delicatessen 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

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.

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17. Untitled (at the Whitney Museum) 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014 (Meatpacking)

Danny Meyer's semi-formal American restaurant inside the Whitney Museum offers a high-quality (but moderately priced) seasonally-driven menu with a focus on vegetables and seafood. The ground-floor restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows and an airy, modern decor to match the museum. It's the perfect place to go for a trendy dinner or brunch in the Meatpacking District, no matter if you have plans to take in the surrounding art.