What to Eat in New York: The Ultimate Restaurant List for Every Meal

No city makes me hungry quite like New York. If you’ve ever followed along with one of my trips to the Big Apple on Instagram, you know that my primary activity when I visit is EATING. After SEVEN trips, I’ve developed quite the list of favorite New York restaurants, and at long last, I’ve compiled them into a post for you today!

Best pizza and best restaurants in New York City - Emporio

The wonderful thing about New York, and one of the primary reasons I keep going back, is that the dining options are effectively endless. No matter what kind of food you love, you’ll find it in the NYC. Picking a spot to grab a breakfast pastry, let alone spend a precious night’s meal, can be overwhelming.

I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit researching, asking friends, and losing myself down Yelp review rabbit holes in search of the best New York restaurants. And by “best” I do not mean the fanciest or the most expensive—I mean a place where I can grab excellent food in a pleasant atmosphere that feels worth my dollar and a precious spot on my NYC eating agenda.

I’ve broken the restaurants on this list down by category to help you narrow the options. I’ve also included categories for places still on our list, as well as those that, despite glowing reviews or fame, we found underwhelming.

Warning: this list is long and, if I do my job right, will make you hungry too!


The Best Places to Eat in New York City

Splurge Dinners You’ll Remember a Lifetime.

  • Blue Hill: One the most memorable, special meals of our lives. We visited the Manhattan location, and I now have a dream to visit their location at Stone Barnes, an hour outside of the city.
  • Babbo: Mario Batali’s first and perhaps best-loved restaurant. Although Babbo may be best known for the pasta tasting menu, Ben and I opted to try a mix of dishes from each course, and I’m so happy we did. Listen to your server’s recommendations, and I highly encourage you to order the octopus, pork chop, and Chianti ragu.

Special Dinners You’ll Cherish.

Best restaurants in NYC - Barbuto

Gnocchi with spring vegetables at Barbuto.

  • Barbuto: I could eat here every time we are in NYC. Come on a nice day as the restaurant opens and grab one of their tables outside, along with a glass of wine (glowing personal recommendation). The legendary roast chicken lives up to its hype.
  • Fedora: A gem of a neighborhood restaurant in the West Village.
  • The Stanton Social: Chris Santos’s hip spot in the Lower East Side. Favorite dish: the charred octopus salad. I still dream about it!
  • ABC Cocina: One of our all-time favorite meals. Perfect for sharing all sorts of different plates.
  • ABC Kitchen: A similar concept to ABC Cocina (and also delicious), though I enjoyed our dinner at Cocina more overall.
  • L’Artusi: Pasta lovers, this is for you.
  • Anejo: A Tex-Mex paradise. From the creative tacos to the blistered shisito peppers topped with chorizo to the spicy margaritas, everything we tried was outstanding.
  • Red Rooster: We sat at the bar and sampled the fried chicken. I’d give the award for best bird to Sweet Chick (see “Brunch” below), but it was still a fun atmosphere and I’m glad we stopped in.
  • Gato: Full disclosure—I picked this restaurant because I have a giant crush on Bobby Flay. This is his newest joint, a Mediterranean fusion spot in SoHo, and it is wonderful. The appetizer portions were a little on the small side, but the flavors and the cocktail menu made up for it.
  • Minetta Tavern: If you are looking for a classic New York steakhouse experience, this is a good pick.

PIZZA: Because No Trip to New York is Complete Without It.

  • Franny’s: Hands-down favorite pizza and more than worth the trip to Brooklyn (combine it with a visit to Westlight, featured in the drink section below). The clam pizza is not to be missed, and they also have an excellent and affordable wine list.
  • Artichoke Bastille’s Pizza: My favorite for by-the-slice. Fill up for $5 on a Sicilian-style slice that’s brimming with flavor and quality ingredients.
  • EMPORIO: Unassuming, authentic, and DELICIOUS. A neighborhood gem that the neighbors might not want you to know about. Try the prosciutto, aged Parmesan, arugula pie pictured at the top of this post.

Casual Bites.

Best restaurants in New York - Peace Food Cafe

A spread of healthy veg at Peace Food Cafe…with fries because, balance.

  • Peace Food Cafe: When you just need some tasty veg to break up all that other eating.
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar: Ramen and pork buns are both must-trys. No reservations, but worth the wait.
  • Chelsea Market: Hundreds of food stalls crammed under one roof. Sit at a sushi bar and order fresh-off-the-boat seafood at Cull and Pistol, grab a bahn mi from Num Pang Sandwich Shop (so, so good), and mourn the fact that you don’t have more stomach space.
  • By Chloe: Vegan burgers that even Ben had to admit were tastier than any meat counterpart he can remember. I also love their cookies ‘n cream ice cream.

Best places to eat in NYC on a budget - Tacombi

Mexican street corn with chipotle mayo + fresh watermelon juice Tacombi.

  • Tacombi: Street tacos, street corn, and fresh juices and drinks in a fun atmosphere that will make you feel like you are in Mexico.
  • Oficina Latina: Killer arepas and a fun selection of cocktails.
  • Empire Diner: Modern twist on a classic NYC diner experience.
  • Smorgasburg:  Once described as “The Woodstock of Eating”; an all-out, biweekly foodfest in Brooklyn.
  • Kobeyaki: A grab-and-go spot for interesting takes on sushi that are filling and flavorful. Recommended: the smoked salmon.
  • Whole Foods: OK, it might sound ridiculous to mention Whole Foods, but their hot breakfast bar at the Union Square location can be heaven on the last morning of a trip, when your body is crying out for vegetables, oatmeal, and coffee. Plenty of options that are easy to grab to-go. Prepare to stand in an epically long checkout line.

Brunch.

Sweet Chick

The Sweet Chick menu. You want the fried chicken and waffles. TRUST ME.

  • Sweet Chick: Killer fried chicken and waffles in a delightfully hipster setting in Williamsburg.
  • ABC KitchenIf you are looking to splurge on brunch, this is a great place to do it. (I’ve also been here for dinner; see the “Special Dinners” section above.)
  • Bar Americain: A great spot to grab a bite (and a drink!) before seeing a Broadway show. Our meal was excellent, but my two favorite parts were the epic bread basket and cocktails. As with my review of Gato (“Special Dinners” section above), Bobby Flay knows how to mix.
  • Foragers Market: Farm fresh and fabulous.

Bakeries.

Best NYC restaurants and bakeries - Dominque Ansel

Chocolate coconut croissant at Dominque Ansel Bakery.

  • Dominique Ansel Bakery: The home of the cronut. While I’ve never woken up at 6 a.m. to stand in line for the infamous donut/croissant hybrid, I am more than content to arrive at my leisure and enjoy a few of Dominque Ansel’s (the brilliant pastry chef’s) other creations. Please order the “DKA” (Dominique’s kouign-amann), a seasonal croissant (the chocolate coconut one pictured above was outstanding), and anything else that catches your eye. All of the pastries here are excellent.
  • Breads: My all-around favorite. Come for their celebrated chocolate babka, stay for the almond croissants, muesli bread, chocolate rugelach, and creamy quiches. We stay a half a block away from Breads and end up here almost every morning.
  • Milk Bar Bakery: Home of Crack Pie and Cereal Milk soft serve, but my favorite items are the cakeballs and cookies.
  • Sarabeth’s: Beloved NYC bakery with spots all over the city. Nothing pretentious, everything delicious. The chocolate gob cookie almost moved me to tears. It was so simple, but so perfect.
  • Little Cupcake Bakeshop: Best known for the Brooklyn Blackout Cake.
  • Murray’s Bagels: Always delicious. I love their whole wheat or pumpernickel toasted with lox cream cheese; Ben orders the whole wheat with cinnamon cream cheese, and it’s also delicious.

Great Bars.

Fun places to eat in NYC - Westlight Rooftop Bar

Cocktails with a view at Westlight.

  • Westlight: Chic rooftop bar in Brooklyn. Make reservations and plan to stay a while. Recommended bev: The Aviator.
  • Top of the Standard Hotel: Super crowded, super fun outdoor space with impressively realistic fake grass and patio-esque lounge furniture. Like hanging out in someone’s backyard…in the middle of NYC with an epic view.
  • Bemelmans Bar: The most expensive cocktail you may ever buy in perhaps the most unique atmosphere. A favorite of Anthony Bourdain, and the only place the illustrator of the beloved Madeline children’s books created public art.
  • SABBIA: Rooftop bar crowning the Italian food mecca/super store Eataly.
  • Wine Bar: Perfect spot in East Village to meet a friend for a generous pour and catch up on life.
  • Carroll Place: Unpretentious spot near Washington Square where Ben and I met his college roommate for drinks. Perfect for grabbing a simple glass of wine or brew before or after dinner.
  • Obica: Stop in for a happy hour glass of wine and nice plate of prosciutto.
  • Butter & Scotch: For when you want to have a cocktail and a slice of pie at the same time.

Underwhelming: Spots that Didn’t Live Up to the Hype.

  • Gramercy Tavern: Let the food fight begin. Gramercy Tavern is legendary and had been on my life eating bucket list for years, which is probably why the NYC food gods are likely sending a firestorm of bad juju my direction as this post goes to press. Perhaps my expectations were too high, because the one truly bad thing I can say about it is that it didn’t blow my taste buds. It was pleasing, but nothing that I felt added to my NYC experience. (Note: We ate on the tavern side—the fancier dining room might be a different experience).
  • Bar Boulud: Now the NYC gods definitely have me on the hit list. Daniel Boulud owns several roaringly successful NYC restaurants, including Daniel, an establishment where I dream my food fairy godmother will take me out to dinner one day. Bar Boulud is a French bistro more in our price range, so we gave it a try for lunch. While everything tasted just fine, nothing we tried was worth its price tag. Next time, I’m heading next door to Epicerie Boulud to sip wine and nibble a cheese plate.
  • Employees Only: Crazy busy cocktail bar in the West Village. Honestly? I just wasn’t that impressed. The bar tenders were not at all attentive, and both of our drinks were lackluster.
  • The City Bakery: While not terrible, I thought this place (including its celebrated pretzel croissant) was a little overhyped. Walk down a few blocks to Breads (listed in “Bakeries” above) instead.
  • Balthazar: Despite its place on every NYC top brunch list, I thought it was too touristy, the service felt rushed, and the food, while good, was overpriced even by NYC standards.

WHEW. Yes, I really have eaten at all of these places, and I’m still hungry for more!

On the List for Next Time.

 

Did I miss one of your favorites? Leave a comment below telling me where I should eat on our next trip!

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

27 comments

  1. I totally travel to eat too! Definitely bookmarking this for when I go to NYC (someday). Thanks for sharing such wonderful reviews!

  2. Great write up!  I’m longing to get to NYC, hopefully this year. Heading to Milwaukee and Madison next month and can’t wait to eat through the cities. 

  3. What a fun post! My little sister lives in NYC but we always seem to do the same things whenever I go in to see her! haha creatures of habit apparently :)

  4. Hi Erin, what a nice surprise to get your post on a Sunday evening! I hope you are taking tomorrow off!  I, too, love NYC! Especially the Frick and the food! I had just read a review of Momofuku Ko in the May 18th New Yorker (if you haven’t read it, I think you will enjoy). Guess you didn’t want to get their $175.00 tasting menu! Glad they have some more down to earth prices at other locations! Interesting that they own the Milk Bar Bakery! I want to try everything at both their Noodle Bar and Bakery! I also just read about the cronuts and that they are over 1,300 calories each (but who’s counting)! The DKA you settled for sounded divine (and probably a lot less calories???)  Glad you and Ben had such a fun time. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. I was in NYC memorial weekend also…with visitors from Europe. Concur on 911 memorial as a must see (we both missed the WTC observatory by days!). I’ve been to Bar Americain for the same reason you went to Gato. Highly recommend it. My son has recommended Shake Shack. It’s on the agenda next time.

  6. Awesome Erin. I have only driven through NYC, crazy really I didnt make time to check the place out. Tis top of the list to visit, and will most def be following your fabulous foodie advise. :) 

  7. So glad you enjoyed your time in NYC!  Looks like you ate some fantastic food… I approve :)  I get so excited when blogging friends come and visit the city!   I’ve only eaten on the dining room side of GT, and it was fantastic… sorry to hear the Tavern side wasn’t as spectacular!  Good to know.  Barbuto should definitely be on your list for next time.  Jonathan Waxman is the man and his Roast Chicken is amazing.  Also make sure you get the Pasta Carbonara.  It won’t be on the menu most likely, but they can always make it (and it’s kinda life changing).  I have 3 food suggestions for your next visit that are currently some of my absolute faves: Hearth (I find myself coming back here again and again… the tasting menu is only like $75 and is a great value), Ivan Ramen (if you have a hankering for ramen, check out his Lower East Side location… the Triple Pork Triple Garlic mazemen is something special, as is his Pork Meatballs), and if you are into Ice Cream/Gelato… il laboratorio del gelato, Morgenstern’s Ice Cream, and my 100% fave, Ample Hills Creamery.  

  8. Hey girl I’m glad y’all had a blast!! I have never been to New York, but I would like to someday!! My parents have but that was in the 70’s and that is a crazy story! They left their truck and  cattle trailer on the other side of the tunnel in New Jersey . When they were ready to leave the city the taxi driver said he couldn’t take them over  there. So- they caught a ride with a stranger Oh my word can you imagine now days doing that! Well if you want to get back I guess and pray the whole time!!   

  9. yay!! what an awesome write up Erin! from now on, I’m going to send people HERE when they ask me for recs :) Barbutto is closing soon, so you must come back ASAP! so glad we could hang while you were in town!! xoxo

  10. I love NYC and love your recap post, looks like you guys had a fantastic time! I am totally thinking of going this winter sometime, I’m going to keep this post bookmarked so I don’t forget anything!

  11. you did well! Now come back so we can get you to dinner at ABC kitchen

  12. I must say you did a thorough NYC tour!! I am originally from NY and you’ve shed some light on a few sites I haven’t even seen. You just made me home sick. lol

  13. Thank you for this post! Looks amazing! I’m visiting NYC and Boston this summer. I’m gonna try to check out a few of the places you mentioned. Dominique Ansel Bakery is definitely at the top of my list though!! :)

  14. hey girl- love the post! I would love to visit New York just to eat!!!!

  15. Catherine (Reidy) Kress Reply

    I couldn’t NOT comment on this post – as exploring NYC’s dining establishments is one of Michael’s and my favorite past times :) Here are a few more to add to your list:

    Nicer restaurants:
    – Lupa: Also Mario Batali, and perhaps a cozier environment than Babbo. Just as good, though!
    – Carbone: I’ve never been, but heard wonderful things. Right across the street from Lupa.
    – Locanda Verde: Amazingggg brunch.
    – Amali: Really lovely Mediterranean food.
    – Little Owl: Very cute and cozy in the West Village
    – Cosme: It’s all the rage in New York these days (Obamas, Adele, and others loved it); I found it a bit overpriced, but the duck carnitas are mouth-watering.

    Casual restaurants:
    – Parm: For a casual lunch, the eggplant parm sandwich is not to be missed. Same owners as Carbone.
    – Shake Shack: It’s making the rounds across the US, but one of my favorite burgers.
    – Fuku: Chicken sandwiches are a must (also a David Chang establishment)

    Bakeries:
    – Two Red Hens: I (ashamedly) have not tried Dominique Ansel yet, but Two Red Hens is just about the best bakery I’ve ever been to.
    – Levain: You will never ever forget the taste of their chocolate chip walnut cookies.

    • Catherine (Reidy) Kress Reply

      Oh! And one more – Raines Law Room for cocktails. You have to get there at 5pm (when it opens), though, if you want a seat.

    • THIS IS AMAZING CATHERINE!! Cosme: we couldn’t get in (no surprise!) and Levain the line was sooooo long, we ran out of time to wait. I can’t wait to go back. Thanks so much for all these fabulous suggestions!

  16. you missed the ethnic restaurants. many times you cannot get certain cuisines except in the Big Apple or even if you can, the local version won’t serve the true native delicacies which define a national cuisine — but you’ll find those amazing dishes on the menu at a New York city outpost of that cuisine. I will mention just three in passing — for example Pasteis de nata is an world renowned pastry from Portugal but you can find it at Bica Restaurant. Salad Olivier is a famous salad in Russian Cuisine and can be found in several restaurants such as Russian Tea Room. Shakshuka is Israel’s answer to pizza featuring eggs, and can be found at several Israeli restaurants such as Dizengoff and Miriam’s I Brooklyn. As far as bakeries go — Payard Bakery was left off the list although Francois Payard would arguably be considered one of the great pastry chefs of our time. And City Bakery is known for its tarts, not the croissants.

    • Hi Arthur, thanks for the recommendations! I’m always looking for new places, so I’ll keep those in mind for next time.

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