The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway’s flashy signs around Times Square, and the rumbling 24-hour subway are all unmistakable landmarks of New York City. Just as essential to the Big Apple’s DNA are its restaurants and bars. Whether it’s the most impossible reservation to book in downtown Manhattan or the Birria-Landia taco truck parked in Queens, there are endless options for dining in NYC’s lively food-and-drink scene. Here’s Eater New York’s guide to figuring out plans for any meal of the day.
Welcome to New York
Cross an avenue, bridge, or park, and there’s a different neighborhood at every turn in New York. Within each of the five boroughs are never-ending culinary options. Ordering a taco, whether from a trendy birria truck or a new Brooklyn spot that’s barely the size of an NYC studio apartment, can mean enduring the same waits a Michelin-decorated establishment commands. There’s a wide range of dining to do between the most affordable and the blowout meals in this city — and there’s a quality option at every price, and that’s what sets New York apart. Breakfast can take place at a nostalgic diner or at a cart in Chinatown serving steaming rice rolls. Lunch options are just as varied, with classic steakhouses and pizza joints equally popular. Dinner can be the crispy fish and chips from Dame in Greenwich Village or a rabbit feast at Dhamaka, one of the country’s most exciting new restaurants. The NYC restaurant scene — complex and varied as it is — caters to basically any kind of diner.
Where to Start on Eater New York’s Top Maps
Eater publishes countless maps to keep you on top of the city’s restaurant and bar scene. Here are the ones readers are likely to return to the most.
Keeping up with the trendiest restaurants is like a game of Whac-A-Mole. There are no shortages of openings in NYC and each month, and beyond the Eater 38, there’s an update to the places to check out right now throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
For diners more interested in crossing a timeless hit off the bucket list, this is the go-to guide to bookmark. Dining at one of NYC’s top classic restaurants is like stepping back in time, and in one of the oldest dining cities in the country, legendary steakhouses and gritty taverns all feel like quintessential New York.
If there’s a meal during the week that feels like an event, it’s brunch. There’s a place for the all-you-can-drink-mimosas crowd or someone looking for a humble plate of runny eggs with bacon and toast. This guide offers ritzy or affordable options for every type of brunch goer.
NYC’s most well-known dishes go far beyond just pizzas and pastrami — though you don’t want to pass those up either. The most iconic dishes are a study in the city’s diverse culinary scene, including spicy cumin lamb noodles, jerk chicken, and hot fudge sundaes.
Whether it’s pies thrown in charcoal ovens or ones made with fancy sourdough crusts, there’s a pizza for any occasion in all five boroughs. Before folding up a slice, consult this map of the city’s top pizzerias.
Opinions vary on the city’s finest bagels, but one thing is clear: It’s unofficially NYC’s favorite food. The big, chewy-crusted versions at Ess-a-Bagel or the dense, bialy-like ones from Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels are just a few favorites.
The leading sushi restaurants in New York offer a range of experiences. Diners can max out their credit cards with luxe omakases (you don’t have to look too hard to book a $400-per-person sushi counter) or find quality, umami-rich fish at more affordable prices (a $27 lunch set at Sugarfish is among the best).
From red-sauce favorites to trattorias that look to Tuscany, New York City excels at Italian food. In the Bronx’s Little Italy, you can go to Roberto’s for Italian American food, where a chalkboard menu trumpets pasta specials, or head to the West Village for the creative take on classics at Don Angie.
NYC is chock-full of old-school American fine dining establishments when it comes to steakhouses (think Brooklyn institution Peter Luger), but these days there are more casual and affordable options as well. Find a stunning prime rib at Gallaghers or several standout, less pricey cuts from London import Hawksmoor.
Fancy or simple, there are a myriad of perfect desserts to sample in New York. Some are at sit-down restaurant affairs (a stunning grapefruit givré at Boulud Sud) while others are quick grab-and-go treats (like the rice milk hibiscus soft serve at FieldTrip in Harlem).
Old-school parlors, innovative gelato shops, and even vegan options dot our 18 essential ice cream shops map. It’s a list to consult all year round, whether it’s the Bea Arthur (a vanilla soft serve with dulce de leche) from Big Gay Ice Cream or masala chai flavored ice cream from Malai in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
Of course this metropolis is called the City That Never Sleeps: NYC’s coffee shop scene is full of cozy neighborhood shops and third-wave options for those who want to geek out over the perfect pour.
A new job. An anniversary. Another birthday. For a blowout meal, splurge on a big event at restaurants ranging from the elegant French seafood temple Le Bernardin to Falansai, a Vietnamese American tasting menu deep in Bushwick.
There’s never been a better time to dine outdoors in NYC. The pandemic changed everything as the city started opening up its sidewalks and streets to al fresco dining — from spots that keep diners sheltered from the rain to Michelin-starred establishments.
A Guide to Some of NYC’s Dining Neighborhoods
Nearly 9 million residents are sardine-packed into New York City’s five boroughs. The rent may be too damn high, but a short walk or a subway ride introduces you to a different food scene in every neighborhood.
Williamsburg gets a lot of attention as the hot spot for dining in Brooklyn, but some of the most exciting openings lately have taken place in Bushwick. Falansai reinvented itself as a destination for modern Vietnamese cooking, Sobre Masa Tortilleria rolls out tortillas made from heirloom grains, and Mao Mao offers what it calls Thai “cinema and drinking” food.
New York’s oldest and most well-known Chinatown is a leading destination for fresh rice noodle rolls, dim sum, Peking duck, and so much more. Some favorites include: five pork pot stickers still under $2 at Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street, a big menu of comforting noodle soups at Bo Ky, and Spicy Village’s crowd-pleasing big tray of spicy chicken.
In many ways, the East Village feels like a microcosm of NYC. The diversity of restaurants — types of cuisines, prices, and mix of college students and longtime residents — is hard to beat. Many of the longtime favorites are still going strong: The pierogies at Veselka command a wait, even though the legendary Ukrainian diner is not open 24/7 like it was before. Newcomers like Yellow Rose, a spot for reimagined Tex Mex cooking, and Indian fried chicken stand Rowdy Rooster (from the Dhamaka team), are cementing the area’s reputation as one of the best dining destinations in the city.
New York boasts several Chinatowns, but Flushing is perhaps the most exciting when it comes to new restaurants. It’s as easy to find dumplings doused in chile oil and $2 duck buns as it is to track down regional Chinese fare served in elegant dining rooms and traditional banquet halls for dim sum on the weekends. Taking the Queens-bound 7 train to the last stop is worth it not only for the Chinese food, but also for establishments specializing in Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Uyghur cuisine.
Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood is often thought of as a destination for Polish food, but its restaurant scene has some of the most compelling spots in the city. There’s Modern Vietnamese from Di An Di, line-drawing tacos at Taqueria Ramírez, and Taiwanese American party spot Wenwen.
It may be located just blocks from the heart of Times Square — where New Yorkers would otherwise be hard-pressed to give a restaurant recommendation — but this area on the West Side of Manhattan is home to one of the city’s most affordable and diverse array of cuisines. A stretch of Ninth Avenue is dotted with Thai, Mexican, Cuban, Afghan, Haitian, and Peruvian restaurants, and many other independently owned places like Empanada Mama and or Three Roosters.
This Queens neighborhood is often cited as the most diverse zip code in NYC based on the number of languages spoken. A stroll down Roosevelt Avenue, its main artery and where the 7 train rumbles above ground, would prove this point: First-rate momos are at the Nepali Bhanchha Ghar. Birria-Landia, perhaps the city’s leading taco truck, yields lines around the block from the moment it opens late into the night. There’s no shortage of Colombian-owned spots, from diners to roast chicken counters.
This downtown Manhattan neighborhood embraces its historic roots as much as it does the city’s current dining scene. Tourist magnets like Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters are still going strong, and for good reason — the pastrami and lox, respectively, are hard to beat — but new spots have put this neighborhood on the map too. Dhamaka, a modern Indian restaurant that Eater named one of the best new restaurants in the country in 2021, anchors a corner of Essex Market. For a more casual experience, head to all-day Malaysian cafe Kopitiam, near the East Broadway F train stop.
Sure, there are plenty of tourist traps, but as Broadway reopens, even New Yorkers are flocking back to the Theater District. Our chief food critic Ryan Sutton has lived in neighboring Hell’s Kitchen for years and knows where you can avoid the pitfalls. LumLum is serving exciting Thai food, in an area long-known for the cuisine. Farida serves up a pan-Central Asian menu where plov, the Uzbek national dish of rice pilaf with tender lamb, is a must-order. For an old-school New York experience, Gallaghers is one of the top steakhouses in town.
Slowly but surely, the Upper West Side has shed its image as a sleepy enclave of restaurants. Around Lincoln Center, there are upscale establishments like Lincoln Ristorante, as well as crowd pleasers like Cafe Fiorello — both Italian places. Further uptown, however, find new spots like Bánh Vietnamese Shop House, with its refreshing take on the Southeast Asian country’s classic dishes, or Charles Pan-Fried Chicken from a local celebrity. Long-standing restaurants like Barney Greengrass have remained fixtures in the area even as newer spots continue to open.
The brownstones and tree-lined streets of the West Village make it one of the most picturesque — and priciest — areas of NYC. Its neighborhood restaurants are no different. Small restaurants barely larger than some apartments — think the Shaker-inspired Commerce Inn or old-school hangout Corner Bistro — are often packed with diners. But when there’s a wait, there’s bound to be a cocktail or wine bar around the corner to help you kill some time.
If there’s a Brooklyn neighborhood that can go toe-to-toe with Manhattan for the sheer number of trendiest restaurants, it’s Williamsburg. Missy Robbins dominates the Italian options with Lilia and Misi, but if you can’t get a reservation at either, Bamonte’s is a classic red sauce joint that’s also popular these days. The Four Horsemen offers a nice selection of natural wines and a menu that feels like a neo-bistro plucked from Europe. For a taste of one of the hottest new spots in the area, head to mariscos spot Ensenada.
A New York Dining Glossary
BEC: Otherwise known as a bacon, egg, and cheese, this is a staple breakfast food in New York. Whether it’s constructed on a roll, bagel, or bialy (see below), the BEC is a cheesy, meaty breakfast sandwich that is often made-to-order at corner bodegas (again, see below).
Bialy: New Yorkers who love to boast that their bagels are the best are the same folks who have opinions on where to get the biggest, freshest, and best-tasting ones. But overlooked in this debate is the bialy, a flat round roll with onions chopped up in the center, originating in the town of Bialystok, Poland. Ask for one of those in a bagel store or deli (or a bialy bakery like Kossar’s), and receive an admiring nod of the head from the proprietor.
Black and white: This archetypal term refers to an ancient kind of cookie — more like a flattish cake — that has white frosting on one side and black frosting on the other, with the line separating them perfectly bisecting the circle. It may have originally been created as a tribute to Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon.
Bodega: In most parts of the country, it’s called a convenience store, 7-Eleven, or, if you happen to live in San Antonio, an ice house. Here, that type of small corner store (and nearly every block in some parts of the city has one) is called a bodega, which means “little store” in Spanish. It’s where New Yorkers get everything from their morning coffee to beer to toiletries, and their favorite bacon, egg, and cheese. They are also well-known for the cats — commonly found in bodegas — that keep watch over the stores.
Chopped cheese: Also known as chop cheese, this is a greasy, delightful mixture of ground beef burger chopped up and mixed with onions and slices of American cheese. In New York, one of the best versions of the chopped cheese sandwich has long been found at East Harlem deli Blue Sky, formerly known as Hajii’s — but the concoction has also taken on new life in empanadas, burritos, and sliders.
Hero: In some parts of the U.S., it may be considered a hoagie, sub, or grinder— but in NYC, it’s a hero, an Italian-style sandwich teeming with cold cuts and cheese.
Doubles: This term, which is both singular and plural, refers to a marvelous small sandwich made with a pair of tiny puri stuffed with curried chickpeas (called “channa”), topped with two sauces, one fiery, one fruity. It originated in Trinidad among those of Indian descent, and now is a favorite snack in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Egg cream: Oddly, this signature beverage of New York City — which is getting harder to find all the time — contains no eggs and no cream. Rather, it’s a shot of chocolate or vanilla syrup (Fox’s U-Bet is the local brand) mixed with milk and club soda, with the proportion of ingredients and stirring style unique to each maker. Thankfully, a new generation of restaurants is reviving the New York icon at spots like Agi’s Counter in Crown Heights and Old John’s Luncheonette on the Upper West Side.
Natural skinned: New Yorkers love their hot dogs, which some also refer to as frankfurters, wieners, or franks. In New York, they are often made exclusively from beef, and, instead of being skinless franks, have a skin on them, making for a popping sound when you bite into them. The skin is actually the small intestines of a sheep. Get real natural skinned franks from Nathan’s, Katz’s Deli, Gray’s Papaya, and most hot dog carts.
Schmear: When ordering a bagel, asking for a schmear (“just a little”) is the way to get just the right amount of cream cheese.
Slice: In most parts of the country, consumers buy pizza one whole pie at a time. Here, it’s not a pizza place if they don’t sell it by the slice. Your choice is not limited to a cheese slice, either, and many New York pizzerias pride themselves on sumptuous displays of many kinds of slices, sometimes with several types ganged up on a single tray: pepperoni, fried eggplant parm, mushroom, buffalo chicken, and tomato-free white pies.
Reservations to Make in Advance
Follow the Stars
New York is home to a bevy of Michelin-starred restaurants — 67 as of the latest awards given out in 2021. While these restaurants aren’t everyday, go-to spots, it’s a good guide to know what’s in demand for reservations. For the more affordable options, there’s also the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, where the 131 recommendations include some Eater New York favorites like the Park Slope cafe and bakery Winner, chef Myo Moe’s acclaimed Burmese spot Rangoon in Prospect Heights, and the perpetually popular temaki restaurant Nami Nori in Greenwich Village. Ahead of Michelin’s October 6 awards ceremony for its 2022 list, it’s worth checking out the spots team is eyeing, such as the upscale Mexican Aldama or Elmhurst Thai newcomer Zaab Zaab.
Head Out of Town
You could spend a lifetime and never hit every restaurant throughout the five boroughs. For diners with a running bucket list, the challenge to eat at the trendiest restaurants in recent years has expanded the amount of ground you have to cover.
Heavy-hitter NYC chefs have opened establishments everywhere from the North Fork of Long Island to the Hudson Valley. One of the most well-known towns upstate is surely Hudson, easily accessible via Amtrak, where you can spend a full 24 hours in just a few blocks, eating at some of the state’s most-talked-about restaurants. The Catskills region is also another popular weekend trip destination for many New Yorkers. For wine nerds, the Finger Lakes region has emerged as a local and national destination that’s taken as seriously as Napa and Sonoma. And of course, there’s always the Hamptons, where some of NYC’s trendiest restaurants often make an appearance with seasonal menus, pop-ups, and one-off events.