Lamb is a luxury, but select New York City restaurants have found ways to utilize the meat in top-notch dishes that aren’t hideously expensive. Here’s where to dig into the ultimate lamb experiences around the city.Read More
19 Distinctive Lamb Dishes to Try in NYC
Mutton chops, spicy skewers, and late-night shawarma await
After more than a decade slinging affordable and homey Greek dishes to Upper West Siders, chef Michael Psilakis’s Kefi closed its space only to be revived in smaller digs. The clean-lined restaurant is still a neighborhood standby for, among other things, a hearty — and well-priced at $19.95 — lamb burger. The gamey meat is tempered by a cooling salad and spicy whipped feta.
The no-frills, takeout-friendly Kebab Empire delivers all kinds of meat-on-a-stick options, bringing the flavors of the primarily Muslim Uighurs in China and Central Asia to a lunch-fiending stretch of Midtown. Lamb gets a starring role in exceptional kebabs dotted with cumin and served over tortilla-like flatbread. There’s an additional Flushing location.
This brightly lit box of a space in Flushing serves dishes nodding to the Dongbei area of northeastern China. Middle Eastern influences abound, particularly in “Muslim lamb chops,” which arrive perfectly cooked under a covering of cumin seeds.
The days of Halal Guys serving lamb in their gyro platters are sadly over, but Uncle Gussy’s tricked-out Greek food truck in Midtown still mixes beef and lamb in its gyro. The moist meat is available in a filling pita, an even more filling rice platter, or the aptly named Hercules plate that includes fries and pita. Cash only.
Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
This Flushing outpost from the team behind the Grand Sichuan chain serves fiery Hunan cuisine within its dramatic red-hued design scheme, which includes pop art-style portraits of Mao Zedong, who hailed from the province. Lamb rubbed in cumin comes in a neat pile tossed with greens and onions for a taste of faraway mountainous life.
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The word “mutton” no doubt still throws off customers tucking into this dark-hued, historic steakhouse, opened in 1885 in the armpit of Manhattan near Penn Station. These days, it’s really just the more familiar and younger lamb, though Keens buys meat from slightly older animals than most places. Dig into that slightly funky cut under the pipe-decorated ceiling, along with the pork fat-drenched wedge salad, raw oysters, and hash browns.
Taïm mastermind Einat Admony continues her Middle Eastern food revolution in New York with the recently opened Kish-Kash, which focuses on undersung couscous that’s made from scratch in a laborious process. The sunny, tile-filled West Village space turns out slow-cooked lamb over the fine semolina grain. Eater critic Robert Sietsema says it’s “simultaneously chewy and tender.”
Berber Street Food
Berber, a new 15-seat counter-service operation in Greenwich Village, is intended to reflect chef Diana Tandia’s African roots as well as the continent’s influence around the world. It’s hard to deny the global appeal of her leg of lamb, marinated overnight in a spice blend including harissa and roasted for four hours, then served with couscous and topped with a smattering of red onion.
Xi'an Famous Foods
With a dozen mostly takeout-oriented locations, this restaurant named for the city in northwestern China has come a long way from its start as a small Flushing stand. But it remains most famous for its juicy lamb seasoned with cumin and given a peppery kick, used in bun-like “burgers” as well as the sublime hand-pulled noodles, which come out with an al dente bite and slicked with chile-flecked oil. Get both, available here and at additional locations around the city.
This raucous Moroccan spot in the East Village draws a young, hip crowd devouring Middle Eastern standards as well as its coveted tagine. The fragrant stew is available with various meats and sauces, but lamb with the spicy green chermoula sauce never fails, especially when blanketed with couscous. There’s an additional Williamsburg location.
Named for the clay pots dangling from its ceiling, Pylos zeroes in on homey Greek cuisine that goes way beyond wraps. Skip the overly sweet braised lamb shank and order the lamb chops, oozing with juices and accompanied by dainty potatoes.
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Andrew Carmellini’s airy, perpetually stylish Tribeca joint is as beloved for its renditions of Italian classics as for evolved diner standards like lemon ricotta pancakes. It finds the right balance of homey and adventurous in lamb meatballs dressed with goat’s milk cheese and pickles and tucked into sliders. Enjoy the souped-up bar food at the restaurant’s elegant long bar.
Chef Missy Robbins of the shuttered A Voce has found a new wave in her constantly booked, subtly refined Williamsburg Italian den Lilia. Pasta is the point here, and silky fettuccine gets a flavorful boost from powerfully spiced lamb sausage.
Small, ambitious, and perpetually packed steakhouse St. Anselm focuses equally on several types of meat. Beyond the popular hanger steak, a hulking lamb saddle is crisp on the outside and tender inside, with just the right amount of gristle and fat. Pan-fried mashed potatoes are an ideal side.
Young Xinjiang BBQ Cart
It’s worth tracking down one of Xinjiang’s roving carts in Flushing and Chinatown to get its prized skewers. Along with numerous other offerings, the lamb is nicely crisp on the outside and tender inside, coated with a dusting of cumin-heavy spice. Cash only.
Bushwick Pita Palace
New York is teeming with late-night shawarma options, but few bring the attention to detail to the Middle Eastern staple of Bushwick Pita Palace. Skip the ho-hum, oddly popular Mexican offerings at this counter-service Brooklyn shop and instead opt for the supremely moist spit-roasted lamb, which the gregarious staff loads up with all the fixings in a pita.
On a stretch of East Williamsburg bordering on Bushwick, Eastwick executes reliable American dishes with a tinge of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavor in a woody, comfortable room. The generously sized lamb burger, a steal at $16, has a piquant spice blend and comes with a harissa-based dip as well as fries or a side salad.
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Too many barbecue joints, especially those in New York, steer clear of more interesting possibilities in favor of tradition when smoking meat. Somehow on a quiet stretch of Red Hook, Hometown still brings in droves for its lamb belly, served from a counter in the warehouse-like space. It comes unadorned, slightly pink, and lying in a shallow pool of its own fat. It’s also available in a banh mi-style sandwich.
Nargis delivers Uzbek and Russian specialties in a proper, charming sit-down restaurant. In addition to compulsively eatable dumplings, lamb skewers are generously portioned and get a perfect char. There’s an additional Park Slope location.