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Black mole on a ceramic plate sits in the middle of the overhead shot; assorted other issues include an al pastor taco and a colorful tostada surround it
Black mole (center) and other dishes at Aldama in Williamsburg.
Gary He/Eater NY

The 38 Essential Restaurants in New York City

From a modern Mexican restaurant to a century-old red sauce joint, here’s where to eat in NYC right now

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Black mole (center) and other dishes at Aldama in Williamsburg.
| Gary He/Eater NY

It’s both the simplest and most difficult question to answer, whether it’s coming from a lifelong New Yorker or an out-of-town visitor: “Which restaurant should I check out in NYC?” The type of cuisine, price point, availability of outdoor dining options, the neighborhood, and occasion are just a few factors to consider. Luckily, there are countless options in the five boroughs — and on Eater New York’s map of 38 stellar restaurants, which we update quarterly. This curated list of venues now includes a food truck and even one heralded pizzeria in New Jersey. We’ve also added newly eligible restaurants (Eater 38 venues have to be open for six months, or thereabouts, before they merit inclusion) that aim to capture the diversity of NYC’s offerings.

We also recognize this list is subjective and NYC’s dining scene is constantly changing. If you have a favorite, let us know. For the newest places that food obsessives are checking out, see the heatmaps for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Removal from the Eater 38 does not mean a restaurant isn’t still awesome and won’t return in the future.

Added in July 2022: Aldama, Bamonte’s, and Katz’s Delicatessen. To make room, CheLi, Gage & Tollner, and Liebman’s, while all worth visiting, are leaving the list for now.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

For all the latest New York dining intel, subscribe to Eater NY’s newsletter.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Kingston Tropical Bakery

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Some of the city’s best Caribbean baked goods are found at this Bronx bakery steps from the end of the 2 subway line. Kingston Tropical has been at it since 1970, the yellow awning above its doorway proclaims, and indeed, this bakery has been making its patties using roughly the same mix of thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, and ground beef for the last half-century. Other Caribbean food businesses have since joined it in the neighborhood — Paul’s Caribbean Bakery, a half mile up White Plains Road, and Champion Bakery, a block over — but demand for these smooth, crescent-shaped patties is enough that it’s not uncommon for all three businesses to draw a crowd. While there, be sure to try the restaurant’s meatloaf, chunks of stewed, pleasantly funky beef tucked into a fluffy piece of coco bread.

A person enters the front door of Kingston Tropical Bakery, a Jamaican bakery in the Bronx.
Outside Kingston Tropical Bakery in Wakefield.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Africa Kine

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Africa Kine has been open in NYC since 1996, run in various locations by founders Kine and Samba Niang, who grew up in Dakar. It moved north a few years ago into a more compact space, with a menu paradoxically larger than the original. Included are such Senegalese mainstays as thiebu djen (stuffed fish and vegetables over joloff rice), mafe (lamb or chicken in a peanut sauce), and yassa (chicken or fish in a lemon and onion confit), mainly available at lunchtime. At dinner, expect shrimp skewers, grilled leg of lamb, fish balls in tomato sauce, and baked fish.

A plate of stuffed fish and vegetables over red joloff rice at Africa Kine.
The thiebu djen at Africa Kine.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hudson Smokehouse

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The South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven is exploding with restaurants lately, and one of the most remarkable is Hudson Smokehouse. It’s remarkable not only because of the range of barbecue styles on its playful menu but also because of its dedication to extensively smoking the meat using lots of wood. The brisket is a case in point, but so are the spare ribs, chorizo, and pork belly burnt ends. The premises doubles as a spacious beer garden featuring local brews, with indoor and outdoor areas.

Thickly stacked barbecued brisket overflows from a small bun.
Hudson Smokehouse’s brisket sandwich.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Bánh Vietnamese Shop House

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NYC’s Vietnamese food scene has drastically changed — for the better, no doubt — over the past five years or so. It’s no longer just about pho and banh mi (though we can never get enough of those staple items). A new wave of restaurants are serving lesser-seen dishes, at least for many Americans, such as the glutinous banh chung chien, or fried, crispy rice cakes, and brothy bun rieu, a tomato, crab, and pork soup, at this Upper West Side newcomer. There are plenty of classic Vietnamese sandwiches and noodle soups as well, but the smaller plates steal the show. (Plates change often, so for those looking for a specific dish, check the menu beforehand.)

A rice cake on top of a sesame cracker laid on a plate with colorful toppings piled on top of the rice cake. A dipping bowl with sauce is set nearby. Both dishes are set on a light wooden table.
Banh dap, a central Vietnamese street food.
Rachel Vanni/Eater NY

Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine

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The complex, historic moles of Oaxaca have garnered much attention in New York City over the past decade, but never have they seen such a comprehensive treatment as at Ruta Oaxaca. Heralded by a hot pink outdoor structure, this Astoria restaurant specializes in moles prepared in shades of yellow, green, scarlet, and dark brown, and offers mezcal and tequila flights at several price points. The restaurant serves its food on festive plating that might make you feel like you’re vacationing on the beach or in the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Four square browned pastries with salad and brown sauce on top.
Oaxacan bunuelos are a showcase for the state’s black mole.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Golden Palace Gourmet

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The provinces in China’s extreme northeast are sometimes known as Dongbei, and the food shows many influences that reflect the region’s early industrialization, including Korean and European ones. This wonderful restaurant makes many of its own dishes from scratch, including shredded and fermented cabbage, and loamy blood sausage, incorporated into platters and hot pots. Unexpected starches abound, including steaming bowls of sorghum and loaves of cornbread.

Pork cabbage cakes lined up on a white platter at Golden Palace Gourmet in Flushing.
Pork cabbage cakes from Golden Palace Gourmet.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mariscos El Submarino

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The cauldrons of seafood at Mariscos El Submarino are proof that ceviche season can be year-round if you know where to look. Owners Amy Hernandez and Alonso Guzman opened this Jackson Heights storefront in 2020, known as much for its mustached submarine mascot as its generous ceviches served with tostadas and saltines on the side. Order the aguachile negro, a dramatic preparation more than capable of feeding two and packed with shrimp, octopus, and avocado in a molcajete, seasoned with a touch of soy sauce.

The aguachile negro at Mariscos El Submarino in Jackson Heights comes served out of a hulking molcajete.
The aguachile negro comes served out of a hulking molcajete.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Birria-Landia

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Birria has long captivated cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which are closer to the dish’s home state of Jalisco, Mexico. Now New York City is having its own moment, and for many, their first taste of the fat-slicked, brick-red meat was on a disposable plate from the cult-favorite Birria-Landia. Run by brothers José and Jesús Moreno, the Jackson Heights truck is often credited with putting birria on the city’s radar, and vendors slinging versions of the dish made with cheese, oxtail, and lamb have since popped up across the city. Order one of everything on the menu, including a large consomé for dunking your tacos.

A corn tortilla is dipped into rendered beef fat, giving it an orange hue. Several other tortillas wait on the grill next to it.
Birria-Landia’s tortillas are dipped in beef fat before heating on the grill.
Christian Rodriguez/Eater NY

Nepali Bhanchha Ghar

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Nepali Bhanchha Ghar was opened by Yamuna Shrestha in 2015 and has quickly cemented itself as one of the city’s most essential restaurants. Shrestha’s casual restaurant joins a number of Nepali restaurants that have opened in Queens, specializing, among other dishes, in the unctuous delight of momos. Here, the dumplings are served fried or steamed in a glistening tomato-based sauce stuffed with potato, paneer, goat, shrimp, beef, or chicken. Note: No alcohol is served on premises, but diners are usually busy sipping up all the savory juices anyhow. There’s no wonder that Bhanchha Ghar has won the Jackson Heights Momo Crawl multiple years in a row.

Playground

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Located within walking distance from a spate of Thai restaurants in the neighborhood, Playground is a beloved veteran among Woodside’s prolific Thai scene. Squeeze in along the single, long row of tables — if there’s an available seat — and dive into an expansive menu highlighting Thai plates that are lesser-seen in New York, including a crispy, crunchy, curried rice croquette salad tossed with preserved pork, and pad hoy lai, a pile of shucked clams tossed in a chili oil with subtle heat that builds on each bite. For those who time the outing just right, there’s a daily happy hour with $4 bottles of Thai beer, and lychee and pineapple cocktails for under $10. Cash only.

A mound of crispy rice, chilis, and other vegetables on a white plate with a spoon to the left.
Playground’s curried rice croquette salad with preserved pork.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Bread & Salt

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It’s a fact of life that while New York has some of the country’s best pizza, some of New York’s best pizza happens to be located in New Jersey. Razza is one fine example, another is Rick Easton’s Bread & Salt, which sells Roman-style al taglio slices in Jersey City Heights. Expect tart, umami-rich tomatoes, ultra-milky mozzarella, and bread whose crispness and airiness sometimes bears more resemblance to a good croissant than a typical slice of pizza. Weekend takeout only. Disclosure: The interim editor of Eater NY is the partner and coauthor with Rick Easton, owner of Bread and Salt.

Two slices of pizza facing the opposite direction with red tomatoes, and yellow cheese.
Slices of focaccia Barese from Bread & Salt.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chef Hoyoung Kim spent eight years working at Jungsik in Tribeca, the tasting menu spot that helped thrust modern Korean fare into the New York spotlight. Shortly before the pandemic, he went out on his own with Jua, an excellent wood-fired restaurant in Flatiron. For $135, diners experience seven precise courses, including intricate banchan, delicate caviar kim, jook, and frozen strawberry desserts. It’s an expensive meal, but it’s a much more affordable alternative to the tasting menus at Michelin-starred Korean restaurants Atomix or Jungsik.

An order piece of sliced duck is arranged on a granite plate in a low-lit photograph.
Sliced duck at Jua.
Dan Ahn/Jua

Bolivian Llama Party

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Bolivian food is already rare enough in New York, but the Oropeza brothers have achieved an even unlikelier feat during the pandemic: They’ve taken their fast-casual sandwich and salteña concept and transformed it into a proper sit-down restaurant with more ambitious composed dishes. Bolivian Llama Party, located in the old Mi Bolivia space, offers silpancho (pounded and fried beef cutlet), fricase (spicy pork soup), chola pork sandwiches, and a stunner of a vegan jackfruit sandwich. All the classic salteñas — Bolivian soup empanadas — are available here too. Outdoor only, self-service dining.

A crowd of diners sits at a large table at Bolivian Llama Party; the old Mi Bolivia sign hangs above the storefront
A crowd of diners outside of Bolivian Llama Party in Sunnyside.
Gary He/Eater NY

As $400 omakases increasingly become the norm throughout Manhattan, Shuko remains a slightly more approachable outlier, a place to splurge on a sushi dinner without spending a grand on dinner for two. Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau continue to put out a serious selection of small plates — including caviar with toro tartare — and nigiri sushi for $270 before tax and tip. Supplemental add-ons include spicy trout hand rolls ($28), charcoal-seared tuna belly ($28), and caviar hand rolls ($120).

A slice of pink fatty tuna, marbled with fat, sits over a small mound of rice
A slice of pink fatty tuna at Shuko.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Yellow Rose

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One of the most consistent restaurant recommendations among Eater NY staffers is this restaurant devoted to the Lone Star State. With its playful interiors, affordable prices, and fun environment, Krystiana and Dave Rizo’s Yellow Rose is a no-brainer pick. Daily specials offer something new to find on each visit. That said, we’ll always be partial to the San Antonio-style tacos; made with fresh, handmade flour tortillas that Eater critic Ryan Sutton called otherworldly, they’re best enjoyed with cherry coke and a side of vegan queso.

An overhead photograph of chips and tacos made with corn and flour tortillas at Yellow Rose.
Tacos strewn out on flour and corn tortillas at Yellow Rose.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

NY Dosas

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For nearly two decades, Thiru Kumar has been serving up some of the best dosas New York City has to offer, still attracting lines even during the pandemic. Kumar’s dosas — crepe-like creations made of rice and lentils — are particularly fluffy, compared to some of the crisper options in the city, and it’s nearly impossible to go wrong on the food cart’s tiny menu. The Pondicherry special, stuffed with spicy potatoes and fresh vegetables, is a surefire hit, but equally good are Kumar’s pancake-style uthappams and samosas. Closed Sundays.

A white paper plate placed on a wooden bench with a dosa on it, a green cilantro sauce, a samosa, and a red sauce in a plastic cup.
A dosa and samosa from NY Dosas.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Visions of white tablecloths and the “MP” catch of the day may come to mind at the mention of a small plates seafood restaurant in Greenwich Village. But at Dame, Patricia Howard and chef Ed Szymanski have worked to sidestep pretentious pitfalls and open an upscale seafood spot — rooted in Szymanski’s English background — that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Curlicues of squid are skewered and splashed in parsley oil, a humble cucumber salad dotted with meaty mussels was one of Eater critic Ryan Sutton’s favorite dishes of 2021, and the restaurant’s crispy fish and chips practically have their own fan club. Open Tuesday to Friday.

A colorful spread of dishes and cocktails laid out on a table
The fish and chips (right) among other dishes at Dame.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Taqueria Ramirez

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Blowtorched tripe or cactus with chicharron? Longaniza on its own or mixed with suadero? These aren’t the type of questions New Yorkers are used to asking themselves in north Brooklyn, especially not on a residential side street of Greenpoint, but standing at the counter of Taqueria Ramírez, their answers are obvious: Get one of everything. This small taqueria with an even smaller menu — six tacos, most days — opened last summer, becoming an immediate hit for its stewed meats plucked from a bubbling choricera. There are a handful of seats indoors, but if the weather allows, grab a spot at the standing counter out front.

A gloved hands hold a sieve of crumbly red meat over a vat of orange fat and oil, also filled with other meats
Suadero (left) and crumbly longaniza stew in a choricera.
Adam Friedlander/Eater NY

Cadence

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Chef Shenarri Freeman is leading the kitchen at Cadence — which recently relocated to 111 E. Seventh Street — with a vegan menu that puts her own twist on Black Southern cooking. Her version of Southern fried lasagna, stuffed with a meatless red wine Bolognese, caught the attention of the New York Times last summer, and her “crab” cakes made from hearts of palm are not to be missed. The Virginia native is offering creative, comforting flavors that are helping define a new era of vegan dining in New York.

Fried lasagna in a white bowl.
Cadence relocated earlier this year to a new location.
Eric Medsker/Overthrow Hospitality

Katz's Delicatessen

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Katz’s was founded in 1888, and evolved into the most revered Jewish deli in the world. Current decor might be called 1940s functional, with Formica tables in rows, fluorescent lights, and salamis hanging on the walls. Various forms of brisket destined for sandwiches are carved by hand at a series of stations, and your purchases are recorded on blue tickets that must be turned in at the cash register as you pay your check. The signature pastrami sandwich, glistening with fat, is beyond delicious. Wash the sandwiches down with a celery soda, and delight in being in this place time forgot.

A sandwich with meat spilling out in the foreground and pickles and coleslaw fuzzy in the background.
Katz’s epic pastrami comes with two kinds of pickles and pickled green tomatoes.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dhamaka

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Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya continue their streak of modern Indian hits with Dhamaka, named one of the 2021’s best new restaurants by Eater and a James Beard award winner for best chef in New York state. Located in Manhattan’s Essex Market food hall, the venue is dedicated to brilliant and often blazingly spicy regional dishes not frequently seen on local South Asian menus. Expect excellent preparations like ragda pattice, a potato patty with sweet tamarind chutney and green chile; gurda kapoora, a stew of goat kidneys and testicles meant for mopping up with soft pao bread; rich paneer methi, the farmer’s cheese enhanced by cashew cream; and goat neck biryani, whose incendiary heat levels might require one to eat pomegranate-topped yogurt to free the tongue from pain.

An overview shot of various Indian dishes in colorful plates at the restaurant Dhamaka.
Dhamaka pays tribute to rural and provincial Indian cooking.
Adam Friedlander/Eater NY

Bamonte's

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Bamonte’s is a monument to red sauce restaurants. Having opened in 1900, this low-slung dining room is framed by photos of people like the late James Gandolfini and the pope. You’ll be greeted by a tuxedo-clad server, who will retreat to pick up your orders in the windowed kitchen, where staff may cover their mouths when they talk to each other so you can’t read lips. Consider the pile of crispy calamari with marinara, the towering portion of linguine with chopped clams, the raft of lasagna, or the not-to-be-missed pork chop with hot and sweet vinegar peppers. After dinner, get the tiramisu paired with a digestivo, and an espresso for the road.

A pair of browned pork chops heaped with sweet and hot pickled peppers...
Pork chops with hot and sweet pickled peppers at Bamonte’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

While not strictly a restaurant, this Lower East Side bakery has more than earned its stay on this list of essential New York City food businesses, set apart from its competitors for its emphasis on quality sourcing. Mel, led by chef Nora Allen, offers a selection of bread loaves — such as its stunning tart cherry and cornmeal country loaf — made from artisanal grains that are milled on site. There’s always a handful of pastries on offer that range from pecan honey buns and pastrami-filled croissants to rye chocolate chip cookies and sugar plum danishes.

A savory danish with black and white sesame seeds and squash in the middle.
A danish speckled with black and white sesame seeds.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Wu's Wonton King

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This Cantonese favorite sits on a stretch of East Broadway that’s become known for its hip restaurants with small plates and natural wine where diners are surrounded by plants. But Wu’s Wonton King adheres to a different formula that’s more common in Chinatown: Glistening roast ducks line the front window and there’s often a crisp suckling pig ready to be carved for a table. Whether it’s a Lunar New Year gathering or a weekend lunch, Wu’s seems to cater to any occasion. The Dungeness crab is popular but orders of wonton noodle soup, congee, snow pea leaves, and a selection of barbecue — from ribs to steamed chicken — are also crowd favorites. BYOB.

A corner restaurant has brightly lit, block font signs saying Wu’s Wonton King.
Roast ducks glisten in the window of Wu’s Wonton King.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The Four Horsemen

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The wave of natural wine bar openings was just around the corner when LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy first opened the Four Horsemen in 2015. Today, the always-packed bar and dining room is still one of the best spots in town for good reason: It’s a place where diners can sip on a glass of fun pet-nat and find Michelin-worthy plates; it’s also a James Beard winner for outstanding wine program. It’s rare for a wine bar to hit a home run with both its drink and food menus, but this Williamsburg favorite strikes the right balance by creating a place where wine lovers, a see-and-be-seen fashion crowd, Francophiles, and restaurant enthusiasts can all sit elbow to elbow.

A spread of food and wine from the Four Horsemen
A spread of food and wine from the Four Horsemen.
The Four Horsemen

Golden Diner

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A Momofuku veteran is behind this cozy, comforting spot in Two Bridges, where a relaxed vibe belies a menu that’s punching way above a typical diner’s weight class. Egg sandwiches are made with a crisp, golden hash brown patty on a sesame scallion milk bun; a griddled tuna melt on rye is fortified with a layer of crunchy salt and vinegar chips, and quesadillas are stuffed with pastrami-spiced portobello mushrooms because why not? Round out any order with a generous square of green tea coffee cake.

The chicken katsu club on a plate at a table inside Golden Diner.
The chicken katsu club at Golden Diner.
Joyce Kim/Golden Diner

L'Industrie Pizzeria

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Massimo Laveglia’s naturally-leavened slice shop, which opened in 2017, underwent a major expansion last spring, debuting an indoor counter space and a serious outdoor dining area. The net result is that this neighborhood institution now boasts some of the comforts of a proper sit-down restaurant, except with a menu that pretty much remains pizza-only. But what pizza it is, with chewy crusts nearly as thin as matzo. Expect a selection of 10 or so slices, including a serious burrata slice, juxtaposing tart tomato sauce with cool, creamy dairy. Do not miss whatever soft-serve gelato is on tap for the day.

Slices with burrata, pepperoni, basil and other toppings from L’Industrie.
Slices with burrata, pepperoni, basil and other toppings from L’Industrie.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Aldama made waves early on as an ambitious — and impressive — addition to New York’s steadily evolving Mexican food scene. Come hungry on a Friday night, fight for a seat in the cozy, sunken-in space, and order up a parade of stylish plates: artfully composed tostadas topped with ribbons of pickled daikon and carrot, tacos heaped with flank steak and dollops of pineapple-serrano gel, and a smoky vegan mole that will stop the conversation when it lands on the table. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the dessert.

Black mole with chanterelles and black truffle sit on a ceramic plate
The black mole.
Gary He/Eater NY

Falansai

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Bushwick has emerged as one of Brooklyn’s premier dining destinations in recent years, a neighborhood where upcoming chefs can test inventive restaurant concepts at a fraction of the cost in rent. Anchoring the dining scene is Falansai, a Vietnamese restaurant that changed its owner — but not its name — amid the pandemic. Chef Eric Tran, an alum of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is now helming the kitchen, and his Vietnamese cooking is inflected with distinct American and Mexican touches, like avocados stuffed into spring rolls and rice cracker paired with chicken liver brulee.

A spread of dishes at Falansai, including chicken skewers, a fish head, a beef spring roll, and assorted condiments.
A spread of dishes at Falansai.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Restaurateur Jeff Katz and chef James Kent joined forces to open this tasting menu sequel to Crown Shy, located on the 63rd floor of the Art Deco 70 Pine building. The $245 menu normally begins with pre-dinner cocktails on a terrace with panoramic nighttime views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Then you move inside for a modern European meal with occasional Japanese, Latin American, and North African influences. Expect dishes like fluke six ways (including as ceviche, rolled into a shiso leaf, or bruleed as a tiny chop), egg custard with caviar, and a large format duck with harissa aioli and m’smen flatbread. Head further upstairs afterward for more cocktails (and views) at Overstory.

Assorted fluke preparations, in green shiso wrappers, in scallop shells, and in pastry shells, sit on a two-tiered platter
Assorted fluke preparations at SAGA.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Bunna Cafe

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Bunna Cafe doubles as one of NYC’s best vegan and Ethiopian restaurants. Started as a pop-up by owners Sam Saverance and Liyuw Ayalew in 2011, the Bushwick restaurant has become known for its warm welcoming vibes. Diners chat over shared plates of lentil and vegetable preparations served atop injera, a thin and savory fermented flatbread. Don’t skip the Ethiopian coffee and the selection of cocktails here, either.

Bunna Cafe
Injera with plenty of veggies.
Bunna

Al Badawi

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Al Badawi opened last November, a follow-up to its Palestinian restaurant sibling Ayat, which opened to critical acclaim the year prior. For his new venture, Abdul Elenani teamed up with Yemen Café owner Akram Nassir. The menus at both spots overlap in many instances, but Al Badawi’s kitchen and seat count, in general, is much more sprawling, allowing the Brooklyn Heights venture to be more ambitious. The menu includes meze platters, kebabs, rice platters like the ouzi beef, and several flatbreads like a pistachio-and-cheese version. Ingredients, where possible, are sourced directly from Palestinian farmers but Elenani also has his own farm in New Jersey, where he produces halal lamb and beef for his menu.

Three flatbreads with various meats are presented on metal round platters.
A shawarma flatbread at Al Badawi.
Adam Friedlander/Eater NY

A&A Bake Doubles and Roti

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There’s often a line snaking toward the door at this Bed-Stuy institution, where customers are lured in by the spicy-and-sweet smell of fried doubles. The traditional Trinidadian breakfast food — which is perfect any time of the day, really — features a fluffy fried flatbread brimming with curried chickpeas. The owners, Noel and Geeta Brown, opened their shop in 2002 and won a James Beard Award in 2019 — a nod to the Trini specialties and the neighborhood’s rich Caribbean history.

A close-up shot of a hand holding doubles.
Fried stuffed doubles from A&A Bake Doubles and Roti.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Peppa's

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Some of the city’s best jerk chicken can be found in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at takeout spot Peppa’s Jerk Chicken. Owner Gavin Hussey has perfected his own recipe over the last two decades and started slinging the perfectly spiced, perfectly charred bird at Peppa’s on Flatbush Avenue in 2004. Be sure to add a few fried festivals to an order, and ask for an extra side of oxtail gravy. Peppa’s has additional locations in Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, and the Lower East Side.

Many cuts of jerk chicken laid on the grill with flames shooting up and a hand squeezing sauce over top of the chicken.
Peppa’s flame-licked jerk chicken.
Louise Palmberg/Eater NY

Chuan Tian Xia

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When it comes to Sichuan fare, family-owned Chuan Tian Xia in Sunset Park is a master at the form. The colorful, upbeat restaurant plays with heat and spice levels to deliver dishes that go beyond the mouth-numbing and make for lasting, entertaining meals. It’s hard to go wrong on the menu: The zingy griddled cauliflower morphs the sleepy vegetable into a rich, formidable star; delicate whole tilapia and grouper wrapped in parchment paper come apart in a savory, scented cloud at the table; and don’t miss the impressively thick and creamy salted egg yolk tofu.

Cauliflower with green stems in a wok.
Chuan Tian Xia’s griddled cauliflower.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Coszcal De Allende

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This Mexican restaurant in Bay Ridge successfully channels the vibe of San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Guanajuato, Mexico, famous for being a center of arts and culture. The menu includes the town’s signature enchiladas de Allende, stuffed with cheese and smothered in more cheese. Other dishes worth ordering include the sopa de panza, a tripe soup renowned as a hangover remedy. With its carved wood folk motifs, the decor makes you feel like you’re in a northern Mexican mountain village.

An overhead shot of a brick red soup with swatches of tripe.
Sopa de panza from Coszcal De Allende.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Kashkar Cafe

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This BYOB Brighton Beach staple remains one of the city’s finest restaurants for top-notch, affordable Central Asian fare. Kashkar in particular is a halal Uzbek Uyghur restaurant, though the venue’s name refers to the city in China’s Xinjiang Province, where the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs face continued persecution — and possibly genocide. At Kashkar Cafe, menu highlights include a tart, Korean Uzbek-style carrot salad; stretchy lagman noodles in a spiced, vegetable-laced meat broth; and samsa, flaky pastries filled with lamb.

Lamb and peppers sit in a pool of sauce next to steamed dough on a white plate over a patterned tablecloth.
A dish of lamb and steamed dough at Kashkar Cafe.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Killmeyer's

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This rambling frame house with views of the Arthur Kill channel and New Jersey was founded in 1859 as an inn, making it Staten Island’s oldest tavern. Now Killmeyer’s is one of the city’s best German beer halls, with an antique carved wooden bar that you’ll never tire of looking at, and a dining room filled with stuffed animal trophies. The tap beer selection is unparalleled and the menu is a predictable selection of wursts, hot pretzels, schnitzels, and other pleasing meat-and-potatoes fare. If you don’t live nearby, finding out how to get to this location is the only challenge.

A white plate with mashed potatoes, several sausages, and a smaller plate with red cabbage.
A plate of sausages and mashed potatoes at Killmeyer’s in Staten Island.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Kingston Tropical Bakery

A person enters the front door of Kingston Tropical Bakery, a Jamaican bakery in the Bronx.
Outside Kingston Tropical Bakery in Wakefield.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Some of the city’s best Caribbean baked goods are found at this Bronx bakery steps from the end of the 2 subway line. Kingston Tropical has been at it since 1970, the yellow awning above its doorway proclaims, and indeed, this bakery has been making its patties using roughly the same mix of thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, and ground beef for the last half-century. Other Caribbean food businesses have since joined it in the neighborhood — Paul’s Caribbean Bakery, a half mile up White Plains Road, and Champion Bakery, a block over — but demand for these smooth, crescent-shaped patties is enough that it’s not uncommon for all three businesses to draw a crowd. While there, be sure to try the restaurant’s meatloaf, chunks of stewed, pleasantly funky beef tucked into a fluffy piece of coco bread.

A person enters the front door of Kingston Tropical Bakery, a Jamaican bakery in the Bronx.
Outside Kingston Tropical Bakery in Wakefield.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Africa Kine

A plate of stuffed fish and vegetables over red joloff rice at Africa Kine.
The thiebu djen at Africa Kine.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Africa Kine has been open in NYC since 1996, run in various locations by founders Kine and Samba Niang, who grew up in Dakar. It moved north a few years ago into a more compact space, with a menu paradoxically larger than the original. Included are such Senegalese mainstays as thiebu djen (stuffed fish and vegetables over joloff rice), mafe (lamb or chicken in a peanut sauce), and yassa (chicken or fish in a lemon and onion confit), mainly available at lunchtime. At dinner, expect shrimp skewers, grilled leg of lamb, fish balls in tomato sauce, and baked fish.

A plate of stuffed fish and vegetables over red joloff rice at Africa Kine.
The thiebu djen at Africa Kine.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hudson Smokehouse

Thickly stacked barbecued brisket overflows from a small bun.
Hudson Smokehouse’s brisket sandwich.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven is exploding with restaurants lately, and one of the most remarkable is Hudson Smokehouse. It’s remarkable not only because of the range of barbecue styles on its playful menu but also because of its dedication to extensively smoking the meat using lots of wood. The brisket is a case in point, but so are the spare ribs, chorizo, and pork belly burnt ends. The premises doubles as a spacious beer garden featuring local brews, with indoor and outdoor areas.