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A salad of sliced tripe and spleen with an orange and a buff bowl of dipping sauce.
A dish at Zaab Zaab.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The 38 Essential Restaurants in New York City

From an Elmhurst Thai newcomer to a decades-old Chinatown noodle favorite, here’s where to eat in NYC right now

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A dish at Zaab Zaab.
| Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

It’s the simplest and most difficult question to answer, whether it’s coming from a lifelong New Yorker or a first-time visitor: “Where should I eat in New York City?” The type of food, price point, neighborhood, and occasion are just a few factors to consider. Luckily, there are countless options in the five boroughs — and on Eater’s map of 38 essential restaurants, which is updated quarterly. This curated list of venues includes a food truck, taquerias, a slice shop, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, and a handful of exceptionally strong city standbys. We’ve also added newly eligible restaurants — Eater 38 venues have to be open for six months, or thereabouts, before they merit inclusion — that capture the diversity of the city’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 October 2022: Great NY Noodletown, Hometown Barbecue, I Sodi, La Vara, New World Mall, Semma, Veselka, Zaab Zaab, and Marea

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.

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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

Malecon

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This restaurant with an elegant ambiance named for a Havana corniche is an anchor of the Washington Heights neighborhood known as Little Dominican Republic. Its menu offers all the Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican mainstays, including paprika-rubbed rotisserie chickens, garlicky pernil, peerless Cuban sandwiches, and other sandwiches turned out in the warm embrace of the sandwich press, savory scoops of mofongo, and steaming bowls of asopao, along with snacks that include empanadas and cuchifritos.

A storefront with orange lettering up high.
Washington Heights’ Malecon.
Robert Sietsema/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

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

The tough news is that this tony Central Park South hangout serves some of the city’s priciest bowls of pasta at $42 a pop. The better news is that those pastas are as good as ever under the direction of longtime chef Lauren DeSteno. Try to find a seat at the packed bar and order a selection of crudi, including bass with caviar with mussel vinaigrette, as well as sweet Pacific langoustine. Then cobble together an ad hoc tasting menu out of cheaper half portions of pasta — perhaps firm gnocchetti with shrimp and rosemary oil or majestic fusilli paired with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow.

Ridged, oblong gnocchetti sit in a white bowl with a pink-ish tomato sauce
Gnocchetti with shrimp at Marea.
Marea

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

New World Mall

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There is absolutely no way to eat your way through all of the restaurants in Flushing in one day. But if you’re looking for a taste of the neighborhood, some of Queens’s best eats can be found at the basement-level New World Mall food court, which, when it opened nearly a decade ago, set out to be the biggest Asian indoor mall in the northeast. With 32 food vendors — that specialize in everything from hand-cut noodles to dumplings and soups — it’s a fun spot to mix and match and get a little taste of everything.

A hand holds a noodle with chopsticks over a to-go bowl.
New World Mall is home to many food stalls.
Serena Dai/Eater NY

Golden Palace Gourmet

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The provinces in China’s extreme northeast are 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. There’s no wonder that Bhanchha Ghar has won the Jackson Heights Momo Crawl multiple years in a row.

Zaab Zaab

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Elmhurst — not Hell’s Kitchen or the East Village — remains the epicenter of Thai eats for the entire city, and Zaab Zaab (“spicy tasty”) represents some of the latest innovations. The small and colorful spot offers a catalog of organ meats on its mainly Isan menu, so that the duck larb is dotted with bits of liver and crisp skin. Chef Aniwat Khotsopa hails from the Isan capital of Udon Thani, so fish and other creatures found in the bordering Mekong River, as well as a wealth of herbs also play an important part in the menu.

A white plate with a dark ground duck salad and lots of greenery and herbs on top and on the side.
Duck larb at Zaab Zaab.
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.

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 rare enough as is in New York, but the Oropeza brothers achieved an even unlikelier feat during the pandemic: They turned their fast-casual sandwich and salteña spot and 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.

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

Semma is quite simply one of the best Indian restaurants in town and just snagged a Michelin star. Surfing the wave of southern Indian regional cuisines, it offers food from chef Vijay Kumar’s home state of Tamil Nadu, then traipses to other southern states like Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh. Try the gunpowder dosa shaped like a triangle, lobster tail in a creamy gravy, goat intestines littered with fried curry leaves like his mother used to make, and huukkosu — a savory arc of cauliflower fritters served with a scoop of coconut chutney. Cocktails also incorporate South Asian flavors.

A lobster tail sits in a thick gravy on top of its own removed shell.
Lobster tail in coconut gravy.
Robert Sietsema/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 around $270 before tax and tip. Supplemental add-ons include spicy trout hand rolls, charcoal-seared tuna belly, and caviar hand rolls.

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

Rita Sodi’s Italian menu of simple dishes done well has won over a legion of loyalists since it opened in 2008. It’s still hard to get in, but keep trying: It’s worth it for a classic New York experience, with crammed-together tables in a cozy room with perfect lighting and terrific Tuscan fare. Look out for dishes like fava beans with pecorino; radishes dressed with basil, mint, and scallions; and ravioli with butter, sage, and parmesan. Save room for the pan-fried pork chop served with a side of lemon.

Customers and waiters crowd into the dining room of an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, I Sodi.
The dining room at I Sodi.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Yellow Rose

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One of the most consistent dinner recommendations from Eater New York staffers is this restaurant devoted to the Lone Star State. With its playful interior, 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 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 almost two decades, Thiru Kumar has been serving up some of the best dosas New York has to offer from this Washington Square Park food cart. His 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 tiny menu. The Pondicherry special, stuffed with spicy potatoes and fresh vegetables, is a surefire hit, but equally good are the pancake-style uttapams 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

Veselka

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Veselka has been synonymous with essential New York dining since opening in the 1950s for its pierogies, borscht, and blintzes — especially a favorite amongst the late-night crowd. Over the years, its popularity has only increased, especially as it became the set for several movies. During the pandemic, Veselka began to cut its hours, and no longer operates 24 hours a day. But it’s also entered a new era as a community hub of sorts, acting as a “rallying point” for Ukraine during the Russian invasion. More diners than ever are flocking to support. 

Entrance of Veselka Ukrainian Restaurant with large Ukrainian flag in window, Second Avenue, New York City
Veselka has been operating in the East Village for close to 70 years.
Joan Slatkin/Getty Images

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 in north Brooklyn, especially not on a residential side street of Greenpoint, but standing at the counter of Taqueria Ramírez, their answers are obvious: We’ll take it all. This small taqueria with an even smaller menu — six tacos, most days — opened in 2021, becoming an immediate hit for its stewed meats plucked from a bubbling choricera. There are a handful of seats indoors, but most people spill out onto the sidewalk 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

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, or 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.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Great NY Noodletown

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After a six-month hiatus, in which the place was remodeled but still looks the same, this classic Chinatown noodle shop remains the best place to find a historic Cantonese American menu. Thrill to its perfect wonton soup, each diaphanous dumpling crammed with shrimp, or its selection of barbecued items that beckon from the window, served over rice. The higher-end stuff featuring lobster, soft-shell crab, and whole fish is fab, too, but it’s the more plebian stuff that the customers rush in for.

Three meats with green sauce on top heaped on rice.
Barbecue meats over rice with ginger-scallion relish.
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. 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 birthday with a dozen friends, Wu’s massive family-style portions cater to any occasion. The Dungeness crab is a popular order, but it wouldn’t be right to leave here without trying the wonton noodle soup, fried eel, pea shoots, or various barbecued meats. 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 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: Diners can sip on a glass of fun pet-nat and find Michelin-worthy small plates that lean expensive but are perfect for a celebratory night out. 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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An alum of Momofuku Ko is behind this comforting Two Bridges restaurant, where breakfast for dinner is the star and it’s possible to walk in most nights without a reservation. Egg sandwiches are made with a crisp, golden hash brown patty on a sesame scallion milk bun; the griddled tuna melt on rye is fortified with a layer of crunchy salt and vinegar chips, and the simple cheeseburger is still one of the best in the city. Round out any order with a generous square of green tea coffee cake or a can of Modelo beer.

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

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

La Vara

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Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s ode to the Sephardic and Moorish traditions of Spain remains one of the city’s top Iberian spots. The intimate Cobble Hill restaurant serves creamy ajo blanco with squid and saffron pil pil, swordfish belly with smoky eggplant, slow-roast suckling pig with tximitxurri, and scores of other fragrant dishes. Pair it all with one of six sherries by the glass.

Chef Alex Raij stands in front of La Vara in a white-and-black-striped search with her hand on her hip
Chef Alex Raij.
Daniel Krieger/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

Hometown Bar-B-Que

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Looking for the best barbecue in New York City? Hometown is it. The beef pastrami is pink-rimmed and piled high, and the brisket — ask for it “fatty” when given the choice — is second to none. The menu at this Red Hook barbecue joint leans Texas style, but don’t rule out some of the non-Texas items like Vietnamese hot wings, jerk rib tips, and Oaxacan chicken: They’re some of the best items on the menu, and part of the reason there’s always a line here. Walk-in only.

Black and pink rimmed beef brisket piled high on a sesame seed dotted roll, with green pickles tumbled on the side.
Pastrami’s piled high at Hometown Bar-B-Que.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Peppa's

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