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Balthazar’s grand dining room with a mirror in the back and gold lighting.
Balthazar’s grand dining room.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

14 Tourist Trap Restaurants in NYC That Are Actually Good

Worth the time for visitors and locals

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Balthazar’s grand dining room.
| Nick Solares/Eater NY

Folks traveling to New York often want to live like a local for a few days, visiting the restaurants and bars where they can just blend in and avoid anything too touristy. But plenty of places across the boroughs blur the line between tourist trap and local safe haven.

The places on this map fill up regularly during primetime with tourists, but locals in the know will sneak in, too. Here now, a list of some of the biggest tourist destinations in New York that are worth a visit. Consider them the next time family or friends come to visit.

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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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
If you book a reservation through an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Arthur Avenue Retail Market

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This food hall and retail market has been open in the Bronx’s Little Italy since 1940, focused on classic Italian-American goods. Food runs from fresh mozzarella to overstuffed heroes, but Eater critic Robert Sietsema most highly recommends eating at charming Sicilian counter Café al Mercato for some focaccia sandwiches, tripe soup, baked pastas, and other hot entrees. Beyond food, find freshly rolled cigars, tons of dried pasta, craft beer, and even gardening supplies. To make the stop a full tour of the neighborhood, follow Sietsema’s walking guide.

An indoor retail market with lots of food on display and customers sitting at wooden benches.
Arthur Avenue’s bustling food hall and retail market.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Sylvia's

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Open since 1962, Sylvia’s is a Harlem tradition — an essential restaurant, period, for classics like ribs, cornbread, fried chicken, and collards. What started as a luncheonette has expanded to over 200 seats with catering and remains a go-to for politicians and celebrities. Since founder Sylvia Woods died in 2012, the family has been running the business.

The packed, red-walled dining room of Sylvia’s with chairs and tables covered in white tablecloths.
Sylvia’s is a Harlem tradition.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Gray's Papaya

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The dogs at Gray’s, on the Upper West Side and open 24/7, have been widely loved for decades, particularly as a popular drunken stop for locals. With its Recession Special still going strong — two franks and a medium drink for $6.95 — it’s little wonder why.

The Gray’s Papaya sign shines in its bright yellow color while patrons inside order hot dogs.
A Gray’s Papaya dog alone is worth an NYC trip.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Magnolia Bakery

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Magnolia has a reputation for cupcakes after Sex and the City made it famous. But that’s the rookie move — instead, go for the decadent banana pudding or an airy icebox cake.

The Halal Guys

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Lines snake down the block constantly at this chicken and rice phenom. Its flagship cart sits on West 53rd Street off Sixth Avenue, prime location for tourists going to the Museum of Modern Art and the Midtown lunch crowd. Get the combo platter, and get the sauces.

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

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This oyster bar has reigned inside Grand Central’s subterranean space since 1913, and it welcomes commuters just as much as tourists daily. The smart move is to sit at the bar with a plate of raw oysters during the late lunch hour. Order the love-it-or-hate-it oyster pan roast, and decide which side to choose.

A long underground bar with backed bar stools is set up under an arching tunneled ceiling with yellow glowing lights.
Slurp oysters under the glowing arches.
Grand Central Oyster Bar

Chelsea Market

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An anchor of West Chelsea for more than 20 years, Chelsea Market is one of the city’s best food courts. It’s always a mob scene and it’s hard to find seating. But it’s a market that locals actually use, for both its stellar restaurant vendors — Ayada, Los Tacos No. 1, and Miznon rise above — and market stands.

Diners sit at a crowded counter enjoying Lobster Place’s raw bar.
Diners line up at the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

John's of 12th Street

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This red-sauce spot opened in 1908 and remains a restaurant from another era that we’re happy to revisit in real life and on TV (by way of “the Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire). This onetime speakeasy made wine and booze in the basement and today pays homage to Italian American items like pasta fagioli, clams oreganata, chicken parm, or spaghetti and meatballs. It’s also a super vegan friendly menu.

Veniero's Pastry

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This Italian pastry shop has been going strong since 1894, where cannoli, tiramisu, sfogliatelle, and gelato are all required orders. Devotees of the bakery know to grab a table under the stained glass ceiling just before Veniero’s closes (midnight during the week, and 1 a.m. on weekends).

Dozens of assorted fruit tarts sit in a display case at Veniero’s in the East Village.
You can’t go wrong with ordering one of everything at Veniero’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dominique Ansel Bakery

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Ever heard of a little pastry called the Cronut? Suckers line up at 6 a.m. for the croissant-doughnut hybrid that took the world by storm — but locals know to go later in the day for pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s stellar kouign amann, frozen s’mores, or any of the other pastries in the case, really.

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel stands behind a counter while customers watch him assemble a dessert.
Dominique Ansel in his element.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Balthazar

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This behemoth French brasserie from restaurateur Keith McNally has had a huge influence on the NYC dining scene. Its red leather banquettes, soft lighting, and bistro fare keep it serving one million meals every year. Rather than sit down for a full meal, head to the bar for some steak tartare and frites, wash it down with Champagne, and drink in the Balthazar experience.

A black and white photo of a server moving through a crowded dining room.
Balthazar is always a scene.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Russ & Daughters

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Four generations of family ownership and over one hundred years of business give this place a certain sense of gravitas, but it’s the quality that keeps people coming back. Consider the Classic, a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon (maybe with tomato, capers, and onion, too). Take a peek behind the long counter as staff assembles your order. And if you want to try and pass for a local, don’t order your bagel toasted.

Pieces of salmon jut out of a bagel sandwich sliced in half, that’s placed on a white cermaic plate. A sign for Russ & Daughters hangs in the background.
The bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Bess Adler/Eater NY

Katz's Delicatessen

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Few sandwiches are as famous as a pastrami from Katz’s, and perhaps none have had quite the Hollywood treatment. Sure, it fills up to the brim in here daily, but New Yorkers know to file in near closing time, 11 p.m. most weekdays, midnight on Friday, or any time of night on Saturday (the only night it’s open 24 hours). Katz’s also serves one of the city’s best hot dogs, properly topped with sauerkraut and mustard.

The exterior of a lit-up Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Nathan's Famous

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It’s a fact that the dogs served at the original Nathan’s are superior to any from its many franchise locations. They are also better than many of the other hot dogs found in New York. Go on any day that isn’t the Fourth of July.

Customers wait in a line that wraps around the corner of the colorful Nathan’s Famous restaurant in Coney Island.
A line wraps around the corner of Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Arthur Avenue Retail Market

An indoor retail market with lots of food on display and customers sitting at wooden benches.
Arthur Avenue’s bustling food hall and retail market.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

This food hall and retail market has been open in the Bronx’s Little Italy since 1940, focused on classic Italian-American goods. Food runs from fresh mozzarella to overstuffed heroes, but Eater critic Robert Sietsema most highly recommends eating at charming Sicilian counter Café al Mercato for some focaccia sandwiches, tripe soup, baked pastas, and other hot entrees. Beyond food, find freshly rolled cigars, tons of dried pasta, craft beer, and even gardening supplies. To make the stop a full tour of the neighborhood, follow Sietsema’s walking guide.

An indoor retail market with lots of food on display and customers sitting at wooden benches.
Arthur Avenue’s bustling food hall and retail market.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

Sylvia's

The packed, red-walled dining room of Sylvia’s with chairs and tables covered in white tablecloths.
Sylvia’s is a Harlem tradition.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Open since 1962, Sylvia’s is a Harlem tradition — an essential restaurant, period, for classics like ribs, cornbread, fried chicken, and collards. What started as a luncheonette has expanded to over 200 seats with catering and remains a go-to for politicians and celebrities. Since founder Sylvia Woods died in 2012, the family has been running the business.

The packed, red-walled dining room of Sylvia’s with chairs and tables covered in white tablecloths.
Sylvia’s is a Harlem tradition.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Gray's Papaya

The Gray’s Papaya sign shines in its bright yellow color while patrons inside order hot dogs.
A Gray’s Papaya dog alone is worth an NYC trip.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

The dogs at Gray’s, on the Upper West Side and open 24/7, have been widely loved for decades, particularly as a popular drunken stop for locals. With its Recession Special still going strong — two franks and a medium drink for $6.95 — it’s little wonder why.

The Gray’s Papaya sign shines in its bright yellow color while patrons inside order hot dogs.
A Gray’s Papaya dog alone is worth an NYC trip.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia has a reputation for cupcakes after Sex and the City made it famous. But that’s the rookie move — instead, go for the decadent banana pudding or an airy icebox cake.

The Halal Guys

Lines snake down the block constantly at this chicken and rice phenom. Its flagship cart sits on West 53rd Street off Sixth Avenue, prime location for tourists going to the Museum of Modern Art and the Midtown lunch crowd. Get the combo platter, and get the sauces.

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

A long underground bar with backed bar stools is set up under an arching tunneled ceiling with yellow glowing lights.
Slurp oysters under the glowing arches.
Grand Central Oyster Bar

This oyster bar has reigned inside Grand Central’s subterranean space since 1913, and it welcomes commuters just as much as tourists daily. The smart move is to sit at the bar with a plate of raw oysters during the late lunch hour. Order the love-it-or-hate-it oyster pan roast, and decide which side to choose.

A long underground bar with backed bar stools is set up under an arching tunneled ceiling with yellow glowing lights.
Slurp oysters under the glowing arches.
Grand Central Oyster Bar

Chelsea Market

Diners sit at a crowded counter enjoying Lobster Place’s raw bar.
Diners line up at the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

An anchor of West Chelsea for more than 20 years, Chelsea Market is one of the city’s best food courts. It’s always a mob scene and it’s hard to find seating. But it’s a market that locals actually use, for both its stellar restaurant vendors — Ayada, Los Tacos No. 1, and Miznon rise above — and market stands.

Diners sit at a crowded counter enjoying Lobster Place’s raw bar.
Diners line up at the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

John's of 12th Street

This red-sauce spot opened in 1908 and remains a restaurant from another era that we’re happy to revisit in real life and on TV (by way of “the Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire). This onetime speakeasy made wine and booze in the basement and today pays homage to Italian American items like pasta fagioli, clams oreganata, chicken parm, or spaghetti and meatballs. It’s also a super vegan friendly menu.

Veniero's Pastry

Dozens of assorted fruit tarts sit in a display case at Veniero’s in the East Village.
You can’t go wrong with ordering one of everything at Veniero’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This Italian pastry shop has been going strong since 1894, where cannoli, tiramisu, sfogliatelle, and gelato are all required orders. Devotees of the bakery know to grab a table under the stained glass ceiling just before Veniero’s closes (midnight during the week, and 1 a.m. on weekends).

Dozens of assorted fruit tarts sit in a display case at Veniero’s in the East Village.
You can’t go wrong with ordering one of everything at Veniero’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel stands behind a counter while customers watch him assemble a dessert.
Dominique Ansel in his element.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Ever heard of a little pastry called the Cronut? Suckers line up at 6 a.m. for the croissant-doughnut hybrid that took the world by storm — but locals know to go later in the day for pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s stellar kouign amann, frozen s’mores, or any of the other pastries in the case, really.

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel stands behind a counter while customers watch him assemble a dessert.
Dominique Ansel in his element.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Balthazar

A black and white photo of a server moving through a crowded dining room.
Balthazar is always a scene.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

This behemoth French brasserie from restaurateur Keith McNally has had a huge influence on the NYC dining scene. Its red leather banquettes, soft lighting, and bistro fare keep it serving one million meals every year. Rather than sit down for a full meal, head to the bar for some steak tartare and frites, wash it down with Champagne, and drink in the Balthazar experience.

A black and white photo of a server moving through a crowded dining room.
Balthazar is always a scene.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Russ & Daughters

Pieces of salmon jut out of a bagel sandwich sliced in half, that’s placed on a white cermaic plate. A sign for Russ & Daughters hangs in the background.
The bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Bess Adler/Eater NY

Four generations of family ownership and over one hundred years of business give this place a certain sense of gravitas, but it’s the quality that keeps people coming back. Consider the Classic, a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon (maybe with tomato, capers, and onion, too). Take a peek behind the long counter as staff assembles your order. And if you want to try and pass for a local, don’t order your bagel toasted.

Pieces of salmon jut out of a bagel sandwich sliced in half, that’s placed on a white cermaic plate. A sign for Russ & Daughters hangs in the background.
The bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Bess Adler/Eater NY

Katz's Delicatessen

The exterior of a lit-up Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Few sandwiches are as famous as a pastrami from Katz’s, and perhaps none have had quite the Hollywood treatment. Sure, it fills up to the brim in here daily, but New Yorkers know to file in near closing time, 11 p.m. most weekdays, midnight on Friday, or any time of night on Saturday (the only night it’s open 24 hours). Katz’s also serves one of the city’s best hot dogs, properly topped with sauerkraut and mustard.

The exterior of a lit-up Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Katz’s Delicatessen at night.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Nathan's Famous

Customers wait in a line that wraps around the corner of the colorful Nathan’s Famous restaurant in Coney Island.
A line wraps around the corner of Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

It’s a fact that the dogs served at the original Nathan’s are superior to any from its many franchise locations. They are also better than many of the other hot dogs found in New York. Go on any day that isn’t the Fourth of July.

Customers wait in a line that wraps around the corner of the colorful Nathan’s Famous restaurant in Coney Island.
A line wraps around the corner of Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

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