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

17 Tourist Trap Restaurants in NYC That Are Actually Good

Worth the time for visitors and locals

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Balthazar
| Nick Solares/Eater

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.

Note: This is an updated version of a map originally published in 2017.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Arthur Avenue Retail Market

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2344 Arthur Ave
The Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 220-0346
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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.

2. Levain Bakery

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2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10026
(646) 455-0952
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These massive cookies might give non-New Yorkers sticker shock — they’re $4 each — but many locals say the money is well worth it. Cookies come in four flavors (chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip), and the fist-sized treats are gooey and addictive. Pro-tip: They freeze very well and make for outstanding gifts. There are also locations on West 74th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and new outposts are planned for Noho and the Upper East Side.

3. Gray's Papaya

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2090 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
(212) 799-0243
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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 Nick Solares/Eater

4. Magnolia Bakery

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200 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023
(212) 724-8101
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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 airy icebox cake.

5. Burger Joint

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119 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-7414
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Tourists love stumbling upon Burger Joint, a very casual restaurant that is exactly what its name says, hidden behind a curtain in the ritzy Parker New York hotel. But locals know that the burger is actually worth it, despite becoming an international chain since opening in this space in 2002.

Burger Joint Nick Solares/Eater

6. The Halal Guys

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W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(347) 527-1505
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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.

The halal guys The Halal Guys [Official Photo]

7. Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

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89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017
(212) 490-6650
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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. Grand Central Oyster Bar [Official Photo]

8. Chelsea Market

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75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 652-2110
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Now 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 — Very Fresh Noodles, Los Tacos No. 1, and Miznon rise above — and market stands.

Chelsea Market Stefanie Tuder/Eater

9. Shake Shack

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Madison Ave & E.23rd St
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600
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The burger that has swept America was born right here in Madison Square Park, where what started as a stand is now a smooth operation that draws long lines nightly. It moves quickly, though, and all is well once a Shackburger, cheese fries, and shake is in hand underneath twinkling string lights.

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park Nick Solares/Eater

10. Veniero's Pastry

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342 E 11th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-7070
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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).

Don’t worry. We’ll be here to make sure you get all of your favorite #thanksgiving desserts. Here’s our Holiday...

Posted by Veniero's on Tuesday, November 20, 2018

11. Dominique Ansel Bakery

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189 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-2773
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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.

Dominique Ansel Nick Solares/Eater

12. Balthazar

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80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-1414
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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 just-enough-above-average food 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.

13. Katz's Delicatessen

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205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246
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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 or on Saturday nights, when it’s open all night. Katz’s also serves one of the city’s best hot dogs, properly topped with sauerkraut and mustard.

14. Peter Luger Steak House

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178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-7400
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Peter Luger is likely the most quintessential version of a classic New York steakhouse — and the best known beyond NYC. The temple to meat, open since 1887, lives up to its reputation with a supremely beefy porterhouse, a simple burger, and inch-thick bacon slabs.

The Peter Luger porterhouse, cooked medium rare and displayed on a white plate Nick Solares/Eater

15. Grimaldi's Pizza

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1 Front St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 858-4300
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Grimaldi’s boasts one of the longest waits in New York, troubling since the city is filled with far better pizzas and it’s now owned by an Arizona chain. But it’s a no-brainer stop for tourists visiting the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge, and it does in fact serve a very fine pie. If the line is just too long, try Juliana's on the same block from the founder of Grimaldi’s.

A pizza with mozzarella and red sauce sits on top of a red-checkered tablecloth, with glasses of wine. Grimaldi’s [Official Photo]

16. Junior's Restaurant and Bakery

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386 Flatbush Ave Ext
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 852-5257
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Not only is Junior’s a must-visit for politicians, the hard-to-miss Flatbush Avenue staple is serving a cheesecake that can’t be missed. Get the steak fries to start.

Junior’s Junior’s [Official Photo]

17. Nathan's Famous

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1310 Surf Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 333-2202
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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 Nick Solares/Eater

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1. Arthur Avenue Retail Market

2344 Arthur Ave, The Bronx, NY 10458

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.

2344 Arthur Ave
The Bronx, NY 10458

2. Levain Bakery

2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

These massive cookies might give non-New Yorkers sticker shock — they’re $4 each — but many locals say the money is well worth it. Cookies come in four flavors (chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip), and the fist-sized treats are gooey and addictive. Pro-tip: They freeze very well and make for outstanding gifts. There are also locations on West 74th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and new outposts are planned for Noho and the Upper East Side.

2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10026

3. Gray's Papaya

2090 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
The Gray’s Papaya sign shines in its bright yellow color while patrons inside order hot dogs Nick Solares/Eater

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.

2090 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

4. Magnolia Bakery

200 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023

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 airy icebox cake.

200 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023

5. Burger Joint

119 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
Burger Joint Nick Solares/Eater

Tourists love stumbling upon Burger Joint, a very casual restaurant that is exactly what its name says, hidden behind a curtain in the ritzy Parker New York hotel. But locals know that the burger is actually worth it, despite becoming an international chain since opening in this space in 2002.

119 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019

6. The Halal Guys

W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
The halal guys The Halal Guys [Official Photo]

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.

W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

7. Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
A long underground bar with backed bar stools is set up under an arching tunneled ceiling with yellow glowing lights. Grand Central Oyster Bar [Official Photo]

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.

89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017

8. Chelsea Market

75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Chelsea Market Stefanie Tuder/Eater

Now 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 — Very Fresh Noodles, Los Tacos No. 1, and Miznon rise above — and market stands.

75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011

9. Shake Shack

Madison Ave & E.23rd St, New York, NY 10010
Shake Shack in Madison Square Park Nick Solares/Eater

The burger that has swept America was born right here in Madison Square Park, where what started as a stand is now a smooth operation that draws long lines nightly. It moves quickly, though, and all is well once a Shackburger, cheese fries, and shake is in hand underneath twinkling string lights.

Madison Ave & E.23rd St
New York, NY 10010

10. Veniero's Pastry

342 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

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).

342 E 11th St
New York, NY 10003

11. Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
Dominique Ansel Nick Solares/Eater

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.

189 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

12. Balthazar

80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

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 just-enough-above-average food 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.

80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

13. Katz's Delicatessen

205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

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 or on Saturday nights, when it’s open all night. Katz’s also serves one of the city’s best hot dogs, properly topped with sauerkraut and mustard.

205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002

14. Peter Luger Steak House

178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
The Peter Luger porterhouse, cooked medium rare and displayed on a white plate Nick Solares/Eater

Peter Luger is likely the most quintessential version of a classic New York steakhouse — and the best known beyond NYC. The temple to meat, open since 1887, lives up to its reputation with a supremely beefy porterhouse, a simple burger, and inch-thick bacon slabs.

178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

15. Grimaldi's Pizza

1 Front St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
A pizza with mozzarella and red sauce sits on top of a red-checkered tablecloth, with glasses of wine. Grimaldi’s [Official Photo]

Grimaldi’s boasts one of the longest waits in New York, troubling since the city is filled with far better pizzas and it’s now owned by an Arizona chain. But it’s a no-brainer stop for tourists visiting the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge, and it does in fact serve a very fine pie. If the line is just too long, try Juliana's on the same block from the founder of Grimaldi’s.

1 Front St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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16. Junior's Restaurant and Bakery

386 Flatbush Ave Ext, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Junior’s Junior’s [Official Photo]

Not only is Junior’s a must-visit for politicians, the hard-to-miss Flatbush Avenue staple is serving a cheesecake that can’t be missed. Get the steak fries to start.

386 Flatbush Ave Ext
Brooklyn, NY 11201

17. Nathan's Famous

1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Customers wait in a line that wraps around the corner of the colorful Nathan’s Famous restaurant in Coney Island Nick Solares/Eater

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.

1310 Surf Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224

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