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Wo Hop
Gary He

29 Classic Restaurants Every New Yorker Must Try

The oldest and the greatest food experiences in NYC

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Wo Hop
| Photo by Gary He

New York is one of the oldest dining cities in the country, and though it seems we’re always mourning the loss of yet another neighborhood stalwart, the city is still brimming with ancient establishments. Here are the oldest and the greatest of New York's classic restaurants, all of them decades, if not a century, old. They range from legendary steakhouses to gritty taverns and coal-fired pizzerias, and they all are quintessentially New York.

Note: This is an updated version of a map originally published in 2015.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mario's

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8196, 2342 Arthur Ave
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 584-1188
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Turning 100 in 2019, Mario’s on the Bronx’s iconic Arthur Avenue is as old-school as it gets. The Miglucci family still owns this restaurant that started as a pizzeria, now serving dishes such as linguine with red clam sauce and veal marsala. The interior looks untouched, full of oil paintings, Michelangelo statuettes, and white columns. Don’t miss the dessert trolley, and be sure to finish off with an espresso “corrected” with complimentary anisette.

Daniel Krieger

2. Sylvia's Restaurant

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328 Malcolm X Blvd
New York, NY 10027
(212) 996-0660
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The “Queen of Soulfood” Sylvia Woods opened the doors on Sylvia’s Restaurant in 1962, bringing generous servings Southern comfort food to the neighborhood. The Harlem restaurant is world-famous for Woods’ timeless cooking, and for still maintaining its Southern charm decades after opening.

3. Patsy's Pizza

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2287 1st Ave
New York, NY 10035
(212) 534-9783
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Another one of Lombardi’s offspring, Patsy’s was founded in 1933, and it’s the only one of its coal-fired counterparts to offer single slices alongside whole pies. There are a few offshoots now, but do go to the original in Harlem for a perfect plain slice from the ancient oven.

4. Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

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29-19 24th Ave
Astoria, NY 11102
(718) 274-4925
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This Astoria beer garden has been around since 1910, and is the oldest of its kind in the city. It’s a sprawling place with an enormous garden, which makes it especially popular in warmer months. The beer selection is solid, there’s a range of sausage and schnitzel to soak it up, and pitchers top out at $18.

5. Barbetta

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321 W 46th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 246-9171
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This opulent Italian restaurant in the Theater District has been around since 1906, and owned by the same family the entire time. It claims to be the first New York restaurant to serve a whole lot of things, including risotto, white truffles, sun-dried tomatoes, tiramisu, and decaf espresso. Perhaps that’s true, but the real draw is the garden, one of the best al fresco dining areas in the city.

6. 21 Club

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21 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-7200
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This famed former speakeasy started as a club called the Red Head in Greenwich Village in 1922, it went through several name and location changes before settling in its current location in three converted townhouses in 1929, under the name Jack and Charlie’s 21. The space is known for toys and memorabilia hanging in the dining room, decor that thankfully went unharmed after a pipe burst in early 2018. It’s as much of a haunt for the rich and the powerful as ever, but since newer chef, Sylvain Delpique, revamped the menu, most say the food has improved. Jackets are still required.

7. Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse

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320 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 997-9494
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It started as a speakeasy in 1926, and is now one of the city’s classic steakhouses. As one of the oldest restaurants in the Theater District, it was once a haunt of people like Frank Sinatra. When ordering, stick to the steakhouse classics — steak, of course, creamed spinach, or any one of the myriad potato preparations.

8. La Grenouille

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3 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 752-1495
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A survivor from the era when haute French cuisine was king, La Grenouille opened in 1962, and has outlasted many of its celebrated counterparts, like Lutece. As Eater’s three critics discovered at a meal there, the food is mostly unchanged, and excellent. Go for the signature frogs legs, the classic Dover sole, or the pike quenelles topped with caviar and champagne cream sauce.

9. P.J. Clarke's

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915 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022
(212) 317-1616
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Though it’s now expanded into a chain of pubs — with a location in Sao Paolo, of all places — the original P.J. Clarke’s has stood on Third Avenue since 1884. This is the one with the ancient mahogany bar, the old juke box, and the taxidermied dog at the bar. Over the years it has attracted regulars like Jackie Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, and the bacon cheeseburger on the menu is called the “Cadillac,” because that’s how Nat King Cole described it.

10. Grand Central Oyster Bar

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89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017
(212) 490-6650
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Grand Central Oyster Bar has occupied the subterranean space in Grand Central Station since 1913. The award-winning space, with its vaulted, tiled ceilings is one of the main attractions here. The smart move is to sit at the bar and order raw oysters. There’s also the famed oyster pan roast, although not everyone is a fan.

11. The Palm Too

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840 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10017
(212) 697-5198
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The original location of this international chain previously graced this roundup of New York classics. But after closing its doors in 2015, Palm Too (which opened in 1973) is taking its place. Where the original Palm at 837 Second Ave, defined New York City steakhouses, Palm Too continues the tradition.

12. Keens Steakhouse

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72 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018
(212) 947-3636
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One of Manhattan’s oldest and greatest steakhouse institutions, Keens has stood on 36th Street since 1885, and it remains one of Midtown’s best restaurants. It’s famed for its mutton chop (though the steaks and the hash are also a good choice), and for the 90,000 or so clay pipes hanging from the ceiling, which used to be rented out to regulars for $5 a year.

13. Old Town Bar

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45 E 18th St.
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-6732
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Old Town Bar has been in continuous operation since 1892, making it another one of the city’s ancient bars to have survived Prohibition. The space itself, with its tiled floor, wooden booths, and mahogany bar, is one of the main attractions, but Old Town also serves a superb burger and wings. Dine downstairs, and your food will be delivered to the bar by dumbwaiter from the kitchen upstairs.

14. John's of Bleecker Street

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278 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-1680
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John’s — another classic coal oven pizzeria founded by a veteran of the original pizzeria, Lombardi’s — opened in 1929, and today serves what Robert Sietsema describes as a “lusher” pie than its counterparts of the same age. That means a little bit more cheese and a top-notch crust. Prepare to wait in line to enter.

15. Joe's Pizza

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7 Carmine St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-1182
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This family-owned pizzeria — of which there are many knockoffs — opened in 1975 and only expanded for the first time in 2013, opening an outpost on East 14th Street, in Williamsburg, and Times Square. The simple pizza is a New York slice at its finest, beloved for its thin crust, and soupy cheese-tomato sauce blend.

16. Ear Inn

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326 Spring St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 431-9750
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The building has been around since 1817, originally as a tobacco shop, and home to a number of businesses since then. But in 1890 it became a beer brewery with a saloon attached, and has housed a tavern of some sorts ever since (surviving Prohibition as a speakeasy). It didn’t have a real name until 1977, when new owners dubbed it the Ear Inn. It serves a great burger, and is rumored to have a ghost or two.

17. Katz's Delicatessen

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205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(800) 446-8364
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Katz’s has stood on Houston Street since 1888, and the pastrami alone is a New York icon. The expansive, cafeteria-style dining room is almost always bustling, and diners have to know how to navigate the system. Get in line, remember to tip the slicer (he might give you an extra piece to snack on), and no matter what, don’t lose that ticket.

18. Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza

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32 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 941-7994
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Lombardi’s is the first pizzeria in New York City and, supposedly, the country. It moved a few decades ago from the space it had occupied since 1905 to a place down the block, but it’s still one of the city’s few coal-oven pizzerias. Go early or late to avoid the onslaught of tourists, and get a basic red or white pie. A new location in Chelsea doesn’t have a coal oven, but still produces faithful renditions of the pies, sans the major waits.

19. Forlini's

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98 Baxter St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 349-6779

A real-deal red sauce classic just outside the kitschy array of Little Italy, Forlini’s has been open since 1943, and caters to the judge and jury crowd from the nearby courthouse as well as to Italian-American regulars. Inside find tall, tufted leather banquettes, paintings in gilded frames, and all the old-school favorites, from veal piccata to baked ziti. In recent months, the fashion crowd has been swarming the space after Vogue hosted a pre-Met Gala bash here.

20. Bamonte's

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32 Withers St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 384-8831

A red sauce stalwart of Brooklyn, Bamonte's has been open since 1902 and hasn’t been renovated since about 1950. It’s said to have been a mobster hang, and still attracts plenty of Williamsburg old-timers. Don’t miss the baked clams, or the pork chop topped with peppers, which Eater critic Robert Sietsema deems “the city's most perfect evocation of that dish.”

21. Nom Wah Tea Parlor

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13 Doyers St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-6047
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Chinatown’s oldest restaurant serves up fresh and consistently delicious dim sum, ordered off a menu rather than a cart. The dining room, dating back to 1920, is a relic. Order the pork buns, the sticky rice in lotus leaves, the shrimp & chive dumplings, and any of the rice rolls. During peak dim sum hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) there may be a wait, but it’s never unbearable.

Photo by Gary He

22. Wo Hop

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17 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-8617

Wo Hop, founded in 1938, takes the distinction of the city’s second oldest Chinese restaurant. (Only Nom Wah Tea Parlor, originated in 1920 and also on this list, is older.) Its longetivity is due to both the reliability of its Chinese-American fare, which seemingly uses no ginger, garlic, or soy sauce, and the small, subterranean nature of the real estate it occupies. Try the massive platters of chicken chow mein, sweet-and-sour pork, subgum egg foo young (in the section “Chinese Omelettes”), and beef chow fun.

Photo by Gary He

23. Peter Luger Steak House

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178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-7400
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Another of the city’s greatest steakhouses, Peter Luger opened in Williamsburg in 1887, and even today can often be a tough reservation to snag. Go for the porterhouse, of course, which is dry-aged and served in a pool of butter and its own juices. If there for lunch, don’t miss the hamburger.

24. Delmonico's Bar & Grill

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56 Beaver St
New York, NY 10004
(212) 509-1144
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Delmonico’s boldly bills itself as “America’s first restaurant.” The original opened on South Williams Street in 1837, and though it hasn’t been open continuously, or been operated by the same family since then, it still retains plenty of that old history. It takes the credit for inventing baked Alaska and eggs benedict, alongside lobster Newburg, chicken a la Keene, and of course the Delmonico steak.

25. Ferdinando's Focacceria

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151 Union St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 855-1545

This humble Sicilian restaurant has been operating on Columbia Street since 1904. Specialties include fist-sized fried rice balls, pasta alla sarde, a panelle sandwich (wedges of fried chickpea flour cake smothered in ricotta, on a roll), and vestedda: veal spleen and ricotta on a roll.

26. Brennan & Carr

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3432 Nostrand Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11229
(718) 769-1254

Founded in 1938, Brennan & Carr is famous for its Irish roast beef sandwich, served with its own juices on sandwich or platter in much the same style as Los Angeles’ popular french dip. Get exactly that with a beer, or order from a window on Avenue U to take it to go.

Photo by Nick Solares

27. L&B Spumoni Gardens

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2725 86th St
Brooklyn, NY 11223
(718) 372-8400
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L & B Spumoni Gardens was founded in 1939, and is always at its best in the summer, when it’s warm enough to sit at the picnic tables outside, which for a long time were the only seating there was. It sprawls across three buildings, each offering a different L & B specialty. There’s the namesake spumoni, of course, and the famed thick-crusted Sicilian pizza (served “upside down” with the sauce on top of the cheese), plus the monstrous meatball hero from the restaurant portion.

28. Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano

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1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn
NY, 11224
(718) 372-8606
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Founded by an ex-Lombardi’s employee in 1924, Totonno’s has weathered a fire and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in recent years, but still serves excellent pizza from a coal-fired oven. Louise “Cookie” Cimineri, a direct descendant of the original Totonno Pero, now presides over the place, which is only open Thursdays through Sundays. Expect a long wait, unless you go midday on a weekday.

29. Nathan's Famous

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1310 Surf Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 946-2202
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It may be a giant franchise now, but Nathan’s is a true New York institution. The Coney Island original opened in 1916, selling hot dogs for five cents. They cost more now, of course, but otherwise not much has changed about the experience of eating a cheap, greasy dog on the boardwalk.

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1. Mario's

8196, 2342 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458
Daniel Krieger

Turning 100 in 2019, Mario’s on the Bronx’s iconic Arthur Avenue is as old-school as it gets. The Miglucci family still owns this restaurant that started as a pizzeria, now serving dishes such as linguine with red clam sauce and veal marsala. The interior looks untouched, full of oil paintings, Michelangelo statuettes, and white columns. Don’t miss the dessert trolley, and be sure to finish off with an espresso “corrected” with complimentary anisette.

8196, 2342 Arthur Ave
Bronx, NY 10458

2. Sylvia's Restaurant

328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10027

The “Queen of Soulfood” Sylvia Woods opened the doors on Sylvia’s Restaurant in 1962, bringing generous servings Southern comfort food to the neighborhood. The Harlem restaurant is world-famous for Woods’ timeless cooking, and for still maintaining its Southern charm decades after opening.

328 Malcolm X Blvd
New York, NY 10027

3. Patsy's Pizza

2287 1st Ave, New York, NY 10035

Another one of Lombardi’s offspring, Patsy’s was founded in 1933, and it’s the only one of its coal-fired counterparts to offer single slices alongside whole pies. There are a few offshoots now, but do go to the original in Harlem for a perfect plain slice from the ancient oven.

2287 1st Ave
New York, NY 10035

4. Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

29-19 24th Ave, Astoria, NY 11102

This Astoria beer garden has been around since 1910, and is the oldest of its kind in the city. It’s a sprawling place with an enormous garden, which makes it especially popular in warmer months. The beer selection is solid, there’s a range of sausage and schnitzel to soak it up, and pitchers top out at $18.

29-19 24th Ave
Astoria, NY 11102

5. Barbetta

321 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

This opulent Italian restaurant in the Theater District has been around since 1906, and owned by the same family the entire time. It claims to be the first New York restaurant to serve a whole lot of things, including risotto, white truffles, sun-dried tomatoes, tiramisu, and decaf espresso. Perhaps that’s true, but the real draw is the garden, one of the best al fresco dining areas in the city.

321 W 46th St
New York, NY 10036

6. 21 Club

21 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

This famed former speakeasy started as a club called the Red Head in Greenwich Village in 1922, it went through several name and location changes before settling in its current location in three converted townhouses in 1929, under the name Jack and Charlie’s 21. The space is known for toys and memorabilia hanging in the dining room, decor that thankfully went unharmed after a pipe burst in early 2018. It’s as much of a haunt for the rich and the powerful as ever, but since newer chef, Sylvain Delpique, revamped the menu, most say the food has improved. Jackets are still required.

21 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019

7. Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse

320 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036

It started as a speakeasy in 1926, and is now one of the city’s classic steakhouses. As one of the oldest restaurants in the Theater District, it was once a haunt of people like Frank Sinatra. When ordering, stick to the steakhouse classics — steak, of course, creamed spinach, or any one of the myriad potato preparations.

320 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

8. La Grenouille

3 E 52nd St, New York, NY 10022

A survivor from the era when haute French cuisine was king, La Grenouille opened in 1962, and has outlasted many of its celebrated counterparts, like Lutece. As Eater’s three critics discovered at a meal there, the food is mostly unchanged, and excellent. Go for the signature frogs legs, the classic Dover sole, or the pike quenelles topped with caviar and champagne cream sauce.

3 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022

9. P.J. Clarke's

915 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022

Though it’s now expanded into a chain of pubs — with a location in Sao Paolo, of all places — the original P.J. Clarke’s has stood on Third Avenue since 1884. This is the one with the ancient mahogany bar, the old juke box, and the taxidermied dog at the bar. Over the years it has attracted regulars like Jackie Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, and the bacon cheeseburger on the menu is called the “Cadillac,” because that’s how Nat King Cole described it.

915 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022

10. Grand Central Oyster Bar

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

Grand Central Oyster Bar has occupied the subterranean space in Grand Central Station since 1913. The award-winning space, with its vaulted, tiled ceilings is one of the main attractions here. The smart move is to sit at the bar and order raw oysters. There’s also the famed oyster pan roast, although not everyone is a fan.

89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017

11. The Palm Too

840 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017

The original location of this international chain previously graced this roundup of New York classics. But after closing its doors in 2015, Palm Too (which opened in 1973) is taking its place. Where the original Palm at 837 Second Ave, defined New York City steakhouses, Palm Too continues the tradition.

840 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10017

12. Keens Steakhouse

72 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018

One of Manhattan’s oldest and greatest steakhouse institutions, Keens has stood on 36th Street since 1885, and it remains one of Midtown’s best restaurants. It’s famed for its mutton chop (though the steaks and the hash are also a good choice), and for the 90,000 or so clay pipes hanging from the ceiling, which used to be rented out to regulars for $5 a year.

72 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018

13. Old Town Bar

45 E 18th St., New York, NY 10003

Old Town Bar has been in continuous operation since 1892, making it another one of the city’s ancient bars to have survived Prohibition. The space itself, with its tiled floor, wooden booths, and mahogany bar, is one of the main attractions, but Old Town also serves a superb burger and wings. Dine downstairs, and your food will be delivered to the bar by dumbwaiter from the kitchen upstairs.

45 E 18th St.
New York, NY 10003

14. John's of Bleecker Street

278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

John’s — another classic coal oven pizzeria founded by a veteran of the original pizzeria, Lombardi’s — opened in 1929, and today serves what Robert Sietsema describes as a “lusher” pie than its counterparts of the same age. That means a little bit more cheese and a top-notch crust. Prepare to wait in line to enter.

278 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

15. Joe's Pizza

7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

This family-owned pizzeria — of which there are many knockoffs — opened in 1975 and only expanded for the first time in 2013, opening an outpost on East 14th Street, in Williamsburg, and Times Square. The simple pizza is a New York slice at its finest, beloved for its thin crust, and soupy cheese-tomato sauce blend.

7 Carmine St
New York, NY 10014

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16. Ear Inn

326 Spring St., New York, NY 10013

The building has been around since 1817, originally as a tobacco shop, and home to a number of businesses since then. But in 1890 it became a beer brewery with a saloon attached, and has housed a tavern of some sorts ever since (surviving Prohibition as a speakeasy). It didn’t have a real name until 1977, when new owners dubbed it the Ear Inn. It serves a great burger, and is rumored to have a ghost or two.

326 Spring St.
New York, NY 10013