Not only are there activities for everyone in New York, but the dining scene is as diverse! Here are some of my favorite types of food and restaurants. As you can tell below my old haunts are mostly in Manhattan… This is a long post so skip around to find the type of food you’re looking for!
- Special Occasions
- Wine and Cheese
- Italian Food
- Japanese Food
- Chinese Food
- Fried Chicken
- A Little Bit of Everything!
- Katz’s Deli
- River Cafe: prime location with a view looking back towards Manhattan. The food is delicious!
- Momofuku Ko: this is expensive. Ridiculously so. It’s also ridiculously delicious. It’s omakase fusion food and you’ll have about 17 courses total. You’ll be seated at a comfortable bar and you get to watch the chefs cook / play with science equipment. The restaurant seating is also extremely spacious – a rarity in New York. The dining experience feels very intimate despite the bar top dining.
- One if by Land, Two if by Sea: candle-lit romantic restaurant located in a historic carriage house. The restaurant claims to be the location of the most engagements in New York. I don’t know if that’s true, but there were two proposals the night we ate there!
The boyfriend is a steak connoisseur so we’ve been to plenty of steakhouses. Personal favorites:
- Quality Meats: quality meat, quality meal! Their tomahawk steak is intense and absolutely delicious. Out of all the steakhouses, I think Quality Meats has the best sides. Go for the creamed spinach (comes in a puff pastry!) and the corn creme brûlée
- Peter Lugar: New York institution with old school New York vibes. Do not try to walk in here and bring cash (no credit cards). Order the porterhouse steak – you won’t regret it!
- Wolfgang’s Steakhouse: don’t confuse this with Wolfgang Puck! Wolfgang’s is owned by the former head waiter at Peter Lugar and they claim to take the traditions of Peter Lugar’s but improved upon them. The boyfriend and I are ecstatic that there will be a Wolfgang’s opening in Singapore in late 2017!
- Ess-A-Bagel: I cannot count the number of bagel shops in New York. Everyone has their favorite relative to proximity and Ess-A-Bagel is mine! You can expect fresh bagels with a wide variety of schmears. I like Ess-A-Bagel because they also have mini bagels
- The Bagel Store: famous for their rainbow bagels. I learned my lesson the hard way: you may be swayed to get a sweet, sugary schmear given the colorful bagel but it’s too much. Go for a classic cream cheese!
This will no doubt be debated but personal pizza favorites include:
- Joe’s Pizza: classic NY pizza. Thin crust and cheesy goodness. Very foldable pizza – a critical criteria of NY pizza.
- Artichoke Pizza: more drunk food pizza than anything. This is Heavy Pizza (both capitals necessary). It’s thicker than normal NY pizza, and that’s because it needs to bear the weight of creamy white sauce, artichoke, and boatloads of cheese.
- Shake Shack: absolute favorite. I can feel the heart attack as I write this but the Shack Stack is my go-to burger. A delicious burger patty topped with a portobello mushroom that is not only stuffed with melty cheese, but then deep fried. You only live once, right? Despite the line, I like to go to the Madison Square Park location because it’s the only spot with crinkle-cut fries. Better vehicle for my cheesy fries!
- Whitman’s: it may look like a hole-in-the-wall but Whitman’s burgers are stellar. The Juicy Lucy burger is true to its name – you’ve been warned! They take various parts of beef to make the patties. Juicy Lucy is made with short ribs and there’s also a grilled brisket burger.
There are so many brunch places in New York and so many bottomless brunches. My favorites:
- Penelope: very cute-sy restaurant with a line out the door. Food, service, and environment are all on point. I have not ordered a bad dish here – ever!
- Bubby’s: an elevated take on traditional American comfort food. I always want both sweet and savory brunch items and Bubby’s Griddle Special is the perfect solution. You get their James Beard award-winning pancakes as well as eggs and bacon. Problem solved! Meals here are always fun and comfortable and a great setting to catch up with friends.
- Westville: one-stop-shop for all your casual brunching needs. Westville serves up a big vegetarian menu, which helps when you have vegan friends brunching.
- Estela: classy low-key bar by night, creative brunching by day. The dishes are Mediterranean-inspired. You won’t get your standard-fare eggs benedicts here. If you’re feeling adventurous, come here for a brunch of lamb ribs and ricotta dumplings.
Wine and Cheese
- Casellula: this bar prefers to be a “cheese and wine” cafe, as opposed to a wine and cheese cafe. It’s probably fitting because they have a wide selection of cheeses all are amazing. This cozy bar is owned by the guy who used to be the head cheese guru for Danny Meyer’s The Modern. (Side note: how do I get a job to be head of cheese??)
- Lois Bar: more wine than cheese here. Wine on tap – need I say more?
- Momofuku Noodle Bar: my all-time favorite Momofuku restaurant and ramen restaurant all in one. I prefer it’s modern twist on ramen with it’s chicken-flavored miso broth and spinach greens, but I love it. Unless you’re at the door 15 minutes before the restaurant opens, be prepared to wait. I’m telling you though, it’s worth it!
- Ivan Ramen: Ivan Orkin has a fascinating story – in the competitive world of ramen in Tokyo, a “Jewish Kid from Long Island” became a ramen king. Drawing from his Jewish background, the noodles are made in-house with rye flour. Netflix’s Chef’s Table series highlighted Ivan Orkin in an episode that wove the connection between his passion for ramen and the story of love and loss in his personal life.
- Totto Ramen: if you’re not a fan of modern take on ramen, Totto is excellent for classic Japanese ramen
- Eataly: I didn’t always dine at Eataly but always browsed and picked up perfect meat and cheese items here. Stop by the fresh pasta section!
- John’s: you feel like you’ve walked into a scene of “The Soprano’s” when you enter the restaurant. In fact, both “The Soprano’s” and “Boardwalk Empire” had scenes in this restaurant! The veal meatballs and pappardelle were both featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” and for good reason too!
- Il Buco: great date night spot. It’s a very dim and romantic restaurant but the food is consistently delicious. Part of the charm comes from the storefront itself, which used to be an antique store. You can’t go wrong with any of their pastas or fish.
- Robataya: this is a dinner and a show all in one. The chefs grill the food in front of you, they make acrobatic jumps over the grill to select the chilled seafood, and hand your dish to you on large paddles that bridge the gap between the chefs and the diners. You can also choose to sit away from the bar if you prefer an easier environment for conversation. The chefs grill the fresh seafood, wagyu beef, and vegetables to perfection.
- Raku: there aren’t many udon-only restaurants in NYC and a friend from high school opened up this specialty restaurant. The noodles are hand-made and imported from Japan, giving it that extra bounce in every bite. I like a lot of the vegetarian options but their specialty is the niku bowl of noodles with short ribs and tripe.
- Omakase sushi is big in New York now and unfortunately, I never got the chance to go to Sushi Nakazawa (owned by apprentice from the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”). We also can’t afford to go to the likes of Sushi Nakazawa on a regular basis, which runs $150 for 21 sushis . Instead, we have two favorites:
- Kura: opened and owned by the same people as Raku (disclaimer: one of my friends from high school). The restaurant has a very clean feel to it and the chef has friendly chats with all the guests. The fish is fresh and the uni is to die for. Even though you’re sitting at a bar with a prime view of the sushi action, it still feels fairly intimate. The pricing is reasonable for omakase.
- Kanoyama: a little more crowded as a restaurant but the sushi is fresh and well prepared. The omakase menu only comes with sushis so you’ll want to pick a few additional items to pair with your sushis. I like the black cod and the spicy tuna tartare.
We once went on a food crawl in Flushing and found the best Chinese food in the city. Buuuut… It wasn’t exactly convenient for us to trek there on a regular basis, so here are our regular haunts:
- The Bao: come here for the xiao long baos. I think they serve the best ones in the city, the wrap is lighter and the soup less oily, relative to other spots in the city. You can go traditional with the crab and pork buns, or be a little adventurous and try the wasabi buns. All are delicious and about as authentic as you can find in New York. Other dishes to try: stir-fried eggplant, stir-fried beans, mapo tofu and the scallion pancakes. This is a good spot for lunch because they have very reasonable lunch sets.
- Hou Yi Hot Pot: this is an all you can eat and all you can drink (non-alcoholic) restaurant so come hungry! You don’t get personal pots here, but you can choose select multiple soup bases for the table. The ingredients are fresh and the soup base is hearty. There are a couple locations in the city but I would recommend avoiding the one in Chinatown. The location on the Lower East Side is the newest and cleanest.
- Xi’An Famous Foods: this is a fast-casual type of restaurant and you will leave quite messy. The flavors are strong and the noodles will splash. Per the name, you’ll be introduced to Xi’An noodles, buns, and Americanized burgers. There’s a lot of lamb on the menu.
My sister and I love fried chicken and we made it our mission to try any and all restaurants that serve fried chicken as their
- Root and Bone: laid back, rustic restaurant that kills it with taste. They brine the chicken in sweet tea before it is fried! We tend to order a full or half a bird, depending on the size of the group and pair it with other delicious items such as angel biscuits and collard greens. This feels like Southern hospitality at its finest in New York.
- Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken: my sister loves a meal with a wide variety of sauces and Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken serves up delicious, juicy fried chicken and homemade sauces. The wasabi honey and chipotle BBQ sauce are favorites. This is a quick meal, served fast-food style. Don’t be mistaken by the self-service style because the quality of the food is anything but fast-food!
- Milk Bar: another David Chang / Momofuku shoutout. If you like soft serve, they have a cereal-flavored soft serve that’s quite good. I’m not a big soft serve person, but I still love the jugs of cereal-flavored milk to go with my cookies. Favorite cookies include: corn cookie, compost cookie (a little bit of everything), blueberry and cream cookie.
- Sundaes and Cones: mixture of Asian-inspired and traditional American ice cream flavors. Try a free tasting of the wasabi ice cream!
A Little Bit of Everything!
- Smorgasburg: every summer, you can find a smorgasbord of local / regional food vendors at Smorgasburg. There are a lot of fun and goofy food ideas that get their start here (I’m looking at you, ramen burger), and the brand awareness and publicity helps these vendors become brick-and-mortar restaurants. Success stories include BeeHive Oven for Southern biscuits, Mighty Quinn’s for BBQ, and Red Hook Lobster for lobster rolls.
- Chelsea Market: this is a great place to take a leisurely stroll or grab a quick snack in between sightseeing. Chelsea Market used to be an abandoned Nabisco factory and was renovated as part of the revival of the Meatpacking district. Now it is a massive food hall where you can taste everything from fresh oysters to Israeli hummus, and Vietnamese sandwiches.
Last but not least, Katz’s Deli. I didn’t have a category for this, but Katz deserves its own! Katz has a long history and you get a homey sense when you arrive. Even if it’s your first time there, it always feels welcoming and comfortable. We love the classic pastrami on rye. Be warned, this is a huge sandwich. We typically order a matzah ball soup and one sandwich for two.
If you’re a big foodie and want to be in the know with the NYC foodie scene, I highly, highly recommend The Infatuation. They have fun reviews with recommended dishes and the greatest search mechanism, including a search function for the vibe you’re seeking. For example, I can filter for girls night out, date night, big groups, or for celebrity sightings.
The Infatuation team also has a service called “Text Rex” where you can text them for recommendations or with specifications (i.e. Greek food for big groups that doesn’t require reservation or wait close to Soho). I’ve used this service a ton!
At this point, I’ve rambled on for the full length of a novel and I may have lost some of you. I’m positive, I’ve missed some good restaurants in this round up so please let me know if you have any favorites that I mistakenly overlooked!