25 restaurants that prove New York is still at the top of its foodie game
More insider guides for planning a trip to New York
New York is a smorgasbord of lip-smackingly good eateries, from the trendy and exotic to the quirky and classic. One minute you could be tucking into boiled chicken feet and spicy pho at a downtown dim sum depot; the next, a sizzling cut in a show-stopping New York steakhouse. Get tasting with Telegraph Travel’s New York expert, David Farley.
Chinatown may be sprinkled with dim sum depots but this palace of Chinese delights is an essential stop, particularly for long brunches. Ascend the escalator to the upper floor and let the massive dining room unfold before your eyes. Roving carts, pushed by friendly diminutive ladies, are crammed with pork buns, shrimp dumplings, boiled chicken feet, and egg custards, among other delicious dim sum components. Point to whatever looks good and commence the feast. Sharing a large circular table with other diners is part of the fun experience here.
In the early 1900s, the Lower East Side was home to a thriving eastern European Jewish community, and dozens of kosher delis. Today only a few remain, and Katz (opened in 1888) is the best. You may recognise it from the ‘I’ll have what she’s having scene’ in When Harry Met Sally. The ordering process is a bit different: after you’ve been handed a ticket, place your order at the counter, indulge in superlative deli fare, and pay at the end with your ticket. Just don’t lose that slip of paper or you’ll pay a princely sum for the error.
Wildair and its more formal sister restaurant next door, Contra, have infused some serious culinary cred to the bar-laden Lower East Side. And we have the two hot chefs – Fabián von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone – to thank for that. Perch yourself on a stool at a high communal table and peruse the wine list, heavy on the natural variety, while grazing on horseradish-spiked beef tartare, scallop crudo, and nduja and head-cheese toast. Or splurge on the fork-tender Wagyu steak for two. The bread and butter in itself is remarkable.
Contact: 00 1 646 964 5624; wildair.nyc Prices: ££ Opening times: Tue-Sat, 6pm-11pm Nearest metro: Delancy St. Reservations: Walk-ins only
This beloved Big Apple culinary institution is the flagship eatery of prolific British-born restaurateur Keith McNally. It’s like a small slice of Paris in SoHo: enter through the curtained doorway and find yourself in a gold-lit space with high ceilings and mirrored walls. The classic bistro options include oysters, steak frites, and a good burger. The raw bar is superb, as is the wine list. They do a great breakfast, and have a bakery, too, if you want to avoid the table hustle and grab a Parisian-quality baguette to go. Book well in advance.
Contact: 00 1 212 965 1414; balthazarny.com Prices: ££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: Spring St. Reservations: Essential
Don’t be put off by Hanoi House’s location on St. Marks Place’s row of subpar restaurants in the East Village. This is the real deal. Vietnamese cuisine hadn’t had its moment here until the Saigon-born, California-raised chef John Nguyen fired up his pho-boiling burners, and the city’s fooderati got its first taste of this south-east Asian cuisine’s potential. North Vietnamese food is glorious; try the beef-spiked pho bac, with its rich, deep taste. The Hanoi staple bun cha is a platter of unctuous, tender grilled pork meatballs married with rice noodles and then dipped in a subtly sweet sauce. For lunch, hit up sister restaurant, Hanoi Soup Shop, two doors down at 115 St. Marks Pl. for an excellent porky banh mi sandwich and daily Vietnamese soup specials.
Contact: 00 1 212 995 5010; hanoihousenyc.com Prices: ££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: First Ave. Reservations: Essential
Perpetual cool kid chef David Chang’s first eatery (and most affordable) is still firing on all cylinders. Cosy up to the long bar counter and tuck into the Korean-accented edibles here. First timers – even 51st timers – should start with an order of succulent, melt-on-your-palate pork buns (so popular they’re not even listed on the menu anymore) before moving on to the signature pork-filled Momofuku Ramen. Bring a group of your friends and indulge in the fun-sized fried chicken feast, complete with mu shu pancakes, vegetables, and sauces (make sure you reserve that in advance).
A Bangkok import, this East Village Thai joint opened up just when the craze for the cuisine of Isaan, a region in northeast Thailand, was revving up in Gotham City. And Somtum Der does it the very well. So much so, that this casual spot was awarded a Michelin star. You won’t find any pad Thai or tom yum soup on the menu here. The namesake, somtum, a spicy green papaya salad, is a must, followed by one of the handful of versions of larb, a meaty-and-veg concoction that will further set your palate ablaze with fiery south-east Asian goodness.
When is a tea room not a tea room? On the surface, this diminutive, somewhat-hidden-in-plain-sight, tea-centric place seems to be what you’d expect. Elena Liao offers dozens of expertly sourced oolong teas from Taiwan, some of which are hard to find outside of Asia. But then you look at the edible options. Her husband, Portuguese-born Frederico Ribeiro, an erstwhile sous chef at lauded Per Se, makes daily sweet and savoury snacks that tend to be utterly transcendent. Ribeiro cooks what is in season and his mood determines, but generally expect Iberian and Taiwanese creations.
Contact:te-nyc.com Prices: £ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: Christopher St. Reservations: Walk-ins only
Queuing up outside this Greenwich Village sushi staple is all part of the experience. Locals cast their taste buds to Tomoe to get way-above-average raw fish for cheaper-than-usual prices. Order the sashimi platter for an excellent mouthful of seafood that tastes as though it has just been pulled from the sea, or opt for a smattering of classic rolls. For diners with a proclivity for cooked fish, there’s plenty of that on offer as well, but that’s not really the reason why people wait nightly for 30-plus minutes to land a seat inside this diminutive sushi joint.
Contact: 00 1 212 777 9346; tomoesushi.com Prices: ££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: Broadway-Lafayette St. Reservations: Walk-ins only
Talented chef Ryan Hardy, who also runs the kitchens at hotspots Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, cooks up seaside Italian fare at this handsome Art Deco-inspired spot in the new far west Manhattan development called Hudson Yards. The cocktail programme is under the direction of Jeff Bell from lauded cocktail bar P.D.T. (stands for Please Don’t Tell) and the wine is under the command of heavily awarded sommelier Arvid Rosengren. The space once housed a legendary recording studio of the same name and the art bedecking the walls reflects the musical heritage.
Located in the always-bustling food-centric Chelsea Market, this taco stand offers a few different meat options but you really should only order one thing: the adobada taco, also known as al pastor, with pork cooked on a turning spit and shaved off into a tortilla. You won’t find a better version on the East Coast; you may even have to go to Mexico City to find something superior. The lack of places to remain stationary while eating is not convenient but once you bite into the tacos here, you will no longer care.
Superstar chef Enrique Olvera has shown New Yorkers what elevated Mexican is like. The chef of world-renowned Mexico City eatery Pujol serves up comforting yet high-end takes on Mexican classics including the show-stopping must-eat duck carnitas served family-style, which requires you to get stuck into building your own tacos from the juicy duck meat and salsa. And it is essential you finish with the husk meringue with corn mousse for dessert – who knew corn could do such things. Come at lunch when there is often space for walk-ins and the prices are significantly lower.
Contact: 00 1 212 913 9659; cosmenyc.com Prices: £££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: 23rd St. Reservations: Recommended
This intimate 18-seat spot is somewhere between a dining room and open kitchen. Don’t be fooled by the name: the restaurant used to be located in Brooklyn but now it’s in Midtown. The 15 to 20-course prix-fixe tasting menu is not cheap ($394/£280 per person) but is a worthy splurge for those who want to taste cutting-edge Brooklyn-inspired fare at its finest. The menu regularly changes but could include seafood-centric delights prepared with French flair, such as needlefish with marinated onions, or Kumamoto oyster with crème fraîche. Book six weeks ahead to have a chance at getting in.
Contact: 00 1 718 243 0050; brooklynfare.com Prices: £££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: 34th St. Reservations: Essential
New York is no stranger to good Indian fare but Big Apple palates may not have been prepared when this lauded New Delhi restaurant landed here and started serving stuffed flatbreads, called kulchas, crammed with tender duck and hoisin, and fall-off-the-bone ribs brushed with a tart and subtly sweet mango sauce. The chef Manish Mehrotra’s take on modern Indian cuisine will be revelatory to even the most discriminating taste buds. The dimly lit interior and understated design help put diners’ attention on the plate. The two-course lunch menu is a steal of a deal.
Despite its name as a steakhouse, the restaurant is famous for its tender and juicy mutton chop, a glistening hunk of mature roast lamb. Not that the steak is anything to ignore – the massive prime porterhouse is still one of the city’s best cuts of beef. The walls of this 1885 restaurant are bedecked with historical relics. The upstairs Pipe Room, for example, boasts 50,000 clay pipes hanging from the ceiling, a remnant of a time when patrons would check their pipes. Today, diners can spy the smoking tools of everyone from Albert Einstein and Teddy Roosevelt to Babe Ruth.
Jean-Georges, located inside Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle, is helmed by its eponymous Alsatian-born chef, Jean-Gorges Vongerichten, who serves up Asian-inspired Gallic fare. The all-white space with floor-to-ceiling windows, sumptuous leather shell chairs, and great views of Central Park and Columbus Circle are the perfect venue in which to try dishes like the signature tuna ribbons or the outrageous crispy confit of suckling pig with smoked bacon marmalade. There are a variety of fixed-price and tasting menu options; opt for the seven-course chef’s menu ($238/£169), and make a night of it.
This sub-terrestrial seafood restaurant, situated underneath the 1913 Beaux-Arts masterpiece that is Grand Central Terminal, and clad in tiles highlighted by a brick-vaulted ceiling, might seem like an unlikely spot to go for fresh oysters and seafood, but mollusks were once as ubiquitous here as yellow taxis. There are often up to 20 different varieties of oysters on offer, all flown in from different parts of the country. And the venerable staff know their Prince Edward Islands from their Maine oysters. Come before 5pm: it’s hard to get a table or a seat the bar in rush hour.
This was once the home of the legendary Four Seasons restaurant where famed publishers and other Big Apple movers and shakers would sip their way through a triple-martini lunch in the mid-century ambience of the dining room. It’s now run by the people behind Carbone, Santina, and Dirty French, among other hotspots, who reinstated its mid-century vibe and revamped the menu when they took over. The menu is classic New York City with lobster à la Newberg and pheasant Claireborne topping the menu. It’s not cheap but there are few atmospheric places like this to warrant splashing the cash.
Chef Miss Robbins has gone from Spiaggia in Chicago, where two of her loyal followers were Barack and Michelle Obama, and Michelin-starred acclaim at Manhattan’s A Voce, to settling into this Williamsburg restaurant. In the exposed-brick setting, tuck into cacio e pepe fritelle (fried balls filled with gooey cheese and pepper), and bowls of gnocchi slathered in broccoli pesto and fettuccine intertwined with spicy lamb sausage ragú. The wine list, which leans heavily towards Italy, is a good one, but so are the cocktail offerings, including potent varieties of the Negroni and the boulevardier.
Not everyone agrees that this 1887 steakhouse is the greatest in America, but chomping into a juicy hunk of beef at this amber-lit, wood-panelled gem is certainly an experience. The reason is mainly because the Forman family, owners of this institution since 1950, always get the first choice of cuts from New York’s meat markets. Sit in the brass-chandeliered front room, next to politicians, mobsters, celebrities and sports stars, and let one of the famously surly bow-tied waiters tell you what you’re having. Warning: it’s pricey and bring cash – they do not accept credit cards.
Contact: 00 1 718 387 7400; peterluger.com Prices: £££ Opening times: See website Nearest metro: Broadway/Roebling St. Reservations: Essential
Husband and wife team Alex Raij and Eder Montero are the owner-chefs behind this gem of a restaurant. The pair run a few lauded Basque-themed restaurants in New York (La Vara, Txikito, and El Quinto Pino) and so it’s no surprise that St. Julivert doesn’t stray much from Iberia. The focus here, as the name suggests, is the coastal swaths of Spain, zigzagging between tradition and creative, with a few detours to Italy and other parts of the Spanish speaking world. Squid carbonara and the turmeric-laced crispy tuna bake will bring you back for more.
If there’s an epicentre of hipster foodie-ism this Italian-accented eatery in sparse, industrial Bushwick is it. Skinny jeans-clad waiters, many sporting thick mustaches and retro ironic eyewear, deliver good thin-crust pizza, hearty bowls of oxtail ragu pasta, and plates of grilled seasonal vegetables. The multi-room space includes an outdoor seating area for the warm-weather months as well as the upscale and acclaimed sibling restaurant, Blanca, right next door. The small bar area is a convivial place to park yourself for the night whilst grazing on Italian snacks and sipping cocktails.
Contact: 00 1 718 417 1118; robertaspizza.com Prices: ££ Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11am-12am, Sat-Sun, 10am-12am Nearest metro: L to Morgan Ave. Reservations: Not necessary
Owner and Carroll-Gardens local Mark Lacono makes the pies here himself from behind an open-plan kitchen: think thin, crispy crust, with a simple sweet homemade tomato base, melting mozzarella, and dash of fresh basil leaves. Expect a wait (there’s a perpetual queue) but when you’ve finally got a coveted spot, sit back, chat to your neighbours over candlelit tables, and pretend you’ve been invited into someone’s home. Jay Z and Beyoncé are regulars and trek over from Manhattan to taste the goodness. It’s bring your own, so get a bottle of wine from nearby Scotto’s Wine Cellar.
Contact: 00 1 718 858 4086; lucali.com Prices: £ Opening times: Wed-Mon, 6pm-11pm Nearest metro: Carroll St Reservations: Not possible
For years, Queens in general, and Sripraphai in particular, has been the main place to go in Gotham for high-quality, authentic Thai cuisine. So much so, the owners opened up two new locations in Williston Park and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Pronounced ‘see-pra-pie’, the cult eatery offers standards like pad Thai, as well as some lesser sought fare, such as fried softshell crab and pumpkin wading in a green curry. The original drab interior has had an overhaul, but the garden, with its Asian umbrellas, potted plants and bubbling fountain, is the place to be. Bring cash – they do not accept credit cards.
Few visitors know that the real Little Italy is in Bronx. After strolling Arthur Avenue, lined with scores of Italian bakeries, restaurants, coffee bars and fine-food delis, grab a table at 100-year-old Mario’s, a true red-sauce joint if there ever was one. The style is over the top: white columns, paintings of the Old Country and waiters in tuxes humming Dean Martin tunes. The kitchen is famous for its Neapolitan fare, including stuffed clams and more varieties of veal than should be legal. Try the veal scaloppine alla pizzaiola with a glass of Barolo.