Deciding on where to eat in NYC can be overwhelming, but don’t worry – I’ll help you choose. Here are 25 of my favorite must eat places in NYC.
As New York City is my all-time favorite destination I’ve experienced my share of both awful and amazing places to eat in NYC. After a ton of trial and error, I know those incredible food experiences aren’t always easy to come by. I mean, with more than 10,000 NYC restaurants listed on TripAdvisor, picking places to eat in NYC can be overwhelming. And you’re bound to make a few mistakes when dining out in New York, right? Well, not if I can help it. I’ll help you avoid the worst fall pits by telling you about 25 of my favorite must eat places in NYC.
6 Things To Know Before Dining Out In NYC
First I thought I would give you a few tips on things to know before dining out in New York City.
1. Keep An Open Mind
As you might have heard before, the best food in NYC doesn’t always come from the fanciest looking place, so keeping an open mind in general will enrich your NYC experience for sure.
2. Don’t Forget To Tip
Tipping is expected for all services in NYC, including in restaurants and bars. The amount depends on how good the service is of course, but a tip of at least 15-20% is the norm.
3. Make Reservations
Make reservations if you have your heart set on a specific restaurant or you’ll risk not eating there at all. This is especially important for late dinner and on weekends.
4. Check If There Is A Dress Code
There is nothing more embarrassing than walking into a restaurant super under dressed, having a ton of fancy people giving you the jugdmental eye.. I’ve only experienced this a couple of times in New York when we’ve made reservations without researching the restaurant first, but I hated it so much each time I’ll do anything to avoid it from happening again. So: If you suspect you’re going somewhere fancy, do quick search on the web before getting dressed, or wear something nice just in case. I’m not that fancy a person though, so most restaurants in this guide won’t be either ;p
5. Avoid Big Chains
Whatever you do, try to avoid big chains that you can eat at in your hometown. New York has an incredible selection of places to eat, so take advantage and have some fun while you’re in the city.
6. Plot Them Into Your Map
Whenever you’re in NYC, or any other big city for that matter, I highly recommend plotting any interesting restaurants into a map. Preferably a map you can use offline like Google My Maps. Not only will it make deciding where to eat while traveling easier, it is also extra helpful if your travel squad gets hungry while out exploring. Simply pop up your map on your smartphone and see which of the restaurants on your list are nearby! Get my map here.
25 Must Eat Places In NYC
I always recommend NYC visitors try a mix of casual spots, street food and nicer restaurants for the ultimate New York food experience. Here are my 25 best suggestions on must eat places in NYC divided into four categories:
Fun Food Experiences You Cannot Miss In NYC
Bodega Negra: Classy mexican place with burlesque dancers on #locomondays. Gooo if you have the chance.
Smorgasburg: Experience the largest outdoor food market in America with 100 local vendors. Have fun walking around tasting many different foods & drinks.
Caliente Cab: Fun mexican place in The Village. Great food & the biggest margaritas I’ve ever seen in my life.
Trailer Park Lounge: A fun restaurant that looks like a real life trailer park.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner: A fun & quicky experience that can’t be missed! Enjoy true American diner food while aspiring Broadway stars entertain you. Ellen’s is the only reason I ever go back to Times Square to be honest, it is so much fun.
Tipsy Scoop: Get tipsy eating ice cream.. The perfect fun time with your friends.
The Best Flavors Of NYC
Cafe Habana: The best cuban sandwiches in town. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself!
TAO Uptown: Amazing asian food. Extra fun for SATC fans.
Carbone: The best Italian food around. Totally worth the money.
Vive La Crêpe: The cutest little place with the best nutella & strawberry crepes. SO GOOD.
Instagram Worthy Restaurants In NYC
Pietro Nolita: Instagram famous restaurant that is 100% pink (!)
The Butcher’s Daughter: For a healthy & delicious lunch or brunch. The best avocado toast.
The Little Owl: Enjoy a tasty meal within the FRIENDS apartment building.
The Sugar Factory: Super cute American brasserie & candy shop in one!
Ladurée: For the ultimate french experience – macaroons & all
Boucherie: I’m not gonna lie. Food simply taste better in a picturesque environment. Definitely stop by.
Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain: Adorable retro ice cream parlor, the perfect break while vintage shopping in Brooklyn
The Best View of NYC
The Boathouse in Central Park: This iconic New York gem is perfect for lunch or a coffee with a view.
Magic Hour: The coolest rooftop bar in New York City! Miniature golf and bubbles, anyone?
Refinery: Enjoy some delicious food and beer with a great view of the Empire State Building.
The River Café: Super cozy Michelin-starred restaurant located under the Brooklyn Bridge. Incredible view!
Westlight: A gorgeous rooftop in Williamsburg that prove you can get an amazing view from the 22nd floor
Gallow Green: A lush garden in summer, a cozy lodge in winter, you do not want to miss this Brooklyn rooftop
SUGARCANE Raw Bar & Grill: Lovely restaurant with an incredible view of Brooklyn Bridge and Jane’s Carousel.
OTHER NYC GUIDES
Headed to New York? Check out these guides as well.
My Favorite Must Eat Places In NYC: 10 Reviews
Looking for a little more in-depth information? Here are full reviews on 10 of my favorite must eat places in NYC.
1. Refinery Rooftop
GREAT FOR: Drinks & a meal with an incredible view
OPTIONS: Some vegetarian or gluten free options, see more here
I RECOMMEND: Their fried chicken sandwich & their sliders
Rooftop bars keep poppin’ up like mushrooms in New York City and I’m not complaining. The city skyline never gets old and what could be better than combining the view with a beer and a good meal? On my last trip to the city, Maya and I checked out Refinery Rooftop and we really liked this place. It combined a laid back atmosphere with the right amount of class – and the food was really good. If you want to be seated outside, I suggest you get reservations and request it in advance.
2. Ellen’s Stardust Diner
CUISINE: American Diner
GREAT FOR: A quirky & fun experience for the whole family
OPTIONS: Some vegetarian or gluten free options
I RECOMMEND: Their milkshake and cocktails are simply heavenly for any carb lover like myself.
Although I completely despise Times Square and will do anything to avoid the entire area whenever I’m in the city, I always have to go back for one thing: Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This diner is such a fun experience thanks to their amazing singing waitstaff, whom are all aspiring Broadway performers with incredible talent. I always have so much fun here with my friends.
I know some people think it’s a bit overpriced for what you’re getting, but what you’re really paying for here is the impeccable entertainment. The food is greasy and tasty as diner food should be, and the portions are generous. They don’t accept reservations so there can be a bit of a line outside, but the employees do a great job with seating so it usually doesn’t take that long. Besides. It’s worth it.
3. Bodega Negra
CUISINE: Mexican, latin.
GREAT FOR: A late night dinner with a partner or group of friends.
OPTIONS: Vegetarian & gluten free options
I RECOMMEND: Experience #LocoMondays at 10 pm every Monday for an impressing burlesque show
My travel squad and I were invited to a dinner party at Bodega Negra last summer, and boy did it take me by surprise. We were all having such a great time eating delicious Mexican food in this dark and intimate restaurant when some guys suddenly started moving around some tables. Before we knew it there was a burlesque show going on in front of us, on our table. SO fun! The food and drinks are all incredible also, so you can’t go wrong with a visit to Bodega Negra.
4. TAO Uptown
GREAT FOR: A classy dinner with your partner or friends.
OPTIONS: Vegetarian options, see menu here
I RECOMMEND: Crispy Orange Chicken is simply heavenly.
I’ll be honest. The first time I visited TAO Uptown it was 100% because Carrie did so in Sex And The City. The thing is, it was an amazing food experience so I keep going back.. Every time I’m in the city. The place is elegant and beautiful, the service is impeccable and the food is delicious. It really is the whole nine yards – all without me feeling like I’m out of place – which is the worst feeling, and not so uncommon in New York City. Definitely worth a visit.
5. The Butcher’s Daughter
CUISINE: Vegetarian, American.
OPTIONS: 100% vegetarian, with many vegan and gluten-free options.
GREAT FOR: A delicious & healthy breakfast or brunch.
I RECOMMEND: Avocado toast, fresh juice & espresso, yuuuum yum.
This trendy place has a special place in my heart as it’s located next to my old apartment from my glory days as a (wannabe) newyorker. The Butcher’s Daughter is very popular among the younger crowds and has a high presence on Instagram to say the least, so it can be quite crowded at times. However, the delicious food, fresh juice and cute interiors make up for any waiting time, in my opinion. Outdoor seating is a huge plus, too.
6. Caliente Cab
CUISINE: Mexican, latin
GREAT FOR: Enjoying tasty mexican food and a huge margarita in the sun
OPTIONS: Some gluten free & vegetarian options
I RECOMMEND: Their Blue Corn Chipotle Enchiladas, tacos and pretty much all of their huge drinks
Caliente Cab is the perfect laidback place to enjoy some mexican food in Greenwich Village. It has a fun vibe to it and the employees are always super nice. This area of the city is my absolute favorite in Manhattan, so a stop at Caliente Cab is pretty much mandatory whenever I’ve strolled through Bleecker Street for hours, or after I’ve showed my friends the apartment building from FRIENDS. Highly recommended for a fun time.
7. CAFE HABANA
CUISINE: Cuban, Caribbean
GREAT FOR: When you crave a really good sandwich at cool place (or to go)
OPTIONS: Gluten free, vegetarian & vegan options
I RECOMMEND: Their Cuban Sandwich, was voted best in NYC. So good!
This awesome place is located a only block from my old apartment and I used to be a frequent flyer back in the day. Cafe Habana has a super chill vibe and has the best cuban sandwich I’ve ever tasted (haven’t been to Cuba yet, though!). The cafe is quite intimate, so it’s always an option to take the food to go if you’d rather eat outside or at home. Their menu is varied, prices are great and hey – they even have their own hangover drink menu.
If you’re in New York City during the weekend, you should check out Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Smorgasburg is the largest outdoor food market in America and there are as much as 100 local vendors at the market. It’s so much fun to walk around and tasting so many different foods & drinks. Smorgasburg is located in Williamsburg on Saturdays (90 Kent Ave) 11AM-6PM, and in Prospect Park on Sundays (Breeze Hill) 11AM-4PM.
9. THE LITTLE OWL
GREAT FOR: Any Friends fans who want to enjoy quality food inside Central Perk’s location
OPTIONS: Vegetarian, vegan & gluten free options
I RECOMMEND: The Crispy Chicken entrée was delicious
Any Friends fans out there? If so, I’m sure you’ve dreamt of hanging out in Monica’s apartment. Sadly I can’t make that happen for you, but I can suggest the next best thing: You can enjoy a meal inside the building. The Little Owl is an adorable and intimate restaurant located where Central Perk is supposed to be in the TV show. Their food is really good and it’s in the middle of Greenwich Village, my favorite neighbourhood in New York City.
CUISINE: French, Steakhouse
GREAT FOR: Foodies who enjoy brunch or dinner in a picturesque environment
OPTIONS: Vegetarian, vegan & gluten free options
I RECOMMEND: The Wagyu Truffle Burger, so gooood.
I’m not gonna lie. Food simply taste better in a picturesque environment. At least it makes the whole experience drastically better, who can deny that? Regardless of what your thoughts are on this subject there is no doubt you’ll enjoy Boucherie if you appreciate quality dining. Boucherie is a traditional French brasserie and steakhouse with three locations in New York City. Their classic food is delicious, and their cocktails are heavenly. Definitely stop by if you have the chance to.
AMAZING FOOD TOURS IN NYC
If you or anyone in your travel squad is a foodie you should consider doing a food tour when in New York City. After all, the city is known for its food and there is loads to learn and to taste if you’re interested.
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I hope you enjoyed this guide on must eat places in NYC! Hopefully I’ve made the process of choosing a tad easier for you.