There are more than 8 million people living in New York City, and some 25,000 restaurants keeping them fed. Though the Statue of Liberty and Broadway’s flashing lights get most of the credit, restaurants, bars, street vendors and late-night food trucks are just as essential to this city’s DNA. Whether it’s a month-out reservation in downtown Manhattan or a hand-pulled noodle shop in a Queens shopping mall, there are endless ways to have a meal in the five boroughs.
Welcome to New York
Cross an avenue, bridge, or park, and there’s a different neighborhood at every turn. Within each of the five boroughs are never-ending culinary options. Ordering a taco, whether from a popular birria truck or a takeout counter the size of a studio apartment, can mean enduring the same waits as Michelin-starred establishments. There’s a wide range of dining to do between the city’s most affordable and blowout meals — and there’s a quality option at every price, which is part of what sets New York apart.
Breakfast can take place at a nostalgic diner or at a cart in Chinatown dishing up steaming rice rolls in aluminum trays. Lunch options are just as varied, with classic steakhouses and pizza joints equally popular. Dinner can occur at a communal Nigerian restaurant in Bed-Stuy or at a dim sum spot in Manhattan Chinatown that stays open until 4 a.m. New York’s restaurant scene, complex and varied as it is, caters to basically every kind of diner.
Where to Start on Eater New York’s Top Maps
Eater publishes countless maps to keep you on top of the city’s restaurant and bar scenes. Here are the ones our readers return to the most.
Keeping up with the trendiest restaurants is like playing Whac-A-Mole: There are no shortages of openings in New York City and beyond the Eater 38 — our shortlist of the city’s 38 must-visit restaurants — there are “heatmaps” tracking the hottest tables in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. We update them monthly.
For those looking to cross an item off a bucket list, start here. Dining at one of the city’s classic restaurants is like stepping back in time, and in one of the oldest dining cities in the country, legendary steakhouses and gritty taverns still feel quintessentially New York.
There’s a home for the all-you-can-drink-mimosa crowd and those looking to cure a hangover with bacon and eggs for under $10. In addition to traditional brunch options, this guide has our favorite spots serving colorful chilaquiles, beef noodle soup, Thai breakfast sandwiches, and bean and cheese tacos.
New York’s most well-known dishes go beyond bagels, pizza, and pastrami — though you don’t want to miss those while you’re here, either. Our guide to the city’s most iconic dishes is a study in egg creams, banana pudding, hot dogs, and hand-pulled noodles.
Whether it’s a pie thrown in a charcoal oven or one sporting a fancy sourdough crust, there’s a pizza for every occasion in all five boroughs. Before folding a slice in half, consult this map of the city’s top pizzerias.
Opinions vary on the city’s finest bagels, but one thing is clear: This is New York’s unofficial favorite food. The big, chewy versions found at Ess-a-Bagel or the dense, bialy-like ones from Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels are just two worth seeking out.
The leading sushi restaurants in New York offer a range of experiences. Diners can max out credit cards with luxe omakase or find quality fish at affordable prices. Wondering who has the best fish in the city? Our critic has thoughts.
From red-sauce classics to trattorias inspired by Tuscany, New York excels at Italian food. In the Bronx’s Little Italy, the chalkboard menu outside of Roberto’s advertises daily pasta specials, while the popular Don Angie in the West Village offers modern takes on Italian American staples.
The five boroughs are full of old-school steakhouses, but some of the most exciting cuts of meat right now are found at more casual and affordable venues. Consider the stunning prime rib at Gallaghers or these price-conscious cuts from London import Hawksmoor. Last fall, our critics debated the city’s best steakhouses at multiple price points.
Fancy or simple, there are countless desserts to try in New York City. Some are sit-down affairs that come at the end of a multi-course menu, while others can be ordered from a takeout counter for a few dollars. In a hurry? Try the affordable kuih at East Village bakery Lady Wong or the seasonal gelato at Williamsburg pizzeria L’Industrie.
Old-school parlors, innovative gelato shops, and even vegan options dot our map of essential ice cream shops. It’s a list to consult year-round, whether it’s guava-cheese ice cream from Harlem’s Sugar Hill or the masala chai-flavored scoops at Malai in Cobble Hill.
It’s the city that never sleeps. New York’s coffee scene is packed with reliable neighborhood shops for working (away) from home and third-wave options for those in search of a perfect pour.
A new job. An anniversary. A birthday. For a blowout meal, splurge on a big event at restaurants ranging from the elegant French seafood temple Le Bernardin to Claud, an East Village wine bar that Eater named one of the city’s best new restaurants last year.
There’s never been a better time to eat outdoors in New York City, even when temperatures drop. The pandemic changed everything as the city started opening up its sidewalks and streets to al fresco dining, from spots that keep diners sheltered in the rain to Michelin-starred establishments with luxe outdoor seating areas.
A Guide to Some of NYC’s Dining Neighborhoods
More than 8 million residents are sardine-packed into New York City’s five boroughs. The rent may be too damn high, but a short walk or a subway ride introduces you to a different food scene in every neighborhood.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg might be Brooklyn’s restaurant scene darlings, but some of the most exciting openings right now are happening further east in Bushwick. During the pandemic, Falansai reinvented itself as a destination for modern Vietnamese cooking and Sobre Masa Tortilleria opened with tacos served on colorful heirloom grain tortillas.
New York’s oldest and most well-known Chinatown is a leading destination for fresh rice noodle rolls, dim sum, Peking duck, and so much more. Favorites include an order of ten pan-fried pork dumplings for $3.50 at North Dumpling, dollar barbecue pork buns at Golden Steamer, and the crowd-pleasing big tray spicy chicken at Spicy Village.
In many ways, the East Village feels like a microcosm of New York. Many of the old-school favorites are still going strong: The pierogies at Veselka still draw lines, even though the legendary Ukrainian diner is no longer open 24/7. Newcomers like Superiority Burger, a vegetarian diner that started as a burger counter, and Yellow Rose, a home for Tex-Mex staples, have made the East Village one of the best dining neighborhoods in the city.
Taking the 7 train to the last stop isn’t just worth it for the Chinese food: Flushing is also one of the best places in town to find newer restaurants specializing in Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese cuisine. Here, it’s as easy to find an all-you-can-eat tteokbokki spot as a Chinese dim sum hall run by robotic servers.
Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood is often thought of as a destination for Polish food, but in recent years it’s spawned a vibrant Mexican restaurant scene and become home to the city’s own Little Tokyo. There’s modern Vietnamese food from Di An Di, tacos that channel Mexico City at Taqueria Ramírez, and a Taiwanese American party at Wenwen.
It may be located a few blocks from Times Square, but this stretch of Manhattan is home to one of the city’s most affordable and diverse collections of restaurants. A section of Ninth Avenue is dotted with Thai, Mexican, Cuban, Afghan, Haitian, and Peruvian restaurants, along with other independently owned places like the 24-hour Empanada Mama.
This Queens neighborhood is often cited as the most diverse zip code in the city based on the number of languages spoken. A stroll down Roosevelt Avenue, where the 7 train rumbles overhead, is all the proof you need. There are first-rate momos at Nepali Bhanchha Ghar. Birria-Landia, one of the city’s most popular taco trucks, has lines late into the night. And there’s no shortage of Colombian-owned spots, from diners to roast chicken counters.
Lower East Side
This downtown Manhattan neighborhood embraces its historic roots as much as it does the city’s current dining scene. Tourist magnets like Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters are still going strong, and for good reason — the pastrami and lox, respectively, are tough to beat — but new spots are keeping this neighborhood on the map. Dhamaka, an Indian restaurant in a food hall, became one of the best new restaurants in the country in 2021, while Smashed is anchoring the city’s burger scene with a late-night counter on Orchard Street.
Sure, it’s full of tourist traps, but as Broadway makes a comeback, even New Yorkers are flocking to the Theater District. LumLum is serving exciting Thai food in an area known for the cuisine, while Farida serves a Central Asian menu where plov, the Uzbek national dish, with tender lamb is a must-order.
Upper West Side
Slowly but surely, the Upper West Side has shed its image as a sleepy enclave of outdated and expensive restaurants. Around Lincoln Center, there are now upscale establishments like Tatiana from the celebrated chef Kwame Onwuach. Further uptown, there are newer arrivals like Bánh, offering a fresh take on classic Vietnamese dishes, and Charles Pan-Fried Chicken, which started as a sidewalk barbecue stand. Long-standing restaurants like Barney Greengrass have remained fixtures in the area, even as newer places open their doors.
The brownstones and tree-lined streets of this Manhattan neighborhood make it one of the most picturesque and pricey parts of the city — and its restaurants generally abide by the same rules. Small dining rooms barely larger than some apartments are packed with diners, like at the popular Italian restaurant Via Carota or old-school favorite Corner Bistro. When there’s a wait, you won’t have a problem finding a cocktail or wine bar to kill some time.
If there’s a Brooklyn neighborhood that can go toe-to-toe with Manhattan for its sheer number of buzzed-about restaurants, it’s Williamsburg. Missy Robbins dominates the Italian scene with Lilia, but if you can’t get a reservation, Bamonte’s is a classic that still draws a crowd. The Four Horsemen offers a nice selection of natural wines and Michelin-worthy plates, while Sushi On Me serves an omakase that’s as much about unlimited sake as sushi.
New York Dining Glossary
BEC: Otherwise known as a bacon, egg, and cheese, this is a staple breakfast food in New York City. Whether it appears on a roll, bagel, or bialy (more on this in a minute), count on a messy, meaty breakfast sandwich. It’s often sourced from a corner deli or grill.
Bialy: New Yorkers who love to boast that their bagels are the best are the same folks who have opinions on where to get the biggest, freshest, and best-tasting ones. But overlooked in this debate is the bialy, a flat round roll with onions chopped up in the center, originating in the town of Bialystok, Poland. Ask for one of those in a bagel store or deli (or a bialy bakery like Kossar’s) and receive an admiring nod of the head from the proprietor.
Black and white: This archetypal term refers to an ancient kind of cookie characterized by its white frosting on one side and black frosting on the other. It may have originally been created as a tribute to Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon.
Bodega: In most parts of the country, it’s called a convenience store, 7-Eleven, or, if you happen to live in San Antonio, an ice house. In New York City, these ubiquitous corner stores — and just about every city block has one — are called bodegas, which means “little store” in Spanish. It’s where New Yorkers turn for everything from coffee and beer to breakfast and dinner. Don’t be surprised to find a cat watching over the premises.
Chopped cheese: Also known as chop cheese, this sandwich is made from a combination of ground beef, American cheese, and chopped-up onions. One of the best versions of the sandwich is found at East Harlem bodega Blue Sky, said to be its creator, and it can be found in empanada, burrito, burger, and french fry form.
Hero: In some parts of the country, it’s called a hoagie, sub, or grinder — but in the streets of New York, it’s a hero, an Italian-style sandwich overflowing with cold cuts, cheese, and whatever else.
Doubles: This term, which is both singular and plural, refers to a small handheld sandwich made from a pair of tiny puri stuffed with curried chickpeas (called “channa”) that’s topped with two sauces, one fiery, one fruity. It originated in Trinidad among those of Indian descent and now is a favorite snack in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Egg cream: Despite its name, this signature beverage of New York City contains neither eggs nor cream. It’s a shot of chocolate or vanilla syrup (Fox’s U-Bet is the local favorite) mixed with milk and club soda, with the proportion of ingredients and stirring style unique to each maker. A new generation of restaurants is reviving the New York icon at spots like Agi’s Counter in Crown Heights and Old John’s Luncheonette on the Upper West Side.
Natural skinned: New Yorkers love their hot dogs, which some still refer to as frankfurters, wieners, or franks. In New York, they are usually made from beef and have a skin on them, which is sometimes made from the small intestines of sheep. A real natural-skinned frank should “snap” when you bite into it. Find them at Nathan’s Famous, Katz’s Deli, Gray’s Papaya, and most hot dog carts.
Schmear: When ordering a bagel, asking for a schmear (“just a little”) is the way to get just the right amount of cream cheese.
Slice: In most parts of the country, consumers buy pizza by the pie. Here, it’s not a proper pizzeria if they don’t sell slices. Your choices aren’t limited to plain cheese, either, and many local pizzerias pride themselves on sumptuous displays of many kinds of slices, sometimes with several types ganged up on a single tray: pepperoni, fried eggplant parm, mushroom, buffalo chicken, and tomato-free white pies.
Reservations to Make in Advance
Securing a table ahead of time has become a required part of dining at some of the city’s most popular restaurants, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn. One result of the pandemic is that more places accept reservations, and scoring a seat at a new hot spot is sort of like buying concert tickets online — tables can book out within minutes of being released, sometimes a month in advance.
Our team has a practical guide to scoring a last-minute table at the restaurant of your dreams, but for those with a few weeks of lead time, here are a handful of restaurants whose websites are worth keeping an eye on: Bonnie’s, Carbone, Claud, Dept. of Culture, Dhamaka, Don Angie, Eleven Madison Park, Four Horsemen, Gramercy Tavern, Laser Wolf, Le Rock, Le Bernardin, Lilia, Semma, Sushi On Me, Tatiana, Via Carota, Wenwen.
Follow the Stars
New York is home to a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants — 73 as of the latest awards in 2022. While most of these places aren’t everyday spots, a handful are quite affordable, like Casa Enrique in Long Island City, the city’s first Mexican restaurant to earn a Michelin star. The longer list of Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants includes some Eater favorites like Park Slope bakery Winner and Elmhurst’s popular Thai restaurant Zaab Zaab.
Head Out of Town
You could spend a lifetime in the five boroughs and still not hit every restaurant on this guide. Well, we’re not done yet.
In recent years, heavy-hitter chefs have opened establishments everywhere from the North Fork of Long Island to the Hudson Valley. One of the most well-known towns upstate is surely Hudson, easily accessible via Amtrak, where you can spend a full 24 hours in just a few blocks, eating at some of the state’s most-talked-about restaurants. The Catskills region is also another popular weekend getaway for many New Yorkers. For wine nerds, the Finger Lakes region has emerged as a national destination that’s taken as seriously as Napa and Sonoma. And of course, there’s always the Hamptons, where some of the city’s trendiest restaurants often pop-up with seasonal menus and one-off events.