‘Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like
and let the food fight it out inside’
– Mark Twain
I’ve spent over 9 years in New York City and while I consider having covered a good majority of its sights, I can’t say the same for its plethora of eateries and bars! It has, however, been my untiring quest to visit as many of these fine institutions as is possible, for as long as I am here!
In the summer of ’09, a friend who was on internship here from Texas, asked for a list of my favorite places in the city. The list turned out to be rather long, and several drafts later, I figured I should share the same with my friends, family, the occasional visitor to my blog, and pretty much anyone who enjoys good food and drink! Besides, knowing fully well just how hopeless I am at remembering names, I figured this would be a good record for myself!
This list is in no way meant to be the last word on cuisine in this amazing city – I’ll leave that to the likes of Yelp, Chowhound, Eater and such! Nor does every place that finds a mention here offer exemplary food or choice of beverage – very often its just the company I had that made it memorable, or then the ambiance!
Below you will find links to individual pages, sorted by broad geographical area in Manhattan (south to north), followed by the boroughs. Food genres have been categorized as broadly as possible. And finally, there’s my wishlist, which would obviously be updated often!
Last but not the least, I’d like to thank GD, JK, JLG, WM & SK – the food authority’s in the city, as far as I’m concerned. Thank you all for your many invaluable recommendations, tips and suggestions!
[LAST UPDATED: August 29, 2015]
Lower Manhattan (14)
(Includes Financial District and Tribeca)
In the southernmost quarter of Manhattan, Stone St. has led the food and drink resurgence in the FiDi. Not far from it, Tribeca sports the upscale eateries and bars, whereas South Street Seaport, although touristy, has it’s share of places too. And then there’s Battery Park City, with a handful of new openings recently, capitalizing on the waterfront views.
The most authentic place on the island for Vietnamese, Malay, and of course Chinese food, with plenty of specialty markets, bakeries and dumpling houses making up the ecosystem here. In the unlikely event that you don’t manage to get your food fix, a shuttle bus connects to the other Chinatown in Flushing, Queens!
Lower East Side (23)
Better known as being downtown’s ‘party central’, the LES has a plethora of eateries too, including the legendary Katz Deli, and a more recent entrant, Clinton Street Baking Co., each with its own fan following. For the late night set, there’s plenty of cocktail bars, lounges, a manic Belgian Vodka bar and a great speakeasy to choose from.
SoHO / NoHO / Bowery (27)
Despite the shopping destination it is, SoHO and its surrounds offer plenty of cool bars and lounges, as well as outstanding Cuban food (Cafe Habana), a couple of good bakeries and espresso bars. One of my favourite food destinations in the city – Great Jones Cafe – is located in the area!
West Village (32)
(Includes Meatpacking District)
The West Village pretty much runs the gamut on the food spectrum, offering every cuisine, suited to every budget. A good many of them are tucked away in charming little alleys, which the nabe is so well renowned for. It also boasts the original Kathi Roll Co. and Mamouns! The Meatpacking fills in with high-end dining and clubbing destinations, including a recent, more chilled-out addition, the Biergarten at The Standard.
East Village (40)
(Includes Alphabet City)
Possibly the best neighborhood for food in the city, the East Village has everything from Wine and Sake bars to old Jewish bakeries; from Afghani cuisine to Peruvian Ceviche, and from great Japanese Yakitoriyas to Ukranian diners! You can pretty much spend a week trying different cuisines along St.Marks Plc alone!
Union Square (10)
University Place, south of 14th St., has seen its share of new entrants, with eateries popping up ever so often! But regardless, old haunts remain in the area, including one of my favorite sandwich shops, and steak houses in the city! Plus with ‘Think’ and ‘Joe’ around, there’s good Coffee too!
Chelsea to Murray Hill (29)
(Includes Flatiron District)
Galleries by day and clubbing by night, that’s what Chelsea’s been known for. In between though, there are plenty of eating and drinking establishments to choose from; from Puerto Rican diners and great outdoor drinking locations (Frying Pan), to an eclectic mix of food merchants housed within Chelsea Market. The High Line Park, Chelsea’s newest attraction, has already gathered its own selection of food vendors! Then there’s the Flatiron District, boasting the original Shake Shack, and the Batali behemoth, Eataly! Across, on the east side in Murray Hill, sits ‘little India’, jostling for space with BBQ hotspots and Beer bars!
Hell’s Kitchen (71)
(Includes Clinton / Garment District / Fashion District / Theater District)
The most underrated neighborhood for food in the city, period! Granted, 46th St (Restaurant Row) has been around for a while, but that’s mostly tourist centric. The real action here is along 9th Ave, and further west. You name the cuisine, and chances are Hell’s Kitchen has a restaurant for it, possibly two! With plenty of new entrants appearing on the scene, the old-school establishments are in danger of closing – so take advantage while they’re still around! As a bonus, this is also one of the most reasonable neighborhoods for food in the city.
Midtown / East Midtown (36)
Great after-work drinking spots (obviously, this is midtown!), including plenty of outdoor locations in Bryant Park; great Turkish food, excellent Japanese food (north east of Grand Central is pretty much little Tokyo!), K-town, of course – featuring 24×7 eateries and Karaoke bars – and rounding it all up, a few choice Indian restaurants as well!
Upper West Side (15)
(Includes Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center)
This neighborhood boasts great brunch spots, several neighborhood bars and eateries lining Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, plenty of dining options around Lincoln Center, upscale eateries around Columbus Circle, its own Fairway (with a great Deli) and at Levain bakery, easily the best Cookies anywhere in NYC!
Upper East Side (10)
Should you ever find yourself in this mostly residential enclave, there are plenty of ‘local’ dining establishments to choose from along 2nd and 3rd Avenues; a few remnants of its old German past (Schaller & Weber, etc), the legendary grocer Eli’s, and possibly the best chocolate cake in all of NYC at Two Little Red Hens, a hole-in-the-wall bakery!
Upper Manhattan (9)
(Includes Harlem / Morningside Heights / Washington Heights)
Harlem is renowned for its soul food establishments – Amy Ruth’s & Sylvie’s, amongst them – and more recently, by the much hyped Red Rooster, by Marcus Samuelson. The Morningside Heights area boasts several little cafes and bars, focussed on the large Columbia University populace, and further up in Washington Heights, a Dominican and Puerto Rican bastion, is the revered Malecon. Crowning the very tip of the island (almost!) is the charming New Leaf Cafe, run by Bette Midler’s foundation, located in Fort Tryon Park and housed in a chalet.
The Bronx (5)
This is probably one of the most underrated boroughs as far as food is concerned, so if you’re adventurous enough, there’s plenty to explore! Along quaint little City Island are a handful of old seafood establishments; Arthur Ave with its specialty grocers, bakeries and Trattorias is one of the oldest Italian enclaves in NY; and the South Bronx lures you in with some of the most authentic Central American offerings in the city!
Queens – Astoria (51)
My current neighborhood, and definitely in my top 3 food destinations across the 5 boroughs, Astoria warrants its own list! I’ve been here over a year now and I’m still trying to check off places on my list. Outstanding Greek is a given, of course, but there is a sizable Japanese, Brazilian, Turkish, Egyptian, Balkan, Colombian and Ecuadorian population in the neighborhood, not to mention old Italian, all of whom have their own collection of markets, bakeries and go-to eateries, giving Astoria and Astorians alike, a flavor unlike any other!
Queens – Others (40)
The 7 train to Flushing is often called the ‘International Express’, and for good reason too – it passes through neighborhoods more ethnically diverse than any other in the city, and the borough itself is home to over 100 nationalities! Not surprisingly then, Queens is paradise waiting to be explored, whether you’re in Long Island City or Sunnyside, Jackson Heights or Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Corona or Flushing! Quality food is everywhere, and it doesn’t get more authentic than this!
It would be safe to say that this borough was responsible for the introduction of a new genre – New American – and it continues to be exemplified here today, with practically a new opening every other week, in hotspots like Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens and The Slope! The borough also boasts great Middle Eastern (Yemeni, Palestinian), the best Pizzerias in the city (Lucali, etc), and plenty of uber cool bars and cocktail lounges, bakeries and food purveyors. Within its many food centric neighborhoods, Carrol Gardens remains my favorite!
Staten Island (3)
NYCs fifth and “forgotten” borough is not to be left behind in the culinary department, and admittedly, I have a long way to go in my exploration of the same. But I do know this – its worth riding the ferry over for some of the best Sri Lankan in the city, traditional Italian, and many old school diners, if that speaks to your palette at all!
Trucks & Carts (13)
Food trucks started in LA, but they’re all the rage in NYC today, and the city has taken them to a different level. You name the kind of food – be it Kosher or Vegan, Cupcakes or Schnitzels, Burgers or Pizzas, Souvlaki or Tacos, Korean or Italian – chances are there’s a food truck (or two) out there, fully decked up for the job, serving up what you wish for! And then they’re the enduring food carts (mostly Halal), feeding the midtown lunch crowd unfailingly, day after day!
The Wishlist (119)
First the good news – as of last count, I’ve managed to check off 90 from my original list. Now the bad news – I still have well over a hundred to get to! Clearly, I’m never going to be able to keep pace. But regardless, I need your valuable suggestions to add to the wealth of this list, and to entice me into constantly trying new places for as long as I am in the Big Apple!