Where to Eat in New York City

Whether you're craving pizza, burgers, steak or something utterly unexpected, New York brims with dining possibilities. Here are a few of the best places to start.

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Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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Need a Bite in NYC?

We challenge you to name a craving that can’t be sated in New York City. Not only is the city packed with every cuisine and dish imaginable, but most can be delivered in 15 minutes. To narrow down the limitless possibilities, here is a rundown of local favorites, whether you’re taking in dinner and a show, looking to savor some culinary history or try of-the-moment flavors.

Pizza and a Burger: Emily

This couple-owned Clinton Hill pizzeria was destination-worthy for its pies alone, which are available with red sauce — try Colony, topped with sauce, mozz, pepperoni, honey and pickled jalapeno — vodka-sauced pink pies, tomatillo-topped green pies and classic white pies. But the restaurant upped its own ante unleashing the Emmy Burger, a towering combo of dry-aged beef, house sauce, caramelized onions, cheddar and cornichons on a pretzel bun. Go early and with a friend to enjoy both.

Iconic Spot — Keen’s Steakhouse

Serving hulking cuts of meat to hungry New Yorkers since 1885, this clubby chophouse practically drips with history: The ceiling beams are lined with old tobacco pipes that belonged to a lengthy roster of icons, including Theodore Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody and John Barrymore. The menu keeps in line with the old-school appeal. Channel a steak dinner from bygone eras with Iceberg Lettuce Wedges, Oysters Rockefeller and the signature bone-in Mutton Chop, with cheesecake, creme brulee or a butterscotch sundae for dessert.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Keens Steakhouse

New Chinese — Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu's Kitchen

Verdant and bright, as if more of a home-goods store than noodle den, Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu's Kitchen more than lives up to its lengthy name. A popular mini-chain in China, this Greenwich Village restaurant is the first American outpost for the seasonal Szechuan food. The menu teeters between classics and more creative territory, with pictures of each dish to help clarify what’s to come. For a bit of fire power, opt for the crispy shrimp, which presents a bowl of popcorn-style shrimp dotted with crunchy chiles and tingling Szechuan peppercorns. Cool off with clams and Chinese chives or a mug of namesake tea.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu's Kitchen

Burger — J.G. Melon

The debate over the best burger in New York City could divide even the closest pals. But J.G. Melon’s is a burger to heal all rifts. The Upper East Side mainstay is the best kind of throwback, with kitschy watermelon (Get it? Melon?) decor, rickety wood chairs and refreshingly brusque servers. Skip the menu’s salads and club sandwiches, and zero in on the cheeseburger, The patty is flavored by its turn on the well-seasoned griddle and barely contained by its blessedly meager bun, which gives way two bites in, letting meaty juices trickle down forearms, as the burger gods intended. Red onions, pickles and lettuce come on the side; bacon is extra. Order cottage fries and a cup of chili for dipping, but only if you’ve brought enough cash: At the original Upper East Side location, credit cards are as verboten as veggie burgers.

Photo courtesy of Linda Facci

Go to: J.G. Melon

Dinner + a Show — Danji

Though Times Square itself is a bastion of neon signage and meandering tourists, slightly north and west of the mayhem is this 36-seat Korean haven. Chef Hooni Kim serves inventive Korean dishes that are ideal for after-theater snacks or full dinner. The restaurant, open until midnight on weeknights (1 a.m. on weekends) serves bulgogi beef sliders, garlicky wings, kimchi fried rice and plenty of vegetarian options. The bar mixes clever cocktails, but the slightly sweet unfiltered rice beer is the best pairing against the spices.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Danji

Date Spot — El Quinto Pino

A great date spot can mean something different to every person. But, as a general rule, it should have plates for sharing, great drinks and an interesting atmosphere — something to remark on, should first-date conversation hit a lull. This Chelsea Spanish spot hits all three qualifications with flamenco flair. The space is split into a retro-homey dining room and a buzzing front bar. If a high-top table is available, settle in up front and order drinks from the chalkboard menus — perhaps the tart, frozen gin-basil pomada, sangria or one of several good sherries. Food options rotate but always include shareable snacks like pimenton-dusted fried chickpeas, garlicky shrimp, creamy croquettes and the renowned uni panini.

Photo courtesy of Alex Raij

Go to: El Quinto Pino

Cocktail Bar — Death & Co

Though some joke that this dimly lit East Village bar’s name refers to deadly hangovers from its punch bowls and meticulously crafted cocktails, Death & Co actually refers to the Prohibition-era belief that those who drank lived in the shadow of death. "To those who shun the night, we tip our hat," crows the website, and what a hat tip it is. The drinks on the menu are categorized by spirit — gin, rum, agave, whiskey, brandy — as well as their geographic origin and their style, including juleps, punch bowls and classics pulled from vintage cocktail manuals. The dozens of options can overwhelm, so nab a seat at the bar to enlist the experts' advice. They might steer you to the Renegade Julep, which uses aged Japanese whiskey and Scotch with port syrup and fernet, or the boldly spiced Fever Dream, with chile-infused mezcal, Suze, lime and celery bitters.

Photo courtesy of Deah & Co

Go to: Death & Co

Sushi — Sushi Nakazawa

There’s much that helps Sushi Nakazawa stand apart from its competition: Set on a quiet, residential street in the West Village, it feels unexpected, particularly with modern decor, including subway tiles, clean lines and none of the classic Japanese touches that seem to come preloaded at sushi restaurants in New York City. The draw here is a seat at the bar on a weeknight, when Chef Daisuke Nakazawa is in charge. Famous for his diligent work perfecting tamagoyaki, the egg omelet, in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Nakazawa shows that precision and attention to detail with every course of the 20ish-item omakase menu. The fish is served simply, with tiny accents like shiso or yuzu pepper to accentuate the fish and warm rice. The menu — best enjoyed with sake pairings — flows like a symphony from light to bold, from buttery tuna to briny urchin to smoky eel. The omelet comes as the finale, a perfectly fluffy morsel to cap a star turn.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Krieger

Go to: Sushi Nakazawa

Ramen — Ivan Ramen

Noodle geek Ivan Orkin may be a native New Yorker, but his years mastering ramen in Tokyo made him a certifiable expert. Orkin’s inventive Lower East Side ramen shop offers several variations, including salty shio and soy-based shoyu with well-textured rye noodles. Orkin also gets creative with garlicky triple-pork mazemen — in a milky tonkotsu broth — and a spicy sesame-laced dan dan variation. Orkin also ladles ramen at his Slurp Shop in Hell’s Kitchen’s Gotham West Market, but the Lower East Side location has whimsical starters like Tofu Coney Island (in a yellow mustard sauce) as well as a back patio for warmer evenings and weekend brunch.

Go to: Ivan Ramen

Place for Parents — Rotisserie Georgette

The qualifications for a parent-friendly restaurant can seem like an SAT logic question: What is a restaurant in a central location, with great food, manageable noise, comfortable seating and an inviting atmosphere? The answer: Rotisserie Georgette. A block from Central Park, the French bistro serves the homey, familiar dishes we would all master if we had Julia Child’s skills and a spare professional-grade rotisserie oven. But why compete with what Georgette (named for its owner, Georgette Farkas) has already mastered? The namesake oven turns out stellar fish, Asian-flavored ribs and the signature Poulet Roti, available with a choice of four sauces. Recruit an accomplice for the duck a l’orange for two, with Peking-crisp skin primed for a photo shoot. The sides, French wines, desserts — including a perfectly puffed chocolate souffle — and open kitchen all enhance the warm, welcoming feel.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hom

Go to: Rotisserie Georgette

Ice Cream — Ample Hills

There are plenty of great cones in New York City. But Ample Hills is the ice cream geek’s scoop shop, with flavors that play with and surpass all expectations. Owner Brian Smith, a former horror-film screenwriter, imbues his flavor combinations with whimsy, varying salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy to create flavors like It Came from the Gowanus — salted dark chocolate ice cream with cookies, orange-chocolate brownies and white chocolate pearls — and The Munchies, a pretzel-infused ice cream with potato chips, pretzels, Ritz crackers and M&M’s, all with a rabid scoop-obsessed fan base. 

Go to: Ample Hills Creamery

Vietnamese — Bunker

Across from a scrap-metal salvage yard, this Ridgewood Vietnamese restaurant may not offer the best view for those who perch on benches out front awaiting a table. But patient diners can look forward to the delicate, herbaceous flavors of Vietnam, including impeccable seafood. Start with the specials, chalked onto menu boards strung from the ceiling. With luck, they’ll include coconut-braised ribs, seafood soup tart with tamarind, or a surf-and-turf of spicy grilled prawns with lemongrass short ribs over rice noodles. Classics like fortifying chicken pho and banh xeo, a delicate, crisp shrimp crepe, are menu stalwarts. The triple-brewed Vietnamese iced coffee is thick and sweet to balance the spice, though the menu includes excellent craft beers as well.

Photo courtesy of Erin Hartigan

Go to: Bun-ker Vietnamese

Iconic Dish — Parm

Though New York has long laid claim to the best Italian food in the country, the city’s red-sauce game has recently been more like sad sauce. Sure, Little Italy is a charming draw, but many of the dishes there taste more like frozen meals than Florentine fare. But Parm, a growing chainlet from the team behind Carbone and Santina, is changing that, serving delightfully retro Parm platters in a space designed to embrace Italian-American ingredients and heritage, with floral wallpaper, cheap Chianti and Neapolitan ice cream cake for dessert. The namesake Parm is available as chicken, eggplant or meatball on a semolina roll, in a sesame-seed-studded hero or as a platter with a side of rigatoni. For your first taste, go with a classic chicken platter. It's garlicky, rich and a taste of simple red-sauced bliss.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Parm

Pizza (Whole) — Motorino

There are too many great pizzas in New York City to pick a No. 1, but for the pie to grab on a casual night, without fanfare or a lengthy wait, Motorino wins. The East Village original hustles diners in and out, meaning the waits are fairly manageable for diners craving wood-fired pizzas with puffy crusts and well-charred bottoms. The standard-bearer is the soppressata, topped with pepperoni-thin slices of the spicy Italian salami, along with chile flakes, melting pools of fiore di latte and tangy tomato sauce. The cherrystone clam pie and Brussels sprout pie (topped with green leaves and slivers of pancetta) are also top contenders. Pair pies with the house sparkling dry red, which is hard to miss, accurately described atop the menu in bold font as "the perfect pizza wine."

Go to: Motorino

Power Lunch — ABC Kitchen

The fact that Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen isn’t in midtown could make the restaurant seem a strange power-lunch contender. But making suit-clad bigwigs travel the distance to jockey for a table simply ups the standing for this Union Square farm-to-table favorite. Since opening in 2010, it has been among the toughest reservations in town, packed at lunch, brunch and dinner with diners thrilling over vegetable-driven dishes that look as beautiful as if they’d been assembled by artists featured in the attached ABC Carpet & Home store. The roast-carrot-and-avocado salad is deserving of its cult status, as are jalapeno-topped crab toast and every single vegetable side. Opt for the prix-fixe lunch to coerce yourself into ending with the signature dessert: a salted-caramel ice cream sundae topped with popcorn, candied peanuts, fluffy peaks of whipped cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce. Look around, because the odds are good that a few celebrities and business moguls are diving in too.

Photo courtesy of ABC Carpet & Home

Go to: ABC Kitchen

Bakery — Bien Cuit

The loaves of bread at Cobble Hill bakery Bien Cuit taste like master French pastry chefs made them in a West Coast commune. And perhaps rightly so: Chef Zachary Golper baked his way around the world, from an apprenticeship in rural Oregon to time with a Provencal master baker. Now a James Beard Foundation Award-nominated baker himself, Golper uses local grains and a slow-fermentation process to give his beautiful breads unique aged flavor and character. The signature miche is a wheat-rye mix that ferments for 68 hours, yielding a springy, dark bread with a crackling exterior. Golper also concocts seasonal loaves, like a spring bread fermented with goat milk and mixed with wild nettles. The pastries are buttery and exceptional, particularly the almond croissant, caramelized on the outside under a scattering of slivered nuts and powdered sugar, with a thin, brandied layer of almond paste inside that’s even better alongside a cortado.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Bien Cuit

Bar for Food — The NoMad Bar

This is no dive bar. Spun off from the ultrapopular NoMad restaurant just next door, this place serves bar food as only a two-time James Beard Foundation Award winner can put it out, and it’s well worth the upgrade. The chicken pot pie is studded with meat from the NoMad restaurant’s luxurious truffled roasted birds, and a bacon-wrapped hot dog glistens with truffle aioli. Flatbreads, olives and other snacks pop up as tempting teases of the ubiquitous usual offerings. The three burgers, though — chicken, veggie and a dry-aged beef cheeseburger — are the reason to jostle for a barstool. The classic cheeseburger has marrow folded into the mixture, creating a perfectly greasy patty capped with a slick of cheddar, grilled red onion and special sauce. And, since this is a bar, the tomelike drinks menu more than stands up to the food: All the drinks are made with craft spirits, fresh mixers and a keen knack for balanced flavors.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Michael Chin

Go to: The NoMad Bar

Breakfast — Balthazar

Mornings at Balthazar can feel like a trip to Paris or a scene from Sex and the City. The classic brasserie is packed around the clock with the clatter and chatter of diners tucking into escargot, steak frites and raw-bar towers. But the expansive, Belle Epoque-evoking dining room is at its best in the mornings, when power players and bleary-eyed Francophiles settle into booths for eggs en cocotte, bowl-size lattes and baskets of fresh-baked croissants and brioches from the adjacent patisserie. Even at breakfast, make sure an order of salty, super-crispy fries lands on your table — they’re some of the very best in the city.

Go to: Balthazar

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