After saying (over and over again) that I was planning to share some of my NYC favorites, it’s finally happening. This has been one of my most requested posts and something I’ve been meaning to do for much longer than I care to admit, so it only makes sense to start with my favorite thing about this incredible city: the food.
I often judge a restaurant by asking myself “am I excited to come back here?” and if the answer is yes, the place is a winner in my eyes. I’ve eaten at many, many restaurants in the city, and more often or not, I don’t return. It doesn’t always mean that I didn’t enjoy it, but rather, there are so many places to try and after a while, they begin to blend together. But then there are those special haunts that make such an impression that I can not wait to go back. With that said, I’m excited to share with you my absolute favorites in Manhattan (Brooklyn portion coming soon).
*Disclaimer: I have not included any pizza places as I will have a whole other post dedicated to that alone. Naturally!
Where: Union Square/Flatiron
I’m not one of those New Yorkers who’s a chef snob, but I do know that this is my favorite Jean Georges restaurant and easily one of my favorites in the city. It’s pretty difficult to get a reservation, but when you do, you’re in for a treat. The atmosphere is loud and lively, the interior is airy and beautiful and if you happen to be on a bad date, the people watching will easily keep you entertained. While everything on the menu is delicious, the crab toast appetizer and sundae with salted caramel ice cream (pictured above) make my mouth water just thinking about them. It’s my favorite way to start and end the meal here.
Tip: If you’re not patient enough to wait a month before getting a prime time reservation, it’s fairly easy to get an early or late dinner seating (5:30 or 10 PM; then again, that goes for basically any restaurant in the city).
Where: West Village
I’ve tried about half the menu and have yet to be disappointed by anything. The atmosphere is cozy enough to come with a friend, yet romantic enough to come with your significant other. It’s also tucked away in such a charming part of the West Village, so whether it’s before or after your meal, I highly recommend going for a leisurely stroll.
Tip: They do take reservations, but only for dinner. Personally, I go during the week for brunch, and get seated right away (without a reservation). If you’re planning to come for a weekend brunch, the place gets mobbed, so be prepared to wait.
Where: West Village
My favorite non-traditional Italian restaurant in the city. L’Artusi has the full package: a great ambiance, mouth watering food and top notch service. It’s also beatifically decorated and the sitting bar overlooking the kitchen, is one of my favorite seats in the house. I’ve only come for dinner, but I’ve also heard (from several people) that they have a fantastic brunch.
Tip: Their house made ricotta and olive oil cake are out of this world.
A New York classic that’s still has one of my favorite breakfasts & brunches (on top of fabulous people watching). Yes, it’s always mobbed, both with locals and tourists, but it’s going strong for a reason. The scene is loud and bustling and has the vintage vibe of a real French brasserie. For brunch, their eggs benedict and steak frites are my favorite.
Tip: If you’re planning to spend a day shopping in Soho, this is a perfect way to start.
Where: Upper West Side
A true NYC institution and although the waiters can be a little, well, “New Yorkish,” please don’t take it personally! Sure, you might feel like you’re in an episode of Seinfeld, but in my opinion (and Anthony Bourdain’s) this is the best Jewish Deli in NYC. I’m a sucker for a bagel with lox and cream cheese ($15, yes a little steep), so that’s always my favorite but I can recommend anything from the “Barney’s Specialties.”
Where: West Village
A hidden gem in the West Village that really feels like a a rustic, authentic Italian trattoria. The prices are cheap (especially for Manhattan!) and the homemade pasta dishes are some of the best I’ve had outside Italy (my picky Italian friends have also agreed). While everything on the menu is great, my favorites include the grilled calamari, spinach gnocchi, the spaghetti alla chitarra and the tagliatelle al ragu. The house wine is also a great bang for your buck.
Warning, this place is CASH ONLY!
Tip: They take reservations, but only for a party of four or more. If you can’t make reservations, come on a weekday as it gets very crowded on the weekend.
This place is mysterious, delicious, creative and just down right special. It’s also not for the picky eater, so if you’re not open to things like uni croquettes, foie gras and short rib sashimi, I probably wouldn’t come here and waste your time and money (it is not cheap). If you’re not a picky eater, it’s personally some of the best Japanese I’ve had. Part of what makes this place quite special is the mystique surrounding it. Bohemian has a hidden location and a private reservation line. Those interested in dining at Bohemian have to either get the number from a previous diner or send an introduction by way of e-mail. When asked why Bohemian insists on being so exclusive, their response “they want to make secret places where you hear about from a friend of a friend – where family and friends can go and hang out. That’s the concept.” You would think a place like that would be pretentious, but it’s the exact opposite. Once you enter this kind-of-hard-to-find location, the atmosphere is laid-back and pleasant. If any of you guys are seriously interested in dining here, shoot me an email and I’ll give you the number :).
Tip: The food is spectacular but be sure not to miss the cocktails. They’re as good, if not better, than many specialty cocktail bars in NYC. I’ve had the Burgamot and the Jaguar and both were incredible.
Fun Fact: This was once Andy Warhol’s Studio.
Where: Chinatown/Lower East Side
When I asked two of my good friends, Keiko & Danny, what their favorite NYC restaurants were, they both had The Fat Radish on their list. My reply was “YES! I almost forgot about that one..” Because, like I said, there are just too many to remember. Their menu is seasonal, so I can’t recommend one specific thing but everything I’ve tried in the past has been so good. Keiko did point out “make sure you mention the grilled cheese, which is incredible and not one of their seasonal items.”
(Less Expensive) Odds & Ends Worth Making the Trip For
Where: East Village
Two words: Pork Buns. Seriously. If you’re in the area (or not) and looking for a snack, or to taste one of the items that has made plenty of “best eats in NYC” lists, pop into here for a beer or cocktail + an order of pork buns. There are plenty of other wonderful things on the menu, but the pork buns steal the show.
Tip: Right next door is their famous Milk Bar, which is chef David Chang’s version of a bakery. The most popular choices include the cereal milk ice-cream (you could try a sample first), the crack pie, the compost cookie and one of my favorites, the birthday cake truffles. I recommend getting a few things to share or bringing some back to your hotel or apt when that night time craving hits.
Where: Flat Iron
One of my favorite burgers, hands down. Yes, there’s usually a long line, but it does move fairly quickly. Don’t eat meat? The shroom burger is the prefect choice for vegetarians. For the full shebang, don’t forget a milk shake and (cheese) fries.
Tip: There are a few Shake Shack locations, but I prefer the Madison Square Park one for a quintessential NYC experience. Also, try to go on a nice day since that location is outdoors. (there are other locations in the city which are located indoors).
Years ago, I’d wait outside for 45 minutes before finally getting seated in this hole-in-the-wall Cuban/Mexican restaurant. While I liked the food, it was the corn that I would have reoccurring dreams about. Luckily for all of us, they opened up an out post right next door that serves some of the menus post popular options (the corn and my other favorite is the tostones). There is very limited seating inside, so you’ll probably have to grab your food to go.
Fun Fact: When they were dating, I had a Justin Timberlake & Cameron Diaz spotting here.