Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NYC: Where to Eat (Manhattan Edition)

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!
^^ ABC Kitchen ^^
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).
 ^^ Cafe Cluny ^^
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.
^^ L'Artusi ^^
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.
balthazar-sign copy
^^ Balthazar ^^
Where: Soho
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.
^^ Barney Greengrass ^^
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.
Where: Noho
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.

*Friends Recommendation*
 ^^ The Fat Radish ^^
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
^^ Momofuku Ssam Bar ^^
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.
Photo Dec 09, 12 03 30 PM
 ^^ Shake Shack ^^
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).
^^ Cafe Habana Outpost ^^
Where: Soho
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.
^^ Pomme Frites ^^
Where: East Village
A place that is all about my favorite food in the entire world...fries! What I love almost as much as french fries... dipping sauces. Basically, this place is the closest thing to heaven. I love to sample a few of their sauces, but my favorites are probably the mango chutney and the  rosemary garlic. Also, the poutine is so good.
Tip: They're open late, so naturally this place is even better after a night of drinking.

So there you have it. Some of my favorites! What are yours? I would love to hear!

photos taken by us, from the restaurant website and from Unconfidential Cook & what shi eats


  1. I am planning a trip to NYC for next year, so i'll make sure to check some of those out. Although now Shake Shack has opened in London, I can't promise I'll wait for the American version - This burger looks way too nice!

    -Elodie x

  2. Love this post! You covered a ton of my faves. I'm also a big fan of Osteria Morini, Red Farm, Papatzul, Perla & Lovely Day.


  3. I am surprised Locanda Verde is not on your list - BEST anything, especially best brunch...This gem is in Tribecca...

    1. Locanda Verde is definitely incredible - was so hard to include all the places that I love.

  4. Great post! Can't wait to see the Bk Edition. I'm definitely excited to try Pomme Frites,Momofuku (I've only been to the milk bar, its awesome, and Malatesta Trattoria.

  5. cafe habana outpost is opening in nola too! love this post too.

  6. This was all the motivation I needed to make some dinner plans this week! Thanks for the awesome recommendations!!!

    <3 dani

  7. nice list of restaurants all of the food looks amazing and I love how the actual places look inside. xx. gigi.

  8. Been to most of them and agree, they are fab!

  9. I LOVE this post. Have tried several on this list (and am lucky (unlucky?) enough to work right across from Pommes Frites, but many of these restaurants are news to me, and I can't wait to try them. Thanks so much for this post. Right up my fat pants alley.

  10. Thank you for this post :) I'm so in the New York state of mind right now :) I always get this way around August, September, with the US Open coming up :) Next time I'm in the city, I'll definitely check out some of the places you recommended. For me, this is a total Sex and the City cliché and probably very dated by now, but I love Pastis. It's my tradition to have steak and frites lunch at Pastis on every visit to New York.

    Actually I was wondering if you might consider doing a post on your favorite places to shop in Brooklyn. I make a lot of clothes, so what I'm most interested is accessories. Can you recommend neighborhoods or shops in Brooklyn where I can find something unique in jewelry, bags, shoes? I don't know Brooklyn very well and it's time I've explored it more.

    Thank you again for a wonderful post and your inspirational blog!

    --Gaiana (

    1. Yes, I'll definitely include that in a shopping guide (which I have coming up in the next few weeks). In the meantime, Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Forte Green all have some great shopping!

  11. Thanks for all of these suggestions. I will be in NYC in October and will visit some of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing.I am always looking for great places to eat in NYC. Have you tried Ed's Lobster Bar? It's amazing.


    1. I have not but will definitely try it now!

  12. Thank you for this. I definietely Pinned it. I live in DC and planning on going there soon. I love dining there. Always awesome to find New spots.

    Thank You!!!!


  13. Love this list Helena! Your descriptions were great. Will definitely hit up all these places.


    Peonies and American Honey

  14. Great Post and the pictures look all so damn yummy :)

    Chris x

  15. that burger in the first picture looks to DIE for!

    The Casual Classic

  16. My husband & I are coming back in November. Can't wait for the more of your NYC favorites!

  17. Everything looks so amazingly good!!

    xoxo, Diana ☠

  18. awesome post! i'll be bookmarking this! xo

  19. Helena, thank you for all the suggestions! Looooooong ago, I emailed you about suggestions and you took the time to reply personally and it helped me so much!! One of your suggestions was Cafe Habana and we did love it! I have been back there with my mom on another trip to NYC. Since I first emailed you (I think it was back in 2010), my hubby and I have been back to the city around 8 times (from Mississippi), it's our favorite place in the world, for sure.

    We've gotten pretty good at getting around, figuring our neighborhoods, etc. So much that people ask us for suggestions now before they travel there sometimes, ha. If I had to add a few to your list (I do love L'Artusi!) I'd say Upstate in the East Village (best oysters and SUPER friendly service), Taim (original location in the West Village), and Buvette in the West Village. We also loved Colonie, but that's in Brooklyn so maybe it will be in your Brooklyn edition. :)

  20. Yes! Totally remember! Makes me happy to hear how much you love NYC!

    Absolutely love Buvette, but had to cut some of my favorites out to keep the list from being 100 restaurants. Maybe in round II... haha! And Colonie is amazing!


  21. You make me want to hop on a plane right now!

  22. Hungry in hungry now and fancy a burger. But thanks for this :) next time I'm in NYC I'll try them out :)
    Adela x

  23. I absolutely love this post and your list! I agree, WAY too many restaurants to try in the city. I bookmarked this post, so many goodies on your list that I want to try! I've heard great things about ABC Kitchen. I love Cafe Habana for the corn too =) I recently tried Pig & Khao in Lower East. The food is amazing. I don't typically like pork (which is their specialty) but I am craving to eat there again. Definitely recommend =)

    Suzie Q

  24. so many great new places i need to check out ASAP! thanks for the list! :)

  25. What a great post! I cannot wait to visit NYC :) hopefully will be in January ! Xx

  26. Ahh I love hearing other people's favorite restaurants in the city - I always discover new places to try! Can't wait for your BK edition as well :)

  27. Wow! Great post! Very thorough! I'll be in New York soon, so I'll definitely check out some of these places. Thanks for posting this.

  28. Great post! I live here and there a few places listed I havent tried yet but have been meaning to. thank you for the reminder =)

  29. What a comprehensive list, thank you! The only thing I love more than NYC shopping is the food :) bookmarked this for my next trip! xx

  30. On my blog food also: )I invite you, if you're hungry:) I greet: )

  31. LOVE this post :) Couldn't agree with u more with literally each restaurant u mentioned esp lovin' Balthazar & Shake Shack for sure!

  32. I'm totally saving this post and referring back to it when I next visit NYC, thank you!

    she goes wear


  33. Thanks for sharing! Definitely going to check some of these spots out when i'm back in NY!

  34. Have you been to Caracas in the East Village? Amazingly yummy cheap eates-def one of my favs!!

  35. This is awesome, we will definitely have to give some of these a shot.

  36. As if I needed another reason to want to visit New York so desperately!

  37. Really wishing I had a trip to NY planned. Everything looks absolutely delicious

  38. thank you! looks awesome and just made my stomach growl loud enough for my neighbours to hear...

  39. This is really helpful-- especially, when friends from out-of-town come visit, and I have no idea where to take them. Thanks for sharing!

  40. Wow!! Wanna go try them out Now !!! I like the first two , Just by looking at those pics, i think the second place looks like something that was featured in your first tjmaxx video? U were wearing tight colorful jeans with pastel flower motive and high heels , and I thought to myself - omg, she is so stunningly tall and skinny IRL ))))
    If I were to add to the list - definitely recommend going to La Masseria if you are in Theater District ( it's on 48st & 8 ave ) - best Italian food , very authentic ! Service is outrageously good, prepare to be served by 5 different people for sure)) very friendly and cozy , great atmosphere , my fave!!
    Best wishes, Olga

  41. This was an absolutely fabulous post. I love how you really gave a good feel to each place, and didn't just pick the "natural touristy" places. Next time I'm in New York I'll have to check out some of these options!


  42. This blog post is really good. I Keep that in my mind for my next NY trip. Now I know where I have to eat ;)

    Lara from:

  43. Great blog post. I just moved to NY and this kind of stuff helps so much! Giving back to your readers is always great.

    Corporate Catwalk
    Facebook Page

  44. Can't wait to try out some of these incredible restaurants next time I'm in New York
    Check out:
    With Love,

  45. Thank you for all this info I will need it for my upcoming trip to the big apple. So many new places.

    xx, C

  46. This list is meh....mostly places that bloggers frequent. None of these places really stand out...

  47. Loved this post :) You should do a budget friendlier version though

  48. going to nyc in a couple days. maybe i'll try a couple of these thanks!

  49. Caribean hall has 2 venues in Brooklyn. We are capable of hosting wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, child’s birthday party, adult’s birthday party, birthday dinner, Sweet 16, wedding reception, bachelor / bachelorette party, class, meeting business presentation, religious functions, corporate meetings, fashion shows, reunions or much more with comfortable seating arrangements for up to 400 guests.

  50. I too do not return to a lot of restaurants that I have visited because of the insane amount of options that we have, however once in a while, I too have returned to a few places that I feel have some great food. Nice list, need to check some of these out :D

  51. I think this is the list of restaurant that less expensive but nice taste of food. I love to visit one of this restaurant.


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