Where to eat in New York – A short guide for first timers
“I keep sweaters in my stove,” Carrie Bradshaw once famously declared. And it’s easy to understand why, with the incredible dining scene she had right on her doorstep.
New York’s eateries are some of the most renowned in the world and a trip to the Big Apple wouldn’t be complete without trying out some of the local food, the hip lounge-bars, and a classic Sunday brunch.
Picture stacked pancakes, drizzled with maple syrup and a side of bacon. Imagine an intimate ambience and a dazzling array of sushi at your fingertips. Ponder some of the world’s prettiest, lightest cupcakes, straight out of a magazine. A bagel stuffed with cream cheese. A late-night slice of pizza.
Hungry yet? 😉
But with so many options, choosing where to eat in New York can be overwhelming, especially for first time visitors. After all, a good or a bad meal can sometimes make or break a trip.
So, here we give you our selection of some of the best places to eat in New York. This list is by no means extensive or definitive, but rather just a short guide to help you out.
Where to eat breakfast
Yes, of course you can have breakfast at the hotel. But why not take the opportunity to enjoy the city as it’s waking up? Follow the scent of freshly-made coffee as it drifts from the small cafés and secluded espresso bars. Enjoy a real breakfast, New York style, while you plan the day ahead.
Here are some of the city’s best places to do just this:
This café, located just off Union Square, opens at 7.30am and is perfect for those who dream of a proper bakery breakfast. Here you can enjoy muffins, pretzels and cinnamon buns, as well as what may be the best hot chocolate in New York.
You’ll find it at: 3 West 18th Street, Flatiron District
Ess-a-Bagel is the place to go if you want to start the day off with one of New York’s most famous breakfast foods. Try it with the classic combination of salmon and cream cheese.
You’ll find it at: 831 Third Avenue, Midtown East
This traditional American diner in Brooklyn has been around since the 1930s. Right from 7am you can stumble up to the counter and enjoy some iconic pancakes with maple syrup. And yes, they do refill your coffee for free.
You’ll find it at: 782 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn
New York’s best scrambled eggs with prosciutto can be found at Buvette in the West Village. We also recommend you try the Belgian waffles served with fresh berries. Delicious.
You’ll find it at: 42 Grove Street, West Village
Tips for foodies: GetYourGuide has dozens of different tours which explore all the flavours of New York, from the three-hour Greenwich Village Food Crawl to a mouth-watering Chocolate Tasting, perfect for those who really want to sink their teeth into the city’s culinary delights.
Where to eat brunch
Sunday brunch is one of the absolute staples in New York, so make sure you book in advance, as the most popular brunch places fill up fast.
Cookshop, known for its decadent brunch menu, is located just off the High Line Park, and is perfect for days when the Manhattan weather allows you to enjoy the food al fresco.
Try a blini topped with salmon casserole and crème fraîche, or, if you’re extra hungry, the Cookshop breakfast which consists of fried eggs, grits, bacon, turkey, mezcal & smoked cheddar sausage, buttermilk biscuits (scones), butter and jam.
You’ll find it at: 156 10th Avenue, Chelsea
The Chester is part of the trendy Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner if you want, but the restaurant has become increasingly popular for its legendary weekend brunches. So much so, that you might even dine in the company of a celebrity or two.
You’ll find it at: 18 9th Avenue, Meatpacking District
Here you’ll find plenty of ladies-who-lunch and well-dressed gentlemen. The chic Soho Restaurant, owned and run by an Israeli and South African couple, serves delicious food you’ll definitely dream of eating again. Why not try some waffles made with real rose water or the popular egg dish, Shakshouka?
You’ll find it at: 224 Lafayette St, Soho
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in New York that’s child-friendly, this place is great. Amy Ruth’s has plenty on the menu for kids and has been popular with local families for a number of years.
You’ll find it at: 113 W 116th Street, Harlem
This farmer has a lot of friends, so be prepared to queue. Unfortunately, the rustic, two-storey restaurant only takes reservations for dinner, but the delightful brunches are worth the wait.
Simple food with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients dominates the menu here, with the most popular dish being the Farmer’s Omelette.
You’ll find it at: 77 Irving Pl., Gramercy Park
Where to eat dinner
New York has unlimited opportunities to enjoy a good dinner with friends and family. But choosing where to eat dinner in New York is almost enough to make you dizzy. Korean, sushi, Israeli or simply good ol’ American – you’ll find everything in the city that never sleeps.
At Estela, the industrial interior is as hot as the eclectic dishes inspired by Mediterranean food. Creative snacks are served in small dishes, perfect for sharing, and the restaurant is especially famous for its impressive wine menu.
According to Zagat, Estela is a hit among food and restaurant bloggers and has a full house every single night.
You’ll find it at: 47 East Houston Street, NoLita
You can’t go to New York without eating pizza. It’s the law. Well, not really, but the slices at Kesté Pizza & Vino are enough to make you want to keep coming back for more. This cool joint serves traditional pizza straight out of Naples, with creamy buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto. An absolute must for pizza lovers.
You’ll find it at: 271 Bleecker Street, West Village and 66 Gold Street, Financial District
Glasserie is a head-turner, and we’re not just talking about the food. As the name suggests, this New York restaurant is housed in what was once a Brooklyn glass factory, so the sleek décor, inviting space and rustic vibe make dinner here a memorable experience.
The modern, Mediterranean-inspired menu has Middle-Eastern undertones and the restaurant itself is perfect for dining out in a large group, with many of the dishes made to be shared.
You’ll find it at: 95 Commercial St, West Greenpoint, Brooklyn
At Tao you eat with your eyes as much as with your mouth. The giant Buddha statue in the middle of the restaurant is certainly Instagram-worthy, while the see-and-be-seen feel adds to the upscale dining ambience.
The menu is extensive at this pan-Asian hotspot, ranging from sushi and sashimi to Pad Thai, ready to be washed down with a selection of signature cocktails.
You’ll find it at: 42 East 58th Street, Midtown East
Iconic Balthazar is a French brasserie in SoHo and one of the best-known places to eat in New York. The food is in a class of its own, the patrons beautiful and trendy.
This place is another top location for celebrity spotting, with the likes of Taylor Swift, Kate Blanchett and many other big names enjoying the cuisine here.
This classy New York restaurant has a recommendation in the Michelin guide, with the steak frites and duck confit being arguably the most popular dishes on the menu.
You’ll find it at: 80 Spring St., SoHo
Luxurious and classic best describe The Nomad. The huge mahogany bar is the perfect place to enjoy a martini while waiting for a table before you’re seduced by a wonderful array of French-inspired food.
You’ll find it at: 1170 Broadway, NoMad
I thought it looked familiar…
Many Hollywood movies and TV series have been filmed ‘on location’ in New York, meaning you could very well walk into a bar or restaurant for the first time and recognise it instantly. Here’s a selection to explore if you want to do it like they do in the movies:
“I’ll have what she’s having” – who hasn’t seen Meg Ryan thrashing about a booth in the throes of passion? This iconic scene in When Harry Met Sally was filmed at Katz’s Delicatessen, at the two middle tables in the restaurant.
You’ll find it at: 205 E. Houston St., Lower East Side
Since its opening in 1930, celebrities have graced the chairs of this restaurant, and it’s said that Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford and Frank Sinatra were regular customers.
Many movies have used 21 Club as a filming location, including All About Eve (1950), Written on the Wind (1956) and Wall Street (1987), where Michael Douglas recommends Charlie Sheen order the restaurant’s legendary steak tartare.
You’ll find it at: 21 West 52nd Street, Midtown
There is hardly a more romantic film than Serendipity. And the café where John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale meet, fall in love, and go their separate ways (without exchanging phone numbers or organising another date) has become a popular tourist hotspot.
It has also featured in scenes of several other movies like One Fine Day, and TV series like Girls.
Don’t leave here without trying the famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
You’ll find it at: 25 East 60th Street, Upper East Side
Everyone who has any sort of relationship with Sex and the City also has the expectation that New York and American cupcakes belong together. And it’s true!
One episode of the TV show changed this small, local bakery forever and propelled both the bakery and the actual cupcake phenomenon to celebrity status almost overnight. Now, several cookbooks and a few chain stores later, Magnolia Bakery is credited for making cupcakes popular worldwide.
You’ll find it at: 401 Bleecker Street, West Village
Tip for foodies: Indulge your passion for cupcakes on a two-hour guided walk around Manhattan and learn to make your own New York-style cupcakes!
The uber-trendy Buddakan in the Meatpacking District was the place where Carrie and Mr. Big had their rehearsal dinner before the pair’s disastrous wedding in Sex and the City: The Movie.
You’ll find it at: 75 – 9th Ave, Chelsea
Many movies and TV series have used this iconic New York City restaurant as a filming location, including the beautiful people of Gossip Girl who came here to drink martinis.
However, this elegant eatery is better known from the scene in the movie Tootsie, where Dustin Hoffman shocks his agent by appearing for lunch dressed in women’s clothes.
You’ll find it at: 150 W. 57th St., Midtown