This NYC restaurant guide was published in August 2018 and updated in May 2019.
I’ve heard the best food in the world is in NYC, and how could it not be? There is food everywhere you turn, the odds are definitely in their favor. The challenge is filtering through the mediocre and finding the great ones. I’ve been to NYC a few times now, and I hope I can filter through at least some of those for you and help you find where to eat in NYC! This post is a compilation of my past trips and the best food from them all!
Where to Eat in NYC: the Ultimate Foodie Guide
When choosing where to eat in NYC, don’t use Yelp. Everything is 4 stars and they have mixed reviews. I’ve heard TripAdvisor is the better place to look in the city, and I’ve also used Instagram in recent years! Instagram is a great place to find popular spots In some cases, I had a good idea of the popular places I wanted to hit or foods I wanted to try (i.e. rainbow bagels, crazy milkshakes, and the “fish ice cream” I later learned is called Taiyaki). For others, we ended up scrolling through our phones and giving up quickly because “Italian restaurant in NYC” was not a helpful search! You’re better off wandering around a few blocks and stumbling into a place that looks good!
The recommendations below are by no means the best spots in the city, but I only wrote about them if I truly recommend them, so they either have great ambiance, flair, or amazing food. These recommendations are a compilation of all of my NYC trips, so without further ado, here is where you should eat in NYC!
Where to Eat in NYC for Breakfast
Bagel Boss, Murray Hill – We came for the rainbow bagels and stayed for the rainbow bagels. Seriously one of the best bagels I’ve ever had, rainbow or not. It was just a plain flavor with food coloring but so soft! I forgot what good bread tasted like. No offense to Dallas, but they don’t do Italian or baking well here, and there is just nothing quite like a fresh NYC bagel.
Dean and Deluca, Rockefeller Center – Let’s be honest, the only reason we ate here was because it was both convenient and mentioned in The Devil Wears Prada.
Dunkin’ Donuts, Times Square – OK hear me out for a second. There is one main reason I would recommend stopping by what is probably the smallest and busiest Dunkin’ Donuts in the world. Because they test products here. When I interned at Victoria’s Secret in college I learned about product testing, where companies would send their new products to the busiest stores in the world and see how they performed. I got to try donut fries because we stopped at this Dunkin, and I’m glad I did because I’m not sure they’ll make it past the test phase.
Blue Dog Cafe, Midtown – My favorite sit down breakfast spot! I wish we found this sooner because I wanted to try so many things on the menu! This small cafe had a projector of old movie clips playing on the wall, great lattes, and they served food on (faux) newsprint with fun stories! So much character, and such great food. My top recommendation on this list!
Ess-a-Bagel, Flatiron – I popped in here for a snack between meetings one day and it turned out to be great! I don’t know how they do it, but NYC has the best bagels, literally everywhere. Ess-a-Bagel had tons of options for bagels and cream cheeses, but I’m the most boring and order a plain bagel everywhere. I did try chocolate chip cream cheese, but I usually prefer butter on my bagels!
Where to Eat in NYC for Lunch
Smorgasburg, Williamsburg – This hotspot was the top of the list of recommendations given to me before we traveled to NYC this year. It is a lot with different vendors showcasing their favorite or new foods to the public. I was told that this is where we’ll find the next cro-nut! Open only on weekends!
Pietro Nolita, Nolita – I honestly came here for the Instagram, but I’m really happy I stayed for the food! Such a great meal and the cocktails were amazing. I had the spicy lamb burger and it was delicious. I only wish we could have come back for the pasta! Obviously everything was pink, so really, I just felt like I belonged here.
Laudrée, SOHO – There are only two Laudrée locations in the world that have full restaurants in them and we happened to accidentally stumble upon this one! We had already eaten lunch so we didn’t eat here. However we enjoyed the patio with a glass of rosé and rose macaroons.
Joe’s Pizza, Greenwich Village – This one should really be self-explanatory, I mean, hello? Pizza. Not just pizza, though. New York pizza. The doughy thin crust greasy amazing delicious pizza. It’s worth the trip to Greenwich Village. If you’re looking for more to do while you’re here, check out my post where I talk about the Greenwich Village tour we took!
Rock Center Cafe, Rockefeller Center – There is no better place to feel like you’re in the center of everything! We sat on the patio for brunch and (at the time) had a view of the temporary Jeff Koons ballerina art installation. Even though it was raining we were under an umbrella and well taken care of by the attentive staff.
Serra By Bierreria, Flatiron – I was dying to visit this beautiful rooftop! Unfortunately, it was raining on and off all day, but luckily they have a retractable roof! Their most popular drink was surely Aperol spritz, it turns out I don’t like Aperol, so I switched to rosé! The food was fantastic, though and it was such a beautiful place to spend the afternoon, even a rainy one!
The Smith, Flatiron + Others – Clearly I spent some time in the Flatiron District, but it also turns out that there were a ton of great spots to eat and I really loved the atmosphere. I met my friend Chloe here for lunch one afternoon, and it was a great spot! Since it was a gorgeous day, they had all of the windows open to let the fresh air in! It was the NYC equivalent of a patio! I got the steak salad and I highly recommend it!
Where to Eat in NYC for Dinner
The Keg Room, Midtown – The Keg Room serves classic Irish food and have a long list of beer on their menu! They also have not-so Irish classics like flatbread and a selection of sandwiches. I ordered the bangers and mash because I cannot resist good mashed potatoes! Megan ordered chicken pot pie which was also delicious (I stole a bite or two!) They tried to talk us into dessert but we were not equipped to handle so much food! The service here was excellent and while it was busy it wasn’t over crowded. You won’t have a problem just walking in at any time to grab a table! It is located near the theatre district so a great stop before or after the show!
The Polo Bar, Midtown – I’ve wanted to try this place for a while, but being what it is, it’s very pricy! They do have a dress code, for men, jackets preferred. When you first sit down, they serve some of the best popovers I’ve ever had. I had a salad and a filet, both so amazing. Everyone loved their dinners. I only wish we had more room for the pigs in a blanket and a little more time for drinks and fried olives at the bar beforehand! Each of these was recommended to us, but we ran out of time! It’s ok though, I have a feeling we’ll be back!
Redeye Grill, Midtown – This spot was definitely one of the most fun places if only for the free massive pile of cotton candy you got at the end of your meal! I tried the sushi burger, which was good, but not necessarily something I’d order again, if only because I prefer my sushi in rolls.
Carmine’s, Times Square – Pasta in massive proportions. Carmine’s was delicious and totally worth it, but be prepared for a lot of leftovers. They serve everything family sized, so you have to agree on a couple of dishes and be prepared to feel defeated. I don’t even want to know how much food they waste on a daily basis because most of their patrons are tourists and can’t take leftovers home!
Death Ave, Chelsea – I quite literally stumbled upon this place after a long day of fashion shows during Fashion Week. I was starving because I forgot to eat all day, and wasn’t ready to head back to my friend’s tiny apartment and shared bed. I remember sitting at the bar and finally being able to reflect on some of my experience over a great beer and yummy sliders.
Tré, East Village – Baked pasta for the win at this place! I could not resist this amazing Italian food! Booking my flight back to stay at The Ridge Hotel again conveniently located right around the corner! I also had a couple glasses of wine and the most amazing bruschetta!
Violet, East Village – New York pizza is one thing, but Violet was a whole different concept. They have super thin pies and serve them with scissors! Such a fun concept and I’m always down for pasta and pizza, accompanied of course, by wine!
Where to Eat in NYC for Dessert
Black Tap, Midtown + Others – This was both on my list and a happy accident which we stumbled upon on this trip! We had just walked out of a show and were hungry so naturally, I wanted ice cream. We saw the line outside of Black Tap and stopped for a shake! These aren’t just any shakes, though. They have a whole meal on top of them! My chocolate shake had whipped cream, brownies, chocolate sauce, and more. Megan’s was the Fruity Pebbles one, and both were awesome and worth it!
Milk, Midtown – To be honest, we stopped here for breakfast after the GMA concert series, but mostly because it was the closest food we could find. Megan got a crack pie and I got ice cream for breakfast and I think we were both thoroughly satisfied. They are known for their cereal milk soft serve which I recommend trying!
Taiyaki NYC, Lower Manhattan – Heads up, Taiyaki is not just ice cream! It’s a soft, cakey cone with red bean or custard in the bottom and soft serve ice cream on top of course with sprinkles and extras! I got the red bean with chocolate soft serve and sprinkles. It started melting immediately and got everywhere! Somehow Megan’s unicorn Taiyaki held together much better and was of course super cute!
Dō, Greenwich Village – When Do first came about, there weren’t many other places to get edible cookie dough, so we were one of their first customers in the morning before our Greenwich Village tour! The benefit of showing up at 11am was no lines! My recommendation is to order the smallest size possible because it will still be too much. But so, so good!
Where to Go for Drinks in NYC
The Park, Chelsea – We actually went here for dinner but weren’t huge fans of the food. It is, however, a great atmosphere. Very reminiscent of a literal park, minus the bug, children, and dogs (which is a downgrade in my opinion). We went pretty late in the evening and it was a great place to just sit, chat, and drink!
230 Fifth, Flatiron District – This rooftop bar is quite a popular Instagram spot in the winter. It’s known as the igloo bar because they put igloos on the rooftop to keep you warm! It’s a great view, a fun spot, but very crowded! Not the place for a chill conversation. More of a spot for a nighttime outing with friends. Be prepared to stand or make a reservation because seats are in short supply!
Lillie’s Victorian, Midtown – This has become my family’s more regular spot in NYC! We typically stay around Times Square and stumbled upon this spot. Once we were there, we also realized I had received the recommendation to go here from a friend! The walls are covered floor to ceiling in Victorian Era portraits and paintings. They also have killer cocktails! We also grabbed desserts last time and they were all fantastic!
Top of the Strand, Midtown – Another fantastic rooftop for city views with the best view of the Empire State building! I went to this spot when it was raining, so the roof was closed and view a bit hazy, but nevertheless, the drinks were great!