And shocker, Tyler is the same way. We talk food almost every single day. New restaurants to try. Recipes ideas. Our recent successes and failures in the kitchen. Current conversation is mostly about our new kitchen toys (sous vide machine), eating ramen in NYC, and wanting to recreate said ramen at home.
And that got me thinking about all the great food I’ve been blessed with consuming (and thus carrying around on my waistline… and arms, legs, and double chin) in and around NYC.
So it’s about time I shared with you The Top 10 Foods You Have To Eat In NYC. And I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.
NYC is my home. It’s my stomping ground. Why haven’t I told you about what you absolutely, hands down, HAVE to eat when you’re visiting The Big Apple?! Obviously it was a gross oversight. I’ll make sure the proper disciplinary action is taken to ensure the egregious error never happens again. I’ll punish myself accordingly.
No ice cream for 2 days. 1 day. Let’s not get crazy. 12 hours.
So if you’re planning a visit to NYC, skip the crappy tourist traps. Don’t even think about entering a chain restaurant in Times Square. I mean, really… why would you travel all the way to NYC to eat at Fridays… or Olive Garden. That’s dumb.
Instead, treat yourself to The Top 10 Foods You Have To Eat in NYC. Because really, your vacation is worth it.
NYC is home to some of the best pizza in the country. Period.
Motorino Pizza – this East Village joint serves up some really great artisanal, Neapolitan-style pizzas with the perfect amount of char. I really love their Margherita and Brussels Sprout pies. Update: the Prosciutto de Parma is perhaps my new favorite pie there. They also have locations in Williamsburg and the Upper West Side.
Roberta’s Pizza – this super popular (and dare I say hipster) Brooklyn pizzeria does some serious wood-fired pizzas within a really cool atmosphere…. and they aren’t just pizzas. There’s a full kitchen menu as well. Update: they now have a location at Urbanspace Vanderbilt right next to Grand Central Station, and I love the Bee Sting Pizza there. It’s a soppressata pie kissed with honey… you get spicy and a little touch of sweet that’s irresistible.
John’s Pizza -the iconic Bleeker Street pizza joint that’s famous for their signature brick-oven pies.
Lucali – it sure isn’t cheap ($24 for a pie), but this thin-crust pizza Brooklyn pizzeria has a huge following.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza – with a few locations throughout the city, this is a great place to grab a hearty slice of their artichoke pizza. It’s ridiculously hearty and filling, with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino romano cheese.
Looking for more pizza inspiration? Check out this comprehensive list from Eater NY.
Russ & Daughters – the bagels are actually just okay, but you are here for their lox sandwiches (with scallion cream cheese)… and they are legendary. Russ & Daughters is a super famous Lower East Side establishment that’s been in business for 100 years. That’s a long time to be on the top in NYC. And expect a line… there is always a well-deserved wait for these sandwiches.
Absolute Bagels, Murray’s Bagels, Hudson Bagels, and Ess-A-Bagel are all great choices for iconic NYC bagels. The crust is firm and crunchy, and the interior is dense and chewy. They are made by hand and shaped by hand, unlike the sad-tasting mass produced ones that so many of you are stuck eating.
Burgers + Sandwiches.
Minetta Tavern – you’re here for the Black Label Burger. Yes, it’s almost $30. Yes, it’s worth it. My wife Asheley isn’t even a burger fan and she’s all about this burger. It’s brisket, short rib, skirt steak, and dry-aged ribeye. Yea…. #legit. Just be forewarned, you’ll probably need a reservation. It gets mighty busy up in here.
Shake Shack – a NYC icon, this fast food joint (with many locations) is a must for locals and tourists. Get the Shack Stack, which is a burger topped with a cheese-stuffed fried mushroom. And don’t you dare even try to leave without getting a Concrete, which is made with their super thick, creamy, and rich custard. Just do yourself a favor and skip the shakes… they are mediocre at best.
Burger Joint – two locations and a cult-like following. These classic no-frills burgers will definitely hit the spot.
Bareburger – you feeling a bit adventurous? Wanna try an organic elk, bison, or even ostrich burger? This is your place. They have a bunch of locations and the chocolate peanut butter shake is a must.
Taim – home to the best falafel in NYC, Taim has an incredible falafel sandwich. It’s my buddy Tyler’s favorite sandwich in the city. There are a few locations scattered around the city.
Katz – an iconic NYC establishment that is popular with tourists and locals alike, Katz Deli serves up monstrous pastrami sandwiches. In full disclosure, I’m not over the moon about this place, but that’s just because I don’t love pastrami sandwiches. Update: Mile End Deli, which locations in Midtown and Brooklyn, also serve up some great sandwich options, like Corned Beef and Smoked Meat. They also have Poutine!
Momofuku Ssam Bar – a different type of sandwich, Momofuku Ssam Bar has the most amazing Steamed Pork Buns I’ve ever tasted. The pillowy buns are stuffed with a generous slice of moist, meaty pork belly, quick pickled cucumbers, and some sort of house-made hoisin sauce. And while you are there, feel free to try a bunch of their other great small plates. Then, head to Momofuku Milk Bar for some whimsical sweet treats (go for the Crack Pie or Cereal Milk Ice Cream).
FUKU – Momofuku’s version of a fried chicken sandwich joint. Originally in the East Village (now closed), but you can still find them at Hudson Yards.
Ivan Ramen – you wouldn’t think a Jew from Long Island would end up becoming one of the world’s leading experts on ramen. After his creative and unique ramen blew up big time in Tokyo, Ivan Orkin brought his ramen to NYC in one of my favorite neighborhoods… the Lower East Side. It’s darn good. And looking for something different? Try one of his mazemens, which is less brothy than the traditional ramen. My fave is the Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen. It’s one of my favorite dishes of all time, period. The pork meatball appetizer is also bonkers good.
Ippudo Ramen – a more classic, traditional approach to ramen, Ippudo serves up perfect bowls of the stuff every time. I love the spicy one. There are two locations, one in the East Village and right in the Times Square area.
Kuro-Obi by Ippudo @ Urbanspace Vanderbilt – Ippudo set up a little ramen joint within Urbanspace Vanderbilt and it is fantastic!
Chuko Ramen – two of Morimoto’s chefs branched off to create this Brookln ramen spot. And it’s good. The end.
Yuji Ramen – another Brooklyn ramen spot, Yuji Ramen has this phenomenal bacon and egg ramen. The bacon is super smoky, and the perfectly poached egg creates a lucious, velvety sauce that coats the noodles. It’s not traditional in the least, and I couldn’t care less. It’s the epitome of delcious. If you want to check out their other restaurant, it’s called Okonomi.
Momofuku Noodle Bar – although not my favorite bowl of ramen in the city, it’s still a great option if you are in the East Village. They have pork buns here as well, which makes it worth considering 🙂
There are so many great ramen places popping up. Ramen Lab houses a rotating list of chefs that use the space as a ramen pop-up. I recently had a great bowl at Mu Ramen, and I also have Totto Ramen on my list to try soon.
Wafels + Dinges – looking for the real deal Belgian waffles? Not the garbage that we’ve come to think is real deal. Like, legit chewy, sugary Belgian liege wafels… these are it. And make sure you get yours topped with speculoos. It’s amaze-balls. Update: they also now have a store front in the East Village. There are usually a few carts scattered around the Central Park area, so check the website for locations!
Kimchi Taco – quite possibly my favorite savory food truck, Kimchi Taco blends Korean and Mexican flavors. I’m a huge fan of the Kimchi Nachos. Just go for it. It’s the best $4 you’ve ever spent. Update: they also have a storefront in Brooklyn.
Coolhaus – custom ice cream sandwiches made to order. The end. I’m a sucker for their potato chip cookies stuffed with brown butter candied bacon ice cream.
The Halal Guys – the original carts in Midtown have been around for over 30 years! It’s cheap, VERY GOOD eats. The halal chicken and lamb over rice platters with LOTS of white sauce are legendary! Warning… the hot sauce is HOTTTTTTT.
Sadly a bunch of food trucks I also frequented back in the day are now closed (RIP Korilla BBQ, Kelvin Slush, Schnitzel & Things…), so just google “best food trucks NYC” to see what new ones are popping up and you may want to try!
My new favorite tacos place hands down is Los Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market. Be prepared for a huge line during peak hours, but it goes relatively fast. The guys work in hyper-speed. The tacos are great, but I’m ridiculously obsessed with “the especial”. It’s a quesadilla that’s fried (yes, fried), then cut open and stuffed with all sorts of goodness. Make sure to add meat for $1. I always do the carne asada, but I’ve been hearing everyone raving about the pork (called adobada) lately. I’ll be trying that next time. For great fish tacos, head next door to their sister taco join Los Mariscos.
Otto’s Tacos – the East Village taqueria serves up some delicious mini tacos. The corn tortillas are made right in front of you are are quite plump (in a good way). The fillings are all legit. Yes, I’ve tried them all 🙂 They now have a west village and upper west side location as well!
Dos Toros – this taqueria has a few locations throughout the city. I’m a fan of their carne asada tacos. Super cool? They melt a slice of cheese into the tortilla. One of life’s little pleasures. Make sure to top it with guacamole, and if you are going to go for their spiciest hot sauce, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Taquitoria – three guys that worked at Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s restaurant branched off to create this lower east side gem. It’s the ultimate comfort food, especially after a few drinks. All the fillings are really fantastic (and they even have a vegan black bean option that is legit), and definitely top it cheesy (cheese sauce, sour cream, and pickled jalapeno relish). UPDATE: Closed 🙁
Empellon Taqueria – a great spot to sit-down and have some upscale tacos with lots of different salsas.
Mighty Quinn’s – this East Village joint that has now expanded to locations all over the city really knows brisket. It’s mighty good (see what I did there… Mighty Quinn’s, mighty good… never mind). The brisket is super moist, juicy, and tender, and comes with your choice of pickled vegetables (I always ask for them all).
Delaney Barbecue – if you’re in Brooklyn with a hankering for brisket, this is your place. It’s pretty darn amazing and might even make you shed a tear of joy. Update: they are currently closed as they look for a new space. Their landlord raised the rent so they are looking for a new home.
Blue Smoke – a standard in the NYC bbq world, this is a great place to enjoy some ‘cue. If you go at the right time of year, there might be blueberry crisp on the menu. If there is, you NEED to get it.
LeVain Bakery – if you are looking for the city’s best cookie, you’ve found it. The things are massive and will cost you $4 a pop, but it’s money well spent. Get the chocolate peanut butter or the double chocolate chip. And do yourself a favor and get a glass of milk as well. You’re gonna need it. One is definitely enough to share, but to avoid a relationship-ending fight about who gets the last bite, I would recommend just splurging on 2. They’ve gotten incredibly popular and the lines can be long. Avoid peak times to beat the lines, because you NEED this cookie in your life. They have a few locations now, and the lines seem to be longest at the original one (W 74th Street). Also, pro tip if ever heading out to Montauk for a getaway… they have a location on the way in Wainscott!
Molly’s – I don’t like using the world “cute”, but this Greenwich Village cupcake shop totally is. You can enjoy your cupcake on one of the few swings they have lining their counter, or grab a board game and sit at a table to relax. The cupcakes are totally legit as well. I’m a fan of their peach cobbler, ron bennington (chocolate pb), and… oh gosh, they are all amazing!
Two Little Red Hens – if you are hanging around the Upper East Side for some reason, check out this little bakery. They have great red velvet and Brooklyn blackout cupcakes.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine – gosh, I’m going to do it. I’m going to use the word “cute” again, but this time with a bit of a hipster edge. This Lower East Side bakery is everything you could want in a neighborhood hangout. The cupcakes are simple but perfect (and cheap at only $2 a pop). I’m a fan of the Strawberry Cupcake with PB Buttercream. The pudding is also really fantastic here… try the schmapple: vanilla pudding base jam-packed with apple, vanilla cake, toasted walnuts, and caramel whipped cream. Yup.
Beard Papa – this Japanese company on the Upper West Side knows cream puffs. And they know them darn well. The perfectly light, airy, and crisp puffs are filled to order with a super luscious and flavorful vanilla custard. Check out their rotating flavor of the day as well. The green tea is quite enjoyable.
Jacques Torres Chocolate – if you are looking for great chocolate, Jacques Torres is your man. He has a few outposts around the city and there is something to satisfy any chocolate craving. In the summer, make sure to check out one of his gigantic ice cream sandwiches.
Big Gay Ice Cream – think Mr. Softee gone rogue. That’s this place (multiple locations). Try the Salty Pimp (vanilla cone with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip) or the Bea Arthur (vanilla cone, dulce de leche, and nilla wafers). And remember to get your cone lined with either biscoff (recommended), pb, or nutella.
Morgenstern’s Ice Cream – I just discovered this Lower East Side gem a few days ago. Think old fashioned ice cream parlor… but new. Reinvented. The flavors are crazy unique (When we went we tried and loved the Salted Caramel Pretzel, Raw Milk, Salt and Pepper Pinenut, and Angel Food Vanilla). The toppings, stored in glass apothecary jars (way cool), are equally amazing. The caramel was some of the best I’ve tasted.
Whipped Urban Dessert Lab – When my dairy-free friend wanted to check out this vegan ice cream joint, I was highly skeptical. Dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free, and gluten free is usually also free from any and all delicious flavor. However, it was an unforgettable experience. Make sure to check the current hours before making the trip (they are only open a few days a week) and be prepare to WAIT in a decently long line for your ice cream. When you bit into this oat-based ice cream, tell me you aren’t as surprised as I was!
Van Leeuwen – I remember these guys when they were just a lonesome food truck and I was floored by their complex vanilla ice cream. Fast forward a few years, and they have officially taken over the NYC ice cream game. I feel like I see a new shop popping up in a new neighborhood every time I head into Manhattan. They have both fantastic dairy ice creams AND vegan ice creams here! Definitely check them out!
Looking for more ice cream recommendations? Make sure to check out my Top 10 Ice Cream and Frozen Treats in NYC post 🙂
It’s time to treat yourself. Don’t settle for whatever is closest to your hotel or that restaurant that has a $9.99 steak special. Mommy and Daddy are getting dressed up* and going out tonight!
*there actually really isn’t a dress code in most NYC restaurants. You’ll see people in suits. You’ll see people in jeans and a polo. That’s how we roll.
Note: most of these places require a reservation!!!
There are MANY, I repeat, MANY amazing restaurants in NYC. I’m going to list just a tiny few of them that I’ve had great meals at below…
Blue Hill – Chef Dan Barber is a culinary legend. He was one of the pioneers in the farm-to-table movement, and his Michelin-starred restaurant is a total worth it splurge. I love this place. If you want an unreal dining experience and have a car or want to hire a car service, try and get to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. This is Dan Barber’s restaurant on his farm in Hudson Valley. The meal is seriously like 4 to 5 hours, and was hands down one of the greatest dining experiences of my life. It’s an unmatched culinary adventure!
Barbuto – Chef Jonathan Waxman is a very well-known chef in his own right, and also was mentor to Chef Bobby Flay back in the day. His restaurant, located in the Meatpacking District, serves up one of the best roast chicken dishes you will ever taste. Seriously. And the pasta? Oh man… amazing. Make sure to ask for the Pasta Carbonara, even if it’s not on the menu. They can usually make it for you anyway, and it’s the best pasta carbonara you’ll ever have. Also be sure to order the potato side dish. They are the best potatoes you’ll ever have.
Gramercy Tavern – this Michelin-starred restaurant is a NYC icon in fine dining. I’ve been told that if you go during lunch, they have a secret off-the-menu burger that’s amazing. I need to try that burger! The tasting menu here is absolutely amazing. You’ll never be disappointed with a meal here.
Eleven Madison Park – one of only a few NYC restaurants to have a 3-Michelin Star rating, the tasting-only menu at Eleven Madison Park is a great way to celebrate something (or someone) special. The space, which is directly across the street from Madison Park, is absolutely stunning. And get ready for some top notch service.
Hearth – I don’t know what it is about this place in the East Village, but I love it. Chef Marco Canora creates an atmosphere that feels like a cozy neighborhood restaurant, while serving up seasonal Italian food that continually rocks my socks. The price is also quite manageable ($86 will get you a complete tasting menu, although you can also order a la carte). UPDATE: Hearth is still a solid choice for a nice meal, but recently Chef Canora went through a major “healthy” lifestyle change and now his food reflects that new lifestyle. It’s simply just not as good. It’s still a fine meal, but it lost some of it’s special-ness.
You a fan of celebrity chefs? You might want to try one of these restaurants from one of the many TV chef personalities that set up home in NYC. I’ve been to them all and love them all!
- Craft – This is Tom Colicchio’s (head judge on Top Chef) joint.
- Marc Forgione or Peasant – Iron Chef Marc Forgione
- The Lambs Club or The National – Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian
- Osteria Morini (semi-casual) Ai Fiori (fancy) or Marea (really fancy) – Chef Michael White
Looking for a really cool atmosphere where people get dressed to impress and the food is pretty great as well? Check out Beauty + Essex, which is actually located behind a pawn shop. Run by Chef Chris Santos (a judge on Chopped), this Lower East Side restaurants features awesome cocktails and a great menu of small plates meant to share. Ladies, head down to the basement restrooms, where you will be greeted by free rose champagne.
Le Coucou is a fantastic choice for upscale French food. We firs experienced Chef Daniel Rose’s restaurant Spring in Paris back during our honeymoon, and we were thrilled when he opened Le Coucou in NYC!
Dirt Candy – a GREAT vegetarian restaurant, it made even this meat eater happy. The cocktails are inventive as well!