Updated: 2/23/22 | February 23, 2022
(Little known nerd fact: My parents took my friend Matt and I to NYC because we won a free trip for placing first (me) and second (him) in the Massachusetts state championship of the card game Magic: The Gathering. Yes, you read that correctly!)
As you probably know, NYC is one of the best foodie cities in the world — you can find cuisines from every ethnicity here. And from dollar pizza slices to expensive $400 USD meals at Per Se, it also has food to cover all price ranges.
Because of the variety and quality of food, I rarely cooked at home when I lived in New York (kitchens are small and there’s better food everywhere!), and so, over the years, I developed a robust list of recommended restaurants that I want to share with you now.
My 18 Favorite Restaurants in NYC
1. Corner Bistro (331 W. 4th Street)
World-famous for its thick and greasy hamburgers, I think this is one of the best burger joints in the city. This tiny, dimly lit bar is definitely not the restaurant you would expect to find such mouthwatering food. I bet they haven’t cleaned the grill in ages, which is probably what gives the burgers such an amazing taste. I’m sure the drinks here are good too, but I only ever come for the burger.
2. Jeffrey’s Grocery (172 Waverly Place)
Located in the West Village, this is not a cheap meal (most mains are $20 USD), but they pour heavy, heavy glasses of wine and have some of my favorite oysters and seafood in the city. They also host a $1.50 USD oyster happy hour (3:30-5:30pm during the week), which I think is the best deal in the city!
3. Miss Korea BBQ (10 W. 32nd Street)
This is my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant in the city. Granted, I’m not a Korean BBQ expert, but the meat here is delicious, and they give you a TON of sides of a dizzying variety (which to me is the best part of Korean BBQ. Bring on the unlimited kimchi!). The fact that it’s usually full of Koreans is something I take as a good sign.
4. SriPraPhai Thai Restaurant (64-13 39th Avenue, Queens)
This is the best and most authentic Thai restaurant in New York. As someone who has lived in Thailand, I rarely find a place I like. It’s never as good. I hardly ever get Thai food in the United States because I’m always disappointed, but this place is the real thing. It’s as close to eating in Thailand as you can get. I especially like the som tam (papaya salad) here. It’s legit.
5. Russ & Daughters (179 E. Houston Street)
This is the best breakfast and brunch joint in the city, hands down. Nothing else even comes close. Come here for latkes, lox plates, world-class cream cheese, and anything else breakfast/deli like you can think of. There are two sections: the restaurant and the deli. The restaurant always has a long, long wait, so if you don’t get there early, it’s better to grab from the deli around the corner and eat elsewhere.
6. Left Bank (117 Perry Street)
Located in the West Village, this French restaurant offers a wonderful happy hour menu, with a $25 USD prix fixe dinner that is one of the best budget meals in the city. You get two courses and wine in a romantically lit setting. My roommates and I also come here often, especially if we want a nice quiet bonding evening!
7. Sao Mai (203 1st Ave)
A great Vietnamese place located near my old apartment, this place serves pho that rocks my world. The portions are huge here and, according to my friend Jodi, who is an expert in all food Vietnamese, this place is authentic.
8. S’MAC (197 1st Ave)
A mac-and-cheese shop that takes the traditional dish and makes it even better. It’s heavenly, cheesy goodness. Their 4-Cheese and Cheeseburger are my two favorites. The fact that this place was around the block from my house was definitely a problem though — I ate there too often and may have gotten a S’MAC belly!
9. Masala Times (194 Bleecker St)
Serving Bombay-style street food, this place located near the NYU campus serves some really good Indian meals. I couldn’t get enough of it. The plates are sharable, and you get rice and bread, too. Try the Fish Tikka — it’s delicious.
10. Vanessa’s Dumpling (118A Eldridge Street)
I stumbled upon this place while walking home one day; it was only later that I found out it’s actually quite famous. After eating their dumplings, it’s easy to see why. They’re delicious — the pork dumplings had an intense flavor to them. And at 8 for $5.50, the price is just right.
While the original Vanessa’s is in Chinatown, there are now locations in Williamsburg, the Financial District, Long Island City, and the Upper West Side.
11. John’s on Bleecker (278 Bleecker St)
While pizza in New York is an institution, I admit I’m no pizza guru. To me, it’s either bad, good or really good. I can’t make those fine pizza distinctions like some New Yorkers can. I qualify John’s as really good. The thin-style pizza comes in huge portions big enough to serve three (no slices available here). Service is quick, but expect to wait for a table during dinner.
12. Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave)
Chelsea Market is more a collection of food places than a single restaurant. It’s extremely popular and a great place to pop into when you need some groceries, a meal, or snacks. There’s everything from a creperie to a currywurst spot, from delicious Thai food to Amy’s Bread with amazing bread. The Lobster Place has decent sushi (and great lobster), but I really enjoy their clam chowder.
13. Rosemary’s (18 Greenwich Ave)
This West Village Italian restaurant boasts a rooftop farm with fresh produce and herbs that goes directly into the food you eat. Their handmade pastas are a must-eat and they have a good rosé selection. It’s one of the best weekend brunch locations in the city too. Come early because it fills up really quickly, especially on nice warm day.
14. Mamoun’s Falafel (119 MacDougal St)
You will find inexpensive falafel and gyro stands all over Manhattan, but the best one is Mamoun’s. You can pick up a classic falafel sandwich with tahini and salad for $5, but all the options here are tasty and affordable.
Mamoun’s now has 3 locations in NYC: East Village, Greenwich Village, and the Upper West Side.
15. Karasu (166 Delkab Ave)
This is often considered a restaurant and cocktail bar, but it’s more of an izakaya speakeasy (you’ll need to enter through a secret door). It has an elegant ambiance and the drinks are top-notch. The menu isn’t huge, but everything is delicious.
16. Peter Luger Steakhouse (178 Broadway, Brooklyn)
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this is the best steakhouse in the city. Having been around since 1887, it’s an institution. The restaurant has a German beer hall feel and the steak (which they age in-house) is some of the best I’ve had in my life.
17. Friend of a Farmer (77 Irving Pl)
Since 1986, Friend of a Farmer has been embracing the farm-to-table movement, offering seasonal dishes as well as classic comfort food. The food is filling and hearty. They have a great brunch too!
18. Pete’s Tavern (129 E 18th St)
This vintage bar has been open since 1864 and claims to be the oldest continually running bar and restaurant in New York. It’s an unpretentious place where you can enjoy some pub food and enjoy that classic tavern atmosphere.
After living in the city for years, this list reflects what I think are some of the best and most unique offerings the Big Apple has to offer.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg too. New York City has some of the greatest bars and restaurants in the world and you could spend a lifetime (and a fortune) trying them all. Whether you’re eating on a budget or ready to splash out, NYC has something for you.
But don’t take my word for it. Come and put my suggestions to the test and let me know what you think!
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to New York City!
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Book Your Trip to NYC: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here my complete list of favorite hostels the city. Additionally, if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood guide to NYC!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on NYC?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on New York City for even more planning tips!