In this New York City food guide you’ll find 10 must-eat restaurants in NYC that I can almost guarantee will satisfy your taste buds.
One of the greatest things about New York City is the diversity of the people; And there’s no better way to experience New York City’s melting pot than by digging into its food.
If you love to eat, this guide on some of the best restaurants in NYC is for you.
Note: New York City is a gigantic city with thousands and thousands of restaurants. So this list of top 10 restaurants in NYC is by all means not complete, but it’s a selection of the best restaurants I personally tried during my recent trip. If you have other favorite restaurants in New York City (not mentioned in this guide), I’d love for your to share it in the comments below.
1. Katz’s Delicatessen
Easily one of the most famous New York City restaurants, Katz’s Delicatessen is an institution that has been serving classic sandwiches since 1888.
Although they have a variety of foods on their menu, the single reason you should eat at Katz’s Deli is for their pastrami. The pastrami is sensational, fall apart tender, with a perfect ratio of fat to meat, and a crust of black pepper and secret spices. It’s everything you could want in pastrami.
When you enter Katz’s Delicatessen you’ll be handed a little yellow ticket (make sure you hold onto this and don’t lose it or they will charge you, seriously). Take the little yellow ticket and go to the bar-style counter and hand it to a cutter. The cutter will take your order, and fix your sandwiches. Oftentimes your cutter will give you a sample of the pastrami as he’s making your sandwich. It’s expected that you give your cutter a tip.
Then you take your sandwich, sit down at an empty table, and sink your teeth into a ridiculously thick meat sandwich, and enjoy every single bite of it!
When I ate at Katz’s Delicatessen, my wife and I ordered the reuben with pastrami, and a half corned beef, with a side of coleslaw and a plate of pickles. The corned beef was alright, nothing special for me, but the reuben pastrami was insane. Also, I didn’t care for the coleslaw as it was quite sweet, but the kosher pickles were excellent.
Expert eater tip: If you go for lunch, Katz’s Deli is known for being crazy busy. So if you’re up for it when you’re in New York City, go for breakfast, after they open at 8 am. My wife and I were there just after 8 am, and we nearly had the entire restaurant to ourselves (plus we had the rest of the day to burn off all that pastrami).
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, USA
Open hours: 8 am – 10:45 pm on Monday – Wednesday, 8 am – 2:45 am on Thursday, 8 am – all night on Friday, open all day on Saturday, 8 am – 10:45 pm on Sunday.
Prices: Katz’s Deli is very expensive, there’s just no other way to put it – $20 for a sandwich!!? But I guess you pay food and legend. My total bill came to $48.56.
How to get there: The restaurant is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I took the subway to 2nd Ave station, and it’s just a five minute walk down Houston St. to Katz’s Deli.
2. Spicy Village
“[The chicken] is marinated in Budweiser, salt, pepper and MSG.”
As I was rummaging my chopsticks through the beauty that is the “Spciy Big Tray Chicken” at Spicy Village restaurant, I caught a glimpse of an article written by the New York Times posted on the wall, written all about Spicy Village and especially focused on the dish I was about to devour.
Spicy Village is a tiny restaurant located in Chinatown in Manhattan that specializes in home-cooked style dishes from the central Henan province of China, plus some extra dishes that have roots in Xinjiang – the Spicy Big Tray Chicken being one of them.
If you’re a spicy food fanatic, and love cumin, food can hardly get any better than the Spicy Big Tray Chicken.
Again, the chicken is deep fried in a unique concoction (that includes beer), then braised in a spicy chili, cumin, and Sichuan pepper soup. I ordered it with hand-pulled noodles, which went with the dish perfectly, but rice would have been equally as good.
I included Spicy Village on my list of best restaurants in NYC because the powerful flavors and the friendliness of this little restaurant are standout.
Big thanks to Monty in NYC who recommended Spicy Village, saying it was a restaurant I’d be sure to love.
Address: 68 Forsyth St #B, New York, NY 10002, USA
Open hours: 10 am – 11 pm on Monday – Saturday (closed on Sunday)
Prices: The Spicy Big Tray Chicken which was serve two costs in the $14 range.
How to get there: Spicy Village is located on the edge of Chinatown, a few minutes walk from Grand St. subway station.
3. Di Fara Pizza
When you think about food in New York City, pizza is probably one of the first foods you think of; Not eating pizza in NYC would be the same as getting into a car and not going anywhere – you simply do not do that.
In any New York City travel or food guide, you’ll find dozens of legendary pizza restaurants like Lombardi’s, which is one of the first pizzerias in America, and Grimaldi’s which is known for their coal brick oven pizza.
But when I asked where to go for the best pizza in New York City, I got an overwhelming answer to try Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn.
Long known, especially among the food obsessed of New York, Di Fara Pizza is a small family run restaurant owned by pizza making legend, Domenico DeMarco (and now his family as he’s getting quite elderly). In this article on Business Insider, DeMarco explains that one of the reasons why their pizza is so good is because their ingredients, including the tomatoes and cheese, all come directly from Italy.
One day on my food trip to New York City my wife and I decided to take a food mission to Brooklyn, stopping first at Di Fara Pizza. We arrived about 20 minutes before they opened at noon, and I was lucky to be first in line for the day. After much contemplation, and reading this post from Serious Eats, I finally decided to order the classic thin crust round pie, with half only cheese and half with pepperoni.
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I put in my order, and after about 15 minutes my pizza came out of the oven, the cheese sizzling and nearly sliding around on top of the pie. What I loved most is that they scissor cut on some fresh basil right on the top of the sizzling cheese before serving it.
Words are hard to describe how good and how simple tasting the pizza at Di Fara Pizza was.
The crust was thin and crisp on the bottom, gooey on the inside, with a slight sweet and slightly tart tomato sauce, a perfect layer of cheese, and that fresh basil to give it the extra touch.
Address: 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230, USA
Open hours: 12 pm – 8 pm on Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Prices: Prices at Di Fara Pizza are known to be kind of ridiculously expensive. I paid $31 for my full pizza, or if you’ll pay $5 per slice.
How to get there: Di Fara is located in Brooklyn. I took the subway from Manhattan all the way to Avenue J station, which took about 45 minutes, and the restaurant is literally across the street from the exit of the subway station.
4. The Halal Guys
What could be so good about chicken over rice?
That’s what I thought to myself before ever eating at The Halal Guys, one of the original New York City street food carts. Their food is Middle Eastern inspired and they serve Halal food as their name pretty clearly suggests.
“Make sure you get a lot of sauce, both the white sauce and the red chili sauce,” are what many people told me about eating at The Halal Guys.
One night in New York City, my wife and I walked through Times Square and we were thinking of places to eat when I remembered the original The Halal Guys was not too far of a walk away. We went to the location, right across the street from the Hilton Midtown hotel.
I ordered the chicken over rice, which came in a foil container with a base of orange colored rice, topped with a layer of semi-shredded chicken on top, some iceberg lettuce, and a few pieces of bread on the side. Since I ordered for takeaway, I got the white and red sauce in little packets on the side.
First, I decided to try the chicken and rice on its own. It was pretty plain.
Then I squeezed on the white and red sauce.
Let me tell you, when it comes to The Halal Guys, it’s ALL about the white and red sauce. That’s where secret of flavor lies and the explosion of taste is. The swirl of creamy white sauce, and the spicy chili filled red sauce, drenched over the chicken rice is the only way to eat The Halal Guys.
Expert eating tip: Whatever you do, don’t under-do the sauce. Seriously, The Halal Guys is all about the sauce.
Address: W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Open hours: 10 am – 4 am daily, one of the late night restaurants in NYC when you need a huge meal at 3 am!
Prices: For New York City, The Halal Guys is one of the best places to eat in NYC on a budget, and for the how full you’ll get to the price ratio, it’s a good deal. The chicken over rice cost me $7.
How to get there: Probably the closest subway station is 7th Ave, but you can also walk from Central Park or anywhere in Midtown.
5. Russ & Daughters
Another New York City heritage staple is Russ & Daughters, a deli with beginnings as a street food pushcart and has been “Appetizing since 1914.”
Russ & Daughters is one of the most famous New York City restaurants for serving all types of salmon, both smoked and salt cured, with bagels and cream cheese. They also have a pretty extensive selection of other delicious foods like herring, salads, and dried fruits and nuts.
When I arrived to Russ & Daughters on a morning at about 10 am, the line was out the door. But it didn’t take more than five minutes for me to get inside and take a ticket. It was standing room only, but after about 15 minutes my number was called (which happened to be just the right amount of time for me to decide what I wanted to order).
What is Gravlax?
Many of the terms are various ways of preserving salmon with Scandinavian origins. Gravlax is the term used for cured salmon, usually in salt and sugar.
Another common salmon at Russ & Daughters is belly lox, with is salted cured salmon belly, known for being fatty and very salty. Lucky Peach published this great guide about the different types of salmon you’ll find at Russ & Daughters.
Despite wanting to order a selection of different salmons, my budget wouldn’t allow. So I chose an everything bagel with Scottish smoked salmon, caviar cream cheese, with tomatoes and onions.
The smoked salmon bagel was much smaller than I had anticipated. However, the taste quality was superb. The salmon literally melted in my mouth and was nearly the same texture as the thick layer of caviar cream cheese which was spread on both sides of the bagel.
Similar to Katz’s Delicatessen, although the food is of excellent quality and bound to satisfy, it’s by all means not one of the budget restaurants in NYC; You pay extra for the legendary status of the restaurant.
Address: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, USA
Open hours: 8 am – 8 pm on Monday – Friday, 8 am – 7 pm on Saturday, and 8 am – 5:30 pm on Sunday.
Prices: I had a classic sandwich for $13.88. Believe me I had to take that one sandwich and run, for fear that if I hung around longer, I would rack up a $100 bill.
How to get there: You can get to Russ & Daughters from a number of subway stations depending on where you are in New York City, but I took the subway to 2nd Avenue station and it’s about a 3 minute walk from there.
6. Meske Ethiopian Restaurant
Along with more famous New York City restaurants that have become institutions in the city, NYC also provides you with the opportunity to sample cuisines from around the world.
Ethiopian food happens to be a personal favorite of mine, and when I was in NYC, I met up with my good fried Sarah from OHK World, and she took me to one of her favorite Ethiopian restaurants in the city: Meske Ethiopian Restaurant.
Not only is Ethiopian food delicious, but the family style of eating together, is what truly makes it a great experience. On the menu you’ll find both a meat or a vegetarian combination platter which includes a variety of special dishes, which all come on top a tray of injera (which is a pancake like sour bread made from teff flour).
I’d recommend ordering a mixed combination of your choice, plus a few extra dishes like special tibs and/or doro wot (an Ethiopian stew of chicken, egg, and lots of berbere).
Meske serves excellent Ethiopian food and is one of the restaurants in NYC in this guide that also has many vegetarian options.
Address: 468 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036, USA
Open hours: 12 noon – 10:30 pm daily
Prices: There were three of us, and we had a pretty significant meal plus drinks and our bill came to about $90. You’re looking to spend about $30 per person.
How to get there: Meske is located in Hell’s Kitchen a couple blocks from 50th Street station.
7. Shake Shack
From In-N-Out to Five Guys, the United States is hardly immune from burger wars.
When it comes to the best burger chain in the United States, New York’s Shake Shack has been leading a burger revolution and wowing burger fanatics recently. Here’s a pretty complete burger chain taste test comparison on Serious Eats.
I honestly normally prefer fresh hand-made burgers over fast food burgers, but when passing though Madison Square Park (the original location of Shake Shack) I couldn’t resist trying one of the most famous burger chain restaurants in NYC to see what it was all about.
The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, and shakes, and I decided to go straight for the Double Shack Burger with a side order of fries.
A couple of quick things to tell you about the Shake Shack burger:
- Burger meat – The beef is a combo of short rib, sirloin, and brisket which is always fresh and never frozen. I liked how the burger was not a fine grind.
- Bun – The bun is a potato roll which is very soft and toasted in butter before being compiled.
- Cheese – The only thing on the Shake Shack burger that I didn’t care for, or thought could improve was the cheese. It had that processed plasticky taste to me.
I won’t deny, I enjoyed every bite of my Double Shake Shack burger down to the last drip of beef grease.
Address: Madison Ave & E.23rd St, New York, NY 10010, USA
Open hours: 11 am – 11 pm daily
Prices: My Double Shack Burger cost $8.09 plus $2.99 for regular fries. I think they are pretty average prices for NYC fast food restaurants.
How to get there: You can get to Madison Square Park the quickest from 23rd Street subway station.
8. Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine
Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine, located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, serves a mix of Caribbean food, most of which is Trinidadian.
For incredibly delicious curries and friendly service, Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine is one of the restaurants in NYC you don’t want to miss.
On the menu you can order a good variety of different curries paired with side dishes, and they also have rotis and doubles (a Trinidad and Tobago fried flatbread sandwich).
When my wife and I ate at Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine we ordered two plates, one with curry chicken and the other curry fish, which both came with a number of vegetable sides and rice.
From the moment I lifted the lid on my to-go foil container, and that cloud of steam filled with the aroma of spices hit my nose, I could hardly contain my excitement.
The taste of the curries are just as good as they smell.
The only thing I regret is only ordering a curry plate without trying the doubles. So next time I eat at Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine I’ll be ordering a couple doubles straight away.
Address: 764 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216, USA
Open hours: 11 am – 9 pm on Tuesday – Thursday, 11 am – 9:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11 am – 8:30 pm on Sunday and Monday
Prices: The large sized plates cost $11 – $14, but the portion sizes are huge and well worth it.
How to get there: To get to Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine in Brooklyn you can take the subway to Nostrand Ave station and it’s about a 10 minute walk from there.
9. Xi’an Famous Foods
With multiple locations around New York City, Xi’an Famous Foods specializes in serving flavors from Xi’an, a city located in the northwestern part of China.
Unlike Chinese Cantonese food, Chinese food from Xi’an is more heavy on spices, namely cumin, chilies (and plenty of chili oil), and Sichuan pepper.
When it comes to restaurants in NYC, Xi’an Famous Foods is one of my personal favorites. I could probably eat something off their menu everyday and be very happy.
Like I already mentioned above, you’ll find convenient locations of Xi’an Famous Foods around NYC, but I decided to make the trip from Manhattan to Flushing to visit the original location, tucked away down in the bottom basement of the Golden Shopping Mall.
The food center in the bottom of the mall is beautiful, it literally feels like you’ve traveled out of New York and straight to China.
Despite wanting to order the entire menu, since there were a few more restaurants I wanted to eat at in Flushing, I decided to keep it simple and order a plate of spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles and a side of spicy Asian cucumber salad (see the full menu here).
The noodles were everything I had hoped for, gooey and thick, and soaked in their exquisite secret chili oil and Sichuan pepper blend. The lamb just made things even better, but I would have been seriously happy just with the noodles and chili oil!
Address: Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St Basement, Suite 36, Flushing, NY 11355
Open hours: 10:30 am 9:15 on Sunday to Thursday and 10:30 am – 9:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday
Prices: Hand pulled plates of exquisite noodles cost in the $7 – $9 per plate range.
How to get there: Take the NYC subway to Flushing Main Street station and it’s about a 5 minute walk over to the Golden Shopping mall. Head directly downstairs and start eating.
10. Los Tacos No.1
After graduating from University in the United States, in 2009 I decided to travel to Southeast Asia, and I never moved back.
And as much as I love Thai food, one of the only main cuisines I really miss living in Bangkok is Mexican food. It’s not the Tex-Mex type of food that I miss, but it’s the real proper tacos where you can taste the meat, the smokiness, and the fiery dry chilies in the salsa.
After doing some extensive research on restaurants in NYC that serve Mexican food, especially Mexican style street food, I came across Los Tacos No.1 located at Chelsea Market, and immediately knew it was a restaurant I needed to try.
If you’re looking for some of the best tacos New York City has to offer, and possibly equally as good as tacos elsewhere in the United States, Los Tacos No.1 will satisfy your every need.
I ordered one of each of their tacos: adobada, carne asada, pollo asado, and nopal.
You can then choose to have your tacos with corn or flour tortillas, and I ordered two of each. The tacos are decorated with cilantro, onions, and guacamole, and you can add your own salsa, extra dried chilies, and lime wedges to squeeze on top.
For taco lovers Los Tacos No.1 is one of must eat places in NYC. All the tacos were good, but the best was the adobada, cooked on a doner that reminded me of Istanbul, on a corn tortilla with all toppings and extra salsa.
Address: Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, USA
Open hours: 11 am – 9 pm from Monday – Saturday, 11 am – 8 pm on Sunday
Prices: I ordered four tacos and my bill came to $14 which isn’t by any means budget or cheap, but it’s pretty typical prices for restaurants in New York City.
How to get there: Los Tacos No.1 is located at Chelsea Market, which is a five to ten minute walk from 14th Street subway station.
Map of NYC restaurants
On the map there are a few extra restaurants as well, but the restaurants listed in this guide are 1 – 10 on this map.
There you have it, 10 of the top restaurants in NYC that I ate at during my visit to New York City.
And finally again, I just can’t stop thinking about the diversity of New York City, the people that call it home, and the melting pot of delicious food available.
By all means don’t limit yourself to only the 10 restaurants included in this New York City food guide, but I hope it gives you some ideas of must-eat restaurants in NYC that you don’t want to miss!