Best Restaurants in NYC for Sampling New York’s Quintessential Dishes

New York City is undoubtedly known as one of the best cities in the world for arts, culture and fashion. It’s also known as one of the best places to eat! NYC has a long, storied history of being a culinary destination, where immigrants from all over the world came with dishes from their home country, and grew and developed those traditional meals into authentically New York delights. NYC has dozens upon dozens of famous restaurants, and you can find a legendary dining establishment for nearly every cuisine.
Because there are so many outstanding, well-known restaurants across the city, there are also many dishes that have become famous and associated with New York. Things like Nathan’s hot dogs, pizza and bagels are nearly synonymous with NYC itself, and people from all over the world come to try these unique gastronomic delights. If you want to come to NYC and sample all of the best quintessential NYC dishes at the best restaurants in NYC, then take a look at the following guide. It includes many of the city’s most legendary meals, as well as information about where to find them, how they became famous, and what you can expect to experience while you eat.

Slice of Pizza at Joe’s Pizza

When it comes to NYC foods, there may be none more iconic than pizza. And, there may be no more famous pizza place in the city than Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village. Joe’s was opened on Carmine Street in 1975. It’s famous not only for being delicious, but also convenient and affordable. At Joe’s, you can get pizza by the pie or by the slice. Stop by Joe’s, grab a slice, and then sit in nearby Washington Square Park. You can also wander the wonderfully off-grid cobblestone streets in the area. You can get a plain cheese slice and add any toppings, or you can get a Sicilian Square slice to eat while you walk.

Best restaurants in NYC

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Sturgeon at Barney Greengrass

Barney Greengrass is an Upper West Side institution known for their smoked fish. While you’re there, you must sample the sturgeon (it’s a white, smoked fish, and it’s delicious). We recommend that you try out their scrambled eggs, too. They also come with smoked fish (of your choice) and are fluffy, light and delicious.

Pastrami Sandwich at Katz’s Deli

One of the most famous and oldest operating restaurants in NYC is Katz’s Deli. Located on the Lower East Side, Katz’s regularly attracts crowds looking to try their classic NYC deli fare. The most famous of all foods at Katz’s Deli is their pastrami sandwich. The sandwich is huge and comes hot and hand-carved. You can get it topped with whatever you want (they don’t take kindly to requests for mayo, though).
Katz Delicatessen

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Porterhouse at Peter Luger

Peter Luger steakhouse is one of the best restaurants in NYC for meat lovers. If you go to Peter Luger Steak House, go hungry. This place shines for serving up gigantic steaks. You’ll want to order the Porterhouse, which is the most famous steak they offer. Peter Luger’s main location is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and they’ve been operating since 1887. They’ve perfected their Porterhouse recipe, and you can order it for one, two, three or four people.

Chicken and Rice from the Halal Guys

Don’t avoid food served from street carts. One of the best places to eat in the city is the Halal Guys’ cart. Their original cart stands on 6th Avenue and 53rd Street in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Everything is delicious from the Halal Guys, but people love their chicken and rice. Order it, and you’ll get a platter of steamed chicken and gyro, served over rice.

Nova on a Bagel at Zabar’s

Zabar’s is a legendary specialty food shop and one of the best restaurants in NYC. They are famous for their Jewish food offerings, as well as smoked fish. You can eat at Zabar’s Cafe, which is inside the store on Broadway (on the Upper West Side). When you’re at Zabar’s, you have to eat their most famous menu item: Nova Scotia smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. Choose between scallion or plain cream cheese.

Joe’s Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Joe’s Shanghai is an upscale Chinese restaurant with three locations. You can visit the Joe’s in Midtown, Chinatown or Flushing. There are two types of soup dumplings you can’t miss when you eat at Joe’s Shanghai: the crab or pork meat. Joe’s Shanghai also has a huge selection of Chinese delights. Come hungry for more delicious foods once you’ve finished your order (or two) of dumplings.
chinese food in nyc best restaurants in NYC

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Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery

Don’t overlook sweets if you’re coming to the north to eat at the best restaurants in NYC. There are tons of unforgettable desserts and baked goods in town, like the Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery. The cronut is a Dominique Ansel original, and it is a croissant and donut hybrid. When they invented the cronut in 2013, people waited for hours in line to try one. It’s easier to get now, but just as delicious.

Chocolate Chip Cookie at Levain Bakery

Another one of the best and most famous dessert treats in NYC is the chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery. Levain is a staple on the Upper West Side, and its origin story is that two friends shared a common mission: wanting to create the world’s best chocolate chip cookie. Arguably, they succeeded, because what they came up with is a thick, gooey, warm chocolate cookie that people wait in line for day after day. Get your chocolate chip cookie with walnuts or without, or you can try other cookies while you’re there. Some of their other offerings include dark chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and oatmeal raisin.

Cheesecake at Junior’s

There are three Junior’s Cheesecake locations throughout New York City, where you can try some of the world’s best cheesecake. The most famous of all the cheesecakes available at Junior’s is the Original NY Plain Cheesecake. However, if you’re feeling more adventurous, there are other flavors you can try. Choose from pumpkin, strawberry, chocolate swirl, raspberry swirl, brownie marble swirl, apple crumb, blueberry crumb, cherry crumb, and even sugar-free/low carb. Junior’s has a whole deli menu, in case you want to eat a real meal before you start your cheesecake.
Best Restaurants in NYC

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Bistro Burger at Corner Bistro

The Corner Bistro is one of the oldest and most beloved bars in the West Village. People love to come here to saddle up to the bar and enjoy their favorite frosty cold beer. However, people also come to this tiny hole in the wall for the famous Bistro Burger. This juicy burger comes with cheese and bacon and is the perfect pairing for a dive bar beverage. You can get your Bistro Burger topped with chili if you’re really in the mood for a warm, hearty treat. There’s a second location of the Corner Bistro in Long Island City, Queens.

Pierogis at Veselka

Get a taste of the standout Eastern European cuisine of NYC at Veselka, a restaurant in the East Village that stays open all night. Veselka has been in business since 1954. Since their opening, they’ve become legendary for their pierogis. Order their Pierogi Smorgasboard and you’ll get four potato and four meat pierogi, all topped with caramelized onion, chopped bacon and a homemade cheese sauce. You should also try the latkes (potato pancakes) while you’re there.

Hot Dog at Nathan’s Famous

To really know what hot dogs are all about, you need to try the most famous one in NYC. Take the subway out to Coney Island, and there, you can try the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog. You can try a hot dog plain, or get it topped with chili or cheese. (Or both!) While you’re at Coney Island, stroll the boardwalk, take a ride on the cyclone or visit the aquarium.
Best restaurants in NYC

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Matzoh Ball Soup at 2nd Avenue Deli

Whether it’s cold or not, you don’t want to skip a bowl of matzoh ball soup from the 2nd Avenue Deli. The soup is piping hot chicken broth, carrots, fresh dill, and a giant fluffy matzoh ball. The menu has other traditional Jewish delights, like potato pancakes, liver, and kreplach. There are currently two locations of the kosher deli: midtown and the Upper East Side.

Clam Chowder at Grand Central Oyster Bar

There’s a list of foods that were originally invented in Manhattan. One of the most famous is Manhattan Clam Chowder. There are lots of places to eat delicious clam chowder in the city, but one of the best and most famous is Grand Central Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. You can order either Manhattan Clam Chowder or New England Clam Chowder at Oyster Bar. Manhattan Clam Chowder has a tomato base and no cream, while New England Clam Chowder is creamy and rich. If you love oysters, you can also choose from a huge display of raw oysters while you’re here.
Oyster Bar Restaurant NY

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Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Roll at the Nearest Corner Bodega

One of NYC’s most essential foods exists at many, many places throughout the city, including (most likely) the closest deli to your hotel. Go into your corner bodega (or small market) and order a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a roll if they make hot food there. You’ll get something warm, greasy and delicious no matter where you order it from. This is also one of the best foods in NYC to enjoy on a budget—OR if you’re hungover after a long night out.

Spaghetti and Meatballs at Patsy’s

Patsy’s has been one of the most famous Italian restaurants in NYC for years. The restaurant has only one location, on 56th Street, and while they serve a wide and varied Italian menu, there best is the Spaghetti and Meatballs. This Neapolitan classic is especially good since the founders of the restaurant were from Naples, and you can get your Spaghetti and Meatballs (which contain veal), topped with garlic and cheese and served with a tomato basil sauce.

Ramen at Ippudo

Another great soup option in NYC is the Ramen at Ippudo. Ippudo is a chain of Japanese restaurants with several locations across the city, and its ramen is unbeatable in the city. You can choose from a wide selection of ramen there, but some of the best are the Shiromaru Classic (Tonkotsu pork broth with thin noodle and pork belly chashu), the Akamaru Modern (Tonkotsu pork broth with thin noodles and miso paste), or the Karaka Spicy (Tonkotsu broth, thin noodles, hot spices, and pork belly chashu). You can also choose to order your ramen à la carte so that it comes to your liking.

Sarge’s Favorite at Sarge’s Deli

You’ve had the pastrami at Katz’s, now try the brisket at Sarge’s Deli. This traditional Jewish-style deli and diner serves up unforgettable beef brisket. Order Sarge’s Favorite, which is brisket over a potato pancake, topped with gravy and applesauce. If you prefer your corned beef on rye, you can get a great corned beef sandwich there, too. Alternatively, order the Monster, which Sarge’s menu describes by saying: “Pastrami, Corned Beef, Roast Beef, Fresh Roast Turkey, Salami, Lettuce, Tomato, Cole Slaw, and Russian Dressing on three giant slices of Thick Seeded Rye Bread. At 10 to 12 inches tall, this behemoth is New York City’s largest sandwich.” No matter what you order at Sarge’s, you’ll have a heavy, hearty meal that is sure to warm you up and keep you fueled during a busy New York City day in fall or winter. Sarge’s is on 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill.

Cannoli at Caffe Roma

To finish off the list, let’s end with dessert, like the unforgettable cannoli at Caffe Roma. Caffe Roma is a classic Little Italy pastry shop, where you can enjoy some of the best cannoli the area has to offer. Enjoy it while you take in the charm of Little Italy. You may recognize the sign there: it appears in the famous movie “The French Connection.” One of the things that sets the cannoli apart at Caffe Roma is that they use some cinnamon in their filling. This spicy bite makes the cannoli a unique treat that is unlike any other in the neighborhood. To complete your cannoli meal, try one of the delicious espressos that the bakery also serves up.

Fresh Italian cannol

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At the end of the day, people celebrate New York City for Broadway theater, world-class art, and stunning clothing stores. However, it’s also a culinary capital of the world, and travelers from all over come to revel in its edible delights. If you’re planning to come to NYC, come hungry, and make a list of all the can’t-miss meals to check out while you’re in town. Luckily, you’ll have a lot of walking to do to get around to all of the city’s most famous sights. So, you won’t have any problem working up an appetite between meals.

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