Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
When it comes to dining out in New York City, sorting through the thousands of restaurants can be overwhelming. Relax. Here are the best dining spots in the Big Apple. From classic spots in Times Square to long-time favorites across Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and more, a New York foodie provides recommendations on the best restaurants in NYC.
Take a Bite out of NYC’s Flavor
As America’s largest melting pot, New York City sheds an entirely new light on diversity. Those diverse flavors shine brightest in NYC’s restaurants. If you want to eat it, chances are it’s here. Sample a bite of NYC history or kick back with a craft beer while the kids play. These restaurants will enhance your NYC vacation.
Favorite NYC Theatre District Restaurants
New Yorkers like to say we avoid Times Square. But we do love Broadway, so venturing into this tourist-heavy neighborhood is necessary. Chances are you’ll be spending time there too and you’ll want to check out these New York spots.
For 30 years, Carmine’s has been serving up mouth-watering Italian food family style. Situated in the middle of the Times Square madness, this delicious spot brings the best of Italian cuisine into the spotlight. And the huge family style portions make it even more appealing. All the classics are here: lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti stuffed with fresh ricotta, etc. along with seafood and a decadent broiled porterhouse. If you’d prefer not to mingle with the mega-crowds in Times Square, you’re in luck. Carmine’s has an Upper West Side location that’s equally delicious. Reservations are recommended. Bring an appetite, Carmine’s is a true Italian feast.
An American classic, Junior’s got its start in Brooklyn where you’ll find the original location. If you’d rather be in the center of the action, the 49th Street location in the heart of Times Square does the trick. The menu includes old-school favorites like burgers served with onion rings and crispy fries along with deli sandwiches, barbecue and even seafood. The under-12 Junior menu has the essential grilled cheese, chicken fingers and mac & cheese along with hamburgers and linguini with marinara. But the real star of the show comes at the end of the meal—the cheesecake. A NYC favorite, Junior’s wins the best in show award when it comes to this creamy indulgent New York staple.
TravelingMom Tip: If you choose the Times Square location, be sure to avoid the pre-theater hour unless you’re a fan of long waits.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Yes, it’s touristy. But, let’s face it, an extraordinarily talented singing and dancing wait staff ups the fun factor for everyone. Located in Midtown, Ellen’s Stardust Diner attracts tourists, tour groups and occasionally the locals—usually when guests are in town. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ellen’s menu options are plentiful and include NYC favorites like deli sandwiches along with a selection of pastas, salads and more. The children’s menu provides the typical choices: hamburgers, chicken fingers, mac & cheese and comes with a $16 price tag. You’re paying for the entertainment. And when the kids are entertained through the entire meal, it’s money well spent.
Traditional Tastes on Manhattan’s Lower East Side
Traditionally a working-class neighborhood filled with immigrants, Manhattan’s Lower East Side began to re-gentrify in the 2000’s. But there are still icons from the neighborhood’s roots. Here are two tasty examples.
Russ & Daughters
Start the day off right with a NYC bagel. And there’s no better place to do that than Russ & Daughters. Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Russ & Daughters serves freshly made bagels, smoked fish and plenty of other tempting baked goods. Joel Russ came to NYC in 1907 from Strzyzow which is now part of Poland. He got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to the Easter European Jews on the Lower East Side. Ultimately Russ graduated to a brick and mortar store. Having no sons, his three daughters began working in the business as teenagers. When they went full-time, he named the business Russ & Daughters—the first business in the country to have “daughters” in its name.
If you have a full itinerary, pop into the shop on Houston Street and grab a few bagels with cream cheese and smoked fish to go. Or indulge in a leisurely morning at the Russ & Daughter’s Café a few blocks away. Either way, it’s the breakfast of champions.
Since 1888, Katz’s Deli has been serving mile-high sandwiches filled with outstanding corned beef, pastrami, brisket, and other meats. Other favorites include hot dogs and the salami. During World War II, the owners shipped salami to their sons in the Army. Even today you’ll see the tag line “Send a salami to your boy in the Army.” You’ll need to use your best New York accent to make it rhyme.
In classic New York fashion, the servers at Katz’s are crabby and curt, but it’s all part of the experience. During the holiday season, the lines stretch down the street to enter this classic NYC establishment. If you’re not up for waiting, try going mid-week or outside typical dining times for lunch and dinner. Keep in mind the portions are huge, so little ones will probably get enough to eat by sharing your sandwich.
Asian Eats in NYC
From steaming hot pots to a noodle spot that launched a global restaurant empire, here are Asian favorites.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
Housed in an unassuming spot in the East Village, David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar launched a global restaurant empire. A simple concept, Chang serves traditional Japanese noodle dishes along with miniature buns filled with shiitake mushrooms and meats like roast pork and brisket. Also on the menu, the house variety ramen comes with pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg. A second location at Columbus Circle takes the noodles uptown.
Fried chicken is Noodle Bar’s family-style meal. Feeding 4 to 8 people, the meal includes two whole fried chickens, one southern style and one Korean style, and it comes with mu shu pancakes, baby carrots, red ball radishes, bibb lettuce, four sauces, and an herb basket. The price is $150 excluding tax and tip.
The Queens’ location of this Chinese chain serves up more than delicious hot pots. There’s typically a wait for tables at this family-friendly spot. But, the waiting room features hand massages, massage chairs, a children’s playroom and games. The fun continues in the dining room with robot servers and dancing chefs. Diners happily dunk meats and vegetables into boiling pots of flavored broth.
Grab and Go Spots for Lunch
Excited kids and a long list of New York City highlights to visit are two good reasons for a grab and go lunch. These fast-casual spots are tasty and budget friendly.
Los Tacos No. 1
When three friends from Tijuana, Mexico and Brawley, California decided to bring the authentic Mexican taco to the east coast, Los Tacos No. 1 was born. Located in Chelsea Market, Times Square, Tribeca and Grand Central, Los Tacos No. 1 serves agua frescas and curated tacos—chicken, steak, pork and cactus. Using family recipes, the friends created authentic Mexican street food. The chaotic nature of the taco stand adds to the experience. Decide what type of taco shell and fillings you want while you’re in line to keep things moving along. We appreciate that in NYC.
Looking for something to grab and go on your way to Central Park? Grey’s Papaya on the Upper West Side at 72nd and Broadway serves up surprisingly good hot dogs along with frothy papaya drinks. Sauerkraut and relish are available along with mustard. It’s no frills and no tables—just a counter where you can stand and watch the people scurrying by on Broadway. I recommend getting the hot dogs to go. You can walk the few blocks to Central Park and have a hot dog picnic. Oh, and should you get a late- night craving for hot dogs, Gray’s Papaya is open 24/7. You’ll see imitations around the city, but the 72nd and Broadway location is the real deal.
The Real Little Italy
Most visitors to New York frequent Little Italy near Canal Street to find Italian restaurants, but the real Little Italy resides on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The site for the movie and Broadway play, The Bronx Tale, this community houses local markets and restaurants often passed down through multiple generations. Located nearby, the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo give you more reasons to visit the Bronx.
Café Al Mercato
Located within the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, this family owned and operated café serves mouthwatering Italian favorites from spaghetti and meatballs to lasagna crafted from family recipes. Popular entrees include the homemade pasta and robust Italian sandwiches. For the kids, chicken parmesan, pizzas and baked ziti hit the spot. A casual, comfortable atmosphere make Café Al Mercato ideal for families. After your meal, nearby Ciccarone Park has a playground for the kids.
Co-owned by lifelong friends, Anthony and Joe, Antonio’s Trattoria embodies the spirit of the Bronx. Authentic Italian dishes are “Nonna” approved. Popular menu items include short ribs and veal saltimbocca. An extensive kids’ menu showcases pizza, mozzarella sticks, cheese ravioli, rice balls and more. Half-orders on many of the pasta dishes are also available for the kids.
If you happen to have a birthday kid in tow, be sure you go to Antonio’s. You don’t want to miss Joe the bartender singing a happy birthday song accompanied by a disco light! And keep your eyes open, celebrities often frequent Antonio’s with their kids.
Harlem Dining Highlights
It’s a neighborhood filled with history, architecture and good eats. Venture uptown to Harlem to check out these delicious eateries.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – Harlem
Situated underneath the Riverside Drive Viaduct at 125th Street in West Harlem, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que occupies a two-story brick building. In warmer months, outdoor seating is available. Dogs are welcomed there with water bowls and Dinosaur’s bandanas. A variety of sauces satisfy whatever type of American BBQ you prefer. The smoked ribs are to die for, and the sides are equally delicious. The kids’ menu—Dino Kids—for ages 12 and under includes mini BBQ sandwiches from pulled pork or beef brisket along with plenty of yummy sides to choose from. Priced at a budget friendly $6.75, all items include two sides. Walk-ins are welcome, but Dinosaur’s also takes reservations for groups up to 20.
A Harlem staple, Sylvia’s knows how to put the soul in soul food. Entrees like fried chicken with all the fixin’s, collard greens, baked ham and chicken and waffles grace the menu. A full bar offers cocktails, beer and wine. Don’t miss Sylvia’s Signature Bloody Mary made with Sylvia’s Triple Strength Hot Sauce. For kids under 10, smaller versions of menu favorites like fried or smothered chicken leg and fried whiting are served with two sides. The legendary Sunday Gospel Brunch provides more than good food, it’s a foot-stomping, hand-clapping good time for everyone in the family. Make reservations in advance.
Eat and Play in Brooklyn
One of New York’s most popular boroughs, Brooklyn’s dining options are abundant. From trendy spots in Williamsburg to Nathan’s original hot dog stand on Coney Island, you’ll find just about everything here. These two spots offer fun and games along with tasty meals.
Overlooking the New York Harbor, Brooklyn Crab brings the crab shack vibe to the city. Offering entrees made from fresh sustainable seafood, it’s almost like being at the beach. While crab’s the focus, there are plenty of other options including shrimp and mussels. Fried Gulf shrimp and fish & chips elevate the kids’ menu for the same old chicken nuggets. In warmer months, the outdoor beer garden also known as Reed Park has mini golf and corn hole to go along with all that delicious seafood and craft beer.
You don’t normally find a bowling alley on a list of best restaurants, but Brooklyn Bowl isn’t normal. These high-tech bowling alley’s restaurants serves delicious entrees from Blue Ribbon. The kid’s menu offers more than your usual chicken nuggets. Youngsters can choose from fried chicken, hummus and veggie platters and even seared salmon. Saturdays and Sundays are family days from 11 AM to 5 PM making this an ideal spot for weekend brunch served with a side of bowling.
Date Night Splurge in New York
Among the best restaurants in NYC, there are plenty suitable for a special occasion date night. If you manage to squeeze in a little time for a kid-free dinner, here are some delicious options.
Chef Eric Ripert’s elegantFrench restaurant features refined seafood in a luxe atmosphere. Le Bernardin earned three Michelin stars in 2005 and has maintained those each year since. Menu favorites include octopus and scallops. The expertly curated tasting menu pairs chef choices with selections from the restaurant’s excellent wine list.
In NYC, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to steakhouses. Located in Herald Square, Keens offers a taste of history as well as legendary steaks. The only survivor of the Herald Square Theatre District, Keens was once the place to go for playwrights, producers and actors. The entrees are as delicious today as they were when the steakhouse opened in 1885. Keens displays the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world. What should you order? The mutton chops are legendary, but you’ll also find a variety of top cuts on the extensive menu.
Omakase Room by Tatsu
Located in the West Village, Omakase Room by Tatsu brings sushi lovers a dining adventure. Priced at $145 for 18 pieces of nigiri, an attentive staff stands by to ensure you’ll fully savor the Omakase experience.
New York City Sweet Stuff
These NYC restaurants add a little sweetness to the dining out experience.
Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant
Who doesn’t love chocolate? At Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant near Union Square offers it in abundance. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll find a wide selection of non-chocolate main courses to begin your meal. But for dessert, chocolate rules. Try a chocolate pizza or make s’mores at your table. An enchanting children’s menu titled “Max & the Secret Chocolate Menu” offers choices like “Two Little Mouth Cheeseburgers in a ceramic spaceship.” That comes with a side of spaceship fries, of course. Breakfast entrees like “Waffle Trampoline Nets with bouncing strawberries, clouds of cream and raindrops of chocolate” guarantee a magical start to the day.
Over the years, this Upper East Side favorite drew the allegiance of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol. Comfort food at its best, the menu offers Chicken Pot Pie and Serendipity Chili Mac & Cheese along with Country Meat Loaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. But the desserts…oh my. Decadent delights include Karo Pecan Pie, Celestial Carrot Cake and Crème DeLa Crème Cream Cheese Cake. Legendary “drug store sundaes” tempt you further with names like “Can’t Say No Sundae Humble Pie” a diet destroying blend of ice cream, banana, hot fudge and whipped cream. Fortunately, Serendipity 3 stands just a few blocks from Central Park allowing you to walk off the calories while the kids burn off the sugar high!
Are all these yummy options making your hungry? That’s more motivation for you to book your trip and start enjoying these choices for the best restaurants in NYC. Bon appetit!