21 Places to Eat in NYC for iconic New York food

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One of the best and worst things about New York City is the amount of food options. There is a seemingly endless supply of amazing places to eat in NYC that cater to every budget level – and the thing is, most of them are very, very, good.

person holding a cupcake
Don’t miss Molly’s Cupcakes

With so many options, it can be impossible to figure out where to eat in NYC, especially with so many restaurants claiming their dishes to be the “best” of the rest.

Of course, it’s impossible to eat at every restaurant in New York, and with more restaurants opening up every minute, it’s a constantly changing task to confidently list the “best” restaurants in NYC.

But as frequent visitors to NYC, we have a list of places that have been consistently good over the years, and we go back. totime and time again.

In this list of my favorite places to eat, I’ve chosen places where you can find the quintessential New York City classics. These are the places I always bring out-of-towners because I love them, and I hope you do too.

Iconic New York Food to Try

food cart nyc

Before we get into the best places to eat in NYC, let’s quickly run down what the most iconic foods and dishes you must try on your trip.

New York is a very multi-cultural city and so a lot of the cuisines and flavors you find in the city stem from many different countries and regions.

You have Chinatown, where you’ll find everything from Hong Kong-style dim sum to northeastern Chinese food. You’ve got Little Italy which is known for its pizzas.

Then you have Middle Eastern cuisine which is served all over the city. Not to mention the street cart food such as hot dogs, pretzels and corn dogs, which pop up all over the place.

But what food is iconic to NYC? Make sure you try the following:

  • Pizza – NYC pizza is world famous, so make sure to try one.
  • Bagels – the Bagel was invented in Poland, but NYC made it famous. Particularly a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.
  • Cupcakes and donuts – if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t have problems finding dessert options in this city!
  • Cronuts – a criossant and donut blend that was invented in NYC, by an artisan bakery named Dominique Ansel Bakery
  • Hot dogs – a classic, needs no more explanation
  • Pastrami sandwiches – you won’t find bigger or better than the ones in NYC
  • French fries – you can get great Belgian ones in the Greenwich Village neighborhood
  • Rice balls – another delicacy found in the Greenwich Village

Places to Eat in NYC

Now I’ve got your stomach rumbling, it’s time to show you my best places to eat in the Big Apple, as well as some of the tasty dishes you must try at each place!

1. Bagels at Absolute

Absolute Bagels and coffee cup on table

You can find bagels anywhere in NYC, of varying prices and standards – but Absolute Bagels on Broadway. Oh, Absolute.

The bagels are warm and chewy and doughy – the perfect New York City bagel.

The toppings are traditional but varied and the prices are cheap. The line is out the door on the weekends, but the wait is well worth it.

  • Hours: 6.00am – 7.00pm daily
  • Address: 2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

2. Breakfast at Buvette

bowl of granola and coffee at buvette

This French-inspired bistro in West Village is cozy and chic, complete with excellent espresso and an exceptional wine list.

I especially love Buvette for breakfast on weekdays, since it can get quite crowded for weekend brunch: the multi-grain toast with smashed avocado and the yogurt with muesli, fresh berries and honey are both favorites.

  • Hours: 8.00am – 11.00pm Monday – Friday, 8.00am – 12.00am Saturdays and Sundays
  • Address: 42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

3. Brunch at Freeman’s

laneway with murals on wall and bikes out front of hidden cafe at Freemans

New York City loves brunch and tucked away in a hidden graffiti-lined alley in the Lower East Side of New York City is fan favorite, Freeman’s.

The clandestine restaurant features a horseshoe bar with tasteful taxidermy, complete with homespun American favorites and artisan cocktails.

  • Hours: 11.00am – 11.00pm Tuesday – Saturday, 11.00am – 10.00pm Sunday and Monday
  • Address: Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002

4. Spicy chicken sandwiches at The Commodore

Spicy chicken sandwiches and pint of beer on table at The Commodore

Don’t be fooled from the outside, or even the inside. This windowless dive bar in Brooklyn is dark and crowded and loud, and the back courtyard is filled with cigarette smoke and cheap patio furniture.

Full honesty here, the service at The Commodore isn’t fantastic, per se, but the spicy chicken sandwiches (and the adult grilled cheese, and the nachos) make up for everything.

The food is out-of-this-world delicious making it one of those don’t miss places to eat in NYC! And the ambiance might even grow on you after a while.

I still have friends from California who text me out of the blue reminiscing over the “hot breast” chicken sandwich.

  • Hours: 4.00pm – 4.00am Monday – Friday, 11.00am – 4.00am Saturday and Sunday
  • Address: 366 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

5. Katz’s Ruebens at Katz’s Delicatessen

Rueben sandwich at Katz’s Deli

The home of “I’ll have what she’s having,” Katz’s is definitely a touristy spot but for good reason. The hand-carved hot pastrami sandwich is as good as it gets.

Ruebens, latkes, pickles, even egg creams: the traditional deli favorites are some of the best that you’ll find.

It’s so good, the deli doesn’t sleep at the weekend, people come all through the day and night!

  • Hours: 8.00am – 11.00pm Monday – Thursday, 8.00am – 12.00am Friday, Saturday 24 hours, 12.00am – 11.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

6. High Tea at Bergdorf Goodman

woman smiling at camera with glass of champagne and High tea tower of food at Bergdorf Goodman

It’s not cheap, but holy moly high tea at Bergdorf Goodman is such a lovely splurge.

With sweeping views over Central Park – best in the heart of changing foliage in fall or right after a heavy snowfall in winter – and pastel-colored fixings, the Bergdorf Goodman restaurant is a fun place to people watch the city’s fabulous.

I especially love high tea on Sunday afternoons, complete with a glass of Veuve Cliquot!

  • Hours: 11.00am – 7.00pm Monday – Saturday, 11.00am – 6.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 754 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019

7. Pizza at Artichoke Basille’s

slice of Artichoke Pizza on the table
Image: Artichoke Pizza – one of the best places to eat in NYC

You can get a $1 slice of pizza almost anywhere in the city, of varying standards. But Artichoke Basille’s is one of my favorite street joints: it’s open late, and there’s nowhere to sit, but the slices are huge and homemade and tasty.

The special twist is the Artichoke slice: artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino. Mamma mia!

They have three locations in Midtown Manhatten, but we recommend the one in Chelsea near The High Line as it has great views.

  • Hours: 11.00am – 4.00am daily
  • Address: 1410 Broadway, New York, NY 10018

8. Cheeseburgers (and beer) at Burger Joint

man smiling at Cheeseburgers (and beer) at Burger Joint

I’m a sucker for speakeasies, especially when they involve cheap beer and juicy cheeseburgers.

Located down a dark unmarked hallway off the luxurious Le Parker-Meridien lobby, the unassuming dive bar vibe of Burger Joint feels ages away from the skyscrapers outside.

And most importantly, the burgers are cooked to perfection. It is probably the best burger I have found in NYC.

  • Hours: 11.00am – 11.00pm daily
  • Address: 119 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

9. Cookies at Levain Bakery

people holding Cookies at Levain Bakery

A cross between a brownie, muffin, and traditional cookie, each Levain Bakery cookie is six ounces of pure, gooey deliciousness.

The chocolate chip walnut is especially appealing when it’s still warm out of the oven, although I can never finish it while it’s still hot. I like to slowly munch on it on a long walk through nearby Central Park.

There are several shop locations across NYC and they are all good, but we recommend the one on 74th street as you can easily walk over to Central Park or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and enjoy your cookie outdoors.

There’s also another shop on the other side of Central Park in Upper East Side NYC.

  • Hours: 8.00am – 8.00pm daily
  • Address: 167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

10. Ice Cream at OddFellows

person holding OddFellows Ice Cream cone

The flavors at this hipster favorite ice cream joint in Brooklyn are exactly what you’d expect: artisanal and small-batch, the 14 original flavors change daily and range from burnt marshmallow to Thai iced (tea) cream to black pepper fig.

The best part of Oddfellows is the fresh-baked waffle cones: you can smell them as soon as you walk in the door.

  • Hours: 2.00pm – 9.00pm daily
  • Address: 44 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

11. Falafel at Mamoun’s Falafel

Mamoun’s Falafel is the most famous falafel in all of NYC. As soon as you step inside, the smell of onions, kebab meat, and Middle Eastern spices start to make your mouth water.

It’s one of the longest serving Middle Eastern chain restaurants in the city and, as well as falafel, also serves great shawarma and kebabs.

There are four restaurants in New York City, but most people go to the Greenwich Village restaurant as this is where it started.

  • Hours: 11.00am – 2.00am Monday – Wednesday, 11.00am – 3.00am Thursday, 11.00am – 4.00am Friday and Saturday, 11.00am. -1.00am Sunday
  • Address: 119 Macdougal Street, New York, NY 10012

12. Soda Floats at Brooklyn Farmacy

Although they’ve been open since 2010, the Brooklyn Farmacy was never meant to be a new place but a place of history.

Set inside a 1920s pharmacy, this soda shop is like stepping back in time. The store is decorated with antiques and kitschy knick-knacks, from red twirling stools to hand drawn menues. It’s clear that a lot of love goes into this family-owned business.

When it comes to the menu, you’ll find classic American ice cream desserts from sundaes to banana splits to ice-cream topped milkshakes.

Of course, you have to try an ice cream float, a soda with ice cream on top. This is something quintessentially American, so if you’re visiting from overseas, be sure to give this tasty treat a try!

  • Hours: 2.00pm – 10.00pm daily
  • Address: 513 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

13. Soft Serve at Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

The Big Gay Ice Cream shop is a colorful ice cream parlour (and truck) that has been selling soft serves in NYC since 2009.

Its founders Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff have become somewhat of a celebrity, having published their own cookbook and appeared on several TV series. They even gave a TED talk.

It’s not just about ice cream, which is exceptional, but about the mission this company brings to the table. Their flavors are fun, bold, filled with color and imaginative ingredients. They capture the essence of play and fun, capturing the hearts of both adults and children.

They have several stores over the city but we recommend head to the one either at Upper West Side or at Madison Square since there’s a ton of attractions nearby to visit. The one at Madison has varied opening times as it opens when events take place, so to avoid disappointment, head to Upper West Side

  • Hours: 12.00pm – 11.00pm Sunday – Wednesday, 12pm – 12.00am Thursday – Saturday
  • Address: 516 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024

14. Everything at Chelsea Market

people walking through chelsea markets

Whenever we visit a city, we like to eat at places that offer variety so that everyone can enjoy something to their taste. With a gluten-free eater (myself) and the world’s fussiest eater (Savannah) it’s important we find options.

From Thai to tacos to doughnuts, cheese, oysters and seafood, fried chicken to corned beef, acai bowls to gelato – the options are endless.

Chelsea Market offers just that, it’s a food hall with every cuisine you can think of under one roof.

It’s located in a former Nabisco factory, so it not only offers tasty food options, but it’s also a little slice of history. When you walk in, you’re met with a warm, charming warehouse vibe with fun spaces to hang out in.

  • Hours: 7.00am – 2.00am Monday – Saturday, 8.00am – 10.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

15. Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery

bowl of banana pudding in cup with magnolia bakery label
Photo credit: Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery is a chain of bakeries all over NYC and although I think their cakes are pretty average (except the frosting, that’s the best part), their banana pudding is wonderful and it’s pretty much the desert that put them on the map!

I also like the cheesecake with caramel when I feel like I need something more sugary.

They also serve key lime pies, cream pies, homemade cupcakes. And it doesn’t matter which store you go to, the quality is consistent throughout its stores.

There are several shops all over the city and they are all much of the same, but we recommend getting something from the shops either Grand Central Terminal or Rockerfellas Center, since these are iconic landmarks you might want to visit anyway.

  • Hours: 9.00am – 9.00pm Monday – Saturday, 11.00am. -6.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, United States

16. Challah at B&H Dairy

Another restaurant in NYC I like to visit for its history is B&H Dairy, which is located inside a 1940s kosher diner in East Village near Union Square and Washington Square Park. It serves up vegetarian Jewish cuisine, from borscht, blintzes and matzo ball soup, as well as kosher of course.

The menu and the decor is pretty old-school, with a long bar table with bar stools. It’s quite small, so be prepared to be crammed in, but I personally love the intimate vibe you get with watching the chef prepare your meal in front of you.

The challah french toast (grilled cheese sandwich) are amazing – it’s big, filling, and the price to quantity ratio is on point!

  • Hours: 8.00am – 10.00pm Tuesday – Saturday, 8.00am – 9.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday
  • Address: 127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

17. Baked clams at Gargiulo’s

clams with tomato topping
Photo credit: Gargiulo’s

When I think of old-school Italian restaurants in New York, my mind instantly thinks of Gargiulo’s on Coney Island. This fancy joint has that Italian flare that you expect with a fine dining Italian restaurant, with waiters in tuxedoes and white linen table cloths.

The staff are very friendly and attentive, and even the owner is known to pop out and speak to guests and tell them a bit about the history of the place.

But it’s not just the decor or service of this 1907 banquet hall restaurant that attracts people here. The food is exceptional!

The baked clams are a particular house favorite, and one of the main reasons to come here. You can also find other seafood dishes, pasta dishes, and steaks. The portion size is good and the prices are reasonable.

  • Hours: 12.00pm – 10.00pm Wednesday and Thursday, 12.00pm – 11.00pm Friday and Saturday, 12.00pm – 9.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday and Tuesday
  • Address: 2911 W 15th St, Brooklyn, NY 11224

18. Michelin Star Ramen at Mr. Taka Ramen

For Japanese food, you’ll want to try Mr. Taka Ramen, located on Lower East Side near Williamsburg Bridge. As you might expect from the name, it serves several types of ramen, as well as Japanese appetizers and sake.

Behind the helm are two award winning chefs, one with a Michelin star. Both from Tokyo, these chefs prepare authentic, hearty and delicious ramen, which I honestly believe is the best ramen in NYC.

The only downside to this place is the restaurant is so small. If you weren’t looking for it, you would probably walk right past it!

  • Hours: 11:45am – 12:00am Monday – Friday, 11:30am – 12:00am Saturday & Sunday 
  • Address: 170 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

19. Everything at Olmsted

Olmsted is one of the best fine dining restaurants in NYC and offers Michelin star food in a welcoming, friendly-neighborhood style setting.

It’s located in Prospect Heights, a quiet neighborhood on NYC’s Brooklyn, and has a relatively small menu.

Since there’s only 50-seats, diners get a very personal and intimate dining experience.

The menu is seasonal and driven by what ingredients can be freshly sourced from their backyard garden. Yes, the dining room is also where the food comes from!

The portion sizes are also a little on the small side, if I’m being honest, but what you get is excellent flavor and beautiful food styling.

  • Hours:
  • 12:00pm – 2:30pm, Saturday – Sunday and 5:00pm – 10:00pm Wednesday – Sunday
  • Address: 659 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn NY 11238

20. Tacos at Los Tacos No. 1

Los Tacos No. 1 is the best place to find fusions of Mexican and Californian blends from the East Coast in NYC. The original store is located in Chelsea Market and they have also opened up in Times Square. I prefer their third store in Noho as it’s quieter.

It has become well known for its tacos, quesadillas and aguas frescas. The Adobada (marinated pork) tacos are particularly flavorful and worth coming here just to try. The Carne Asada (grilled steak) is another popular flavor of taco as well.

If your vegetarian, you might want to try the cactus tacos!

It has a street food-style setup with no tables or chairs, so be warned you have to stand!

  • Hours: 11.00am – 10.00pm Monday – Saturday, 11.00am – 9.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 340 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

21. Molly’s Cupcakes

I have to include Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village, especially if you are gluten free. It’s a must visit every time we go to New York, and I have so far been four times!

USA Today named it one of the 10 best cupcakes in the country. It’s by far the best cupcake I’ve ever had.

Chocolate lava oozes out of the middle of the moist cake, and the icing is not too thickly caked on that you want to either throw up after or cartwheel out the door because of the sugar hit.

Molly’s bake their cupcakes from scratch in small batches every day. You can create your own flavors or go for their famous center-filled flavors like peanut butter Nutella, creme brulee, and peach cobbler.

There are cute swinging chairs at the counter you can sit at, and the coffee is pretty good here too.

Molly’s Cupcake is only a 5-minute walk from Washington Square, you will find no lines (hopefully) and a place to sit, play a game, and dive into deliciousness. Kids will love this NYC refueling stop. We loved visiting it on this Greenwich Village Cupcake walking tour during our weekend getaway to NC with teens.

In honor of Molly (a former teacher of the owner who inspired this bakery) and as a way to help our children, a portion of Molly’s Cupcake profits is donated directly to schools in the local community.

  • Hours: DAILY: 10:00am – 9:00pm
  • Address: 228 Bleecker street, 10014

Map of Places to Eat in NYC

To help you plan where to eat and find a restaurant near you, here is a map of all the places we’ve recommended in this guide.

Final Thoughts on Places to Eat in NYC

So there you have it, those are our favorite places to eat in New York City and as you can see, there’s a lot of delicious goodness to choose from here!

We hope this guide helped you plan where to dine out in the city and gave your suggestions for what food to try.

If you are still stuck for ideas, I highly recommend taking a food tour of NYC so you can be taken around all the foodie neighborhoods by a local.

Tours of NYC

Find your perfect NYC tours with these top-rated tours on Get Your Guide:

  • THE RIDE – a unique tour that is part theatrical show and immersive tour. See classic New York City sights from the comfort of a technologically-advanced moving theater motor coach.
  • Best of New York Circle Line Cruise – 2.5 hour narrated cruise, and the only sightseeing cruise to circumnavigate the island of Manhattan to see the 7 major bridges, 5 boroughs and 101 unforgettable New York sights.
  • Helicopter Tour – Enjoy stunning views of Manhattan Island on a deluxe sightseeing helicopter flight offering 180 degree views from the sky.
  • Harlem Gospel Tour – 4-hour tour of a historic Harlem to experience the thrills of gospel singing, Columbia University and the Apollo Theater before joining a gospel choir for Mass.
  • 5 hour Sightseeing tour of NYC – Short on time? Make the most of your stay with this comprehensive 5 hr tour exploring the main attractions with comfortable bus transportation and guide!

More NYC Travel Tips

Do you need more inspiration about travelling to New York City? Then you may find the below guides helpful!

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