New York restaurant recommendations

Hi all,

My wife and I are going for a short break to New York next month but don’t know the city at all. We both love restaurants so don’t want to end up in some tourist trap with poor quality food. Do you have any recommendations for where to eat dinner in the evenings?

Some further info:

  • my wife’s vegetarian, I love steak
  • price isn’t a big issue if the food’s great (although if you know any good value, tasty places near touristy areas to grab lunch then let me know!)
  • our hotel is on Central Park S so bonus points if it’s easy for us to get back to after (but we are prepared to use a taxi if required)
  • cuisines we like in descending popularity based on my estimations of how much we jointly like or dislike it: italian, indian, european/international, chinese, steakhouse, french, north african, mediterranean, but we do try anything if we like the menu so the list is just a guide
  • we’d prefer either somewhere with a web presence (so we can check the menu) or close to the hotel so that we can wander over and see the menu beforehand


One of my favorite joints is the Old Town Bar & Restaurant near Gramercy Park: - This website is for sale! - oldtownbar Resources and Information.

A genuine old-time New York restaurant, the food is great (the chili is amazing). Menu is attached, so see if there is anything there for your Veggie Bride.

If the weather is nice, that will be a pleasant after-dinner 40-minute stroll back to your hotel, so you can window-shop Fifth or Madison, then hang a left on Central Park South.

Thanks Eve. Unfortunately there’s not much choice for veggies on the menu. Do you know any good italian restaurants?

I had the good fortune to get to see Little Italy during the San Genarro Festival this past September. My girlfriend and I walked up and down Mulberry St. and I thought to myself “Geez, how do we go about choosing a restaurant? They all look great!”

My girlfriend’s deceased grandfather, with whom she was very close, was both a chef by profession and Italian. His spirit must have guided her because, based on absolutely nothing but a “feeling” she walked us right up to Angelo’s of Mulbery St.

Possibly the greatest meal I’ve ever eaten.

I’m vegetarian (I got the putanesca), she is a meat eater.

Might want to poke around the Chowhound Manhattan board.

Ummm . . . not to rain on your parade, but the Little Italy places are all now run by Albanians for tourists, and aren’t a destination for most people who take Italian food seriously. Angelo’s is, to give you credit, one of the best of a mediocre lot. I am not denigrating red sauce Italian, it’s just that there are better destinations off of Mulberry Street for that, from when I’ve visited New York. John’s, for instance.

For good higher-end/non-Neapolitan Italian, my visits have included Marea (dead center to where OP is staying, great seafood, not cheap!), Trattoria Cinque (Tribeca), Babbo and Lupa (go early or late), and Felidia.

For steak, Peter Lugar at lunch (but a pain to get to from Midtown), Wolfgang’s (95% as good as Lugar’s and easy to get into mostly), maybe Delmonicos. Churrascaria Plataforma is as good a rodizio as I’ve seen (nowhere in the ballpark of the true steakhouses, but fun).

I’ve got both your vegetarian and Indian bases covered with Chola, Dhaba, and Tamarind.

For Chinese, Sichuan Chalet or (closer to Midtown) Land of Plenty.

For French, Le Bernardin is stuffy, old school, and great (small portions though). Le Veau d’Or and La Grenouille are both excellent classic places.

North African – couple of good, cheapish Ethiopian places on Ninth Avenue around 48th – Queen of Sheba seems to ring a bell.

Mediterranean – Mercat for Catalan.

Also some very good Greek places – Molyvos, Milos, or Avra for great fish.

To put it slightly negatively as an alternative, unless someone who seems to know what they are talking about tells you differently, taking a shot at a random place in Times Square or Midtown will be a low-yield strategy and has the potential to be just awful (saying that, I think I named about five places that fall into that geography, but are good).

Now, for a higher percentage random stroll and pop your head into an interesting looking place, you could consider the East or West Village. Not tons of tourists, lots of locals with bohemian taste, comparatively to very few outright stinker restaurants.

Hmm what else have I tried in New York? If you want soul food in Harlem, I’d not waste my time on Sylvia’s (the gospel brunch sounds nice in theory, and there were elements of nice when I was dragged there, but it’s super commercial and full of tourists and the food ain’t great). I’d suggest Charles’s Southern Fried Chicken (in a mildly dodgy area but just take a cab). Red Rooster is haute soul food if that makes any sense, and good.

Thanks all!

Especially Heurta88! You’ve given us plenty to consider, I’ve sent them over to my wife for her opinion.

We get there late on the first day so will probably eat in the hotel that night but I like the look of either Marea or Felidia for one of the dinners. I’ll let the lady choose between the indians as it’s her speciality!

Thanks again!

Consider checking out Churrascaria Plataforma, a Brazilian rodizio which offers all you can eat tableside carved meat of many different delicious varieties… And also a really, really good all-you-can-eat salad bar with many sorts of goodies. If your wife is a vegetarian of the pesca-cheeso (whatever the term is for “still eats fish and/or cheese”) variety, even better, as it includes a cheese spread and sushi bar.

The downside is there isn’t a huge discount for going meatless, but if you like meat, you will love Plataforma.

It’s on 49th St. between 8th and 9th Aves., so you could get there very easily from Central Park South, especially if your hotel is on the western end of it near Columbus Circle (which is where 8th Ave. hits the park at 59th St).

Hey no fair I already did that.

But your elaboration is dead on and I should have raised the point you did – the salad bar (which is tremendous as such things go, and is almost a misnomer given the not-really-salad additions they have in the seafood and feijoada department) is a meal in its own right (meat eaters I’ve gone with have faked themselves out by filling up to much on the salad bar and not having room for meat). A great compromise for carnivores and non-carnivores.

The other great compromise – the made-at-the-table caparinhas will conduce to everyone’s good mood.

Might be a little far, but fantastic: Ippudo.

Marea is probably literally downstairs from or in the lobby of your hotel. The choice between Marea and Felidia will be between superlative Italian fish and superlative pasta and risotto.

On the Indian, Tamarind will aim for high end, Chola is a bit unconventional (lots of Goan seafood specialities and even Bombay Jewish cooking, which I had not known existed, also great idlis), Dhaba is the funkiest and (per an Indian acquaintance) approximates in food if not decor an Indian truck stop (dhaba basically means roadside food shack or truck stop as I understand it). They have a wok-fried cashew appetizer that was remarkable.

So I have a lot of Japanese colleagues and debate is rampant on Ippudo. It’s very divisive, some of the Japanese say it’s great, I crave ramen, some say – Ippudo in Tokyo is mid-range, why would I go out of my way to visit it when I travel to N.Y.? Your “far” point is a very fair one but the additional potential deal breaker the OP should know about (especially on weekends) is the hour-plus wait that is almost ubiquitous (no reservations). No doubt the ramen’s tastier than anything most of us gaijin have ever had, I think the quality aspersions would be lost on any non-Japanese person.

Closer by far to the OP for ramen:

Bad news – no reservations and a huge waiting list, also. Now, if the OP and his Mrs. are venturesome enough, I’ve walked in close to closing time (midnight) and gotten a seat at the noodle bar.

About three doors down from that is a great nouveau Korean place, Danji, which has a Michelin star and deserves it.

Finally, for another Midtown Asian option – Hide-chan, Totto’s sister ramen restaurant, which features mostly pork broth as opposed to Totto’s chicken.

The black garlic ramen mentioned in that review is the one every one of my Japanese colleagues and I ordered. Really great, and no wait unlike Totto.

Mmmmmmm…Junior’s Cheesecake

Whoops, sorry, I missed that one in your list. But yeah, people see “rodizio” and think “meat-a-thon”, which it is, but it’s actually a pretty good place for a vegetarian also - I’ve gone there in group outings with vegetarians in the mix and they had no complaints. Except for the fact that it’s only $10 less than the meat-a-thon ticket, which seems a bit steep, but it really is an AWESOME salad bar.

We just went to New York for the first time in October. Here are some of the places we ate:

Empellon - Mexican, classed up a bit from the usual Mexican joint. The food and service were great, but it was very busy and noisy. Probably not unusual for New York though.

CrossBar - More of a bar than a restaurant but the food and drinks are great. Particularly highly recommended if you’re a fan of whisky or whiskey.

Blue Smoke - Not sure why I’m linking to it, I wouldn’t recommend it. Thoroughly mediocre BBQ, bad service (when we were there anyway).

Rare Bar and Grill - Great burgers, not sure what vegetarian options are like, other than the deep fried dill pickles (are those even vegetarian?) which were awesome.

Co. (Company) - Fantastic pizza. Try the meatballs.

None of these are particularly close to Central Park, but my recommendation would be to walk instead of taking a cab if you have the time. It’s such an easy city to walk and there’s so much to see.

Huh. I liked it (for BBQ in N.Y.C.). Closer to OP and good is:

Super close to the OP is John’s Pizzeria which is the ultimate exception to my anti-Times-Square bias. N.B. John’s Pizza is different from the John’s Restaurant I recommended for old-school red sauce Italian. Both are very good.

Don’t miss Max Brenner’s for a Willy Wonka-esque chocolate experience.

I haven’t been on one of the Nosh Walks yet, but they look wonderful for the visiting foodie. Hell, I’ve lived in the NY area for 5 years now, and I feel like I should take some of these tours, myself!

IMHO, some of the best food in Midtown is in Koreatown, which is right near Penn Station and the Empire State Building. One of my favorite Koreatown restaurants is Kang Suh.

I have two favorite soul food restaurants in Harlem: the famous Sylvia’s, and the less famous (but deserves to be more famous) Amy Ruth’s. (IMHO, Sylvia’s has better fried chicken, but Amy Ruth’s has better ribs. And, yes, there are pretty good vegetarian options at both restaurants. Oh, and try the desserts at both places.)

Visitors tend to really underrate Queens, which is a great borough for foodies. Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Flushing all have wonderful food.

Jackson Heights, Queens, has been named Little India, though it’s more like Little Nepal these days. Head to Delhi Heights for Indo-Chinese and North Indian cuisine, with a few South Indian things also on the menu. Or go to Himalayan Yak for Nepali and Tibetan, including (IMHO) the best momos (Nepali/Tibetan dumplings) in the city. If you want Indian food that’s more of the familiar, vaguely Punjabi type you’d see at most Indian restaurants in the US, the place to go is The Jackson Diner. These guys serve standard North Indian fare, but they really do it right.

For dessert, head to Al Naimat. My personal favorite is the chocolate burfi. Al Naimat also has wonderful samosas and savory snacks.

Jackson Heights also has some very good South American food. Check out Chivito d’Oro. There’s also La Nueva, a bakery/cafe that has wonderful pastries of the sweet and savory varieties.
The Bronx is another good bet for good food. It has its own Little Italy, which is, IMHO, culinarily better than the one in Manhattan. (You could do a day in the Bronx. Go to the New York Botanical Garden–which is really worth the trip–followed by dinner in The Bronx’s Little Italy. That would make a wonderful day off the beaten tourist path! )

The Bronx’s Little Italy has Full Moon Pizza, which is some of the best pizza in the tri-state area. If you drink, or want to get a present for someone who does, stop by Mt. Carmel wines for hard-to-find vintages and regional Italian varietals (that’s not a bar–it’s a wonderful wine shop.) Go to Umberto’s Clam House for expensive–but worth every penny–seafood. For dessert, head to Palumbo, which has the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. They make their own wonderfully rich gelato.

Forgot to add–

If you’re up in Washington Heights, near the 190th St. station (like, maybe you went to go see the Cloisters and want a good place to eat), check out Refried Beans.

Another good place way uptown is Golan Heights, which has wonderful falafel. It tastes just like the stuff from the highly-competitive falafel street vendors in Jerusalem. I haven’t had their other dishes, because I keep ordering the falafel. Warning–they close early on Fridays and are closed on Saturdays.

If you head to the Upper West Side, get dessert from the Hungarian Pastry Shop. It’s a great place to stop by after visiting St. John the Divine and/or Book Culture. (BTW–St. John the Divine is worth a visit, as is Book Culture. Book Culture is a terrific, huge, multi-leveled bookstore. The upper floors have used and discount book racks well worth perusing. The Strand is showier, but, IMHO, Book Culture is much more fun to explore.)

I’ve heard good things about Symposium Greek Restaurant, but I haven’t actually tried it, myself.