There are lots of reasons why you might wind up in Midtown. Maybe there's an office there with your name on the door, or perhaps you've scored tickets to watch people sing and rap about Alexander Hamilton. Regardless of why you find yourself in this part of Manhattan, you might need to feed yourself at some point. From a counter-service taco spot and a Florentine sandwich shop to a few of the city's best options for a big night out, here's where to grab food.
This Midtown institution, which has been open for over 30 years now, is a well-oiled machine that’s been fine-tuned to perfection. The service here skews north of impeccable, but the seafood—geoduck chawanmushi with uni, for example—is the main reason why this is still an amazing place to eat. If you’re looking for a highlight-of-the-presidential-term, upscale restaurant experience where you won’t feel like an idiot for spending hundreds of dollars, this is it.
Marea is one of our favorite places to eat pasta in NYC, simply because the options go way beyond usual suspects like linguine and clams or frutti di mare spaghetti. The headliner of Marea’s menu is the octopus and bone marrow fusilli. With tender octopus, bone marrow, and a red wine-spiked tomato sauce that gets a boost from some garlicky breadcrumbs, this is one of the top pasta dishes in the city. Even if you just come to this upscale spot to have that dish and a glass of wine at the bar, you'll have a meal that will occupy your thoughts at least once a week.
You might think that an old-timey steakhouse smack in the middle of Times Square couldn’t possibly be good, but Gallaghers is great. From the moment you glimpse the dry-aging room through the front window to the time you walk out lugging a heavy bag of leftovers, you’re going to be very happy here. We recommend ordering steakhouse classics: Start with a round of Hemingway daiquiris with clams casino and a wedge salad, then move on to a porterhouse with your favorite sides. (We love the creamed spinach.) All the desserts here are great, but the New York-style cheesecake is about as real as it gets.
photo credit: Blue Willow
If you’re near the bottom of Central Park and looking for great Chinese food, check out this Szechuan and Hunan restaurant on 56th. With its velvet banquettes and frilly lamps, the space is perfect for a date night or a meal with some visiting family members. Their mapo tofu is one of the city’s best versions—its silky tofu cubes hold up against prodding chopsticks, and you can taste the fermented black beans hiding in the tingling, mala-spice sauce. If you’re not in the mood for a sit-down meal, know that their food travels well for pick-up and delivery.
Lodi serves the most impressive Italian food within a few miles of Liz Lemon’s office. It just so happens to be located directly outside of Liz Lemon’s office. This place almost exclusively spotlights Italian ingredients, and a meal here pretty much always makes us angry that we're not OOO in Tuscany. You can get housemade ricotta, an incredible seafood salad with smoky marinated mussels, and a plate of plump anchovies. We recommend you grab a table on the large patio where your neighbor's huge shopping bag from their trip to the Harry Potter flagship store won’t infringe on your personal space.
photo credit: Nicole Franzen
If you're near Penn Station or the Empire State Building, don’t eat donuts at a Tim Hortons while you cry into a coffee. Go to Tonchin instead. This is a chain from Japan, and you can get some very decent ramen here. It’s also very well-designed with a comforting navy blue color scheme, and the whole restaurant has a casual downtown feel. The dumplings here are also pretty good, and they make some cool cocktails. If you work in the area, stop by for a weeknight dinner.
MáLà Project is known for its customizable dry pots, which have become popular enough for them to keep opening new locations. The spacious one in Midtown West doesn’t get quite as busy as the others, and it’s ideal for a last-minute group lunch or dinner. You can choose from roughly 70 ingredients—ranging from konjac noodle to tripe and quail eggs—to be mixed in a spicy mala sauce. This location also has appetizers you won’t find at the others, like a tingly spicy popcorn chicken and hot and sour rice noodle soup.
The original Los Tacos No. 1 is in Chelsea Market, and they do some of the best tacos in the city. This location is, unfortunately, in Times Square. But the good news is: They make the same tacos. So the next time the R train breaks down, and you find yourself stranded in the land of tourists and Mickey Mouse impersonators, get some food here. It isn’t as busy as the one downtown, but there aren’t any seats, so you’ll have to eat standing.
This restaurant is loud—like “we considered texting a question to someone sitting right across from us” loud. We don’t say this to discourage you from coming here. All the food is solid at this Midtown spot, which has a wide-ranging Italian menu that will likely please even the pickiest diner. Standouts include the fried calamari with bacon and parmesan, a nicely-cooked dry-aged prime sirloin, and the rigatoni alla vodka (flambéed tableside) with Calabrian chilies and a ton of lobster. You'll likely leave stuffed because the portions here are huge, so plan a long walk in Central Park (just two blocks away) after your meal.
What’s fun about Yakitori Totto in Midtown is that you get to try so many different things. Kid… candy store… you get what we’re saying. Definitely go for some juicy tsukune and tender chicken oysters as well as non-chicken options like pork neck (mostly fat, not complaining) and okra with bonito flakes (our favorite among the vegetables). It’s fun to come solo and sit at the counter right in front of the grills. However, coming with one or two other people will enable you to try a lot more things.
You may recognize Angelina Paris from the social media accounts of Parisian girls who like their hot chocolate extra thicc. At their first US outpost, you can get that same delightfully luxe drinkable chocolate experience, but there’s more to Angelina than sweet stuff. We do love coming here for fancy pastries and afternoon tea, but this is also a great spot for a fabulous breakfast or lunch where you can dress up a little. Our favorite thing on the savory menu is the croque-madame, which tastes like it came from the kitchen of a cute French bistro.
In 2019, All’Antico Vinaio popped up in NYC, and the lines made people seriously weigh the value of their time against the need for an Italian sandwich. A permanent location of this Florence import is now in Midtown, and everything on the sandwich-only menu uses thin, crusty Tuscan schiacciata bread. They offer a lot of popular Italian meats like prosciutto and mortadella, but what’s unique are their creamy spreads that come in varieties like pistachio and ‘nduja. The sandwiches are huge, and once you try one, you’ll want to try the rest. It’s good to have goals.
Located right next to the MoMA, 53’s space is fittingly contemporary and objectively gorgeous. The main floor looks like a mini airport hanger designed by a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and you’ll see sweeping curvy, rainbow-colored blades in the opulent downstairs room. Start your meal at this modern Asian restaurant from the Marea team with the flawlessly-made chicken and truffle soup dumplings. Once you try them, you’ll know you’re in for a night of impeccable food—like skate covered in sambal and a unique mango pudding with greek yogurt ice cream. In a city with no shortage of high-end dining destinations, this stylish restaurant is one of your best options for an upscale dinner.
Now located about a five minute walk from its previous location on 37th Street, Café China is still serving a lengthy menu of crowd-pleasing Szechuan food. Start with some dim sum—the best dumplings here are the pork ones in chili oil and oyster sauce. Out of the entrées, the platter of thick and tender cumin lamb is a must-order, and the shrimp fried rice and fatty short ribs in sweet soy broth are both solid. The dining room has checkered floors and chandeliers, and there’s an upstairs mezzanine with vintage posters and a skylight overlooking it. A lot of restaurants work well for groups, but that’s especially true for Café China.
Patsy's Italian Restaurant
When you walk into Patsy’s, the first things you’ll see are a statue of Frank Sinatra and a signed headshot of Liza Minelli, so you know this place is legit. This red sauce joint has been owned and operated by the Scognamillo family since 1944, and Old Blue Eyes himself was a regular. Eating here feels like taking a trip in a time machine back to an era when West 56th and Broadway was the coolest spot in town. Stick to the classics, like rigatoni fra diavolo and anything parmigiana. They also have a dessert cart that looks like it’s been there since the restaurant opened. On this cart, underneath a cloudy cloche, is one of the best carrot cakes we’ve had in a very long time. Save room for this.
We’re honestly not sure if the owners of Taam Tov care if anyone comes to their restaurant. You get into this glatt kosher Uzbek spot in the heart of the Diamond District via a glass door simply labeled “41w,” and it always seems to be locked. (The only reason we got through is because we followed someone in.) Once you finally figure out how to get in, your server will recommend the beef and onion-filled manti as well as the pilaf with chunks of beef that remind us of smoked lean brisket. We recommend both of them, too. Note that they have a Chinese food menu available until 5pm (when the chef who cooks these dishes leaves for the day), and be aware that this place is closed for dinner on Friday and all day Saturday for Shabbat.
You might head to Rockefeller Center only once a year to glance at a very tall tree that was sacrificed to wear an outfit of colored lights. This brasserie is another reason to go there. Le Rock is from the Frenchette team, so it’s no surprise that the food here is French and the large Art Deco space is packed every night. If you’ve ever wanted to eat the Peter Luger burger like a steak, get the rich dry-aged steak haché. Grilled swordfish and pillowy agnolotti are cooked just right, and the whipped cheese and confit garlic on baguette is reason enough to keep coming back.
photo credit: Libby Vision
Sushi By Bou
The team behind Sushi by Bou runs a bunch of restaurants (Chemistry Room, Sushi Lab, and Omakaseed, to name a few), but their tiny underground bar in Times Square is our favorite of the bunch. Here, you’ll settle in for a rapid-fire $50 12-piece omakase that’s guaranteed to be over in 30 minutes, which makes it an ideal choice for pre-theater dining. The pieces are straightforward, the fish is high quality, and the space feels like a cool teenager converted their parents’ garage into a secret restaurant.
Keens has been around for more than 130 years, and the ceilings of this Midtown steakhouse are covered with the smoking pipes of former regulars like Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. You may be tempted by the comically large king’s cut, a 32-ounce prime rib straight out of a Ron Swanson fever dream, but you should focus your attention on the drenched-in-butter porterhouse and their famous mutton chop. Be sure to save room for the ice cream sundae that has a thick layer of melted fudge at the bottom.
The Lambs Club
The Lambs Club, from the chef who formerly ran Marea and Ai Fiori, is a very Midtown restaurant. The design is Art Deco, the booths are red leather, and the seats are filled with people who just left work and could really use a martini. It’s a fancy place, and it’s a little stuffy, but if you’re going to have a pricey meal in the area, this is a reliable option. Reservations aren’t hard to come by, and the Italian-leaning “Contemporary American” food is uniformly well-executed.