You’re in New York for the first time ever. You’ve got 72 hours and an appetite for everything. Where do you start?
That’s a question we get asked a lot, and it’s a hard one to answer. But we’re gonna try so that you don’t return home having only sampled our finest mozzarella sticks from some pub in Times Square.
This isn’t meant to be a definitive list of the city’s best restaurants – it’s just what we’d do if we were in your shoes. Speaking of shoes – hopefully you brought something comfortable. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
The First Timer’s Guide To Eating In New York City is presented by Sweetbitter, a new series on Starz premiering May 6. Download the Starz App to start your free trial.
for breakfast, brunch, & Lunch
Daily Provisions serves the best donut in New York City. If, for some reason, you need more incentive to check out this all-day cafe near Union Square, they also serve BECs and lunch sandwiches that may ruin all other BECs and lunch sandwiches for you moving forward.
If you want hang out in a neighborhood with tall buildings and lots of people, but you have correctly assumed that Midtown is not a good place, try the Flatiron District. And, while you’re there, get some lunch at abcV. It’s a vegetarian restaurant from a well-known chef with a very long name, and a daytime meal in the big white space will make for some good NYC people watching. The food also happens to exceptional, and if you’re going to eat lettuce wraps and green chickpea hummus, you should do it here.
If, on the other hand, you want to see Brooklyn, go eat brunch at Olmsted. Your table next to the big plant wall will have a bowl of quail eggs from the quail coop in the backyard, which is where they grow the microgreens served on most of the dishes. The food at dinner is fantastic, but they also do one of the best brunches in the city. Get the maple flatbread with duck egg and duck sausage, and then have a rum and matcha cocktail next to the crawfish farm (in a bathtub) in the backyard.
The perfect place to see some of our coolest-looking people while eating a practical breakfast in a centrally-located part of town (Noho). Just don’t expect those people to be up before 11.
If you have only one opportunity to have breakfast or brunch while you’re here, do it at Sadelle’s. This temple of Jewish appetizing is over the top in every way, and pulls it off entirely: the lox comes on towers, the waiters yell “HOT BAGELS!” whenever there’s a fresh batch out of the oven, the breakfast sandwich costs $17 (it’s worth it, almost), and the French toast is one of the best things you can eat in NYC.
You might not associate soba with New York City, but that’s because you haven’t been to Cocoron. Go out of your way to eat lunch (or dinner) at this casual little spot serving the best soba in the city. Once you eat the Mera Mera dip soba here, you’ll start telling people about this place much in the same way that people with clipboards try to tell you about Greenpeace.
A sit-down restaurant from the people behind the legendary smoked fish counter up the street. Eating something from Russ & Daughters is a must, and unlike the original store front, here you can have your lox at a table.
Behind a red velvet curtain in a high-end hotel lobby lies one of New York City’s best burgers. You have to eat one of these before we can let you leave Midtown.
Here’s the move – start on a Saturday morning, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo, continue on to Vinegar Hill House, eat a delicious brunch, send us a thank you email for planning the greatest day ever.
We’re more likely to tell out-of-towners to go to Rubirosa than any other restaurant in this entire city. The atmosphere is excellent, the Italian-American comfort food is consistently perfect, and the vodka pizza is life-affirming. You can only make reservations for parties of six or more - and you should absolutely expect a long wait - but it will absolutely be worth it. Get a drink a few blocks away at Mother’s Ruin to kill the time.
Maybe you’re having dinner at 6:30pm and then seeing Stomp, where you’ll spend three hours sipping whiskey-sodas while paying money to watch people bang trash can lids together. Once you’ve recovered, go have a second dinner at 4 Charles - you’re probably not getting in before 11pm anyway. This small, dark steakhouse is the kind of place you can only find in NYC. Get a prime rib, get a burger, get a slice of chocolate pie, and bask in the glory of having finally gotten your night right.
The West Village is a good-looking neighborhood with lots of shops and restaurants, and it’s essentially just the sitcom version of New York. So if you’re visiting the city, you’ll probably wind up walking around there. And once you’re done staring at the townhouses, you should go get a meal at Via Carota. It’s an Italian restaurant that’s typically always packed - but it’s walk-in only, so you can always just put your name in then go do some more touristy stuff (or get a drink).
Your roommate from freshman year saw on Facebook that you’re in the city and asked if you wanted to get dinner. You have a lot of people to see and a lot of things to eat, so you don’t want to commit to a whole meal with someone who spilled Cup Of Noodle on your laptop two separate times. Meet her at Vini e Fritti, a kind-of-fancy Roman-style cocktail bar where you can catch up over negronis and Italian wine, and assuming she doesn’t knock any of them onto your iPhone, stick around for really good fried small plates like pizza dough topped with prosciutto.
So you want to go to a restaurant where you won’t find any other tourists? How original. Luckily NYC is filled with outstanding places where we can guarantee you won’t see dads in cargo shorts. One such place is Uncle Boons, which feels like a tiny underground clubhouse, serves some of the best Thai food we’ve ever eaten, and is consistently filled with people who look like they know their sh*t.
Fedora has been around for roughly 100 years. This latest version is, most likely, nothing like the 1917 original, but it still has some of the best food you can get in the neighborhood. It’s just one small room in the bottom of a townhouse, and it’s perfect for when you want to eat excellent chicken and steak tartare while you pretend that you own a home in the West Village. You can also dress as casual as you want, but at least one person here will probably be wearing pearls.
New York has plenty of traditional steakhouses. We’re not going to send you to any of them here. We are, however, going to send you to the least-stuffy steakhouse in the city - St. Anselm in Williamsburg. Unless you arrive right when they open, you should expect a wait (they don’t take reservations), but it’s all part of the experience (you can drink at the attached bar next door, or any of the others nearby). Once you sit down and are served the greatest $23 steak you’ve ever eaten, you won’t want to be anywhere else.
Two bar seats at L’Artusi is the greatest date night setup in New York City. Your order: housemade ricotta, a few pastas, olive oil cake, and a bottle of wine. It’s a foolproof formula we return to again and again (and again and again).
Looking to drink interesting wine and share some small plates? You can’t do better than Wildair, which feels like a casual modern Parisian wine bar, only it’s located on the Lower East Side. The food is funky and excellent - if your ears perk up at the suggestion of eating a crispy potato with uni or beef tartare with smoked cheddar cheese, you’re going to love Wildair.
If you want to get a sense of how Williamsburg became Williamsburg, you should go to Diner, the original cool restaurant of Williamsburg. The burger alone is worth traveling for, and the rest of the menu changes every day and features ingredients you’ve probably never cooked with, but will now want to. Despite the fact that Diner’s been open for over 20 years, it still feels like a place where you want to hang any night of the week.
The original Emily in Clinton Hill is one of our favorite restaurants in the city, and Emmy Squared (from the same owners) in Williamsburg is another one of our go-to pizza spots. But if you don’t have the time to visit both of them, just go to the Emily in the West Village. They serve the same square pizzas that Emmy Squared is known for, along with the round pies that you can get at the original Emily. It’s also convenient for anyone who needs to stay in Manhattan, and the pizzas will make you feel various good emotions.
Yeah, you probably aren’t going to Greenpoint. But if you did, this is where we’d tell you to eat. Paulie Gee’s has some of the best and most creative pizzas in the city, and Paulie himself will be walking around talking to customers. At the very least you can tell your friends that you’ve heard of it. That’s pretty cool too.
If we were going to tell you to have one meal on your first trip to New York City, this would be it. We’d also tell you to have it at 2am. Blue Ribbon is open until 4.