NYCGuide

The First Timer’s Guide To Eating In New York City

Coming to New York for the first time ever is exciting and intimidating. Let us take some of the pressure off by suggesting where to to eat.

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.

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.


There are a few time-tested ways to increase your appetite - exercising, smoking weed, and going to Faicco’s. Even if you go to this century-old Italian deli with no intention of eating, that’ll change as soon as you smell the imported cheeses, and see the racks of housemade sausages, olive oils, and deli meats. Once the prospect of food officially excites you, order one of the fantastic sandwiches, like the massive Italian sub or the chicken cutlet with mozzarella and housemade pesto.


At Olmsted, your table next to the big plant wall will have a bowl of quail eggs from the quail coop in the backyard. That’s also 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.


Los Mariscos review image
8.5

Los Mariscos

$$$$(212) 920-4986
Hours:SUNDAY12:00PM to 8:00PM
Perfect For:Cheap EatsLunch

You probably have Chelsea Market written down in your travel itinerary somewhere between the High Line and all the places featured in The Muppets Take Manhattan. It’s worth checking out, but it can get extremely crowded - so when you decide that you’ve accidentally elbowed enough people, walk outside and find Los Mariscos. It’s a little counter-service Mexican seafood spot hidden in the side of the market, and it doesn’t get nearly as busy as the places around it. It’s also where you’ll find the best fish tacos in Manhattan, and it’s perfect for a quick, memorable lunch before you continue to walk around and stare at things.


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.


Sadelle’s review image
8.2

Sadelle's

$$$$212-776-4926
Hours:SUNDAY8:00AM to 5:00PM
Perfect For:BreakfastBrunch

This temple of Jewish appetizing in Soho 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 $18 (it’s worth it, almost), and the French toast is one of the best things you can eat in NYC.


If you’re a fan of pancakes, then you should consider focusing your Airbnb search on Greenpoint just to be close to Chez Ma Tante. If you don’t like pancakes, then we’d like to study how your very unique brain works, and also tell you that you’ll change your tune once you try the ones here. The flapjacks are the very best in the city - and they’re a great excuse to check out the neighborhood.


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.


While you’re here, you should put in the same amount of effort to experience a dim sum brunch in Chinatown as you do choosing your footwear every day. Jing Fong is one of our favorite places for a big dim sum experience. To get here, you have to take an escalator and check in with a person with a walkie-talkie. Once you’re in the dining room, you’ll see rows of massive round tables and roving carts with fish balls and fried turnip cakes. So take the elevator up to this second-floor, half-acre space and revel in it all.


Here’s the plan – 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.


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For Dinner

Maybe your grandparents went here after getting drunk on brandy at a cotillion, or perhaps you’ve been putting their steak sauce on everything from pork chops to spaghetti since you can remember. But just because you’ve heard of Peter Luger doesn’t mean you know what to expect. What makes this place unique isn’t the steak sauce, or even the dry-aged porterhouse. It’s the experience of actually eating here. From the bow-tied bartenders pouring tumblers of whiskey to the servers who describe steak juice as “vitamins,” it doesn’t feel like much could have changed since this Williamsburg institution opened in 1887.


Kiki’s review image
8.5

Kiki's

$$$$646-882-7052
Hours:SUNDAY12:00PM to 12:00AM

There are a lot of restaurants in New York where you can show off your new haircut, and there are plenty of places where you can eat great food without spending a lot of money. But if you want a spot for both, go to Kiki’s. This walk-in-only Greek spot on the LES is packed every night with people who have opinions about everything, and the food, like perfectly grilled octopus and lamb chops with housemade mustard, is affordable and really good. The waits can be up to two hours some nights, and while there are plenty of fun bars nearby to get drinks until your table is ready, be sure to save some space for the $24 liters of wine at Kiki’s.


Maybe you want to have a big night out at new-ish spot downtown where you might see an actor who once had a cameo on Law & Order: SVU (like Leighton Meester or John Stamos). Go to Frenchette. This is a modern French brasserie in Tribeca with big leather booths and antique-looking ceiling fans, and the food here is excellent. The duck frites is one of our favorite things to eat in the city, and the rotisserie lobster and whole roast chicken are both worth going several hundred miles out of your way for. Reservations can be tough, but hopefully you’re reading this 30 days in advance of your trip. If not, prepare for a wait, or go for lunch.


Rubirosa imageoverride image
8.2

Rubirosa

$$$$212-965-0500
Hours:SUNDAY11:30AM to 11:00PM

We tell out-of-towners to go to Rubirosa as much as 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 in the West Village - 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.


If you’re in search of wine and families of tourists spreading out maps like very confused Magellans, then head to Little Italy. But if you want a true old-school, red sauce spot, head to Bamonte’s in Williamsburg. It’s been around since 1900, and the space still has old phone booths, and walls covered in pictures of the pope and signed portraits of celebrities. The portions of the classic Italian-American dishes are huge, and whatever you order - from baked ziti to pork chop parmesan - will be covered in a heavy combination of cheese and red sauce.


St. Anselm review image

St Anselm

$$$$718-384-5054
Hours:SUNDAY5:00PM to 11:00PM
Perfect For:BrunchDate Night

This Williamsburg spot is the least-stuffy steakhouse in the city. 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 $25 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).


8.3

Melba's

$$$$(212) 864-7777
Hours:SUNDAY5:00PM to 10:00PM
Perfect For:BirthdaysBrunch

You want to check out Harlem, and several of your friends and loved ones told you that you should get some soul food at Sylvia’s. They aren’t wrong, but Sylvia’s also tends to be packed with tourists - so instead of going there, check out Melba’s. It’s a popular neighborhood spot where can get a big piece of crispy fried chicken over a thick eggnog waffle. Start with a few crab cakes, and supplement them with a plate of short ribs with some collard greens and mac and cheese on the side. You might be uncomfortably full after eating all of this, but that’s half the point of going to Melba’s.


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.


Wu’s is one of our favorite spots for an affordable group dinner in Chinatown, and maybe even anywhere in the city. The big, round tables are topped with lazy susans that spin around with family-style dishes of things like a huge bowl of wonton soup, fried Dungeness crab, and Peking duck served in bao buns. The food is delicious, and Wu’s is BYOB, so bring a bottle of wine or a 30-rack of Natty Light, and then keep the party going after dinner at 169 Bar a few feet away.


If you want to get a sense of how Williamsburg became Williamsburg, you should go to Diner, the OG 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.


We’re big fans of the original Emily in Clinton Hill, 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.


If you leave without getting a slice from Joe’s, we can’t allow you back. It’s in our charter.


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