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

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 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 A Classic Bagel Experience

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

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8.2

Barney Greengrass

$$$$

541 Amsterdam Ave, New York
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There are technically better bagels in New York City, but in terms of all-around experience, Barney Greengrass is hard to beat. This deli and appetizing store—open for over 100 years now—has a small dining room with vinyl seating and historical murals on the walls, and that's where you should be eating bagels, sturgeon, latkes, and eggs with a side of lox.

For A Fun Brunch

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.

For A Quality Breakfast Sandwich

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Yes, you can get a good BEC at just about any bodega (and that's something you should do). But if you're visiting New York City for the first time, you probably want something that feels more special. Come to Frankel's, and get a pastrami, egg, and cheese or a BEC on challah. This Greenpoint spot is a modern take on the city's classic delicatessens, and you should grab a bunch of bagels on your way out.

For Group Dim Sum

We miss the old Jing Fong space with its mile-long escalators, but if it's your first time in the city, you can just pretend this new Chinatown location is the original. The dim sum is better than ever, so make a few friends while you're in town, and bring them here for egg tarts and fried turnip cakes. Arrive by 11:30am on the weekend, or be prepared to wait for your table.

For A Takeout Lunch

This century-old Italian deli is filled with racks of housemade sausages, olive oils, and various cheeses. So grab a few pantry staples while you're here. But really, you should go to Faicco's for a sandwich the size of your arm. Try the one with chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, and pesto. The people behind the counter might shout at you when they're trying to take your order, but that's just their way of being friendly.

For A Quick Slice

If you want to have the most New York afternoon ever, get a slice from Joe's then go ride the subway without making eye contact with anyone. The slices here are big, bendy, and covered in cheese, and the sauce has a noticeable hint of sweetness. It doesn't really matter which Joe's location you choose, but if you want the full "I'm a tourist in New York City" experience, go to the one in the West Village.

For Great Sit-Down Pizza

When you don't just want to eat a slice off a paper plate as pigeons circle you like the former-dinosaurs that they are, head to Rubirosa in Nolita. 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.

For Fried Chicken And Waffles

Yes, Sylvia's is touristy. But it happens to be one of the few touristy spots that we actually recommend. This iconic Harlem soul food establishment has been around since 1962, and the complimentary cornbread is still fantastic. Get some ribs and fried chicken to go along with it, and stop by for a Sunday gospel brunch if you want your meal be an event.

For A Post-Brooklyn Bridge Meal

Here’s the plan: Head out on a Saturday morning, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo, continue on to Vinegar Hill House, eat a delicious brunch, then send us a thank you email for planning an exceedingly pleasant day. Book a table in the garden, and order the sourdough pancake.

For Pasta That's Worth The Wait

Via Carota gets more popular every year. And that makes us angry, because this West Village restaurant is already hard enough to get into. It is, unfortunately, worth the wait. Via Carota doesn't take reservations, which is good news for anyone who forgot to plan ahead for their trip to NYC. Just stop by and put your name in roughly two hours before you want to eat. (That's how long the wait will be.) Once you get seated, order a big green salad and the cacio e pepe.

For A Big Group Meal In Chinatown

Manhattan's Chinatown is a non-optional part of any visitor's itinerary, and Hwa Yuan is one of the best restaurants in New York City. There are multiple floors, so you can pretty much always get a table here, and you should bring a group when you want to share a whole crispy Beijing duck at a big round table covered in a crisp white tablecloth. Don't forget to start with the cold sesame noodles.

For Grilled Meat In K-Town

Koreatown is a magical place with more great food and karaoke than most major cities, and it's only about two square blocks. There are plenty of places where you can you go for KBBQ (multiple options per block, in fact), but start with Let's Meat. For less than $50 per person, you'll get to eat unlimited marinated hanger steak, pork jowl, and spicy marinated chicken alongside $15 bottles of soju or flowing bong towers of beer.

For A Casual Meal That'll Be The Highlight Of Your Trip

You're going to see a long line outside of the Aimé Leon Dore store, and that'll make you immediately skeptical of any busy place in Nolita. But Thai Diner has earned its crowds with incomprehensibly delicious and creative food. As the name suggests, this place is a diner/Thai restaurant mashup, and they serve things like khao soi, Thai disco fries, and Thai tea babka french toast. Order all of these things.

For A Big Night Out

Do you want to have a big night out at a 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.

For Wine And Cool Small Plates


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8.6

Wildair

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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. If your ears perk up at the suggestion of eating a crispy potato with uni or beef tartare with smoked cheddar cheese, you’ll love it here.

For When You Want To Check Out Williamsburg

You've probably heard of Williamsburg—and all of the rumors are true. It's a nice place full of good food, and there's even an Apple Store there now (although you should really check out the rest of Brooklyn). If you want to get a sense of how Williamsburg became Williamsburg, try Diner, a restaurant that's been in the neighborhood for over two decades. 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.

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