14 Restaurants To Make You Fall In Love With New York Again

Sometimes, NYC sucks. But these restaurants remind you why you’re glad you ended up here anyway.
In the kitchen at Mombar.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

It’s easy to fall out of love with New York. It’s loud, and busy, and teeming with rats, and the cocktail you just ordered to take the edge off is $25, not including tax or tip. The next time you find yourself romanticizing a quieter life, someplace where your rent isn’t two-thirds of your salary, go to one of the spots on this list. At these 14 restaurants, you can get out of your head, find some peace in the crowd, or rekindle the rush of being part of the greatest city in the world. These places make New York easy to love again, and they couldn't exist anywhere else.


photo credit: Kate Previte



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerClassic EstablishmentImpressing Out of Towners
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

The pizza discourse in NYC is tangled and fierce, and the top slice shops are often packed with those judging crust-to-sauce ratios with the use of a ring light. When you need to get away, head to Amore. We aren’t going to tell you that this Flushing spot makes the absolute best pizza in the city. That sort of talk has no place here. (But, you know, you could make the argument.) Amore is just Amore. It’s a no-nonsense joint in a strip mall where friendly-enough employees have been churning out consistently perfect pies since the 1970s. The cheese is greasy, the lights are fluorescent, and the crust-to-sauce ratio is, yes, on point.

The next time you get the urge to move to a seaside cottage and become an oyster farmer, go to Red Hook instead. First, to Louis Valentino Jr. Pier, to stare at the Statue of Liberty and experience the closest thing we have to a sea breeze, and then to Red Hook Tavern, where everybody orders the burger, and nobody shares. That means that at any given moment at this corner spot on Van Brunt Street, 40 burgers are being consumed by 40 people at 40 seats. The silent, side-by-side consumption might make you feel closer to 39 complete strangers than you have to anyone in months. Reserve a spot at the bar, and sip on a martini, stirred by the bartender who also likes to bake, and made some rainbow cookies tonight. Suddenly, New York feels like a very small town.

A big part of living here involves finding out about cool, unexpected little places and then gatekeeping the sh*t out of them. Which is why it hurts a little every time we tell a new person about Studio 151. Situated on top of a jazz club, this sushi speakeasy in the East Village is like a house party, in a house that also happens to have a standout $80 omakase meal. In one corner of the room, chefs at the four-seat counter serve buttery yuzu scallops and shiso sea bream with obvious swagger. Other guests eat sushi a la carte, sitting at high tops or on couches. There is, of course, a DJ, to help transition the crowd from fancy fish to after-hours debauchery. Bring the coolest New Yorker you know, but only if they can keep a secret.

If it’s skyscrapers and traffic noises that put NYC on your sh*t list, Kashkar Cafe is pretty much as far removed from those as you can get. The Uyghur restaurant is in Brighton Beach, so you can combine a visit with some tanning, or a polar plunge, depending on the season. Once the waves have washed away your anxiety, walk a block off the water to Kashkar, where you'll find some of the city's most comforting, reassuring food, like stir-fried, lamb-filled bosu lagman, and juicy veal kebabs. With your stomach full and your soul warmed—by way of cumin, and the YouTube carousel of Central Asian choirs on their TV—you’ll be ready to once again go back to ignoring the nightly wailing of various emergency vehicles.

photo credit: Kate Previte



OpenTable logo

Grand Central Station is one of the most stressful spots to navigate in the city (second only to Times Square), packed with equal parts tourists staring obliviously at the celestial ceilings, and people who will never budget enough time to get from the subway to the Metro North, and are sprinting. But down below it all is the Grand Central Oyster Bar. This cavernous seafood spot opened in 1913, and while it was once full of businessmen slurping oysters, now it's just a break from the noise, and an oasis for perfectly fine clam chowder. Out there, it's loud, and someone just missed their train, but inside it's comfortingly quiet, and the couple at the table next to you have been coming here for around 50 years to eat the catch of the day.

According to legend, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray was invented in Brooklyn in 1868. A few decades later, the knish took off on the Lower East Side. Then, in 1952, the original Knish Nosh was established in Queens. Today, you can still stop by the shop—now in Rego Park—and enjoy a very historically New York City meal that consists of dense, pastry-wrapped potato with a side of celery soda. Would you like some pierogi? Trick question. You don’t have a choice. Chef Anna is empathic: You must have some brisket, folded into soft, doughy shells that vary in shape from half-moon to oblong. The carmelized onions on top provide a hint of sweetness, and a half quart of ruby red borscht will help keep you hydrated as you plow through your dumplings at the long counter.

By design, a visit to La Morada in Mott Haven takes you out of your boring daily routine: the restaurant with an activist heart and a selection of lick-the-plate-clean moles is only open on weekdays, until 5pm. It’s the perfect excuse to play hooky, or take a long lunch break on a work-from-home day. Have a seat in the stripped-down, canteen-like space and rifle through various pamphlets for causes they support, while digging into a hearty meal of Oaxacan classics, like chicken in a clove-heavy mole Oaxaqueño, or daily specials, like albondigas stuffed with green olives. If your weeknight dinner routine needs a little shaking up too, take home some fresh tortillas and a container of mole poblano—it’s a great base for any protein you want to add in.

It could be your neighbor, your dentist, or your Uber driver, but someone you’ve met grew up going to this Chino Latino spot, and loves their platter of boneless chicken cracklings, squeezed over with lemon and dipped in a not-so-secret green sauce. Inside, old framed photos of celebrity visitors line the walls, and large booths fill up with Upper West Siders who have been eating fried pork chops in this exact spot since it opened in 1986. Come for big plates of Chino Latino classics, rum-based nutcracker cocktails garnished with maraschino cherries, and a general feeling that the world isn’t completely f*cked after all. A lot has changed on 72nd Street, but La Dinastia remains.

This tiny East Harlem restaurant is the only place we know where you can browse through shelves of vintage denim clothing, listen to Thai psychedelic rock, and drink BYOB beer with your friends while waiting for your food. Bangklyn’s owner—who, among other things, founded a vintage clothing fair in Bangkok—cooks dishes to order behind a counter, and though the menu is short and mostly geared towards takeout, you’ll find plenty to fill your table and satisfy your hunger too. Get the fried tofu or chicken, and the tamarind noodles with crab, and add on a few more dishes depending on how many people you bring. It’s an unusually lo-fi, hand-crafted spot for Manhattan, and it feels like it belongs in a version of NYC that’s still for the dreamers.

B&H Dairy, a tiny kosher spot on 2nd Ave., is the kind of place where you can walk in with today's copy of The Times under your arm, make conversation with the people next to you, and be transported to a previous East Village era. It’s been around since the 1940s, and there’s something about eating an overstuffed tuna sandwich on their airy, baked-in-house challah bread, or eight perfect pierogies, that leads to thoughts about how everyone from Lou Reed to Keith Haring might have refueled here, after a late-night show around the corner. The menu of diner and Eastern European classics is long, but it’s dwarfed by the sense of pride and loyalty that long-time East Villagers have for this place.

Perhaps the most useful perk of living in New York is how easily you can get a big, saucy bowl of carbs and cheese when you need it. There are a lot of spots where you can make big hand gestures and ask for “mod-zarell,” but one of our favorites is a low-key restaurant on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx, opened by a married couple in 2002, though it feels much older. The Italian-born husband cooks carbonara, while his very NY wife is Tra Di Noi’s head host, enthusiastically explaining the chalkboard specials. This place has all the checkered-tablecloth charm you want from “the real Little Italy,” without becoming a caricature of the genre. Get whichever seafood special the next table over keeps gushing about.

Filled to the brim with framed art, skeleton toys, ruffled piñatas, and other knick-knacks, this East Harlem restaurant looks like the Mexico City mercado of your dreams, or a TikTok trap. But after a meal at El Kallejon, it’s clear that there was no social media strategy involved in its creation—just a few hoarder tendencies and a lot of love for the motherland. The tapas are just as colorful as the digs, with Japanese, French, and Mediterranean influences mixed into beautifully presented dishes like escargots in pasilla sauce and bubbling huitlacoche shiitake flatbreads. The owner, who occasionally dons a lucha libre mask, will pour you a very heavy mezcal while you wait for your lovingly prepared food.

The burgers at Long Island Bar are not “cool” or “of the moment”. They are not two inches thick and $40, and they’re not smashed into crispy oblivion—they live in a liminal, unfashionable, burger space, and each one comes with fries and a small toothpick with an American flag on it. Sometimes you just need a good burger without all the fanfare, and that's exactly what you'll get at this diner-like spot in Cobble Hill, which also has an affinity for colorful string lights, a handful of leather booths where neighborhood folks eat cheese curds, and a polished wooden bar where someone will mix you a perfect white Negroni as if their life depends on it. If you're feeling particularly spendy, consider adding a bottle of champagne to your burger order. It's a legitimate menu item (Add Bottle Of Champagne), and it costs $100.

A restaurant that’s also a decades-long art installation, Mombar has been a fixture in Astoria’s Little Egypt since 2000. Thickly plastered with found objects, mosaics, and Egyptian motifs, it’s part-MoMA and part Temple of Dendur, with some hippy touches, like booths separated by bedsheets. The artist/chef is also the host, and he’ll come over to tell you what’s available, then go back behind a counter to cook your dinner. With simple, homey dishes, partly microwaved to order, this is above all just a place to exist among other people. You won’t be rushed out—if anything you might wait awhile for food on a busy night—so bring a couple of bottles of wine, and settle in for an evening that’s the antidote to all those overly orchestrated restaurant meals.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

A big spread of Italian dishes, including duck, fennel salad, pasta, and prosciutto.

The 25 Best Restaurants In NYC

Meet our 25 highest-rated restaurants.

a spread of thai dishes from sappe, including some grilled skewers, a curry, a laab, and a noodle dish

We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.

A U-shaped bar with neon lights around it.

A night out at one of these restaurants will never be boring.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store