The Best Restaurants In FiDi guide image

NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants In FiDi

Where to grab a meal around all those banks and people in suits making consequential financial decisions.

The Financial District is an area full of contradictions. On one hand, it’s New York’s oldest neighborhood, with plenty of historic landmarks and winding cobblestone streets. On the other, it’s filled with nondescript tall buildings, a million delis with salad bars, and tourists with Statue of Liberty souvenirs. It's easy to find yourself in the area during meal times, unsure of where or what to eat. From a steakhouse and a couple of Northwestern Chinese spots to a French bistro and a Thai place, these are the restaurants that are actually worth your time.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Emily Schindler

Le Gratin review image
8.3

Le Gratin

$$$$

5 Beekman St, New York
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Le Gratin will remind you why Daniel Boulud became a celebrity in the first place: for cooking French food better than most people on this planet. Modeled after bistros in his hometown of Lyon, this spot serves unforgettable escargots fried in tempura batter, a standout salade Lyonnaise drizzled with chicken jus, and, of course, a creamy and rich gratin made with gruyère and scalloped potatoes. The room, filled with mirrored walls and flowers painted on tiles, feels romantic and casual, and it's a great choice to celebrate a relationship status-related occasion.

photo credit: Sage Lau (@consageous) and Manil Shah (@linam97)

Lil Chef Mama review image
7.6

Lil Chef Mama

FiDi isn’t exactly the Thai food capitol of NYC, so any good Thai restaurant in the neighborhood, like Lil Chef Mama, is notable. Here, you’ll find salads, curries, and noodles common to a lot of Thai places, but you should focus on the house specials. If you like sweet-savory dishes, get the In Honor of the King—a huge omelet filled with chunks of chicken breast topped with peanut sauce. Tangy five spice soup comes with broad rice noodles and pork belly, and it’s exactly what you want when the weather’s cold. The huge dining room has tables that are arranged far apart, so this is a great option if personal space is important to you.

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photo credit: Steve Hill

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill review image
7.9

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

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Blue Ribbon restaurants are like friends you still feel comfortable talking to even if you haven’t seen them in years. This spot in FiDi is always a dependable choice—as long as you’re willing to spend a little money. The seared sea scallops in a miso butter sauce are a good way to start, and you should get the sushi deluxe platter for a nice sampling of nigiri. Order at least one steak for the table to share as well as the required fried rice with oxtail, bone marrow, and eggs (the best thing here).

When you walk into the dark, windowless dining room at Farida, a subterranean Central Asian halal restaurant in FiDi, there’s no real way to tell what time of day it is (just like how you feel when you’re at a casino). This place specializes in umka pies, which are little flaky pastries filled with pumpkin, spinach, beef, or chicken. All varieties are great, so we suggest trying every one. Both the chicken thigh kebabs and the Uzbek plov with chunks of beef and lamb are recommendable, but if you have to choose one, go for the chicken.

If you want to start the day someplace very low-key, get breakfast at Pearl Diner. Between the swivel stools, booths with rips covered in duct tape, and regulars screaming across the room about their coffee and tuna fish sandwiches to go, it feels like things haven’t changed much since this old-school diner opened more than 50 years ago. The huge menu ranges from omelets and pancakes to triple-decker sandwiches and shrimp marinara. If you come in the morning, try the big, fluffy belgian waffles with eggs and bacon. For lunch, get one of the more than 40 types of burgers.

Hole In The Wall appears to be owned by the unknown Australian oligarch who runs all the Aussie cafes in the city. It has all the markings, from light wood and hanging plants to colorful açaí bowls and fruit smoothies. This place is a very comfortable spot for a casual business lunch or weekend brunch, when you can eat wild mushroom bruschetta with a runny egg on top or soft scrambled eggs with a spicy sambal sauce.

Harry’s is a classic steakhouse, but it’s been renovated to look like a futuristic saloon with an implicit dress code of blazers and button-downs. The dark, underground dining room has suede booths and walls covered in bottles featured on the restaurant's very long wine list. Whether you go with the relatively small portion of filet mignon or the tender bone-in ribeye (the best cut here), make sure to get the perfectly buttery, whipped potatoes to share. If you want a more casual experience, get a bar seat in the pub room, and drink a very good classic martini.

Maybe you heard about some movie star eating at Carbone or a professional athlete spraying bottles of Champagne at 1 OAK. Those are fine and good, but if you want to go to the original NYC celebrity hotspot, sit down next to a family wearing matching fanny packs at Fraunces Tavern. George Washington was here in 1783, and there’s a bunch more history around this big FiDi bar and restaurant, which you can learn in the museum portion of the space. Or you can focus on the 200 types of whiskey and American food, like bacon-wrapped shrimp with cornbread and crispy fish and chips with thick pub fries.

Pisillo is, hands-down, one of the best Italian sandwich shops in Manhattan. The sandwiches are simple, but made with extremely high-quality ingredients. There are over 30 varieties to choose from—all of which are massive.

Kesté is one of the best sit-down options for pizza in FiDi. They serve Neapolitan-style pies with a huge selection of thin, doughy varieties, which can be made gluten-free as well. We like the Kesté that comes with a ton of prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella. There's plenty of seating, including tables within nooks surrounded by exposed brick.

Bagel enthusiasts, meet Leo’s Bagels, a sleeper high-quality bagel pick. The bagels here are gooey and chewy in the way that the best NYC bagels are. This is where you should be getting your egg and cheese bagel in the AM.

Finding a nice little restaurant in FiDi is almost unheard of, but then there’s Schilling. Schilling serves Austrian comfort food like spätzle and wiener schnitzel, and it feels quiet and intimate without taking itself too seriously. This place is good for a nice, casual dinner that’s sponsored by finance and non-finance salaries alike.

It can be a bit chaotic inside Bombay’s at lunchtime as people shoulder their way to the register to get their pickup orders and others stand around waiting for seats to open up so they can dine in. We recommend avoiding all that and ordering delivery, especially because they offer a delivery special that includes an appetizer, entree, and naan for $20.95. Get some crispy samosas and spicy roganjosh with tender lamb, and pay the extra dollar for the garlic naan. This buttery, flaky bread is great on its own, but it’s even better when you use it to soak up the pool of sauces in most of the entrees.

Describing Fish Market feels dangerously close to a real-life Stefan run-down of New York’s Hottest Club: It’s a sports bar in the South Street Seaport that serves Chinese and Malaysian food, with a bartender who might give you free shots of Jameson. The menu is huge, with American bar snacks, vaguely Italian pasta plates, and Chinese and Malaysian options. While their traditional bar food is good, we’d recommend going for that last section, which includes things like ginger chicken wings, Mama’s curried chicken, and a pork belly sandwich. Come here with friends who like being in loud places and won’t mind a group in the back having an alcohol-themed birthday party.

Along with a miniature Statue of Liberty replica and a beer on the ferry after work, the best way to spend $15 in FiDi is lunch at Xi’an Famous Foods. Get two spicy cumin lamb burgers or the intensely spicy hand-ripped noodles, and sit at a counter seat along the wall or eat in Zuccotti Park a block away.

This FiDi spot has a Northwestern Chinese menu that’s almost identical to the one at Xi’an Famous Foods, and the food here is just as good. For the most part, you pick cumin lamb, spicy beef, stewed pork, or cumin chicken then specify whether you want it in a burger, over rice, stir fried with noodles, or in a noodle soup. You can get thin rice noodles, but we always opt for the thick flat noodles stir fried with cumin lamb or the cold noodles with tofu skin. They also have a variety of “mini appetizers” like steamed pork buns and kelp salad (all $3.50), which are useful for when you want to try a few different things in small portions.

Felice 15 Gold Street is a very pleasant Italian restaurant/wine bar with salads, crostini, pastas, and so on. This place is owned by the people behind Sant Ambroeus, and both the vibe and the food are on the top end of what you’ll find in the area.

The Stone Street main drag is littered with bars and restaurants, all of which have outdoor seating areas that bleed into one another. It’s an appealing place to hang out in the area, certainly. So which of the many restaurants should you pick? The Bavaria Beer Haus will do if you want to drink hefeweizen out of a boot, and Mad Dog and Beans is an option if you want to patronize a place called Mad Dog and Beans. But if you actually want to eat, do it at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar. The large pies are very good (no slices, FYI), and the inside area is pretty nice.

We remember when Luke's was just a lonely little seafood shack in the East Village, but now they're all over the country. The rolls here are for purists—what you'll mostly taste is unadorned lobster. The bread is buttered, but not too heavily, and you'll detect only a light swipe of mayo and just a trace of lemon butter. Luke's used to just serve a smaller sandwich with four ounces of lobster, but now you can (and should) get the bigger six-ounce version.

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