It’s easy to get frustrated by tourists. Not only do they clog up sidewalks like video game characters who weren’t given an objective, but they also flock to the same handful of famous restaurants around the city. As a result, you probably tend to avoid those spots like Times Square on New Years Eve. Or any other day of the year. We’re here to tell you that’s a mistake, at least when it comes to the 13 places on this guide.
With its steak sauce in nationwide supermarkets and a Williamsburg space that predates the Williamsburg Bridge, Peter Luger might be the most well-known restaurant in the city. The classic steakhouse still serves a fantastic porterhouse, and listening to servers call the meat juices “vitamins” as they spoon them over the meat is an experience everyone should have at least once.
To see the best musicals in NYC, you need to go to Broadway. To experience an ideal martini, you should go to one of these restaurants or bars. And to find the best pizza, you need to go to Lucali. Serving the best pizza in the best pizza city isn’t the kind of thing that stays quiet, though, so expect to wait at least a couple hours for a table at this cash-only spot in Carroll Gardens.
Before the IPO, the international expansion, and the forensic analysis of its secret menu, Shake Shack was just a cart in Madison Square Park. The burger chain has gone big time since opening in 2004, but that first location is still there. On a nice day, the lines can get very long, but it’s worth it once you sit down on a bench in the park with a shack burger, crinkle cut cheese fries, and a vanilla shake.
The only time we’ll actively guide you to a NYC transit hub is for Grand Central Oyster Bar. It’s been around for as long as the train station (1913), and the low vaulted ceilings, tile floors, and great martinis make it a classic spot to get oysters and drinks, whether or not it’s convenient to your commute home.
While most of the spots on this guide are tourist attractions partly because they were around when Britain still had an empire, The Fulton opened in 2019. But this seafood spot draws plenty of out-of-towners because of its location under a concert venue next to The Seaport, its waterfront location overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, and its chef, Jean-Georges, who’s famous enough to be known by just his first name. But the main reason you should care about this place is the fact that it serves some of the very best seafood in the city.
There are a lot of good places to eat on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and while the whole strip draws tourists, Calabria Pork Store is the only spot that could charge admission just to walk through the door. That’s because the entire ceiling is covered with hanging sausages - a sign that they take cured pork seriously here. Get a few different types to go, as well as the massive $8 sandwich packed with prosciutto.
Katz’s cuts their pastrami by hand because it’s too tender to cut with a slicer. That, and also its cameo in When Harry Met Sally, is why there’s such a long line here at all hours of the day and night. You should absolutely order a pastrami sandwich with a mix of lean and fatty meat while you’re here, but if you want to differentiate yourself, get a hot dog right when you walk in, and eat it while waiting in line for more cured meat.
There are plenty of old-school red sauce Italian spots that deserve mentions in The Irishman. But few of them serve pork chop parmesan and housemade ravioli as good as Bamonte’s, and none of them have as much history as this Williamsburg spot that’s been around since 1900.
Visiting NYC requires several tickets. A ticket into any of the three sh*tty airports. A ticket for the subway. And a ticket when you walk into the 106-year-old LES smoked fish institution known as Russ & Daughters. When the number on this ticket shows up on the electronic board behind the counter, it’s your turn to order a bagel that’ll make a 30-minute delay on the AirTram feel worth it. You can’t go wrong with any of the signature sandwiches or building your own around one of the 30 different types of cured fish.
To understand why French bistros are quintessential New York, head to Balthazar in Soho. The huge space, with red leather booths, cloudy mirrors, and a built-in boulangerie, is as popular a French gift to NYC as The Statue of Liberty. Its location means you’ll always see plenty of families with stacks of shopping bags, but high-quality versions of classic bistro food and an all-day space that works for just about anything ensures it’s packed with New Yorkers too.
Jing Fong is one of our favorite dim sum spots in the city for two key reasons. First, it’s an incredibly impressive operation. Despite a nearly disorientingly half-acre room, you never need to wait more than a minute or two for another dim sum cart to stop next to your table. Second, the food on those carts - like fried turnip cakes, fish balls, and egg custard buns - is delicious.
Keens is filled with antiques. You’ll find grandfather clocks and the playbill Abraham Lincoln was holding when he was shot. But most notably, the ceiling is covered in 45,000 smoking pipes that belonged to former members of Keens’ Pipe Club, like Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, JP Morgan, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Albert Einstein. In other words, this Midtown steakhouse is as good as any museum, and it draws tourists accordingly. But every New Yorker should experience their signature mutton chop.
Any place that hosts the Super Bowl of competitive eating on national TV every year would become pretty famous. But as its name suggests, Nathan’s was famous long before that. The counter-service spot in Coney Island has been serving all-beef hot dogs for over 100 years, and it’s still a great spot to get a hot dog and beer before or after a day on the boardwalk.