The Best Restaurants Near Union Square guide image

NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants Near Union Square

You'll pass through Union Square at some point this week, and you might as well eat something good while you're there.

Union Square is one of the busiest areas in New York, which means we get a lot of questions about where to eat around there. Fortunately, there are plenty of great options. Whether you live nearby, work in the area, or really like riding the escalators at the multiplex on 13th Street, here are all the best places to eat in the neighborhood.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Sarashina Horii

Sarashina Horii review image
8.1

Sarashina Horii

$$$$

45 E 20th St, New York
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

This high-end soba restaurant is a Tokyo transplant once featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Their handmade noodles are served either chilled or in a hot broth, and you can't go wrong either way. If you have to pick just one variety, get the massive bowl of hot soba in bonito broth topped with several thick and tender pieces of roasted duck. This dish is our definition of a noodle soup masterpiece. If you need to impress someone over dinner, Sarashina Horii will get the job done.

If you’re into Southeast Asian comfort food found at hawker centers and night markets in places like Singapore and Malaysia, but not so much into 20-hour flights, head to Chard. Nothing on the menu costs over $15, and the very spicy fried chicken sandwich (called the Api Api Burger) is an essential order. No matter what you get, add the fries dusted with a terrific lime seasoning as a side. There's some seating at a narrow counter, but we mostly like to come here for takeout when it’s a Tuesday and cooking is out of the question.

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Sona is a fantastic place for anyone looking to see what Indian fine dining currently feels like in NYC and how it’s evolved from its white tablecloth beginnings in the latter half of the 20th century. This restaurant—partially owned by Priyanka Chopra—is sleeker than it is formal and serves a long menu with sections dedicated to Mumbai classics and globally-influenced dishes (like grilled chicken with lemon mustard dressing and a dosa with gruyère). Remember this place the next time you and your partner want to visit an upscale restaurant for people-watching and excellent gin and tonics.

If Union Square Cafe were a Starburst flavor, it would be that pink one that everybody likes. At the second iteration of this classic restaurant, you'll still find the same sort of Italian-influenced seasonal American food they started serving in the 1980s. You can get a plate of mafaldine with a cheesy duck ragu, a simple heirloom tomato salad, or a pork chop with grilled peaches that tastes like a Norman Rockwell painting. The space is huge and well-decorated, with a great bar area that feels slightly more casual. It’s certainly pricey, and you might have trouble getting a prime reservation, but this is the perfect place to celebrate just about anything.

Usually, you end up eating in Union Square because that’s what’s most convenient. Maybe you’re meeting friends all coming from different neighborhoods, or maybe you’re picking up a salad after you took a workout class, because those are the primary activities of Union Square. But there are no situations in which you just end up at Shuko. You have to plan to come to this fantastic Japanese restaurant—and you absolutely should. The omakase at the bar here is one of the greatest special-occasion experiences you can have in this city.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

Casa Mono review image

Casa Mono

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Casa Mono is a reliable classic that will impress anyone in the market for small plates of seafood, meat, and vegetables. Just know that a tapas dinner here can get expensive quickly, and you usually can’t just walk in. (Even the bar next door, Bar Jamón, is often too busy for you to find a seat.) So make a reservation and come here on a double date with people who won’t mind sharing.

There are two different ways to experience Gramercy Tavern. In the back, there’s the upscale dining room, where you can book a table and eat a tasting menu for $165. If you want a special-occasion spot that feels less like a museum and more like someone’s very nice home in Aspen, that’s where you should sit. But we prefer the walk-in-only tavern area up front where you can eat some excellent brick jerk chicken or a top-notch burger. If you need a last-minute spot to impress some people, stop by and put your name in for a table or get a few seats at the bar.

photo credit: Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa

Sugarfish review image

Sugarfish

Much like driving and complaining about driving, Sugarfish is big in Los Angeles. That’s where this relatively affordable sushi chain started, and there are a bunch of locations over there. New York’s first location opened on 20th Street (there are now a few others), and it tends to get really, really busy. So consider whether you’re prepared to wait several hours for your dinner, and if you are, put your name in. (If you’re not, consider a day-off solo lunch instead.) Once you get seated, you want one of the “Trust Me” sets (ranging from $43 to $72 at dinner, including tip), which come with an assortment of sushi, sashimi, and handrolls.

Thai Villa is the best Thai restaurant near Union Square. The space is impressive and a little bit dreamlike, with a bunch of lamps and candles and a full tree’s worth of gold leaves hanging from the ceiling. It’s always nice to stare at shiny gold things, but the real reason you come here is for the food. Start your meal with the fried chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, and then get some of the steamed dumplings filled with ground pork, shrimp, and crab meat. This is an ideal spot for a weeknight meal, and it’s perfect for when you have some in-laws to feed. But it does get busy, so call ahead for a reservation.

Whether it’s a birthday brunch, dinner with clients, or a double date with your brother and his future spouse, this Mexican spot is a solid choice for a fun, upscale meal around Union Square. It feels a little like the set of a Cirque du Soleil show inside, with dramatic lighting and loud music, and the food—from the crispy fish tacos to the shrimp with sizzling garlic—is very good.

It’s tough to spend time around Union Square and not notice Barn Joo. It’s located on Union Square West, a few steps from the entrance to the subway. From the outside, you’ll notice lines of people waiting for a table or bar seat during Happy Hour (4pm-7pm every day), and if you get closer, you’ll hear the loud music from the DJ or live band inside. The clubby space offers Korean BBQ at tables on the second floor, but we recommend sticking to some share plates and bottles of soju at the bar or booths on the ground floor. We especially like the sizzling bibimbap, which comes with nicely charred rice at the bottom, plenty of gochujang, and a big portion of meat.

After all these years, you’ll still find a wait at Ippudo. Is it really worth it? If you have a few hours to kill and you want to get a great, affordable meal, then yes. We’d eat the Akamaru Shinaji ramen here any day of the week, and the pork buns are excellent (in part because of the mayonnaise).

Daily Provisions is the all-day cafe offshoot of Union Square Cafe, and it’s one of the best places to get a super casual snack or meal in the area. It’s counter-service, and there isn’t much seating, but they make excellent breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as crullers we’d eat every day if our doctors told us to up our dessert intake. They do run out, though, so get there early if you don’t want someone else eating the crullers that rightfully belong to you.

Tim Ho Wan is a dim sum chain from Hong Kong, and they have two locations in NYC. The one on 4th Avenue near Astor Place was the first, and it used to be next to impossible to get a seat here. (It’s still walk-in-only, and you’ll still probably have to wait.) For reliably good dim sum, it's your best option in the area.

Tsurutontan is big in Japan, and their first location in America is right here on 16th Street. (There’s also one in Midtown.) It’s famous for udon, which comes in all kinds of varieties—thin, thick, in soup with wagyu beef, covered in sea urchin, etc. One bowl of noodles is enough for a meal, but the menu is filled with appetizers worth trying as well. The space is sleek, dark, and modern, and it could work for a casual dinner or a nicer one.

Gupshup is a good option for a fun group dinner two blocks off Union Square. Come here for colorful cocktails infused with Indian spices, and fusion-y dishes like chicken wings with makhani sauce and a lamb burger with masala fries. (If you want some classic things, they also have chicken tikka and saag paneer.)The dining room is pretty relaxed, and it's a great spot to bring a few friends and share a bunch of small plates.

If you need to get some dinner with a couple of people who are looking for something “cool,” but don’t want anything that's loud or full of 21-year-olds, Kyma works. It’s an upscale Greek spot with a big dining room and a lively bar area, and it’s easy enough to get a table here most nights. The food is a little more expensive than it should be ($52 for lobster fettucine, for example), but you can get a very good whole grilled fish here, and everyone should like the spanakopita and grilled octopus.

This is a steakhouse on 12th Street, but when you walk in and see the overwhelmingly red color scheme, waiters in white coats, and walls covered with photos of celebrities, you'll briefly wonder if you’re in Midtown. Strip House is a good spot for a meal with a couple of people who want to pay a not-insignificant amount of money for a ribeye, a side of truffle creamed spinach, and a slice of 24-layer chocolate cake.

Ever since you discovered that you and a few friends from high school all work near Union Square, you’ve been texting on an endless chain about a group dinner. You need someplace fun, casual, and relatively affordable—and Laut is all these things. This Southeast Asian restaurant is only a block from the park, and all the Thai/Malaysian/Singaporean dishes here come family-style. Get some wine and the crispy butter garlic soft shell crab, and you’ll start meeting up with these people more regularly (instead of just texting about it).

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