The 29 best restaurants in New York City
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If you love to travel, chances are you also love to eat (and vice versa). So, we figured it was time to share some of our favorite restaurants in the world — and what better place to start with than our home base, New York City?
With some sources suggesting there are more than 27,000 restaurants in New York City, you can imagine that narrowing the list down is not an easy task. So consider this a starting point, because there are so many incredible restaurants scattered across the city.
Of course, we're not pretending to be food critics. We're just a bunch of travelers whose lives revolve around eating, to some extent. Whether it's your first time in the Big Apple or your 50th, these are the restaurants you need to have on your list. They're the ones that make New York, well, New York.
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Before you go
A lot of the restaurants we're about to mention are pretty hard to get into. We won't sugarcoat that. Other than, you know, knowing someone or being really on top of things, it can be a bit of a challenge to snag a table.
Luckily, we have a few strategies that might be able to help. We're big fans of restaurant booking service Resy, since you can set alerts for times that a requested reservation shows up (take note, frequent flyer programs!). There's also OpenTable, which now lets you redeem OpenTable Dining Points for hotel stays through Kayak. If that fails, Amex Concierge is going to be your best bet. Select American Express cardholders have access to this special service that will help you with tours, events and yes, even hard-to-get restaurant reservations.
No matter how you get the reservation — or if you just show up early and hope for the best — at any of these places, make sure you're paying with a card that earns you bonus points on dining at restaurants. Our favorites are the American Express® Gold Card (4x), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (3x). I mean, is there anything better than stuffing your face with pizza or bagels knowing all the money you just spent will be funding your next vacation? We didn't think so.
Where to eat breakfast and brunch
Russ and Daughters
Russ and Daughters is an institution, and their bagels and lox are the stuff of legend. While the original spot has been around since 1914 — without proper seating — they finally opened up a café where you can eat all the carbs and smoked fish to your heart's content in the comfort of an actual chair. Pro tip: Snag a Resy reservation to the location in the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side so you don't have to deal with the crowds.
This is arguably one of the best brunch spots in the city. Brought to you by the same people as Carbone — more on that later — this is the bagel restaurant of your dreams. Yes, it's a far cry from a neighborhood bagel shop. They serve towers (yes, towers) of bagels and lox, chocolate babka, french toast and a dizzying number of other ingredients that will make you glad you didn't wait in line at Ess-a-Bagel. No matter your age, it's virtually impossible not to love it here. Again, reservations are key.
This is one of the best Cuban joints in the city, and a staple of the SoHo brunch scene. The corn is an absolute must, as are the egg breakfast plates. Eat your weight in sweet plantains and call it a day.
Clinton Street Baking Company
This place is known for lines with wait times over two hours in duration, but don't let that intimidate you (really). You came here for some of the best pancakes in the world, and you will finish out your mission. Carry on.
Upland should be one of your go-to spots for both brunch and dinner — they bring their A-game every single time. Between their burgers, pizza and those fluffy buttermilk pancakes, you're in for a treat. It's slightly more upscale, but is definitely still affordable and sure to please even the pickiest eaters. If you haven't sensed a theme here yet, we'll spell it out for you: Make a reservation.
Another hot spot for both brunch and dinner, mostly because their pizzas are absolutely divine. Get the bacon and egg pizza for brunch, because who says you can't have pizza for breakfast? If you're here for dinner, you can't go wrong with any of the pies, but my personal favorites are the tie-dye and vodka. Bonus points if you do half and half. Side note: Paul McCartney loves it here.
The best places to eat lunch
Because you should always have what she's having. Yes, it's touristy and yes, the line can get massive, but Katz's is an icon. Get either pastrami or corned beef on rye, a knish and a diet Dr. Brown's cream soda — and whatever you do, don't lose your ticket.
It's nearly an impossible task to narrow down the most perfect, classic slice of New York City pizza. Almost as impossible as finding award availability in Emirates' new first class suite. But Joe's has been making some of the most delectable slices of pizza you'll ever find, and if you haven't been to one of their New York City locations yet, you're doing it wrong.
Prince Street Pizza
You come here for two reasons: The spicy spring pizza (a square slice with pepperoni cups) and to never look at pizza the same way again. This is my personal favorite slice in all of Gotham.
Yes, another pizza place, but you'll thank me for it later. Again, a debatable topic, but you can't argue that it's among the city's absolute best. Little known fact: They take reservations one week out. Make one.
The best places to eat dinner
Joe's is known for having some of the best — if not the best, although a hotly debated topic — soup dumplings in town. You're going to want a few orders of these. Don't miss out on the crispy beef or scallion pancakes, either.
L'Artusi is where you want to go to celebrate that big event: Birthday, anniversary, graduation, you know. Everything on the menu is excellent, and the wine menu is top-notch. It's almost unheard of to have a bad experience here.
This may or may not be the best burger in New York City. But don't just listen to me, and go try it for yourself. Don't forget the cottage fries.
There are a few Seki locations around the city, and they're all fantastic. In fact, chef Seki worked under chef Gari — of the famous Sushi of Gari — when he moved to New York City from Tokyo in the 1990s. Since then, he's opened up his own restaurants, and they're some of the best places to eat sushi in New York. You can splurge and go the omakase route, or opt for a more affordable meal and order a few rolls. Either way, your stomach will thank you.
If there's one thing to know about Greek food in New York, it's that the best is in Astoria, Queens. Take a quick subway or Uber ride from Manhattan, and go straight to Taverna Kyclades. Yes, you could go to the one in the East Village, but the Astoria one is the original, and itself an unmissable experience.
Speaking of trips to other boroughs, Casa Enrique has some of the best Mexican food you'll find in Long Island City. Just ask their Michelin star, the first one to be awarded to any Mexican restaurant in the Big Apple.
Emily was born in Brooklyn, and before long, lines were out the door. Why, you ask? Burgers with pretzel buns and Neapolitan pizzas, for starters. Since then, the husband-and-wife-duo opened another outpost in the West Village — serving up Detroit-style pizza instead — as well as an "Emmy Squared" in the East Village and Williamsburg. The menus vary slightly depending on location, but you'll definitely want the burger and the Colonie pizza on your table. Get one that can do both. Bonus: Reservations are (relatively) easy to come by.
I know what you're thinking: "Another pizza place?" To that we say, this is New York, and this is what you came for. You should make sure one of your pizza outings is at Roberta's — ideally at the original in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Another burger heavyweight, coming right up. You're here for the Black Label Burger. You're going to see the slightly cheaper Minetta Burger on the menu, and for a second, you're going to debate getting it instead. Let that feeling pass, and splurge on the $33 Black Label. Thank us later.
Every time I've been to Don Angie, I leave in a food coma. That's a good thing. Don't come here without ordering the lasagna, and don't skip out on the garlic flatbread or the chrysanthemum salad (essentially cheese with a side of lettuce). Everyone here is always in a good mood, and it's one of the best restaurants in the city for celebrating a special occasion. Once again, reservations are essential.
11 Madison Park
Does this restaurant truly need an introduction? It ranked as No. 3 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016, and No. 1 in 2017. It's currently sitting at No. 4. Need we say more?
4 Charles Prime Rib
I will preface this by saying it's nearly impossible to get a reservation at prime time here, and getting one is like finding award availability on La Premiere — if you find it, you go. You come here for the burger, creamed spinach and, of course, prime rib. Insider tip: If you can't get a reservation here and actually want to eat at a normal hour, go to Au Cheval and get your hands on their absolutely incredible burger. The two restaurants are owned by the same group, and the burgers are virtually the same.
Chef Missy Robbins (yes, the one who used to cook for the Obamas) opened Lilia in 2016 and it's still booked solid — Every. Single. Night. There's a reason for that, of course, or rather a few reasons. They're called: grilled clams, rigatoni diavola, sheeps milk cheese filled agnolotti, mafaldini, ricotta gnocchi and olive oil cake. If you, like most people, also can't get a reservation here, you'll likely have much better luck at Misi, Robbins' newest outpost.
People get excited just talking about dinner at Gramercy Tavern. The restaurant is divided up into a more casual bar area and the main dining room. You'll need a reservation for the dining room, but the bar is walk-in only. Pick your poison.
Italian food doesn't get much better than Carbone. It's one of the best restaurants in New York, if not the world. In short: If you like to eat, you need to get here, ASAP. Reservations are essential, and you'll really have to be on top of your game to get one, but it's all going to pay off the second you bite into the spicy rigatoni.
Feature photo by Michael Berman/Getty Images