New York City

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Taking a bite out of the Big Apple is a treat indeed, as it boasts America's (and among the world's) most diverse culinary scene. From the famed street vendor $1 hot dogs all the way up to a $1,000 sushi platter for two, New York is a 24/7 foodie paradise that has served as a melting pot for every culture under the sun (meaning surprising fusions and some of the best traditional foreign eats are endless). Keep in mind that "outer" boroughs can be well worth the trip for their smorgasbords of flavors, whether it's Russian in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, or Greek in Astoria, Queens. Note: Any visiting foodie must partake in two rites of passage – a stroll through one of the popular Greenmarkets (selling local and organic produce) and Sunday brunch, mimosa in hand. Plus, the city’s biannual Restaurant Week, held for two weeks (and sometimes longer) in summer and winter, features hundreds of eateries offering great prix-fixe rates on lunch and dinner – trust us, it means big savings!

Top Restaurants in New York City

'ino

Given the enduring (and deserved) popularity of this snug West Village wine bar – favored for its delicious small Italian plates coupled with a stellar wine selection – dropping by late at night is often the best strategy for snagging one of the 25 coveted seats. Patrons swear by the decadent truffled egg toast and savory panini, tramezzini, and bruschetta. Sibling restaurant ‘inoteca, located in the Lower East Side, offers a similar vibe and meal.

21 Bedford St., NY, 212-989-5769, www.cafeino.com
Tags: moderate | great value | open late | cafe | wine bar | small plates | sandwiches

Bar Breton

The contemporary French fare here is conjured up by Cyril Renaud, the mastermind chef behind the Michelin-starred Fleur de Sal. Decked out with an eclectic collection of antique furniture, the casual brasserie-style spot touts its signature dish, the Breton galletes. These savory crêpes made of buckwheat are served with various toppings like smoked salmon, grilled pork chops, crabmeat, and chorizo. Other Breton-accented concoctions include niacs – small tapas-style plates, like baked potato with oxtail. Also available is a great selection of ciders to wash them all down with.

254 Fifth Ave., NY, 212-213-4999, www.barbreton.com
Tags: moderate | french | brasserie

Blue Water Grill

Just off Union Square, this solid eatery (helmed by the same restaurateur responsible for Dos Cominos and Ruby Foos) is perennially popular for its all-American, seafood-centered cuisine – with dishes like ginger-soy lacquered Chilean sea bass, fresh sushi, and chocolate fondue for dessert reeling in the crowds (the former bank space seats a whopping 420). Be sure to stop by on a weekend and head downstairs for the live jazz brunch.

31 Union Sq. W. at 16th St., NY, 212-675-9500, www.brguestrestaurants.com
Tags: expensive | american | jim's pick

Corton

As a counterpoint to the current rustic-quaint design craze, Corton's elegantly starched dining room seems important. A creation of restaurant guru Drew Nieporent (Nobu, Tribeca Grill, Montrachet) and British chef and neo-molecular wizard Paul Liebrandt, Corton exhibits a dazzling display of talent and taste. Menus might include uni with kombu gelée and cauliflower crème (a dish that Liebrandt says makes him "extremely proud"). Compared to the offerings at other restaurants of this ilk, the three-course prix-fixe menu is one of the best deals in town. 2009 Smart Luxury Award winner

239 W. Broadway, New York, 212-219-2777, www.cortonnyc.com
Tags: luxury | expensive | smart splurge | smart luxury winner

Diner

This uber-trendy hipster diner one block from the Williamsburg Bridge hasn’t lost a pinch of flair since opening in 1998, thanks to a top-quality menu of organic and locally-grown ingredients that changes daily (a recipe that has become the mantra of success in Brooklyn’s new posh nosh scene). Natives and visitors alike mythologize items like the Bloody Marys and buttery, steak-like burgers, while more sophisticated dishes (think whole dorade with mushrooms in a white wine sauce and goat cheese tarts) wow even the most discerning taste buds. Along with the grub, the dark interiors and cozy booths are inviting enough that the place is almost always packed. If you’re too hungry to wait, opt to dine at equally impressive sister restaurant Marlow & Sons next door instead.

85 Broadway, NY, 718-486-3077, www.dinernyc.com
Tags: moderate | american | trendy | local favorite | french | brunch

Egg

Tucked discreetly into North 5th Street, just off Bedford Avenue in the hipster-clad heart of Williamsburg, Egg is a light, no-frills haven for the freshest down-home cookin’ you’ll find north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The artisanal breakfast menu features intelligently-sourced deliciousness, like sweet and fluffy homemade biscuits, stone-ground South Carolina grits, country ham direct from Colonel Bill Newsom’s farm in Kentucky, and melt-in-your-mouth scrapple from High Hope Hogs (a New Jersey farm that raises its pigs without steroids, hormones, or antibiotics, and has a year-round stand at the Union Square Greenmarket). Seasonal produce arrives daily by the sustainable cartload, while kale, beets, radishes, and other green goodies come from the restaurant’s own 6-acre farm upstate (which celebrated its first big harvest in 2009), just 2 ½ hours north in the Catskills. Wash everything down with a cup of rich, wholesome Fair Trade coffee, which comes in its own mini French press and is on sale for $11/pound (made by Brooklyn Coffee Roasters). Egg is open for lunch and dinner but brunch is the biggest draw; just be prepared to pop a squat on the sidewalk along with the rest of the weekend mob as tables are first-come, first served (reservations are accepted for dinner only).

135 North 5th St., NY, 718-302-5151, www.pigandegg.com
Tags: moderate | american | local favorite | breakfast | southern | brunch | organic

Empire Diner

This retro, round-the-clock, chrome diner near Chelsea's gallery district serves everything from juicy, bleu-cheese lentil burgers to hot-off-the-skillet omelets. The grub, a mix of conventional and high-brow comfort food, is good (you can’t miss the chocolate pudding), and it's a real kick for people-watching.

210 Tenth Ave. at 22nd St., NY, 212-243-2736, www.empire-diner.com
Tags: moderate | local favorite | diner

Essex Street Market

This La Guardia-era market is one of the few remnants of the rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side. The stalls are a physical representation of the neighborhood, with an impressive array of Latin American products and green grocers alongside butchers, upscale specialty markets (like Saxelby Cheesemongers and Rainbo and Roni-Sue's Chocolates) and "mini-me" versions of trendy Manhattan eateries like Shopsin's General Stores, with tables available for breakfast, lunch, or early dinner (the market closes at 7pm).

120 Essex St., NY, 212-388-0449, www.essexstreetmarket.com
Tags: budget | market | eclectic

Franny's

A relative newcomer to New York’s historically competitive pizza scene, Franny’s has quickly become one of the city’s best joints (on par with, and some say even surpassing, favorites like Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, and Patsy’s) since opening in stroller-laden Prospect Heights in 2004. Appetizers and the artisanal pies (served uncut with a crispy, wood-fired crust) are created with homemade, locally-sourced ingredients (the delicious pancetta, from a small farm in Iowa, is cured in-house) and the menu changes daily. The décor is low-key but attractive (exposed brick, large bar, high ceilings), and the service is friendly and knowledgeable. Expect to wait over an hour for any table during busy times. In warmer weather, snag a seat in the nice outdoor area.

295 Flatbush Ave., NY, 718-230-0221, www.frannysbrooklyn.com
Tags: moderate | local favorite | italian | pizza

Holy Basil

Don’t-miss tasty Thai curries and specialties like seared shrimp served with basil and sweet chili sauce feature at this popular, low-lit East Village stop above Second Avenue’s un-missable Telephone Bar. The rest of the menu is composed of quality dishes at wallet-friendly prices (all well under $20). Vegetarians will delight at the abundant veggie-centric options, while adventurous tongues should try that whole fried striped bass.

149 Second Ave., NY, 212-460-5557, www.holybasilrestaurant.com
Tags: moderate | thai

Jing Fong

Quite possibly one of the most spacious places in jam-packed Chinatown, football field-sized Jing Fong is one of the best restaurants around for authentic dim sum – take your pick from a vast variety of the light Chinese dumpling-centered dishes, which come wheeled around on metal carts. Chow down at one of the bright pink tables with seating for 10 (you’ll probably share the table with strangers). A hot spot for lunching locals, Jing Fong’s at its busiest around 11:30am, and it’s best to go a bit earlier to avoid the lines. Keep in mind that this is a lunch-oriented restaurant – it gets a bit desolate later in the day.

20 Elizabeth St. (2nd floor), New York, 212-964-5256
Tags: budget | great value | chinese | jim's pick

Katz's Delicatessen

Delis are also ubiquitous – but the best and the brightest is New York City's oldest still-operating deli, established in 1888. Order pastrami, knishes, crunchy, super-fresh pickles, and other Jewish deli staples (the colossal Reuben is out of this world and worth every penny of its price), then snag a seat at the infamous “Where Harry Met Sally” table. Just don’t try to leave without a ticket (the busy business’s way of keeping tabs on orders), or the “security guards” at the door might not let you out!

205 E. Houston St. at Ludlow St., NY, 212-254-2246, www.katzdeli.com
Tags: budget | deli

Le Périgord

In a city where most restaurants have a shelf life of a few years, Le Périgord's nearly half-century-long track record speaks volumes. There's never any rush, so you have time to enjoy some of the best French food in the city with a wide variety of choices, including, foie gras, gravlax, canard rôti aux, médaillons de veau from their prix fixe menu ($65 for dinner). Georges, the owner, welcomes you like family and provides first-class service throughout. Best of all, if at the end of the meal you haven't made up your mind between two choices on the dessert cart, they solve the dilemma by giving you both.

405 E. 52nd St., New York, 212-755-6244, www.leperigord.com
Tags: expensive | french

Lincoln

Sheltered by a sensuous green roof that invites lawn sprawlers of all stripes, Lincoln Center’s 2010-debuted restaurant Lincoln is where Jonathan Benno, former chef de cuisine of Per Se, is currently wielding his knives. The menu changes daily, but retains a focus on high-end, contemporary Italian cuisine like cod and tortellini served in a prosciutto broth, and lasagna made with a veal, beef, and pork ragu. 

142 W. 65 St., 212-359-6500, www.lincolnristorante.com
Tags: expensive | italian

Lombardi's

New York-style pizza can be found on practically every corner, but this no-frills joint (the self-proclaimed first pizzeria in America, dating from 1905) has the others beat with its mouth-watering crisp-crust pies all fired up in the kitchen’s original coal oven. The line constantly spills out onto the sidewalk, so be prepared to wait for the best with the rest. Add juicy meatballs to your pie for an indulgent order or try the white clam pizza (lightly dusted with pecorino, garlic, herbs, and sans sauce) for a more unique twist.

32 Spring St., NY, 212-941-7994, www.firstpizza.com
Tags: budget | editor pick | pizza

Maialino

For a superb Italian meal and what we call a smart splurge, dine at the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Maialino, the latest entrée among Danny Meyer’s New York offerings. The design scheme recalls a Roman trattoria (glass cases enclose meats and cheeses), all set by a park that’s a visual treat any season.

2 Lexington Ave., New York, 212-777-2410, www.maialinonyc.com
Tags: expensive | smart splurge | italian | jim's pick

Mamoun's Falafel

When locals get a fixin’ for falafel, they’ve been heading to this family-owned hole-in-the-wall just south of Washington Square Park since it opened in 1971. Yes, there are other good falafel joints nearby (Taim, Chickpea), but this is the city’s oldest and most dependable, with quick service from Middle Eastern lads, with Middle Eastern music playing in the background while you wait. For less than $5, you’ll get a pita-full of schwarma with meat that’s been roasted to perfection, deliciously creamy baba ghannouj, and falafel that’s cooked just right (crunchy on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside). There are only a few seats, so when the weather’s right, take your tasty meal and head to the park (or just eat it on the go).

119 MacDougal St., NY, 212-674-8685, www.mamouns.com
Tags: budget | historic | local favorite | middle eastern

Mermaid Oyster Bar

A more intimate, wallet-friendly alternative to Grand Central Station’s much-hyped Grand Central Oyster Bar, the Mermaid Oyster Bar (little sister to the acclaimed Mermaid Inn) opened in November 2009 in Greenwich Village as a refined yet unpretentious and affordable seafood eatery (a wealth of which Manhattan  seems to lack). All menu items are fresh as can be, service is excellent, and the pleasant décor – white wood and maritime accents – is meant to evoke a beachside, seafood café (all that’s missing is sand underfoot!). The daily selection of up to 16 kinds of fresh oysters goes for around $2.50 each – though there’s a “happy hour and a half” each day from 5:30 to 7pm when East Coast oysters go for just $1 a pop.

79 MacDougal St., NV, 212-260-0100, www.themermaidnyc.com
Tags: moderate | seafood | great value | jim's pick

Minetta Tavern

After Frank Bruni of The New York Times awarded Minetta a coveted three stars, a rumor circulated that its owner, Keith McNally, cried. The urban legend has since been strenuously denied, but we would have forgiven him a tear. Having one's bistro hailed as the city's greatest steak house is no small achievement. But, then, McNally is accustomed to success. Since opening The Odeon in TriBeCa in 1980, he has been creating can't-miss dining destinations with the regularity of a metronome. Bringing his Midas touch to this Greenwich Village institution, he transformed the faded red sauce eatery into another buzz-worthy epicenter.

Yet beyond the seemingly impenetrable reservation system lies a timeless and tasty, uniquely New York value of a meal. Here's how to get it: Go early in the week, forgo notions of a table, and wait for seats at the original wooden bar. Order a martini, or something similarly soul-warming. Bask in the beautiful, historic room's glow, its convivial hum and swirl. Next, order the Minetta burger - not the famed Pat La Frieda Black Label burger - with its juicy blend of short rib and brisket - hardly pedestrian. This embodies a truer burger taste, whereas the Black Label comes off as more of a steak-y interloper, heavy and rich – another meal for another time. For now, no repast will come off more warmly sublime than the bar burger-and-martini combo at Minetta – rendered even tastier by the satisfaction of dining like a regular at one of the most fashionable restaurants in town. 2009 Smart Luxury Award winner

113 MacDougal St., New York, 212-475-3850, www.minettatavernny.com
Tags: expensive | smart luxury winner | burgers

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Award-winning chef David Chang has taken traditional Japanese ramen by way of his Korean heritage, infusing nearly every dish with some sort of succulent pork element and duding up bowls of ramen with unusual ingredients like pickled pears and traditionally off-putting ingredients like sweetbreads (which are transformed into incredibly tasty delights). The new 55-seat location (just down the street from its birthplace) now offers comparatively sprawling table space, though we say the noodle bar is still the best place to sit.

171 First Ave., NY, 212-777-7773, www.momofuku.com
Tags: moderate | editor pick | great value | asian fusion

MPD

Set within easy stiletto-stomping distance of NYC’s hottest nightlife dens and hippest hotels (including The Standard and the Hotel Gansevoort), this October 2010 newcomer makes for a refreshingly refined addition to Manhattan’s epicenter of cool – the Meatpacking District. Mon Petit Déjeuner (its more heavily marketed acronym, MPD, doubles as a clever nod to the local nabe’s alias) strives to offer an alternative to the traditionally raucous, champagne-spray, hip-grinding party spots that have only loosely fallen under the guise of quality eatery in the quarter. Turning out upscale bistro fare in a sophisticated, yet energized setting, expect dishes like saffron-crusted rack of lamb and aged goat cheese ravioli; a quality cocktail list featuring French-inspired elixers like the Blackberry Press (house-made belvedere limoncello, crème de mure, and fresh lemon, topped with Moët champagne and garnished with sage leaf); and seamless service by a decisively model-worthy waitstaff – we think MPD has what it takes to survive the fickle trends of Meatpacking District “it” spots. Dinner and late-night only; breakfast and lunch menus are due to roll out in 2011.

73 Gansevoort St., NY, 212-541-6991, www.mpdnyc.com
Tags: moderate | american | trendy | french

Nobu New York

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa turns out top-notch sushi and Japanese dishes with Peruvian flourishes to a high-powered, scene-loving crowd. The sleek urban decor features thoughtful design flourishes like hardwood floors with cherry blossom stenciling and sky-high ceilings, while menu must-tries include the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, and Matusuhisa’s signature miso-marinated black cod. Reservations are hard to come by – making the more casual Next Door Nobu a good standby option with a like-minded menu and first-come, first-serve seating.

105 Hudson St. at Franklin St., NY, 212-219-0500, www.myriadrestaurantgroup.com/nobu
Tags: expensive | smart splurge | sushi

Per Se

Thomas Keller brings the concept of his celebrated Napa restaurant French Laundry to New York, except with a glitzier edge. Located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner center, the Adam Tihany-designed space – neutral colors, a fireplace along the glass wall overlooking Central Park, and outrageous floral arrangements – is accented by an eclectic crowd including suits, artsy folks, and foodies who’ve waited two months for the experience. The daily rotating tasting menu offers nine courses of sybaritic pleasures, including luxuries like the delectable “oysters and pearls,” a dish of oysters, tapioca, and caviar, mouthwatering foie gras with white peaches, and succulent duck with sweet plums.

10 Columbus Cir, NY, 212-823-9335, www.perseny.com
Tags: expensive | editor pick | smart splurge | french | new american

Peter Luger Steak House

While some beef junkies call it overhyped, nostalgic Luger’s continues to gain devotees who herald the top-notch, pre-cut porterhouses as the best in the biz since the iconic restaurant opened its dark wood doors in 1887. Sure, you can wolf down better-seasoned slabs at numerous establishments elsewhere in the city, but Luger’s is worth the splurge just once to experience New York’s most famous old boy’s steakhouse. The décor is simply 19th century, the dress code casual, and service blunt and fast. Forgo making reservations the recommended two months in advance and just show up during the in-between hours of lunch and dinner when there’s less of a crowd, the specials are more affordable, and the large rooms are filled with natural light. Don’t miss the bacon, wash down your meal with a pint of nutty Peter Luger lager, and bring plenty of greenbacks (payment is cash only).

178 Broadway, NY, 718-387-7400, www.peterluger.com
Tags: expensive | historic | landmark | steakhouse

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

Nearly three dozen types of glazed, powdered, sprinkled, and jelly-oozing donuts, hand-cut and baked fresh each morning, line the windowsill and white, S-shaped counter at Greenpoint’s retro, diner-esque bakery (which many natives know as the best in all the city). In addition to the fluffiest fried dough, waitresses in delightfully kitschy turquoise dresses serve up warm breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and milkshakes. Try the Honey Dip glazed yeast donut or the moist, indulgent Bavarian Crème and you’ll never set foot in the commercial likes of a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts again. Arrive early for samplings of the freshest batches – the pickin’s are slim come late afternoon.

727 Manhattan Ave., NY, 718-389-3676
Tags: budget | editor pick | local favorite | bakery | dessert

Punjabi Grocery & Deli Inc.

Whether you're short on time or short on cash, this 24-hour basement joint is a hidden gem for in-the-know fans of Indian cuisine. Just follow the line of taxi drivers parked outside and you'll discover flavorful veggie Punjabi dishes like chana (chickpeas), fat samosas (stuffed savory pastries) topped with lentils ­- both for a whopping $2 ­- or bowls of rice with your choice of two or three vegetables ($2.50-$4.50). Needless to say, at that price you shouldn't expect much ambience (or seating, for that matter) but the euphoria that overwhelms your taste buds will make you forget you're standing.

114 E. 1st St., NY, 212-533-9048
Tags: budget | great value | indian

Russian Samovar

Resist the urge for greasy breadsticks at a crowded Olive Garden, or to pay $9.95 for a slice of overrated cheesecake at Roxy’s, and, instead, down shots of homemade infused vodka (there are over a dozen varieties, like cranberry, tarragon, and garlic) and authentic borsht at this personality-packed joint. Just a few blocks north of Times Square on 52nd Street, the crowd at the Samovar (named for a traditional East European cooking device made of metal and primarily used to boil water for tea) is a nice mix of theatergoers enjoying a pre-show meal; beefy, mafia-esque types; and stylish yuppies happy to clink shot glasses at (yet another) Sex and the City spot. 

256 W. 52nd St., NY, 212-757-0168, www.russiansamovar.com
Tags: moderate | traditional | russian

Spotted Pig

This English-style gastropub feels as authentic as any you'd find in the Old Blighty, except for the Manolo-heeled crowd at the bar. English expat chef April Bloomfield took the straightforward, simple gastropub dishes she grew up with and added a few unusual elements, like savory pies made with calf's liver and an Italian-influenced gnudi dish. However, you can choose to keep it real and go for a good old shepherd's pie or smoked haddock chowder.

314 W. 11th St. # 1, NY, 212-620-0393, www.thespottedpig.com
Tags: moderate | gastropub | jim's pick

The Modern

The sleek eatery at the Museum of Modern Art is just as much a masterpiece as the works inside the museum (recently re-imagined and expanded by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi). Frosted glass delineates two distinct spaces: a sophisticated bar room buzzing with voguish people enjoying post-museum cocktails and nibbles (the cilantro-infused Modern cocktail packs a major punch); and a much more formal dining room overlooking the museum's spacious sculpture garden. The multi-course menu, offered in the latter space, includes highlights like the chorizo-crusted Chatham cod and roast Long Island duck with black trumpet marmalade, separated by various amuse-gueules and intermezzi.

9 W. 53rd St., NY, 212-333-1220, www.themodernnyc.com
Tags: expensive | french | new american

The Pod Hotel New York

The chintzy former Pickwick Arms has been painted over and transformed into a choice stay for the thrifty hipster. Starting at just $99/night, and with about half of the 347 rooms offering private bathrooms, this efficiently minimalist stay is closer to an adult hostel than a hotel. The thin walls, flimsy mattresses, and airplane-bathroom-size sinks aren’t the high notes of The Pod (opened 2007), but with iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi, not to mention the prime Midtown location, it’s hard to complain. Choose from rooms with queens, doubles, singles, and bunk beds.

230 E 51st St, NY, 800-742-5945; 212-355-0300, www.thepodhotel.com
Tags: budget | trendy | bar | cafe

Vinegar Hill House

Opened in November 2008 on a cobblestone street in an under-the-radar Brooklyn neighborhood, this rustic spot is well worth the cab ride. Housed inside a 19th-century carriage house, the 40-seat room is best described as shabby chic with an old-school twist – a copper bar, vintage wallpaper, booths made of old bleachers, and a wood-burning oven as the showpiece. The atmosphere is homey yet hip; the menu, featuring comforting new American fare, is seasonal, the fish sustainable, and the meat procured from a renowned upstate butcher. Reservations aren’t accepted, so come prepared to knock elbows with a hungry crowd.

72 Hudson Ave., NY, 718-522-1018, www.vinegarhillhouse.com
Tags: moderate | new american | local ingredients

Washington Square Hotel

Yes, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez once lived here, and its 150 smallish rooms are comfortable, but the real appeal is the Euro and Art Deco vibe, and proximity to music clubs and Washington Square Park. On the cusp of NYU’s main campus, it’s popular with students and their visiting relatives, so count on rooms being nearly impossible to come by during graduation and other collegiate events. The cozy bar tucked into the back of the checkered lobby serves afternoon tea daily, and rates include continental breakfast at the solid street-level restaurant, North Square.

103 Waverly Place, NY, 800-222-0418; 212-777-9515, www.wshotel.com
Tags: moderate | great value | great location | lounge

Whisk & Ladle Supper Club

For a truly insider taste of the New York/Brooklyn dining scene, sign up for one of Whisk & Ladle Supper Club’s weekly culinary fêtes hosted in a big Williamsburg loft along the East River by roommates Mark, Danielle, Nick, Jessie, and Norah (who, like their location, prefer to remain slightly anonymous). Each host practices a different specialty – from professional bartending to pastry making, and all enjoy serving eclectic, unusual ingredients (think bear and python). Since the group started at their current location in 2006, an array of guests has enjoyed their adventurous five-course meals with wine pairings and unique cocktail concoctions. For $40-$50 per person, the dinners are offered nearly every Saturday of the month, and RSVPs are taken through the group’s website (each dinner is limited to 25 guests).

NY, www.thewhiskandladle.com
Tags: expensive

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