When it comes to great food, New Yorkers have it made. Some of the best restaurants in the United States are in New York City. It’s such a melting pot that it is no wonder the city that never sleeps contains a never-ending supply of great new restaurants to try, time-worn favorites, or eccentric date-night locales. New Yorkers are never left hanging when it comes to delicious culinary destinations. If you ask ten different people, you’ll get ten different lists of the best eateries in the city. However, there is always that select group that seems to find their way onto many lists. Whether it is a neighborhood classic, a fave barbecue spot, or post-modern French cuisine, a list of the city’s best is always an eclectic grouping.
As a Brooklyn-born lover of food, putting together a list of the city’s best restaurants proved to be a daunting but enjoyable task; there are so many choices! However, I poured through the best, expensive and cheap, Michelin-starred and neighborhood dives, and put together the definitive best of the best. You might not agree with the ranking, but you can’t deny every restaurant you find on this list is in a class by itself. These restaurants define the city’s culinary scene. Some are old-school, some are relatively new; all are a must-visit for locals and tourists alike. From New York’s best jerk chicken to the go-to sushi spot, here are the best 30 restaurants in the city right now.
Located in Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Roberta’s is central to the modern Brooklyn food scene. Amid shared picnic tables and the white-washed brick façade, the main room’s giant wood-fired oven roars. Everything is great, from the pizzas to the veggie dishes. In fact, the restaurant is actually quite known for its expertly prepared and updated takes on vegetable dishes. Don’t let the rustic exterior fool you; come in and try the roasted beets, or have one of the best romaine salads you will ever find.
Estela has that common restaurant décor that you might find just about anywhere, but look deeper and what you’ll find is anything but common. Ignacio Mattos, the Uruguayan-born chef, is anything but your run-of-the-mill chef. His imaginative cooking has put this Mediterranean-leaning eatery on the culinary map. His ever-changing menu features small plates that range from ultramodern creations to classic Italian fare just like mamma used to make! Located in the Manhattan neighborhood known as NoLIta, for “North of Little Italy,” Estela’s reputation even gave reason for Barack and Michelle Obama to stop in for a bite.
Lilia is as hip as its home neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Chef Missy Robbins offers her own innovative take on classic Italian cuisine. The dining room is actually a former auto body shop that has been repurposed into a cozy, intimate eatery; perfect for date nights. This place always draws a crowd and menu faves include the veal steak, the mafaldine pasta with peppercorns, or try the cacao e pepe fritelle, basically a fried cheese ball using pecorino cheese, aged asiago, dusted with cracked black pepper.
27 La Vara
This Cobble Hill eatery was started by chefs Alex Raij and her husband, Eder Montero, and it instantly became a smash hit. Serving Spanish cuisine with a Moorish and Jewish tilt, the menu has something to satisfy everyone from the most conservative to the adventurous eaters. La Vara’s menu faves include lamb meatballs, paella-style fideúa, and chicken hearts. La Vara prides itself on being known for their cocina casera, “home cooking,” but its unassuming menu elevates basic tapas to another level.
If you’re craving a little Caribbean fare, take a trip over to the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens area and visit Peppa’s. This take-out spot offers what could be the best jerk chicken in the city. This spicy spot is completely unassuming and easy to miss. It looks empty, with no seating, but don’t let that fool you. Behind the counter, they are serving up incredible perfectly-seasoned Jamaican jerk chicken, served in a Styrofoam clamshell that most diners eat right there out front, picnic-style. Need an extra kick: Peppa’s offers a squeeze-bottle of thick, spicy jerk sauce with chile seeds.
25 Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken
Originally, chef Charles Gabriel sold his signature soul food out of his Harlem house, and then got himself a popular food truck, before moving his operation to a brick and mortar storefront. The venues might have changed but the food hasn’t. Hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina, Gabriel brought his cooking methods up north, using big cast-iron pans rather than deep fryers. This traditional method requires detailed attention to the frying process. The extra attention comes through as Gabriel’s chicken, sided with candied yams and collard greens, is definitive comfort food. Chicken not your thing? That’s okay, his smoked turkey wings, BBW pork ribs, and oxtails are just as good!
24 I Sodi
One of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in New York City, I Sodi opened in 2008. Chef-owner Rita Sodi channeled her home of Tuscany into the soul of this West Village eatery. The osteria-style menu is simple, allowing the ingredients to be the star of the show. I Sodi is a hidden gem frequented more by locals and less by tourists, which Village residents are thankful for. The whole baked branzino and housemade pasta, artichoke lasagna, and chestnut tortelli are some of the best you’ll ever taste.
Prune could be said to be the foundation of the East Village culinary experience. Open since 1999, chef Gabrielle Hamilton offers American fare cooked the way you wished you could get it at home, although with a French flair. Some standouts are the whole grilled branzino in fennel oil, Manila clams with hominy and smoked paprika butter, or a homey soup topped with fried chicken skin. You can stop by for brunch as well with Dutch pancakes being the easy menu favorite. If you have room for dessert, try the crème de menthe parfait (who doesn’t like parfait?) or the flaming Turkish disco pistachios.
22 Marlow & Sons
By day, Marlow & Sons is an unassuming Williamsburg coffee shop, but by night the dynamic dining room, located in the back, transforms into a popular progressive eatery. The menu offers oysters, cured meats, their signature brick chicken, as well as down-home seasonal special creations. Open since 2004, before there was a trendy restaurant on every Williamsburg corner, Marlow & Sons lead the way for Brooklyn farm-to-table cuisine. The original is still one of the best places to eat in the area.
21 Mu Ramen
This ramen shop is one of the best around. Besides tonkotsu broth that will take your breath away, Mu Ramen also offers foie and brioche-stuffed chicken wings, dry-aged Japanese short rib burgers, and a spicy red miso that’ll knock your socks off. The best seats in the eatery are right at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. Watching the husband-and-wife owners Joshua and Heidy Smookler create their delicacies while wise-cracking each other sets up the perfect atmosphere for this fine dining locale with a down home flair.
20 Hometown Bar-B-Que
Looking for barbecue? Head over to the Red Hook area of Brooklyn and stop in Hometown Bar-B-Que. Pit master Billy Durney teamed up with restaurateur Christopher Miller to deliver authentic Texas-style barbecue to NYC. Their 120-seat wood-panelled smokehouse is home to classics like smoked brisket and baby back ribs, as well pork belly tacos and lamb belly banh mi, inspired by Durney’s travels through the South. You can usually catch Durney tending to his smoked meats but be careful; there’s often a line waiting to sample his delicious creations.
Wildair offers a refined take on American cuisine in a simple modest setting. This is the creation of Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, the chef-restaurateurs who opened the trendy Contra located just down the street. The pair offers imaginative small plates that refuse to be categorized. Your meal might consist of topneck clams with XO sauce and almond broth, fried soft-shell crab with lemon and spring onion, and maybe scallop crudo with meyer lemon and chicory. It can only be described as the Lower East Side’s foremost neo-bistro.
18 Momofuku Ssäm Bar
If you can’t get a table at the tiny Momofuku Ko, try David Chang’s East Village locale Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Chef Max Ng’s inspired menu includes tasty dishes like spicy shell-on shrimp with Sichuan-garlic butter or an exquisite whole roasted fish served with their signature ginger scallion sauce, bean sprouts, and herbs. Chang himself might not spend as much time there anymore but the whole atmosphere is definitely an extension of his success and personality as this 50-seat restaurant is always buzzing!
Olmsted has been crafted into the perfect representation of a neighborhood restaurant. With a backyard garden supplying the kitchen with fresh ingredients and doubling as a waiting area for guests, this Prospect Heights eatery is the brainchild of chef Greg Baxtrom. His menu is always evolving and offers signature takes on items such as crab Rangoon, carrot crêpes with clams, and watermelon sushi. A favorite with Instagram-posting tourists and locals, the food is an inspiration. Whether you are a fan of the vegetable, fish, or meat dishes, everything is great!
Balthazar is a trendy brasserie in SoHo Manhattan opened by restaurateur Keith McNally. The Balth, as some refer to it, is a perfect spot for a breakfast meeting, a steak lunch, or for that special dinner out. If you do choose to stop in for dinner, this hotspot is always packed, everyone dressed to impress. But don’t let that make you uptight; the table bread is tasty, the food is great (spurge on the Le Balthazar Plateaux and whole-roasted free-range chicken for two), and the service is friendly.
15 Uncle Boons
Uncle Boons is a captivating Thai restaurant that, despite its initial tacky vibe, offers excellent drinks and a spicy menu with tons of choices. Located in the NoLIta, “north of Little Italy,” neighborhood, Uncle Boons features dishes such as green curry snails, mussels in red curry with lime, aromatic crab fried rice, or a spicy lamb salad that you'll never recover from! For those cold nights, try the khao soi, traditional curry soup with a chicken leg embedded in egg noodles surrounded by pickled mustard greens.
14 St. Anselm
If grilling is indeed the ultimate American art form, Joe Carroll’s Williamsburg steakhouse, St. Anselm, could be one of the best expressions of that art. St. Anselm offers one of the best deals on some of the best steak in NYC. The garlic butter-drenched butcher’s steak is tender and delicious and that’s not even one of the better cuts being offered. If you are feeling adventurous – and hungry – try to take on the ax handle ribeye, available in 45-65 oz. versions! Too ambitious for you? That’s okay, the menu also offers a great selection of veggies and seafood.
13 Cote Korean Steakhouse
Barely over a year old, Cote Korean Steakhouse, in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, has already earned itself a Michelin star for culinary excellence. Taking cues from traditional Big Apple steakhouses, owner Simon Kim and chef David Shim have created an upscale version of the traditional Korean barbecue eatery, with ritzy décor and dry-aged beef. For your first time out, try the Butcher’s Feast. It’s $45 per person but offers a selection of four cuts of beef, banchan, egg soufflé, spicy kimchi stew, and a delicious soft serve dessert.
12 Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
The Brooklyn Fare is a market with multiple locations around New York City. Originally situated in the Brooklyn location, now moved to Manhattan’s West Side, the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is an exclusive intimate eatery which is exactly what the name implies: the chef’s table inside the kitchen at Brooklyn Fare Market. Chef César Ramirez spends the day preparing items for the market but in the evenings, he’s creating an exclusive multi-course meal served up around his prep table. The restaurant is BYOB and the menu changes daily, based on what’s fresh, but always focused around seafood and shellfish. The cost is $395 per person and it is strictly formal dress.
In what could be the best sushi in NYC, Shuko features the owners, Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau, serving the diners personally. Though a little pricey at $155 for sushi-only plates, this Greenwich Village sushi bar has no problem attracting eager customers. The sushi is served in its purest form, each lightly lacquered with soy and rested atop a sliver of warm, loosely packed sticky rice. Kim and Lau, both longtime disciples of sushi great Masa Takayama, take their art to new levels.
10 Katz's Delicatessen
This is the original Katz’s Delicatessen, which has been unchanged for 125 years and remains the definitive New York Jewish deli (and this is coming from the grandson of a rival deli-owning Jew). Located in the Lower East Side, when you walk in you’re instantly overtaken by the intense aroma of pastrami and rye. The sandwiches are huge (it’s okay to share) and it’s considered best-practice to tip your slicer at the counter. The large seating area is welcoming and the walls are adorned with photos of all the celebs that have visited the deli throughout the past century. Whether you get a crisp-skinned all-beef hot dog, brisket slathered in horseradish, or thick-cut pastrami on rye; it’s all good!
9 The Grill
Midtown East hot spot The Grill is definitely has a see-and-be-seen vibe so get your reservation in early. Owned by Major Food Group, this steakhouse is located inside the Seagram’s Building and features a historical, theatrical theme evoking the early mid-century New York chophouses. Chef Mario Carbone offers up an outstanding selection of expertly cut beef, pork, lamb, seafood, as well as some choice birds. For an appetizer try the pasta a la presse where the server comes to your table and dramatically squeezes juice out of duck bones using an antique press.
8 Spicy Village
Spicy Village is a small, intimate Chinatown restaurant owned and operated by Wendy Lian and her husband Ren Fu Li. They serve up some of the best noodles in the city. In fact, Spicy Village is almost always mentioned as either the best or second best Chinese food in NYC! They specialize in cuisine inspired by the food of the Henan Province, which is characterized by the use of hand-pulled noodles, pork, and spicy chicken. Try the big tray spicy chicken and be sure to ask for some extra noodles to eat with the generous supply of garlic chili sauce.
7 Sushi Nakazawa
Definitely one of the best sushi places in NYC, Sushi Nakazawa is the home base for chef Daisuke Nakazawa. You might remember him as the humble apprentice to the world’s foremost sushi chef, Jiro Ono, in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Now the student is the master and set up this West Village sushi bar, serving up twenty-course omakase meals. He serves up only the best and freshest of ingredients and always crafts a tasty menu that is innovative and surprising. Just be careful as Nakazawa is a prankster known to serve up a live squirming shrimp just to get a laugh!
6 Flaming Kitchen
Like Spicy Village, Chinatown’s Flaming Kitchen is consistently ranked at the top of any list of the best Chinese food restaurants in the city! They definitely stand out from the pack with great takes on classics like Sichuan pork dumplings in chili oil, or some spicy sautéed sliced lamb with cumin. Try Ma Po tofu with minced pork or go the fish route: fresh fish, flaky and doused in pools of spicy chili sauce or ginger and scallions. The flavors are exquisite!
5 Le Coucou
Taking a cue from traditional French restaurants, restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Daniel Rose setup Le Coucou and it quickly became one of the most exciting eateries in New York. Located in Little Italy, Le Coucou’s dining room is stately and stylish and offers all the obvious culinary delicacies, but taken to the next level. The menu features lobster, foie gras, oysters, and caviar, but also a great halibut beurre blanc. When you walk in, hints of butter, onions and seared beef fill your nose. Bring your appetite!
4 Di Fara Pizza
Dom DeMarco opened Di Fara Pizza in 1964, in Brooklyn, and you can still find him toiling away behind the counter to this day. He makes almost every single pizza himself, which means it might take a little longer. However, you can be sure it’s going to be the same extraordinary, old-fashioned pie that Di Fara has been serving since day one. Topping many lists as the best in the city, a Di Fara pizza has a slightly crunchy crust and a simple sauce, made with San Marzano tomatoes. The cheese is a heavenly blend of Grand Padano, mozzarella, and Parmesan, with a touch of basil and olive oil. This is a slice you'll never forget!
3 Peter Luger Steak House
Founded in 1887, back when Williamsburg was its own little city, Peter Luger is claimed by many to be the best steakhouse in New York, if not the country! That might be hyperbole, but there is no exaggeration with the statement that these steaks are extraordinary, especially their signature dry-aged prime porterhouse for two. It comes out of the kitchen perfectly cooked to order, sliced, and will set you back about $80. Too pricey? Stop in for lunch and grab an incredible Luger-burger and fries. You won’t be disappointed!
2 Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin offers French seafood at its finest! This Midtown West four-star restaurant has been a strong presence in New York City for decades. The Old World restaurants have largely been replaced, but Le Bernardin has not only remained, but has adapted and flourished in this new paradigm that the city is experiencing. Opened in 1986 by siblings Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze, this Parisian eatery is still a formal dining experience; white tablecloths and a jackets-required policy for the main dining room. However, Eric Ripert and his team of sauciers and pastry chefs will put you at ease with delicious seafood creations and desserts.
1 Del Posto
Del Posto could quite be the best Italian food in New York City! This Chelsea staple is consistently ranked four stars and has the price scale to match! Mario Batali’s upscale eatery is unfortunately now facing some difficulties, and the superstar chef is in the process of divesting himself from these establishments to avoid bringing any additional discredit upon these fine dining locales. That aside, Del Posto has remained the city’s top destination for sophisticated, chic Italian food.