The Ultimate Food Lover’s Guide to New York City

If you love to eat, New York City is your town.

From fine dining (complete with tasting menus that cost about as much as my mortgage) to ethnic cuisine and eat-on-the-run goodies, this city not only has it all, but has some of the best versions. Here’s just a handful of the great food options this city has to offer.
 

Legendary Restaurants

Balthazar SoHo

The city has dozens (or hundreds) of iconic restaurants. I’ve lived here for nearly 25 years and still haven’t been to all! There’s Minetta Tavern, where you can sink your teeth into quite possibly the best burger on earth. Try Peter Luger for an old school steakhouse vibe. Crave lunch with a side of celebrity sighting? Might I recommend SoHo’s Balthazar? And to dine amongst the one percent, try Café Boulud. Oh, and what about the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station? It harkens back to a time where two martini lunches were the norm. Why not go at noon and embrace your inner Don Draper?

Foodie Destinations

Lemon ricotta pancakes, The Breslin

For serious foodie cuisine, there’s no shortage of options. In fact, the city gets its own category in the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, regarded as the Oscars of the food world. If I were to design a gut-busting day for food lovers, it would start with breakfast at the Breslin—the fabulous April Bloomfield eatery at the Ace Hotel. Lemon ricotta pancakes served with fresh berries? Count me in!

Momofuku Signature Ramen

Lunch might be at Momofuku Noodle Bar, the famous David Chang restaurant, where you can slurp down the most gourmet ramen bowls. Next, I’d take a stroll through Eataly, the gargantuan Italian market from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Belly up to a standing table and order little bites of Italian meats, cheeses and apps, all washed down with a fabulous glass of wine.

NYC - LES: Mission Chinese Food New York - Chongqing Chicken Wings

Where to do dinner… hmmm. Maybe a stop at Barbuto for Jonathan Waxman’s famed roast chicken? Or maybe an epic family-style dinner at Mission Chinese? Danny Bowien’s take on Chinese is a far—and fun—cry from the strip mall Chinese food of your childhood. His thrice cooked bacon and broccoli beef brisket helped put him on the map. However, his new dish called Beggar’s Duck keeps people coming back. Intended for group dining, this whole roast duck goes for $100 a pop. I hear it’s worth every cent.

Delis, Delis and More Delis

Mile End Delicatessen

If you want to keep it less fancy-dancy but equally delicious, there’s lots to choose from. You can’t visit the Big Apple without checking out a Jewish deli. Enjoy a towering pastrami sandwich at Katz’s. It’s one of those dining experiences you just can’t get outside of New York. For lox served on a perfect bagel, check out Barney Greengrass or Russ and Daughters. Both are over a century old and do phenomenal smoked fish.

Lastly, there’s Mile End in Brookyln. Open since 2010, these guys are relative newbies in the Jewish deli scene, but they’ve built a cult following. They specialize in Montreal-style smoked meat, which is basically what they call pastrami north of the border. Pickles, bagels, lox, chopped liver, latkes… it’s all good.

Pizza Pizza

Outside John's of Bleeker Street

Other things to add to your NYC foodie checklist? Pizza. For a classic pizzeria, try John’s of Bleeker Street. Open since 1929, the place has been well-loved and it shows in all the right ways: Names carved into the wooden booths, faded murals on the wall, and black and white tiled floors with nearly a century of wear.

Roberta's Bushwick

More modern pizza lovers can join the cult following of Roberta’s. With cinderblock and shipping containers making up its walls, this Brooklyn pizza place is the quintessential Bushwick hipster joint. The food lives up to the hype. Order super seasonal pies fired in a wood burning oven, as well as inventive veggie sides, salads and whatever else the kitchen staff feels like making.
 

Authentic Chinese

Xi'an Famous Foods

You might think Manhattan’s Chinatown is the best spot for Chinese food. You’re sure to find lots of spots to get your dim sum on, but the Flushing, Queens neighborhood is one of the best spots for Chinese in the USA. Be sure to visit the Golden Shopping Mall– it’s an unassuming, slightly grubby building boasting two floors of incredible, authentic food. The sheer number of options may overwhelm you. You can’t go wrong with Xi’an Famous Foods (try the spicy cumin lamb hand-riped noodles) or Tianjin Dumpling House. Everything is fairly inexpensive and fabulous.
 

Sugar Highs

Salty pimp, Big Gay Ice Cream Store

I’m a fool for sweets, and there’s lots of places to indulge. The most beloved dessert in all of New York might be Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding, made with vanilla wafers. Cookie lovers will adore the compost cookies at Milk Bar. They’re a mix of pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, graham cracker, butterscotch and chocolate chips, the perfect salty-sweet combo. Soft-serve fans will adore the cones at the always fun Big Gay Ice Cream. The Bea Arthur, named after everyone’s favorite Golden Girl, is vanilla soft serve with dulce de leche, covered with ‘Nilla Wafers; the Salty Pimp boasts dulce de leche and sea salt, dipped in chocolate. Go with a friend and get one of each.
 

If you only have time for one thing…

'24 Hour Hot Dog Stand', Uptown, New York City

I get it—sometimes you’re only here for a quick stopover. If you only a moment, a hot dog eaten on the go is about as New York as it gets. Dress yours up however you like and chow down as you purposefully walk to your next destination. No lollygaggin… this is New York!

 

What would be on your ultimate food lover’s guide to New York City? Share in the comments!

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When it comes to food, there may not be a better city on earth than the Big Apple. But how to narrow it down? Here's Samantha Brown's (Travel Channel) food lover's guide to New York City.

Photos: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 /10

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