From Italian to Thai, to French or Spanish tapas and more, New York City is home to thousands of restaurants and endless delicious meals. That means that every day – even if your wallet may not love it – you could eat many different things, and still not get to half of the city’s restaurants.
New York is constantly evolving, and that includes new restaurants opening, menus changing, food trucks galore, and food trends popping up – after all, who could forget the Cronut? When it comes to foodie options in New York, the opportunities are endless. So, I turned to a few travel friends who live in – and around – the city to share about their go-to spots.
Here’s what they said when I asked about their most memorable meals around New York City:
LYNN AND JUSTIN FROM MAD HATTERS NYC
“Whether you’re looking for a Michelin-star restaurant or a street food experience, foodies have unlimited options in New York City. One of our favorite restaurants that serves consistently creative food is Upland. It combines California-inspired fare with a stunning space, and also boasts such famous diners as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
For unbeatable street food, our love for Halal Guys hasn’t waned over the years. Their platter of chicken and beef over rice is still one of the best values in New York City. But what separates them from their competitors is the signature white sauce. Get plenty of it, you won’t regret it!
For late-night cravings, you won’t do better than Veselka, a 24-hour Ukrainian joint in the East Village where you can fill your belly with delicious pierogies. (Though the stuffed cabbage shouldn’t be missed either.)
Another thing we can’t live without? Our bagels. We love the old-fashioned kettle-boiled kind from H&H Bagels with a simple schmear. But for a truly unique New York City experience, head over to the 100-year-old Russ & Daughters store on Houston Street. Grab a ticket and order a bagel-and-lox sandwich from their deli counter. It’s a rite of passage for any foodie.
Lynn and Justin are the writers and creators of Mad Hatters NYC. They blog about their adventures in New York City as well as their escapes from it. New York City is a year-round destination and they love featuring everything it has to offer, like art, seasonal activities, and of course, food. But every once in a while, their spirit of exploration takes them beyond the city limits, and they love sharing that, too. They hope to inspire more seeing, more doing and more eating through their exploits.”
ENA IBEH FROM MUSINGS AND ADVENTURES
“Petit Poulet on 33rd St. between 5th and 6th (closer to Broadway) is a classic French restaurant with the small tables and the very posh waiters. I believe mine was French. The food was ooh la la!”
I started with French onion soup and that was the best version I’d ever had! It went down very well in the bone chill weather. For entree, I had a Cornish hen and gratin, I believe, with some salad. For desert, it was some chocolate and raspberry heavenly concoction with a reduction of juices, berries and cream. I actually took a go bag of roasted Cornish hen home. It was mouth-watering, I tell you. They are so petite! It was my first time having them. 13/10 would return. Prices are $30 and under so very affordable.”
“I went to Coarse (on 13thand 8thavenue near Chelsea Market) for a birthday dinner for a friend and I wasn’t expecting anything special. Just good food and drink. We are led to a table, given a menu to peruse but recommended the Chef’s Special, consisting of about 4 fusion courses (large enough to share) with paired wines. We went with that. The first course and wines arrived and the waiter described the platters and the wines. I cannot remember the exact names of the platters but let’s just say that it takes a lot for me to be rendered speechless. The food was ah-ma-zing!!! The spices were measured EXACTLY and everything was in proportion. Scallions, shrimps, eggs, seafood, chicken…even the wines complemented the food perfectly.”
“I told the waiter that I didn’t like red wine because of its acidity and it gets me buzzed quickly. He said “no problemo” and returned with a special bottle. He even showed me how to eat and drink the wine to get the full flavor and it was just…amazing. I’d never done that before and couldn’t believe that was red wine that I hated. I think it was a California red and I’ve never had red wine like that since then. Sigh.”
“Long story short, Coarse blew me away! My friend and I still rave about it months later. It’s affordable but the Chef’s Course is pricier and was $78 per person when we went.”
Ena Ibeh works in NYC in energy efficiency and sustainability for a major corporation. Her interests are in social impact and economic development. At her core, she’s a hopeless romantic, a traveler filled with wanderlust, and a potential rat-race escapee.
ADITI SANGAL FROM SHIFTING CENTRES
“Being Indian, I am always on the lookout for the best Indian food around the city. Considering that there are a lot of cuisines in India, I haven’t yet found a place that has everything.
Nevertheless, my two favorite spots are Kailash Parbat (26th and Lex) and Thelewala (Macdougal Street). They hit straight home for me with their North Indian and street food offerings, respectively.
Thelewala is a hole in the wall kind of place with the best flavors of street food in India. It’s also memorable for me because I have taken several international friends there and watched them attempt to eat a puchka. While that is not the best thing on the menu, try their chicken tawa parantha or malai chicken roll. Actually, try anything as long as it’s not a puchka. The flavors will have you in the first bite. I am drooling as I write this.”
“Moving on, I swear by Kailash Parbat for the authentic Chhole Bhature, Papdi Chaat or Dahi Puri. It’s a good, not-so-fancy restaurant where you can sit and chat for hours as you attempt to get through the amazing food given in big portions. I find that many other places cater to the international taste buds that have very low spice tolerance but this place keeps it authentic while you won’t lose your tongue to any burns.”
Aditi from India, and now living in New York City. She blogs about the Indian expat experience in New York and all the cultural shocks that keep her busy and crazy enough to keep up with the city.
–Follow Aditi’s adventures on Twitter.
BRIAN FROM I MAY ROAM
“My most memorable NYC dining experiences have been in Brooklyn and Queens. The two that immediately come to mind are the two longest.”
“In Brooklyn, I waited more than two hours for pizza at DiFara. I remember trying to get there in the middle of the afternoon thinking that I’d avoid both the lunch and dinner rushes. No such luck. More than two hours after placing my order (one round slice at $5 and one square at $6), I finally got to eat my pizza standing up against a wall facing Avenue J in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. I will go back and order a whole square pie. I found the square to be much more flavorful than the round. It’s worth the extra money. Hopefully this year.”
“In Queens, I ate at Mombar, which is an authentic Egyptian restaurant in the unofficial Little Egypt section of Astoria. An Egyptian I met the year prior told me to go there if I want a real Egyptian dining experience. Like I often do, I looked up the menu online and it looked fairly simple. Don’t let that fool you. When I got there and heard the specials, I realized why they don’t advertise them. No part of the lamb goes to waste from the brain to the cheek to the testicles and in between. The most memorable part of my more than two-hour experience was watching the guys at the table next to me trying to eat testicles and brain in order to impress their dates.” “Like DiFara, Mombar has one cook and one server, so be prepared to wait. The bonus is that you get to watch your food being prepared.”
Brian is a New York City tour guide and food blogger who writes about eating pizza and exploring ethnic neighborhoods along the New York City subway lines. When he’s not exploring the flavors and markets of New York and his home state of Pennsylvania, he travels internationally. Since 2000, he has been to 49 countries as well as 49 of the 50 United States. You can read his work on Lonely Planet and Matador Network as well as on his own blog: imayroam.com, which he started back in 2015.
JESSIE FESTA FROM JESSIE ON A JOURNEY AND EPICURE & CULTURE
“I live in the Upper East Side — specifically Yorkville — which is home to some really delicious restaurants — many of which are some of the most inexpensive sit-down restaurants in Manhattan.
First of all, you can’t miss happy hour at The Milton, where $7 snacks include a flatbread selection, truffle chicken nuggets and deviled eggs alongside $5 drinks.
For dinner, 1742 Wine Bar offers two meals and a bottle of wine for $28.95 total (the gnocchi in vodka sauce is a must!). Their brunch is also a steal at $18.95 for one entree and two hours of unlimited drinks.
If you’d rather travel to South Africa than Italy, head to Kaia Wine for traditional dishes like bobotie (a mix of cape malay spiced beef over egg custard with yellow rice and raisins) and three cheese mac and cheese laced with South African jerky. For a deal, go during brunch when it’s $29 including unlimited brunch drinks.”
Jessica Festa is the editor of Jessie on a Journey as well as Epicure & Culture. She enjoys getting lost in new cities, traveling responsibly and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana.Jessica is also a social media influencer and certified NYC tour guide.
Already familiar with New York City? Share about the restaurants and cafes you love in the comments.
–Curated by Nicolette Orlemans is the founder of #CultureTrav Twitter chat, which brings travelers together on Thursdays to talk about their cultural travel experiences. As an extension of the chat, Nicolette launched culturewithtravel.com, an online community blog focused on sharing travelers’ stories of deeper immersion in local culture.