Before Alice Waters, Larry Forgione, Peter Hoffman and other locavore pioneers stepped in, there were few restaurants in this country that explored our own indigenous American food culture. But the past few decades have been transformative, and these days some of the best New York restaurants are dedicated to surveying American food, retrofitting our native chow with locally grown ingredients and nods to the many international cultures that inform the way we eat. With that in mind, we’ve compiled our favorite American restaurants in New York City, from Andrew Carmellini’s prismatic ode to the melting pot, the Dutch, to Dan Kluger’s Greenmarket-glorifying ABC Kitchen.
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It’s hard to believe that a few short years ago, meathead chefs ruled the day, pushing gout-baiting, nose-to-tail feasts and plundering pork-belly reserves into short supply. In those go-go times of beast worship, the seasonal-vegetable gospel played more humming background note than rip-roaring solo. That is, until a worldwide foraging craze made field pickings cool again and signature vegetable dishes became the new reputation makers.Read more
The haute green cooking at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s artfully decorated restaurant is based on the most gorgeous ingredients from up and down the East Coast. The local, seasonal bounty finds its way into dishes like a clam pizza, topped with pristine littlenecks, Thai chilies, sweet onions, garlic, lemon and herbs. Larger plates include a roasted chicken bathed in a vinegary glaze with wilted escarole and butter-sopped potato puree. Desserts, meanwhile, include a dazzling brown-butter tart with toasted hazelnuts and chocolate ganache. ABC delivers one message overall: Food that’s good for the planet needn’t be any less opulent, flavorful or stunning to look at.Read more
More than a mere crusader for sustainability, Dan Barber is also one of the most talented cooks in town. He builds his oft-changing menu around whatever’s at its peak on his Westchester farm (home to a sibling restaurant). During fresh pea season bright green infuses every inch of the menu, from a velvety spring pea soup to sous-vide duck breast as soft as sushi fanned over a slivered bed of sugar snap peas. Start to finish, there’s a garden on every plate—from buttery ravioli filled with tangy greens to just-picked cherries under a sweet cobbler crust. Once among the most sedate little restaurants in the Village, this cramped subterranean jewel box has become one of the most raucous.Read more
David Waltuck has never been one to shirk decadence—at his late, great Chanterelle, a 30-year-old Tribeca trailblazer that deftly married fine-dining finesse with mom-and-pop familiarity until it shuttered in 2009, zucchini blossoms came gorged with black truffles, and sausages famously burst with lobster beneath their casings. And this follow-up is just as unabashedly awash in duck fat but heaps more playful: guacamole swirled with ocean-brine uni ($16); potato pot stickers—hitting the sweet spot between pan-fried crisp and dumpling chew—stuffed with delicate summer truffles ($17); and tender General Tso’s–style sweetbreads, boosted from the takeout container with a ginger-carrot mirepoix and a pep of fresh chilies ($29).
From the moment it opened, Andrew Carmellini’s rollicking Soho eatery seemed destined to join the ranks of neighborhood classics like Balthazar and Blue Ribbon. The virtuoso chef offers diners an exuberant gastro-tour of the American melting pot, making stops in the barrio (supple and spicy tripe with avocado, diced radish and Fritos), New England (gorgeous picked crab in horseradish-infused tomato water) and even the Mexican border (a genuine 30-ingredient red mole). That all of it tastes good—and, somehow, works well together—explains why reservations are hard to come by. Wait it out over a newfangled riff on a classic cocktail and exceptional bar snacks, including fat-fried oysters on house-made slider buns. And save room for fine updates on classic desserts, such as a creamy lime-custard pie tricked out with a spritz of Maldon salt and passion-fruit syrup.Read more
Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman (Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery) expands his West Village mini-empire with this clubby French-Canadian knockout, the most chef-focused of any of his ventures. Au Pied de Cochon vet Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly produces some of the most exciting toe-to-tongue cooking in town, plying epicurean hipsters with Quebecois party food that’s eccentric, excessive and fun. Feast on crispy octopus with brown-buttered sweetbreads—an inspired take on surf and turf—and a monster double-thick pork chop for two, or grab a stool at the bar for a killer steak sandwich and an old-fashioned, polished up with pecan bitters.Read more
Before there was a destination restaurant on every Williamsburg corner, there was Marlow and Sons—a pioneer in the kind of rustic aesthetic and farm-to-table fare that’s become the knee-jerk norm in Kings County. The restaurant, opened in 2004, wears its relative age well, functioning as an alluring neighborhood coffee shop during the afternoon and a subtly ambitious eatery come nightfall. In the back room, an oyster shucker cracks open the catch of the day, while a bartender churns out potent drinks. Settle in and order a round of iced bivalves and something to share—brick-flattened chicken, say, or a pot of liver pate—from the aggressively seasonal (and frequently changing) menu.Read more
Keith McNally’s lovingly restored Minetta Tavern may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial New York. The place is as buzzy now as it must have been in its 1950s heyday, yet the food is as much of a draw as the scene. To start, there are roasted bones oozing sea-salt-kissed marrow and calamari stuffed with creamy brandade. Excellent meaty mains include a blackened veal chop surrounded by crisp sweetbread nuggets. Minetta’s prices are reasonable, with the notable exception of a $26 Black Label burger. But the sandwich—as tender and fatty as foie gras—is worth every penny.Read more
Danny Meyer’s groundbreaking bistro has been serving many of the same signature dishes for 23 years. But chef Carmen Quagliata’s updated bill of fare offers some new classics. A seared tuna loin entrée is topped with basil pesto and fanned over chickpea puree. His pastas include pork-and-rabbit-filled ravioli drenched in butter, with a sprinkle of sweet corn. Like the rest of the meal, desserts straddle menus past and present. Somehow, the perennial “USC” sweet—a salty caramel-crusted banana tart—still feels fresh.Read more
This bright, charming restaurant has a way with the locals, and the menu—from Stanton Social chef Ryan Angulo—emphasizes its hometown flavor. New York State dominates the taps and the wine list; and a first-rate starter layers vibrant local delicata squash with tart house-made ricotta. Comfort-food entrées—like duck meat loaf, packed with caramelized onions and raisins—also hit close to home. Try the pecan pie sundae for dessert: Nutty, brown-sugary pie is pressed into a tulip cup and layered with butter-pecan ice cream—made nearby, of course.Read more