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The best Chelsea restaurants

Find standout seafood, bold Portuguese fare and one of the city’s most acclaimed roasted birds at the best Chelsea restaurants

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Thai feast at John Dory Oyster Bar

Chelsea’s dining scene has something for every craving, including Basque-inspired tapas restaurants, serious BBQ joints, four-star Italian dining rooms and laid-back diners and luncheonettes. The ’hood has gotten a boost thanks to megawatt kitchen talent like Michelin-starred chefs April Bloomfield and Daniel Humm. From cheap-eats spots to beloved brunch places, here are the best Chelsea restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chelsea, New York

Best Chelsea restaurants

Alta Linea

Gabe Thompson and Joe Campanale aren't straying far from their neighborhood-trattoria conceit (dell'anima, L'Apicio) for this seasonal High Line Hotel project, situated in the hotel's tree-lined front courtyard and garden. Pulling inspiration from Italy's aperitivo tradition, the alfresco restaurant turns out light bites including antipasti (fritto misto, grilled focaccia with salumi), pickled-mushroom bruschetta with lemon gremolata, and a summer tomato salad tossed in a fennel-lemon dressing and sprinkled with pecorino and Calabrian chili flecks. Campanale oversees the beverage program, complementing the breezy fare with a selection of Negronis (frozen and otherwise) and summery spritzes like the Punto (Cocchi Americano, Punt e Mes, sparkling wine, grapefruit) and a classic Aperol-and-Campari sipper.

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Chelsea

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

The third project from restaurant savant Ken Friedman and Anglo chef April Bloomfield offers the most opulently fatty food in New York—served in medieval portions in a raucous rock & roll setting. Groaning boards of house-made terrines feature thick slices made from guinea hen, rabbit and pork (including exceptional headcheese). Here, as at the Spotted Pig, the burger is the most frugal main course—which only partly explains its popularity. A puck of lamb, gorgeously charred and deftly spiced, is a delectable handful, layered with feta and red onions inside a pliant sourdough bun.

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Midtown

Co.

This unassuming pizzeria marks the restaurant debut of cult baker Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery). Co. lives and dies by its famous no-knead pizza dough, which produces a firm, chewy crust blistered in a searing 900-degree oven. Although the classics are on offer, you’d do well to explore the more creative pies: The Flambé is topped with mellow onions, Gruyère, béchamel and chewy lardons, and the Popeye features three cheeses under a blitz of fresh spinach. The rest of the menu is so low-key, it’s as if the chef were afraid to risk upstaging the pizzas. Stick to a pie and a beer or a well-priced glass of wine.

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Chelsea

Cull & Pistol

The Lobster Place crew launches an adjacent oyster bar and restaurant in its expanded Chelsea Market digs. Along with 10 varieties of oysters, clams and seasonal shellfish at the raw bar, chef Dave Seigal (Jean-Georges, Mercat) reels in a seafood-focused menu. On offer: grilled hamachi collar, fideos negros (squid ink–stained pasta) and, of course, a classic lobster roll—the restaurant's namesake being lobsters that have lost one claw (culls) and those that have lost both (pistols). Reclaimed-teak tables and industrial brushed-steel chairs are available for sit-down dining—or sidle up to the zinc-topped bar for briny bivalves and a glass of wine.

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Chelsea

Del Posto

With four-star ambitions and prices to match, Mario Batali’s Del Posto set the bar awfully high when it opened in 2005, but the cavernous restaurant has become nothing less than the city’s top destination for refined upscale Italian cuisine. The clubby dining room, serenaded nightly by a twinkling grand piano, feels like the lobby of an opulent grand hotel. The kitchen, under the stewardship of longtime Batali protégé Mark Ladner, challenges its French competition in butter consumption. The most show-stopping dishes, intended for sharing, include hunks of lamb and veal and lobster pansoti. The all-Italian wine list is suitably encyclopedic and exorbitantly priced.

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Chelsea

Empire Diner

At the revamped Empire Diner, ridiculously fluffy buttermilk pancakes give tattered Jersey joints a run for their money. The crisp-edged clouds reduce galleryhopping sophisticates to shameless jockeying for the last bite at the crowded counter. Those all-day-breakfast beauties come courtesy of Food Network toque and Jersey native Amanda Freitag, who has taken over the beloved old Empire, polishing one of New York’s most iconic greasy spoons into a sceney, fan-baiting dining room. Lined with padded booths and marked by tiled floors and glossy chrome, the shimmering steel warhorse looks the part, but this ain’t a mom-and-pop truck stop. Instead of chain-smoking waitresses who call you “sweetie” or “hon,” there are suave, fresh-faced servers offering pickled jalapeño martinis and buffalo skate wings.

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Chelsea

Hill Country

The guys behind Hill Country are about as Texan as Bloomberg in a Stetson, but the ’cue deserves Lone Star cred all the same. Don't miss sausage imported from Kreuz market in Lockhart, Texas; slow-smoked slabs of tips-on spareribs; and two brisket options—lean and “moist” (read: fatty). Desserts, like jelly-filled cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, suggest some kind of Leave It to Beaver fantasy, though June Cleaver probably wouldn’t approve of the two dozen tequilas and bourbons offered.

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Midtown

The John Dory Oyster Bar

April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s original Meatpacking District John Dory was an ambitious, pricey endeavor, but its reincarnation in the Ace Hotel is an understated knockout. Tall stools face a raw bar stocked with a rotating mix of East and West Coast oysters, all expertly handled and impeccably sourced. True to form, the rest of Bloomfield’s tapas-style seafood dishes are intensely flavored. Chilled lobster tastes larger than life, its sweet flesh slicked in an herbaceous tomalley vinaigrette. Meanwhile, warm dishes include oyster pan roast with uni-butter crostini and plump squid stuffed with boisterous chorizo.

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Midtown

Lupulo

This dressed-down follow-up to Michelin-starred Iberian stunner Aldea is George Mendes’s cavernous ode to his ancestral cuisine and the beer-tavern cervejarias of Lisbon (lupulo means “hops” in Portuguese). Mendes serves a paella-like pot of octopus rice christened with gorgeously tender nubs of mollusk lustily adorned with olive, coriander and lime. Grilled asparagus spears punctuated with dried sea urchin and walnuts are as sparely sophisticated as anything you’d find at Aldea.

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Chelsea

The NoMad

With its rich mahogany bar and dining rooms shrouded in red velvet curtains, the NoMad (the sophomore effort from chef Daniel Humm and front-of-house partner Will Guidara, who’ve been in cahoots at Eleven Madison Park since 2006) is our first truly opulent throwback. The luxurious setting, flawless service and preponderance of foie gras and truffles call to mind an haute cuisine titan like Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Daniel Boulud. Their slightly more accessible follow-up features plush armchairs around well-spaced tables and a stylish return to three-course dining.

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Midtown

Txikito

Chef Alexandra Raij celebrates the cuisine of Spain’s Basque region at this spartan tapas spot. Though it lacks the bustle of Raij’s previous projects (Tia Pol, El Quinto Pino), her sprawling menu still features some solid Iberian fare. Adventurous eats include breaded-and-fried tongue cutlets; squid cut into wispy strands with sweet onions and garlic; and fries with cod-roe mayonnaise. In the end, though, expediency—most nights a small party can get in with little wait—may be the best reason for choosing Txikito over its often-packed forebears.

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Chelsea

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