Narrowing down the 100 best restaurants in New York City is no easy feat, given the sheer number of top-rate eateries NYC has to offer, from long-time favorites to the buzzy upstarts joining the fray week in and week out. But we put in the grunt work, detailing the city’s best Italian restaurants, best sushi, best Mexican spots and more. Here’s the best of the best: The 100 best restaurants that Time Out New York’s food editor—and New York itself—can’t live without.
100 best restaurants in NYC
Swiss chef Daniel Humm mans the kitchen at this vast Art Deco jewel, which began life as a brasserie before evolving into one of the city’s most rarefied and progressive eateries. The service is famously mannered, and the room among the city’s most grand. But the heady, epic tasting menus are the true heart of Eleven Madison Park, a format that spotlights Humm’s auteur instincts. Tableside flourishes are part of the fun: Look out for even more dazzling showmanship—including one dish presented by way of a sleight-of-hand trick.
New York dining mores have experienced a seismic paradigm shift in the past decade, toppling Old World restaurant titans and making conquering heroes of chefs that champion accessible food served in casual environments. But Le Bernardin—the city’s original temple of haute French seafood—survived the shake-up unscathed. Siblings Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze brought their Parisian eatery to Gotham in 1986, and the restaurant has maintained its reputation in the decades since. Le Bernardin is still a formal place, with white tablecloths, decorous service and a jackets-required policy in the main dining room. But a recent overhaul modernized the room with leather banquettes and a 24-foot mural of a tempestuous sea by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner.
Expectations are high at Per Se—and that goes both ways. You are expected to come when they’ll have you—you might be put on standby for four nights, only to win a 10pm Tuesday spot—and fork over $150 a head if you cancel. You’re expected to wear the right clothes, pay a non-negotiable service charge and pretend you aren’t eating in a shopping mall. The restaurant, in turn, is expected to deliver one hell of a tasting menu for $325 (service included). And it does. Dish after dish is flawless and delicious, beginning with Thomas Keller’s signature salmon tartare cone and luxe oysters-and-caviar starter. In the end, it’s all worth every penny (as long as someone else is paying).
Unlike so many of its vaunted peers, Jean Georges has not become a shadow of itself: The top-rated food is still breathtaking. A velvety foie gras terrine with spiced fig jam is coated in a thin brûlée shell; a more ascetic dish of green asparagus with rich morels showcases the vegetables’ essence. Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini’s dessert quartets include “late harvest”—a plum sorbet, verbena-poached pear and a palate cleanser of melon soup with “vanilla noodles.”
A vibrant redesign by Adam Tihany has brought Daniel Boulud’s classically opulent restaurant into the 21st century. The food is as fresh as the decor: A raw starter of wasabi-kissed hamachi tartare is paired with hamachi sashimi marinated in a subtle tandoori rub. Unusually generous entrees include astonishingly tender halibut, roasted on a slab of Himalayan sea salt and served with Thai basil, hearts of palm and a mellow yogurt-curry sauce. Sure, Daniel is still a big-ticket commitment, but Boulud and his team make a powerful case for keeping the high-end genre alive.
Bouley exists in its own fantastical bubble: a place where the Dow still surges and expense-account spending never dried up. The original Bouley, once one of the city's great haute cuisine destinations, has over the years becomet increasingly marginal—David Bouley/s dated devotion to an opulent late-'80s aesthetic is as unwavering today as it was when the restaurant first opened 22 years ago. The aromatic apples that greeted diners as they walked through the door are still at the entrance—but now there are more of them, a whole wall on wooden shelves. The vaulted ceilings have also returned—constructed from scratch and given an over-the-top coat of golden paint.
From behind a minimalist ebony counter, rock-star chefs Jimmy Lau and a beanie-capped Nick Kim—longtime disciples of sushi demigod Masa Takayama—brazenly served peanut-butter ice cream and uni-rich risotto alongside their gleaming, à la carte tiles of nigiri at Neta. That populist streak softly colors this 20-seat follow-up—the beanie remains, as does the thumping “99 Problems”—but where a pricey omakase was an option at Neta, here it’s mandatory. A cool $135 prompts a parade of exceptionally made edomaezushi served in its purest form, each lightly lacquered with soy and nestled atop a slip of warm, loosely packed rice.
Gramercy is the restaurant that transformed Danny Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur to a full-blown impresario, made Tom Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual yet upscale American eateries. It’s delicate constructions of vegetables and fish that dominate now. The influence of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant given to ingredients-worship, is evident as soon as the first course (of the main dining room’s mandated three-course prix fixe) is rolled out.
Although a slew of Luger copycats have prospered in the last several years, none have captured the elusive charm of this stucco walled, beer-hall–style eatery, with well-worn wooden floors and tables, and waiters in waistcoats and bow ties. Excess is the thing, be it the reasonably health-conscious tomato salad (thick slices of tomato and onion with an odd addition of steak sauce), the famous porterhouse for two, 44 ounces of sliced prime beef, or the decent apple strudel, which comes with a bowl full of schlag. Go for it all—it’s a singular New York experience that’s worth having.
Chef-owner Alfred Portale made his name with towering New American constructions, and though the menu doesn’t push any boundaries, the execution is impressive—as is the restaurant’s soaring masculine space. A beet and mango salad with fennel, red onions and feta sounds like any other upscale beet salad. But the beautifully simple dish—deep red and vibrant orange cubes with ribbons of shaved vegetables on a narrow rectangular plate—has a presentation as sharp as its crystalline flavors. Juicy fried soft-shell crabs with morels, fresh peas, ramps and couscous is a thoroughly satisfying, borderline architectural tangle of bodies and legs. It’s pricey, but Gotham delivers.
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Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar
There’s not much better than sipping wine while nibbling on a quality bar of chocolate, and Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar has based their business off this perfect pairing. Try something off the restaurant’s extensive wine list, or choose from its wide selection of chocolate martinis, ranging from raspberry with chambord and kahlua, to almond with frangelico and a hazelnut truffle, to peppermint with creme de menthe (each $15). For dessert, Ayza not only offers cacao-themed desserts like chocolate pizza ($9) and fondue ($11), but also gourmet chocolate bars from the likes of Jacques Torres ($2.50) and Cioccolada($3). It’s not all sweets, either—diners can also choose from assorted cheese plates, charcuterie boards and tapas, or order off the full dinner menu. If you want it all—wine, cheese plates, tapas and chocolates—check out the group dining option, where $60 gives you access to a two-hour open bar and plenty of small plates.
Venue says: “Ayza hosts private events such as an intimate somm-guided wine tasting and food pairings to 150-person parties with and all inclusive menu.”