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Grand Central Oyster Bar
Grand Central Oyster Bar

The most famous restaurants in NYC

From old-world steakhouses to iconic pizza joints, these are the most famous restaurants in NYC

Written by
Christina Izzo
&
Time Out contributors
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New York is home to some of the most lauded restaurants in the world. The best restaurants in NYC represent a rainbow of cuisines and approaches, with new restaurants popping up and generating buzz on a regular basis. We’re lucky like that: New Yorkers always have something new and exciting to try, but old favorites — the most famous restaurants in NYC — have stood the test of time, serving generations of fans.

NYC’s most famous restaurants are classics, spots that everyone — both locals and visitors — should try at least once. These restaurants include steakhouses, delis and pizza joints (the best pizza in the USA in fact), all of them classically New York. When dining at these institutions, you’ll find neighborhood regulars, families, ownership passed down through generations and of course amazing food.

These iconic restaurants may be nationally (and internationally) famous, but they’re still beloved right here at home. When you’re looking for a place to celebrate or a place where you’ll feel like you’re dining among family, these famous New York restaurants are the place to be.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Famous restaurants in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

This cavernous cafeteria is a repository of New York history—glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls, and the classic Jewish deli offerings are nonpareil. Start with a crisp-skinned, all-beef hot dog, then flag down a meat cutter and order a legendary sandwich. The brisket sings with horseradish, and the thick-cut pastrami stacked high between slices of rye is the stuff of dreams.

  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Williamsburg
  • price 4 of 4

Although a slew of Luger copycats have prospered in the last several years, none have captured the elusive charm of this beer-hall style eatery, with well-worn wooden floors and tables, and waiters in waist coats and bow ties. Excess is the thing, like the famous porterhouse for two, which is 44 ounces of sliced prime beef. Go for it all—it’s a singular New York experience that’s worth having.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

Gennario Lombardi opened his shop in Soho in 1905—the first pizzeria in the U.S. It’s hard to vouch for how the pizzas tasted a century ago, but there’s more elbow room now after a renovation, if not the charm of the old joint. Still, Lombardi’s continues to bake a hot contender for best pie.

  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

The ceiling and walls are hung with pipes, some from such long-ago regulars as Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt. Beveled-glass doors, two working fireplaces and a forest’s worth of dark wood suggest a time when “Diamond Jim” Brady piled his table with bushels of oysters, slabs of seared beef and troughs of ale. The menu still lists a three-inch-thick mutton chop, and sirloin and porterhouse (for two or three) hold their own against any steak in the city.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Central Park
  • price 2 of 4

For 75 years, the gilded dining room nestled inside Central Park was a New York hallmark, a scenic magnet for tourists, brides and megawatt diners (Grace Kelly, John Lennon) alike. When the razzle-dazzle cash cow went bankrupt and shuttered in 2010, big-name backers expressed interest in reviving the historic space. Instead, a pair of Philadelphia crepe-makers won the bid. The pair revamped the landmark as an urban farmhouse decorated with wood-beam ceilings, leather-covered tables and multiple hearths. 

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

The iconic Rainbow Room epitomizes quintessential New York glamour, rising 65 stories above the landmark Rockefeller Center to host unforgettable moments. Offering a modern twist on classic old-world charm, the Rainbow Room welcomes guests for Dinner & Dancing and Sunday brunch.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Coney Island
  • price 2 of 4

At Totonno’s—a Coney Island beacon since Anthony Pero opened its doors in 1924—the pizza de résistance is the top-notch white pie. Sand-dusted pizza lovers make the trek from the beach for the off-menu garlicky round: It’s covered in gleaming white house-made mozzarella and pecorino romano, leopard-spotted with crispy char marks.

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

This reborn socialite center has never looked—or tasted—better. Nostalgia buffs will be happy to hear that nothing’s happened to the gilded-bird friezes or the famously tacky crystal-bear aquarium. The food, thankfully, has not been frozen in time thanks to a modernized menu, looking to former Soviet republics for inspiration.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Financial District
  • price 4 of 4

Temporarily closed
Delmonico’s, which opened on William Street in 1831, was the country’s first fine-dining establishment. In the 178 years since the restaurant opened, it has been credited as the birthplace of not only the oft-imitated Delmonico steak but also lobster Newburg, eggs Benedict and baked Alaska, and was reportedly the first American restaurant to allow diners to order from an à la carte menu rather than table d'hôte.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • East Harlem
  • price 4 of 4

If you thought getting a table at Frenchette was tough, try getting into Rao’s, a Southern Italian dining room that's operated in East Harlem since 1896. To eat here, you’ll need a personal invite from one of the heavy hitters who “owns” a table. CEOs, actors, politicians, news personalities and neighborhood old-timers have a long-standing arrangement with legendary owner Frankie “No” Pellegrino, and that's what ensures a seat at one of the ten tables. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Midtown East
  • price 2 of 4

Temporarily closed
The legendary 103-year-old Grand Central Oyster Bar has been located inside the epic and gorgeous hub that shares its name since the terminal itself opened. Surly countermen at the mile-long bar (the best seat in the house) are part of the charm, delivering pan roasts and chowders beneath that iconic vaulted ceiling. Order classicaly, with a reliably awe-inspiring platter of iced, just-shucked oysters (there can be a whopping three-dozen varieties to choose from at any given time). 

  • Restaurants
  • Hot dogs
  • Coney Island
  • price 1 of 4

The famous frank joint’s reopening in the spring of 2013 wasn’t just the unofficial start to summer—it was the comeback of the year. The original subway tiles and iconic signage are back, as are menu staples like crinkle-cut fries and thick-battered corn dogs.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Greenwich Village

Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern, a 1920s West Village relic reborn, may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial recession New York. The lovingly restored dining room is as nostalgic as the '21’ Club’s—and getting in the door as difficult as penetrating Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn. But Minetta’s prices are reasonable, and the food is as much of a draw as the scene.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Tribeca
  • price 2 of 4

The Odeon has been part of the downtown scene for so long that it’s hard to remember Tribeca without it. Diners can’t go wrong with its tried-and-true standards: French onion soup blanketed with bubbling Gruyère, crunchy fried calamari made to be dipped in tartar or spicy chipotle sauce, and steak au poivre with fries. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Williamsburg
  • price 2 of 4

You go to a fancy red-sauce purlieu like Bamonte’s for old-school strengths, not creativity: Here the chandeliers are spectacular, the waiters longstanding professionals. Start with superb clams casino, and move into entrées that include seafood Fra Diavolo, lamb and veal chops and shell steak from the grill.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

Temporarily closed
To dine at the 21 Club is to be a consumer of history first and calories second. Before it became a Midtown mainstay of the rich and powerful, it originated as a humble Greenwich Village speakeasy known as the Red Head. But by 1929, the year when 21 opened at its current address, it had already built quite the reputation. For a meal in the famous Bar Room you’re encouraged to “follow in the footsteps” of legends like Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, Hemingway and Sinatra. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • West Village
  • price 1 of 4

The coal-fired brick oven at this reliably shabby old-timer—a West Village staple since 1929—turns out a standard-bearing Margherita pie, thin of crust and light of sauce, with gooey grated mozzarella clinging to every nook and cranny. With good-natured, Old World gruff, the servers will inform you that it’s only pies here, no slices—a great excuse to inhale an entire one all by yourself. 

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Midtown East
  • price 4 of 4

New York’s haute French dinosaurs have basically gone extinct over the past few years. La Grenouille, which opened in 1962, is the last survivor, a window to when stuffy waiters and chateaubriand were considered the highest form of dining. It doesn’t get much snootier: jackets are required, cell phones and kids forbidden, and the electric red décor, full of mirrors and flowers and deco details, has the feel of a Mad Men power lunch.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Midtown East
  • price 1 of 4

The celebrated saloon is long in the tooth (120 years old), but a recent face-lift (augmented menu, nightly specials) revitalized the old boy. The bar up front attracts the after-work pinstriped crowd, while the dining room pulls in a slightly older, blazer-wearing set. The hamburger is still honest and juicy; go ahead, customize it with cheese, bacon, chili or béarnaise sauce. Cobb salad, with bright greens and lots of blue cheese, is a meal in itself.

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