New Yorkers are lucky—in the ever-churning sea of buzzy newcomers, some of our most beloved old warhorses are happily still kicking around all these generations later. These classic haunts include steakhouses, New York delis and Italian joints serving the best New York pizza in town. Lovingly old school and classically New York, these are the most iconic, famous restaurants in NYC.
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Famous restaurants in NYC
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 for just $3.10. 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. Everything tastes better with a glass of the hoppy house lager; if you’re on the wagon, make it a Dr. Brown’s.
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 waist coats 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.
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.
The ceiling and walls are hung with pipes, some from such long-ago Keens regulars as Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt. Even in these nonsmoking days, you can catch a whiff of the restaurant’s 120-plus years of history. 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 (imagine a saddle of lamb but with more punch) and desserts such as key lime pie. Sirloin and porterhouse (for two or three) hold their own against any steak in the city.
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 from Danny Meyer to Donald Trump expressed interest in reviving the historic space. Imagine the surprise, then, when a pair of Philadelphia crepe-makers won the bid: Jim Caiola and David Salama, who revamp the landmark as an urban farmhouse decorated with wood-beam ceilings, leather-covered tables and multiple hearths.
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 legendary evenings of romance and magic at Dinner & Dancing, as well as the famously decadent Sunday Brunch. Brunch is open most Sundays from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged. Dinner & Dancing is hosted on special evenings. Reservations are accepted up to six weeks in advance. Jackets are required. Proper attire is requested.
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. It’s the best thing on the menu, and given delicious alternatives, like the purist Margherita pie, that’s saying something. Dinnerware is no-nonsense—Styrofoam plates and Dixie cups—as is its notoriously salty owner, Pero’s granddaughter Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri, whose formidability has kept this seashore haunt a pizza force to be reckoned with all these years.
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. Chef Marc Taxiera modernizes the menu, looking to former Soviet republics for inspiration. He makes the best borscht in the city, and goes more exotic with entrées like cocoa-dusted seared venison with truffle-scented tvorog (cheese) dumplings. But the pleasure doesn’t come cheap. Main courses run toward $40, and the portions are dainty. For die-hard fans: Chicken Kiev and beef Stroganoff can be prepared on request.
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.
If you thought getting a table at Per Se 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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Restaurateur Dimitri Vlahakis (Motorino) and chef Mike Franzetti (Chestnut) transport the latest culinary trends (farm-to-table ingredients, a wood-fired oven, reclaimed furnishings) to Bed-Stuy with this 60-seat canteen. To eat, find locavore American dishes, including roasted Catskills trout served alongside sunchokes, fennel, Yukon potatoes and a Creole-style tomato sauce. Drinkers can choose from biodynamic wines and seasonal cocktails—such as a Russian Spy (vodka, honey, lime juice, ginger beer, mint)—made with homegrown herbs.
Venue says: “Serving seasonal, flavorful American dishes with an emphasis on farm-to-table fare.”