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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.