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
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).
Venue says For over 100 years we have been serving the freshest oysters & seafood in NYC! Our Oyster Happy Hour features Bluepoint Oysters, $1.25/each
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The storied slice at Harry Rosen's 66-year-old Downtown Brooklyn mainstay has become synonymous with the New York–style cheesecake itself. Made with humble Philadelphia cream cheese and a sponge cake base, each round is lovingly mixed and baked by hand to this day.