Best Manhattan restaurants
Daniela Soto-Innes and Enrique Olvera have introduced New Yorkers to a much more nuanced understanding of Mexican food, in a way that is elevated and experimental while still remaining approachable, in their hip-yet-casual environment on Lafayette Street.
The front door of this fine-dining Korean restaurant from the husband-and-wife team behind Atoboy is hidden in the foyer of a walk-up apartment building on the edge of Nomad. Past the bar, a flight of stairs brings you to the basement, where you can enjoy snacks on couches in the stone-floor lounge before taking a seat at one of the 14 chairs at the black-granite counter overlooking the kitchen.
Enrique Olvera is the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpetbagging comrades. The response was the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened.
In the #trending millennial slang lexicon, basic is not a compliment—it’s a dig to the banal, extra-regular-ness of everything from fur-lined Ugg boots to pumpkin-spice lattes. Basic cooking is no exception, redolent with whiffs of home kitchens and hands-on Sauté 101 classes. But the soulful Italian plates served at Via Carota, the first joint effort from chef power couple Jody Williams and Rita Sodi—at once rustic, sophisticated and heart-swelling—proves simple food can be anything but basic.
In a white-tiled slip of an East Village eatery, former James Beard Award-winning Del Posto pastry great and erstwhile punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley gives his uberpopular veggie burger pop-up the brick-and-mortar treatment, offering the namesake patty, tofu-cabbage wraps, vegetarian sloppy joes and vanilla-labna gelato.
Crown Shy is the first collaboration between James Kent, longtime Chef de Cuisine at Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park and Executive Chef at NoMad, alongside Jeff Katz, Managing Partner of Del Posto. The restaurant is located inside the highly sought-after Art Deco residential building, 70 Pine Street.
You’ve got to make it through the reservations ringer to gain access to chef David Chang’s slim tasting menu. The ever-evolving 12 to 15 courses feature dishes like raw fluke in a coating of tangy, mellow buttermilk, poppy seeds and house-made chili sauce or a frozen foie-gras torchon, shaved over lychee puree and pine-nut brittle. It’s all brilliantly executed and further proof that Chang is the kind of pioneer the city needs right now.
Thai restaurant Uncle Boons is part of a riptide of upstarts repackaging homey Asian food—once relegated to holes-in-the-wall or fusty midtown warhorses—in buzzy, forward-thinking joints. So at this dark-wood-paneled rathskeller, you’ll find tap wine and beer slushes, vintage Thai flatware carved from teak and brass, and perhaps major foodies plowing through noodles in the back dining room.
The spot sports a fashionably cookie-cutter decor—exposed brick, globe lights, hulking marble bar, you know the drill—but the true draw to the space is the talented Ignacio Mattos, the imaginative Uruguayan-born chef cooking in this Mediterranean-tinged spot.
Canal Street is known for many things, like bustling fish markets and pushy vendors peddling counterfeit handbags. Now it can add food-hall destination to its résumé: the clear standout vendor is Joe's Steam Rice Roll, the first New York expansion of the Queens favorite.
They call it second-child syndrome: a loosening of the reins, a slight dimming of the overeagerness that comes with adding a sibling to that precious firstborn. Such is the case of Wildair, the 45-seat sister restaurant to chef Jeremiah Stone and pastry chef Fabian von Hauske’s avant-garde tasting-menu den, Contra, two doors down. Wildair is more low-pressure, set with sardine-packed bar tables, a fuzzy midaughts soundtrack and neighborhood affability. And though Wildair’s snacky, à la carte menu has less sharp-edged experimentation than Contra’s, there are low-key innovations at play here.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first meat-free venture looks like the inside of Gwyneth Paltrow’s brain: The spacious room is a Goop-y stretch of all-white furniture, with pops of color (courtesy of the artisanal ceramic plateware), millennial-pink wall panels and boho banquettes. Each menu arrives with a chart that details the health benefits of various vegetables. Oh, the food’s delicious, too.
A peek at this Tribeca brasserie’s reservation book will show that only a few tables are available for the next month, and they’re for 10pm or later. Add in a bustling bar with a rotating roster of high-profile patrons and you’ve got one of the hottest spots in town. If you are able to get a prime-time resy, an abundance of comforting French fare awaits, such as duck frites smothered in a bearnaise sauce or baked gnocchi showered with ham and cheese. Score a table—and your bragging rights.
Fueled by the ambition to make people crave vegetables, Amanda Cohen revived her beloved East Village eatery on the Lower East Side with a ramped-up tasting menu and a space three times the size of the 18-seat original. Emblazoned with a mural of greenery by graffiti artist Noah McDonough, the sprawling dining room is focused on the open kitchen at its heart—complete with a chef’s counter—and a full bar along one wall. Much like the plates of Cohen’s past, each dish is anchored by one vegetable, but her retooled offerings layer multiple ingredients.
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. Everything tastes better with a glass of the hoppy house lager; if you’re on the wagon, make it a Dr. Brown’s.
James Beard Award–winning Danny Bowien's relative conservatism is at play at the relaunched Mission Chinese, trading in beer kegs, paper dragons and a cramped, dive-punk Orchard Street basement for smart cocktails, banquet-hall booths and an ample dining room in the far reaches of Chinatown, a lively hodgepodge of bespectacled food disciples and beanie-clad millennials spinning lazy Susans loaded with pork cheeks and turnip cakes while golden-age hip-hop pumps through the room.
It’s 4am, and you have three dollars and the munchies. Take heart: Mamoun’s Falafel is there for you, day or night, serving quality Middle Eastern food since 1971.
At Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem bistro, global soul food takes center stage, artfully mixing Southern-fried, East African, Scandinavian and French flavors. At the former Aquavit chef, now culinary TV star's restaurant, haute cuisine flourishes.
The city’s best Indian food isn’t relegated to Curry Hill or Jackson Heights. Indian Accent’s elevated take on classics and creative take on lesser-known Indian dishes fills a much-needed gap in the fine-dining scene.
For New Yorkers, lining up at Russ & Daughters is a time-honored morning tradition. Pull a ticket, wait for your number to be called, then sidle up to the glass cases to gawk over the stunning sable and sturgeon. The routine hasn’t changed much since the smoked-fish emporium launched more than a century ago.
In addition to sumptuous antipasto, primi and secondi served in the back, you can pick up some hard-to-find pantry staples from their butcher counter or shelves filled with fancy olive oils and tinned fish.
Keith McNally’s lovingly restored Minetta Tavern may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial New York. The place is as buzzy now as ever, yet the food (like the exquisite Black Label burger) is as much of a draw as the happening scene.
Diners often compare eating great food to a religious experience, but at Kajitsu there's something literal in the restaurant's connection to the divine. The sparse, hushed interior suggests a reverence for nature that is also expressed in the food. For those accustomed to bold flavors, the preparations can at first seem understated to a fault. But with each jewel-like course, the meal emerges as an artful meditation on simplicity and seasonality.
David Chang has gone from East Village rebel to awards-circuit veteran. Noodle Bar is still original, fun and, at times, outstanding. Noodle Bar made its bones taking the economic savior of college students everywhere—ramen noodles—and making them hot, duding up most of the bowls with sexy yet earthy ingredients like poached eggs and pickled pear, the latter turning the pork broth of the beef brisket nguyen into a spicy fruit tea.
The lunch counter is tiny and cramped but it’s also one of our favorite places in the whole city. Here, you’re forced to talk to people from all walks of life: Your neighbor, the mailman and Michael Shannon (He’s randomly there a lot.) Real regulars know to look out for the heaping portions of complimentary challah bread. And yeah, we even have one of their signature bubblegum pink t-shirts which read 'Challah, por favor' in slime green bubble letters. It's one of the last remaining old New York spots in the neighborhood.
If location, location, location is key to a New York restaurant making it in a cutthroat market, Teranga is—at least metaphorically—in a perfect spot. Here, you’ll find West African–inspired dishes in a fast-casual café nestled inside the Africa Center, which is a cultural hub that’s “committed to an integrated approach for understanding all aspects of the African continent, including transforming narratives.” Look no further than chef Pierre Thiam’s food to tell the story.
Chinese hot pot, customarily stewed with thinly sliced meats, vegetables and stock, gets a brothless showcase with this East Village eatery from owner Ning Amelie Kang and chef Qilong Zhao. Named after the Chinese phenomenon of ma la (literally “numbing and spicy”), the restaurant’s starring dish is a variation on Chongqing-hailing dry pot, a stir-fry-like spread built with a choice of 52 add-ins.
The Italian-American supper clubs immortalized in mob movies and sepia-toned photos were never as dreamy as they seemed. The young guns behind Carbone, though, have moved beyond sentimentality in their homage to these restaurants by flipping the whole genre onto its head. The spot, rom tag-team chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, is a Godfather hangout on steroids, more fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback.
Nur is the forward-thinking pan–Middle Eastern restaurant in Gramercy from Israeli-Moroccan celebu-toque Meir Adoni (of Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Blue Sky and Lumina) and Breads Bakery founder Gadi Peleg. Adoni, one in a growing line of chefs who are retooling Israeli eating in New York, stretches beyond comfort dishes to pull influences from all over the Levant, from Jewish and Arab traditions to his own North African roots.
Nix is the first veg-only restaurant from John Fraser, who dipped his toe in the genre with Meatless Mondays at Michelin-starred Dovetail and his blogger-luring rotisserie beets at Narcissa. It’s named for the plaintiff in the 1983 Supreme Court decision that designated tomatoes as vegetables, not fruit.
Sylvia's, a soul food restaurant in Harlem, has been a neighborhood staple since 1962.
The ceiling and walls are hung with tobacco pipes, some from Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and other long-ago Keens regulars. Even in these nonsmoking days, you can catch a whiff of the restaurant’s 130 years of history with beveled-glass doors, two working fireplaces and a forest’s worth of dark wood. Other aspects have remained unchanged, too: The menu still lists a three-inch-thick mutton chop and classic desserts such as key lime pie.
Sitting 10 blocks south of K-Town proper, it’s deliberately billed as a “Korean steakhouse,” a distinction that’s felt in its swank decor and starters you’d more likely find at an all-American meat temple than at a bulgogi grill. Not only that, the joint earned a Michelin star within its first year of opening.
“Ibiza was totally banal,” notes the table behind you. “Cheers, girls!” toast the young ladies to your left, carefully clinking vintage coupes in hopes of capturing the perfect Boomerang. “This is actually my first time here,” confesses the woman across the aisle to her server. It’s Ruth Reichl. Of course it is. Welcome to the fabulous world of La Mercerie, a tidy all-day French restaurant and (be warned, as this is a thing now) immersive retail experience. An outgrowth of a husband-and-wife interior-design firm, the restaurant is located in the happy couple’s Roman and Williams Guild, a greed-inducing furniture and design store in Soho. Here’s the deal: everything on your table is for sale (there’s a little menu with pictures and prices attached to the wine list). That petal-shaped plate beneath your lovely, anchovy-laced niÇoise salad? It’s yours (for $58). The flowers perfuming the lush, light-drenched room? Sure. The shop’s near the door. The table itself? It can be at your doorstep before brunch is over. The entire place is a #blessed post waiting to happen, and for the fashionable set streaming in for coffee and pastries, lunch meetings or languid dinners, that’s reason enough to make an appearance. But thanks to acclaimed French chef Marie-Aude Rose, the food at La Mercerie is also a draw: not only uniformly Insta-worthy but pretty tasty, too. Like the silky smoked salmon with a warm, fluffy blini, crusty bread with salt-flecked buckwheat butter and impossibly creamy
After Stephen Starr alums, Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen opened their widely-popular Vietnamese comfort-food spot on St. Mark's Pl, they had a problem most business owners dream of: people wanted more. At Hanoi House there's no takeout and diners were eager for more Southeast Asian fare (like their pig ears salad) all-day. Now, at their newly-opened Hanoi Soup Shop, the counter-seated spot—inspired by Vietnamese coffee shops and open-air restaurants—caters to the on-the-go lunch crowd.
A Golden State glow radiates throughout Upland, a glossy tribute to chef Justin Smillie’s hometown nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. The big, buzzing room is damn near sunny on a drab stretch of Park Avenue South. That good-looking gleam extends to the copper shelves stocked with uplit wine bottles and jars of preserved Moroccan lemons, the lacquered ceilings and the illustrious diners sitting beneath them, suit jackets tossed behind their chairs as they tuck into pear-and-arugula pizza and crispy, yuzukosho-smacked duck wings.
Chef Dan Kluger ups the ante on the food we’ve grown to love at his previous post. The chef’s acclaimed layering techniques—finding harmony in a clang of sweet, sour and salty—are showcased in plates such as crispy Indian-spiced cauliflower bulbs brightened with a tart swipe of Meyer lemon jam or a seasonal grain salad with earthy-sweet root vegetables dressed in smoky chili aioli and a hit of lemon.
The Malaysian café is now bigger and (arguably) better with an all-day menu of affordable small plates and snacks, like fried seafood salad, stir-fried dick tongue and a coconut crepe in a new cutesy location down the block.
Tiny, well-lit Prune is still as popular as it was the day it opened. Gabrielle Hamilton’s French mother developed this fearless chef’s palate early on: Expect creative dishes like Manila clams with hominy and smoked paprika butter, and roasted suckling pig with pickled tomatoes, black-eyed-pea salad and chipotle mayo.
From the steaming rice-noodle bowls of the Yunnan province to the tear-jerking orders of spicy Szechuan dry pot, dining out in the East Village is a celebration of regional Chinese cuisine, and we’re here for it. Enter artist and Hunan native Chao Wang, who opened this slurp shop to bring a taste of his home to NYC.