From inspired iterations of world cuisine to quintessentially local nibbles, New York City’s dining scene is infinite, all-consuming and a proud testament to its kaleidoscope of citizens. Even if you're not an obsessive foodie hitting ethnic enclaves or the newest cult-chef openings, an outstanding meal is always only a block away.
To Market, to Market
Don’t let the concrete streets and buildings fool you – New York City has a thriving greens scene that comes in many shapes and sizes. At the top of your list should be the Chelsea Market, which is packed with gourmet goodies of all kinds – both shops (where you can assemble picnics) and food stands (where you can eat on-site). Many other food halls have opened in recent years, including Gansevoort Market in the Meatpacking District and a trio of food halls at Brookfield Place, in Lower Manhattan. Across the river, there's the brand-new DeKalb Market Hall in downtown Brooklyn, plus the small food hall of Berg’n out in Crown Heights.
Many neighborhoods in NYC have their own Greenmarket. One of the biggest is the Union Square Greenmarket, open four days a week throughout the year. Check Grow NYC (www.grownyc.org/greenmarket) for a list of the other 50-plus markets around the city.
Also popular are high-end market-cum-grocers like Eataly and Dean & DeLuca, where fresh produce and ready-made fare are given the five-star treatment. Whole Foods is another big draw, particularly its ecofriendly, locavore-focused Brooklyn outpost.
And, in market gossip, food-show host Anthony Bourdain still plans on opening a massive international market with more than 100 stalls, though the arrival date has been pushed back several times – and the location is yet to be confirmed.
Tours & Courses
There’s no better way to engage with the city’s infinite dining scene than to link up with a savvy local for a food tour or cooking class. Check out the following winners:
- Institute of Culinary Education America’s largest cooking school offers accessible, top-notch cooking courses, as well as foodie tours.
- Urban Oyster (www.urbanoyster.com) High-quality, themed foodie tours mostly in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
- Scott’s Pizza Tours Offbeat and always fun, Scott promises to unveil all of the secrets of the city’s pizza-pie scene.
- Nosh Walks Myra Alperson leads wide-ranging food tours focusing on NYC's rich ethnic cuisine.
- Pizza A Casa (www.pizzaacasa.com) Much-loved pie school on the Lower East Side specializing in rolling and decorating dough.
- Chopsticks & Marrow (www.chopsticksandmarrow.com) Fantastic Queens food blog by local Joe DiStefano, who also runs food tours.
- League of Kitchens Cooking classes taught by immigrant women in their own kitchens, in Brooklyn and Queens.
Locally sourced products, ecological sustainability and large doses of culinary creativity are all hallmarks of Brooklyn's celebrated dining scene. To learn more about the magic behind the cuisine – and more importantly how to make the dishes at home – check out the following titles:
- The New Brooklyn Cookbook (2010) Recipes, stories and culinary insights from 31 of Brooklyn's top restaurants.
- Pok Pok (2013) Andy Ricker delves deeply into northern Thai cooking, with precise instructions on creating those complex and heady dishes.
- Roberta's Cookbook (2013) Diver scallops in plum juice, orecchiette with oxtail ragu and glorious pizza perfection.
- Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book (2013) Take your pastry skills up a notch with these tantalizing recipes by the Elsen sisters.
- Franny's: Simple, Seasonal, Italian (2013) An essential reference for making memorable pizzas, pastas and gelato at home.
- The Frankies Spuntino (2010) Beautifully designed cookbook packed with recipes of reimagined Italian American comfort fare.
- One Girl Cookie (2012) Moist, tender whoopie pies and other sweet indulgences.
- The Mile End Cookbook (2012) Reinventing Jewish comfort food.
- Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book (2011) Easy-to-follow guide for making refreshing brews at home.
- Veganomicon: 10th Anniversary Edition (2017) Celebrated Brooklyn chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz teaches you how to whip up delicious vegan fare like you'll find at her East Williamsburg restaurant.
For the latest on the borough's dining scene, seek out Edible Brooklyn magazine (www.ediblebrooklyn.com).
Eating in Brooklyn
Brooklyn's culinary identity, hard to pin down and argued over with the passion of Talmudic scholars, is nevertheless assured. Why else would Manhattanites trek out to the far reaches of Kings County for a meal these days? Credentialed, ambitious chefs have created their own subspecies of restaurant here – small, retro, bespoke and locavore. Williamsburg and Greenpoint have perhaps the greatest variety, followed by the nexus of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Park Slope; honorable mention goes to a few gems in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area. Concentrations of ethnic foodie wonderlands extend from Sunset Park to Brighton Beach.
Food Trucks & Carts
Skip the bagel- and hot-dog-vending food carts. These days, there’s a new mobile crew in town dishing up high-end treats and unique fusion fare. The trucks ply various routes, stopping in designated zones throughout the city – namely around Union Square, Midtown and the Financial District – so if you’re looking for a particular grub wagon, it’s best to follow them on Twitter. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Mad Sq Eats Sumptuous pop-up food fest on the edge of Madison Square Park.
- Kimchi Taco (www.twitter.com/kimchitruck) Mouthwatering combo of Korean beef served in tacos.
- Calexico Cart (www.calexico.net/locations) Hearty rich burritos, tacos and quesadillas.
- MysttikMasaala (www.facebook.com/MysttikMasaala) Lip-smacking Indian cooking with three roving locations.
- King Souvlaki Worth the trip out to Astoria for the legendary Greek snack food.
- Cool Haus (https://cool.haus/foodtrucks) Magnificent ice-cream sandwiches and other treats.
Vegetarians & Vegans
Though the city’s herbivore scene has long lagged behind that of West Coast cities, and was for years mocked by serious foodies, many former naysayers are beginning to come around. That’s thanks in part to the local-food movement, as well as a slew of new eateries that have enticed skeptics by injecting big doses of cool ambience – and top-notch wine, liquor and dessert options – into the mix. Topping the list is Nix, a brilliantly creative vegetarian restaurant that's earned rave reviews and a Michelin star. Even the most meat-heavy four-star restaurants are figuring out the lure of legume; the market-inspired le potager section on the menu at Café Boulud offers highbrow veggie dishes.
Vegans have much to celebrate with the arrival of excellent eateries serving up guilt-free goodness all around town. Top choices include Modern Love, which serves up comfort fare out in Williamsburg, and elegant Blossom, with locations in Chelsea and elsewhere. Other icons include Candle Cafe, which has several locations around the city, and the soul food gem, Seasoned Vegan, up in Harlem.
New York City’s Top Dishes
Here are a few of our favorite dishes from NYC’s always changing but ever-creative restaurant scene:
- Omakase, Tanoshi The unbelievably good chef’s selection of sushi changes daily at this tiny, well-worn joint in the Upper East Side.
- Bong-smoked oysters, Desnuda If you like oysters, don’t miss the unusual smokiness of briny oysters infused with the concentrated smoke of tea leaves.
- Grilled Korean BBQ shortrib tacos, Kimchi Grill Who knew that Korean and Mexican would go so well together?
- Chapulqueso, Casa Mezcal Adventurous palates will want to try this Oaxacan invention: fresh greens and tomato topped with melted cheese and fried grasshoppers. It goes down nicely with a smoky mescal margarita.
- Carrot tartare, Eleven Madison Park This extraordinary dish sees the humble root vegetable turned into a palette of extraordinary flavors.
The Best of Brooklyn Pizza
New York is known for a lot of things: screeching subways, towering skyscrapers, bright lights. It is also known for its pizza, which comes in gooey, chewy, sauce-soaked varieties. These are some of the top places in Brooklyn to grab a slice or a whole pie:
Di Fara Pizza In operation since 1964 in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, this old-school slice joint is still lovingly tended to by proprietor Dom DeMarco, who makes the pies himself. Expect long lines.
Totonno’s A classic, family-owned Coney Island pizzeria that makes pies till the dough runs out.
Grimaldi’s Legendary pizzas (and legendary lines) abound at this tourist magnet in Brooklyn Heights.
Juliana's The home of pizza legend Patsy Grimaldi's celebrated return to the Brooklyn dining scene in 2013.
Lucali Neapolitan-style pies started as a hobby for this noted Carroll Gardens pizzaiolo (pizza maker).
Roberta’s Divine pies with cheeky names like ‘Beastmaster’; set in the artsy district at the confluence of Bushwick and East Williamsburg.
If you want to try several pizzas in one go, sign up for an outing with Scott’s Pizza Tours, which will take you to the most vaunted brick ovens around the city by foot or by bus.
Need to Know
Generally speaking, meal times often bleed together as New Yorkers march to the beat of their own drum: breakfast is served from 7am to noon, lunch from 11:30am to 3pm, and dinner stretches between 5pm and 11pm. The popular weekend brunch lasts from 11am until 4pm.
Popular restaurants abide by one of two rules: either they take reservations and you need to plan in advance (weeks or months early for the real treasures) or they only seat patrons on a first-come basis, in which case you should arrive when they open, and eat early. Otherwise, you might be looking at a two-hour wait. Apps like Open Table and Resy can get you a last-minute table.
New Yorkers tip between 18% and 20% of the final price of the meal. For takeout, it’s polite to drop a few dollars in the tip jar.
Useful Websites & Blogs
- Yelp (www.yelp.com) Comprehensive user-generated content and reviews.
- Open Table (www.opentable.com) Click-and-book reservation service for many restaurants.
- Tasting Table (www.tastingtable.com) Sign up for handy news blasts about the latest and greatest.
- The Infatuation (www.theinfatuation.com/new-york) Searches reviews and guides to compile restaurant info.
New Yorkers are famous for offering their opinion, so why not capitalize on their taste-bud experiences and click through scores of websites catering to the discerning diner. Some of our favorite blog-style rags include:
- Eater (https://ny.eater.com) Food news and restaurant round-ups.
- Serious Eats (http://newyork.seriouseats.com) Restaurant gossip and articles on the cuisine scene.
- Grub Street (www.grubstreet.com) In-the-know articles on NYC dining.
- Restaurant Girl (www.restaurantgirl.com) Blogger and restaurant critic eating her way around the city.
- Eating My NYC (https://eatingmynyc.com) Native New Yorker food guru.