Where to Eat in New York: The Honest Guide to NYC’s Most Famous Dishes

cereal milk ice cream milk bar nyc

My usual holiday planning routine was skewed somewhat when it came to prepping where to eat in New York. Never, in all the years I’ve been turning to the internet for recommendations have I been so completely overwhelmed by where I should eat and drink. There were friendly suggestions and determined insistencies for everything from the smallest coffee shop to purse-shattering haute cuisine and I just didn’t know where to begin. So, being the organised, fastidious Virgo that I am, I took all the places that filled my inbox and DMs, the ones that I’d been saving since earlier this year across Pinterest and Instagram, and those that peaked my interest in my guidebook, researched them and if they still looked worth the effort, I plotted them onto a Google Map.

It meant that once we were in the throngs of the utter madness of Manhattan, I could look at the map on my phone and direct us to somewhere to eat nearby with relative certainty that we wouldn’t be too disappointed. These are 21 dishes that the world seemed to rave about – I tried them all to see if they are really worth the hype. Settle in, this is going to be a long one!

Drink: Irish Coffee
Bar: The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog

irish coffee dead rabbit nyc

 

pop inn dead rabbit nyc

When I hear ‘multiple-award winning cocktail bar’, I imagine somewhere sleek and modern, with mixologists in suits and silver shining barware. The Dead Rabbit is more like your local pub with low lighting, dark wood, and photos and paraphernalia hanging from the beams; a stunning array of whiskey on offer including some from my favourite small batch distilleries. The cocktail list is fascinating, combining more than just spirits with servings like the excellent Pop-Inns: sour ales topped with a fruity liqueur of your choice (I went for rhubarb and it was delicious). The Irish coffee is the most famous drink on offer here, made with a demerara sugar syrup, Powers Gold Irish whiskey and whipped, heavy cream. Beautiful, soft, smooth and a stunning presentation of something I’ve always assumed is simple to make.

Hype rating: 9/10
Budget: £££
Find it at: The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, 30 Water St, New York, NY 10004

Dish: Tingly Cumin Lamb Noodles
Restaurant: Very Fresh Noodles

very fresh noodles chelsea market nyc

tingly cumin noodles very fresh noodles chelsea market nyc

We made our way to Chelsea Market just before the remnants of Hurricane Florence dumped themselves onto Manhattan and once the rain hit, being sat at the bar of Very Fresh Noodles was pretty much the best place to be. We watched the noodles be hand pulled by the chefs; stretched to a metre long and slapped down on the counter before being cooked. Covered in some of my favourite flavours (cumin, sichuan peppercorns and chilli oil), this was one the best meals I had in New York, and definitely the best noodles I’ve had outside of Asia. Topped with lamb, I chose the ‘dry’ version, as I’d already eaten tacos about 30 minutes earlier (I told you I had a long list of places to eat!) and the ‘soup’ version looked much more filling. As it was, it was so utterly delicious that I couldn’t stop myself from stuffing myself to capacity anyway!

Hype rating: 10/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Very Fresh Noodles, Chelsea Market, 409 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011

Dish: Pepperoni pizza
Restaurant: Prince Street Pizza

square slice prince street pizza nyc

Make sure you wait for the square slices of pepperoni pizza to be ready here because you will not regret it. There is a reason why people are willing to linger on the streets of Little Italy until the latest fresh pies are brought out of the oven from Prince Street Pizza, and that reason is that they taste god damn amazing. A slightly thicker base but no way near a deep dish, chewy dough with a crunchy crust, thick layers of stringy, melted cheese and crispy, thick slices of salty pepperoni with oil dripping off its curled edges. We sat in the quaint Elizabeth Street community garden and scoffed it down like savages. I had to donate $1 to the garden upkeep fund to make up for looking like a total miscreant.

Hype rating: 10/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Prince Street Pizza, 27 Prince St A, New York, NY 10012

Dish: Soft serve ice cream
Restaurant: Soft Swerve

black sesame ice cream soft swerve nyc

Soft Swerve, located on the edge of Chinatown caught my attention for its Asian inspired flavours, and as soon as I saw black sesame on the menu, my order became obvious. I first tried black sesame ice cream in Japan in 2017 but this version was a pimped-up take on the traditional being three times the height of a regular soft serve, on a cone filled with caramel drizzle and topped with toffee bits and chewy mochi, and I had to eat it damn quickly before the NYC humidity took it down! It was delicious but the flavours weren’t entirely different to what I’ve had before so having it in New York is nice, but not a unique experience.

Hype rating: 6/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Soft Swerve, 85B Allen St, New York, NY 10002

Dish: Pork buns
Restaurant: Momofuku Ssäm Bar

pork buns momofuku nyc

When it comes to iconic New York restaurants, David Chang’s Momofuku is right up there. We didn’t attempt the inaugural Noodle Bar as it doesn’t take reservations and we had enough places we wanted to eat that there wasn’t really time for queueing on the agenda, so instead, we booked in Momofuku Ssäm Bar in the East Village. Our entire meal was absolutely stunning, but the stand-out dish and the first thing we tried were the famous, off-menu pork buns. I literally danced in my seat when I realised these were available and they blew me away. The components are simple: a bao bun with pork belly, cured cucumbers (NOT pickles), spring onions, hoisin sauce and a dash of Sriracha – and, quite honestly, it’s perfect.

Hype rating: 10/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Momofuku Ssäm Bar, East 13th Street, 207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Dish: Salmon and cream cheese bagel
Restaurant: Russ & Daughters Cafe

salmon cream cheese bagel russ and daughters nyc

The sit-down cafe outpost of the famous Russ & Daughters has only been open for four years but comes as part of the original family business around the corner which first opened its doors in 1914. Started by a Polish immigrant, it’s now run by the fourth generation of Russ relatives and is considered one of the best places to try traditional Jewish food. I had The Original on a sesame seed bagel, served up with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and capers. Served as an open sandwich, I could add however much I liked but the portions of everything was generous and I found total glee in smothering an inch thick layer of cream cheese and dotting salty capers all over it before chucking everything else on in a more haphazard manner. A great place for a down-to-earth lunch.

Hype rating: 7/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Russ & Daughters Cafe, 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Dish: Cereal milk ice cream
Restaurant: Milk Bar

cereal milk ice cream milk bar nyc

This was the number one, top of the list thing that I wanted to try in New York. After watching the Christina Tosi episode of Chef’s Table an ungodly amount of times, I became obsessed with wanting to taste the magical big ticket item at Milk Bar: cereal milk ice cream. The soft serve is the most complex and confusing flavour, that develops with every lick. Somehow, they really have managed to get that wonderful taste of drinking the leftover sugary milk at the end of your bowl of cereal and packed it into an ice cream. Cornflakes are sprinkled over the top and voila! A genius concoction that was well worth travelling to the States for.

Hype rating: 10/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Milk Bar (numerous locations across NYC)

Drink: Kremee coffee
Shop: Sweet Moment

kremee coffee sweet moment nyc

I’ve had my fair share of novelty, ‘cute’ food, from pig-shaped char siu buns to the anime-inspired meals at the Studio Ghibli Museum cafe, but the adorable menu at Sweet Moment looked too good to miss. You won’t find any Cafe Nolita or Cha Cha Matcha pics in my NYC posts despite these pretty places dominating Instagram searches for New York eats, because the reviews just aren’t consistently good enough. Sweet Moment was different though: it looks picture-perfect AND gets good write-ups. After eating consistently all day, we settled in to rest our feet and have a Kremee Coffee – a cold brew coffee made topped with flavoured cream. I had red velvet; my boyfriend had chocolate and they looked too good to drink but thankfully that didn’t hold us back as they really were delightful.

Hype rating: 7/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Sweet Moment, 106 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Dish: Fish tacos
Restaurant: Tacombi

fish tacos and margarita at tacombi tacos, nyc

It was only recently that I was inducted into the wonderful world of fish tacos, with Breddo’s showing me the way to a better, more delicious life. It was this misguided hope that led me to Tacombi – the location of not just the most disappointing fish tacos, but most underwhelming meal during our whole time in New York. The cantina style decor was really the highlight when the food was not only really late coming out (when there was maybe three other occupied tables in a restaurant that easily seats 50 people), but just totally bland. The hot sauces on the table were throat-burningly excellent which at least added some element of flavour but otherwise it was remarkably average. We decided to go around the corner to Joe’s Pizza afterwards to make up for it!

Hype rating: 2/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Tacombi (numerous locations in NYC)

Dish: Pepperoni pizza
Restaurant: Joe’s Pizza

joe's pizza, nyc

joe's pizza, nyc

A good tip if you’re looking for the infamous Joe’s Pizza is to get the right address. Because it turns out there’s approximately 80 million other Joe’s Pizzas as well as the one you’ll have seen all the reviews about. And from the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but it is in the family-friendly, rather swish area of Greenwich Village so the fact it doesn’t need to dress itself up to attract customers speaks volumes. The service is curt at best, but it’s quick and we grabbed a slice to go, sitting in the sun for a taste of my first New York slice. The result? A thin, soft base, crispy crust, tart tomato sauce, and oily pepperoni slices; The cheese was stringy but not fully melted. It was exactly what I imagined a down-and-dirty, no frills but damn delicious, big ol’ slice of pizza to be in NYC.

Hype rating: 7/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine St, Frnt 1, New York, NY 10014

Dish: Banana pudding
Restaurant: Magnolia Bakery

banana pudding, magnolia bakery nyc

I read a whole heap of very mixed reviews on Magnolia Bakery. The hype comes from a famous cameo of it’s West Village location in an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda and Carrie devour cupcakes whilst talking about something inane, but we all know that just because it’s well known, it doesn’t mean it tastes good. While the cupcakes don’t seem to impress everyone, the one item that online critics can’t seem to hate is the banana pudding, and although I wasn’t determined to try it, we just happened to walk past an outpost of the bakery after visiting the Top of the Rock and, well, I was hungry. A tub of this vanilla pudding mixed with, cream, fresh bananas and wafer cookies was a whole new world of sweet treats for me. This is comfort eating at its best – when you don’t want a stodgy doughnut or a cold ice cream but you want something homely and simple. I love that something lacking extravagance or visual appeal has garnered the attention it deserves.

Hype rating: 9/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Magnolia Bakery (numerous locations across NYC)

Drink: Latte
Shop: Joe Coffee Company

joe coffee nyc

I only started drinking coffee about three years ago, when, seriously lacking in sleep from a rough night on a ship from Tasmania, I could barely keep my eyes open in Melbourne. The wonderful brown nectar turned my day around and now, judging by the headache I get when I don’t have enough of the stuff, it would seem I am pretty addicted. I don’t know a huge amount about coffee but I know when it isn’t made with care; burnt beans, soured milk – anything that means I end up adding sugar to it, essentially. Joe Coffee Company served me up one of the best lattes of my life, with a spot-on ratio of coffee to milk that made the perfect accompaniment to a lazy walk around Central Park.

Hype rating: 8/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Joe Coffee Company (numerous locations across NYC)

Dish: Pancakes
Restaurant: Bubby’s

brunch at bubby's, nyc

green omelette, bubby's, nyc

This is a bit of a curveball because although it’s the pancakes that everyone visits Bubby’s for, it was the omelette that made it one of my favourite meals of our trip. This is what I would class as a proper American breakfast experience but stepped up a gear from filter coffee and dry bacon. At Bubby’s they serve ENORMOUS portions and it’s true, the pancakes are phenomenal (thankfully my boyfriend ordered them and I kindly helped him out with a taste or two!). But the green omelette was literally stuffed full of cheese, tenderstem broccoli, spring onions and spinach, almost swimming in butter and served with thinly sliced fried potatoes on the side. I love pancakes but this was something I wouldn’t normally be able to order and breakfasts just aren’t the same now I’ve had a taste. You have to try it.

Hype rating: 9/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Bubby’s, 120 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

Dish: Egg sandwiches
Restaurant: Daily Provisions

sausage and gouda sandwich, daily provisions, nyc

My love for bacon has seen many a rant about how so many countries outside of the UK just don’t do it properly. I know that American-style bacon often means streaky and cooked to a point where you can snap it into a porky dust and I’m just not here for it. It turns out that Daily Provisions is on my side. Their egg sandwich with bacon contains proper bacon and American cheese; the sausage version throws in some gouda instead, and the bread roll demands to be eaten with two hands. It’s the sort of get-up-and-go brekkie that you want before a big day of sightseeing, and with that in mind, I also ordered a cinnamon sugar cruller to takeaway. Because I’d hate to leave myself time to get hungry in New York!

Hype rating: 8/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Daily Provisions, 103 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003

Dish: Chocolate chip cookie
Restaurant: Levain Bakery

chocolate chip cookies, levain bakery, nyc

Cookies shouldn’t be this good. I mean, cookies are generally GREAT. Dipped in milk, eaten with a hot cup of tea, half a packet demolished in front of a Netflix binge, but these cookies from Levain Bakery… THESE COOKIES. They need a name of their own; the dough is clearly that of a cookie recipe but the size of them, the density, makes them almost like rock cakes, but they’re so soft and so gooey that they couldn’t possibly fall under that name either. The dark chocolate chips aren’t chips at all, they are CHUNKS. Huge, whopping chunks of high percentage cocoa chocolate, found in every single bite, melting from the still warm oven they’ve just come from. I couldn’t eat the whole thing in one sitting so I tucked it into my bag, and forgot about it until the next day when, after a terrible flight back to the UK, I found it and wooped with excitement at having a little bit of New York left to enjoy.

Hype rating: 10/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Levain Bakery (numerous locations in NYC)

Dish: Hot dog
Restaurant: Gray’s Papaya

gray's papaya hotdog, nyc

gray's papaya hotdogs, nyc

Considered an NYC institution and, like Magnolia Bakery, Gray’s Papaya has been immortalised in a whole heap of TV shows and movies since it opened in 1973. It’s a cheap and cheerful place that’s open 24 hours a day, getting its name from their famous non-alcoholic juices and ‘daiquiris’ that you can get in a Slushee-type serving alongside the famous dog. I didn’t get it though. Sure, the dog was obviously made from meat and not a slippery, salty frankfurter you’d find from a jar but that was the best bit. The tart, almost acidic onions are tomato-y and too wet for my liking; they miss the crunch and caramelisation of a great hot dog onion. I love sauerkraut but on top of those onions, it added very little of interest and I found myself dousing it all in ketchup to get anything delicious from it. Even then, my trusty condiment couldn’t help too much.

Hype rating: 3/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

Dish: Pepperoni pizza
Restaurant: Juliana’s

juliana's pizza, nyc

I’ve focused on Manhattan eateries here because we stayed in Williamsburg and I have a whole heap of recommendations for that side of the city, but it felt wrong to not include such an iconic restaurant as Juliana’s purely because it can be found in Brooklyn. Near the water’s edge around DUMBO, the rivalry between Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s still persists – two pizza restaurants right next to other, the latter once owned by Grimaldi himself who then sold the premises and eventually returned next door to open Juliana’s. We simply chose the one with the fastest moving queue and felt like we’d hit the jackpot. Yes, this is the third pepperoni pizza recommendation I’m making in this post, but this feels like a uniquely New York pizza experience. The pizza is first layered with cheese and THEN sauce, followed by more cheese, meaning the dough is literally caked with salty mozzarella. The rich, thick tomato sauce is a dream, and to be honest, the pepperoni is almost superfluous.

Hype rating: 9/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Juliana’s, 19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dish: Crack pie
Restaurant: Milk Bar

crack pie, milk bar

crack pie, milk bar

Yep, back at Milk Bar (and I’ve got a whole post on the baking class I did there still to come too!). Crack pie is the dish that Christina Tosi whipped together for family meal when she was a chef for David Chang (remember him from Momofuku above?). It’s said that the other chefs were literally pushing each other over to get another slice of the stuff, saying that it was ‘like Crack’. Something that addictive meant I definitely wanted to try it, so stumbling upon another Milk Bar location near Greenwich was pretty fortuitous. Now sure, it was good, with an almost maple syrup type flavour, a sticky, dense consistency, and a flaky soft, oaty base. But addictive? Not quite. Give me some more of that cereal milk ice cream though!

Hype rating: 6/10
Budget: £
Find it at: Milk Bar (numerous locations in NYC)

Dish: Katsu curry tacos
Restaurant: Takumi Tacos

sake sangria, takumi tacos, nyc

katsu curry tacos, takumi tacos, nyc

Japanese flavours meets the world of Mexican delicacies? SIGN ME UP. It was 11.30am when we rocked up to Takumi Tacos, ordered katsu curry tacos and a sake sangria to wash it down and friends, it was the breakfast of champions. The beef short rib and chicken adobo tacos we also had were great, but the katsu didn’t hold back on both flavour or consistency in order to fit with the expectations of your usual taco fayre. It was messy to eat but it was creamy, a little spicy with a sprinkling of katsu breadcrumbs on top, and I heartily recommend a pre-midday sake sangria when you’re on your hols!

Hype rating: 7/10
Budget: ££
Find it at: Takumi Tacos, Chelsea Market, 409 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011

So, are you hungry?! Check out the map to see exactly where each location is for your trip or pin the image below for later.

The Honest Guide to NYC’s Most Famous Dishes

 

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