Best Restaurants in NYC: Top 25 Places For a First Timer

When it comes to New York City, finding (and eating) the best food is a greater pastime than even baseball. And with tens of thousands of restaurants offering cuisines from every corner of the globe, picking the best of the best seems an impossible task, especially to city newcomers. But that’s where we come in.

The Best Restaurants in NYC

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every notable New York spot, consider this guide a jumping-off point to some absolute must-trys, from legendary Manhattan landmarks that have been around for decades to quintessential restaurants newer to the scene. We aimed to cover the best restaurants in NYC for a first-timer, but we welcome seasoned city food aficionados alike.

Please note, this guide includes several extremely popular restaurants. Plan accordingly to make reservations or prepare to wait. Additionally, this post features restaurants in Manhattan only. We hope you enjoy the best 25 places to eat for a first timer!

SEE ALSO: TOP 20 DESSERTS IN NEW YORK CITY 

25. Best Dim Sum: Jing Fong (Multiple)

With locations in both Chinatown and on the Upper West Side, this enormous Cantonese restaurant draws crowds on weekends for dim sum rolled out on carts. Fun fact: their site in Chinatown is 20,000 square feet, making their dining room more of a banquet hall (or 36 studio apartments, to give you a New York perspective). Most importantly, Jing Fong has a bustling atmosphere embodying all the essential elements of “yum cha”– a traditional dim sum brunch. The pork buns alone are enough to distinguish Jing Fong on our guide to the best restaurants in NYC. But they offer loads of other unique dim sum options as well, from Peking duck and asparagus dumplings with a lilac hue to sui mai dumplings delicately topped with roe. You can be sure that you (and about 800 of your closest friends) will have an unforgettable experience.

Jing Fong

$$$$ Dim Sum, Cantonese

380 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10013 646-678-5511

24. Vegetarian Spot: Superiority Burger (East Village)

New York might be a meat lover’s paradise wrapped in pastrami and mortadella, but it’s also become quite a haven for vegans and vegetarians alike. Superiority Burger, a tiny joint nestled in the East Village, doesn’t even need an Impossible burger patty to achieve the impossible. That is, convince a devoted carnivore to come back for seconds. Their classic burger is the main menu item, though its ingredients can vary by season. They blend spiced quinoa and chickpeas and expertly char them into burger form on a sesame bun, topping it with a tangy spread that mixes with the curried patty in a burst of flavor that will make you forget you’re not actually eating beef. Plus, their sides are truly, as their name suggests, superior. Get the burnt broccoli and grab a scoop of their vegan ice cream to go.

Superiority Burger

$$$$ Burgers, Vegetarian

119 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

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23. Chinese Noodles: Xi’an Famous Foods (Multiple)

Xi’an Famous Foods is one of the best restaurants in NYC if you’ve got a hankering for Chinese noodles. Once just a small stall in Flushing, Xi’an Famous Foods now has 14 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Their menu offers a robust selection geared toward the flavors of Northwest China, but they’re known for their fresh, hand-ripped biang biang noodles. The most popular menu item is the spicy cumin lamb, but try their pork zha jiang for something with sweeter undertones. Either way, you get a plate of foot-long, chewy, slurpy noodles. Their famous sauce combines soy sauce and black vinegar for a kick that will hit all the right spots.

Xi’an Famous Foods

$$$$ Chinese, Noodles, Burgers

328 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075 212-786-2068

22. All-Around Crowd Pleaser: The Smith (Multiple)

Traveling with a group? We’ve all been there. Between your selective grandmother, picky teenage brother, and opinionated father-in-law, finding a restaurant that will make everyone happy can make going to the DMV sound relaxing. Thankfully, the Smith is one of the best restaurants in NYC when you’re looking for a spot that has a little something for everyone. Serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they have an enormous variety of menu options. Some of our favorites include the avocado toast, the vanilla bean French toast, and the skillet roasted mac and cheese. For something a little heartier, the burger ticks all the boxes with crispy fried onions, sharp cheddar cheese, and creamy aioli.

The Smith

$$$$ American (New), Breakfast & Brunch, Cocktail Bars

55 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003, USA 212-420-9800

21. Pizza by the Slice: Joe’s Pizza (Multiple)

Pizza by the slice in NYC is its own food group; a way of life, if you will. And at around just $1–3 per slice, their impact cannot be ignored. Enter: Joe’s Pizza. Established in 1975 by Joe Pozzuoli, who is originally from Naples, Italy, Joe’s Pizza is an institution whose legacy nabs it a spot on our guide to the best restaurants in NYC for a first timer. Get the classic cheese slice (skip the fresh mozzarella) to enjoy a New York rite of passage. It folds like a crease line was intentionally baked into the dough, and the grease and cheese ooze straight to the middle for a perfect bite every time.

Joe’s Pizza

$$$$ Pizza

7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014, USA 212-366-1182

20. Upscale American: Blue Ribbon Brasserie (Soho)

Blue Ribbon Brasserie is the iconic late-night bistro that became such a hot spot when it first opened in 1992, it kicked off the multi-city chain of Blue Ribbon restaurants that exists today. It’s also still one of the only full entrees you can have in the city at 3 AM, which feels right at home on our guide to best restaurants in NYC. The menu doesn’t follow a single theme, offering instead a hodgepodge assortment of chef-favorite dishes from around the city. Don’t miss out on the beef marrow and oxtail marmalade or the fried chicken with mashed potatoes and collard greens.

Blue Ribbon Brasserie

$$$$ American (Traditional), Cocktail Bars

97 Sullivan St New York, NY 10012 (212) 274-0404

READ NEXT: 15 BEST BRUNCH SPOTS IN NYC

19. Lobster Roll: Luke’s Lobster (Multiple)

There’s a reason Luke’s grew from a tiny shack in East Village to a large chain with select locations around the country, and it’s still one of the best lobster rolls you can find in the city. The Luke’s team even opened its own seafood and production business in Maine in 2013 to ensure the quality and sustainability of their food from dock to plate. When it comes to their version of the east coast staple, they keep things simple. A quarter pound of Maine-style lobster served chilled on a buttered, griddled New England split-top bun with a swipe of mayo, a dash of lemon butter, and a sprinkle of their Secret Seasoning. You won’t leave a crumb behind.

Luke’s Lobster

$$$$ Seafood

93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009, USA 212-387-8487

18. Best View: The Loeb (Central Park)

Try one of the best restaurants in NYC and get an elite view at the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. The iconic restaurant is a must-stop for tourists, park visitors, and local diners seeking out a rare moment of tranquility while dining in bustling Manhattan. You can come here any time of day to equally delicious results, the gorgeous park scenery serving as a picturesque backdrop. For brunch, the stuffed french toast with blueberry mascarpone is pure radiance. For lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong ordering the cast iron crispy chicken with chive whipped potatoes. But no matter when you arrive, make sure to start with the crab cake and its zesty red bell pepper remoulade.

The Loeb

$$$$ Boating, American (Traditional), Venues & Event Spaces

Park Drive North, E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021 212-517-2233

17. Casual Breakfast: Bubby’s (Tribeca)

Bubby’s opened in 1990 on Thanksgiving Day. They ran a tiny operation selling pies to neighboring restaurants and locals. Today, Bubby’s is a resident Tribeca favorite with a full menu of from-scratch dishes. And when it comes to brunch, they aren’t just one of the best restaurants in NYC, they are city royalty. They serve just about everything under the sun on their breakfast menu, from huevos ranchers plates to avocado toast. Their signature pancakes are what they’re most known for; delightfully buttery, fluffy, and griddled. Pick your base (James Beard or 1890 sourdough) and add your toppings (blueberry, caramelized banana & toasted walnuts, chocolate chip, or Nutella & mixed berries). If you’re feeling particularly ravenous, go for the fried chicken and pancakes. And don’t forget to order pie for dessert!

Bubby’s

$$$$ American (Traditional), Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches

120 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013 212-219-0666

16. Best Any Time of Day: Jacob’s Pickles (Upper West Side)

Find one of the best restaurants in NYC for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Jacob’s Pickles. And with portion sizes bigger than Texas, it might be the only meal you need that day. Jacob’s offers comfort food at its finest. Their dishes brim with that cozy, all-consuming sort of joy you can only get from southern-style cooking. We’re talking fried pickles, buttery biscuits, cheesy grits, and buttermilk fried chicken that takes up the whole plate. If you’re feeling traditional, go for the sausage gravy-smothered chicken. It’s heavy, crispy, and absolutely delectable. For something with a little more kick, you can’t go wrong with the ultra-tangy and creamy buffalo mac n’ cheese.

Jacob’s Pickles

$$$$ Comfort Food, Southern, American (Traditional)

509 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 212-470-5566

SANDWICH MOOD? READ: 12 BEST SANDWICHES IN NYC

15. To-Go Sushi: Sugarfish (Multiple)

Discover high-quality sushi to go in the bento box of your dreams at Sugarfish. For the best deal, go with one of the three sets of their “Trust Me” menus. Each set comes curated with a mix of sashimi, sushi, edamame, and various dipping elements. What’s more, the box has a “cheat sheet” for what fish pairs best with which sauce. For example, it gently reminds you to coat the tuna sashimi in ponzu sauce and chives versus soy sauce. You’ll enjoy an elegant variety of fish including tuna, albacore, Japanese yellowtail, Nozawa-style shrimp sushi with toasted sesame, Dungeness crab cut rolls, and more– all fresh and totally mouthwatering. It’s not just one of the best prices point for sushi in the city, it’s easily one of the best restaurants in NYC.

Sugarfish

$$$$ Sushi Bars

33 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003 347-705-8100

14. Bagel with Lox: Russ & Daughters (Lower East Side)

There are a limited number of tourist traps in NYC that are worth the wait, and Russ & Daughters is one of them. Even among countless other premier bagel shops, this legendary Jewish deli rules the Lower East Side because their lox is simply the best. Which is why, if you decide to brave the lines, you have to order a bagel with one of their fish toppings. The classic bagel and lox sandwich is an excellent start. It comes with Gaspe nova smoked salmon delicately layered atop a mound of cream cheese and a bagel of your choice. To balance out the lox’s saltiness, pair with a poppyseed, sesame, egg, or plain bagel. But we won’t hold it against you if you go full everything (just remember, not toasted– welcome to New York).

Russ & Daughters

$$$$ Bagels, Smokehouse, Bakeries

179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002 212-475-4880 ext. 1

13. Ramen: Mr. Taka (Lower East Side)

Mr. Taka originally came to be thanks to two friends from Japan who wanted to bring true Japanese ramen cuisine to the city. The spicy tonkotsu is the bowl of choice for newcomers and long-time fans alike, and why the noodle shop is one of the best restaurants in NYC. The pork bone broth simmers for 12 hours until the flavor is deep, dense, and addictive. It comes loaded to the brim with scallions, crunchy kikirage mushrooms, shredded red ginger, crispy garlic slices, a soft boiled egg, and black fried garlic oil that elevates it to the next level. Not to mention, thick slices of fatty pork belly charred by blowtorch immediately prior to serving. If you come during wintertime, get the seasonal spicy black tantanmen ramen with curried fried chicken for an explosive flavor you’ll think about for weeks.

Mr. Taka

$$$$ Ramen

170 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 212-254-1508

12. Casual Italian: Osteria Morini (Soho)

Italian food is one of New York’s cuisine pillars. And with tens of thousands of Italian eateries spanning the city, it can be hard to know where to start. Since debuting their flagship a decade ago in Soho, Osteria Morini has maintained its status as a premier Italian staple. One of the best restaurants in NYC, it offers a quintessential Italian ambiance the entire family will enjoy. While the menu offers an abundance of options, their house-made pastas are the restaurant’s shining star. Get the Cappelletti (truffled ricotta ravioli with prosciutto) or the tagliatelle with bolognese ragu and parmigiana for dishes that will transport you to northern Italy.

Osteria Morini SoHo

$$$$ Italian, Cocktail Bars, Wine Bars

218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 212-965-8777

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11. Non-Deli Sandwich: Bahn Mi Saigon (Chinatown)

When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t mess around. And neither does the pork banh mi sandwich at Banh Mi Saigon in China Town. It offers a radically different sandwich experience than the standard city deli with their emphasis on cutlets, pastrami, or reuben. But it’s one you are sure to never forget. Their fresh, made-from-scratch baguette is heaven in bread form. It comes loaded with sweetly caramelized pork and crumbly pâté, sweet julienned cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, and a fistful of cilantro. And, if you request extra hot, they’ll even treat your banh mi with fresh jalapeños and sriracha.

Bánh Mì Saigon

$$$$ Vietnamese, Sandwiches

198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013 212-941-1541

10. NYC-Style Pizza: Rubirosa (Nolita)

Rubirosa offers everything you could want in a classic New York City-style pizza. The 57-year-old family recipe has provided one of the consistently best pies in town for years and established it as one of the best restaurants in NYC. It stands apart from other pizza locales in the city because it’s not just a pizza joint– it’s a true-blue Italian restaurant. From ricotta ravioli to roasted octopus, their dishes continue to stand the test of time. But if you’re visiting the city for the first time, you’re here for the vodka pizza. Paper-thin crust, fresh mozzarella, and insanely good vodka sauce collide to create a truly top-notch eating endeavor.

Rubirosa

$$$$ Italian, Pizza

235 Mulberry St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 965-0500

9. True New York Bagel: Absolute Bagels

Don’t let the weekend lines scare you away– there’s a reason crowds gather outside at 6 AM each morning here. Absolute Bagels has garnered city-wide bagel acclaim for about three decades. Always, always fresh, their old-school bagels arrive with salty, seed-heavy topcoats and blistered bottoms. While you can certainly go the lox route here, if it’s your first time, simple is the way to go. The everything bagel with a generous schmear of scallion cream cheese is an order as timeless as New York. Their egg bagel is also arguably the best in the city— it’s so fluffy it’s almost buoyant. The color matches the vibrant yolks that make it so delectably airy, and its saccharine piquancy pairs perfectly with fillings savory or sweet alike.

Absolute Bagels

$$$$ Bakeries, Bagels

2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 212-932-2052

8. Casual Burger: 7th Street Burger (East Village)

7th Street Burger might have only opened in the summer of 2021, but it’s already eclipsing the city burger scene as one of the best restaurants in NYC. The menu boasts quality over quantity, featuring just four food items: a cheeseburger, a double cheeseburger, an Impossible cheeseburger, and fries. Their burger formula proves elegant in its simplicity: a sumptuous, generously sized beef patty sits on a cushy bun, topped with American cheese and pickles, all dressed in a creamy, tangy spread mixed with sautéed onions. The burst of flavors is concentrated and delicious, and at just $6 per cheeseburger, it’s one of the best and most affordable burgers you’ll find in all of New York.

7th Street Burger

$$$$ Burgers

91 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009 646-490-6797

WANT BAGELS? READ: 10 LOCAL MUST-TRY BAGEL SPOTS IN NYC

7. NYC Staple: Katz’s Delicatessen (Lower East Side)

Katz’s is one of New York’s most famous establishments, and one of the few esteemed icons that genuinely lives up to the hype. More of an institution than a restaurant at this point, their iconic pastrami hot sandwich, in particular, has been praised and extolled for half a generation. Still wondering why Katz’s is considered one of the best restaurants in NYC? Their pastrami is pickled, brined, smoked, and carved into the apex of deli meats. It’s lustrous, juicy, savory, crusted with blackened spices, and stacked on rye bread that barely holds it all together. If you’re not into pastrami, they’re also known for their blintzes, hot dogs, and corned beef or turkey sandwiches.

Katz’s Delicatessen

$$$$ Delis, Sandwiches, Caterers

205 East Houston Street New York City, 10002 212-254-2246

6. Fancy Breakfast: Sadelle’s (Soho)

When a restaurant comes from Major Food Group (the team behind Carbone, Dirty French, and Santina), you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be excellent. Sadelle’s is no exception. They’re famous for their “towers,” a tiered platter serving fish and garnishes alongside a skewer of fresh, perfectly baked bagels crusted with seasonings. Of all the dreamy fish options, make sure to get the smoked Scottish and the whitefish salad. Load up your bagel with a little bit of anything and everything. It hits the tongue with a luxurious purr of flavor– salt, brine, sweetness. If you go for brunch, their french toast reigns supreme. Why? It’s soaked overnight in custard and then deep-fried to achieve churro-like apotheosis. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Sadelle’s

$$$$ Bakeries, Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches

463 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012 646-757-5477

SEE ALSO: TOP 20 DESSERTS IN NEW YORK CITY

5. Fried Chicken: Koko Wings

Fried chicken is a cooking tradition across the world, but the Korean brand, achieving crunchy yet perfectly non-greasy results, is one you do not want to miss out on. Korean-style fried chicken uses an Asian frying technique that renders out the fat in the skin. The result is a crust that is as delicate as spun sugar, but so crackly it shatters like glass against your teeth. And at Koko Wings, this chicken comes coated in a gleaming soy garlic sauce, which is the one you should get (specifically the combo plate). The candied glaze covers every fissure, and the meat beneath is moist, tender perfection. It is an irresistible combination of texture, sweetness, salt, and spice. And it’s no wonder it’s one of the best restaurants in NYC.

Koko Wings

$$$$ Korean, Chicken Wings, Beer Bar

192 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009 646-892-3152

4. Tacos: Los Tacos No. 1 (Chelsea Market)

Los Tacos No. 1 offers authentic Tijuana street-style tacos in the heart of New York. So what makes them one of the best restaurants in NYC? Their tacos are, in short, miraculous. Choose from just-made corn or flour tortillas and fill with either steak, pollo asado, adobada pork, or grilled cactus. While the pork is the general crowd favorite (it comes marinated in a zingy, spicy, bold, drool-worthy sauce), any of their fillings are going to make your tastebuds sing. Don’t forget to order your tacos “con todo” to ensure it comes packed with all the goods.

Los Tacos No.1 at Chelsea Market

$$$$ Tacos

75 9th Ave. New York, NY 10011 212-246-0343

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3. Best Manhattan Square: Prince Street Pizza (Soho)

Not for the faint of heart, the famous “Soho Square” is no standard New York slice. Prince Street Pizza features Sicilian pizza and recipes that have been passed down for generations. And while they offer more traditional triangle slices, you’re here for the spicy spring square. The crust is airy and dense all at once, slathered in homemade spicy fra diavolo sauce, and covered in dollops of fresh mozz and an absolute stockpile of curly cut pepperoni. Hot oil pools and glistens in every tiny pepperoni cup, threatening to spill over each blistered edge. The slice is so massive it’s almost hard to know where to start. But once you do, you’ll find yourself three slices down and unable to walk. It is pizza art, and truly, as their motto goes, “no other square can compare.”

Prince Street Pizza

$$$$ Pizza, Italian

27 Prince St A, New York, NY 10012 212-966-4100

2. Upscale Italian: Scarpetta (Flatiron)

One of the best restaurants in NYC is also one of the greatest upscale Italian restaurants in the entire city. Scarpetta is known for providing some of the city’s most heavenly pasta, and has been since 2008. The restaurant’s name is derived from the Italian expression, “fare la scarpetta,” which means to savor a meal to the very last bite. Start with the braised short ribs for an appetizer and don’t even think about skipping their famous tomato and basil spaghetti for your pasta course. It’s classically simple, expertly prepared, and utterly perfect.

Scarpetta

$$$$ Italian

88 Madison Avenue New York NY 10016 212-691-0555

SEE ALSO: 20 BEST DESSERTS IN NYC

1. Gourmet Burger: Emily (West Village)

Emily is a rare eatery that manages to do everything really well. From the Detroit-style grandma pies to the stand-out sides, their menu is genuinely extraordinary. And even though they’re technically a pizzeria, we’re here to talk about their burger. The award-winning Emmy Burger is double stacked and made with LaFrieda dry-aged beef. The patties are seared in clarified butter (aka, pure butterfat) on a flat top, and the resulting taste is reminiscent of steak. It’s topped with American cheese, pickles, caramelized onions, and doused in their top-secret Emmy sauce, which is so good you could drink it. The pillowy pretzel bun soaks up all that gooey, saucy goodness in a way a potato bun could never. It’s an out-of-body experience, and fits perfectly at the top of our guide to the best restaurants in NYC.

Emily – West Village

$$$$ Pizza, Burgers

35 Downing St, New York, NY 10014 917-935-6434

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  1. Love Osteria Morini. My go to Italian in NYC. Casual, great food and service, and, the best, no pretentious scene here. Now my heart is set on Emily,
    Thanks Brooke (my Godchilds name).

  2. We just ate at Osteria Morini, I went with your suggestion of the tagliatelle. It was delicious!! The ambiance, the food.. will definitely be going again.

  3. I LOVE New York City! It’s one of my favorite places ever. We actually made it to more than half of these places when we visited a couple years ago. I wish we had tried Blue Ribbon Brasserie though. Next time. I am so ready to move there for a year and eat my way through the city!

    1. Hi Danielle! Thanks so much for your comment- Blue Ribbon is FANTASTIC! I hope you get the chance next time. I try to talk my husband into moving there for a year all the time!