Eating Out in New York

As one of the world’s largest cities, New York is home to thousands of great places to eat. From family-owned diners to world-class restaurants, this vibrant city offers an incredible range of restaurants, diners, takeout outlets, bakeries, and more that will satisfy even the pickiest of foodie travelers.

New York City is, by some measures, the world’s largest immigrant city. As one of the world’s most diverse cities – there are some 800 languages spoken by natives, making it the world’s most linguistically diverse city – New York City offers cuisine from all corners of the earth.

Whether you’re searching for authentic Malaysian satay, high-end fresh sushi, or a famous New York pizza slice, you’ll find it in the bustling metropolis. Read on for an in-depth guide to the best places in New York City to enjoy the Big Apple’s best food.

Eating Out in New York City: Budget Meals and Fast Food

Eating Out in New York City: Budget Meals and Fast Food
From hotdogs to pastrami sandwiches, New York City is home to a variety of local fast foods. None, however, are as famous as New York pizza. Photo by Dej611

Known for its fast-paced urban lifestyle, New York City is a metropolis that values quick, convenient food more than anything else. From local pizza joints that serve their portions in seconds to the standard assortment of fast food chains, New York City is home to thousands of places to enjoy quick and easy American fast food.

The standard chains, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, are easy to find, with an outlet on virtually every block in areas such as Manhattan. Other East Coast chains, such as Sbarro and White Castle, are scattered around the city, making simple fast food rarely difficult to find.

Visiting New York City to eat chain fast food, however, is a wasted opportunity. The home of modern convenience food, New York City boasts a range of local foods that will satisfy even the most demanding visitors. From hotdogs and pizza to authentic pastrami sandwiches, New York City’s local fast food scene is varied and tasty.

Hotdogs are sold on seemingly every street corner in New York City’s tourist areas, with $3 dog-and-drink carts easy to find. While locals may disparage street hotdog vendors for their hygiene standards – which, admittedly, aren’t always great – they remain an iconic part of New York City’s food scene that isn’t going anywhere.

While hotdogs are a ubiquitous New York City snack, it’s bagels that are truly the city’s number one casual dining choice. Available from almost every bakery you’ll come across, bagels are a New York culinary institution. For the best bagels in the city, venture out of Manhattan to one of Brooklyn’s family-owned Jewish bakeries.

Speaking of European Jewish delicacies, no visit to New York is complete without trying a delicious deli meat sandwich. Pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, long one of the New Yorker’s dietary staples, are a Manhattan lunchtime favorite. Look for local delis advertising their lunchtime sandwich specials in the window.

If there’s one food that will forever be associated with New York City, it’s the iconic New York pizza. Despite being a quintessentially Italian food, pizza is a local staple for New Yorkers. Much like Chicago, New York’s twist on pizza has become one of the city’s iconic foods and is available in almost every deli and pizzeria in the city.

While it may be best known for its convenient takes on European food, New York’s recent immigration boom has made the city a great place to enjoy fast food from an entirely different range of cultures. Middle Eastern food, in particular grilled meat such as gyros and shawarma, is sold on street carts in Manhattan’s busiest areas.

Eating Out in New York City: International Food

Eating Out in New York City: International Food
New York City’s many ethnic neighborhoods are home to fantastic and inexpensive dishes from as far away as Brazil, Indonesia, and Israel. Photo by Dan Nguyen

New York City is the world’s most diverse metropolis, hosting immigrants from over 100 different nations. As such, it’s home to one of the United States’ most divers and interesting culinary scenes, with classic meals from Brazil to Thailand often found in neighboring restaurants.

Unlike many other cities, where international food is spread throughout the city in a fairly even fashion, New York City’s best international restaurants are often found in small neighborhoods attracting immigrants of that country. Chinatown, for example, is the city’s not-so-surprising Chinese food and culture hotspot in Lower Manhattan.

Nearby, New York City’s best Thai food can be found on 9th Avenue, a hotspot for the city’s Thai community. New York City’s best Indian food is found in the East Village, a recent hotspot for Indian immigrants in the city. Manhattan’s Koreatown is found between 33rd and 35th streets, and is home to a wide range of great restaurants.

While New York City may be best known for its own unique take on Italian food, it’s also home to a range of great authentic Italian restaurants. Downtown Brooklyn is a great place to enjoy authentic Italian pizza, with the well-known Grimaldi’s Pizzeria serving up fresh Italian pizza from a wood oven, served exclusively by the entire pie.

Even New Yorkers will admit that California makes the United States’ best Mexican food, but New York City certainly comes in near the top. Fast food tacos are easy to find from street vendors and small takeout shops, while authentic Mexican food can be enjoyed at affordable prices in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem neighborhood.

New York City’s unofficial center of Japanese life is located in the East Village. Visit 10th Street to enjoy authentic Japanese sushi bars, yakitori vendors, and charming Tokyo-style ramen bars. New York City is famous for its great sushi, and the East Village is one of the best places in the city to enjoy fresh, authentic Japanese food.

As well as these well-known international cuisines, New York City is home to a huge range of other ethnic restaurants. Spend a moment walking around the back streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, and you’ll quickly stumble across charming little eateries serving up food from as far afield as Brazil, Egypt, and Bangladesh.

Eating Out in New York City: Mid-Range and Family Dining

Eating Out in New York City: Mid-Range and Family Dining
Despite their reputation as trendy high-end dining areas, SoHo and TriBeCa are home to some surprisingly affordable mid-range restaurants. Photo by T. Carrigan

Manhattan is home to a huge range of restaurants that fall into the mid-range price bracket. From authentic Japanese sushi bars to Argentinian steakhouses, read on to learn more about the best neighborhoods in Manhattan for enjoying a reasonably-priced yet tasty meal on your own, with your spouse, or with your family.

One of New York City’s most multicultural neighborhoods is the Lower East Side. A former ghetto for impoverished Jewish settlers, the neighborhood is now a middle-class area of dense housing and great restaurants. From delicatessens to authentic international food, the Lower East Side is a great place to enjoy a meal with friends.

Despite its reputation as an expensive neighborhood, SoHo is one of Manhattan’s best mid-range dining destinations. Avoid the overpriced fashion restaurants and head to one of the neighborhood’s authentic Italian pizzerias for a charming pasta and wine meal that’s perfect for a relaxing night out.

Located within walking distance, TriBeCa is home to some of Manhattan’s best mid-range lunch and dinner restaurants. Specializing in European and American meals, the TriBeCa area is a great place to enjoy a perfectly cooked steak, an all-American hamburger, or relax and nurse an ice-cold cocktail after a filling meal.

Eating Out in New York City: High-End Food and Luxury Dining

Eating Out in New York City: High-End Food and Luxury Dining
For visitors with deep pockets and thick wallets, New York City can deliver a truly magnificent gourmet dining experience. Photo by wendalicious

As one of the world’s financial capitals, New York City certainly isn’t lacking in the finer things. From $30-per-piece sushi to filet mignon and foie gras, his giant city is the perfect place to expand your palate and sample some of the world’s finest high-end foods.

To enjoy New York City’s best dining options, simply follow the money. The city’s top financial and academic districts are home to its finest restaurants and eateries, with areas such as Midtown Manhattan and the Upper East Side boasting $200-per-plate restaurants in truly staggering numbers.

Midtown Manhattan is a great place to enjoy the staples of ‘Rich New York.’ From steak tartare to filet mignon, many of Midtown’s steakhouses rank alongside the world’s finest. Midtown Manhattan is also known for its fantastic high-end Italian restaurants, which serve up delicious authentic dishes at staggering prices.

The Upper East Side, long home to New York City’s greatest concentration of wealth and glamour, is also the city’s high-end restaurant capital. Visit Lexington Avenue or 2nd Avenue to sample some of the area’s best European delicacies, or stop in at one of Madison Avenue’s bakeries for a delicious – albeit very expensive – sugary snack.

Along with its stylish historical buildings and laundry list of universities, the Upper West Side is home to some of New York’s best restaurants. Visit Masa for $500-per-plate Japanese food with highly personalized service, or step into Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant to sample fresh modern takes on classic European dishes.

Eating Out in New York City: Tipping, Hygiene, and Food Etiquette

From international food to American classics, New York City is home to one of the world’s most diverse food scenes. It’s also, unfortunately, a city of underpaid and overworked service employees that depend on tips for most of their salaries.

Like many other North American cities, tipping is a New York custom that’s very much expected in most restaurants. Tipping 15 percent of more is generally the custom, with many diners tipping over 20 percent if they’re particularly pleased with their food or service.

Many of New York City’s best restaurants maintain a fairly aggressive dress code that may catch some visitors off-guard. While you’ll never need to wear a dinner jacket, or even a tie, to get into a high-end restaurant, some luxurious restaurants will ask patrons to dress in a high standard of clean, conservative modern clothes.

Food hygiene generally isn’t a problem in New York City, with even the smallest of neighborhood takeout restaurants practicing adequate cleanliness. However, some locals like to joke about the cleanliness of food carts, typically in a negative fashion that might scare some guests. Keep your eyes open and you’ll spot any offenders.

Thanks to New York City’s huge range of immigrant populations, it’s easy to find food that suits a specific dietary standard. From halal street food to kosher meats, many of New York City’s best snacks are available in a form that suits any religious dietary standard, as well as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals.