“Many people would think it was France or Spain that put elBulli on the map,” noted world-famous chef Ferran Adrià recently of his now-closed restaurant in Catalonia. “But it wasn’t. It was New York City.” And why should that be a surprise? After all, New Yorkers love restaurants — perhaps, you could argue, even more than their own mothers' cooking. It’s every New Yorker’s God-given right to be able to have every conceivable cuisine in the world delivered to his or her apartment. Restaurant closings are followed and reservations at their replacements are made with the scrutiny of real estate agents trying to make a deal and stock-traders looking to make every last penny. In New York City, restaurants aren’t just big business, they’re culture and commodity, and for some chefs, a ticket to fame and fortune. To be among the high-flyers in the city is a big deal. So, too, is determining what the city's 30 best restaurants are, which is what we set out to do.
It’s tough to rank the best restaurants in America, but it’s even more difficult to rank just those in New York City. New York is a different species when it comes to restaurants. According to The New York Department of Health, there are some 24,000 restaurants in New York City, with seemingly hundreds opening and closing every year, and the city consistently draws some of the world’s biggest chef names and culinary ambitions. Sure, there are amazing spots across the country. Yes, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other key cities feature restaurants that do some cuisines at higher levels than others — Korean, Thai, and Mexican food in California; Italian, Greek, and German in Chicago; Ethiopian in D.C. — but in New York City the expectations are for all of these cuisines to be available, and for them to be prepared better than anywhere else.
You may believe other cities do some cuisines better and that’s okay. Call it self-absorption, call it ego, call it arrogance, but in New York there’s an expectation for perfection, now, and on one of the grandest stages. Which is all to say that New York City is a great restaurant town, a tough restaurant town, and one worth examining at this very moment with an eye to determining the city’s culinary stars.
This list of New York City’s best restaurants for 2014 draws from a roster of 430 establishments across the country that were nominated and voted on by more than 100 dining experts from the city and across the country, as part of The Daily Meal’s most recent ranking of the 101 Best Restaurants in America. Of the 30 places we ended up with here, most (if not quite all) were included in that 101 or in the rankings of previous years.“Many people would think it was France or Spain that put elBulli on the map,” noted world-famous chef Ferran Adrià recently of his now-closed restaurant in Catalonia. “But it wasn’t. It was New York City.”
Like the list of the country's best restaurants, this list of the best restaurants in New York City is only so geographically diverse. The French and Italian tourists crowding the sidewalks of Williamsburg are certainly there for good reason — or at least Brooklynites can keep telling themselves and everyone else that (kidding) — there are great culinary happenings in the outerboroughs. But this year, only two restaurants outside Manhattan ranked: SriPraphai in Queens, and Blanca in Brooklyn.
Which Manhattan neighborhoods have the best restaurants? It was a tie between the East Village and West Village (five each) with the Flatiron District (four) and Upper West Side (three) following up. Midtown East, Midtown West, and TriBeCa scored two restaurants each. Nolita, the Lower East Side, and Upper East Side scored one restaurant each. Times Square (of all places) topped the list.
Things were also a little more far-flung cuisine-wise. It was a list topped by a seafood restaurant and dominated by Modern American (8) and Asian (8) restaurants (New Yorkers seem obsessed by places featuring food and fusion incorporating cuisine from China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia), with Italian restaurants not far behind (seven). French and avant-garde restaurants were featured three times each.
Are there fantastic restaurants missing from this list? You bet. So don’t expect this list of New York's 30 best to be the end of it, by the way. Look out for a list of the 101 best restaurants in New York City sometime within the next year. For now, consider these bellwethers and newcomers (though none is less than six months old) alike to be the spots to turn to when considering where to dine in this hungry and well-fed city.
30 Best Restaurants in New York City
Click in to learn more about each restaurant.
#30 Blanca, Brooklyn
#29 Atera, TriBeCa
#28 The Four Seasons, Midtown East
#27 SriPraPhai, Queens
#26 Torrisi Italian Specialties, Nolita
#25 Carbone, West Village
#24 Betony, Midtown West
#23 Sushi Nakazawa, West Village
#22 Alder, East Village
#21 Nobu, TriBeCa
#20 Sushi Yasuda, Midtown East
#19 Masa, Upper West Side
#18 Momofuku Ko, East Village
#17 WD-50, Lower East Side
#16 Ippudo, East Village
#15 Marea, Midtown West
#14 Il Buco Alimentari, East Village
#13 NoMad, Flatiron District
#12 Blue Hill, West Village
#11 Babbo, West Village
#10 Gotham Bar & Grill, West Village
#9 Del Posto, Chelsea
#8 ABC Kitchen, Flatiron District
#7 Jean Georges, Upper West Side
#6 Gramercy Tavern, Flatiron District
#5 Momofuku Ssäm Bar, East Village
#4 Daniel, Upper East Side
#3 Per Se, Upper West Side
#2 Eleven Madison Park, Flatiron District
#1 Le Bernardin, Times Square