In the "city that never sleeps," New Yorkers often boldly claim to have the best of everything, with food as a top point of local pride. From casual fare like pizza and bagels to an unmatched international culinary presence, not only is there something for everyone — everyone, including The Daily Meal, has recommendations.
With more than 24,000 restaurants — and more than 100 more each year, according to the New York Department of Health — a proper sampler over one weekend is ambitious, but our guide guarantees to please with the right variety.
5 p.m.: Kick off your culinary tour sampling by New York wines at Chelsea Wine Vault. What started as Daniel Barteluce and Don Kurt’s desire to find a place to store their expanding wine collection and help others do the same — in order to rent basement-level space at Chelsea Market, the duo were required to open a retail space — has turned into the Chelsea Wine Vault, which has a tasting room, shop, and wine storage. Chelsea Market is also worth a stroll through its eclectic boutique shops and fresh markets. The historic market, site of where the first Oreo cookie was baked, is a treasure trove of treats. Snack on gourmet cupcakes or desserts, pick up fresh lobster or seafood, or shop for craft cheeses, chocolates, and olive oils.
8 p.m.: The surrounding area is a perfect first dinner destination, whether you find yourself in Chelsea or the Meatpacking District. A quick stroll through the Meatpacking District and you’ll soon discover why many find it a delicious destination. Across the street from Chelsea Market, the nautical-themed Maritime Hotel’s La Bottega offers ambiance with patio and cabana dining. Just south, Dos Caminos is a popular chain of lively Mexican restaurants, and to the west The Standard Hotel couples fine dining at The Standard Grill with an adjacent (and usually packed) Biergarten.
10 a.m.: Start the day the local way with a late and gluttonous brunch that has ambiance and booze. If a beautiful morning sets the stage for a walk in the parks, try Friend of a Farmer near Union Square or Hundred Acres’ comfort food served in an indoor garden near Washington Square Park.
1 p.m.: If you’ve already seen New York’s iconic sites like The Met, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square or you are determined to focus on food, look for one of many roving markets, street fairs, or cultural festivals held on blocked-off streets in Manhattan throughout the year. Every Saturday you can count on the Union Square Greenmarket, Essex Street Market, and the Farmer’s Market near Columbia University. For a comprehensive list, see The Daily Meal’s Guide to New York’s Farmers’ Markets.
3 p.m.: For a more interactive food activity, The Big Apple hosts a wide array of cooking and wine pairing classes. Find the cooking course that suits your taste at the Institute of Culinary Education, Miette Culinary Studio, or Natural Gourmet Institute, or broaden your wine knowledge at Vino-Versity or Corkbuzz. Classes are fun group activities and something out-of-the-box from typical tourism draws. Plus, some of the top chefs, restaurateurs, and sommeliers in the country often drop by to teach classes.
7 p.m.: Whatever your plans, make your way downtown for soup-filled dumplings in Chinatown, the perfect pasta in Little Italy, or truly native fare in Korea Town. Find even more of Italy at Mario Batali’s Eataly, which packs a coffee bar, gelato bar, restaurant, shop, and rooftop beer garden all into one giant spot at the edge of Madison Square Park and across from the iconic Flatiron Building.
10 p.m.: After dinner, enjoy drinks with a skyline view at Eataly’s La Birreria, one of The Daily Meal’s Best Rooftop Restaurants but also a popular spot for a rooftop drink. Many Manhattan hotels also boast spectacular rooftop bars. Try Rare View Rooftop at Hilton New York Fashion District or the Sky Room at Fairfield Inn and Suites in Times Square.
9 a.m.: For an earlier start and a lighter meal than brunch, set out for one of New York’s famous bagels. Some say real New Yorkers don’t toast bagels but rather eat them hot, fresh, and traditionally topped with lox. Where to get the best bagels is debatable, but locals claim loyalty to Ess-A Bagel, Tal, H&H, or the bodegas on their block. New Yorkers are known for smearing a thick layer of cream cheese and lox on their chewy, crusty bagels, but don’t overlook some varieties you may not have at home, like whole-wheat everything or flavored cream cheeses.
5 p.m.: For dinner, investigate another local debate — who has the best pizza in town? New York boasts five of The Daily Meal’s 35 best pizzas in America. Located in the heart of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Co. (pronounced Company) serves up the traditional options but also offers pies with flair. Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, opened Co. to offer his spin on Roman-style pizza. Joe's Pizza is as synonymous with New York City as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. The key to Joe's success since 1975 is their traditional New York City-style pizza with thin crust, great sauce, and just the right ratio of cheese, sauce, and crust (just a bit less of the first two). At John's of Bleecker Street, the pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven, the same way it's been done there since 1929. You can choose from their available toppings (pepperoni, sausage, sliced meatball, garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms, ricotta, sliced tomato, anchovies, olives, and roasted tomatoes), and you can scratch your name into the walls like the droves before you, but what you can't do is order a slice. The East Village Motorino offers traditional varieties of marinara and Margherita pizza and a handful of more spirited pies, including one with cherry stone clams and another with Brussels sprouts. Finally, there’s Di Fara, which took top honors on The Daily Meal’s list. Domenico DeMarco serves both New York and Sicilian-style pizza Wednesday through Sunday to hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait on long lines, and brave the free for all that is the Di Fara counter experience. Yes, you're better off getting a whole pie than throwing down money on the $5 slice.
7 p.m. If you haven’t treated yourself to enough food, sample the city’s most celebrated sweet trends before leaving town. Grab a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery, which is often credited with kicking off the cupcake craze, thanks to a Sex in the City reference; a gooey sundae at Serendipity 3, or look for the roving Treats Truck for baked goods to cap off your sweet weekend.
Ashley Day is the New York City Travel Editor for The Daily Meal.