There are many ways to get to the tiny island of Manhattan, and no matter your entry point, The Daily Meal has mapped out your meal plan. Whether you're traveling by plane, train, boat, or bus, here are The Daily Meal’s top picks for avoiding tourist traps if you only have a few hours to kill in the transit hub of your choice.
Grand Central Terminal
Arriving by train, you emerge in Midtown East, a bustling professional neighborhood that, during the week, is particularly clogged with commuters during morning and evening rush hours. Due west you’ll find Bryant Park and Times Square, worthwhile stops if you have time to sightsee, but they're always crowded. Here is a trio of options for food and drink in and near Grand Central.
Two Boots Pizzeria: Try the city’s eclectic and fun pizza chain (the owner started it in the late 1980s to fund a film production career) right in the lower dining concourse. The mosaic-tiled walkup Two Boots serves a dozen distinct pizzas that go way beyond cheese and pepperoni, like corn flour-crusted jalapeño, andouille sausage, crawfish and BBQ shrimp pies, plus non-pizza dishes, too.
Hofbräu Bierhaus: Walk into the Hofbräu Bierhaus for a stein of beer and be transported to an authentic Bavarian beer hall. The cavernous beer hall is populated with long wooden benches and a band plays nightly. Waitresses dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing occasionally break out in song, adding to the authenticity two blocks east of Grand Central.
The Perfect Pint East: This Irish pub has 40 beers on tap, including a few of their own brews. For a fun, relaxed outdoor atmosphere, join locals for happy hour on the rooftop and take in the city center.
John F. Kennedy International Airport
JFK is a popular international layover spot, and although few people stray out of the airport, there’s plenty to try in the giant borough of Queens. JFK offers immediate train access to get around. To stay safely nearby, head to Howard Beach, where you’ll find tapas and Italian options.
Piquillo: If you can’t leave JFK, tuck into tapas at Piquillo, the first-ever Spanish tapas restaurant in an American airport and one of The Daily Meal’s 31 Best Airport Restaurants. Located in Terminal 5, chef Alexandra Raij’s tapas restaurant serves small, shareable plates including hot and cold tapas like buñuelos de bacalao (fried salt cod fritters), gambas en gabardina (battered fried shrimp), alcachofas con jamón (artichokes with serrano ham and sweet peas), and huevos rellenos de anchoas (anchovy-stuffed deviled eggs).
Saffron: This family-run Spanish tapas restaurant has small plates perfect for sharing with travel companions, along with sangria and regularly scheduled flamenco performances. Try the tortilla Española and gambas con Serrano.
Gino’s Pizzeria: You might as well try New York City pizza while you're in town, and this is a local favorite where the pastas have been as good as the pie since its opening in 1977.
This is your lucky stop for an extended layover, as Astoria, Queens, is one of New York’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods with new bars and restaurants galore. Hop on the bus and head for a weekend brunch spot or nosh on specialty grilled cheeses. If you can’t leave the airport terminal, LaGuardia has a trio of restaurants to try, all which made the list of The Daily Meal’s 31 Best Airport Restaurants.
Tagliare: This New York-style pizzeria, located in Terminal D by gates 1 and 2, is run by Domenick DeMarco, whose family is behind Brooklyn’s famed Di Fara Pizza (ranked number one on The Daily Meal’s 35 Best Pizzas in America 2012). Tagliare includes breakfast stromboli (thin pizza crust turnovers stuffed with sausage, egg, and cheese or egg, onions, peppers, ham, and cheese). Pizzas are available by the slice or by the whole pie at lunch and dinner. Check out pizza combinations like sun-dried tomato, black olive, and mushroom; pepperoni, garlic, and black olive; and baby artichoke, sausage, and mushroom.
Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda: Located in the food court in Terminal D, Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda serves hamburgers made from a special blend by the fourth generation of the LaFrieda family, who make 75,000 hamburgers a day in their 36,000-square-foot facility in North Bergen, N.J. Their original hamburger blend is made using a 90-year-old recipe and includes a combination of American Black Angus beef chuck, brisket, and short rib. The restaurant’s most popular menu items include a Goodfellas double burger with Italian peppers, smoked mozzarella, mushrooms, and onions, and the Fat Cat, a double burger with bacon, and egg, and each burger is cooked to order.
Crust: Crust, in Terminal D, features thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza with artisanal toppings. Each pizza is cooked to perfection at 700 degrees. Order from the menu or design your own pizza. Options include the pesto (mozzarella, pecorino toscano, garlic, Gruyère, and basil pesto), prosciutto and cheese (mozzarella, fennel seeds, Gruyère, pecorino toscano, and prosciutto), and meatball (tomato, mozzarella, veal meatballs, caramelized onions, olives, pecorino toscano, and oregano). This sit-down eatery also offers takeout.
The Astor Room: Originally built as the commissary to the film studio opened by Adolph Zukor in 1920, The Astor Room is a retro supper club that also serves weekend brunch. Savor complimentary bloody marys or mimosas at brunch or catch live music with dinner. The two-course Sunday jazz brunch for $23 is not to be missed.
The Queens Kickshaw: Relax in a neighborhood café run by husband-and-wife Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim that's known as much for its coffee as it is for its grilled cheese sandwiches. Chef Youngsun Lee’s creations include the Great Blue Hill, prune jam and fresh pear on cranberry walnut bread served with green salad and pickled blueberries.
Upon disembarking from Amtrak or the Long Island Rail Road, you're bound to be overwhelmed with crowds, blatant tourist solicitation, and shopping. This train station is within walking distance to iconic Macy’s in Herald Square and the Empire State Building, but fuel up with a shepherd’s pie, steak, or a drink before or after your trip.
Penn Sushi: While Manhattan has many noteworthy sushi spots, Penn Sushi offers reliable and quick fresh sushi rolls for those who can’t leave the train station. The sushi stand’s traditional rolls are a healthy option amid the dozens of fast-food chains in the terminal.
Tir na nÓg: Named for the land of eternal youth, this modern Irish pub just south of Penn Station has Celtic décor as appealing its food and drink. The pub shows European soccer most days and there’s live music most nights.
RARE Bar & Grill: Bite into a top-notch steak south at RARE Bar & Grill inside the Hilton New York Fashion District Hotel south of Penn Station. Take time to head to the 23rd floor to enjoy drinks from the rooftop bar, which affords views of the Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building.
Port Authority Bus Terminal
Stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh air on your way to Restaurant Row, where sushi, burgers, and Brazilian food await.
Sushi of Gari 46: Explore the diverse and varied array of rolls hand-crafted by Masatoshi Gari Sugio.
Joe Allen: Joe Allen’s eponymous American restaurant is sure to get you in the Broadway mood with the dining room’s show-related décor. Dine on a menu of daily changing American classics while having a chance to see Broadway stars.
Brazil Brazil: Come hungry to devour Brazilian-style steaks and seafood served with a side of live music at Brazil Brazil.
Ashley Day is the New York City Travel Editor at The Daily Meal.