Photos Modified: Dreamstime
From Montauk to Niagara Falls, New York state is home to stunning natural beauty, world-class attractions, and, of course, some amazing things to eat. And to celebrate all the great food and drink that this diverse and expansive state has to offer, we’ve rounded up 41 of the Empire State’s claims to culinary fame as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Gentl & Hyers
This New York City bakery was founded in 2009 by sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen who were born and raised in rural South Dakota. They sell their Salted Caramel Apple (as well as many others) whole or by the slice. They also sell handmade pie crusts and toppings so you can make whatever pie is on your mind!
Facebook/Dead Rabbit NYC
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, is not your average, run-of-the-mill Irish pub. The three-level, mid-19th century-style saloon has only been open for four years, but the bar has been racking up accolades, being named the best bar in the world by multiple outlets, most notably Drink International’s World’s 50 Best Bars in 2015 and 2016. The pub’s specialization is Irish whiskey; they serve more than 150 whiskeys in all, and the number is growing. Half of the bar’s 72 cocktails, served in the second-story sit-down parlor, are dedicated to Irish whiskey. Try the expertly executed Irish coffee, made with quality filtered coffee, not espresso; cream with more than 36 percent fat content; and low-pot still/high grain blend whiskey like Jameson’s Original or Clontarf 1014. No wonder 200 to 300 Irish coffees are sold here daily! Always bustling, the ground-level taproom serves craft beers, Irish whiskey, and basic cocktails. The hearty Irish and British food menu has all the requisites, like fish and chips, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs, along with some modernized offerings like burgers and truffle fries.
Brooklyn’s Other Half brews up some of the best IPAs on the East Coast, and many of them could have made this list. But their Double Dry Hopped Mylar Bags is their most well-balanced IPA. With five kinds of hops, DDH Mylar Bags is hazy, grassy, citrusy, and pure perfection.
The sophisticated ambience at this classy New York institution, complete with a piano, belies the gormandizing of the all-you-can-eat menu. Selections like flank steak and Parmesan-crusted pork loin keep on coming between trips to the gourmet buffet; the latter has exotic casseroles, sushi, and a salad bar so varied that the restaurant claims that even a vegetarian will go home happy.
The burger at the Spotted Pig, a restaurant that is widely considered responsible for launching the high-end gastropub trend, is a wonder. Chef and co-owner April Bloomfield created a half-pound behemoth of prime grilled beef, topped with a layer of creamy, stinky Roquefort, and sandwiched inside a brioche-style bun. Served alongside rosemary-scented shoestring fries, it’s the kind of burger that will force you to close your eyes after taking the first bite and just be with the beefy, cheesy decadence. This is a burger that you’ll be dreaming about for weeks to come, and is the best in America.
Yelp / Saori E
If chicken and waffles were popularized in Harlem, Amy Ruth’s is ground zero. Order white meat and you’ll get a whole breast with the wing still attached, on top of a fresh and crispy Belgian waffle with a side of thick gravy that’s been flavored with Vermont maple syrup. That gravy could probably make even an old shoe taste good, but atop these chicken and waffles, it’s heaven.
This legendary bar in New York's East Village may be best known for its stunning longevity (it opened in 1854 and has barely changed since) and its beer selection (light or dark — that's it), but its food options, displayed on a small chalkboard behind the bar, shouldn't be overlooked. Burgers are fresh and juicy, daily specials like corned beef and roast lamb are always on point, and its chili very well might be the city's best. Rich and comforting, it's made up of (by our estimation) 90 percent ground beef, seven percent chick peas, and three percent kidney beans (give or take), all suspended in what's probably half beef fat and half chile-tomato sauce. With a few saltines crumbled into it, it's one of the heartiest bowls of food you're ever likely to encounter.
With eight no-frills locations in New York, including outposts in Flushing, Chinatown, Greenpoint, Midtown Manhattan, and the East Village, Xi’an is one of the only places in the country where you can get your fix of the traditional foods of the western Chinese city of the same name.
Southern Tier Brewing
Southern Tier was founded in Lakewood in 2002, and recently opened their first satellite brewpub in Pittsburgh. Try the Nu Skool IPA, brewed with experimental and new American hops, or Thick Mint, a beer inspired by those famous Girl Scout cookies with a similar name.
Photo by Kris L. via Yelp
Billy’s Bakery was founded in 2003 by two college friends who shared a passion for pastries. The 1940s-styled stores — there are three locations — boast recipes from the same era; they are time-honored and time-tested baked goods. The banana Nutella cupcake elegantly blends classic and new flavors, while the carrot cupcake is a seasonal, classic favorite everyone will enjoy.
Yelp/ Lisa L.
Great Chicago-style deep dish — in New York? Believe it or not, it exists, and while slightly sacrilegious, nobody seems to care, because it’s delicious. Chicago native Emmett Burke opened Emmett’s back in 2013 after discovering that real-deal Chicago deep dish was impossible to find in the five boroughs. After months of research and experimentation, he hit the nail on the head. The crust is light and buttery, the cheese is spectacularly melty, the sauce is rich and tomatoey, and toppings are spot-on (especially the spicy, fennel-flecked Italian sausage).
New York City is certainly not wanting for dive bars. But perhaps there is no more iconic spot than McSorley's Old Ale House. Sawdust (and other dust) covers the floors, and knickknacks litter the shelves. You have two choices for your $2 beers: light or dark. That’s it. If that ain’t a good dive, I don’t know what is.
This Brooklyn-based doughnut store turns out some spectacular doughnuts. All the doughnuts you’ll find here are made with yeasted dough using a recipe that has really been perfected. Freshly fried doughnuts are made throughout the day, and the flavor options change gradually throughout the year but are consistently delicious. From passion fruit, to hibiscus, Earl Grey, and dulce de leche, you’ll need to visit several times (these doughnuts are huge, you won’t manage it all in one go) to make sure you’ve tasted them all.
Courtesy of GrowNYC
Serving more than 60,000 bustling city residents and tourists on any given day, GrowNYC’s Union Square Greenmarket caters to shoppers with an ever-changing treasury of fresh produce, baked goods, meats and fish, and even wine and beer. Along with its extensive list of vendors from the Tri-State area, the Greenmarket goes above and beyond to accommodate the needs of its community. The Greenmarket is open four days a week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — year-round, and offers cooking demonstrations, a compost pile, and seasonal bounty galore. It is also very common to spot top NYC chefs picking up produce for their restaurants here!
Luke's Lobster Mobile Lobster Roll Food Truck / Yelp
Born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, a small town on the coast of Maine, Luke Holden “grew up lobstering, built his own skiff, and launched a lobster company while still in high school.” At Luke’s Lobster, chilled lobster is served in a buttered and toasted split-top bun “with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter, and a dash of our secret spices.” You can opt for either the crab or shrimp roll instead, but really, when these lobsters are served just hours after they are caught, why would you? Luke’s has been a mainstay on numerous food truck lists at The Daily Meal for some time, and continues to be at the top of our lists.
Yelp/ Steph L.
A restaurant that maintains its status as a place to see and be seen despite having been around for 20 years, Balthazar is known for serving French bistro classics. One of the signature items, on a menu filled with quite a few, is the steak frites, a perfectly-cooked steak served alongside a heaping tangle of supremely crisp fries. Thin-cut and fried to an otherworldly shade of golden brown, these are irresistible, not greasy at all, and are far easier to work your way through than you may think. The constant line of people waiting to score a table may appear to be due to the chic clientele, but it’s also all about the fries, which we’ve deemed the very best in America.
A Salt and Battery
There’s nowhere else in the United States that replicates the authentic chipper experience as well as A Salt and Battery, located in New York’s West Village. A small takeaway, they offer local, sustainable pollock, haddock, sole, and whiting as well as shrimp and scallops. The batter that they use fries up beautifully, always seems to be perfectly golden brown, and doesn’t interfere at all with the flavor of the fish. The hand-cut chips are thick, crunchy, golden brown, delicious, and need no accompaniment aside from a few lashings of malt vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. While the place doesn’t offer much in the way of seating, if you want to truly experience the perfection of these fish and chips (and mushy peas), find a seat and eat it there. Not only does A Salt and Battery offer the best fish and chips in America, we’d dare to say their offering is better than many of the fish and chips you’ll find across the pond.
The fried chicken at this beloved Williamsburg gem is seasoned liberally with black pepper, cayenne, and paprika, making for a potent and flavorful golden brown crust. The atmosphere is laid-back, yet charming, with small tables and enough seating for only a few lucky guests at a time. The flaky homemade biscuits are almost croissant-like, and the rotating selection of pies (try the lemon chess pie) make for outstanding accompaniments to the juicy chicken.
Photo by Noriko T. via Yelp
Grocery shopping in New York City is not an easy task, but Fairway makes it just a little better for some. “I shop there frequently and have done for 35 years - that in itself is a good testament. Pretty good for most foods, a definite emphasis on quantity and variety,” one Google reviewer said.
Yelp/ Anita Y.
B&B’s long-running flagship serves some of the finest pastas you’ll ever try, and they’re certainly no slouch in the ravioli department. The filled pastas are the way to go; make sure you try the famed mint love letters with spicy lamb sausage (ravioli in everything but the name), as well as the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles.
Stan O. via Yelp
Katz’s Deli, on New York’s Lower East Side, is a New York institution. Their corned beef and pastrami, made on site and sliced to order, are legendary, and the simple act of taking your ticket, standing in line, bantering with the counterman while placing your order, and finding a table has become as New York an exercise as, well, eating a hot dog with a smear of mustard and a little sauerkraut. And it just so happens that the hot dogs here are very good. Made especially for the restaurant by Sabrett, these garlicky, natural-casing, jumbo-size, all-beef dogs spend such a long time on the flat-top grill that the outside gets a nice char and snaps when you bite into it. A smear of mustard is all that’s needed, but a little sauerkraut or stewed onions certainly won’t hurt. It’s a perfect hot dog, from a perfect deli.
Quality Eats sent shockwaves through New York’s carnivore community when it opened a couple years ago, thanks to owner Michael Stillman’s decision to offer lesser-seen cuts of steak like flatiron, hanger, and skirt at shockingly low prices (it’s still packed every night of the week, leading Stillman to open a second location uptown). The bavette cut (pictured), the least expensive steak on the menu, costs just $19.
Wilfie & Nell / Facebook
Wilfie & Nell manages to be both traditional and trendy. It's cozy and dark, just like a good pub ought to be, and the bar’s menu is full of elevated versions of classic Irish fare, like shepherd’s pie, Scotch eggs, and corned beef. It's tucked away on a quiet stretch of West 4th Street, and the old brick walls and ample reclaimed wood will transport you to another time and place.
Del Posto is the result of a collaboration between Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali. With these three big names banding together, the result may be (as Del Posto's website proclaims) “the ultimate expression of what an Italian restaurant should be.” As a relative newcomer to the fine dining scene, Del Posto opened in 2010 in New York's Meatpacking District, and soon received a coveted four-star review from The New York Times, the first Italian restaurant to do so in nearly four decades. Executive chef Mark Ladner left in January to launch a quick-serve pasta concept called Pasta Flyer, and former chef de cuisine Melissa Rodriguez has taken over (she’s now, amazingly, the first women to helm a New York kitchen that’s received four stars from the Times); her five- and eight-course menus ($149 and $179, respectively) prove that the restaurant hasn’t skipped a beat.
Katz’s Deli, on New York’s Lower East Side, is a New York institution. Its corned beef and pastrami, made on-premises and sliced to order, legendary, and the simple act of taking your ticket, standing in line, bantering with the counterman, and finding a table has become as New York an exercise as, well, eating a hot pastrami sandwich.
Katz’s opened its doors in 1888, originally serving many of the immigrant families on the Lower East Side who landed in New York. Word to the wise: You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you leave without sampling the corned beef and pastrami on rye with some deli mustard. The corned beef is brined and steamed, the pastrami is cured and smoked, and nobody does it better. Receiving a small plate with a taste of what’s to come from the counterman as he hand-slices your meat is one of those can’t-miss New York culinary experiences, surpassed only by the first bite of your sandwich. Katz’s isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience. And more so than for any other deli in New York (especially that touristy one near Times Square), no visit to the city is complete without a trip to Katz’s. While a towering high-rise is currently under construction next-door, the sale of the restaurant’s air rights by 29-year-old owner Jake Dell have guaranteed that thankfully this New York legend won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Yelp/ Ma L
It may be hard to believe now, but as its website proclaims, in 1997 when Rebecca Charles opened her restaurant, Pearl Oyster Bar in New York’s West Village, "there was not a lobster roll to be found in Manhattan; their availability limited to New England vacation destinations and the odd Long Island fish shack." People still line up outside before the restaurant opens to get their favorite seat at the bar and watch Charles and crew send out turn after turn of glorious lobster rolls accompanied by Pearl’s standard shoestring fries. The top-loading rolls are beautifully butter-crisped in sauté pans, loaded with a tangy, light mayonnaise, and sent out with a scatter of chive and lettuce. The lobster is fresh, juicy, and tender, and the portion generous.
If there’s one thing that the chefs at Murray’s Cheese Bar, the restaurant offshoot of one of the country’s most famous cheese shops, know, it’s cheese. And the macaroni and cheese that they devised to be the flagship dish (they’ve tweaked it a couple times since opening) is worthy of the heaps of praise that have been lavished upon it. Spring Brook Reading lends creaminess, Comté adds nuttiness, Irish Cheddar gives it a subtle tang, and a heap of fried onions on top elevate it into the stratosphere.
It could be argued that Cosme, the hit Gramercy Park establishment opened late 2014 by Enrique Olvera, chef-proprietor of Mexico City’s top-rated Pujol, is not so much the best Mexican restaurant in America as it is the best restaurant that’s Mexican. This warm but sparsely furnished hotspot is nobody’s idea of a “Mexican restaurant.” There are no concessions to Yankee expectations. Words like tostada, aguachile, and barbacoa do appear on the menu, but they don’t connect with food that looks like what they suggest. If you’re in the mood for fajitas and combination plates, look elsewhere. The fare at Cosme, based on locally sourced ingredients as well as imports from Mexico, is just good food imbued with unmistakably Mexican flavors, whatever it might be made from and however it might look. The constantly evolving menu offers unexpected delights like mussel tostadas with pig’s feet and Mexican cucumber, cobia (ling) instead of pork al pastor, esquites (usually a sautéed corn street snack) made with spelt and castelrosso radicchio, and crispy octopus with potatoes pickled in hazelnut mole. And on no account miss the duck carnitas, a menu staple, rich and crisp and meltingly tender, and large enough for three or four to share. Don’t miss the extensive mezcal selection, either; there’s plenty of tequila here, but a shot of something like the Del Maguey Minero or Fidencio Tobalá, served in a glass rimmed with worm salt, with an orange slice on the side, will make you forget about that margarita.
In order to be the most expensive restaurant in New York, you need to be reallyexpensive, and chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Time Warner Center flagship is without a doubt really, really expensive. Should you decide to blow your next paycheck on his (admittedly incredible) creations, plan on dropping a flat fee of $595 per person, before drinks and tax. At least gratuity is included.
This New York-based grilled cheese shop also has locations in Woodbury, King of Prussia, and the Mall of America, picking up legions of fans along the way. Specialties include the Maple Bacon (aged Cheddar, cheese spread, and maple glazed bacon); Fried Chicken (fried chicken, pepper Jack, red cabbage slaw, and cheese sauce); and the Burger Melt (burger patty, pepper Jack, caramelized onions, cheese sauce, and burger sauce).
When it opened, Marea was immediately acclaimed as one of the most original and consistently wonderful upscale Manhattan restaurants in recent memory. And it’s still a must-visit, with two dishes that are so unique and wonderful that they’ve officially entered New York’s culinary canon: a simple crostini with sea urchin and lardo, and fusilli with octopus and bone marrow. The latter, chef Michael White’s homage to surf and turf, starts with housemade Durum wheat fusilli. This is tossed with a sauce of braised baby Spanish octopus, Sangiovese wine, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, basil, and chunks of lightly sautéed bone marrow before being plated and topped with toasted bread crumbs. There’s nothing else out there that’s quite like it, and it remains in a league of its own in the competitive New York dining scene.
Photo by Stacey T. via Yelp
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York- and Sicilian-style pizza for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in 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 shelling out for the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods when the underside of the pizza can tend toward overdone, but when he's on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America's best pizza.
If you want to understand why before visiting, watch the great video about Di Fara called “The Best Thing I Ever Done.” You can’t go wrong with the classic round or square cheese pie (topped with oil-marinated hot peppers, which you can ladle on at the counter if you elbow in), but the menu’s signature is the Di Fara Classic Pie: mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, plum tomato sauce, basil, sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and, of course, a drizzle of olive oil by Dom.
A very grown-up restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Daniel Boulud’s flagship Daniel maintains standards of service and cuisine — French haute cuisine, very much an endangered species today — that hark back to an earlier era. But the cooking is up-to-date and superb, and the menu changes daily. If you are lucky enough to score a reservation, you may sample dishes as part of a four-course $142 or seven-course $234 prix fixe menu under the watchful eye of executive chef Jean-François Bruel. Poularde and foie gras mosaic with rutabaga, kohlrabi, birch-roasted Asian pear, Burgundy truffle vinaigrette, and hazelnut toast; roasted veal sweetbread with parsnip mousseline, satsuma, pickled kumquat, and wasabi-rosemary jus; and black truffle crusted Dover sole with salsify, crosnes, and sauce Périgueux are among the dishes you might be served.
Philip Traugott/ Yelp
Development was underway for this Red Hook ’que joint when Hurricane Sandy wiped out much of the neighborhood in November 2012. Just about 11 months later, with, as the Village Voice put it, “the help of indefatigable community hands and nary a cent from the government or insurance,” Hometown Bar-B-Que opened its doors. Ever since, pitmaster and owner Billy Durney has been churning out real barbecue for Northerners. They serve pork spare ribs, jerk baby backs, and off-the-menu Korean sticky ribs, which are first smoked and then fried. Your best bet for rib satisfaction, however, is the beef ribs — they’re huge and peppery, and the smoke flavor runs all the way down to the bone.
Photo by Bob K. via Yelp
To make the pastrami at the legendary Katz’s Deli, beef navel (a fattier and more traditional cut than the more common brisket) is rubbed with a proprietary seasoning blend, cured for up to four weeks, smoked for up to three days, boiled until tender, and steamed for about half an hour before being hand-sliced to order and piled onto rye bread; a little smear of deli mustard completes the dish. Katz’s isn’t just a restaurant; it’s an experience, and its pastrami is a true labor of love.
In a July 2007 article in The New York Times, Clam Bar owner Dick Elrich said, “We want the Clam Bar to be down and dirty in the best sense of the word.” And this red-and-white shack with yellow-and-white umbrellas has been just that since it first opened in 1981. They serve fresh catch from nearby Montauk. Customers recommend the steamers, lobster rolls, fish tacos, and/or the fried clams.
Yelp/ Stephanie A.
There are countless great bowls of soup in New York, and even when you narrow it down to matzo ball soup (the hands-down signature soup of the Big Apple), the restaurants serving very good versions easily number in the dozens. But for the quintessential bowl of matzo ball soup in New York City, go to the Second Avenue Deli. Big stockpots of the stuff are kept simmering in the kitchen throughout the day, and every detail is on point: the broth is crystal clear and rich with chicken flavor, the matzo balls are light and buoyant thanks to the deft hand of the cooks, and the tableside addition of tiny noodles, carrots, and dill bring it all together.
The meatballs at Rubirosa are tender, flavorful, and loaded with Parmigiano-Reggiano; they’d even be perfectly complemented by boxed spaghetti and jarred sauce. But at this New York favorite, they’re served with fresh-made spaghetti alla chitarra and tossed with a chunky homemade sauce that clings to every strand.
Photo by ElysseP. via Yelp
When you sit down at your table at the perpetually packed Peter Luger, located in an off-the-beaten-path corner of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, don’t ask for a menu. Just order the tomato and onion salad, some thick-cut bacon, creamed spinach, hash browns, and the steak for three, a massive porterhouse broiled under extreme heat before being sliced and presented on a platter.
Sure, the wait staff might be a bit gruff in this surprisingly casual German-styled old steakhouse that’s been here since 1887, but that’s all a part of the show. The star attraction, the steak, is simply the best you’ll find anywhere in America (along with the porterhouse, an equally impressive rib steak is also available). It’s dry-aged and butchered on the premises, and when it’s presented, in all its crusty, well-marbled, beefy glory, your jaw will drop. Use the house steak sauce to douse the onions and tomatoes (don’t let it anywhere near the steak), and be prepared to drop a wad of cash on the table before leaving — no credit cards accepted here, big spender.
Masa / Facebook
Masa Takayama is undeniably a sushi master — calm, precise, insistent on the very finest raw materials — and the sushi and other dishes you may sample at his flagship in Manhattan's Time Warner Center will be truly memorable. Does that justify the $595-per-person tariff (tip included) for his omakase menu — or, for that matter, the $200-per-person fee for cancellations less than 48 hours in advance? That's something each diner must decide for him- or herself. Suffice it to say that Masa's toro-stuffed maki rolls inspire ecstatic reactions, his fugu sashimi (including liver, skin, and intestines) is well worth the frisson you'll get from consuming this fabled blowfish (toxic if not properly prepared), and his toro with a generous helping of caviar seems almost worth the price of admission. That said, à la carte selections are also available.
Photo by Jason P. via Yelp
Located a couple of blocks from Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Tortilleria Nixtamal isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a tortilla factory. Opened in 2008, it quickly developed a reputation as one of New York’s premier taco spots, and with good reason: Just about everything they offer is astoundingly delicious. Tortillas are made from non-GMO corn with no additives or preservatives, and meat comes from Franco’s, a local butcher. Though the lamb barbacoa and homemade chorizo are certainly delicious, you won’t want to leave without trying the carnitas. Chunks of pork are slow-cooked for more than two hours in lard, and then simply topped with onion, cilantro, and a little hot sauce. It’s taco perfection. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.