The Best Food and Drink in New York for 2019
December 20, 2018
The Empire State is the standard bearer for great food in America
The Best Food and Drink in New York
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 the Empire State’s claims to culinary fame as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Any conversation about the cuisine of New York state will be dominated by that of New York City, which very well might be the greatest food city in America, and possibly on the planet. Whatever you want, you can find it there. Even the cheap pizza is good. You don’t know what a bagel is until you’ve had one there. The fine dining there is second only to perhaps that of Las Vegas, but more non-household-name chefs are opening a lot more mind-blowingly good restaurants there than in Sin City. Want Mexican? There’s a neighborhood for that. Want Russian? There’s a neighborhood for that. Want Asian? There are a few neighborhoods for that. How about Uzbeki? Ethiopian? Tibetan? Burmese? Korean barbecue? Just a subway ride away. Not only does New York have pizza, bagels, and Jewish deli fare to claim as its own, it also has upscale, downscale, highbrow, lowbrow, insanely cheap, jaw-droppingly expensive, hidden gems, world-renowned institutions… the list goes on. Spend a few days eating your way through New York City, and you’ll agree that it’s the best food town in the States.
But there’s a lot more to New York state than New York City, from the great seafood on Long Island to the unique culinary ecosystem of the Buffalo region, and over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and fried chicken to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our New York gallery ahead.
Best 24-Hour Diner: Veselka (New York City)
Veselka has been a port in the East Village storm since 1954, serving traditional diner fare and Eastern European specialties to NYU kids and graveyard-shift workers alike. Traditional diner fare includes pancakes and waffles made to order, challah French toast, Cobb salad, grilled cheese sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese, but their Ukranian comfort foods, including homemade pierogi, kielbasa, potato pancakes, goulash, and borsht are the stuff of legend.
Best Airport Restaurant: Deep Blue Sushi (John F. Kennedy International Airport)
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Hill Country BBQ (New York City)
Inspired by the legendary barbecue joints of Texas’ Hill Country, this venerable New York barbecue hotspot is insanely popular, and offers a wide variety of expertly smoked meats and addictive sides. It’s always hopping, but if you drop in on Mondays between 5 and 10 you can treat yourself to a barbecue feast that’s fit for a king: all you can eat brisket, smoked chicken, pork spare ribs, and side dishes for just $32 per person, or $16 for kids 12 and under. It’s one of the best barbecue deals you’ll find anywhere.
Best Apple Pie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Brooklyn)
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!
Best Bar: The NoMad Bar (New York City)
This midtown Manhattan bar — which exists in a hotel of the same name — was just crowned the number one bar in America and the fourth best bar in the world. Bar director Leo Robitschek is praised for his classically-focused cocktails with a twist of exotic ingredients and rare spirits, and staffers are renowned for their flawless hospitality. Customers say the chicken with crispy skin, foie gras and black truffle mayonnaise is an absolute must-have. Wash it down with any of the cocktails, really — you can’t go wrong. The “Walter Gibson” is made for two. It features vodka, London dry gin, Chenin blanc, Chambery blanc and dry vermouth, green apple eau de vie, bee’s wax and pickled vegetables. Don’t like to share? Try the “18th Parallel” built with Oaxacan rum, añejo tequila, pineapple, lime, Amaro Nonino, guava, vanilla, cream and mole bitters.
Best Beach Bar: The Surf Lodge (Montauk)
The massive outdoor bar at this laid-back hotel is hopping all summer long, with live music and DJs. A short hop from the beach and overlooking Fort Pond at the very tip of Long Island, the 2,600-square-foot deck and cocktail lounge is a giant, nonstop party. The Surf Lodge was recently renovated at the end of the summer 2017 season, adding a new outdoor stage and 11 additional guest rooms, many of which will be used for artists-in-residence.
Best Beer: All Green Everything, Other Half Brewing (Brooklyn)
Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing is known for two things: insanely long lines at their can releases, and dropping delicious, juicy Northeast-style IPAs at said can releases. Any number of Other Half’s limited-releases beers could be deemed the best beer in New York, but you may not ever be able to try them. A reliable Other Half beer you’ll usually be able to find? All Green Everything. With Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic and Motueka hops, this imperial IPA shows the dynamics of this beer style and makes for easy (and highly alcoholic) sipping.
Best Brunch: Balthazar (New York City)
Since opening in 1997, Balthazar has become a quintessential New York restaurant, a bustling brasserie that’s somehow sustained its momentum for more than 20 years, raking in on average more than $20 million annually. One bite of the steak frites in restaurateur Keith McNally’s legendary Parisian-style dining room will show you why it’s been so successful, but you haven’t really experienced Balthazar until you’ve had brunch there, when daylight streams through its front windows and servers deliver warm goat cheese and caramelized onion tarts, caramelized banana and Nutella tartines, decadent scrambled eggs in puff pastry, brioche French toast, and eggs Florentines to its stylish, Ramos fizz-lubricated clientele. Plenty of Balthazar classics, like gland shellfish plateaus, French onion soup, and the aforementioned steak frites are still available, along with a variety of fresh-baked pastries. There are a seemingly infinite amount of brunch options in New York, but none ace the formula quite as perfectly as Balthazar.
Best Brazilian Steakhouse: Churrascaria Plataforma (New York City)
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.
Best Burger: The Spotted Pig (New York City)
The burger at the Spotted Pig, a restaurant that is widely considered responsible for launching the high-end gastropub trend, is a wonder. (Now former) 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.
Best Burrito: Chipotle Pork, Calexico (New York City)
The team behind this Cal-Mex New York City cult favorite started small with a cart in SoHo that quickly became a mob scene during lunchtime. They’ve since expanded to four brick-and-mortar storefronts, a stall inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, a massive location in Detroit, and an additional outpost in Bahrain. Though their tacos and rolled quesadillas are things of beauty, the burritos are true works of culinary art. To get a sense of the amount of hard work that went into perfecting their recipes, opt for the chipotle pork to join rice, beans, Monterey Jack cheese, and pico de gallo in your burrito: The meat is slow-roasted for six hours, shredded, and mixed with a smoky, tangy, just-spicy-enough sauce, and the whole package will knock your socks off.
Best Chicken and Waffles: Amy Ruth’s (New York City)
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.
Best Chili: McSorley’s Old Ale House (New York City)
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 (by our estimation) 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.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Xi’an Famous Foods (New York City)
With locations throughout New York City, 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. You’ll be glad you did: Go for any of the hand-pulled noodle dishes, like the spicy and tingly beef, or try the spicy cumin lamb or stewed pork “burgers,” which are more like chopped spiced meat on buns. Other intensely flavorful options include a soup with diced pork belly and hand-stretched and ripped noodles in a sour and spicy broth; lamb face salad with lamb face meat and tendons, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro with a spicy dressing; homemade soft tofu in a spicy sauce; and lamb offal soup (with liver, stomach, and heart). If you’re feeling adventurous, Xi’an is for you.
The flavors will be unlike any you’ve had. We suggest you heed their warning and don’t take your order to go; those fresh noodles demand to be eaten immediately, before they begin to stick together.
Best Chocolate Shop: Jacques Torres Chocolate (New York City)
To call Jacques Torres a master chocolatier is understating how impeccable his creations are; the taste and presentation of these chocolates is unmatched. For every holiday, you’ll find new and unique creations at Jacques Torres’ numerous NYC locations. If you’re going to stop by one, however, we recommend the SoHo location, where you can visit a chocolate museum and take chocolate making classes from Jacques himself.
Best Coffee Shop: Everyman Espresso (New York City)
Possibly the best coffee shop in the nation, Everyman Espresso caters to coffee snobs as well as newbies. As the Village Voice once put it, Everyman Espresso has a friendly atmosphere for those who are "tired of nerdy coffee shops that deliver great drinks but make you feel like a moron." The shop — which has three locations, in SoHo, East Village, and the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope — has plenty of non-dairy options such as soy, oat, and almond milk, as well as delicious treats like doughnuts and macaroons to accompany their delicious coffee.
Best Craft Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood)
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.
Best Cupcake: Billy’s Bakery (New York City)
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.
Deep Dish Pizza: Emmett’s (New York City)
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).
Best Dive Bar: McSorley’s Old Ale House (New York City)
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 beer: light or dark. That’s it. You can order them in pairs only, but one round costs just $5.50. If that ain’t a good dive, I don’t know what is.
Best Donuts: Doughnut Plant (New York City)
It’s hard to strike the right balance between Instagrammable creations and foods with flavor, but NYC chain Doughnut Plant gets it right. Their yeast doughnuts are light and fluffy with classic, perfectly-executed taste; a vanilla bean glazed doughnut might sound typical, but this is anything but that. Their cake doughnuts are inventive yet not-too-sweet. Sweet not your thing? Don’t worry; they have savory doughnuts, too.
Best Farmers Market: Union Square Greenmarket (New York City)
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 chefs picking up produce for their restaurants here!
Best Food Truck: Taïm Mobile (New York)
In 2005, chef Einat Admony and her husband, Stefan Nafziger, homesick for their favorite Tel Aviv street food, opened their own falafel shop on Waverly Place. Five years (and a location in Nolita) later, they launched the much anticipated Taïm Mobile, and today it joins five brick-and-mortar locations. You don’t want to miss these falafels, which are smaller in size than the falafel balls you’re used to, but have double the flavor and crunch. They frequently offer special red pepper falafel and sometimes a version made with spicy harissa — and when you order them, make sure to ask for everything, and extra of it. They’ll add s’rug (Yemeni hot sauce), amba (pickled mango chutney), Israeli pickles, and spicy peppers for a spicy, crunchy, wet, delicious mess. You can expect only the best from these chefs, who are behind the beloved New York City restaurants Kish Kash and Balaboosta.
Best French Fries: Balthazar (New York City)
Yelp/ Steph L.
A restaurant that maintains its status as a place to see and be seen despite having been around for more than 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.
Best Fish and Chips: A Salt and Battery (New York City)
There’s nowhere else in the United States that replicates the authentic chippy 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.
Best Fried Chicken: Sweet Chick (New York City)
This chicken and waffles joint, which is co-owned by rapper Nas, has done gangbusters since the first location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a few years back, with three additional locations in New York and one in Los Angeles opening since then. The chicken and waffle choices here are plentiful and creative, with waffle options including bacon-cheddar, dried cherry, rosemary-mushroom, apple cinnamon, and spiced pecan; you can also order your chicken Buffalo-fried with a celery and carrot waffle, Cordon Bleu style with a Gruyere and thyme waffle, or with General Tso’s sauce and a rice and broccoli waffle.
But if it’s your first time, you’ll probably just want to try the classic version. The chicken is sweet tea-brined, seasoned with oregano, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and paprika, buttermilk-dipped, dredged in flour and cornstarch, and fried in a cast iron skillet; and the waffles are light and airy on the inside and crisp on the outside.
Best Fudge Shop: Li-Lac Chocolates (New York City)
Li-Lac has been producing some of New York’s finest chocolate (and fudge) since 1923. Its old-world, artisanal approach is still in practice at its factory in Brooklyn. While Li-Lac is best known for its selection of more than 140 chocolates, its fudge, made the same way for more than 90 years, is a must-try.
Best Grocery Store: Fairway
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.
Best Homemade Ravioli: Babbo (New York City)
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.
Best Hole in the Wall Diner: Eisenberg’s (New York City)
A humble, no-frills lunch counter on tony Fifth Avenue, just south of Madison Square? That’s Eisenberg’s, which has been going strong, against all odds, since 1929. This no-frills diner, with its 25-foot-long stone counter and photos of celebrities on the walls, has remained essentially unchanged since opening 90 years ago. All the diner staples are here, including burgers, tuna melts, hot open sandwiches, and pancakes, but don’t miss the opportunity to sample some Jewish classics, including a Reuben, knockwurst, chopped liver, and lox, eggs, and onions. Make sure you wash it all down with a lime rickey.
Best Hot Dog: Katz’s Deli, New York City
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.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Jean Georges (New York City)
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the few chefs in New York City with the distinction of four stars from The New York Times. At his eponymous restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, one of the few restaurants left in New York where gentlemen are required to wear jackets, his classic French technique bridges old and new worlds, eschews heavy sauces, and embraces the spice and flavors of Asian cuisine. The prix fixe menu at Jean Georges, executed by executive chef Mark Lapico, features an assortment of the chef’s signature dishes, like sesame-crusted foie gras with dried chiles. Vongerichten’s signature “Egg Caviar,” a lightly scrambled egg topped with whipped cream and osetra caviar, is one of the city’s great bites of food.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Ample Hills (Brooklyn)
Ample Hills is Brooklyn hipster ice cream paradise. Ample Hills uses hormone-free milk and cream from grass-fed cows and organic cane sugar. They even pasteurize on site! The Daily Meal is even a fan of the creamery — we sampled their royal wedding ice cream before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot.
Best Indian Restaurant: Junoon (New York City)
Thanks to its boldly progressive South Asian cuisine, Junoon was awarded a Michelin star for the eighth consecutive year in October 2018 and remains the only Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in New York City. The restaurant is named for the Urdu word for “obsession,” and Manhattan foodies are certainly obsessed with chef Akshay Bhardwaj’s high-end takes on traditional dishes and even techniques such as putting octopus tentacles in the tandoor and serving them with arugula, marcona almonds, and mango vinaigrette; or making chicken tikka with cabbage slaw and a cashew puree with cashew crumble (in the popular Ghost Chili Murgh Tikka). The restaurant’s head mixologist Hemant Pathak also makes sure to literally spice up Junoon’s cocktails with herbs and spices from their masala room, creating mixes such as the Mirchi Mary, an Indian-spiced bloody mary, and the Masala Margarita, a South Asian take on the margarita.
Best Inexpensive Steakhouse: Quality Eats (New York City)
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 two additional locations). The bavette cut, the least expensive steak on the menu, costs just $26.
Best Irish Pub: Wilfie & Nell (New York)
Wilfie & Nell/Yelp
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.
Best Italian Restaurant: Del Posto (New York City)
Del Posto is the result of a collaboration between Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali. With these three big names banding together (even though Batali has stepped away from his restaurant group), 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 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 2017 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 menu includes lobster caponata with fried artichokes; orecchiette with rabbit sausage, turnips, and Castelvetrano olive passato; Moorish spiced crispy lamb neck with labneh; and pork ribollita with bacon and onion marlellata and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A five-course or eight-course tasting menu is available ($164 and $194, respectively), as well as an eight-course vegan tasting menu. The $59 three-course prix fixe is still one of the city’s great high-end lunch deals.
Best Jewish Deli: Katz’s (New York City)
Katz’s Deli, on New York’s Lower East Side, is a New York institution. 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, 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 30-year-old owner Jake Dell have guaranteed that thankfully this New York legend won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Best Lasagna: Don Angie (New York City)
Husband-and-wife team Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito always dreamed of opening a small, special place where they could showcase their unique style of modern Italian American cuisine. In 2017 their vision came to life and Don Angie was born in Greenwich Village. Their Lasagna for Two is an updated take on the classic dish, and it’s rolled rather than layered. Although this version bears more visual resemblance to a cinnamon roll, the flavors are unquestionably familiar and deliver a highly comforting dish.
Best Lobster Roll: Pearl Oyster Bar (New York City)
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.
Best Macaroni and Cheese: Murray’s Cheese Bar (New York City)
Murray's Cheese Bar/Yelp
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.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Cosme (New York City)
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.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Masa (New York City)
In order to be the most expensive restaurant in New York, you need to be really expensive, 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.
Most Iconic Dish: The Classic, Russ & Daughters (New York City)
Benjamin F/ Yelp
The Lower East Side’s Russ and Daughters is a true new York classic (It’s widely regarded as the best spot in the country for lox, smoked salmon, and other Jewish bagel-toppers called “appetizing”), so you know that if there’s a sandwich on their menu called the Classic that it’s going to be, well, a classic. And it is certainly iconic: A fresh bagel from Park Slope, Brooklyn’s Bagel Hole is sliced and topped with house-made Gaspe Nova smoked salmon (thin-sliced by hand, of course), tangy all-natural cream cheese from a California dairy, sliced tomato, onions, and a sprinkling of capers. It’s New York in a bite.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Golden Opulence Sundae, Serendipity 3 (New York)
One of the most expensive restaurant dishes in the nation, period, famed dessert spot Serendipity 3's Golden Opulence Sundae has a $1,000 price tag and you have to make a specific reservation for it in order to enjoy it. What makes an ice cream sundae this expensive? It's made with three scoops of top-quality Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream made with Madagascar vanilla beans and is covered in 23-karat edible gold leaf. If that weren't enough, it also has one of the world's most expensive chocolates, Amedei Porcelana, drizzled on top in syrup form, as well as chunks of a rare Chuao chocolate made from cocoa beans off the Venezuelan coast. Also added to the jaw-dropping dessert are gold-covered almonds, chocolate truffles, candied fruits from Paris, marzipan cherries, and a small bowl of unsalted caviar infused with orange, passion fruit, and Armagnac.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills)
High-profile organo-loca-sustainavore Dan Barber has found the perfect home at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a beautiful restaurant in a bucolic but hardworking setting on the year-round farm and educational nonprofit center Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in a tiny Hudson River hamlet called Pocantico Hills, established by David Rockefeller as a memorial to his wife. This literal farm-to-table restaurant prepares reserved meals based largely on the day’s harvest, served in a gorgeous and minimalist dining room with a vaulted ceiling, reclaimed wood floors, cream-colored walls, plenty of windows, well-spaced tables, hanging plants, and (of course) white tablecloths. The serene and upscale dining room, the high-end cuisine, and the pastoral setting combine to create one of the most romantic dining experiences in America.
Best Old-School Candy Shop: Economy Candy (New York City)
At this New York City gem, you can find old-school favorite Pez dispensers of Snoopy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney Princesses, Mickey Mouse, Smurfs, and more. In addition to timeless candies like Abba-Zabba, 100 Grand, and Turkish Taffy, Economy Candy sells vintage trading cards and temporary tattoos.
Best Over-the-Top Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Melt Shop (New York City)
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).
Best Pancakes: Norma’s (New York City)
Tucked inside the high-end Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Norma’s is one of the most popular (and opulent) breakfast spots in New York (high-roller menu items include foie gras brioche French toast and a $1,000 caviar-topped lobster frittata). At around $30 per order, these are by far the most expensive pancakes on our ranking, but they’re worth every penny. Their blueberry pancakes with rich Devonshire cream are a best-seller, but you can also try their country-style buttermilk pancakes with Georgia peaches and walnuts, banana-macadamia flap jacks with banana brown sugar butter, Nutella “Packed Jacks” with pineapple chunks and raspberries, German pancakes with maple caramelized apple, and light and lemony griddle cakes with Devonshire cream. These are about as gourmet as pancakes can get.
Best Pasta Dish: Fusilli with Red Wine Braised Octopus and Bone Marrow, Marea (New York City)
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.
Best Pizza: John’s of Bleecker Street (New York City)
Yes, John's of Bleecker is on the tourist rotation, but there's a reason it’s become a New York City institution. Pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven the same way it's been done there since 1929. Choose from their available toppings (sliced meatball, pepperoni, ground sausage, sliced tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, ricotta, mushrooms, onions, peppers, anchovies, black olives, and garlic), and you can scratch your name into the walls like the droves before you.
What can't you do? Order a slice. Pies only. And in this case, you’re going with either a Margherita or what the guys at John's like to call the "Boom Pie" (according to a manager, they say "Boom!" to themselves right before they serve it): oven-roasted tomatoes, garlic, and basil. And if you can’t make it there in person, the team has finally perfected something that’s been eluding them for years: delivery.
Best Ramen: Ippudo (New York City)
When Ippudo founder Shigemi Kawahara opened the restaurant’s first location in Fukuoka City, Japan, in 1985, most ramen shops were not much more than glorified food stalls, dingy holes-in-the-wall geared toward late-night revelers. But his plan was simple and revolutionary: to open a restaurant that guests wouldn’t mind bringing a date to, one that also happened to serve a stellar bowl of ramen. The concept took Japan by storm, and today there are locations across Asia; in London, Paris, and Sydney; and three in New York. When Ippudo opened its first New York location in 2008 it was just as revolutionary, and played a huge part in changing New Yorkers’ (and Americans’) perception of what ramen is and could be. Their authentic Hakata tonkotsu ramen takes two days to make, noodles are made fresh daily, and bowls are kept in simmering water so the ramen stays hot. Five ramen varieties in total are available, and they’re all about as authentic and chef-driven as it gets. The Akamaru Modern ramen is topped with miso paste and garlic oil, the spicy Karaka Men is topped with hot spices and minced pork, the tori ramen is made with clear chicken and pork broth and topped with minced shiso onion and arako chile pepper, and the soy sauce and vegetable-based shoyu ramen is topped with bean curd, wasabi, tempura flakes, and wasabi-infused oil.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Shopsin’s General Store (New York City)
We’re just going to come out and say it: Shopsin’s is unlike any other restaurant on earth. It’s tiny, they don’t offer anything to-go, the menu is wildly creative and has literally hundreds of items on it, and somehow everything that comes out of the kitchen is insanely delicious. Among the more outlandish breakfast items are mac and cheese pancakes; Blisters on my Sisters (sunny-side-up eggs on corn tortillas topped with peppers, beans, collards, tomatoes, onions, rice, and Cheddar); Hunky Dory (hoisin duck tempura, “Jazzy Mac,” eggs, and toast); So Good (triple-decker French toast grilled cheese with poached eggs); Bibi (eggs, polenta, fufu fried duck, and chorizo kale gravy); Enchahuata (eggs, chipotle, and tomato peanut mole enchiladas); dozens of varieties of pancakes and French toast (including one topped with bacon, eggs, cheese, and mac and cheese and another with coconut sweet rice and pecan pumpkin fluff); and sundried cherry pancakes topped with jack cheese, brisket, and eggs. And that’s just the breakfast menu! It’s open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and Sundays from 10 to 2; we suggest you get there early.
Best Restaurant: Eleven Madison Park (New York City)
Although Eleven Madison Park opened to much fanfare and subsequent acclaim in 1998, it was Danny Meyer’s hiring of Swiss-born Daniel Humm to helm the kitchen in 2006 that elevated the place to the level of the finest restaurants in the country. Humm — who has won such plaudits for the restaurant as four stars from The New York Times (more than once, most recently by Pete Wells) three from Michelin, and the top spot on The World’s 50 Best list — bought Eleven Madison from Meyer in 2011, in partnership with his front-of-house counterpart, Will Guidara, and didn’t miss a beat. The chef is firmly in control: While Humm will tailor his single $295-$315 multi-course tasting menu to accommodate allergies, dietary restrictions, and ingredient preferences, there is no à la carte selection, although a smaller menu is available at the bar. The particulars of the dishes change frequently, but the technique is contemporary French, modernist, and minimalist. The restaurant closed for several months last year for a thorough revamp (international news in itself), and it reopened with an updated design, a completely renovated kitchen, and a striking new menu. Some classics have remained (duck roasted with honey and lavender, savory black and white cookies to start the meal), but new offerings include a salad of marinated clams and fennel, smoked sturgeon cheesecake with caviar, lobster with potato and chanterelle, and dry aged veal with winter greens. Needless to say, they sound much simpler than they actually are.
Best Ribs: Hometown Bar-B-Que (Brooklyn)
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.
Best Sandwich: Pastrami on Rye, Katz’s Deli (New York City)
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.
Best Seafood Shack: The Clam Bar at Napeague (Amagansett)
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.
Best Soup: Matzo Ball, Second Avenue Deli (New York City)
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.
Best Spaghetti and Meatballs: Parm (New York City)
The meatballs served at New York’s popular Parm, helmed by the on-fire duo of Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, aren’t exactly balls; they’re flattened so as to better fit inside a sandwich. A combination of beef, veal, and sweet Italian sausage is mixed with fried onions, celery, carrots, stale bread, milk, grated cheese, and eggs. They’re delicious when tucked inside a bun with cheese and sauce, but we suggest you order them with a side of rigatoni fra diavolo, tossed with a pink sauce and Calabrian chile. Sure, it’s not exactly traditional, but it’s so good.
Best Sports Bar: Standings (New York City)
Jerseys, pennants, and sport headlines hang on the walls and from the ceiling at Standings in the East Village. There’s no music to be heard — instead, they blast audio from the games, because that's what it's all about. It’s a slim space, with just 10 bar stools and seating for roughly 30 or so more. Everyone gets a great view of the eight flat-screens, and one of the 10-plus draft selections (many of them craft) are always just an arm’s reach away.
Best Steakhouse: Peter Luger (Brooklyn)
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.
Best Sushi Bar: Masa (New York City)
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.
Best Taco: Adobada, Los Tacos No. 1 (New York City)
With Los Tacos No. 1 setting up in the Chelsea Market, there’s only one thing to say to taco-crazy New Yorkers eager to assert that they now have one of America’s best tacos: You're right.
Los Tacos No. 1 serves a taco so good that you could dare anyone to taste it blindfolded against their supposed favorite and make money betting on the outcome. Not that the proprietors here are unfamiliar with real tacos: Los Tacos is a collaboration between three close friends from Tijuana and Brawley, California. You really can’t go wrong with the adobo or pollo tacos here, but the winner is the red chile-marinated pork — the adobada. Moist. Salted. Flavorful. Sweet but not cloying. There are also expertly prepared salsas, so you can dress your taco yourself. You’ll shut up because your mouth will be full and you will be happy. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.