The Daily Meal's Top 25 Restaurants in New York City
February 25, 2013
25) The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons is a New York original, with a stunning, landmarked interior designed in 1959 by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, a faithful clientele of Gothamite high-rollers and power-lunchers, and an American menu that offers few surprises but usually manages to satisfy everyone's tastes. Located in Park Avenue’s historic Seagram Building, this is the place to order things like Dungeness crab salad, smoked salmon sliced tableside, grilled Dover sole, cassoulet, or crisp farmhouse duck, then sit back and dine like a grown-up.
24) Al di Là
When chef Anna Klinger and husband Emiliano Coppa opened the Venetian-inspired Al di Là on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue in 1998, it was located on a sleepy thoroughfare perhaps best known for its wide variety of bodegas, and most Manhattanites wouldn’t have even considered heading out to Brooklyn for a meal. But by the time then-New York Times critic Frank Bruni got around to giving the trattoria two stars in 2006, it was widely regarded to be the neighborhood’s best restaurant, packing in crowds every night and anchoring a burgeoning restaurant row on the now-thriving avenue. Klinger’s moderately priced menu of home-style antipasti, pastas, and braised and grilled meats rarely changes (even though there are plenty of nightly specials), and that’s for a good reason: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
23) SriPraPhai, Queens, N.Y.
Consistently lauded by critics and Yelpers alike as the most authentic Thai restaurant in New York (although newcomer Pok Pok Ny is right up there) SriPraPhai boasts a menu as large as its reputation, from papaya salad with dry shrimp and crushed peanuts to fried fish with green mango sauce by way of classic pad thai and sauted pork leg with chiles, garlic, and basil. Feeling overwhelmed by the spread? Ask a member of the friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff for a recommendation, but be forewarned: things may get spicy.
22) The NoMad
No restaurant thats opened in New York City within the past year has quite captured the publics attention as much as The NoMad, and the three-star review from The New York Times Pete Wells seems to solidify its reputation. The brainchild of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, whose elegant Eleven Madison Park is number five on this year's list), The NoMad is larger, looser, and more accessible then EMP, but that doesnt mean that the food is any less mind-blowingly inventive; their whole-roasted chicken for two, with foie gras, black truffle, and brioche, has already become one of the city's must-try dishes. Dont forget to have a drink at the bar (Esquire named it one of the countrys best), and when its warm out, the 12th-floor NoMad Rooftop restaurant offers incredible views of the city below.
Click here to watch The Daily Meal's video on The NoMads decor.
21) Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
You’d better learn how to behave at chef César Ramirez’s acclaimed Brooklyn restaurant. The chef, a David Bouley alum, has been known to kick out diners who don’t obey his prohibitions on note- and photo-taking, and to be kooky enough to actually warn them against stealing his tableware mid-service (swear on a stack of menus, it happened). Despite what many would describe as diva behavior, if you follow the rules (or become friendly enough that he'll let you break them, because that’s been known to happen, too), you’re in for a 20-plus-course treat prepared by a culinary artist in an intimate setting. Assuming you scored your reservation six weeks in advance just moments after they started taking reservations on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., you can join the chef at the counter with 17 other guests in his kitchen. Through the seafood-centric tasting menu (which changes daily, $225 per person) you’ll be able to see firsthand how this Brooklyn establishment became the first New York City restaurant outside Manhattan to receive three Michelin stars.
20) Di Fara
Domenico DeMarco is somewhat of a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn, since 1964. Dom cooks up both New York and Sicilian-style pizza Wednesday through Sunday 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 throwing down money on the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek (we’re talking 11 subway stops out of Manhattan on the Q train to Avenue J here), and sure, Dom goes through periods where the underside of the pizza can trend toward overdone, but when he's on, Di Fara can present a very strong case for making America's best pizza. If you want to understand why before you make the trip, check out the great video about Di Fara called The Best Thing I Ever Done.
19) Xi’An Famous Foods
From this original location as a small stall inside the basement food court of Flushing’s Golden Mall, Liang Pi's restaurant has expanded, with two additional locations in Manhattan and another in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They're all good, but we still like this one the best. Named after, and serving the cuisine of, the capital of central China’s Shaanxi province, Xi'An features items like fiery, gamy "spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles," cold "spicy and tingly lamb face salad" (one of our all-time favorite dish names), stewed pork "burger" (actually just broth-soaked chopped pork inside a crispy bun), stewed oxtail, and various other items that you’re not likely to find on any other menu on the city — apart, of course, from those at other Xi'An locations.
18) Torrisi Italian Specialties
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone saved turkey from Thanksgiving (is theirs the best turkey sandwich in America?) and made everyone rethink New York's Little Italy (and Italian-American food in general) when they launched their shoebox of a shop on Mulberry Street in 2010. The chefs recognized the untapped potential of Italian-American cuisine, showing that with love for the genre and attention to detail, it has nothing to do with the foil baking pans filled with chicken Francese and the plates of criminally congealed Marsala sauces peddled to tourists in Little Italy. (Sheep's milk gnocchi with chestnut ragù or halibut Francese with potatoes and bergamot, anyone?) Their meteoric rise on the New York City dining scene landed them Best New Chef accolades from Food & Wine last year. The fact that their tasting menu price has gone from $45 to $75 and the issue of their potentially indelicate superimposition of the name of their next restaurant — Carbone — over the iconic West Village Rocco sign that hung outside the previous tenant's door forever might put off some of Torrisi's original champions. And expansions like Parm (their next-door place with its more casual à la carte menu), their Yankee Stadium kiosk, and plans for two to three more restaurants show a healthy dose of ambition — but hey, the food’s still great and when it comes to empire-building, hey, whatsamattawiddat?
17) Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
For almost 20 years, Il Buco has been one of New York City's most appealing Italian restaurants, serving unpretentious, savory food based on first-rate American and Italian ingredients. About a year-and-a-half ago, the proprietors opened a more casual sister restaurant — the name means something like "food shop and wine bar" — and it's so lively, with such vivid, hearty food, that it has all but overshadowed the original. Chef Justin Smillie, who refined his craft at Barbuto, among other places, fries baby artichokes and grills quail with the best of them, makes great pastas in-house (lasagnette with ragù Bolognese, plump Neapolitan-style schialatelli with octopus and spicy tomato sauce), and delights diners with everything from shortrib and gorgonzola panini at lunchtime to razor clam ceviche with hearts of palm and spit-roasted rabbit with endive and Taggiasca olives at night.
At last count, there were 43 Ippudo ramen shops run by Shigemi Kawahara (the self-described "Ramen King") throughout Japan, but New Yorkers still have only one— despite persistent rumors that a Midtown West location is in the works. That’s a problem. New Yorkers have become ramen-obsessed, and given Ippudo's reputation, there’s almost always a three-hour wait (!) —unless you get there at 5 p.m., right when they open for dinner. Worse, the hosts just generally seem annoyed and unhelpful. But these issues aside, the big slurp-worthy bowls of New York City’s best ramen draw customers back again and again (you see them sidling up to the bar to drown themselves in sake to make the wait at the glass-covered ramen bar at the front of the restaurant bearable). Once you do sit down… joy! There’s always the Shiromaru Hakata Classic, described as "the original silky 'tonkotsu' (pork) soup noodles topped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, menma [fermented bamboo shoots], red pickled ginger, and scallions." But the various limited-time-only specials are most often the fun way to go. A recent one, the Szechuan-style spicy tonkotsu ramen with black sesame sauce, topped with "niku-miso dame" [Japanese meat sauce], chashu pork, cabbage, cilantro, fragrant shrimp oil, and fresh lime was delicious.
Say what you will about "molecular gastronomy," but you have to give it up to a restaurant that takes an iconic dish like eggs Benedict and reintroduces it to the plate as egg yolk cylinders with crispy cubes of molten hollandaise with dehydrated bacon. It's so pretty that you almost don't want to attack it with your fork — almost. Wylie Dufresne continues to prove himself one of our country's most imaginative and technically accomplished chefs, and a recent menu revamp that eliminated the à la carte option didn’t affect the restaurant's reputation in the least.
When it opened, Marea was immediately acclaimed as one of the most original and consistently wonderful upscale Manhattan restaurants in recent memory. This very handsome establishment on Central Park South, in a sunny dining room that long housed San Domenico, specializes in exquisitely fresh fish and shellfish in Italian-inspired preparations (including the crostini with lardo and sea urchin, which caused waves of buzz at the time and has since become one of the city’s "checklist" dishes, and fusilli with octopus and bone marrow) by skilled chef and restaurateur Michael White.
Click here to watch The Daily Meal’s video on chef Michael White’s truffled scallops.
Former New York Times critic Sam Sifton took Masa down to three stars from the four given to it by his predecessor, apparently at least in part because they made him wait outside when he showed up early, didn't explain all the dishes, and didn’t pay him much attention after dessert. That doesn't seem to have discouraged the high-rollers who crowd the sushi bar or (losing some of the immediacy of the experience) sit at one of the small tables. Masa's toro-stuffed maki rolls inspire lip-twitching and eye-rolling, and the toro with beluga caviar seems almost worth the price of admission. And what a price that is: The swanky Time Warner Center setting and elaborate omakase-only menu is accompanied by a high bar for entry. At $450 per person before tip or beverages, you're looking at a bill that can easily total more than $1,200 for two.
12) Gotham Bar and Grill
Most New York City restaurants would consider themselves lucky to even get a review in The Times. In the 29 years that it’s been around, Gotham Bar and Grill has been reviewed no fewer than six times by the Gray Lady. Even more impressive? It has scored 15 stars — five three-star reviews (four is the best) since chef Alfred Portale took it over in 1985. You can argue about what other restaurants could better stand in for this Greenwich Village institution as the standard-bearer of American haute cuisine — yellowfin tuna tartare with miso–ginger vinaigrette, pheasant and foie gras terrine with black trumpet mushrooms and baby Chioggia beets, Skuna Bay salmon with caramelized fennel and Swiss chard and potato confit — but few would debate the merits of the classic dishes here or the restaurant's long-term commitment to innovation.
Click here to watch chef Alfred Portale’s tips for vegetarian entrées.
11) Per Se
This elegant dining room overlooking Central Park in the Time Warner Center remains an essential experience in New York, even for Sam Sifton, who chose the restaurant for his final review as The New York Times' restaurant critic — giving it four stars. Per Se upholds the standards set by Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, winning a James Beard Award in 2011 for Outstanding Service and receiving an annual three-star rating from Michelin since 2006. Eli Kaimeh took over as chef de cuisine in 2010 after Jonathan Benno left, and the transition was nothing short of seamless. The $295 chef's tasting menu ranges from the Keller classic "oysters and pearls" (made famous at his Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry) to poached pear and hibiscus financier, with everything from butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster with pommes Maxims to Red Cloud caraway spätzle with sunchokes and tomato marmalade along the way.
10) Del Posto
Having earned a coveted four-star rating in The New York Times (the first Italian restaurant to do so since 1974), Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali's temple of contemporary Italian fine dining ranks in a class of its own. In a space that is both luxurious and remarkably comfortable, executive chef Mark Ladner, with the help of pastry chef Brooks Headley, serves dishes that build on the classics with a true innovative spirit, and get this — they’ve created a database of videos showing how to make dishes at home. Specialties include "yesterday's 100-layer lasagna," native swordfish involtini with smoky cabbage and Arborio rice salad in Barolo sauce, and Sardinian lamb with Roman artichokes and saffron potatoes. And while the menu is quite expensive, their $39 prix fixe lunch menu is nothing short of a steal.
This very grown-up restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Daniel Boulud’s flagship, 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 really, really good. (Think duck terrine with red-wine-poached pears, oven-baked black sea bass with syrah sauce and bone-marrow-crusted sweet potato, and roasted Millbrook Farm venison loin with celery confit and sauce grand veneur.) It’s so good in fact, that President Obama has been known to drop in, and it remains one of only six Manhattan restaurants with four stars from The New York Times.
Click here to watch The Daily Meal’s interview with Daniel Boulud on cooking across continents.
8) Jean Georges
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, his classic French technique bridges old and new worlds, eschews heavy sauces, and embraces the spice and flavors of Asian cuisine. His signature Egg Caviar, a lightly scrambled egg topped with whipped cream and osetra caviar, is one of the city’s great bites of food.
Click to watch the Daily Meal’s At the Chef’s Table interview with Jean Georges.
7) Shake Shack
If you haven’t had Shake Shack but think you love burgers, you don’t as much as you think you do. It’s one of America’s best fast-food burgers. Yes, better than In-N-Out, and yes, it has its own secret menu… kind of (it’s just called Danny Meyer’s hospitality philosophy). What started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in 2001 has made history. In 2004, restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group won the bid to open a permanent kiosk in the park, and the lines, buzz, cult following, and even a somewhat begrudging review from The New York Times followed. What’s the big deal? Quality. And one of the juiciest cheeseburgers (100 percent all-natural Angus beef, no hormones, no antibiotics) you’ll ever find on a soft, grilled potato roll (ask for pickles and onions!). Then there’s the Shack-cago dog, which you could argue is the best Chicago-style hot dog outside of the Windy City. Frozen custards (a rotating list of flavors) are super smooth, thick, and creamy, and their "Concretes" (custard blended with mix-ins) are too much fun to be good for you. Shake Shack’s vigorous expansion program — Theatre District, Coral Gables, Abu Dhabi! — might disqualify it from The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurant list in the future, but this original location, though it has apparently spawned an empire, remains a classic.
As Mario Batali continues his reign atop the American culinary landscape, his flagship restaurant, Babbo, remains a New York essential. What can you say about this place that hasn't already been said? The pasta! That pork chop! Mario Batali is a genius! Rock music in a fine dining restaurant? Brilliant! At this longtime darling of the critics, after almost 15 years, you're still at the mercy of the reservation gods if you want to get in (but we’ve had some last-minute luck by closely monitoring their Twitter feed). Buona fortuna!
Click here to watch the Daily Meal’s interview with Mario Batali on China, Eataly and having a day job.
5) ABC Kitchen
ABC Kitchen is a celebration of the best ingredients that each season has to offer, all served in the classically elegant style for which Jean-Georges Vongerichten is widely known. Market-fresh dishes from chef Dan Kluger, like roasted carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream, and citrus, stand alongside Vongerichten mainstays like pretzel-crusted calamari. The décor is fresh, with an utterly cool urban sophistication that pairs perfectly with the style of the home furnishings store it’s connected to, ABC Carpet and Home. The restaurant was awarded the recognition of Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, and remains in the rotation for serious restaurant-goers in New York City.
4) Eleven Madison Park
Like many of the finest things in life, Eleven Madison Park is a restaurant that seems to get better with age. Although it 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 and three from Michelin — bought Eleven Madison from Meyer in 2011, in partnership with his front-of-house counterpart, Will Guidara, and didn’t miss a beat. The two aren't resting on their laurels, either; they did away with the minimalist "grid" menu in November 2012 and introduced a $195 multi-course tasting menu focused on the "extraordinary agricultural bounty of New York and on the centuries-old culinary traditions that have taken root here," according to the restaurant's website. As expected, it’s received rave reviews. They’ve also pushed culinary boundaries by taking part in a sold-out kitchen "swap" with Chicago’s Alinea (number 14 on this list). The Willem de Kooning quote on the front page of their website says it all: "I have to change to stay the same."
Click here to watch chef Daniel Humm react to winning his 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef.
3) Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Meals at this ever-evolving East Village hot spot wowed former New York Times critic Frank Bruni into a praise-filled three-star review in 2008, and no wonder. David Chang's food offers bold, Asian-inspired flavors — like his duckaholic lunch and popular bo ssäm dinner (slow-cooked pork shoulder, oysters, rice, kimchee, and sauces to be wrapped in bibb lettuce leaves). Chang continues to be the culinary cool kid while cementing his status as a top-tier chef by constantly expanding his empire, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold (his high-tech cocktail bar with Dave Arnold, Booker and Dax, is already ranked among the city’s finest).
2) Le Bernardin
Think Le Bernardin and you think accolades: Michelin, The New York Times, James Beard Foundation (plus a recent entry into the AAA Five Diamond club). A super sleek renovation in 2011 gave it more than a fresh coat of paint; it livened up the entire space, and a leather-clad lounge replaced a formerly sleepy bar. This iconic restaurant isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and if cooking fish well is an art, then chef Eric Ripert is a Michelangelo; his contemporary French touch has led some to call his creations — among them thinly shaved geoduck with osetra caviar and wasabi-citrus mousseline and poached skate and warm oysters, Brussels sprouts-bacon mignonette, and Dijon mustard sherry emulsion — the world's best seafood.
1) Gramercy Tavern
Gramercy Tavern is among the finest of the new wave of classic American restaurants (remember that Tom Colicchio was founding partner and chef here before he left to open his own restaurants and become a TV star). With Danny Meyer running the show and Michael Anthony (who previously spent time at Daniel and helped Dan Barber develop his influential style at Blue Hill at Stone Barns) in control in the kitchen, the restaurant continues to excel at serving refined American cuisine without pretension. Anthony has become known for his simply prepared fish dishes in particular, such as flounder with cabbage, leeks, olives, and oyster mushrooms, as well as butternut squash custard with carrots and hazelnuts, and pork loin and belly with navy beans, tasso, and kale. From the artwork to the lavish floral arrangements and from the copper-and-candle glow to the reputation for flawless service, a meal at Gramercy Tavern is one you’re not likely to forget any time soon.