From the unforgettable star turn of Katz’s Delicatessen in When Harry Met Sally to the instantly recognizable neon sign of Tom’s Restaurant in a little show called Seinfeld, famous New York restaurants populate every neighborhood. But the realm of fine cuisine is where New York generates the brightest star power.
Famous New York Restaurants for Foodies
Advance planning, reservations, and ample funds are required to dine at these famous New York restaurants, yet for foodies, the experience is worth every ounce of effort.
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For two-plus decades Danny Meyer’s temple of contemporary American cuisine has topped everyone’s NYC favorites list while racking up accolades, including a Michelin star, eight James Beard Foundation Awards, and tributes from Wine Spectator and Zagat.
The kitchen at Gramercy Tavern turns out craft cuisine, ranging from lamb tartare and smoked duck andouille to house-made ravioli. In-season vegetables from green tomatoes to artichokes are always in the spotlight, and an impressive beer cellar collection, an award-winning wine list, and inventive craft cocktails send the experience over the top.
Reservations are essential for the dining room’s tasting menu with wine pairings. Didn’t plan ahead? Ease into the relaxed tavern—where a seat at the long bar is the perfect perch—for an a la carte menu and first-come, first-served seating.
While using the word “simple” to describe any aspect of New York’s most famous restaurant seems like culinary blasphemy, the title of the best-selling cookbook Le Bernardin: Four Star Simplicity beautifully embodies the philosophy at play every night in the dining room.
The finest ingredients meet classic French technique for a three-Michelin-star, seafood-centric dining experience at Le Bernardin. Reserve a Chef’s Tasting with wine pairings for your table (a vegetarian version is available), or choose from a four-course prix fixe menu featuring “almost raw” delicacies like yellowfin tuna carpaccio and golden imperial caviar as well as “barely touched” specials such as delicately charred octopus.
For an eat-well/feel-good experience, opt for the no-reservations Lounge, where lunch comes with starter, entree, coffee, and dessert, plus a $5 donation to the City Harvest food rescue.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
David Chang’s big dreams of restaurant empire glory may have launched in Momofuku Noodle—also one of the most famous places to eat in New York City—but the opening of his second East Village restaurant, Momofuku Ssam Bar, rocketed the chef into the celebrity stratosphere.
Foodies can rattle off bona fides like multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef (2008) and inclusion in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, but the star attraction of Momofuku restaurants can be summed up in two words: pork buns. A seat at the long bar provides an ideal spot for watching the kitchen’s steamy magic show and savoring every single bun within reach. Reservations are accepted for groups and diners ordering from prix fixe menus. For those with spot-on timing, a few seats are reserved for walk-ins.
As you step off the Soho sidewalk and brush through the perpetually crowded entryway, restaurateur Keith McNally’s dream of a Parisian cafe begins. Balthazar exudes romance and casual elegance, and the menu is classic brassiere.
Linger over oysters and onion soup gratinee before moving on to steak au poivre with spinach and pommes frites, the famous Balthazar burger, or the daily dinner special (just say “oui!” to Bouillabaisse Friday). Thanks to the top-notch bakery on site, you’ll want to embrace French tradition by never skipping bread or dessert.
Since 1862 the gilded dining room at La Grenouille, bursting with fresh flowers, has attracted celebrities, designers, and fashionistas from Richard Burton and Sophia Loren to David Bowie and Salvador Dali. The setting and menu offer an over-the-top dining experience at one of New York’s last strongholds of French haute cuisine.
Think souffles and lobster bisque, chateaubriand, sweetbread, and crepes flambes. Be prepared for a fabulously expensive bill, even by New York standards. For men, a jacket is required—and while loaners are available, dining at Le Grenoulle deserves your ritziest wear.
Eleven Madison Park
Being named number one on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017—the first time for an American restaurant to top the list since The French Laundry in 2004—comes with unimaginable expectations, yet Eleven Madison Park wears the mantle with ease. While fame is not a new sensation for this three-star Michelin restaurant, a fresh energy and excitement pulses through the recently renovated dining room, setting the stage for signature dishes like roasted duck and inventive new classics like celery root braised in pig’s bladder, served with black truffle.
Choose an eight- to 10-course menu in the dining room or a smaller tasting menu with cocktails in the bar. Scoring reservations is hardly an easy feat, so if it doesn’t happen for this visit, sample sister restaurant and bar NoMad.
No grouping of famous New York restaurants would be complete without this Upper East Side ode to refined French cuisine. Daniel’s classic preparation and presentation of dishes like lamb chops and veal tenderloin have long fulfilled foodie fantasies.
Through the revolving door, neoclassic columns and coffered ceilings provide a serene showcase for artfully presented wild game and seafood. The service is impeccable, with servers and sommeliers expertly guiding every bite and sip through a four-course prix fixe or seven-course tasting menu.
Many a trip to New York City has been inspired by a foodie’s desire to dine in Thomas Keller’s famous restaurant overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park, and the experience rarely disappoints. At Per Se, you can expect a full-length culinary play with dinner lasting three to four hours in grand European tradition.
Reserve a nine-course tasting menu—behold the “oysters and pearls,” a tapioca of oysters and caviar—or equally inventive nine-course vegetable tasting menu. Walk-in guests can enjoy a five-course tasting menu in The Salon.
The most unassuming of famous New York restaurants is also one of the most fulfilling. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s award-winning kitchen is beloved by locals for its hearty cuisine and East Village style and attitude.
Brunch is always popular, with hopefuls arriving before the doors open at 10:00 a.m. to grab a table in the tiny, no-reservations dining room. Eleven variations of the Bloody Mary help to fuel the mid-day craze, but dinner is when the restaurant really shines with specialties like fried sweetbreads and mussel and leek stew.
For many visitors, New York’s most expensive restaurant is the pinnacle of experiential dining. Tokyo-trained chef Masayoshi Takayama channels childhood memories from working in the family fish market into playful interpretations of Japanese delicacies.
The approximately two-hour tasting experience comes with a $595 tab per person, not including beverages and tax. Don’t be taken aback by extra charges for specialties like Wagyu beef or white truffle ice cream, or by the penalty-heavy cancellation policy. Too rich for your blood? Consider dipping your toes in Masa water at the more casual bar for sushi and sashimi specials at a lower price point.
More from SmarterTravel:
- New York City Travel Guide
- 10 Best Hotels in New York City
- 9 Famous Hotels in New York City
- 11 Cheap Hotels in New York City
- 10 Best Things to Do in New York City
- Top 11 Places to Visit in New York City
- 9 Great Day Trips from New York City
- 10 Hidden Gems in New York City
- 11 Deliciously Cheap Eats in New York City
- 11 Best Foods to Try in New York City
- What to Pack for New York City
- What to Wear in New York City
—Original reporting by Jess Simpson
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