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New York City is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming in equal measure. With five boroughs, dozens of neighbourhoods, hundreds of attractions and thousands of eateries, it can be extremely difficult to prioritise the most important things to see and do, let alone the best places to eat in New York City.
In preparing for our trip, I read dozens of recommendations for hipster cafes and restaurants all with the same Scandi-style interiors and Insta-worthy decor. And while it’s nice to enjoy a flat white in stylish surroundings, I was looking for something a bit more ‘authentic’.
So, if you’re looking for a traditional New York City experience in the form of good old American food and bottomless coffee, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for my recommendations for some great places to eat in New York City, from my own experience.
7 Essential Places to Eat in NYC
548 3rd Ave, New York, 10016
Our first morning in NYC saw us trekking all the way from 51st Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Rather than taking the subway, we wanted to see as much as possible. So, donning our comfy shoes, we left our hotel in search of a traditional American diner in New York City that would fulfil all our American breakfast dreams.
After walking for about 10 minutes, we were yet to see any diners that took our fancy. And with the hunger pangs rapidly increasing and my husband descending into a new level of ‘hangry’, I jumped onto Google Maps and did a quick search for the nearest diners. Google Maps told me that just one block away, we’d find a highly-rated Jewish-style deli and diner called Sarge’s, serving epic sandwiches and great breakfasts. Perfect!
Sarge’s deli and diner has a very modest interior, and while it doesn’t look much on the inside, it’s rated extremely highly by locals as one of the best places to eat in New York City.
We enjoyed two fantastic breakfasts – a stack of pancakes with bacon and unlimited syrup and an all American breakfast with eggs, sausage, home fries and toast and, most importantly, bottomless coffee! The service was typical of New York – curt, fast, efficient and the surroundings comfy and traditional. All in all, this felt like the sort of place locals frequent, whether for a hearty breakfast or one of their famous pastrami sandwiches – and with their reasonable prices you can’t go wrong.
339 Adams St, New York, 11201
After the mammoth walk to Brooklyn, we stopped off at Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila bar for a beverage, a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge. While we didn’t eat here, the food looked ah-mazing! I was still so full from my pancake stack at Sarge’s but after seeing the food being served, I almost ordered some tacos just for the hell of it. Instead, we just enjoyed a beer at the bar – anyone else love those lunchtime beers on holiday?
Rocco’s itself is seriously quirky and cool. The decor is unique and the atmosphere was buzzing with groups of friends and professionals grabbing lunch. We sat at the bar and had the best time chatting happily to two very friendly Brooklyn locals who recognised our British accents and made us feel welcome. So, if you’re looking for cool places to eat in Brooklyn, Rocco’s is your place.
I didn’t realise at the time but after checking out their website it seems that Rocco’s has restaurants in a few locations from Orlando and Tampa to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
831 3rd Ave, New York, 10022
Ess-a-Bagel is hailed as one of THE best bagel shops in New York and it was right around the corner from our hotel at Pod 51. There’s no denying it, when you arrive at Ess-a-Bagel, you’ll likely find a queue out of the door and down the street. Call me stupid, but I decided to wait in line for the ultimate New York bagel experience and I’m really glad I did.
I waited in line for an hour, while my husband impatiently trekked across the street to get a McDonalds breakfast. But I wasn’t disappointed. I found the queue moved really quickly – the staff are truly wonderful, very fast and efficient. When you get inside, you’ll witness the true definition of organised chaos. It is pretty crazy. But totally worth the wait in my opinion. Even my husband begrudgingly admitted it was the best bagel he’d ever had.
The only downside is that the bagels are very pricey. I paid over $20 for two bagels and when you consider that you can pick up a pretty decent bagel from any street cart, you realise you are paying over the odds for the experience and the hype.
Nevertheless, we chose two traditional options, both of which were delicious and very filling – two everything bagels, one with smoked salmon and everything herb cream cheese and one BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado).
Tip: If you want to skip the queue, you can pick up a bag of plain bagels to take away and add fillings yourself at your home/accommodation. To do this, take the door to the right-hand side of the shop queue and you’ll walk right on in.
216 East 49 Street, New York, 10017
Jasmine is a lovely Chinese restaurant not far from midtown Manhattan. We stumbled across this restaurant late one night as it was just around the corner from our hotel on 51st St. We were starving hungry, the restaurant was fairly quiet and we really fancied Chinese food, so we took a chance.
The food was good (I had shredded beef with green chilli), the restaurant had a nice ambience and it was really convenient. I wouldn’t suggest you trek all the way across town for this restaurant in particular, but if you’re looking for good restaurants near Pod 51 hotel, and you don’t want to venture too far, this would be a good shout. Plus you get free oolong tea, which is always a bonus.
Amy’s Bread is hailed as one of the best bakeries in NYC. And with seven different locations, you won’t be far from an Amy’s Bread wherever you are in New York. We stopped at the Chelsea Market location for a quick coffee and some respite from the endless walking. And while we didn’t try any food, I can confirm that the cakes looked totally decadent and indulgent.
Amy’s Bread offers quite a large range of food and snack items from breakfast sandwiches, croissants and handmade bagels to freshly baked bread, scones, muffins, cupcakes and biscuits, as well as healthy salads and lunchtime sandwiches.
Just a short stroll away from The High Line, Chelsea Market is the perfect mecca for foodies, with dozens of street food type stalls, shops and casual dining eateries. So, why not grab something to go and enjoy a picnic amongst the green oasis of The High Line?
135 East 50th St, New York, 10022-7504
New York Luncheonette is another traditional all-American diner in NYC with a sterling reputation – so much so, that you’ll likely find a queue of patrons waiting for a table, no matter what day of the week you visit.
Just a stone’s throw from our hotel at Pod 51, we stumbled across New York Luncheonette completely by accident as we made our way out for the day. Fortunately, the queue wasn’t too bad and we were seated fairly quickly, even though the diner was packed!
If it’s privacy and space you’re looking for, this probably isn’t the place for you – the tables are packed in so tightly, it feels like you’re having breakfast with the people on the next table. But we didn’t mind. And in my opinion, if a place is busy, it’s usually a good sign!
We opted for the stack of pancakes with sausages and waffles with bacon, both dripping in syrup and, of course, bottomless coffee. We enjoyed our breakfast, the lovely diner and the friendly staff so much that we visited again the next morning.
63 West 38th Street, New York, 10018
Not so much a place to eat as it is a place to drink and party at the weekend, the rooftop bar at the Refinery Hotel is the place to be seen on a Saturday night. We visited Refinery Rooftop on our last night after a long day sightseeing and we were not disappointed. The atmosphere and vibe at Refinery Rooftop was buzzing. And the views of the skyline, in particular the Empire State Building in all her glory, were pretty epic.
I won’t lie, the drinks here are expensive, setting us back $37 for one cocktail and one beer – but for an experience like this in NYC, it was worth it. And while there didn’t seem to be a specific dress code, if you want to fit in with the NYC crowd, err on the side of smart.
Well, that’s it – those are some of my recommendations for some great places to eat in New York City. I know there are countless restaurants, bakeries, bars and diners to try, but with only four days in NYC, we were limited to just the few I have recommended here.