Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
New York City is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming in equal measure. With five boroughs, dozens of neighbourhoods, hundreds of attractions, and thousands of bars and restaurants, it can be tough to decide on the important things to see and do in NYC, let alone the best places to eat in New York City.
New York Food Tours
If you’re looking for an incredible foodie experience in New York, check out these food tours…
Lower East Side’s Food Culture Tour – Taste delicacies from all over the world on a guided tour of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
New York City Little Italy Food Tasting Tour – Savor the flavors of Italy American style on a 2-hour food tour of Manhattan’s most colorful neighborhood.
Brownstone Brooklyn Food Tour – Discover the culinary history of Brooklyn on this whistle-stop tour of the best food stops in this bustling borough.
New York Accommodation
Pod 51 Hotel – Stay in the coolest hotel in Manhattan with rootftop garden and onsite lounge, less than 1km from the Rockefeller Centre
Heading to New York City? Check out these top tips for visiting NYC!
In preparing for our trip, I read dozens of recommendations for cool cafes, restaurants, and the best places to eat 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. Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat in New York City Manhattan (in my opinion).
5 Cool Places to Eat in NYC
Sarge’s Delicatessen and Diner
548 3rd Ave, New York, 10016
Our first morning in NYC saw us trekking from 51st Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, which if you don’t know, is a long way! Rather than taking the subway, we wanted to see as much as possible and take in the streets of Manhattan. To fuel our walk, we’d need a hearty breakfast. So, we left our hotel in search of a traditional American diner in New York City that would fulfill all our American breakfast dreams.
After walking for around 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 – fast and efficient – and the surroundings were comfy and traditional. All in all, this felt like the sort of place NYC locals would hang out, whether for a hearty breakfast or one of their famous pastrami sandwiches – and with their reasonable prices you can’t go wrong. It’s also a good option if you’re looking for somewhere to eat in New York on a budget.
831 3rd Ave, New York, 10022
Ess-a-Bagel is hailed as one of the best bagel shops in New York by locals 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 around the block, which is exactly what we found when we visited. I decided to wait in line for the ultimate New York bagel experience and to see what the fuss was all about, 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 McDonald’s breakfast. But I wasn’t disappointed. The queue moved quickly – the staff were truly wonderful, working in a very fast and efficient way despite the hectic atmosphere. 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.
Having said that, these bagels are not cheap! I paid over $20 for two bagels and when I considered that I could have picked up a pretty decent bagel from any street cart, I realised I paid 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). If you don’t mind the price tag and want the authentic New York bagel experience, I’d say this is one of the best places to eat lunch in New York City.
Insider 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.
Amy’s Bread is hailed as one of the best bakeries in NYC. And with seven different locations, you won’t be far from Amy’s Bread wherever you are in New York. We stopped at the Chelsea Market location for a quick coffee and a bite to eat as a respite from the endless walking. Here you can expect rustic freshly baked bread from sourdough to baguettes and challah, as well as incredibly decadent cakes that will have your sugar level skyrocketing!
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, some of which are among the best places to eat in NYC. So, whether you grab something to go, or grab a chair amongst the hubbub, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy your tastebuds.
New York Luncheonette
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. Fortunately, the queue wasn’t too bad and we were seated quickly, even though the diner was packed!
This is a great place to eat in new york city for breakfast, but if privacy and space are what you’re after, 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 this, 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 and the atmosphere so much that we visited again the next morning.
63 West 38th Street, New York, 10018
While this isn’t a place to eat as such, I had to include it in the list as it’s one of the best rooftop bars in New York City. 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 had an amazing evening. The atmosphere at Refinery Rooftop was buzzing. And the views of the skyline, in particular the Empire State Building in all her glory, were epic.
The drinks were 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, make sure you turn up suited and booted.
Those are some of my recommendations for some of the best 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. So if we missed any great places, I’d love to hear from you in the comments with your favourite spots for brunching, lunching, and dining in Manhattan.
Frequently Asked Questions
New York can be overwhelming on your first trip. Some great places to eat for your first time in New York include Chelsea Market, an All-American breakfast at New York Luncheonette, a pizza in Little Italy, Chinese food in Chinatown, or a pastrami sandwich at Sarge’s Deli and Diner.
Or you could book a Food Tasting and Culture Tour of the Lower East Side, a Little Italy Italian Food Tasting Tour, or a Food Tour of Brooklyn.
There are countless restaurants, cafes, diner and bars in New York City, but some of the best places to eat in Manhattan include Sarge’s Deli and Diner, Ess-a-Bagel, New York Luncheonette, Amy’s Bread and Refinery Rooftop Bar.
New York City is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. No matter what time of day, or what food you fancy, you’ll be able to find it somewhere. But some New York classics include hotdogs, bagels, burgers, pizza, pastrami sandsiches, and a classic All-American breakfast such as pancakes and syrup.
Sarge’s Deli and Diner is a great budget-friendly option in New York City with a large variety of snacks, sandwiches, breakfast and lunch items to please every palate.
It’s generally acceptable to arrive at a restaurant between 6pm and 8pm for dinner, but some restaurants also serve food later than this, so it’s worth checking with the individual restaurant to confirm how late they serve food.
What cool places to eat in New York City can you recommend? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to try them next time.