New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and its streets buzz with the sounds of over 800 different languages. Naturally this melting pot of a population has created one of the most vibrant restaurant and food scenes on the planet. From an early breakfast through to late-night ice cream, here are our recommendations for taking an enormous bite from the Big Apple.
The most important meal of the day should start in an old-fashioned diner, perusing a menu as big as the Formica table in front of you. Eggs over easy on a pile of pancakes or sunny side up with a side of bacon and waffles, a decent American breakfast is the only way to start the day.
- Market Diner, Hell’s Kitchen. Head here for good old-fashioned diner fare, nothing fancy but well-cooked classic dishes that won’t make a huge dent in your pocket
- Union Square’s City Bakery serves up pretzel croissants as part of their wonderful breakfast buffet – in their own words this unique sweet and salty invention “holds hypnotic powers over legions of pastry lovers”
- Square Diner’s West Broadway location is a great place to greet the morning, and this small and traditional diner has been filling New Yorkers’ bellies for over 40 years
- For an iconic NYC diner, head to Tom’s Restaurant near Columbia University. The breakfast might not be the best in the NYC, but it has a special place in the city’s heart as it was used as Monk’s Cafe, the diner where Jerry and the gang spent many an hour bickering in the long-running sitcom Seinfeld – as well as being the subject of the Suzanne Vegas classic “Tom’s Diner”
If you have breakfast early enough and expend enough energy exploring, then having brunch in between breakfast and lunch is totally acceptable. New Yorkers love brunch, especially at weekends, and it’s not unusual to queue for a while at the more popular spots. Keep an eye out for all you can drink offers… although your afternoon may not be as productive as expected.
- If you can bear a serious queue, head to Manhattan’s Clinton Street Bakery – New York magazine has voted their blueberry pancakes the best in the city… twice
- Tipsy Parson on Ninth Avenue is the place to go for filling brunch dishes from BBQ pulled pork spoonbread to shrimp and grits
- Brooklyn’s Buttermilk Channel has everything needed for a decent brunch from scrambled eggs with lox and cream cheese through to an interesting selection of flavoured Bloody Marys for vital vitamins and minerals
- For a traditional New York Italian brunch, head to one of Harry’s Italian’s three locations – $20.95 nets you anything from the menu including unlimited mimosas or Bloody Marys
New York runs on caffeine, and the city’s inhabitants are fussy when it comes to their grind. New places are opening up weekly, and blogs such as New York Coffee Guide and Gothamist will keep you up to date on the freshest roasts, but here are some recommendations.
- DUMBO’s Brooklyn Roasting Company is fast turning into a city favourite, with fairtrade and organic coffees served in a very cool warehouse location just a block from the Manhattan Bridge
- If you’re thirsty on Broadway, stop in at the very relaxed Chipped Cup for excellent coffee from Counter Culture and fresh pastries
- For petrolheads, there is only one place to enjoy a hot cup of joe – Jane Motorcycles in Brooklyn which is a motorbike shop with a coffee shop attached. The owner loves to chat about the various bikes on display
- For another coffee-shop-with-a-twist head to The Brooklyn Strategist which, along with a decent selection of hot drinks and snacks, is also home to over 350 board games, from old favourites to new classics
Lunch in New York has to be a burger. This most traditional of American meals is given every twist possible in the city, with thousands of restaurants and fast food joints competing for customers. Get involved with the patty of your choice and a side of fries to keep your energy levels up for the afternoon.
- For an updated diner experience, head to Harlem Shake and try their old-school handcrafted milkshakes and the burgers that garnered them “Best Restaurant in Harlem” in Time Out’s 2014 Love New York awards.
- New Yorkers are prepared to travel quite a distance for the pimiento cheese-stuffed patty at Whitmans in the East Village. The peanut butter and bacon burger alone is worth a subway ride
- Situated in the Gotham West Market, a new foodie destination in Hell’s Kitchen, Genuine Roadside takes the American classics and does them to perfection
- For a fast food experience that is a few important steps away from the omnipresent golden arches, grab a burger from one of the various Shake Shacks in the city. It’s not fancy, but it is tasty, and light on the wallet too
New Yorkers come out at night and take their food very seriously. Every cuisine under the sun is covered and the restaurant scene is rightly feted as one of the best in the world. Here are a few of our favourites, old and new:
- Cafe Moto in Williamsburg is the perfect low-key dinner venue. A simple but tasty menu, reasonable prices and live music every night of the week
- A venerable New York institution, Keens Steakhouse has been serving up enormous slabs of meat to appreciative New Yorkers since 1885. Enjoy the ambience of the dark wood-panelled rooms and the excellent service
- Splash out at 15 East in Flatiron for some of the best sushi in town. Its atmosphere is formal rather than relaxed but the food and presentation is sublime
- For a break from meat, grab dinner at Angelica Kitchen. This cash-only vegan restaurant normally has a queue for dinner but the fresh ingredients served within 48 hours of harvest, and thoughtful flavour combinations make it worth a wait
Tramping the streets for a day exploring one of the greatest cities on earth can justify any amount of dessert. Try one of these places. Remember, you might not eat again till breakfast…
- Once operating out of a humble food truck, Big Gay Ice Cream now has its first premises in the East Village. Order a Salty Pimps or an American Glob, and enjoy their quirky flavours (and ice cream naming policy)
- Butter Lane Bakery, also in the East Village, has some of the best cupcakes in the city, and offers baking lessons too
- Try the Banana Creme Dream or a Peanut Butter Fudge Puddin’ Pop at Puddin’ on St Mark’s Place. This place is a store rather than a cafe but perfect for grabbing a box of something street and scoffing it on the move
- Just down the road from Puddin’, is DF Mavens Dairy Free Frozen Desserts. Vegans and healthy eaters alike will appreciate their wide range of interesting flavours all available by the scoop
Now your stomach has been well and truly lined, you are ready for a New York night out. And don’t worry, if you get peckish you can grab a snack 24 hours in the city that never sleeps. We didn’t even get started on our favourite bagel places, or the best place to get a slice of pizza, a falafel or a famous New York hotdog… enjoy!