New York’s Top Restaurants

T+L reveals what’s cooking at the top restaurants in New York, from a classic steakhouse to a hip West Village gastropub

minetta-tavern.jpg
Sylvia Paret

E. B. White, that eloquent chronicler of New York, once proclaimed that anyone wishing to live here should be “willing to be lucky.” That’s still good guidance for locals—and anyone planning to eat out in the city.

Start by embracing this stroke of good fortune: T+L’s curated list of New York’s top 30 restaurants, where a memorable meal is guaranteed, whether you’re a veteran of the ever-evolving dining scene (and it’s always a scene) or a first-time visitor. You’ll find New York to be a more interesting, varied, and exciting dining destination than it was even a few years ago.

The first new rule is that you should be prepared to trade some old-school formality for a lot more fun. Call it the Momofuku Effect or the democratization of fine dining, but serious food doesn’t necessarily mean starched white tablecloths and refined service anymore. There’s a new breed of quirky, often-diminutive, market-driven neighborhood joints where the music is turned up loud, the tables are packed tight, and the chef’s ambitions are free-range.

In a city with crushing rents and constant competition, it’s heartening to see these smaller, edgier, more personal restaurants get the big play they deserve. One consequence of this enriched dining environment is that you should be ready to take the subway or hail a taxi to Brooklyn. The borough next-door has gone from culinary afterthought, restaurant-wise, to a necessary stop on any adventurous eater’s itinerary.

If you’re hankering for pork, you’ll find it here in all its multifaceted glory. The pig is still having its slow-cooked, indulgently fatty moment (and we New Yorkers are okay with that). We’re also awash in one-off spots that give the star treatment to other cult foods like meatballs, artisanal donuts, and a Neapolitan fried pizza. The good news: you can zero in on what you want to try and make a wandering tasting menu of the city.

Of course, some things never change. At the top of the food chain, New York’s super-chefs continue to teach their European counterparts how it’s done: competitive quality, exceptional service, and high but—relative to the Michelin-starred European temples of gastronomy—humane prices. Supply and demand also still rule. Weekends will be crazily crowded, and cozy restaurants with no-reservation policies require strategic timing or patience.

This is New York, one of the greatest eating cities of the world by any standard. Count yourself lucky indeed.

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Tertulia

Tertulia
(Courtesy of Tertulia)

Hard as it may be for homesick Catalonians or proud Basques to admit it, the best Spanish restaurant in town is run by a guy from Vermont named Seamus. With weathered brick archways, a well-utilized brick oven in the back, and a tight bar up front with great rounds of golden tortilla and short glasses of cider on tap, the space feels like it’s been here forever—and fans of Seamus Mullen’s exuberant interpretations of Spanish classics (head-on langustinos, arroz a la plancha with Iberico ham and snails) hope it will be.

tertulianyc.com

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Roberta's

Roberta's
(Courtesy of Roberta's)

It’s like a fairy tale of unlikely culinary discovery: the graffiti-festooned cinder-block garage in hardscrabble Bushwick that houses a pizza oven, an organic garden tended by bearded hobo gourmands, a radio station somewhere on the premises, and a once-in-a-while tasting menu that’s among New York’s most inventive. Best of all: it’s a true story. Get on the L train and get in line for great pizzas and other rustic fare from the wood oven, or call ahead to reserve a spot for Carlo Mirarchi’s multicourse adventure.

robertaspizza.com

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Sushi Yasuda

Sushi Yasuda
(Darcy Strobel)

The wood is pretty, the lighting just right, but what’s truly striking about the room here is what’s missing. Nothing flashy, zero funky culinary riffs or visual clutter to distract you from the delicate details of the freshest raw or gently cured fish on rice, which is precisely the point of sushi. In a city that eagerly embraces each successive wave of Japanese imports (ramen! izakaya! robata!), Sushi Yasuda remains the ideal long-running, low-key place to celebrate sushi as it’s meant to be eaten.

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Shake Shack

Shake Shack
(Darcy Strobel)

Danny Meyer—the suave, smiling mastermind behind Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, and other enduring New York classics—turned a concession for a hot dog and hamburger stand in Madison Square Park into an unexpected chain of burger joints (expanding recently to Dubai). Along the way he converted an unsuspecting dining public into worshipful Shake Shack fanatics willing to put up with long lines for quality burgers on grilled pillowy-soft potato buns, frozen custard, and cheese fries. Get in line and taste what the fuss is about.

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Spotted Pig

The Spotted Pig
(Courtesy of The Spotted Pig)

English chef April Bloomfield conjures the spirit of a rumpled, lively London gastropub in this cramped, cozy, altogether charming mess of a space in the far West Village. There’s cask ale on draft, little plates of devils on horseback, and chicken liver toasts at the bar—or settle in for a full meal of pig’s ear salad, a richly satisfying sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter, and a burger with a loyal following.

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Mile End

Mile End
(Courtesy of Mile End)

A Montreal-style Jewish delicatessen in the hometown of Katz’s and Second Avenue Deli? Oui, bubbala! Skip the imported bagels and focus on the main event: smoked meat (cured and smoked brisket) piled high in sandwiches or nestled among the cheese curds in a plate of poutine. Smoked-meat heads, take note: Brooklyn-based Mile End has recently expanded its empire across the river with a new sandwich shop in Manhattan’s Noho neighborhood (53 Bond St.).

mileendbrooklyn.com

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Kesté

Keste
(Courtesy of Keste)

In Ye Olde Days there was New York–style pizza. It was available by the floppy, foldable, roof-of-your-mouth-scalding slice on every corner from the Bronx to the Bowery, a fixture of city life as common as yellow taxis. Then came the Great Neapolitan Pizza Invasion of the 2000s, and the city was overrun with credentialed pizzaioli and their billion-degree wood ovens and single-serving, puffy-crusted, wet-at-the-center Margherita pies. The craze shows no sign of slowing, and while there are plenty of worthy competitors (Forcella, Motorino), this West Village stalwart is our pick for your crash course in the authentic Naples style.

kestepizzeria.com

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Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern
(Shaylyn Esposito)

The pictures on the wall—framed caricatures and fading portraits of the playwrights, pugilists, and boulevardiers who made this 1930s saloon their headquarters—recall a bohemian, freewheeling Greenwich Village long past. Happily, Keith McNally of Balthazar and Pastis fame preserves the memory of place while making the food—a tightly edited menu of well-aged steaks and muscular French fare—better than it ever was.

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