New York City, one of the most famous cities in the world, is cram packed full of restaurants. Manhattan, one of NYC’s five boroughs, is thought to have 24,000 offerings! How do you figure out which restaurants are good, bad, worth the splurge, tourist traps, and otherwise? On a recent visit to New York City with my daughter (Taylor) and son-in-law (Blake), we set out to dine at a wildly random group of eateries. The purpose was to see how the lesser-known local favorites stacked up to the ones who have more notoriety. Here are 10 New York City Restaurants that we came up with that we feel visitors and locals alike would enjoy.
10 New York City Restaurants to Check Out
#1 Kellari Taverna- 19 W 44th Street
We stumbled upon Kellari Taverna, a posh restaurant serving killer Greek and Mediterranean dishes, late one evening. Since we had already eaten dinner, we decided to have an appetizer and drinks here. We seated ourselves at the bar and chit-chatted with the friendly bartender. We nibbled on Croketes (zucchini fritters with feta sauce) and Patates (lemon roasted potatoes with paprika and Parmesan) as we sipped our tasty champagne and beer. Both of the dishes were finger-licking good! Check out Kellari Taverna’s incredible 350+ bottled wine selection and pre/post theatre menus.
#2 Gaby Restaurant- 44 W 45th Street (Sofitel Hotel)
Gaby Restaurant has an upscale and fancy look to it, but a warm and relaxed atmosphere. Their staff will meet your every need while you delight in a wonderful dining experience. On our visit, Blake and I dined at Gaby Restaurant. It was the last day of NYC Restaurant Week so he chose one of their 3-course meals, beginning with the Asparagus Salad (roast shallot Vinaigrette). For dinner, he picked the Cold Water Maine Lobster Tail, which he raved about all night. Blake loved the slab bacon and leek fondue that was paired with his lobster.
I chose a bowl of French Onion Soup (right up there with the best I have ever had!) and a plain Caesar Salad. The salad was made with classic Caesar ingredients, but the taste was much zestier. I liked it very much. For dinner, I went with the Vegetarian Lasagna (zucchini, eggplant, and peppers). For dessert, we had the White Chocolate Mousse (served in an elegant chocolate bowl) and the Creme Brûlée as recommended by our waiter. He was spot on; the Brûlée was decadent!
#3 5 Napkin Burger-630 9th Avenue
Hell’s Kitchen is my favorite part of Manhattan to dine in and around. 5 Napkin Burger is a perfect offering of delicious dishes in a lovely setting for an affordable price. On the night Taylor and Blake went to see Book of Mormon, I dined alone. I opted for 5 Napkin Burger because I was craving the perfect cheeseburger; I chose well. Their 5 Napkin Burger choice was sheer bliss: a 10 ounce Angus beef burger topped with melted Gruyere, caramelized Onions, and a mouth-watering rosemary-garlic aioli piled on a soft potato roll. Though I could not hold an appetizer, both the Tuna Poke Nachos and Korean BBQ Wings sounded divine. You will not want to miss this delicious NYC restaurant! If you are in the mood for a cocktail, I suggest the Roasted Pineapple Margarita. It is a brilliant recipe that was sublime.
#4 Southern Hospitality-645 9th Avenue
We picked Southern Hospitality based on its curb appeal and fat marquee neon letters. Boy, did we hit the jackpot! This Hell’s Kitchen authentic Memphis style BBQ restaurant and bar have packed in crowds since it opened in 2007 (Justin Timberlake is one of the owners). Southern Hospitality’s Bluegrass Boozy Brunch, offered on weekends from 11AM-3PM, includes live music and superb Southern menu creations that made us feel right at home. We had the Southern Benedict (smoked brisket & fried green tomatoes), Chicken & Waffles, and Vanilla Bourbon French Toast (topped with a plethora of mixed berries). The Southern Benedict was unusual with its meat and tomatoes recipe, but being a huge Benedict fan, I was happy with the dish’s uniqueness. If you are feeling up to it, bottomless Mimosas and Bellinis are available during brunch.
#5 Cielo at the Mayfair- 242 West 49th Street (Mayfair Hotel)
This unpretentious, rustic restaurant features authentic Italian eats in the heart of the Theater District. We dined with friends on Cielo at the Mayfair’s first floor, which has a casual and low-key vibe, while the downstairs dining room is super romantic and cozy. Mouth-watering complimentary bread was served to us while we perused the menu. We ordered a Margherita pizza, Rigatoni (hot & sweet Italian Sausage), and Cheese Ravioli (wild mushroom cream sauce). The pasta dishes were spectacular! Our plates were cleaned within minutes after they arrived at the table. The ravioli was homemade, tender and bursting with tangy cheese, while the mushroom cream sauce was decadent! The prices at Cielo’s at the Mayfair were inexpensive by NYC Italian restaurant comparison. Everything was so enjoyable that our friends dined there again the next night. This is one restaurant that you will thank me for visiting.
#6 Virgil’s Real Barbecue- 152 W 44th Street
Being from the South, I am always interested to try popular foods from regions in our part of the country and see how they fare in total opposite environments. Virgil’s Real Barbecue is conveniently located in Times Square and offers tangy Southern BBQ with favorite side items such as Hickory Smoked Baked Beans, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Mac & Cheese, and Collard Greens. Blake and I shared the Pig Out Platter, which included Beef Brisket, Carolina Pulled Pork, Chicken, and Memphis Style Pork Spare Ribs. You also get two side items of your choice. Taylor had the TrainWreck Fries, which were worth every calorie on the plate. They were especially good with the pickled jalapeños. Virgil’s prices are middle-of-the-road but the service is quite good. Belly up to the bar and enjoy happy hour specials. Virgil’s even offers freshly brewed sweet tea!
#7 Shake Shack- 691 8th Avenue B/W 8th Ave. & 44th Street)
I was lucky enough to dine at Shake Shack when it first opened in the Theater District, back in 2010. At the time, I was a vegetarian and Shake Shack’s menu was easy to fulfill my needs with their Veggie Burger. Today, Shake Shack has multiple locations around the United States and internationally, too. People love their 100% Angus burgers, made with no hormones or antibiotics. With those vegetarian days way past, I love Shake Shack’s Angus burgers, too.
Taylor fell in love with Shake Shack’s Peanut Butter milkshake and French fries. I opted for the ‘Shroom Burger, a crisp fried Portobello topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce™. I wish I could tell you a time when the crowds were not so thick, but it seems that there is a line out the door both day and night.
#8 Ray’s Pizza- numerous locations
Nothing can compare to a perfect slice of New York pizza. Ray’s Pizza has been a New York staple for almost 25 years. It was there that I first fell in love with White Cheese Ricotta Pizza. The local water is what makes NY pizza crust so good, as it is responsible for the consistency and flavor. After one bite of New York pizza, you will understand why it is so popular.
Since this was Blake’s first trip to New York City, we made him try authentic NYC pizza from Ray’s Pizza. He chose the meat lovers, Taylor opted for Margherita, and I picked the Ricotta Cheese slice. Ray’s Pizza slices are huge; consider ordering one slice and go from there. Not to worry as slices that are shown on the counter are put in the oven so that they come out piping hot. At Ray’s Pizza, you can get a penny pincher meal plus a place to sit and rest your feet and use the facilities.
#9 Junior’s Cheesecake, 1515 Broadway, 45th St. B/W Broadway & 8th Ave
Since New York City cheesecake is highly spoken of, it should not come as a surprise that Junior’s Cheesecake packs in the masses for meals and desserts in its Times Square location. Junior’s claims to make the “World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake“. Junior’s Cheesecake is family friendly and a place that the entire family will love. If you only wish to take away a dessert, there is a counter service location right beside the sit-down restaurant.We visited Junior’s Cheesecake after a Broadway show and ordered a Chocolate Malt, Carrot Cake Cheesecake, Raspberry Cheesecake, and Strawberry Cheesecake. We wolfed them down in record speed. My malt was both creamy and luscious and the cheesecake slices did not stand a chance! Be sure to add Junior’s to your NYC food itinerary for wonderful cheesecake memories.
#10 Bubba Gump Shrimp Co- 1501 Broadway
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is a popular chain restaurant that serves seafood creations that play on the award winning Forrest Gump movie. Their cocktail menu features a combination of photogenic and frou-frou creations with light-up glasses, fruity garnishes, and just downright fun. On our visit, Blake and I shared Bubba Gump Shrimp Co’s Jambalaya. This spicy rice combination features chicken, Andouille sausage, and shrimp with peppers & onions, topped with tomatoes and green onions. The serving was huge and we were glad that we had opted to share it. If you love spicy foods, then this is for you; douse it with some Tabasco if you dare. At $19.99, it is affordable, plus the restaurant is conveniently located in the theater district. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. also has a children’s menu and interesting Frozen Icee Slush drinks.
I Love Dining in New York City
I love dining in New York City and look forward to trying new restaurants each visit. Did our 10 New York City Restaurants show you any new dining options? What are your favorite restaurants that we should try on our next visit?
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