Have you ever woken up and thought, “Gosh, I’d love to eat at a second-best restaurant today?” Of course you haven’t. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or are visiting for the first time, it’s human nature to want to experience the best of the best. And that’s exactly why we wrote this guide.
These are the highest-rated restaurants in New York City—the ones we seek out on days off. Food and experience are both taken into consideration, and any type of dining establishment is fair game. On this list you’ll find fancy spots, casual hangouts, food trucks, and even a few diners (where you’ll find more than just burgers and pancakes). Every city has its classics and its hot new places, but these are restaurants where greatness is guaranteed.
You could make the argument that old-school fine dining is boring and antiquated. And that would be a pretty compelling argument, if it weren’t for Le Bernardin. This Midtown institution, which has been open for over 30 years now, is a well-oiled machine that’s been fine-tuned to perfection. The service here skews north of impeccable, and the big rectangular dining room has soft spotlights that hit exactly where your plate goes. But the actual glamour of this restaurant—and the main reason why it's still an amazing place to eat after some three decades—comes via the seafood. Geoduck chawanmushi with uni and soft-crunchy sea beans in pork dashi, langoustine and buttery leeks in uni sauce americaine that tastes like New Orleans, slightly smoked sea trout tartare—you book a reservation at Le Bernardin primarily to get your hands on these.
We loved our meals at Uncle Boons over the years, but we can’t help but think of Thai Diner (from the same owners) as the restaurant Uncle Boons always aspired to be. The inside of this place quite literally sparkles like a disco ball, with golden Nolita light hitting its bamboo-weaved walls and bakery case of cakes and pastries. Big booths come equipped with coat hangers, bar stools are fastened to the floor, and servers bust through swinging doors holding diner concoctions we thought were only possible with the help of psychedelics at a sleepover in Bushwick. Most importantly, every section on Thai Diner’s menu has undeniable “f*ck yeah″ energy. Order the disco fries smothered with massaman curry, the cabbage rolls stuffed with turkey and jasmine rice, and the sai oua breakfast roti whose blend of textures would win Project Runway.
Forgive us for sounding like we’re leading a breathing exercise, but a night at Sushi Noz is as much about the room’s cypress smoke filling your nostrils as it is about the nigiri parading into your stomach. After being invited through a locked sliding door on East 78th Street, you’ll sit with six fellow spectators at a sushi bar in a wooden room that smells like a candle named The Grove of Ecstasy. Sides of chutoro are inspected then trimmed, and scallops get semi-flattened by a palm after being cross-hatched in the same way a YouTube vlogger might tell you to dice an onion. Starting at $250, dinner here is quite a bit of money, but if you're planning a special dinner and you have the budget, it's worth it. In a city where a pricey new omakase spot opens once a week, Sushi Noz is still the best.
In New York City, standing in line for pizza is one of the most ridiculous things you could do. It’s like waiting for sand in the middle of the Sahara. But not only will we show up to Lucali before the restaurant even opens in order to secure a table—we’ll wait several hours at a bar nearby until that table is ready. Lucali makes us do irrational things, because Lucali serves the best pizza in the city. Their crust is thin, crispy, and just a little bit chewy, and it maintains immaculate posture while supporting velvety tomato sauce and three types of cheese. This is simple pizza made exceedingly well, and it’s greater than the sum of its parts. (The fresh basil is key.) The mammoth ricotta-stuffed calzone, which is the only other item on the menu, also happens to be just as essential as the pies. So show up early, stand in line, and be grateful that you have the opportunity to wait for a table at this candle-lit Carroll Gardens institution. Once you put your name in, pick up a bottle of wine. This place is BYOB, which is yet another reason why we’ll do foolish things to eat here.
In a hypothetical Restaurant Olympics scenario, we’d nominate Estela to represent New York City. Instead of hurling discs like jumbo Ancient Grecians, the restaurant would show off raw scallops over flattened dates with a dab of uni in between. Rather than landing a double layout dismount with two twists on the uneven bars, Estela would turn an endive salad into food fit for a last meal on earth. And they’d do it all with seductive ease, since that’s exactly the way dinner happens in their dining room above Houston Street. Even after a decade of operation, Estela is one of the best restaurants New York has. Most of the dishes at this compact spot on Houston Street accentuate whatever is in season, which means you might find celeriac and cuttlefish in warm beurre blanc, or dried shrimp on top of Cara Cara orange wedges. Always order the beef tartare and the (world’s most glamorous) endive salad, and don’t be afraid to try any newer additions to the menu. The food here never misses.
On their website, the Oxalis team refers to their restaurant as a neighborhood bistro. No offense to your neighborhood bistro, but Oxalis operates in a different league. This restaurant on the Crown Heights side of Washington Avenue serves à la carte items as well as a $112 tasting menu that comes with nine or ten different dishes spread out over six courses. If you’re having a special night out, do the tasting menu. That way, you’ll get the real razzle-dazzle. Grilled chanterelles might arrive in a light ponzu bath with a little bit of bone marrow, or you might get a creamy okra stew with mussels and celtuce. Come to Oxalis for a birthday, a special occasion, or a memorable meal with someone who will squeal at the thought of eating thomcord grapes grown in a backyard two blocks away from Prospect Park. This Brooklyn restaurant is quietly doing fine dining better than anywhere else in the borough, and it doesn't make a fuss about it.
The best tacos in the city are in Greenpoint, and if you disagree, you better have a specific place in mind that you think is better. That way, we can tell you, “We’ve been there, and you’re wrong.” When you get to Taqueria Ramirez, you’ll see a choricera and comal (both custom made in Mexico City), colorful plates, and a long line. Don’t worry, the line moves quickly. Get the suadero—which is stewed in lard and spices for three hours and served in a fat-soaked corn tortilla—or order our favorite taco, the tripa. The beef intestines have the consistency of bone marrow and are blowtorched seconds before they arrive in your hands. Every taco costs around $4, and, after you stop by, you’ll forever view every $20 bill as an opportunity to get a four or five-course dinner here.
Out of all the French restaurants in this city, why does Frenchette stand out as one of the very best? The answer is (mostly) butter. The chefs at this Tribeca spot love to use it, and we frankly love to eat it. A couple of Balthazar vets opened Frenchette in 2018 and decided to create a menu of almost exclusively rich and decadent dishes like duck frites and escargots over creamy scrambled eggs. The dishes here change daily, and it’s always worth stopping by to see if there’s anything new, but we’d have the same compulsion to eat at Frenchette even if the menu stayed the same. This place has one of the top natural wine lists in town, it feels buzzy and frenetic in a way all New York City restaurants should, and a table for two in the sepia-toned dining room is one of the best date-night moves you can make.
If we had a guide to NYC's Grain Bowl Restaurants That Won't Suck Out Part Of Your Soul, Teranga would top the list. No such guide exists, unfortunately—but take our statement as a sign to ignore most other fast-casual places in favor of this overachieving cafe in The Africa Center in East Harlem. Teranga’s bowl components range from Nigerian beef suya to Moroccan chermoula and ancient grains eaten all over West Africa. Nothing on the menu costs more than $18, and there are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. We love this restaurant for a quick solo meal or a relaxed business meeting uptown, and we inevitably wind up here whenever we find ourselves within walking distance. The next time you’re planning a picnic in Central Park (which happens to be located across the street), this is where you should grab your food.
Via Carota gets a lot of hype, and that hype is well-deserved. But we prefer I Sodi. This place is from the same owners, and it’s the quiet, understated, more mature version of its sister restaurant. Also in the West Village, I Sodi has a small dining room with around eight tables, and the food here is simple, perfect, and (mostly) Tuscan. The pastas on the menu change frequently, but two always remain: the lasagna and the cacio e pepe. That cacio e pepe is chewy, spicy, and doused in cheese, and the lasagna is one of the most iconic dishes in the city. With around 20 layers of pasta, it’s almost like a dense, luxurious custard. This place feels fancy without being formal or uptight, and it’s perfect for celebrating anything from an anniversary to when you go a week without texting your ex. If you can’t get a reservation, have a meal at the bar. It’s our favorite place to dine solo in the city.
Hwa Yuan was one of Chinatown’s most popular restaurants until it closed in the 1980s, and it’s credited with introducing New York to cold sesame noodles. The reboot, which opened in 2017, is located in the original space on East Broadway, and everything in the massive two-floor space feels brand new. The whole Peking duck—featuring picture-perfect crispy skin—is a bucket-list NYC dish, and it’s worth a trip on its own. Another must-order, the famous cold sesame noodles have just the slightest kick of spice, and you should absolutely get the soup dumplings. They're impeccably constructed, with thin, delicate skin. Bring a big group, sit at a big round table, and order food until you can no longer see that table.
This Lower East Side iteration of Una Pizza Napoletana is the sixth version of this restaurant, and we know exactly why this place won’t die. It’s serving the best Neapolitan pies in NYC—and possibly the rest of the world, the Twittersphere, the Metaverse, and any other vaguely habitable place. With fewer than 10 items (plus any daily specials), the menu here is a tight, focused playlist without any skips. You should always have at least one margherita pizza on your table, but since all the pies here have the same otherworldly crust, you really can’t go wrong. The dough rises for around 48 hours before it’s ready to go in the oven, and owner Anthony Mangieri never stops messing around with the mixtures of flour to try to make the crust lighter. He should just sit back and take the win. It’s hard to imagine the pizza here getting any better.
Between Dhamaka, Adda, and the fast-casual fried chicken depot Rowdy Rooster, the team behind Semma has opened more great restaurants than most of us deserve. We’re fans of every single one, but this is the crown jewel. This restaurant serves South Indian regional specialties typically made in rural home settings, and they do so in a narrow space with quintessential West Village charm. Highlights include a crispy uttappam filled with seasonal root vegetables, crunchy Mangalorean cauliflower, and a masala-potato-filled gunpowder dosa that tastes like cheese even though there’s none present. No meal at Semma would be quite right, however, without a few of the meaty dishes that are harder to find in NYC. Try the tender venison drenched in a dark brown gravy that tastes like clove and smoke, and don’t miss the Goanese oxtail made with ample amounts of cumin. If you want to go big, pre-order the whole dungeness crab. Put on a bib, then catapult yourself into this dish’s incomparable combination of buttery meat and cardamom-heavy chutney.
By the end of a meal at Ayada, your group may start debating which dishes are the best. Was it the raw shrimp with the perfect amount of garlic, chili, and lime? Or maybe the crispy catfish salad with mango? Someone else might argue that one of the curries or the fried whole fish were the winners. Picking favorites at this Thai restaurant in Elmhurst is like picking a favorite Beatles song: it’s too hard, and it won’t do you any good. Bring as many people as possible, and order enough food that you’ll have to go all Tetris on the table to fit everything. The drunken noodles are the best in the city, and the prik king with sirloin steak is something you both want on your table and burned into your memory forever.
Every year, we think to ourselves, “Maybe this is when Lilia will become easier to get into.” And every year, we wind up disappointed. Lilia remains one of the toughest tables in town, and people still plan visits to this Williamsburg restaurant the way art dealers collect Basquiats or crypto-bros accumulate NFTs. Coming here grants you access to a special society: those who have eaten at the city’s most exclusive Italian restaurants. But the main reason to fuss over getting a table at this restaurant is the simple, perfect pasta. The rigatoni diavola arrives with just enough mildly spicy tomato sauce to fully coat the ribbed housemade noodles, and the agnolotti stuffed with sheep's milk cheese come perfectly al dente and painted with a honey-saffron butter sauce. At the end of your meal, order the gelato with olive oil, and enjoy it as you devise an elaborate scheme to get another reservation here.
At Guan Fu in Flushing, you can sit on a cushioned wooden bench that looks like it was intended for someone holding a scepter and eat big plates of Sichuan food that you’ll want to share with your top 10 favorite people on the planet. All of the dishes here are worthy of recommendation, but the standouts include some delicately fried green beans, a bowl of flaky fish boiled in pickled cabbage stew, and a mapo tofu that will raise your standards for mapo tofu in NYC. It’s packed with meaty, smoky flavor with the occasional salty explosion of fermented black bean. Bring a bunch of people for a group meal in the ornate space, or have an enormous feast on the relatively casual outdoor patio.
On paper, Dame, an English seafood spot in Greenwich Village, might look like a Super Serious Restaurant. Two chefs stand behind a sleek white bar and cook the highest-quality seafood for miles. Grilled oysters are blanketed by green Chartreuse hollandaise, a bottle of $425 Champagne readily stands by, and, as soon as you finish one dish, several more will appear to take their position. Despite being a seriously high-caliber restaurant, this English seafood restaurant avoids taking itself too seriously. Disco blasts inside and out at a confident-party-host volume, and fish and chips take the metaphorical center stage on a menu that also includes a warm lobster tart or grilled turbot. Go heavy on the small plates like the cucumber salad with mussels and smoked dill, and get the aforementioned fish and chips. Reservations are now available several months out—and you should definitely be planning that far ahead.
Jackson Heights has an abundance of restaurants where you can eat a meal you’ll spend the rest of your week thinking about. Amongst an incredible variety of Colombian, Malaysian, Mexican, Tibetan, and Bangladeshi spots is one of our favorite restaurants in the city–and it’s not even really a restaurant. Unlike most places on this list, Tong doesn't have tables, chairs, or one of those things with four walls around it (also known as a dining room). Tong is a food cart that specializes in the Bangladeshi street food known as fuchka, and it tastes like they’ve put in their 10,000 hours and then some to master it. Each order of fuchka consists of a wreath of puffed puri that’s been filled with boiled yellow peas and potatoes and topped with raw red onions and shaved egg yolks. Fill each puri with sweet or spicy tamarind water, and position your mouth squarely over the aluminum tin (in case the puri breaks before making it into your mouth). Next, pop the whole thing in your mouth. Congratulations, you’ve mastered the eating portion of the fuchka experience. You can get a couple other variations of fuchka here, including a sweet one, but the original is the one worth traveling for (from anywhere).
At Golden Diner in Chinatown, you’ll sit next to grandmotherly white lace curtains and an analog clock that says “chicken dinner” in red cursive. Swivel stools face an open kitchen where a couple of people who are very good at their jobs make everything on flat top grills. But unlike the food at whatever comes up when you search “diner near me,” the classics at Golden Diner are updated and slightly unexpected. The Cobb salad comes with Thai basil, bean sprouts, extra crispy bacon, and jammy eggs—and it will outshine and out-heft any salad you eat for weeks. The club sandwich with a chicken katsu cutlet and creamy purple cabbage slaw is another essential order, and the BEC on a scallion milk bun should be consumed once a week.
We don’t love Le French Diner just because their tender duck confit, garlicky escargots, and spicy grilled octopus are pretty close to perfect. We also love this Lower East Side restaurant because it feels like an underground dining club, and it doesn’t seem interested in being anything other than what it already is. Do they take reservations? Do they have a website? Can you find their current menu online? Could you fit an entire basketball team in their dining room? The answer to all of those questions is "no." Despite all these obstacles, this is still one of the first places we think of when we want a solo dinner at a bar or a late meal with a friend after a show at Bowery Ballroom. Similar to a sibling who you might not even be friends with if you two weren’t related, we love this place unconditionally.
When you eat at Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, you'll notice that every table has one thing in common: stacks of sel roti. The kitchen fries these sweet and salty dough crowns to order using soda bottles to pour rings of batter into hot oil, and if you don’t want to bite into one after watching steam waft from its center, we suggest you look inward for answers. This restaurant lives right by the Roosevelt Avenue Subway station in Jackson Heights, which happens to be a neighborhood that has no shortage of delicious Nepali food. But we consistently send people to Nepali Bhanchha Ghar first for a sit-down meal. Make sure to order their jhol momo, a big bowl of spicy sesame-and-tomato broth with momos floating in it.
If you’re ever in a debate about the best basketball player of all time (Kareem? Russell? Lebron?), our advice is not to overthink it and just go with the obvious choice (Jordan). The same goes for choosing a steakhouse in NYC. Peter Luger has been around for over 130 years, so we’re pretty sure they have this steak thing figured out. The thick-cut bacon, creamed spinach, German fried potatoes, and the lunch-only burger are all classics, but the main reason you come here is for the dry-aged porterhouse. It comes pre-sliced on a scorching hot plate, which your server will tilt so that all the buttery and salty meat juices collect on one end. Yes, the juice is meant for the meat, but you might find yourself sopping it up with onion rolls or involuntarily taking a few sips with a spoon like it’s soup. Your cardiologist might cringe at such a thought, but we’re not doctors, so we say follow your heart.
This Carroll Gardens restaurant is one place that we can truly say is better than ever. Now, you have the option to choose from specific, curated set menus (which vary based on the size of your party) with the ability to add on dishes. Plan a dinner here with a large group—because you’re going to want to taste as many things as possible. In an ideal scenario, you’ll eat a gigantic vegetable platter with a salted mackerel dip, a whole fried (and perfectly cooked) sea bream with crackly skin, and some creamy blue crab hor mok cooked in banana leaf with coconut custard. Standout dishes aside, the service at Ugly Baby continues to be excellent, the wine and beer list is surprisingly big (with options from local brewers like Talea and Other Half), and everybody in the colorful, casual dining room will be having a sweaty, fun time when you stop by.
If you ever hear someone in New York City say, “I don’t care where we go for bagels,” kindly ask them what city they’re from and how long they’re visiting. No one who has to pay taxes here would have such a casual attitude about bagels. If that person asks us where to go, we’d send them straight to Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side. Each springy globe of dough here comes with a blistered, slightly crunchy bottom with a sweet, chewy, and soft interior. You can get all the expected additions like eggs, nova, etc., but we prefer their bagels untoasted with scallion cream cheese. However many bagels you think you want from this place, add three or four more.
It’s often hard to pinpoint exactly where a dining trend began. But we can confidently say that this food truck in Jackson Heights is the reason why you can now find birria in almost every corner of New York City. Birria Landia certainly didn’t invent birria, and it definitely wasn’t the first NYC place serving it—but this place gave birria the headliner status it always deserved. The menu is tight, focused, and flawless. Order a few of the tacos on broth-dipped tortillas, and dunk a mozzarella-stuffed mulita into a cup of the mysteriously rich consome. For roughly $15, everything on the menu can (and should) be yours.