NYC Guide: Our 10 Favorite Restaurants

New York has many fabulous restaurants, but, honestly, it also has some not-so-good ones, and at first glance, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. You want those fantastic, giddy, transporting meals that you’ll remember for years, not touristy overpriced places, of course. So, I’m excited to share our ten absolute favorite New York restaurants…

West Village:

1. ’ino. This teeny Italian sandwich shop is magical. The delicious pressed panini combine bold meats and cheeses (my favorite is the cacciatorini, goat cheese and black olive pesto), and the ambiance is bustling and romantic. Honestly, it’s the type of food that makes you say “Oh my goodness, this is so good” with every bite. It’s the perfect cheap date spot, or place to meet a friend for a cozy dinner. (Insider tip: Stop by to have a glass of wine in the late afternoon; it’s quieter then, and you can sit at the wooden bar, sip your wine and watch the light slant in through the windows.) Update: ‘ino has closed! Heartbreak! Two other great neighborhoody Italian restaurants in the West Village are Malaparte (bonus: they take reservations for two!) and Frankies Spuntino (recommendations: the ricotta honey crostini, the meatball sandwich, the tuna sandwich and the spicy sausage cavatelli)

2. Hudson Clearwater. Just like the secret playground, Hudson Clearwater is a secret restaurant. You only discover it through word-of-mouth, since the restaurant itself looks like a boarded-up storefront. But if you walk around the corner and down the street, you’ll discover an unmarked green door in a brick wall. Push open the door, walk through a lovely little garden and you’ll find a beautiful hidden restaurant. The sparkling dining room and friendly staff welcomes you, and you can settle in for a perfect cocktail (the Hudson Mule has bison-grass vodka, ginger beer, lime and candied ginger) and rustic American food (like grilled hangar steak, followed by strawberry and blueberry shortcake).

3. Tartine. This postage-stamp-sized French restaurant on a tree-lined street in the West Village serves simple, inexpensive dishes, including the world’s best spicy chicken and fries. You wait in line on the sidewalk for a table (which feels lovely on a breezy evening); and it’s BYOB so bring along your favorite cheap wine. (Tip: After dinner, walk down the block to Magnolia Bakery and get a cupcake for dessert.)

4. Café Cluny might be my favorite restaurant in New York City. Alex and I had our very first date here, and now Toby comes along with us for breakfast. The cozy, romantic, laid-back atmosphere makes it the perfect neighborhood spot–we’ve been here 8 million times with friends and always have a great time. The food is a mix of French and American; try the corn-and-crab fritters and burger. (Bonus: They take reservations.)

5. Mary’s Fish Camp. This perma-packed tiny seafood restaurant makes you feel like you’ve been whisked up to Maine. Just look at the menu and you’ll understand why. Also, it has best lobster roll in the city. True story: One night, the woman next to us ordered a lobster roll for dinner–and another one for dessert!


6. Co.. Where to find the best pizza in New York is obviously a hot debate. My favorite pizza, hand downs, is Co. The secret is the crust, which is chewy, springy, thin and flavorful–honestly, you could just eat the crust and call it a day. And the toppings are clever and quirky, including spinach, hot dogs and zucchini blossoms. Delicious. (P.S. Keep your eye out for celebrities. We’ve spotted Michael Kors and Martha Stewart multiple times!)

East Village:

7. Mermaid Inn. There’s something special about the Mermaid Inn. I can never quite put my finger on it, but it has one of the coziest dining rooms in New York. As soon as you walk in, you feel the stress melt off, and you take a seat, order calamari and fish tacos, and reeeeeelax. Alex and I have had some of the loveliest dates here, and it’s a great place for a group, too, since you can sit in their back room or fairy-light-covered garden. Bonus: Since they don’t have a dessert menu, they bring everyone a espresso cup filled with chocolate pudding and one of those funny fortune-telling fish!


8. Hampton Chutney. A perfect little lunch spot when shopping in Soho and Nolita. They have spicy Indian dosas and masala potatoes, as well as mouthwatering sandwiches (my fave is the #21, with avocado, fresh mozzarella and tomato.) It’s tiny, so you have to perch on bar stools or eat on the bench outside.

Lower East Side:

9. Schiller’s Liquor Bar. This uber-hip French-American bistro nails all the satisfying dishes they serve (think: garlic shrimp, steak frites, mac n’ cheese with bacon), and it’s such a lively, bustling place that you feel like you’re at a really fun party. The bathroom is a trip (I’ll let you figure it out for yourself:) and the vibe is playful–for example, their wine list has three categories: cheap, decent and good. A really fun place for dinner or late-night drinks.


10. Frankies Spuntino. Alex and I live in Manhattan, but it’s worth biking across the Brooklyn Bridge to eat dinner at Frankies Spuntino, the Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens. The vibe feels cozy yet hip (the restaurant is owned by two cool guys both named Frank), and the food is sooooo delicious and not-too-expensive–try the meatballs and cavatelli with sausage and browned sage butter. (Tip: They have a gorgeous back garden, including a stable, where you can have weddings and parties.)

And, for special, splurgy occasions, my two favorite fancy places are:

Wallse (West Village) is Austrian and they serve the most amazing, surprising food; every bite is a taste explosion. The service is elegant and beautiful; the wines are crisp and dry, and you feel like you’re on a hilltop in Austria. (Also, don’t you love the giant portrait of the chef on the wall? Hilarious.) We went here (for the tasting menu!) the night we got engaged, and it was pitch-perfect. :)

Mario Batali’s Babbo (Greenwich Village) serves rich Italian food (think: Chianti-stained pappardelle with wild boar ragu, and spaghettini with spicy budding chives and a one-pound lobster), but, if you’re really hungry, go for the insanely delicious pasta tasting menu. Request a table in the beautiful upstairs dining room, order one of their not-too-expensive bottles of wine, and enjoy. (Tip: Call for a reservation way ahead of time; this place is definitely not a secret, ha!)

Whew! So I’d love to know: What are your favorite restaurants in New York? I would LOVE to hear. So many amazing places, too little time. :)

(Top image layout by HipHipGinGin for Cup of Jo; top image by Laura Ratliff. Restaurant photos by Laura Ratliff, Mucca Design, New York Magazine, Serious Eats, My Hotel Life, Immaculate Infatuation, Fork & Shaker, Town & Country Travel, Karma Free Cooking, Lovely Fashionista, the Trad, Dolce Loves and Joon Bug.)

  1. Cheryl says...

    I just found out Cafe Cluny is the former location of The Grand Ticino, the setting of those famously awesome scenes from the classic movie “Moonstruck”. No wonder it has a certain vibe. It will be forever hopelessly charming, despite a total makeover.

  2. Excellent post i really appreciate you and if some one is looking for good restaurants in NYC

  3. kash says...

    Joanna, I went to NYC for the first time recently and tried co. on your recommendation–it was a hit! My friends and I split the roasted cauliflower pizza and a pizza covered with brussels sprouts and bacon. So delicious!

  4. I love how your list of Italian restaurants provides for hopping around the city from neighborhood to neighborhood. In a lot of ways, this provides a real trip that utilizes the Italian Cuisine. My wife and I are ecstatic to get going on our great Italian dining journey.

  5. All these places you mentioned here are great. I am also looking for same party venue nyc for my brother’s birthday party as he is turning 17 this year. Please help me.

  6. One of my favorite things about New York is all of the small restaurants. They add so much character to the city. I went to New York a few years ago and loved it! I plan on going back again in the near future. I will definitely have to try a few of these restaurants.
    Gary Puntman |

  7. I haven’t been to New York yet, but now I know some great places to eat when I go. All the food looks delicious. From the look of these pictures, I should go to New York just to eat food.
    Claudia Rosenburg | Gaggyl

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  11. Great choices! I hate paying full price for anything. For restaurant deals and bar specials try my book 365 Guide New York City. Nothing but deals.

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  13. The food you’ve posted on here looks really great! I could really go for some Italian right now, especially a big plate of lasagna with garlic bread sticks.

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  18. I went to Hudson Clearwater last night and I was very impressed. Great date spot or dinner with a couple girl friends.

  19. Truly fantastic to watch.Images are awesome also.We are a Family Italian Restaurant that can cater you the best Italian food fired pizza and has earned the reputation of being the best gourmet pizza restaurant in Australia.

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  22. You are doing a great job! Keep the work up and make sure you keep doing what makes you happy. You should do restaurants in Kingston. My friend is planning on going there for vacation and he wants to know where to eat and what is good. Let me know if you do that would be great.

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  24. Wow I need to try some of these next time I’m in NYC. Especially, O. – I love pizza, but it’s way too hard to decide which place is the best in NYC. I’d say my favorite in the Boston area is definitely Prince Pizzeria in Saugus – they do take out slices, parties, catering – that sort of thing. I’m definitely coming back here before I go traveling though.

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  26. The Rouge Tomato is to die for! Corkbuzz is also a very cool place if you are a foodie and wino. Highly recommended.


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  35. Just went to Cafe Cluny with my husband, it was great! Thanks for the excellent recommendation!

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  38. I have to agree with the line in your 6th choice: “Where to find the best pizza in New York is obviously a hot debate.” When I think of NYC restaurants, I think of pizza right away. I think what I love most about NYC restaurants is that they vary so much from each other, and yet, they could all be across the street or down the block from each other. You get a whole world of food within a single city when you’re in New York.

    Daphne Michaels

  39. I just had brunch at Tartine on Sunday, it was lovely. Looking forward to trying some of the others! :)

  40. Visiting NYC in December and looking to all these posts to guide me. So very excited you created them. you’re the best.

    If you ever come to Boston, I’d be happy to return the favor.

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  42. NYC is certainly one of the great food cities of the world. With many famous chefs than any other city, even the pickiest of palates is bound to find something delicious here.

  43. Not sure if you are still reading comments for this post, but I just want to thank you for all the great recs. my husband and I are native Californians, but l.o.v.e. nyc. we can’t get enough. we will be back for our 3rd trip in 12 months and can’t wait!

    we stumbled upon Buvette in the w.village summer 2011. {before martha’s article} and keep going back.

    can’t wait to try your other recs! making me hungry.

  44. Some of these resturants look fabulous. I am staying in NY in a few weeks time. The serviced apartment I’m staying in has a kitchen but my cooking is awful so I will need to eat out as much as possible. Can’t wait to try some of these!

  45. Alina says...

    My friend and I went to ‘ino tonight for dinner, and it was lovely. The portions were just the right size, and the atmosphere was great (window-view, small/cozy, non-intrusive music, and a cool bathroom). Thank you so much!

  46. I also bookmarked and tweeted this. Thank you so much for showing great concern for other people. Much Respect.Turkish sweets

  47. Oh, and do you know Le Bonne Soup near 5th and 55th? Delish French cafe!

  48. We live in Dumbo, and love Blue Hill (best presentations ever), Applewood in Park Slope (it has a fire place and feels like home) Franny’s (best-smelling pizza place ever!), Buvette (best table size:)), Buttermilk Channel (best brunch), Vinegar Hill House (quirky, cute place), and AlMar (an amazing place here in Dumbo). Thanks for the suggestions—excited to try them!

  49. Great!
    I am planning to Visit NYC This Spring from UK, and this blog is good to read and inspired me!

  50. Joanna! I went to NYC for the weekend and brought a list of your recommendations. We really liked Schiller’s Liquor bar! The drinks were excellent, and the food was SO Dlish. (french onion soup, sliders, mussels, garlic shrimp, etc.) The vibe was friendly yet hip and the place really started to get busy as we were leaving. I’d definetely return.

  51. My boyfriend and I were visiting NYC for a long weekend this past weekend and went to Wallse based on your recommendation – best. meal. ever. Fabulous service. Great charm. We both did the tasting menu and split everything so we had the chance to try a good portion of the menu, definitely the way to go – everything was amazing! Thank you for this post – your whole blog is great!

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  53. Hb says...

    I was in NYC last weekend for the marathon and organized a post-race dinner at Hudson Clearwater. The vibe was exactly what we were looking for – great energy. The menu was perfect for our group, and the hidden entrance added to the suspense of finding the restaurant – thnx so much for the recommendation. Treat yourself to a Hudson Mule – they are delish.

  54. Some of my all time favorites, but a bunch of new ideas here too. Thank you for this great post!

  55. joanna, what about covering a guide on bakeries/dessert places? :) so many great places to go after dinner as well! :) i love big gay ice cream and butter lane in the east village, and levain on the upper west side. great series of posts, love that you made it so personal!

  56. Anonymous says...

    City Maps is great for finding out which restaurants are actually worth visiting. The site lets your read everything from the menu to customer reviews. I am obsessed with it, you should all check it out.

  57. You can also find good foods at the lower east side, specifically at NolIta. Where you can experience great foods and feel the ethnic ambiance of the place. Such a great info though. Thanks for sharing!

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  58. Sara Beth’s is my FAVORITE breakfast place!! Definitely going to give some of these places a try :)

  59. I just wanted to tell you you did an awesome job with these New York guides. They are so great and I agree with so many of these restaurants and your suggestions of fun things to do! Oh, and the cab-hailing tips were brilliant:) I’d add Freeman’s to this list, and maybe Bond Sushi, though I haven’t been in years. Grimaldi’s pizza also definitely lives up to the hype. Will I see you tomorrow? Text me if you’re coming:) xo