Eric Laignel
Aquavit
updated 5/1/2006 12:24:08 PM ET 2006-05-01T16:24:08

Attention, foodies: Welcome to your mecca. Without a doubt, New York is the best restaurant town in the country, and one of the finest in the world. Other cities might have particular specialties, but no other culinary capital spans the globe so successfully as the Big Apple.

New Yorkers can be fickle: One moment a restaurant is hot; the next it's passé. So restaurants close with a frequency we wish applied to the arrival of subway trains. Always call ahead.

But there's one thing we all have to face sooner or later: Eating in New York isn't cheap. The primary cause? The high cost of real estate, which is reflected in what you're charged. Wherever you're from, particularly if you hail from the reasonably priced American heartland, New York's restaurants will seem expensive. Yet good value abounds, especially if you're willing to eat ethnic, and venture beyond tourist zones into the neighborhoods like Chinatown, the East Village, Harlem, and even the Upper West Side. Still, we've included inexpensive restaurants in every neighborhood, including some of the city's best-kept secrets, so you'll know where to get good value for your money no matter where you are in Manhattan.

THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE DINING EXPERIENCES

Chanterelle, 2 Harrison St. (tel. 212/966-6960). You'll be made to feel very special here from the impeccable, personalized service in a simple but lovely room to the exquisitely prepared food. Other restaurants try, but this is how it's supposed to be.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Ave. (tel. 212/889-0905). Higher praise has consistently gone to chef/restaurateur Danny Meyer's other restaurants, Gramercy Park Tavern and Union Square Café, so this gem is often overlooked, which is a shame. It is a magnificent restaurant on every level. The Art Deco room is spectacular, the service almost otherworldly, and the food truly memorable.

Ben Fink
The dining room at Devi
The River Café, 1 Water St., Brooklyn (tel. 718/522-5200). Located at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, there is no better dining view of Manhattan. Go at twilight as the lights of downtown begin to flicker on; it's a magical experience. Though the food at restaurants with views is usually not very good, you won't be disappointed by the sophisticated fare prepared here.

Atelier, in the Ritz-Carlton, Central Park, 50 Central Park South (tel. 212/521-6125). This beautiful restaurant is one of the few in New York where you can actually converse with your companion. But you may not want to talk and just concentrate on the fantastic food.

Aquavit, 65 E. 55th St. (tel. 212/307-7311). Though its new digs are not nearly as charming as its former town house setting, the service and the food are as good as ever.

Big Wong King, 67 Mott St. (tel. 212/964-0540). For the quintessential Chinatown experience. You'll share tables with Chinese families, order huge bowls of congee with fried crullers, plates of stir-fried vegetables, and heaping platters of roast pork and duck. I guarantee it will be an unforgettable dining experience.

BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

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BLT Steak, 106 E. 57th St. (tel. 212/752-7470). Chef Laurent Tourendel has put his spin on the steakhouse and it's a winner. Though not your traditional men's club steakhouse, the meat is as good as I've had at any of those other testosterone-fueled red meat joints.

Devi, 8 E. 18th St. (tel. 212/691-1300). There are so many Indian restaurants in New York, I didn't think I could experience anything different in terms of Indian cuisine, but Devi's menu is an eye-opener and the food as flavorful as it gets.

Abboccato, 136 W. 55th St. (tel. 212/265-4000). The newest addition from the owners of the excellent Molyvos and Oceana, Abboccato offers an exciting, rustic Italian menu. I'd go back just for another taste of the spaghettini with razor clams and mullet roe.

BEST BITES FOR ALL APPETITES

Best for Breakfast: Good Enough to Eat, 483 Amsterdam Ave. (tel. 212/496-0163). They've been lining up on Amsterdam Avenue on weekend mornings for over 20 years to get a taste of chef/owner Carrie Levin's bountiful home-cooked breakfasts. But why wait in line? You're on vacation, go during the week.

Best for Brunch: Norma's, at Le Parker Meridien hotel, 118 W. 57th St. (tel. 212/708-7460). Though I am not a devotee of brunch, I make an exception for Norma's. Traditional breakfast items are available but skip them and go for the creative interpretations, like the asparagus and seared rock lobster omelet.

Best Dessert: Fiamma Osteria, 206 Spring St. (tel. 212/653-0100). There are many impressive pastry chefs in town, but few of them can top the remarkable Elizabeth Katz. Everything on Fiamma's "Dolci" menu is outstanding, but her torta (dark chocolate praline cake layered with hazelnut brittle) and gianduja gelato (hazelnut-flavored chocolate gelato) are as close to perfection as you can get.

Best Italian: Beppe, 45 E. 22nd St. (tel. 212/982-8422). Restaurant critics don't give Beppe enough credit, but the mobs that pour into the place nightly know better. This is as close to true Tuscan cuisine as you'll find outside of the Italy region.

Best Jewish Deli: Katz's Delicatessen, 205 E. Houston St. (tel. 212/254-2246). This is the choice among those who know their kreplach, knishes, and pastrami. No cutesy sandwiches named for celebrities here -- just top-notch Jewish classics.

Best Burger: Burger Joint, at Le Parker Meridien hotel, 118 W. 57th St. (tel. 212/708-7460). Who woulda thunk that a fancy hotel like Le Parker Meridien would be the home to a "joint" that serves great burgers at great prices?

Best Decadent Burger: db Bistro Moderne, 55 W. 44th St. (tel. 212/391-2400). Daniel Boulud's creation is made with braised short ribs, foie gras, preserved black truffles, and minced sirloin and goes for a whopping $29.

Best Pizza: Patsy's Pizzeria, 2287 First Ave. (tel. 212/534-9783). This great East Harlem pizzeria has been cranking out coal-oven pizza since 1932. You can also order by the slice here, but only do so if the pie is fresh out of the oven.

Best Seafood: Oceana, 55 E. 54th St. (tel. 212/759-5941). You won't believe what chef Cornelius Gallagher can do with fish. His culinary creations look so good on the plate that they are worthy of museum status. What's really remarkable is that the food tastes as good as it looks.

Best Steak: Strip House, 13 E. 12th St. (tel. 212/328-0000). Forget the cute play on words and the dizzying number of photos and artwork of old strippers and burlesque performers on the walls and concentrate on the red meat in front of you. Believe me, after a few bites, strippers and burlesque will be the last thing on your mind.

Best for Families: Virgil's Real BBQ, 152 W. 44th St. (tel. 212/921-9494). Located in kid-friendly Times Square, Virgil's, in a sense, is a theme restaurant, the theme being barbecue, but they do an excellent job smoking their meats. It's loud, colorful, and has great options for the children.

Best Cheap Meal: Gray's Papaya, 2090 Broadway (tel. 212/799-0243). Though the $2.45 "recession special" -- two hot dogs and a fruit drink -- is almost a $1 increase from the previous recession, it's still a bargain. But is it any good? Witness the lines out the door every day for lunch.

Best Ice Cream: Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Fulton Ferry Landing Pier, Brooklyn (tel. 718/246-3963). The perfect reward after a brisk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Rich homemade ice cream with a view of the Manhattan skyline, a tough combination to beat.

Best Bagel: Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway (tel. 212/932-2105). They're not huge like some bagels these days, but they are always hot and cooked to perfection.

Best Soul Food: Charles' Southern Style Kitchen, 2841 Eighth Ave. (tel. 877/813-2920 or 212/926-4313). Not only is this tiny Harlem restaurant the best soul food in the city, it's also the best buffet. For $9.95 on weekdays and $12 on weekends, the down-home offerings will tempt you to make an obscene amount of visits to the buffet line.

Best Restaurant Restroom: Sapa, 43 W. 24th St. (tel. 212/929-1800). You can tell a lot about a restaurant by its restrooms and Sapa's, with its bubbling pool, candles, and Chinese screens, are so immaculate and beautifully designed you might want to linger a little longer than you should. But then the very good grub prepared by chef Patricia Yeo might get cold and you wouldn't want that.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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