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.
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
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.
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