Even the most vigilant dining enthusiasts have a tough time keeping up with New York City’s constantly evolving restaurant and bar scene, with its never-ending ebb and flow of grand openings and overnight shutterings, new fads and abandoned trends, overrated “it” spots and hidden gems. Lucky for you, we scoured the island to plot the ultimate culinary adventure through America’s tastiest melting pot.
Courtesy of Sylvia's Restaurant
Start your day off right with a heaping platter of this Harlem institution’s legendary chicken and waffles. The cozy mainstay has been giving diners its Southern fried fill and then some since way back in 1962 and seems to only get better with age. From the “time-honored” Carolina-style chitterlings and acclaimed Waiting to Exhale cocktail (Grandma Julia’s fruit punch spiked with a potent blend of vodka, amaretto, Grand Marnier and bubbly Alizé) to the multitude of framed family photos, this spot knows how to bring out the soul in soul food. Pro tip: Plan your trip for a Sunday to experience the greatest gospel brunch in town.
328 Malcolm X Blvd.; 212-996-0660
Mid-morning snack: Orwasher’s Bakery
Next, hop on the train and head south to this Upper West Side outpost of one of city’s most respected kosher bakeries for a leisurely post-gorge coffee and custom-filled jelly donut or traditional rugalach. While you’re enjoying your snack, grab a stool in front of the shop’s wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows for some Amsterdam Avenue people-watching.
308 E. 78th St.; 212-288-6569
Courtesy of Ippudo
Lunch: Ippudo Westside
Put that morning carb-load to work with a 35-minute walk past Lincoln Center’s iconic campus down to this lauded Hell’s Kitchen ramen shop. Inside the sleek brick-lined space, the staff stationed behind the communal ramen bar enthusiastically welcomes guests with a rousing “Irasshaimase!” while doling out steamy bowls of hand-pulled noodles, stocked with toppings like roasted pork and soy sauce–infused boiled egg and immersed in an sumptuous broth. Also make sure to save room for the pillowy pork buns.
321 West 51st St.; 212-974-2500
Afternoon slice: Joe’s Pizza
A day of ideal NYC eating wouldn't be complete without pizza. That’s why making a pit stop at this old-school Carmine Street slice shop is an absolute must. This modest hole-in-the-wall has been delighting families, tourists and starving college students alike with its giant NY-style slices, served piping hot and smothered in gooey cheese and perfectly seasoned tomato sauce. Once you’ve gotten your slice, eschew the joint’s tiny stand-up bistro tables and head across the street to Father Demo square instead, where another round of prime people-watching awaits.
7 Carmine St.; 212-366-1182
Courtesy of Russ & Daughters
Afternoon nosh: Russ & Daughters
Follow up your Italian-American sojourn with a culinary dip into the Lower East Side’s rich Jewish heritage at this long-celebrated “appetizing shop.” Teeming with historical charm, the family-run establishment has been in business for over 100 years, which began with founder Joel Russ peddling schmaltz herring from a pushcart on Hester Street. Opt for a smoked salmon–laden pumpernickel bagel, fresh from the oven and baked in New York’s signature chewy-on-the-inside-crisp-on-the-outside style, or a sweet treat like raspberry rugalach, cinnamon babka or a palatial black and white cookie.
179 East Houston St.; 212-475-4880
Pre-dinner cocktail: Attaboy
This LES hideaway, opened by OG barmen Sam Ross and Michael Mcilroy, is a destination for craft cocktails. Both casual and refined, this narrow, candlelit haunt is stashed away speakeasy-style behind an unassuming Eldridge Street apartment door (ring the bell for 1A to get inside). Don’t expect a detailed menu, here. The well-versed crew manning the sticks prefer shaking up original, of-the-moment creations tailored to its customers’ personal tastes.
134 Eldridge St.; No phone
Courtesy of Chinese Tuxedo
Dinner: Chinese Tuxedo
Old meets new inside this sexy two-story Chinatown eatery, where high ceilings, rustic unfinished walls, round leather booths and lush greenery complement the sophisticated yet approachable cuisine (think housemade noodles, duck l’orange spring rolls, bone-in sirloin). An early arrival gives you a chance to check out the spot’s Doyers Street home, a curvy, alleylike stretch dubbed “the Bloody Angle” due to the many turn-of-the-century Chinese gangs, also known as tongs, that once swarmed its confines. Fun fact: This 19th-century opera-house-turned-brasserie also served as the site of a famously brutal gun battle between two warring tongs back in 1905.
5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301
Courtesy of BlackTail
After dinner drinks and dessert: BlackTail
Finish out your epic day at this Cuban-inspired riverfront oasis from the team behind the multi-award-winning Financial District destination, Dead Rabbit. The space is dapper and ornate, with stained-glass ceilings, parquet floors, hunter-green leather banquets and deep mahogany walls strewn with paintings, framed portraits and vintage posters, a fitting backdrop for the expertly balanced rum highballs, punches, cobblers and sours you’re about to imbibe. Sit back, relax, order a slice of tres leches topped with anise whipped cream and brûléed meringue or a plate of warm churros doused with ancho mole chocolate sauce and consider your mission complete.
2nd floor, Pier A Harbor House, 22 Battery Pl.; 212-785-0153