Best Historic Restaurants in NYC

Blast From the Past
April 18, 2017
by Zagat Staff

Enjoy a blast from the past at one of these city restaurants.

Keens Steakhouse
Steakhouse · West 30s · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.4

The “granddaddy of all NYC steakhouses” , this circa-1885 Midtown “temple to meat” remains “rock solid” , with “sinful” “Flintstones-size” mutton chops and other “succulent” slabs of beef in “masculine” “museum” -like surrounds with “lines upon lines” of antique pipes on the ceiling; it’s “not for the weak of wallet” , but “welcoming” service and an “endless” scotch selection are other reasons you “won't regret splurging.”
Old Homestead Steakhouse
Seafood · Chelsea · $$$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

Still serving a “hell of a steak” , this “legendary” Chelsea chophouse has been drawing “big spenders” in “big suspenders” since 1868, and its “clubby” (soon to be expanded) quarters “capture a bygone era” ; “robber baron” prices are part of the package, but given the “William Howard Taft” –worthy portions, some call it a “comparative value.”
21 Club
American · West 50s · $$$$
Food 4.3 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.5

A “New York institution” and “class operation” , this circa-1929 former speakeasy in Midtown turns out “dependably good” traditional American dishes in an “old-school” , “dress-up” setting (jackets required, no jeans) with “spectacular” old toys hanging from the ceiling and “serene” private rooms upstairs; an “impeccable” staff furthers the “welcoming” vibes, though you may have to “liquidate some stocks to cover the bill.”
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Seafood · East 40s · $$$
Food 4.1 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.7

“Justly beloved” , this “boisterous” seafood “legend” in Grand Central stays “faithful to its 1913 origins” with “terrific” oysters and pan roasts that provide a taste of “true NY” ; a “venerable” sublevel sprawl with a “dramatically” vaulted ceiling, “classic” dining counters and a “throwback” saloon, it’s “not to be missed” even if it “costs a pretty penny.”
Waverly Inn
American · West Village · $$$
Food 4.1 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.0

Maybe the “celebrity buzz has slowed” , but Graydon Carter's “clubby” West Villager still offers “high-end” spins on American “home cooking” favorites in “charming” confines (adorned with droll Edward Sorel murals); in winter, regulars say a “cozy booth by the fireplace” is “where it's at.”
The Monkey Bar
American · East 50s · $$$
Food 4.0 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.0

The “jazz-age ambiance” endures at Graydon Carter's “old-school” Midtown canteen lined with Ed Sorel’s “wonderful” murals of 1920s-era celebs; its American grub is “better than it needs to be” and accompanied by “expertly crafted” cocktails, so even though the “see-and-be-seen” scene has cooled, it still works for a “special night out.”
Steakhouse · Financial District · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.3

You can “turn back time” at this “iconic” FiDi steakhouse that preserves “the glories of old NY” with “top-of-the-line” meat and more (it’s the birthplace of baked Alaska and lobster Newburg) delivered in “robber baron” surrounds; at the offshoot near Penn Station, the cuts are “just as good” and just as “pricey.”
Peter Luger Steak House
Steakhouse · Williamsburg · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

“Still the one and only” , this circa-1887 Williamsburg “monument to meat” sets the bar with its “buttery” house-aged beef ( “they define porterhouse” ) served by “cantankerous” career waiters in a “busy” “old-time” German beer hall setting; the “rough-and-tumble” style “only adds to the charm” , but prices are “stiff” and they don’t take plastic, so come with “a lot of cash.”
La Grenouille
French · East 50s · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.8 · Service 4.6

Ever “intoxicating” , this Midtown “bastion” of “fine-dining nonpareil” remains a “top-tier” source of “fantastique” French classics and “exemplary service” in a “dressy” , jackets-required setting heightened by “stunning floral displays” ; the “steep tabs” are “not for the timid” , but the consistent “level of taste” makes you “feel special.”
Katz's Delicatessen
Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.5

A “legendary” LES landmark since 1888 (with its first offshoot in Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall), this “bucket lister” remains the “gold standard” for “sky-high” pastrami sandwiches and other “real-deal” Jewish deli eats; the “crowded, hectic” space is “nothing to talk about” , but for a “classic NYC” experience it still has many joining 'When Harry Met Sally' fans in shouting “yes, yes, yes!”
Pizza · NoLita · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.7

This 1905-vintage NoLita pizza “shrine” , which claims to be America's first pizzeria, still draws throngs with its “real-deal” coal-fired pies; it doesn't take plastic or reservations, and you may have to “tussle with the tourists to get a table” , but it's a true “slice of NY” – even though it “doesn't do slices.”
Russ & Daughters
Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

A “New York classic” dating to 1914, this “incomparable” LES “temple of noshes” is a “smoked fish heaven” known for “sublime salmon” and a “zillion varieties of herring” , plus “proper bagels” , sandwiches and sweets, all courtesy of a “knowledgeable” counter crew; “oy vey” is it “small” , “crowded” and “pricey” , but for “old-world Jewish” fare, there’s “no comparison.”
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Chinese · Chinatown · $
Food 4.0 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.5

You may “need Google Maps” to find it, but it's worth seeking out this “time-warp” Chinatown vet (around since 1920) for “surprisingly good” , “real-deal” dim sum at “bargain” rates; despite a “nondescript ambiance” and “no-frills” service, it's still a “favorite” “go early or really late” to avoid a wait.
Italian · Williamsburg · $$
Food 4.3 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.3

“Red sauce is king” at this “long-established” (since 1900) Williamsburg Italian, which remains “the ultimate old-school Brooklyn” joint for “belly-bustin’” standards “like grandma made” ; the “time warp” backdrop’s “not fancy” , but the “tuxedoed waiters” and assorted “characters” (e.g. “wise guys” ) are “wildly entertaining.”