Best Spots for Classic NYC Dishes

March 6, 2015
by Zagat Staff

From pastrami on rye to Sicilian square pies, these NYC eateries serve the best classic city staples.

Murray's Bagels
Brunch · Greenwich Village · $
Food 4.3 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.5

The “seriously fresh bagels” are “huge, crusty” and so “gratifying” they “don’t need to be toasted” at these “no-nonsense” shops, which “deliver the goods” accompanied by “lip-smacking” smoked fish and schmears “galore” ; the counter folks are “efficient” , but expect “killer lines on weekends.”
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.”
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!”
Gray's Papaya
Hot Dog · West 70s · $
Food 4.0 · Decor 2.5 · Service 3.4

This 24/7 UWS hot dog stand vends “surprisingly good” wieners washed down with “frothy” papaya drinks; “quick” turnaround and “chump-change” tabs offset the “gruff” service, “what-a-dump” decor and lack of seats at this “quintessential” NY “institution.”
Di Fara Pizza
Pizza · Midwood · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 2.5 · Service 3.0

Pizzaiolo “legend” Dom DeMarco is “a master plying his art” at this 1965 Midwood “institution” , where his “lovingly handmade” pies are “a must for the pizza addicted” ; despite “unappealing” digs, “interminable waits” and service with “zero sense of urgency” , it’s “thronged” with those who urge “patience – it’s worth it.”
L&B Spumoni Gardens
Italian · Gravesend · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.7

This circa-1939 Gravesend “icon” is beloved for its “twin legends” – Sicilian square pizza that “rules” and “creamy, refreshing” spumoni in portions big enough to feed “all the families in your building” ; there's a “dated” dining room, but in summer most opt to order at the window and “eat outside” with the “neighborhood characters.”
Serendipity 3
Dessert · East 60s · $$
Food 4.0 · Decor 4.1 · Service 3.7

“Must-try” frozen hot chocolate is the signature and the other American comfort offerings are mere “prelude” at this “whimsical” , circa-1954 East Side sweets 'n' gifts “institution” ; despite “high prices” , “sassy” service and “crazy crowds” , it's a magnet for “tourists” and “grandchildren” alike.
Joe's Shanghai
Chinese · Flushing · $$
Food 4.1 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.5

“Delicate, savory and fun to eat” , the “signature” soup dumplings at these Chinese “staples” are “justly famous” ; trade-offs include “long lines” , “perfunctory service” and “no atmosphere” , yet they're “always packed for a reason.”