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.

Russ & Daughters
Bagel · Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.7 · 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.”
Di Fara Pizza
Pizza · Midwood · $$
Food 4.6 · 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.”
Katz's Delicatessen
American · Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.1 · 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!”
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.”
Murray's Bagels
Bagel · 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.”
Joe's Shanghai
Chinese · Flushing · $$
Food 4.2 · 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.”
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.”
Serendipity 3
American · East 60s · $$
Food 4.0 · Decor 4.2 · 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.