Restaurants in New York City

How to dine well without breaking the bank in the Big Apple

Categories: What to know
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Irene - You Guide in New York


Irene - Your Local Guide to New York City

Hey Everyone,

One of the most ludicrous things I hear from my clients is that they Love New York but the Food is Horrible ... To which I always follow up by having a heart attack while trying to utter the word "blasphemy."

I'm not gonna say that New York has the best culinary scene in the entire world but it's pretty darn close, if you ask me, actually if you ask anybody.

After catching my breath, to my clients, I usually rebut, "well, where have you eaten so far?"

Answers usually go from MacDonald's to other fast-food chains of the likes of KFC, Burger Kings, and co. to some corner (non-authentic) Deli selling stale slices of Pizza just because he can get away with it as it's located in Times Square and so on.

Let me clear some air ... As New Yorkers, we do not go to fast-food chains ... ever! And we definitely know the difference between a good hamburger and a bad one, and forget about Pizza! New Yorkers, we do know our Pizzas! (& true New Yorkers eat Pizza with their hands folding it in half ... but this is for another article.)

So, here I want to share some guidelines and general tips to help those of you that might find it difficult to find good food in the Big Apple.

Jokes aside, I truly believe that when you visit New York and you don't at least attempt to take advantage of the culinary diversity that this city offers is basically missing out on something important ... If for many of you not visiting the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island on your first trip (or maybe the Empire State Building) is a profanity, to not experience New York's food scene should be regarded as equally ungodly. Through the foods & the restaurants, you can actually dwell deeper in the local culture of the city, and learn so many things about the past, present and future of NYC. We are what we eat after all ... and no one does it better than New York & New Yorkers.


Generally, There are 2 Rules of Thumb I like to Follow


A) Want to EAT WELL BUT AT A BUDGET? You need to stay CLEAR of Times Square & Midtown in general.

B) Looking for good Restaurants that won't kill your wallet? You need to go to the residential neighborhoods where New Yorkers eat too.

Let's jump in and let me give you some more details on these 2 points.

Restaurants and Food in NYC


A) EAT WELL AND YOU HAVE NO BUDGET

As I was saying, If you want to eat well but you need to stay within a certain budget, your best bet is to avoid the areas of Times Square and Midtown. The more touristy / commercial / business-like the neighborhood is, the more sophisticated restaurants you will find. This is the area where you can find all the popular steakhouses from the touristy (albeit still good) Gallagher's to national names such as Capital Grille, Delfrisco's, Wolgang and so on.

So, you want to eat well and have no problem with budgets? If this is your case, first of all, lucky you, and second of all, you won't be disappointed! NYC has five 3-stars Michelin Restaurants and you can rest assure if money ain't a problem, you can have the best culinary experience of a lifetime. From the Japanese Masa to Thomas Keller's Per Se ... just make sure you are okay with spending upwards of $500-800 a pop and you will have a blast!

This is not to say that there aren't more budget-oriented restaurants around Times Sq. / Midtown. However, in order to save money in this area, you might end up in one of those tourist-traps where you will still end up paying a decent amount of money, and the food will not satisfy you. At least for that same amount you can have an excellent meal elsewhere. 

Want to explore Times Square & Midtown? Take one of our Classic Walking Tours

The only establishments that I truly consider safe-bets in Midtown are those Gourmet Fast-Food Chains such as Digg Inn, Fresh & Co, Just Salad, Sweetgreens, Pret, Little Beets, Joe & the Juice, etc. These chains started getting popular in the last 5-8 years as New Yorkers, and Americans in general, started looking for healthier, organic, food options for their weekly lunch breaks. These places do not do table service and are not considered Restaurants. You go in, you order at the register, they package the food for you, and you either take it with you (to go) or you eat it there at one of the open tables. They might not be fancy but the food is healthy & tasty, and with $15-25 you can have a good meal. 


B) EAT WELL BUT YOU HAVE A BUDGET

Do you want to eat Well but Budget is a factor? Well, welcome to the club and do as New Yorkers do ... Learn to explore NYC outside of the usual Times Square / Midtown area. You need to go to the residential neighborhoods where local New Yorkers like me and many others can find delicious food at a much considerable price. I'm talking about Upper East Side (especially on 2nd Avenue from 90th Street to 69th Street) and Upper West Side ( especially on Amsterdam from 86th Street to 72nd Street), East Village (all-around 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Avenue between 14th Street and Houston Street), pretty much all over the Lower East Side (south of Houston Street) and West Village (especially the New York University Area with Sullivan, Thompson and Bleecker Street). And of course, residential neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn such as Astoria, Long Island City, Brooklyn Heights, etc.


THE ONE EXCEPTION, ACTUALLY 2


The first exception to those 2 rules is Hell's Kitchen, and the second one is the neighborhood of Murray Hill.

Hell's Kitchen located along 9th & 10th Avenue between 35th and 55th Street offers great small restaurants, especially ethnic cuisine at a very good price. Here you can find all sorts of cuisines from Thai to Vietnamese, from authentic Pizza to American Restaurants and BBQs, Mexican and much more.

Murray's Hill especially along 2nd Avenue between 23rd and 52nd Street. Here, you will find plenties of bars and restaurants from Mediterranean food to Italian and French, Fish and Steakhouses and more.

The reason for these 2 exceptions is that although these 2 neighborhoods are located in Midtown, they are still kind of out of the touristy loop. They tend to be more residentials then commercials and thus they cater mostly to local New Yorkers.

Restaurants and Food in The Big Apple


HOW TO CHOOSE THE RESTAURANTS


Now that we know the different areas, if you need help picking out Restaurants, I suggest you use the following APPS --

YELP - to search by cuisines, locations, reviews. and prices ... Some restaurants will also let you book the table via Yelp (only a few those.) This APP is not to book tables but mainly to help you look and find good options around you.

GOOGLE MAPS - similar to Yelp, you can use Google Maps to search for restaurants in a specific area, read reviews, see photos, and check-out the Menus. Google is also rolling out the "Make A Reservation" feature where you can book using the Google App.

OPEN TABLE - possibly my favorite App because it not only allows you to search by food, price, review, and location but it gives you current availability and you can book your table with just one click.

Use these Apps to help you select your Restaurant and make your reservation.


WHY YOU NEED TO RESERVE IN ADVANCE

In NYC, it is very common to book a table even weeks in advance especially for popular restaurants and especially during the Holidays or other festivities.

If you are a party of 5 or more, you even have more reasons to book in advance. A table for 2 or 3 might be easier to come by, but when you start being 5 or more, it's really hard to find an available table during rush-dinner-hours (6 pm to 8 pm) in popular and/or good restaurants.

APPs we suggest for Restaurants


A COUPLE OF SAFE BETS


Need a quick bite and you are not sure where to go? I always recommend Le Pain Quotidien and Maison du Keyser. You will find plenty of these establishments throughout the city, even in Midtown as they do work with the business crowds serving healthy options, sandwiches, soups, salad, etc. Contrary to those mentioned above, they actually provide table-service, and the food is tasty. On average prices go between $15 to $45 per person based on what you order.

Interested in Food Trucks and Street Food?

If we're talking about food in New York we can't help but mention the Food Trucks you find along the streets ... do you want to know more? Read our article


THE AVERAGE LUNCH & DINNER PRICES IN NYC


One thing you will learn in NYC is that nothing is average ... You can find so many different price-ranges that your head will spin!

Generally speaking, you can consider the following prices,

Pizza Restaurant (i.e. Numero 28, Ribalta, Della Rocco, etc.) anywhere from $30 to $65 per person depending on what you are ordering (just pizza or appetizers + pizzas) and if you are drinking alcohol.

Popular Steakhouse (i.e. Capital Grille, Peter Luger, Del Frisco's, etc.) anywhere from $50 to $90 (for Lunch) and from $80 to $150 (for Dinner) more when you order wine and alcohol.

Chinese Restaurants tend to offer a more affordable din-din, anywhere from $20 per person and up.

Ethnic Foods (Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese) anywhere from $25 to $45 (for Lunch) and from $40 to $65 (for Dinner) more when you order wine and alcohol.

International Restaurants (Italian, French, Spanish, Mediterranean, etc.) anywhere from $30 to $50 (for Lunch) and from $45 to $75 (for Dinner) more when you order wine and alcohol.

Prices are just indicative and are intended per person after Tax & Gratuity.

Please remember that in your check, you will see the extra charge for Sale Tax (8.875%) and then you will have to add Gratuity which is usually between 18% to 22%, if you received a good service.


Want to spend a special night out? Try these 3 Restaurants: The View, Tavern on the Green & Swing Jazz Club!


CURIOUS ABOUT MICHELIN STARS RESTAURANT IN NEW YORK CITY?

Three Stars Restaurants

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Eleven Madison Park
Le Bernardin
Masa
Per Se

WANT TO SEE THE 2 & 1 STAR RESTAURANTS? CLICK-HERE FOR THE LIST.

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