Try as you might, and as worthy a goal as it may be, exploring the food scene of every one of New York’s neighborhoods simply isn’t possible. Across the five boroughs, the Big Apple is home to 339 neighborhoods. Ranging from a radius of a few blocks to a sprawling collection of avenues, each has its own merit, especially where food is concerned. You’ll find somewhere stellar to eat in every neighborhood, but for a food-focused excursion, there are some areas that are more worthy of making the trek than others. Each offers a wealth of cuisines and fusions to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets. Here are our favorites.
New York City’s best Italian fare can be found in Little Italy, and we’re not talking about the one in Manhattan. If you’re surprised that the first neighborhood on our list is nestled deep in the Bronx, you’ve likely never heard of Arthur Avenue. The mile-long stretch of Italian eats, drinks, and shops is the stuff of legend. It oozes authenticity – you certainly won’t find any stale breadsticks or overenthusiastic greeters here – and a lowkey, small-town feel, an impressive feat for a locale in one of the world’s largest metropolises. Many of the restaurants and shops you’ll encounter have been around for fifty years or more, and are third-, fourth-, or even fifth-generation businesses.
Mario’s Restaurant, a coastal trattoria-style spot with an expansive menu which recently celebrated its centennial, is one such establishment. For a slightly more upscale vibe, try the Michelin-recognized zero otto nove, or Fordham students’ haunt Pugsley’s Pizza for something more casual.
While the restaurants are certainly not to be missed, pasta-lovers make pilgrimages from all over the country to visit Arthur Avenue’s shops. The behemoth Arthur Avenue Retail Market will let you sample a variety of local vendors at once, from pasta makers to cigar rollers. Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles is the freshest spot for the freshest pasta, and Vincent’s Meat Market offers some of the best cuts in the city if you can get past the cringe-inducing window displays.
If you look at a map of Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ll notice a highly concentrated cluster centered around the East Village. There’s a good reason for that: the East Village combines high-quality fare with sheer breadth of options while somehow managing to avoid falling into the fine-dining trap of pretention. With great food comes great big lines, so be prepared to wait a while to get a seat, especially at peak hours. You won’t find yourself bored, though: East Village is the perfect spot for aimless walking and people-watching.
The long-acclaimed Soothr specializes in Thai food that challenges Western perceptions of the cuisine, and Hasaki represents the last of Alphabet City’s first sushi spots, retaining its bargain menu and rotating fresh catch. Of course, if you’re seeking Japanese fare, Momofuku Ko has the best of everything if you’re able to snag a hard-to-get table and field the hefty price tag. The iconic Ukrainian diner Veselka has been serving up New York’s finest pierogies since 1954, and C&B is where you’ll find the most impressive bacon, egg, and cheese you’ve ever laid eyes on. If you’re in the mood for magic, head to brand-new spot Foul Witch for gothic décor and dishes that will surprise and delight you.
The crowd in Greenwich Village skews young, hip, and artsy, largely thanks to the thousands of NYU students who call the neighborhood home, and its food scene has followed suit. Here, many of the restaurants have schticks that help them to stand out among the vast array of options. Our favorites are those who create a dining experience that feels earnest rather than gimmicky, and rely on the caliber of their food over how Instagram-able the décor is.
C as in Charlie falls squarely into this category, a raucous red-lit hotspot with an inventive Korean-meets-Southern-comfort menu. Started by three childhood best friends from Atlanta, the entire place reads like a love letter to their friendship and heritage. Red Paperclip is a Michelin-starred hidden gem that specializes in cooking Asian flavors in the classic French style, and Olio e Piu is one of the most visually spectacular eateries in the city, evoking a lush Italian villa in both appearance and flavor. For a more toned-down dining experience, the fish and chips at Dame is famously good, and you shouldn’t leave the Village without grabbing some Belgian-style fries from Pommes Frites.
The best spot for Chinese food in New York isn’t the Chinatown you’re thinking of. Flushing, Queens boasts the second-largest Chinatown in the city, and its restaurants specialize in foods from a number of different regions in China. Each region has its own flavors and cooking styles, a fact that is often overlooked in America but is on full display in Flushing. Foodies flock here for the opportunity to absorb the distinct differences in cuisine between regions, and of course for the quality of the food itself.
You’ll end up in a warm, rustic farmhouse in the Chonqing countryside when you step into Chonqing Lao Zao, a lovingly decorated hot pot spot known for their incredible spicy broths. Asian Jewels is the place to be for dim sum, and the unassuming storefront of White Bear belies their top-notch dumplings. Bodhi Village is where non-meat-eaters can try the same dishes as their carnivorous companions, and the Ganesh Temple Canteen offers both a novel experience and the best South Indian dosas in the city.
An easy subway ride from Manhattan will take you to Astoria. This Queens neighborhood is best-known for its stellar Greek fare, but that’s far from all this picturesque waterfront locale has to offer. You’ll certainly find authentic tavernas on every corner, some better than others, but you’ll also find Egyptian seafood, Afghan kababs, and storied sandwich shops.
If you can snag a seat at Taverna Kyclades, it’s well-worth the wait. This seafood spot is wildly popular for good reason, and their lemon potatoes are the stuff of legend. Right across the street is Hamido Seafood, an equally delicious seafood spot where ocean dwellers are cooked to order with a secret Egyptian spice blend. Local haunt Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna will transport you to a cottage in the Greek countryside, and Sami’s Kabab House is a rave-worthy way to sample the hugely under-represented Afghan cuisine. The Bonnie is a sleek gastropub with a laidback vibe and excellent burgers, and the massive heroes at Sal, Kris, & Charlie’s have earned owner Charlie Gordon the title of “Sandwich King of Astoria.”
Combining the commercial hustle of Midtown, the lively energy of the Meatpacking District, and a large helping of artistry all its own, Chelsea has something for everyone. Chelsea Market, of course, is the star of the neighborhood’s food scene, offering a lengthy line-up of local eateries’ outposts. If you have a large group with plenty of varying tastes, Chelsea Market is heaven-sent. Here, you’ll be able to get anything from fresh crepes at Bar Suzette to legendary ramyun at Mok Bar. The brownies at Fat Witch Bakery alone warrant a visit.
Beyond Chelsea Market, Cookshop is a neighborhood favorite. A greenmarket-driven American joint, Cookshop is known for its killer weekend brunch. Sullivan Street Bakery will launch you straight to fresh-baked nirvana, and the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill is an offbeat trailer park-themed bar with a great burger and $5 Happy Hour margs. For a sit-down dinner, Shukette is the quintessential spot for elevated Middle Eastern cooking, provided you can get a table. Txikito is the only place to experience the style of small-plate cooking specific to the Basque region of Italy, and Gallow Green is the rooftop bar to end all rooftop bars.