Despite all its diversity, New York City social life revolves around a single ritual—dining out. Whether it be a power broker paying hundreds for a meal at Asia de Cuba or a slacker scraping together some money for a pizza at Lombardi's, each experiences the city's unique culinary fusion. Add lively conversation with friends, and voilá!—you've found the real New York City. With the sheer number of ethnic influences, talented chefs making a name for themselves, hot spots, hidden gems, delis and diners—New York offers something for everyone's palate.
Diners enjoy gastronomic delights across the five boroughs, but the following districts are particularly noteworthy:
Old money dines at prestigious and elegant classics like 21 Club. Meanwhile, cell phones ring and young turks wheel and deal at hip locales like the China Grill. Superstar Jean-Georges Vongerichten reinvents fine dining at his eponymous Jean-Georges. For something completely different (but quintessentially Big Apple), true New Yorkers stop by the famous Carnegie Deli for a massive sandwich.
A few steps west of the Times Square tourist trap lies this former slum now transformed into an enclave of eclectic eateries, many ideal for pre- and post-theater dining. From the spicy and romantic Puttanesca to the family-run Chez Napoleon, there's something for everyone. You can also grab a bite at Five Napkin Burger. After, or even instead of the meal, the Cupcake Cafe supplies some of the best desserts in town.
Gramercy & Union Square
This notable area of fine dining boasts top-rated, understated establishments like the Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe. A neighborhood rich in history, the landmark Pete's Tavern still draws a relaxing pint and serves up old-fashioned pub grub after over a century in the business.
World-class restaurants like the favorite Gotham Bar & Grill and the stunningly romantic One if by Land, Two if by Sea work their magic in the brownstones of this historic neighborhood. If you're craving delicious Italian food, try famous chef Mario Batali's restaurant and enoteca, Babbo. Other options in this neighborhood include some of the city's best falafel at Taim, and great brunch and coffee at the small French cafe, Tartine.
Funky, inexpensive ethnic restaurants and hip bars draw people here from all over the city. Well-known bargains like the Life Cafe are usually filled with local hipsters and students as well as visitors. Meanwhile, traces of old New York can still be found at the Lanza Restaurant.
Where the art world congregates, trendy dining establishments follow. The Mercer Kitchen serves some of the city's most innovative cuisine as the world's most fabulous people vie for tables there (not to mention a couple of blocks over at Balthazar). Elsewhere amongst the galleries and posh shops, black-clad sophisticates socialize at oh-so-very-Soho classics, Raoul's and Boom.
Among Tribeca's spectacular loft spaces, masterful restaurateur Drew Nieporant has created a mini-kingdom for himself, along with friend and investor Robert DeNiro. Nieporant offers diners amazing Japanese food at Nobu and New American cuisine at Tribeca Grill. For something outside Nieporant's empire, try the flashy Odeon or just sip champagne at the Bubble Lounge.
That's amore! Along bustling Mulberry Street, old-country restaurants blare Frank Sinatra into the street while barkers summon the crowds. For those who love red sauces with their pasta or veal, choices abound. From Pellegrino's to Casa Bella, it's difficult to go wrong. For pizza, Lombardi's serves some of the best pies in the city.
Like a trip to Asia but without leaving Manhattan, the scores of restaurants on Chinatown's dynamic streets offer every variety of Asian cuisine (often at bargain prices). For those in search of quality dumplings, Joe's Shanghai Restaurant is the place. Seeking Chinese-style barbecue? Big Wong King fits the bill; and if one craves noodles at three in the morning, New York Noodle Town always hits the mark.
What? Where's my Peter Luger, you say? Or what about the River Cafe with its glorious views? New York City's selection of amazing places to feast and imbibe is ever growing, ever changing and always exciting.