One of the many heartbreaking aspects of this pandemic has been watching restaurants around the world struggle to stay in business. For the culinary traveler, restaurants are the life-blood of cities, and New York City restaurants are no exception. Visiting some of the best restaurants in NYC is an integral part of getting to know this city. Thankfully, it’s only looking up for the dining scene this 2022. After too many home-cooked meals, we couldn’t be more excited.
The New York City restaurant scene changes constantly. Add COVID restrictions, and it can be especially overwhelming to know where to look. So instead of simply compiling a list of the most famous restaurants, we decided to narrow down the competition by satisfying a few key characteristics for any post-pandemic traveler: a lively ambiance (and hopefully open-air atmosphere), that it adds something unique to the NYC dining scene, and that it has done well handling COVID guidelines and policies.
So book your tickets, pack your bags and grab some reservations. If there is one city you visit purely for food this 2022, make it this one.
The competition for Indian restaurants in this city is steep. Look no further than Dhamaka to bring something refreshingly new and inspiring to the scene. No doubt one of the best restaurants in NYC this year, Dhamaka serves ‘unapologetic’ provincial Indian food that showcases the country’s unique and lesser-known dishes. Be prepared to branch out from the typical chicken tikka masala here. For a taste of the state of Maharashtra, order the paplet fry, a flaky and succulent butterfish fried in spices and semolina flour. Tear and dip the delicate fish (avoid those bones!) into the vibrant mint-cilantro chutney. For the adventurous, try the gurda kapoora, made from goat kidneys, testicles, red onion, and pao. A rare gem for Indian joints in the U.S., the house-made paneer is melt-in-your-mouth smooth. Wash it all down with an innovative cocktail, like the Anjeer Zanjeer, made from Figenza vodka, figs, saffron, lime, and mint.
You might not expect this low-key brick-lined eatery to be one of the best restaurants in NYC to visit right now, but Rezdora brings something special to the table. This 2020 Michelin star restaurant brings flavor and quality most often only found in the quaint osterias of the Emilia-Romagna region. Using the highest quality cheeses and seasonal ingredients, each pasta is crafted with true expertise and passion while sticking to the region’s rustic roots.
For a crash course into the flavors of Emilia-Romagna, opt for the pasta tasting. This set menu will dazzle with uncommon Italian favorites like tortellini en brodo, which are savory minced pork tortellini swimming in a heavenly slow-cooked broth. Or, just choose a few main pasta dishes to share. With menu item names like “grandma walking through a forest in Emilia,” you’re bound to be taken on a sensory experience!
After home cooking meals from our unimaginative kitchens throughout the pandemic, Olmstead is the kind of place you’ve been dreaming of. This New York City restaurant is many things, but Brooklyn backyard farm-to-table might be one way to put it. Here you’ll be met with fine-fining ambitions tucked perfectly into Prospect Heights, with affordable prices to boot.
While the service, decor, and atmosphere are enough to set Olmstead apart, it’s the immense attention to detail and fresh ingredients (there is an urban mini-farm behind the restaurant) that seal the deal.
“Travel along with her (Intagrammer Siobhan Ferguson) as she uncovers the hidden gems—the sweet, secluded alleys, the fantastic markets, the artisan boutiques—that New York has to offer, and reveals the beautiful, the quaint, and the downright pretty scattered among the urban landscape of the world’s most famous city.”
Almost everyone in the New York City restaurant scene has at least heard of Momofuku, if they haven’t already dined here. Momofuku Noodle Bar is the first of David Chang’s hot creations. It opened in 2004 and received much attention across the United States. With Momofuku Ko, diners get to choose between two experiences, dining at The Bar (Ko Bar) or in the Main Dining Room. While patrons to the bar area will be greeted with an array of mouthwatering a la carte options, it’s the tasting menu in the Main Dining Room that will blow you away. Inspired by Japanese kaiseki tradition, innovation, seasonality, and diversity, the $255 11-course tasting menu is more than enough to prove the 2 Michelin stars. Sitting at the unintimidating chef’s counter while tasting culinary masterpiece after masterpiece is a dining experience not to be missed.
Outdoor Dining at Noz Market
If the freshest, high-end seafood is what you’re after, look no further than Noz Market. Flown in daily from Japan to supply Sushi Noz, the always-packed sushi powerhouse, this seafood market and in-house fish butcher serve up various cuts of tuna, king crab, sea urchin, and more. Luckily, you no longer need to either score yourself a lucky table at the exclusive Sushi Noz or just purchase from the market. At the more casual ‘Outdoors at Noz,’ visitors can experience the chef’s selection of 8 nigiri, a maki roll, miso soup, and tamago for only $85 per person.
Two pandemics, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession were no match for Katz’s Delicatessen, one of the most famous spots on our list of best restaurants in NYC. Since 1888, Katz’s has been serving customers delicious pastrami sandwiches, tasty enough to stand the test of time.
Once you’ve tried their legendary pastrami sandwich you’ll be hard-pressed to order anything else. Still, the corned beef, hot dogs, and blintzes are also one in a million.
While up to 4,000 visitors could enter Katz’s on any given day pre-COVID-19, the restaurant had to adapt to stay in business. By providing shipping of their authentically Jewish specialties and helping feed healthcare workers, Katz’s kept its employees working while continuing to connect with the community.
NYC has a wide range of Korean BBQ restaurants to choose from, from swanky and overpriced to hole-in-wall and smoke-filled. Jongro BBQ stands out among the rest with its quality meats, friendly price point, and an authentic atmosphere not much different than the Korean-chain locations themselves.
Going out for Korean BBQ is always an experience, and the lively atmosphere at Jongro makes it no different. Order a beer while you wait (there will be a wait) and get ready to taste the beautiful never-frozen meats, which are butchered in-house and then grilled right in front of your table. Opt for the beef platter for brisket, kalbi, short-rib (and more) if you don’t know what to choose. No matter what you order, it will always be accompanied by ‘banchan’ (Korean side dishes). These small appetizer-like plates range from kimchi to steamed egg and are refreshing bites to cleanse the palate between stuffing your face with tender BBQ.
Innovative and modern Mexican restaurants have been popping up around the New York City restaurant scene for a few years now. Tacos Güey is the most recent. This restaurant is a great addition to the stage, serving up both tacos and ceviches like none other in the city.
A veteran of the famous French Laundry in California, Chef Henry Zamora takes inspiration from his southern California roots to create this simple and casual menu (with flavors that are far from it). You can’t go wrong with the scallop aguachile topped with vibrant mint and Australian finger lime. Next, try the birria tacos with homemade corn tortillas and accompanying consommé.
If rolling up your sleeves and scooping up flavor-packed eats with your hands sound like your idea of a perfect meal, look no further than Ethiopian food. Characterized by delectable meat and vegetable dishes served atop slightly sour injera bread, going out for Ethiopian is always a sensory experience. Awash is no different, and this spot may be the best restaurant in NYC for Ethiopian food right now. Now with three locations across NYC and delivery available, you’re never too far from this exotic comfort food, which somehow still makes you feel like you’re at home.
Gramercy Tavern is widely considered one of the most beloved and best restaurants in NYC. Dining here is a must on the NYC bucket list. Chef Michael Anthony showcases local farm-sourced ingredients. He knows every step along the farm-to-table journey of his ingredients. Vegetarians will be delighted here. The Vegetable Tasting Menu has received much acclaim, and his devotion to the quality of ingredients shines through.
For once-in-a-lifetime service, atmosphere, and stunning plates, opt for the tasting menu in the Dining Room for $158 per person. For a more casual and lively atmosphere, head to the Tavern for a la carte dining. Whatever you choose, just be glad to be there. It doesn’t get better than being in NYC and dining at the Gramercy Tavern.