Not all restaurants are created equal. Some eateries suffer from a sense of mind-numbing suburban sameness. Others belong on reality makeover shows, waiting for another lease on life. Even worse, some are praying the health inspector doesn’t get there before they can get the grease off the floor.
And then there are those iconic establishments that are so beloved they belong on the National Register of Historic Places. Those restaurants have the look, the feel and the entrees that have become the stuff of legends. These are the places you want to dine. And New York certainly has its share. Here’s a look at five most iconic New York City restaurants:
It’s exactly what an Italian restaurant should be: dimly lit, adorned in velvet-curtains and filled with tuxedo-clad waiters delivering heaping plates of pasta to diners who appreciate an authentic old-school red gravy. Pasquale Bamonte opened the restaurant in Williamsburg back in 1900, and it’s been in his family since then. It hasn’t changed it all that much, either. The legendary long wooden bar, carpeted floors and phone booths are still there. (So are the recipes that Pasquale brought to the United States with him from Italy.)
It’s easy to overlook this New York institution because it’s tucked away on the lower level of the Grand Central Terminal. But don’t let the location fool you; this is one of the premiere places in the city for seafood. Since its opening in 1913, the Oyster Bar has seated everyone from celebrities to political power players under its venerable vaulted ceilings. And it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Make no mistake about it, this is your father’s steakhouse … and in this case, that’s a good thing. If you’re looking for the classic American steakhouse dining experience without all the pretense, look no further than Peter Luger. What you’ll find are Flintstones-sized dry-aged steaks, thick slabs of bacon and a waitstaff clad in crisp white shirts and black bow ties. They know why you’re there: for the feast, not the frills.
What would a trip to New York be without a slice? Of all the pizzerias in the city, few are as beloved as those crafted by Dom DeMarco. He opened Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn back in 1965 and has been surprising and delighting epicureans ever since. It’s truly a treat, even if you have to wait for more than an hour, which is often the case at both locations.
Sometimes you just need a little comfort food to get you through the day. Like a hand-made quilt, The Odeon is there to wrap you in unconditional warmth and goodness. This is where locals go when they’re craving a bowl of French onion soup, steak tartare or brunch with friends and family. Oh, and don’t sleep on the drinks. They’re still as stiff today as they were back when John Belushi drank there.