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.
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. Peruse our gathering of the 8 most iconic New York City restaurants you must try during your next NYC adventure:
32 Withers St, Brooklyn – 4.7 miles
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. It’s been in his family since then, and it hasn’t changed it all that much, either. The legendary long wooden bar, the carpeted floors and the phone booths are staples of this iconic NYC restaurant along with the recipes that Pasquale brought with him from Italy. Top dishes are the parmigiana with whatever protein pleases your palette and every seafood dish on the menu — specifically the baked clams and bacon-wrapped scallops.
89 E 42nd St, Midtown Manhattan – 0.5 miles
It’s easy to overlook this New York institution because it’s tucked away on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, but don’t let the location fool you — this is one of the premier 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. Despite falling into disrepair in the 50s and suffering a fire in ‘97, the Oyster Bar is now a registered New York City landmark and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The menu changes daily based on the freshest catch, but oysters are always the highlight, sourced from nearly every corner of the continent.
20 West 40th, Midtown Manhattan – 0.0 miles
While the history of this NYC trattoria is far shorter than some establishments on our enumeration of the most iconic NYC restaurants, the recipes, decor and spirits are rooted in classic Italian fare and traditions. Restauranter Mark Barak strategically crafted the menu with house-made pasta created from New York and Pennsylvania grains, an Italian coffee blend roasted in Brooklyn and a private-label rosé fermented in Italy. Practice the ritual of aperitivo hour with a glass of La Pecora Rosa and a serving of Cacio e Pepe Fritters and experience history in the making at La Pecora Bianca.
196 Stanton St, Lower East Side – 2.8 miles
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 every location. Patrons may order by the slice from a regular or square pizza, the traditional toppings list still includes anchovies and the white pie is a staple that we highly recommend.
145 W Broadway, Tribeca – 2.9 miles
Don’t misunderstand, the comestibles at the Odeon are delectable. Their menu is filled with comfort food that wraps you in unconditional warmth and goodness, like a handmade quilt. This is where locals go when they’re craving a bowl of French onion soup, steak tartare or brunch with friends and family. But what truly makes the Odeon an iconic NYC restaurant are the vibrant memories cherished by those who considered the restaurant their haven, hang-out, and home. In the 80s, socialites like Warhol, De Niro and Belushi frequented the cafeteria not for the food but for the “anything-goes” milieu. If walls could talk, the Odeon would ooze with talk of scandals, fistfights and skits that never made it to the SNL stage.
326 Spring St, Hudson Square – 2.8 miles
The Ear Inn has worn many hats over years – which is understandable after being in operation for more than 200 years. The barroom went years without an official name known solely by its reputation as a lady-free lounge where docked sailors from the Hudson River could drink a pint, enjoy a meal and play a game of cards. After prohibition ended, the former speakeasy gained the nickname “The Green Door” and expanded its clientele to all genders. It wasn’t until the 70s that the inn was garnished with an official name. (To avoid a lengthy signage-changing process, the new owners merely covered the curved parts of the “B” on the well-known red-neon “BAR” sign, and The EAR Inn was born.) As the oldest operating drinking establishment in the city, history drips from every inch of this iconic New York City restaurant. Visit today for a farm-to-table meal and handcrafted libation.
178 Broadway, Brooklyn – 5.5 miles
Make no mistake about it, Pete Luger has been a top-rated steakhouse in New York since 1984, but its roots date back nearly 100 years prior. Adorned with the name of its founder, Pete Luger is a classic American steakhouse dining experience without all the pretense. 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. With a perfectly grilled steak, a side of Luger’s old-fashioned steak sauce, a salad topped with homemade dressing and a side of Luger’s Special German Fried Potatoes, you may have to request your dessert and homemade Schlag to go.
27 Prince St A, Nolita – 2.4 miles
In a neighborhood named for its location (north of Little Italy) in a restaurant named for the street on which it resides, a second-generation pizzeria constructs square pies out of secret family recipes and fresh mozzarella. Residing in the former home of the first Ray’s Pizza, Prince Street Pizza stepped up to the plate in 2012 to satisfy the pizza addiction of locals and visitors alike. The father-son team of Frank and Dominic Morano introduced an array of Sicilian-style pizzas shaped into the trademarked “SoHo Square,” smothered with a sauce recipe passed down for generations and covered in fresh cheeses and vegetables. The brick walls are covered in photos of celebrity patrons and the line that forms down the sidewalk would indicate the takeover was a success.
Less than 6 miles from the 8 most iconic NYC restaurants is one of the best hotels near Bryant Park. Park Terrace Hotel is a luxurious refuge that mixes impeccable, artful design and warm natural light with the staple style that embodies NYC. Overlooking Bryant Park, each suite offers a place to feel inspired by the city’s energy while you relax and unwind. Explore our high-style accommodations in Midtown Manhattan & book your next stay at Park Terrace Hotel.