I have this problem... I think it's part of New York City disease, where the longer you live here the more it warps your brain. When friends and family visit I become a horrible food Nazi. If you're only in the city for one weekend, you're realistically only going to get in a few good meals, but NYC has so many great places to eat! I mean, people who come from nearby states often act as food tourist, eating their way through town for flavors and cuisines they can't get at home.
The more rural a place someone is from and the less they are likely to ever visity NYC again, the more anxious I become. I feel that I failed as a New Yorker if I didn't let them - no - MAKE them eat the best bagels in town. If you're only here for one day, that is only one chance to eat the world's most delicious bagel, and if you just get one from any corner deli you're probably going to eat only an average bagel. That is totally unacceptable behavior in a city that strives to have world famous everything and the world's best everything. In the #1 city, you need to eat the #1 bagel.
Japanese tourists are probably the kind that will understand what I'm saying here. When Japanese people travel within their own country, they like to eat the local specialties at whatever town they go to. They're also obsessed with "ichiban" the number one thing of any given category. American tourists from extremely rural areas are the exact opposite; they're afraid to eat something they've never heard of before, and are likely to freak out and eat at McDonalds in NYC or in foreign countries because they're already familiar with the menu (and the prices). Way to eat bad food you've already had before, American tourists! What a wasted opportunity!
I am often asked for resturaunt recommendations, "Where should I eat in New York City?" but that is a big question. What kids of cuisine do you like? What kind of budget are we talking about? I mean, do you want to eat at fancy places or get cheap yet delicious hot dogs? Are you a foodie? Do you want to eat very typical, regional New York foods? Is there a country you've never been to (like Japan... or, I suppose, somewhere crazy like Tibet) and you'd like to try food from there? Because you can probably find it in NYC. Do you love meat or are you a vegetarian? Do like eating high calorie food or are you a calorie counter? Do you like craft beers, wine, or fancy cocktails? How about whiskey? Or sake?Here is a food recommendation list I made for a British guy who's been to NYC before. These details are important! What I recommend urbanistes from abroad is different that what I'd recommend to someone from Wyoming or the deep south. If you've never been to Asia or Europe, I'm going to recommend different places, too. I'll add to this list or make a series of blog posts.
Recommendations for a British Person Who's Been Here Before and is Allergic to Nuts
Alright, I recommend not missing Essabagel, NYC's best bagels:
Skip the ubiquitous street hot dogs and eat these ridiculous hot dogs instead:
If you are crafty, you could get into the speak easy in the back of Crif Dogs:
Google on how to get in to that place, I've never managed to. Failing that, grab a cocktail at Angel's Share:
Or Little Branch:
Nearby Little Branch, you can try the three kinds of tongue at:
Well, maybe not the tongue specifically, but that Korean-run Japanese-style place is freaking awesome.
If chicken is more your thing than beef, check out this place:
Or the related delicious chicken ramen place:
SOMEHOW KOREANS HAVE MADE CHICKEN THAT TASTES LIKE CANDY:
It's probably some kind of chimera. If you've never been to Korea, you can just go to K-town instead:
But, if you want to eat the most American chicken possible, cross the bridge and cautiously navigate to Pies and Thighs:
Get cocktails at the crowded yet good Dram near that:
And if you want to shout "Go USA" eat like half a cow at Peter Luger's:
(Note that it is cash only, hard to get into, and filled with tourists.)
The best beers ever are also in the neighborhood at the following places:
That last one - Custom - has regional hot dogs (although their Chicago style dog is not not quite authentic).
The most New York style food is pizza, so why not eat it at the place where Americans reinvented pizza thinking that they were eating Italian food: Lomardis http://www.firstpizza.com/newyork.html
Guidebooks will send you somewhere else. Don't believe them. Guidebooks might tell you to get the corned beef at Katz's and they are wrong. Dave Riley of the Fast Karate podcast is right to recommend Mile End, which is somehow like a visit to Canada. Note that getting there is kind of an adventure on weekends for n00bs from out of town. http://www.mileendbrooklyn.com/</div>
If you're less adventurous, many tourist-y New York foods are right in the basement of Grand Central station. Have a knish, or Junior's cheesecake down there, or Two Boots Pizza and a Magnolia cupcake (although the banana pudding is better!). You can also get a cocktail upstairs in the fancy-pants Cambell Apartment, if you're dressed for it:
Oh, there's a tour thingy:
If you've hit the regular museums already, hit the hip museums:
You've been here before, but I ought to mention that google maps loading on an international cell phone is pricey. Bring your own tourist map, since the subway map isn't detailed enough to find these places. Personally, I'd download a subway app, and then bring some paper print outs if you're going to travel into Brooklyn.