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10 Iconic New York City Restaurants Every Local Needs to Try

the most iconic restaurants in New York City according to a local

This list of the most iconic restaurants in New York City was written by Antonina Pattiz, the founder of New York Simply (an official partner of Apple Maps). We’re happy to have you here!

New York City’s food scene is world-famous, but that didn’t happen overnight. Home to more than 24,000 restaurants, today we’ll highlight 10 iconic NYC restaurants that have withstood the test of time.

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The 10 Best Neighborhoods for First Timers +3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.


Iconic New York City Restaurants

(Table of Contents)


most iconic restaurants in New York City

Peter Luger

Let’s kick off this list with a personal favorite! Peter Luger has earned a reputation among locals for offering some of the best steaks in New York. Opened in 1887, this no-frills, cash-only establishment takes great pride in focusing on perfectly cooked dry-aged steaks, and they know how to deliver.

What to order:

  • Main: Ribeye for 2
  • Sides: Bacon & creamed spinach
  • Dessert: Don’t sleep on the cheesecake or ice cream sundae

The restaurant’s unapologetic commitment to time-honored traditions and quality make it a beloved staple for locals. Savvy tourists know to make the trek as well, eager to experience a meal at this quintessential New York dining institution.

Local’s Tip: If you’re visiting during the lunch hour make sure to order the burger, considered by some locals to be one of the best burgers in New York City).

Website: Peter Luger
Neighborhood: Williamsburg
Address: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY


most iconic restaurants in NYC

Katz Delicatessen

Omitting Katz Deli from a list of the most iconic restaurants in New York City is an inexcusable offense. Serving New Yorkers since 1888, Katz is officially the oldest deli in NYC. Not hard to see why, they make the best pastrami sandwich in New York. Fighting words, I know. But I stand by them.

Charred outer layers, generous seasonings and a texture that melts in your mouth, this stuff is irresistible and well worth the wait. But fair warning, the mile-high pastrami sandwiches are huge! I suggest splitting between two people. And at $25-30 per sandwich, splitting makes the steep prices easier to stomach (some pun intended).

Local’s Tip: Upon entering Katz, you’ll be handed a ticket. Don’t lose it! You’ll use this ticket to order your sandwich and when it’s time to leave, you’ll need to hand the ticket to the cashier to pay. However, if you lose the ticket you’ll be charged $50!

Website: Katz Deli
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY
What to order: Pastrami sandwich, skip the corned beef sandwich (it’s too salty in my opinion).


Iconic Restaurants New York City
Burgers at JG Melon

JG Melon

JG Melon is a cash-only establishment known for classic, no-frills burgers and cottage fries. Established in 1972, this iconic New York City restaurant is the youngest on the list, but overlooking them would be a mistake. Made with freshly ground beef and cooked to perfection, these straightforward burgers are all about simplicity. Toppings are minimal, allowing the quality beef a chance to shine, and shine it does.

Fun Fact: Frequented by celebrities and prominent New Yorkers, JG Melon is known for being Michael Bloomberg’s favorite burger joint. Both Gigi Hadid and Bobby Flay agree.

Website: JG Melon
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Address: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY
What to order: Bacon cheeseburger with cottage fries.


iconic New York City restaurants

Russ & Daughters

Russ & Daughters, a beloved Jewish Deli that dates back to 1914, is unparalleled for traditional Jewish fare. A family-run business spanning four generations, it’s the age-old story of resilience and the immigrant experience for many Jewish Americans.

Know for high-quality, hand-sliced lox, herring, and other delicacies, this deli typically has a line that wraps the block. It’s not uncommon for folks to wait 1+ hours for a bagel with lox.

It seems that Russ & Daughters attracts mostly tourists these days (the lines are too long for locals), but not without reason. Offering some of the best bagels and lox in New York City, Russ & Daughters is a must-visit restaurant during a first trip to the Big Apple.

Website: Russ & Daughters
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Address: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY


Minetta Tavern Black Label Burger

Minetta Tavern

Dating back to 1937, Minetta Tavern is a storied establishment that has served the likes of Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings. The real star of the show these days though is the heart-stopping Black Label Burger. The patty made from a selection of prime dry aged beef cuts sits alongside caramelized onions and a side of pomme frites.

Considered a gourmet masterpiece, the burger strikes a delicate balance between simplicity and sophistication. Eating at Minetta Tavern offers a taste of New York’s rich history, in an ambiance that exudes old-world charm and timeless elegance.

Website: Minetta Tavern
Address: 113 MacDougal St, New York, NY
Must Order: The Black Label Burger


Grand Central Oyster Bar

Grand Central Oyster Bar, the subterranean bar in Grand Central Terminal, has been serving fresh oysters and seafood dishes to busy New Yorkers for more than 110 years (since 1913). The uniquely designed Guastavino tile vaulted ceilings, adds to the allure of this timeless New York City institution. Hell, the Grand Central Oyster Bar is as much an institution as Grand Central Station itself.

Fun Fact: Oysters have played a pivotal part in the Big Apple’s history. It’s estimated that roughly half of the world’s oyster population was once located in New York Harbor.

Website: Grand Central Oyster Bar
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY
What to order: Oysters, there’s 2 dozen varieties to choose from!


Lombardi's Pizza NYC

Lombardi’s Pizza

Some people make the mistake of assuming Lombardi’s Pizza is exclusively reserved for tourists, and what a pity that is (for them, not you). This iconic New York City restaurant boasts an incredible achievement — it’s officially the first pizzeria in America. In fact, Lombardi’s is credited with developing New York Style pizza.

If that’s not enough to entice you, the pizza is some of the best in New York City. The crust is perfectly charred in a coal oven and the toppings complement the chewy dough while letting all the flavors shine.

Website: Lombardi’s Pizza
Address: 32 Spring St, New York, NY
What to order: The clam pie (trust me).


Keens Iconic Restaurants NYC

Keen’s Steakhouse

What do Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and Babe Ruth have in common? They’ve all enjoyed a meal at one of the most iconic restaurants in New York City — Keen’s Steakhouse. Contrary to what the name suggests, Keen’s Steakhouse is best known for mutton chops (serving 400+ orders a week). The servings are generous, with each chop clocking in at a 1.5 pounds.

The ambience is part of the experience. There’s more than 90,000 smoking pipes adorning the ceilings and walls. Why, you might ask? Ages ago, patrons were asked to check their pipes (similar to coat checks) before sitting down for a meal. Abandoned pipes found a permanent home on the walls of this iconic restaurant in NYC.

Website: Keen’s Steakhouse
Address: 72 W 36th St, New York, NY
What to order: Mutton chops (honestly, I was underwhelmed by the steak).


delmonicos steakhouse, financial district

Delmonico’s

Opened in 1827 (almost 200 years ago, imagine!), Delmonico’s just reopened after being closed for three years due to the pandemic and some trademark disputes (go figure). Turns out, three years is nothing in the grand scheme of things, considering this is one of the oldest restaurants in New York City. Locals still enjoy celebratory meals at this time-honored NYC establishment. Heavy hitters on the menu include tender Rib eyes, fresh oysters and delectable caviar.

What to order: Steak, steak, steak.

Website: Delmonico’s
Neighborhood: Financial District
Address: 56 Beaver St, New York, NY
What to order: Steak, steak, steak.


Tavern on the Green

Dating back to 1934, Tavern on the Green is famous for being one of two restaurants within Central Park. As such, it’s easy to write it off as a tourist trap, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Historic and picturesque, this building was originally served as a sheepfold before transforming into a dinning venue for New York’s high society.

Serving traditional American cuisine, the restaurant offers a memorable dining experience, especially during the holiday season (when the restaurant is completely decked out with Christmas decorations).

Fun Fact: in the late 1970’s Tavern on the Green was John Lennon’s favorite birthday venue.

Website: Tavern on the Green
Address: W 67th St, New York, NY
What to order: I’m partial to the seafood and meat dishes, the cocktails are great too!


List of the Most Iconic Restaurants in New York City (Post Summary)

  1. Peter Luger
  2. Tavern on the Green
  3. Katz Delicatessen
  4. J.G. Melon
  5. Delmomico’s
  6. Minetta Tavern
  7. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  8. Lombardi’s Pizza
  9. Russ & Daughters
  10. Keen’s Steakhouse

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Map of NYC’s Oldest Restaurants


I hope you enjoyed this list of the most iconic restaurants in NYC, let me know if I missed any!

Cheers!

Mikey

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

How could you leave Rao's of the list?!

Antonina

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Hey Mikey,

Totally get what you mean, but Rao's is impossible to get into! There's only 10 tables inside and the owner admitted that 60% of those tables are reserved for long-standing regulars. Which leaves only 4 tables a night (and those get booked out months in advance). I don't know anyone that's gotten into Rao's, so mentioning it on the list didn't feel right.

Dorothy & Pat

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

This list is great! I've been to all the places on the list and would recommend adding one more -- Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side. I agree that Russ & Daughters is mostly for tourists now, thankfully Barney Greengrass isn't as popular with tourists (but still very good).

Dorothy

Antonina

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Oooh, I'm a fan of Barney Greengrass as well (their gravalox is unreal!). But I'll be honest, the last few times I went, I felt the bagels were subpar, which felt like a rip off, considering I paid $23-30 for bagel and lox. Hopefully they get the bagels sorted out soon, that used to be my go-to neighborhood spot!