One of my favourite things about travelling is trying out new food, and Manhattan always has plenty of delicious offerings.
Most of these places have come on the recommendation of my various Airbnb hosts, this kind of local knowledge is one of the reasons I rave about the service so much – there is no way I would have stumbled across some of these gems otherwise.
Also, before you scroll down, I am putting out a disclaimer that most of these pictures were taken before I was a blogger (so please excuse the quality!).
On entering the basement level restaurant I felt like we had walked into a secret; the bustling dining room was teeming with locals, which was a very different atmosphere from the quiet street outside!
The surroundings were rustic with wood and red brick, complemented by paintings and other homely artefacts making it feel like I had entered someone’s dining room rather than a restaurant. The privacy and dim lighting is probably one of the reasons it is also Kendal and Gigi’s brunch spot of choice during fashion week.
The food was simple Mediterranean & American inspired, but was well presented, and incredibly fresh.
The breakfast menu offered up staples such as granola, baked goods and eggs all executed with carefully sourced ingredients.
I went for the continental which consisted of a light crunchy toasted baguette, bread, strawberries, apple slices, jam and butter served on a wooden board like a mini picnic. Each ingredient, though not complex, was a hearty start to the day and reminded me of being back in Paris (another city I adore).
A no frills local joint that concentrates on serving up great food fast rather than the decor. The huge variety of options included hand rolled bagels, pastries, sandwiches and soups, with plenty of gluten free and vegan options. In typical deli counter style the menu is scrawled on the wall and food displayed behind glass along the counter making ordering easy.
The selection is huge so I go for a different option each time but I can highly recommend the gluten free bagels chased down with a LARGE black coffee.
Sitting near the counter in front of the open kitchen was my top spot for people watching. My favourite observations include a man wearing an obviously slept in suit swinging by to pick up a quick bite before work whilst yelling down the phone, just like in a Wall Street based movie. A couple of others were a dad bringing in his kid for a special rainbow cookie after getting a good school grade and another treating his daughter to one last breakfast before he packed her off for college.
I love the friendly family vibe and wish I could transport this neighbour hood joint to London.
Though I only ever stop by for a quick bite this is the sort of place that you would be welcome to stay at all day with a table signposted as the ‘tech area’ to encourage customers to stop by with a laptop and work away.
This place is my dream kind of office with great food, friendly staff and varied cliental for added entertainment when taking a break.
Originating in Brooklyn this small chain expanded to East Village, Hong Kong and Manilla; though worldwide the aim remained the same – to serve up that neighbourhood pizzeria feel.
The small restaurant was queued out the door when we arrived but luckily since there were only two of us we were seated at a table in the very back corner straight away.
If you were in search of a quiet romantic Italian this was not your place, it was buzzing with noise and loud chatter, the food was served on simple white plates, beer in cans and wine in tumblers. There were plenty of staff on hand to provide swift service and though they did not have time to stop and chat our drinks were never left empty. They were like super hero waiters diving between the kitchen, waiting tables, topping up water and helping out with their seemingly non stop cycle delivery service.
The menu was small but offered up various toppings from your standard margarita to the highly recommended brussel sprout.
We were tame and shared a margarita with added peppers, although our selection may have been bland, the pizza certainly was not, the base was chewy, crust crunchy, sauce was fresh, and the cheese melted to perfection.
The brick oven baked neapolitan pizzas may not be your traditional New York slice, but with a bustling atmosphere and high quality food Motorino’s offered up my kind of atmospheric NYC dining.
A tiny parlour covered in rainbows and unicorns serving up fancy Mr whippy style cones with quirky toppings such as Salty Pimp and Mermaid.
I opted for the “American Globs”: pretzel and sea salt encased in a chocolate dip that hardens around the vanilla ice cream. The sweet and salty treat was a grown up version of my old childhood favourite from the ice cream man.
A quaint neighbourhood restaurant with a menu built on the strong foundations of seasonal, quality, locally sourced ingredients.
The simplicity charm of the décor complimented the homely lunch menu which had staples such as salads, soups, and sandwiches.
Northern Spys’ cool interior and food ethics reminded me of San Francisco, so keeping in line with the traditions of that trip earlier in the year I selected the Kale Salad which consisted of cheddar, delicate squash, almonds and pecorino.
Despite our waitress flying solo she was incredibly friendly and made sure that my coffee was constantly topped up, which is exactly the sort of service I look for.
I stopped into Fonda after a hard days Christmas shopping for no other reason than it was close to the apartment I was renting for the week.
From the outset the waiters made me feel as if I was a regular customer, they were chatty yet un-intrusive and even introduced the next waiter when changing shifts.
It was not only the service that was extraordinary, but the food itself. I started out with the guacamole, chips and margaritas. I was taken by surprise when the waiter asked how I liked my guacamole; he went onto explain that it was freshly made and could take up to 20 minutes but was worth it. He was right, the avocado based dip was delivered in a traditional stone Molcajete and was unbelievably fresh – with just the right amount of spice. The vegetarian enchiladas with salsa verde that followed were just as execptional.
I found out after my visit that the restaurant was owned by chef and author Roberto Santibanez, who was deemed by NBS Latina as “the one man who might be considered responsible for making Mexican food trendy in New York City”. He has managed to bring the authenticity of his Mexico City roots and turn them into haute cuisine.
Even if you are not particularly hungry it is definitely worthwhile stopping by Fonda to chat to the staff over a Margarita, guacamole and chips.
I am so grateful that a friend recommended West Village favorite, Café Cluny as a brilliant place to brunch.
The café was classy, but the mixture of eclectic antique style décor and friendly staff created a welcoming, laid back atmosphere.
The breakfast menu was simple but well executed; I had perfect runny eggs accompanied by a neatly stacked tower of soldiers and some of the best coffee I’ve had in New York ( I know, bold statement).
I loved this café’s mixture of Parisian style and New York charm, for me it was the ideal way to shake off my Saturday night hangover and prepared me to step back out onto the cobbled streets to embrace the day ahead.
So a bit of a New York cliché, I know, but Katz deserves its reputation and has been attracting locals and visitors since 1888.
On entering the deli I was immediately hit by a wall of chaos. The locals were efficient and knew how to work the queuing system whereas the tourists stood back and, despite the signage, tried to work out what was going on*. This place was crazy and, although popular with visitors, had not been glossed up and kept its authenticity.
Let me explain so you know what to expect;
As I waited for my knish a server approached me with almost stereotypical New York charm and asked “Why the fuck have you been hanging around so long?”. I casually told him “I’m just waiting on my knish”; seemingly outraged he stared at my server and yelled “A knish? why the fuck would a knish take so long?”. He then leaped over the counter to pour his customer’s beers (I presume the bar guy was also too slow) he swung back round and then shouted “Why would you even come to this hell hole instead of somewhere nice?”. I responded by saying “I like it here, I think it’s fun, not like normal lunch in the UK”. “If it’s sooo fun you can have my shit job and I will go somewhere nice” – those were his parting words before he marched off weaving through the crowds of people to serve his table. This may not be the standard mystery shop style service but he made sure I got my food quickly and gave me chat whilst I waited.
If being in the middle of the bustle is not your style there is also a table service area.
The reason Katz continues to drawn crowds is not because it is the setting for the famous orgasm scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ or its unique style of customer service but because the food is delicatessen at its best.
*You get a ticket and queue at individual stations for each item; the server writes on the ticket what you have ordered. On leaving (after eating) you hand the ticket to the cashier, even if you have not ordered anything, or you will have to pay a fine. If this all seems a bit to stressful then there is a table service area.
If you can’t make up your mind Chelsea Market has all a great variety of places to grab a bite. Housed within the old National Biscuit Company the building keeps its factory feel by having bare bricked walls and metal-work throughout.
Both times I have visited it was so busy that many people spilled out from the cafés and restaurants to the floor; it was like stepping into a posh indoor picnic where, instead of soggy sandwiches, it was lobster and cupcakes that were being consumed.
One of my favourite places to grab lunch is Friedmans a cozy little café that offers seasonal comfort foods such as soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers where you can share a table and listen into local’s gossip.
Chelsea Market is too well polished to be described as a market in the traditional sense and is more of a fancy food mall, however it is still an interesting place to drop by for some fuel before hitting The High Line.
These are just a hand full of the places I have enjoyed eating at in Manhattan but might help as a starting point. If that list was not enough to get you salivating a there is also a Brooklyn food post.
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