The 38 Essential New York Restaurants

Friday, Oct 2, 2009  |  Updated 4:08 PM EDT
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The 38 Essential New York Restaurants

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Delish.

2005_10_eater38logo.jpgHere, now and in full is the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant…” This highly elite group, which dates way back the halcyon days of 2005, covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and, collectively, satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Over time, the Eater 38 will change, with new restaurants joining as others fall off, but we'll keep the total number steady at 38. The only hard and fast rule of engagement is that a restaurant must be open at least six months to qualify for inclusion on the list, though strong consideration is given to neighborhood favorites over fancier destination spots. And so, without further ado, here is the Eater 38.

Rather than a stage-4 meltdown over our having excluded your favorite restaurant from the list, wouldn't it be more productive to just nominate it for inclusion?
1

Locanda Verde

377 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10013

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Though owners include one Robert DeNiro, chef Andrew Carmellini's return to the stage, following A Voce, is a rustic neighborhood Italian restaurant at the core. And on Mondays, home of some of New York's best fried chicken.
[link]

 
2

Blaue Gans

139 Duane St
New York, NY 10007

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Something of an oddity, at least at first blush, Blau Gans turns out rustic Bavarian food in its stripped-down digs. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's casual sequel to his beloved Wallse is a local standby, with food that far exceeds expectations.
[link]

 
3

Oriental Garden Restaurant

14 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013

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If any of Chinatown's best dim sum joints are undiscovered, this one is—although the long weekend waits suggest otherwise. Chinatown pros and pro chefs alike consider it the best of its kind.

 
4

Little Giant

85 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

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Tucked in a small room on a streetcorner in BelDel -- the less trammeled part of the Lower East Side 'Below Delancey' -- Little Giant turns out witty spins on American cuisine. Seating -- some on pillows along the wide window ledge -- is as chill as the place itself.
[link]

 
5

Peasant

194 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10012

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Frank Decarlo's countryside Italian restaurant has long been a staple on the first-date circuit, but nevertheless, the room is impossibly warm and the food, mostly cooked in clay pots, impossibly comforting.
[link]

 
6

Balthazar

80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

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Restaurateur Keith McNally's enduring Soho brasserie. The best everyday restaurant in New York City. Period.
[link]

 
7

Raoul's Restaurant

180 Prince St
New York, NY 10012

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Loud, clubby and crowded—and home of one of the most authentic steak frites downtown. A straight classic.
[link]

 
8

Blue Ribbon Brasserie

97 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012

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After 11pm, it's the best restaurant in the city (and it's open until 4am). But at any hour epic raw bar platters and perfect fondue and the mere 50-odd seats are among the reasons there's always a wait.[link]

 
9

Lupa Osteria Romana

170 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012

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Mario Batali's osteria on Thompson Street maybe be his best effort in New York; it's certainly his most relaxed and consistent. It's cacio e pepe is world class.
[link]

 
10

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003


Dude, it's Momofuku Ssam.[link]

 
11

Ippudo NY

65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003

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A Japanese chain which has infatuated the foodie set in this spot just north of Astor Place, Ippudo offers several variations on ramen, all of which are, in essence, Berkshire pork in broth of deep, slutty, piggy flavor.
[link]

 
12

Minetta Tavern

113 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012

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Since 1937 and impeccably restored by the one and only Keith McNally, the reborn Minetta is a masterpiece -- an old New York saloon, modern steakhouse and newfangled celeb haunt all in one. The problem: getting in.
[link]

 
13

Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St
New York, NY 10014

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One might expect owners and regulars like Jay-Z and Bill Clinton to distract from the food, but chef April Bloomfield holds her own and then some at New York's top (wait for it) gastropub. The best restaurant burger in New York is served here, as anyone who has braved the two-hour wait for a table can tell you.
[link]

 
14

Little Owl

90 Bedford St
New York, NY 10014

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Its mere 25 seats are to blame for the impossible proposition of scoring a reservation here, but for those who get in, it's an evening of charm on a leafy dreamlike West Village corner. Owner/chef Joey Campanaro's meatball sliders are the stuff of legend. Try it for a date: there's a reason regulars call it "the closer."
[link]

 
15

Barbuto

775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014

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Home of a top-five-caliber roast chicken and gentle prices, this Ital is especially good in warm weather, when the garage door walls of the restaurant go up. Chef Jonathan Waxman, a legend round town since the 1980s, presides.
[link]

 
16

Strip House Steak House

212 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003

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It's steaks are excellent, especially the double-cut bone-in rib eye, but Strip House's real achievement is finally putting steak in a sexy setting, which it does in spades. The deep, aged red leather and dark wood make this the prettiest, and therefore most versatile, steakhouse in the city.
[link]

 
17

15 East Restaurant

15 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003

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Something of a newbie on the Sushi Fanatic beat, 15 East fast nurtured a cult following upon debut and, though deceptively pricey, may serve the best sushi below 23rd Street.[link]

 
18

Socarrat Paella Bar

259 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011

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This Chelsea hole-in-the-wall -- yes, expect to wait to share space at the giant communal table that stretches the length of the room -- serves near note-perfect paella. A solid menu of Spanish starters, too.
[link]

 
19

Gramercy Tavern

42 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

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The unofficial official First Restaurant of New York, where Michelle Obama recently dined and service king Danny Meyer presides. Though its formal dining room in back is a bit too too for 38 contention, the first-come-first-served front room and its seasonal American menu is excellent—and one of the best ongoing deals in town.
[link]

 
20

Co

230 9th Ave
New York, NY 10001

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Jim Lahey is a breadmaker at heart, which is what the crust is the emphasis on the pizza here at this new-generation pizzeria. But the room is cool and relaxed and versatile, making this perhaps the best all-around pizza joint in New York.
[link]

 
21

Esca Restaurant

402 W 43rd St
New York, NY 10036

Non-theatre-goers sometimes forget about Esca due to its Siberia-adjacent location, but in many ways Esca is as good as the four-starred Le Bernardin. If nothing else, it's cheaper, more relaxed and, bonus, also serves Baltali-brand pasta.
[link]

 
22

Sushi Yasuda

204 E 43rd St
New York, NY 10017

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Yasuda regulars know their sushi chefs by name and send them Christmas cards. If you're not getting world-class omakase here, you're not at Yasuda.
[link]

 
23

Chin Chin

216 E 49th St
New York, NY 10017

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On the family tree of New York high-end Chinese restaurants, Chin Chin, since 1983, is younger than Mr. Chow and Shun Lee, but its anchor status on 49th Street in Midtown is indisputable. Chin Chin's appeal lies in its versatile menu of, patent pending, "haute couture of Chinese cuisine..." and its always-affable owner, Jimmy Chin
[link]

 
24

Convivio Restaurant

11 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

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A bone thrown to Tudor City, which is otherwise quite short on reasonable restaurant options, it turns out that Convivio is a versatile, casual, expert stage for chef Michael White, one of the city's most talented pasta makers.
[link]

25

Le Bilboquet

25 E 63rd St
New York, NY 10065

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Hating on this comically and unselfconsciously nouveau riche French 25-seater is totally besides the point and will distract you from how much fun it is to get in on the party here. The cajun chicken is as addictive as dishes come

 
26

JG Melon Restaurant

1291 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10021

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Upper East Side pubs don't come more old school, and some have the Mellon's burger as the best in the city. It's not, but along with Mellon's crispy waffle-cut fries and ice-ice cold beer, it is a damn good show.
[link]

27

Maz Mezcal Mexican Restaurant

316 E 86th St
New York, NY 10028

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Anyone who lives anywhere close to East 86th Street is a regular here -- and no one minds the high kitsch factor. Fajita plates and margaritas are massive and immensely satisfying.
[link]

28

Nougatine

1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

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The front room at four-star eatery Jean Georges is a more casual but no less exacting display of the chef's impeccable skill and style. Because one can order a la carte and escape the formality and prices of the back room, it edges out Jean Georges proper for 38 listing.
[link]

29

Gennaro Restaurant

665 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10025

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An Upper West Sider's secret, Gennaro is no reservations, no cash and no frills. But its straightforward pastas and main proteins never disappoint in a neighborhood still massively lacking in good off-the-cuff dining options.

 
30

Dinosaur Barbecue

646 W 131st St
New York, NY 10027

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Along with Daisy May's, Dinosaur tops the category of Best BBQ in New York. Tucked under the West Side Highway, waits are epic, as are the ribs. Tip: outside tables are first-come first-served.
[link]

31

Roberta's

261 Moore St
Brooklyn, NY 11206

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One of the Brooklyn new school of locavore-crazy, market-driven ingredients, Roberta's is in many ways what happens when hipster chefs get it right. See especially the Heritage Radio Network, which broadcasts from the dining room on Sundays.
[link]

32

Fette Sau

354 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Once a trendsetter, now a member of the Williamsburg establishment, Fette Sau serves up a rotating menu of pork and beef ribs that leads some to tag it as the best BBQ in Brooklyn, if not New York.
[link]

33

Diner 85 Broadway

85 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

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As advertised, Diner is an aluminum-sided greasy spoon; as you might not expect, the food is excellent, the vibe is pitch-perfect Williamsburg, and while supplies last, their rib-eye steak is as good as anything they're serving up the street at Peter Luger.
[link]

34

Vinegar Hill House

72 Hudson Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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Named after its quirky neighborhood (jammed between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard), the New American eclectic restaurant has owners with bonafide Manhattan hipster cred (Freemans) and sits on a tree-lined block in a sea of industrial lots. If there's a perfect template for the new-age Brooklyn restaurant, this is it.
[link]

35

Frankie's 457

457 Court St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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The cavatelli pasta alone is worth the trip to Carroll Gardens, but, then, so is the rest of the food and scene here, which is quintessentially Aging Hipster in the best possible way. On Monday nights, the owners, "The Franks," throw an anything goes party into the wee hours.
[link]

36

Al Di La

248 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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<
No resy, total mob scene, noisy, and absolutely delicious describe the decade-plus-old Brooklyn Italian that predates the Park Slope stroller mafia but caters to it anyway. Try to hate it: we dare you. NB, there's a more accessible wine bar attached.[link]

37

Sripraphai Thai Restaurant

64-13 39th Ave
Queens, NY 11377

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In Woodside, Queens, this highly remote beer-and-wine only joint is as far out as the Eater 38 ventures. But it's worth the trip, given that this Thai food is considered to be perhaps the best in the five boroughs. If you don't know, now you know: see-PRA-pie.
[link]

38

Sapori D'Ischia

55-15 37th Ave
Queens, NY 11377

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Italian wholesale market by day and rustic Italian by night, the show at this genuinely quirky spot are the opera singers who roam on weekend nights. The real show comes with the delivery of pastas, cheesy toppings for which are carved out of a wheel of cheese tableside. Tap water lovers beware: none is offered here.
[link]

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