Best Restaurants (and Most Affordable) in New York
A guide to the best restaurants in New York: what to eat, what it costs, and more, because my husband and I really only travel to New York for one thing: food.
Russ & Daughters Cafe, Lower East Side
127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 | $15-30
Start your mornings (early) here, you won’t regret it. Usually lined up out the door, locals (including some celebs – I’ve had exciting sightings) and tourists will wait up to an hour for a seat in Russ & Daughters.
I usually order The Classic Board (bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, capers and onions), and rarely remember to snap a photo before devouring everything in front of me, including on this visit, sorry. Their salmon is so fresh, their bagels are fluffy and their tomatoes taste like they’ve just been sliced, not sitting in a container in the fridge from being sliced the night before.
If you like donuts, and don’t like waiting – after you put your name on the waitlist at Russ & Daughters, walk a few blocks south to Doughnut Plant and get yourself a donut. They’re really, really good.
170 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 | $10-20
We were on the search for the best ramen in New York. After a ton of Googling, we found Mr. Taka on the Lower East Side. Mentioned in the Michelin Guide and owned by an actual chef, of a successful ramen spot in Tokyo, we took advantage of being in the neighbourhood and stopped for a bite, even after we had lunch, and before our planned dinner.
I ordered the small Aburi Charshu Rice bowl (pork belly on rice), and Johnny had the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen. Some of the best ramen we’ve ever tried, their fresh ingredients and generous portions definitely made it a meal worth having.
BCD Tofu House
5 W 32md St, New York, NY 10001 | $10-20
If you know my husband, you know that soon tofu soup is his favourite meal, ever. If there was only one meal he could eat for the rest of his life, this is it. So whenever we’re in New York, we always plan to have a meal here.
There’s usually a 30-45 minute wait at BCD during dinner hours (they give you a buzzer and you can sit in one of the cute Korean cafes or bars on that street to kill time). Always busy, this is THE spot to go to for your Korean stew fix. They also have some other really great rice dishes (pictured above) and a Korean classic, kalbi (marinated beef ribs).
Johnny ordered the Dumpling Tofu Soup (spicy, not extra spicy, because they don’t play here with their spice – he got extra spicy the last time we were in New York and couldn’t finish his meal, so I KNOW it was too much spice for anyone to enjoy), and I got the Bi Bim Bap (beef with mixed veggies on rice).
Jack’s Wife Freda
224 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 | $15-20
If you’re looking for a trendy and healthy brunch, this spot’s for you! A local favourite (we’re still waiting to have a meal next to Casey Neistat…), you’re guaranteed to wait up to an hour for a seat here.
I’ve tried a few things from here, and none of disappointed: Green Shakshuka, Poached Eggs with Grilled Tomato and Haloumi, Rosewater Waffle, and Jack’s Breakfast.
There are 2 locations, I’ve only been to the one on Lafayette (it’s close to Happy Bones, one of my favourite cafe’s I go while waiting for a table).
Roberta’s Pizza, Bushwick
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206 | $15-20
We visited Brooklyn for the first time just on our last trip to New York, and we loved it. We especially loved Roberta’s and both Johnny and I agree that this is the best pizza in New York, and that we’ve ever tasted, ever.
Like everywhere else good in New York, the wait for food is mad. You can sit to wait in their restaurant for up to an hour, or do what we did, and order pizza to go at Roberta’s takeout spot next door, and bring it back to their patio. In the summer, Roberta’s opens up their back patio and tiki bar. The patio’s huge and it’s a party when packed. You can get fun drinks (in coconuts, slushies, etc), and sit there and wait while you order takeout pizza to bring to the patio from just next door.
Pro tip: you can also go for 11:30am, just before the lunch rush and get seated really quickly. We had it for brunch one day on our last trip.. 🙂
235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012 | $15-30
I’ve passed by Rubirosa at least a few times every time I’m in the city but had never stepped inside, until our last trip. A friend made a recommendation, raving about the pizza, so for our last meal before our flight, we made the visit on a rainy (very early) afternoon (11:30am). Again, this place usually has a line up, but they take reservations, and no one really goes for lunch (our brunch) at 11:30am on a weekday, so we were in luck and were seated right away.
We obviously went for the pizza, but when we read ‘handmade pasta’ on the menu too, we got a little bit of everything. We ordered a small (yes, that’s a small in the photo) Rubirosa Supreme, a small Spaghetti and Rigatoni, and we were not disappointed.
The pizza was great (but we both agree that Roberta’s was better), and the pasta was fantastic – the spaghetti was the best we’d ever had. Definitely order the spaghetti.
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
5401, 1 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016 | $20-50
Right down the street from BCD Tofu House is my favourite Korean BBQ spot ever (I still need to make a trip out to LA, for BBQ), mostly because I love Korean BBQ as much as Johnny loves soon tofu, hehe. I rarely take out my camera here to take actual photos because I’m always way too excited to eat (sorry, but trust me, it’s worth it).
This spot also usually has a 30 minute to 1 hour wait, and it’s well worth it. Their service is lighting fast (before you even sit down, the grill is fired up, side dishes are laid out on the table), and there’s a ton of options to order from. You can either just get a single type of meat for two (~$40), or pick a combo (small for ~$70, large for ~$100).
For our last visit, we decided to go big and order the Small Pork Combo. This meal comes out in ~waves~, starting with the seared pork belly, pork jowl follows, and then we chose finish the combo with marinated pork. The combo also comes with a stew (kimchi or soybean), and all BBQ meals, combo or not, come with a side of steamed egg and cheese corn.
The small combo is definitely enough for 2 very hungry people, and perfect for 3 if you’re thinking about being mobile after the meal.
22 W 32nd St, Floor 2, New York, NY 10001 | $30-80
We’ve seen line ups outside other restaurants and BBQ spots in Koreatown, so on an evening that we had no dinner plans set, we Googled another Korean BBQ spot to try, and we did not regret it.
Jongro is just down the street (a 3 minute walk) from Kang Ho Dong and right across the street from BCD, though it’s a little weird getting there as it’s in an office building, on the 2nd floor (there’s a security man that let’s you up). But once you get off the elevator, you’re in any other Korean BBQ restaurant with seating for hundreds (seriously, it’s huge).
We went at 6pm, and were happy to be seated without a wait (but when we left at around 7:30, the line up was insane, with people upstairs and a crowd in the lobby on the main floor waiting to get up the elevator).
We weren’t too hungry, so we only ordered 1 serving of Pork Belly and Kimchi Stew (it was much more food than we thought and were very, very full). We were pleasantly surprised to have steamed egg come with our meal, but also that the Kimchi Stew came out ‘raw’ so that it could be cooked right next to our meat! The Pork Belly was amazing, but the star of the show was the stew—my mom makes one of the best stews, ever, and this was definitely comparable to her cooking.
This spot is definitely worth checking out if Kang Ho Dong is a little too busy, though Kang Ho Dong is definitely a little bit more of a ‘show’ in terms of fun!
Shake Shack, Flat Iron
Madison Ave & E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010 | $5-15
OKAY – I know Shake Shack is all over the US and elsewhere, but it’s not in Toronto. Their perfectly toasted and buttered Shack Burger burger buns, ‘ShakeSauce’ aka mayo, and cheese combo is everything I dream of, though, not great for my self-diagnosed (I’m 90% sure) gluten (though they do now offer gluten free-buns, it just can’t be as good) and lactose intolerance. Do yourself a favour and also get an order of Cheese Fries.
Their location in Flat Iron is outdoors in Madison Square Park. Their string lights come on in the evening making for a romantic date (Johnny would have definitely swept me off my feet if that was our first date, but maybe don’t take advice from me, McDonalds was our second date and I loved that too).
151 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012 | $10-20
We’ve only been here once (there’s usually a huuuuge line for breakfast/brunch), but with so much hype, we made it when it opened one morning and happily had our meal with no wait.
This cute and trendy spot is small, and definitely isn’t the spot if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck (the portion sizes are a little small), but it’s also definitely delicious! We ordered a Hot Chix (fried chicken sandwich) and an Eggshop BEC with a side of hashbrowns.
LOS TACOS No. 1
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, Chelsea Market | $5-15
Chelsea Market is known for their incredible food (and is a perfect place to roam on a rainy day), but I always make sure to visit for my fill of the best tacos, ever.
Serving up tacos and quesadillas, street-style, each taco is $3.50 and stuffed with meat and toppings (well worth every penny). You order and pay first, hand your receipt at the next window, request your toppings, and wait just a few minutes before you’re served the best mouth watering tacos in all of New York.
Each taco is stuffed, making it a little messy, so make sure to grab lots of tissues. There’s no seating here, but Chelsea Market has a ton of tall tables around for you to stop at to eat.
Just next to Los Tacos, is a little hallway that leads to their second eatery, Los Mariscos, specializing in seafood (fish and shrimp tacos, ceviche, and margaritas), that’s also well worth it with seating available and street access too.
Very Fresh Noodles
405 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011, Chelsea Market | $10-15
Johnny and I stumbled on this spot, very accidentally. While we were enjoying every bite of our tacos from LOS TACOS at a little table in the market, a teeny tiny asian grandma posted up right next to us with a steaming bowl of noodles, slurping it so freaking deliciously, that Johnny and I instantly made eye contact, finished each of our third tacos, and started looking for this noodle joint, Very Fresh Noodles.
We only got one bowl to share (I mean.. we just ate 3 tacos), and ordered their signature ‘biangbaing’ hand-pulled noodles, Tingly Cumin Lamb. The cumin and sichuan peppercorns were really strong, you could really feel it after finishing the meal, but we still thoroughly enjoyed the dish. We’ll definitely be coming back to try out their other dishes.
Shanghai Asian Manor
21 Mott St, New York, NY 10013 | $4-15
This was a fun recommendation made by a friend living in New York (thanks Karizza!!!!!!!). It was a very cheap meal that we enjoyed as a light snack before Korean BBQ dinner, heh. Located in Chinatown, this restaurant is clearly a popular spot as there was a line of about 20 people (a very multi-cultural crowd) waiting outside it at 4:00PM.
Once we got seated, the service was speedy, and our orders of Wonton Szechuan Style, Black Truffle Soup Dumplings (must get), Shrimp Dumblings, and Fried Tiny Buns were worth every penny. I think the total of all that ended up being $20, with tax and tip! Worth it if you make it out to Chinatown!
132 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012 | $10-15
Miss Lily’s is a kind of hidden gem of a restaurant that few people talk about – only a single friend has ever recommended it to us. Serving up a mean jerk chicken, some of the best french fries I’ve ever tasted, and soju-infused fruity beverages, Miss Lily’s is the perfect place to take a break from the bustling streets.
On this visit, Johnny and I shared dishes (a light snack), because we also ate every hour prior to sitting down.
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