deb’s new york favorites

… is the most Frequently Unanswered Frequently Asked Question on this. If you’ve emailed me or left me a comment asking the same in the last dozen years, odds are good that I didn’t respond. I never meant to be rude; I just didn’t have a response for two reasons: 1. I’m ridiculously uncomfortable telling people where and how to spend their hard-earned money; maybe I went gaga over a triple-digit steak for two one time that you know you make better on your grill every Friday night; maybe there’s a restaurant on 7th Avenue I went back to once a week for three years (until they changed owners, sigh) for the artichoke salad alone — it’s my weird thing, perhaps not yours. 2. There’s nothing exhaustive or carefully considered about my choices. I’ll be a restaurant reviewer; I’d be too much like this guy, nor do I aspire to be. I live in the Lower East Side and thus, most of my usual haunts are there too. Want more objective NYC considerations? Try Eater or Grub Street or The New York Times for restaurant reviews.

But! We love going out to eat. It’s not always a restaurant, sometimes it’s just a little something-something we picked up en route to the playground. Sometimes, we mapped out a walk to a playground just because it would take us by something tasty. Essentially, I’m always enamored with some food outside my apartment and so I’ve decided to take a list-type approach instead. It will be updated whenever I find something new to obsess over. I kind of hope it is today.

Related: In December 2017, I wrote down everything and everywhere I ate for a week for Grub Street. You can read it here.

A sporadically updated list of my favorite tasty things in New York City:

m shanghai spicy vegetable wontons


Barbuto | West Village | favorite restaurant; if you skip the legendary kale salad, potatoes, pesto pasta, hangar steak and/or chicken, we can no longer be friends
Cafe Altra Paradiso | West Soho | from the chef behind Estela, an Italian restaurant; I can never resist the stracciatella (inside-out burrata), the octopus is the best I’ve ever had (don’t think you’re an octopus person? you haven’t had theirs yet), and if you ask nicely, they’ll make half-portions of the pastas (so you can order more, yess)
Cafe Gitane | Soho | the avocado toast that launched the avocado toast trend over a decade ago
M. Shanghai | Williamsburg | my favorite soup dumplings, vegetable wontons in spicy peanut sauce, beef in “awesome” sauce and string beans, anywhere
St. Anselm | Williamsburg | everything comes off a grill and is exquisite; we’ve never had a bad meal
Decoy | West Village | not easy to get a reservation but when you do, I dare you to find a better Peking Duck anywhere
Emmy Squared | Williamsburg | Detroit-style pizza and so many good starters, it will be tempting to fill up on them (but don’t do it, unless you like leftovers, in which case: do it)
Lan Zhou | Manhattan’s Chinatown | a Chinatown staple for hand-pulled noodles and perfect-every-time fried dumplings
Maison Premiere | Williamsburg | great place for celebrations of the oysters and champagne variety and more; a little bit Paris, a little bit New Orleans
Mimi Cheng’s | East Village | just dumplings, which are all excellent and made with quality ingredients
Motorino | East Village, Williamsburg | when ramps are in season, I always get the ramp pizza, recreated here
Ngam | East Village | exceptional Thai in a city with mostly mediocre, the pad thai especially is a revelation
Parm | Soho | Italian-American sandwiches that manage to be delicious and yet not as guttingly heavy as expected; Italian combo sub, chicken parm and omg those ice cream cakes
Sullivan Street Bakery | Chelsea | If you know Jim Lahey’s name from so many celebrated recipes here (no-knead bread, this astoundingly good zucchini pizza), you need to go to his cafe, where there are more good things (including all of his pizzas and breads) to eat than I can count. He also makes my favorite doughnut in the city, the chocolate bomboloni
Via Carota | West Village | from the chefs behind Buvette and I Sodi, this is a top 3 restaurant for us; we’reobsessed with every single dish on the changing verdure menu, chicken liver toasts. we often skip the pasta and split an entree or two, which are all tiny; they make a mean Negroni


Donna | Williamsburg | rum-driven cocktails


Balthazar Bakery | Soho | sure, they’ve got amazing breads and pastries, but I’m mostly obsessed with the almost bittersweet chocolate sable cookie, which I attempted here
Breads Bakery | Union Square | insane hamantaschen selection, famed chocolate babka, almond croissants
Davey’s Ice Cream | East Village | best pistachio I’ve had outside Italy, chocolate almost truffle-decadent and my husband’s favorite cookies and cream
Doughnut Plant | Lower East Side | my favorite: the crème brûlée; husband’s: valrhona chocolate
Ess-a-Bagel | Stuy Town/Peter Cooper | our favorite NYC because the seed application alone is legendary; they recently reopened after a very dark year where they’d lost their lease
Fresco Gelateria | East Village | ludicrously good homemade croissants, ferrero chocolate/hazelnut gelato and the nicest service in town
Joe’s Pizza | Greenwich Village, East Village and Williamsburg | every New Yorker has a favorite slice; this is mine
Orwashers | Upper East Side | 99 year-old bakery with awesome black and white cookies, homemade bread, doughnuts filled to order with your choice wonders, and, oh, and a pb&j bar
Zucker | East Village | chocolate roses, avocado challah toast with za’atar, party balls


All The Greenmarkets | Union Square + Grand Army Plaza especially | there’s a reason why NYC Greenmarkets are so special: every single thing, including the flour for bread, is grown within a 100-mile radius of NYC; you’d be crazy to come to NYC in the summer and not walk through Union Square piled high with everything fresh and delicious on earth at least once
Buon Italia | Chelsea Market | Italian specialties, but mostly I load up on my favorite pasta, Setaro, which is inexpensive to boot
Despaña Foods | Soho | imported Spanish specialties including amazing selection of sherry vinegars, jamon, tinned fish + great simple tapas and sandwiches
Kalustyan’s | Kip’s Bay | stock up on every spice on earth; the most enchanting baklava selection. the mujadarra and vegetable soup from the tiny cafe upstairs are excellent
Murray’s Cheese | Greenwich Village | famous for a reason; not to be missed if you love cheese
New York Cake and Baking Co. | Madison Square/Chelsea | if you’re a baker, it’s not to be missed
Pickle Guys | Lower East Side | have been there since before pickles were hip; old-school Jewish pickles and more; amazing fresh horseradish for Passover, really nice staff
Saxelby Cheese | Lower East Side | 100% American farmstead cheese, mostly from the Northeast; a unique selection!


Bonnie Slotnick | East Village | possibly the greatest place on earth for a cooking lover, Bonnie sells used cookbooks and is an encyclopedia of cookbook knowledge; she is almost always there and one of the nicest people in New York; the shop recently relocated from its longtime home in the West Village
Kitchen Arts & Letters | Upper East Side | a (new) cookbook store with passionate staff

Small type:
* I kind of hate having to say this at all, but just wanted to footnote that I still have a ‘no free stuff’ policy on Smitten Kitchen. Everything listed on this page is a reflection of something we sought out on our own, and paid for with our own pocket change. And Jacob’s. We shake him down all of the time for loose change.

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39 comments on deb’s new york favorites

  1. Sammi Green

    I think you are the new-age Julia Child of American cooking. I am a 67 year old cookbook obsessed woman and I have to tell you when I really want to learn how to make something or make something “perfect” I always use your recipe to do it! Thanks for being so obsessed! You are truly a joy, my dear Deb! and those kids are just absolutely adorable! 😘 May you live a long and healthy life! Love you❤️Hubby handsome too( so he doesn’t feel left out!)

    1. cathydellinger

      Absolutely agree. Your spins on recipes are superb. And, you just made me nostalgic for the city. Up in northern Vermont for 30 years. Love it hear, and access to you makes life that much sweeter. Thanks, Deb!

  2. I am so excited to visit these locations! I just recently found you and want to start cooking and baking for my family :) Thank you for everything you do, Deb ❤

  3. Jack

    Deb, made your Zabar’s pickled slaw and was thrilled to feel like I was at Zabar again. An easy and delicious dish. Brought it to a pool party where everyone raved. Thanks, I look forward to trying your other recipes. Jack

  4. Steffanie

    Thank you so much! I will try to visit every of your recommended spots when we fly over from Germany the next time!
    I love your blog and truly appreciate all the time and love you put into it!

  5. Marie Porreca

    Next time you are at Murray’s, pop next store to Faicco’s. Artisan salumi, breakfast sausage, bacon, rice balls… trust me you’ll thank me later❤️

  6. Robin Dunne

    Love, love your page and your cook book. This information is wonderful. Not sure if I will ever make it to NY, but it sure is fun to day dream as I read your list. Thank you.

  7. Kathy Bell

    I know foodies stick their nosies up at the UES, yet there are some wonderful spots to check out: Agata & Valentina, Il Vagabondo, The Carlyle, Papaya King, Four Seasons, Quatorze and Eli’s, just to name a few 😘

    1. deb

      There is no anti-UES snobbery here; this is simply a list of my favorite haunts, and like most New Yorkers, I spend the most time in my own neighborhood, the Lower East Side. But I appreciate your recommendations and will check them out.

    1. Kay

      I just went to Izzy’s Smokehouse in Crown Heights. It’s a kosher certified bbq joint. The brisket and beans were delicious. Dining in was a little odd so maybe take out might be the way to go. The location you order and pay in is very small, so there is seating next door but the awning says Medical Supply Store lol.

  8. Kathy

    Love love your blog and appreciate all of this!
    Thank you for the time and energy you put into your work
    Love your cookbook too

  9. I am really disappointed that you think there isn’t enough good Thai here…clearly you haven’t been to Woodside and Elmhurst? In fact, there is no Queens in the above list or Bronx or SI. I have followed you for years and find that a bit disappointing. Glad you listed Buon Italia over Eatily but also think you should check out the 100 year old DiPalo’s in LIttle Italy…Café Gita e was an excellent “old school NYC” nod! Back to Queens, John Brown (bbq), Dutch Kills (cocktails) and oh Chinatown in Flushing deserve some attention. And Afghan, Greek, Egyptian, etc. out here!

    1. deb

      One of the caveats of a page like this, and what I try to express from the top, is that I am not a resource for Best Of recommendations in NYC. It’s not my specialty, or even a gap I aspire to fill, not by a long shot. I’m just someone who lives here and has my favorites — and I happen to live in Manhattan, so that’s where they’re centered. I created this page because despite this, I get a lot of requests for my go-tos, so I rounded them up. This is not intended to replace any of the more serious, well-researched resources for finding the best food in NYC.

      That said, I’d love to hear about your favorite Thai restaurant. When Ngam opened in the East Village, it was like a breath of fresh air in what had been a unending chain of “Spice” restaurants.

      1. Megan

        I realize I am late to this party, but when I read that part I screamed “Little Basil!!!” which is on 26th and 3rd Ave. It’s changed owners in the last few years, but they are just as excellent, if not better, than the old ones. Bonus: it’s BYOB.

  10. Sam

    This is a brilliant list for those who are travelling to New York. We are hoping to come over early next year and we always try to jot down at least 5 recommended places of where to eat! Can’t wait to try some new yummy food!

  11. Ginny White

    My friend Renata sent me this blog – I’m visiting NYC this weekend for 5 days and can’t wait to try out some of these places – what a great review x

  12. betsy

    Any other recommendations for restaurants in Brooklyn that are can miss places? M Shanghai looks great, probably going to check that out!

    1. deb

      There are more great restaurants than I could list on 10 pages (but there are 6 Brooklyn ones on this list right now). Eater has great guides to neighborhoods if you’re looking for more. Let’s see, we love King’s County Imperial (the garlic chicken!), we had a great meal over the winter at Metta (sit at the counter), Chez Ma Tante. Roberta’s is now really a classic, so is L&B Spumoni Gardens. And if you’re looking for something vacation-y and retro, Randazzo’s Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay. :)

  13. Lori

    Can you send a tip for two or three great burger places? Not $100 Waygu beef burgers but regular burgers! My son and his girlfriend just moved to NYC July 1 from here (Kansas City). Her birthday is next month, and he’s trying to think of some affordable special things to do. She eats super-healthy, but wants to indulge in a burger for her birthday. He’s been researching– I knew you might have some great opinions! I appreciate all you do, Deb – enjoy those littles. Time flies and 24 years later they do something brave and independent like move to New York. And you are so happy for them, but you miss them like crazy. :)

      1. deb

        But I asked a foodie friend for you, whose favorite is Minetta Tavern. She says that Peter Luger and Little Owl both have amazing burgers too, but only at lunchtime. Enjoy!

  14. Emiles

    I just returned from a 5 day trip to NYC. I got loads of recommendations of places to go…and the only recommended place I went? Sullivan St. Bakery because Deb said to. It. was. AMAZING!!!!!! THANK YOU!

    The prosciutto breakfast sandwich was heaven. I need more soft-scrambled eggs in my life. And I had this yummy broccoli rabe toast that reminded me a lot of you/your food. Of course, I also ordered a chocolate bomboloni and it was divine, as expected.

  15. mmcarlson

    Just a note that I visited NYC for a conference (without kids or husband; I had no shame in eating at the bars, alone!) in Feb 2019. I have been a SK home cook/fan for years and was happy to use this post as my eating guide. I hit Sullivan Street Bakery (amazing zucchini pizza!), Barbuto (best restaurant vibe; I would eat there always if I lived close enough), and Via Carota (I ate at the bar and the place was packed by 6pm). Beautiful recommendations! Thank you.

  16. Thea

    Last day in NY (visiting from Australia) and I just had the most smitten kitchen day. Amazing chocolate babka from breads bakery, went through the green markets and saw ramps on sale, saw an ad that said “best advice: put an egg on it”, had dumplings from Mimi Cheng’s and Ferreo gelato from fresco. I’ve been to so many places on this list this holiday and every single one has been worth it. Thank you so much for your recommendations!