Travel 3 minutes 02 April 2024

Inspectors' Favorite Spots for First Timers

New to New York? These are tried and true.

New York City by The MICHELIN Guide

See the New York City guide

For those visiting New York for the first time, there are certain restaurants that truly embody the character of the city: bold, ambitious, eclectic, and always memorable.

Katz’s delicatessen, which 
has been a Lower East Side institution since 1888, is part of the city’s DNA. There’s almost always a line (it’s worth the wait) to get into this crowded and somewhat chaotic canteen. You’ll need a ticket to order your food—opt for the smoky, expertly sliced pastrami. Many claim it’s the best in the world. Of course, there’s also chicken noodle soup, chopped liver, hot dogs, and New York cheesecake. It’s the kind of comfort food you want when you’re here watching the world go by.

If there is one restaurant that put newfangled Asian cuisine on the map it’s David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar. In 2004, the renegade chef colonized a nondescript strip of the East Village and used the restaurant as a lab to disrupt Asian cooking traditions and techniques. Serving up dishes like pork buns, cumin beef noodles and hamachi crudo, all to an indie soundtrack of Pavement and Yo Lo Tengo, Momofuku Noodle Bar is as cool and edgy as the city itself.

The chefs behind Roberta’s, a hipster pizzeria located in a warehouse in industrial Brooklyn, were also culinary pioneers, kickstarting the city’s Neapolitan pizza movement. Their wood-fired oven churns out inventive pies like the Bee Sting, topped with soppressata, basil, chili, and honey and the Speckwolf with speck, mushrooms, onions, and oregano. But there’s also excellent pasta (oxtail lasagna) and vegetable dishes (sunchoke and beets). And, only in New York (or Bushwick, for that matter) could you have a sprawling space with communal tables, a garden (to grow their own vegetables and herbs) a bakery, and even a radio station. After the meal, expect impromptu DJ sets and dance parties.

Sushi Nakazawa is the epitome of a hushed sushi experience. If you want to have the ultimate New York-meets-Tokyo omakase experience, then reserve a seat at the counter at Sushi Nakazawa. Master chef Daisuke Nakazawa presides over this restaurant tucked on a small street in the West Village. Instead of a natural palette of wood and bamboo, the room is done in a jazzy black-and-white pattern. Nakazawa prepares over 20 beautifully composed pieces of nigiri, from hay-smoked wild yellowtail to golden eye snapper, depending on what’s in season.

Casa Mono
There’s something reassuring about a kitchen that gets in whole beasts and does its own butchery—you just know it understands the essence of what good cooking is all about. Here at the small but perfectly formed Casa Mono, dishes are none of those one-bite wonders that blight so many places these days.

Inspector notes: "Scrambled eggs with uni is a must, while confit goat will make you question why you don’t see more of it on other menus. This is food to cure what ails you."

One of the last-standing, old-time Eastern European spots on the Lower East Side, Katz’s is a true NY institution. It’s crowded, crazy and packed with a panoply of characters weirder than a jury duty pool. Tourists, hipsters, blue hairs and everybody in between flock here, so come on off-hours. Because it’s really that good.

Inspector notes: "Matzo ball soup, pastrami sandwiches, potato latkes—everything is what you’d expect, only better."

Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen
Watch out Flushing—with its lineup of traditional Chinese comfort food, including the best soup dumplings in town, this steamy Hell's Kitchen joint kicks its competitors to the curb. Set among the neon lights of the Theater District, the ever-packed gem may showcase a noodle house-like vibe, but the staff is friendly and the cooking on-point at all times.

Inspector notes: "Hand-pulled and hand-cut noodles are stir-fried with mouthwatering accompaniments, while the dumpling variety is so great it’s almost impossible to pick."

Momofuku Noodle Bar

This elder member of David Chang’s culinary empire is hipper and hotter than ever. A honey-toned temple of updated comfort food, decked with wood counters and a sparkling open kitchen, the service here may be brisk. But rest assured, as the menu is gutsy and molded with Asian street food in mind.

Inspector notes: "Those steamed buns have amassed a gargantuan following thanks to decadent fillings like moist pork loin kissed with Hollandaise and chives."


Entering through this (now) iconic red door is like a trip through the looking glass and into Bushwick’s foodie wonderland. The city’s love affair with Roberta’s seems stronger each year, and for good reason.

Inspector notes: "Queens native Carlo Mirarchi is the master craftsman here, turning out a range of creatively named pizzas, including one that mixes pineapple and prosciutto, soppressata and jalapeño, or arrabiata with sesame seeds."

Russ & Daughters Cafe

From white-jacketed servers to that pristine counter, this updated yet model LES café channels the very spirit and charm of its mothership, set only blocks away. The adept kitchen follows suit, taking the original, appetizing classics and turning them on their heads to form an array of proper and profoundly flavorful dishes.

Inspector notes: "Regulars perch at the bar to watch the ‘tender whip up a cocktail or classic egg cream, while serious diners find a seat and get noshing on hot- and cold-smoked Scottish salmon teamed with everything-bagel chips. The result? A thrilling contrast in flavor and texture."

Sushi Nakazawa

For a truly memorable sushi adventure, head to this sleek and contemporary ten-seat counter to discover flavorful and fatty cuts of fish, available at a more palatable price point compared to many of the city’s other notable sushi counters. Chef Daisuke Nakazawa’s signature style combines supremely tender fish with perfectly seasoned rice, a spark of wasabi and judicious brush of nikiri for consistently excellent results.

Inspector notes: "Enjoy a spectrum of sushi from Hokkaido cherry salmon and live Massachusetts sea scallop with citrus and salt"

Ugly Baby

Named "ugly" to avoid tempting fate, this Thai baby is in fact bright and cheery. Warm smiles and a convivial vibe dominate the room, decked out with colorfully streaked walls and wooden furniture. It's a wildly successful operation thanks to the authentic nature of its cuisine—fiery spice, vibrant flavors and bright raw ingredients being some of the classic hallmarks.

Inspector notes: "Pig is king in the fiery kang hoh (with mung bean noodles and Chinese long beans) and subtly spiced curried rice with ginger."

Hero Image: Russ & Daughters Cafe


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