It’s been estimated that there are 24,000 restaurants in New York City, and that’s not including the other four boroughs – that’s just in Manhattan alone! A good bunch of them are privately-owned, non-chain establishments. So if there’s one thing that I just don’t understand, it’s when people come to New York City as tourists and eat the same food as they would at home.
“We couldn’t find anyplace good to eat so we went to the Olive Garden on 47th between 7th and Broadway. I love their salad and breadsticks!”
“We were thinking of going to TGI Friday’s but ate at the Applebee’s – it was right across the street from the theater.”
“We wanted to eat pizza while we were in NYC, so we went to Pizza Hut.”
Now, I can can see if people have kids in tow and the only thing they’ll eat are Chicken McNuggets. Or maybe they want to go to a touristy place if it’s a “name” that they may never get to go to anywhere else, like the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood or Junior’s (even I sometimes eat at Junior’s LOL! Oh, their matzoh ball soup and cheesecake!). But did you know you can walk about 2 blocks away from Times Square and eat at the same places New Yorkers eat? And the food might not only taste better, but it may even be a little bit cheaper precisely because they’re not in the heart of Times Square (and paying Times Square rent) and they’re not catering to tourists?
In fact, there’s a whole block of restaurants just like that, and it’s a simple name to remember…
Located on West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, establishments on Restaurant Row have been serving hungry patrons since 1906 (that’s only three years after New Yorkers rode their first subway car).
There are about 3 dozen restaurants on Restaurant Row at any given time. Granted, the names of them change over the years because restaurants come and go, although there are some that have been there for a long, long time. The oldest, Barbetta, has been there since the very beginning and it’s in its 114th year. Oh, and it’s stayed in the family all this time, too – it’s still run by the original owner’s daughter (in fact, it’s the oldest restaurant in New York City still owned by its founding family).
The other restaurants on Restaurant Row run the gamut from American to Japanese to Italian to Creole to Latin to steakhouse to bars and everything in between. Click here to learn more about Restaurant Row.
But what if you can’t find anywhere on Restaurant Row? Well, there’s a bunch of other places to try. But know now that if you want the good stuff, you may have to venture further out that Times Square 😉
- Are you looking for historic places to eat? This article has some of the oldest restaurants and eateries in the five boroughs of NYC. Of the ones on the list, I’ve eaten at Katz’s Delicatessen, Lombardi’s, Grand Central Oyster Bar and Nathan’s Famous and would recommend any of them in a second. Oh, and if all goes to plan, we’re eating at Peter Luger’s in April 😉
- What about pizza? If you want pizza in the Times Square area, a lot of people are going to tell you to go to John’s Pizza. John’s is fine, but it caters to tourists and you can do better ;-). If you want my opinion, go to Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria or Lombardi’s (which is in the list of “old” restaurants above). Otherwise, the most important things I can tell you are the places to avoid:
(A) any name you’re familiar with. Pizza Hut. Domino’s. Sbarro’s. Papa John’s. Those are not NY pizza. Those are corporate-owned chains and are as far from NY pizza as you can get.
(B) Any pizza place that has the name “Ray” in it. Ray’s Pizza. Ray’s Original Pizza. Famous Ray’s Pizza. World-Famous Original Ray’s Pizza. There are literally dozens of variations of the name. Some are interconnected, some are knock offs. Most are overpriced and the ones in the Times Square area survive by sell overpriced not fresh slices of pizza to tourists who don’t know any better.
- Bagels – honestly, any bagel store is going to be good. As long as bagels is the main thing of what they sell, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. If I had to pick a place, I really like Ess-A-Bagel.
- Are you looking for a real NY Deli? You HAVE to go to Katz’s. Established in 1888, it’s as good as it gets. And yeah, it’s touristy. But you can thank the “deli scene” of “When Harry Met Sally” for that. Either way, it’s still REALLY good deli.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary