NYC’s has a fabled history of having a rich and diverse restaurant scene. Ethiopian food, Laotian food, Italian food, it doesn’t matter. NYC has it, and it’s damn authentic or close to it. NYC is also many tourists destinations for Food Tourism. Due to that, many magazines and publications make lists of the best restaurants to eat in NYC. These places could be due to celebrities frequently going to that restaurant, or maybe it’s an NYC landmark and has a very long history, and lastly, it serves damn good food. Whatever the reason, today, we’re going to list what I believe are NYC’s 5 Most Famous Restaurants to eat at (in no particular order).
1. Katz’ Delicatessen – 205 E Houston St., Manhattan
This deli is an irrefutable piece of NYC history, culture, and food. I’ve had sandwiches from Katz and as good as they are, they don’t match the stories that my parents tell me about Katz Deli back in their day. If you didn’t know, Katz Delicatessen is a NYC legend born officially as “Iceland Brothers” in 1888 by The Iceland Brothers. After the arrival of the immigrant Willy Katz and his cousin Benny, The Katz Family eventually bought out the Iceland Brothers, and the deli was renamed Katz in 1910. Ever since its inception, it has spread from its original spot in Houston St, to different places all over NYC. My dad used to tell me all of the time about Katz’s pickles, and how generous they used to be with their free tastings of their legendary pastrami. For over a hundred years, their name has been used to describe NYC culture and history, and their still going strong today. Katz is undoubtedly a stop you must make whilst taking a food tour around NYC.
2. Peter Luger’s Steakhouse – 178 Broadway, Brooklyn
When people speak of NYC steakhouses and the great experiences that go with it, it’s likely Peter Luger’s is at the top of their lists, or close to it. Having their history date all the way back to 1887, when German immigrant Peter Luger opened a restaurant once called “Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards, and Bowling Alley”, (Carl being Peter’s nephew) this spot used to be the go-to for a predominantly German Willamsburg, NY. After Luger’s passing, his son Frederick was unable to maintain the restaurant’s top-notch quality, and ultimately sold the failing business to Sol Forman, a long-time customer, that hailed from a family of metalworkers and fancy silverware. Sol bought The Luger Family’s failing restaurant, bringing it back from the dead, and back to its former glory. Fast forward to the present, and Celebrities, well-established businessmen, and Food Critics alike have eaten there and rave about it. Peter Luger’s dry-aged steaks (done in-house, if you weren’t aware), as well as the overall quality of meat, hasn’t diminished in over 5 decades. It almost lost to the test of time, but the perseverance of its antiquated serving style and table service is one of the many reasons why it’s still here. And it’s one of the many reasons why you cannot mention NYC food and history without saying “Peter Luger’s Steakhouse.”
3. Minetta Tavern – 113 MacDougal St., Manhattan
Receiving its name from a brook that ran through the area (The “Mannette” dubbed by Native Americans), The Minetta Tavern’s linage runs all the way back to 1937 by Eddie Silieri (who eventually took Minetta as his surname), on the tail end of the Prohibition Era. This restaurant rose to fame by being host to many celebrities and widely known names such as Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. On the Minetta Tavern website, they believe the restaurant to be a “Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern." When everything is said and done, Minetta Tavern will be remembered as a NYC household name a that is known for serving great food in a Speakeasy-like environment.
4. Lombardi’s NYC – 32 Spring St, Little Italy
So many famous and influential restaurants date back to NYC’s infancy, and as NYC grew and changed, these restaurants endeavored to stay the same, as their old school look and feel is their claim to fame. Lombardi’s is no exception. Created back in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi, who loved the pizza pies from Naples, and had Naples-styled pies sold at his store. The New Yorkers loved his pizza so much, that which initially a grocery store that happened to serve pizza, completely transformed into the very first pizza restaurant. (fyi, Lombardi’s website is LITTERALLY firstpizza.com) Lombardi, having lacked the resources native to Naples, (namely Mozzarella di Bufala and a wood fire oven) Lombardi used what was abundant around him, such as coal to power his ovens, and For di Latte (cheese from cow’s milk) and created the American-styled pie that is very commonly eaten all over America. I think that Lombardi’s lasting impression on foodies and historians is largely because they single-handedly created NYC’s legendary status of having the best pizza (don’t debate me on this) and influenced others to either adapt other styles of pizza to the American environment (Sicilian style, for example) and influenced the birth of the Chicago style. Lombardi’s effort helped to cement NYC’s reputation of food diversity.
5. Nom Wah Tea Parlor – 13 Doyers St, Chinatown
NYC’s Chinatown is home to some of the greatest food and late-night celebratory experiences that New York has to offer. Chinatown has been the place to go to get great food for a great price, a place for cooks and chefs to eat after closing their restaurants, and a great place to literally stumble into a hidden gem tucked away in a corner. As fun and rewarding that finding hidden gems can be, there is nothing “hidden” about this gem, Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Opening its doors in 1920, for years Nom Wah was well known for serving Chinese-styled pastries, tea, dim sum, steamed buns and more. After losing its lease in 1968, it moved a couple of doors down and managed to keep the look and feel that made Nom Wah what it is. This historic dim sum house has a large and versatile menu largely unchanged from the past, and (hopefully) isn’t anywhere anytime soon.
If you took the time to read this, I need you to know that this is only a small part of NYC’s history of food. There are many more restaurants that we have, many different cuisines to sample, and many different cultures to celebrate. In time, restaurants like Grammercy Tavern, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin will be the ones thought of when one thinks of famous New York restaurants. Until then, when you stop by the places I’ve mentioned above, don’t just eat. Partake of the history and culture that makes NYC what it is, and what NYC is to become. Lastly, be thankful for those who took those risks in the past. New York would be straight-up boring without them.