Where to Eat in New York City

After a long weekend of nothing but eating in New York City, I couldn’t help but wonder if locals had discovered even half the restaurants in the dining paradise they call home. They couldn’t possibly! They’d have to spend every waking moment dining. There is a vast number of eateries and this means standards are high. Choosing where to dine is overwhelming…and whose recommendations to trust?!

Thanks to tips from NYC locals, staff at respected restaurants and discerning online guides, here’s my ultra-mini guide based on two long weekends in the big apple, in which I barely scratched tip of the dining iceberg (despite constant eating!). I look forward to adding to this list every time I visit.

Other reliable NYC dining guides: 

Best Coffee in New York City

NYC baristas operate on a different level. The speed at which they pump out cortados and other specialty beverages is simply mesmerizing. A local told me it’s because they don’t want to be yelled at by New Yorkers. Bottom line: wherever you are, a very well-crafted cup made from finely roasted beans is never far away. Here’s my small list of favourite cafes (which will continue to grow each time I visit NYC). If you only have time to visit two coffee shops, get to Sweatshop and El Rey.

Cafe Ost

441 E 12th St | 212-477-5600 $$ | Coffee House

@ostcafenyc | Visit website

An Instagrammer's favourite thanks to marble tables and European-tiled floors. The wide shot reveals a less charming space with black leather booths and a mish-mash of wall hangings. Regardless, this is a true neighbourhood spot with friendly, unpretentious service and yummy PT espresso.

La Colombe Torrefaction

400 Lafayette St | 212-677-5834 $$ | Coffee Shop

@lacolombecoffee | Visit website

This successful roasting company has locations in big cities across America, but their cafes and espresso beverages are as charming as an independent’s might be. Served in black and white china cups with saucers, this beautifully-poured coffee comes quick and often with a smile.

El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

100 Stanton St | 212-260-3950 $ | Mexican Fusion / Coffee Shop

@elreynewyork | Visit website

Chicklet-sized coffee shop & restaurant with serious charm and highly-inventive vegetable-forward dishes. In fact, the food here is so on point (and beautiful) you may want to return several times for brunch, lunch or dinner. Favourite bites include the charred radicchio salad with house made ricotta and aleppo honey and the vegan chicharrones with cashew crema, hot sauce and chammy sauce.

Happy Bones

394 Broome St | 212-673-3754 $$ | Coffee Shop

@happybonesnyc | Visit website

Small trendy space frequented by well-dressed locals serving consistently great coffee, latte art always included. Light marble tables line one side of the skylight-lit room, but don’t count on a seat as there are only three of them.

Sweatshop

232 Metropolitan Ave | $$ | Australian Espresso Bar

| Visit website

Hidden gem coffee shop from two Aussie mates who run a design studio in the back office. White brick walls and a communal table define their minimalist space in which doughnuts, excellent espresso and Melbourne-style snacks (including a vegemite sandwich) are served. Their own creations, including funky ball-cap-brimmed hats, are for sale in their mini retail area.

Toby's Estate (Brooklyn)

125 N 6th St | 347-457-6160 $$ | Coffee Shop

@tobysbrooklyn | Visit website

With three locations in the city, Toby's is one of the most highly-recommended coffee houses in New York City. Their biggest and most impressive cafe, also home of their roastery, is located in Williamsburg. This is also where they hold regular public cuppings and private barista classes. If you're hunting for a cafe to work from, head here and know they also offer a small bites menu including things on toast and artisan pastries.

Best Breakfast & Brunch in New York City

To a breakfast lover, the vast number of New York City restaurants serving this morning meal is thrilling. New Yorkers clearly want their breakie made for them! My favourite New York City breakfast spots are the Melbourne-style cafes, of which there are plenty. These Australian hotspots are design-forward spaces that take as much pride in serving good espresso as they do in crafting good simple food with a healthy twist. Avocado on toast is just one of their menu staples. If you have to pick just two breakfast or brunch spots to visit on your trip, I'd suggest El Rey or Bluestone Lane.

Bluestone Lane (West Village)

55 Greenwich Ave | $$ | Australian Cafe

@bluestonelane | Visit website

Australian-owned and run “independent chain” cafe from a nice group of guys intent on spreading the Melbourne coffee culture in NYC. The vibe is easygoing and friendly within their bright, 12-seater space and dishes like Portobello Mushrooms with poached egg on toast and Hot Coconut Quinoa Porridge are just a few of their tempting options.

Egg Shop

151 Elizabeth St | 645-666-0810 $$ | American

@eggshopnyc | Visit website

A popular concept revolving around the mighty egg (in this case a cage-free and organic one). Choose from greasy, hangover-curing options, like the "BEC" sandwich with a broken yolk, Shelburne cheddar and tomato jam or healthy-ish fare including a miso quinoa bowl with farm greens, avocado and pickled carrot. You can also build your dream egg sandwiches with multiple egg, bread, cheese and topping options. This bustling dining room is pint-sized so be prepared to wait.

El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

100 Stanton St | 212-260-3950 $ | Mexican Fusion / Coffee Shop

@elreynewyork | Visit website

Chicklet-sized coffee shop & restaurant with serious charm and highly-inventive vegetable-forward dishes. In fact, the food here is so on point (and beautiful) you may want to return several times for brunch, lunch or dinner. Favourite bites include the charred radicchio salad with house made ricotta and aleppo honey and the vegan chicharrones with cashew crema, hot sauce and chammy sauce. Their Parlor Coffee is on point, too.

Public

210 Elizabeth St | 212-343-7011 $$$ | Global

@public_nyc | Visit website

It’s not small, sweet and independent, but the space is striking with its high ceilings and brick walls. More importantly, the food is brilliant. Described as global fare, Michelin starred chef Brad Farmerie's aesthetically pleasing offerings include Turkish poached eggs in Greek yogurt and kirmizi biber butter, as well as a wonderfully unique Avocado on Toast with lentils, toasted pecans and pomegranate molasses.

Ruby's Cafe

219 Mulberry St | 212-925-5755 $$ | Australian Cafe

@rubysnyc | Visit website

Popular Aussie cafe in the heart of Soho where you’ll have a hard time limiting your breakfast order to just one dish. Avo (or vegemite) on toast, the creamiest chia pudding topped with coffee granola and fruit (the “bircher muesli”) and soft scramble eggs with mushrooms are just a few of your mouthwatering options. As per usual, the skillfully produced espresso drinks are good here too.

Two Hands

164 Mott St | 917-475-1815 $$ | Restaurant Cafe

| Visit website

Another Australian cafe serving 'good food from good dudes'. Expect coffee roasted by Integral, a variety of “things on toast” (like chili and lemon drizzled avocado, honey and coconut topped ricotta) and lots of enticing healthy options to start your day (think chia and hemp-sprinkled acai bowls, gluten-free granola and smoothies). Rows of twinkly lights and glowing clouds dangle from the ceiling of this welcome, white brick space.

Best Ice Cream in New York City

Clearly I didn't make it to enough ice cream spots. On my hit list for next time: The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Sundaes and Cones, Il Laboratorio Del Gelato and Oddfellows and The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream

Artisan ice cream shop featuring fun, ultra-sweet flavours like Burnt Honey and American Egg. Choose from equally out-there toppings like sesame salted caramel and crunchy sesame honeycomb. Observe the scooping action (or banana split-making) up close at the counter or take a seat complete with a tiny personal table, perfect for your cup or cone. Their payment system is as old-fashioned as the little hats worn by scoopers: cash only.

Best Casual Restaurants in New York City

It's totally ridiculous to even broach the topic of NYC's best casual restaurants, isn't it? I realize that. This list, however, is a work in progress and more than anything, serves as a reminder of the spots I've really loved in the city that never sleeps. I look forward to updating it after each visit. So here it is, a tiny and discerning list of the casual eateries I've really really enjoyed during trips to New York City.

Brucie

234 Court St | 347-987-4961 $$ | Modern Italian

@brucienyc | Visit website

Go here for the food, not the room. House made straciatella and perfectly moist crusty bread give instant cred to this undercover Brooklyn gem. Highly recommended starters included crispy chickpea + soft-boiled egg-topped crostini and a shockingly good English Pea salad with Bayley Hazen blue cheese and walnuts.

Caracas Arepa Bar

93 1/2 E 7th St | 212-529-2314 $ | Venezuelan

@caracasarepabar | Visit website

Dirt-cheap authentic Peruvian that, thanks to a few raving NY Times reviews (and the fabulous food, of course), has expanded to two side-by-side locations in their food centric East Village ‘hood. Grab take-out from the original space, and be prepared to wait for a seat in the new tiny space where handmade arepas are made by hand and served hot off the grill. Thanks to Chef Brian Skinner for this reco.

El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

100 Stanton St | 212-260-3950 $ | Mexican Fusion / Coffee Shop

@elreynewyork | Visit website

Chicklet-sized coffee shop & restaurant with serious charm and highly-inventive vegetable-forward dishes. In fact, the food here is so on point (and beautiful) you may want to return several times for brunch, lunch or dinner. Favourite bites include the charred radicchio salad with house made ricotta and aleppo honey and the vegan chicharrones with cashew crema, hot sauce and chammy sauce.

Mission Chinese Food

171 E Broadway | $$$ | Modern Chinese

| Visit website

Be prepared to have your taste buds burned off with Szechuan peppers and other Asian spices. Dishes are hit and miss but the hits are huge and the misses aren’t bad. Factor in the out-of-the-box, creatively-garnished cocktails (try the Phil Khallins with gin, coconut milk, kaffir lime, ginger and lemongrass and sesame oil) and this (insert chef’s name) San Fran transplant is worth a visit. The lineup starts around 6:30pm and can last about three hours.

ABC Kitchen

35 E 18th Ave | 212-475-5829 $$$$ | Global

@abckitchen | Visit website

This could be home to the most delicious bites you’ll take all trip. Easily one of the most well-known spots in town from French Michelin starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ABC Kitchen’s sprawling, sparkly-white space is the perfect destination for your Sex in The City-themed girls night out.

Best Juice & Smoothie Bars in New York City

If you're a cold pressed juice juice addict, you'll be happy to hear the good stuff is on every street corner in New York City.

Juice Press

Multiple Locations | $$$ | Juice Bar

@juicepressny | Visit website

Their JP Black Label — an almond milk drink made with raw coconut water, vanilla and sea salt — may just be the most amazingly delicious thing you ever tasted. The best $11 you'll ever spend. Smoothies, vegan snacks and all sort of cold pressed juices are also available.

Organic Avenue

Multiple Locations | $$$ | Juice Bar / Cafe

@organicavenue | Visit website

With so many delicious cold pressed juices on offer, it's hard to pick just one. Organic Avenue offers several pre-made green options and creative flavours like their Matcha Chia Glo, made with matcha green tea, chia seeds, vanilla, cardamom, pumpkin seeds and coconut sugar. Smoothies and smoothie bowls are also a specialty here.

Best Sweets in New York City

Just to reiterate, I am scratching the tip of the tip of the tip of the food iceberg with these lists. I visited several bakeries, but for your sake and your time, I'm keeping my recommendations extremely high level here. Behold, the two dessert destinations I'd make a point of getting to in New York City.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

111 N 3rd St | 718-388-2625 $$$ | Chocolate Shop

@mastbrothers | Visit website

Founded by the Mast Brothers, whose colourful and inventive chocolate bar collection is now distributed around the globe. They're obsessive about the details, craftsmanship and simplicity. At their flagship location in Williamsburg, indulge in brewed chocolate beverages, exquisitely-flavoured chocolate squares and, of course, chocolate bars.

Maman

239 Centre St | 212-226-0770 $$ | Bakery Cafe

@mamannyc | Visit website

Country cozy French bakery serving lots of ogle-worthy house made baking. The chocolate chip cookie (served warm from the oven) doesn't look like anything special, but a few bites in, I saw why it came so highly recommended. The middle is ever so slightly undercooked, meaning it's irresistibly soft and gooey. The generous milk chocolate pieces and whopper-size macadamia nuts put it over-the-top.

Best Healthy Fast Food in New York City

New York City restaurateurs have got what we (often) need: healthy, delicious food on the fly. Here are my favourite spots for a no-fuss, nutritious meal.

Organic Avenue

Multiple Locations | $$$ | Juice Bar / Cafe

@organicavenue | Visit website

One-stop shop for organic, plant-based bites and cold-pressed juices. Overnight oats, chia pudding, nut mylks and several green juices are a handful of healthy options available from their nine locations.

Taim Falafel

45 Spring St | 212-219-0600 $$ | Israeli

@taimmobile | Visit website

A lovely alternative to the typical healthy sandwich or wrap. Taim is a falafel and smoothie bar with an entirely vegetarian menu full of colorful Middle Eastern flavours. Their falafel comes in three flavours: green (parsley, cilantro), harissa and red pepper. Finished with hummus and tahini sauce, their whole wheat pita sandwiches are delicious.

Greecologies

379 Broome St | 212-941-0100 $$ | Greek

@greecologies | Visit website

Despite emitting a serious “chain vibe” (which is in fact the direction owners are taking the company), this Greek cafe has serious charm and interesting snacks. With a peaceful backyard garden (offering communal seating at a large, distressed metal table) and comfy, design-forward niches inside, you’ll want to stick around and nibble on Greek salad, halva and house made Greek yogurt with rose compote or honey and walnuts.

The Butcher's Daughter

19 Kenmare St | 212-219-3434 $$ | Healthy Cafe

@tbdjuicebarcafe | Visit website

Bright space decorated with plenty of greenery and bleached-wood offering mostly vegan fare & juices. Open from 8am 'til late, this popular spot serves dishes like coconut yogurt parfaits, smashed avocado toast benedicts and spicy kale caesar salads.