10 Must-Eat Places in NYC for First-Time Visitors

Dinner at HGU New York's newest Italian restaurant - Lumaca.

Joe Bastianich once called New York the best food city in the world. Well, he’s not wrong! From street cart delights to elegant fine dining experiences, NYC is the ultimate foodie heaven. Without further ado, here are 10 must-eat places in NYC for first-timers.

1. Ess-a-Bagel

Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel.Garlic bagel with salami, avocado garlic cream cheese, onions, and lettuce.

According to popular myth, bagels in New York are extra delicious because the water here has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium. This in turn creates a really soft dough hence why NYC bagels are considered superior in taste.

Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel.Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel.Look at all that cream cheese goodness!

Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel. Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel. Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel.Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomatoes, onion, and lettuce. 

Ess-a-Bagel was established in 1976 and voted #1 in the Tri-State area within two years of opening. It has since then become one of the most well-known bagel joints in New York and is definitely not to be missed!

Address: 831 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022, United States
Phone Number: +1 212-980-1010
Website: https://www.ess-a-bagel.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $
Hours: 6am to 9pm Monday through Friday; 6am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday

2. Katz’s Delicatessen

Lunch at Katz's Delicatessen. Famous salami on rye at Katz's Delicatessen.Katz’s Pastrami Sandwich.

This kosher-style delicatessen was founded in 1888 and has been a crowd favorite amongst both locals and tourists alike. They are known for their pastrami on rye and can serve up to 15,000 pounds (6,800 kilograms) of pastrami a week. Corned beef is another hot item on their menu with 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) sold weekly. Both are equally delicious, but I suggest asking for additional pickles, or even just plain cucumbers, as it can get quite heavy. The sourness from the pickled cucumber and tomato will cut the oiliness and can act as a palate cleanser as well.

Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, United States
Phone Number: +1 212-254-2246
Website: https://www.ess-a-bagel.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $$
Hours: 24 hours

3. Joe’s Pizza

New York-style pizza at Joe's Pizza.New York-style pizza at Joe's Pizza. New York-style pizza at Joe's Pizza.

You can’t visit Big Apple without trying a slice of the famous New York-style pizza. So what exactly makes a pizza New-York style? The number one most notable characteristic is that it is GIGANTIC. Look at how huge the slice is compared to my friend Selene’s face! Apart from that, these pizzas are hand-tossed and have a thin crust. That way you can eat a slice mess-free by folding it in half.

Address: Multiple locations
Website: http://www.joespizzanyc.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $
Hours: 10am to 4am Monday through Sunday

4. Raclette

Dinner at Raclette.Dinner at Raclette.Selene and I both ordered the Suisse, which comes with roasted new potatoes, cornichons, pickled white pearl onions, bread, arugula, and a choice of meat. She picked jambon de Paris (ham; top) whereas I went with saucisson sec (dried sausage; bottom).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably seen viral videos on Facebook where servers scrape a blanket of hot, melted cheese onto a plate of potatoes. There are many raclette restaurants in New York, but Raclette is the OG. Now the restaurant is called Raclette, however, that is the name of the dish too and can also refer to a specific type of cheese from Switzerland. Confused yet? Don’t be. Put this on your radar for where to eat in NYC and thank me later 😉

Address: 511 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009, United States
Phone Number: +1 917-853-5377
Website: https://raclette.nyc/
Reservation: First come first serve; online and phone reservations available
Price: $$
Hours: 12pm to 11pm Monday through Thursday; 12pm to 12am Friday; 11am to 12am Saturday; 11am to 11pm Sunday

5. The Halal Guys

Uber Eats delivery from The Halal Guys.Chicken over rice delivered straight to our hotel room.

As its name suggests, The Halal Guys is a halal fast-food franchise. It began as food carts in Manhattan and quickly spread to multiple locations across the state. And let me tell you, nothing beats a warm plate of chicken over rice after a night out drinking. Once you have a taste, you will be hooked!

Address: Multiple locations
Website: https://thehalalguys.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $
Hours: 10am to 4am Sunday through Thursday; 10am to 5am Friday and Saturday

6. Panna II Garden

Festive lights at Royal Bangladesh.Pictured is Royal Bangladesh. See below.

This one’s for those of you who can’t wait to start playing holiday jams right after Halloween and are completely obsessed with everything Christmas-related. Panna II Garden is an Indian restaurant that is decked out in festive lights all year round. It was most recently made famous by high school musical sweetheart, Vanessa Hudgens, who posted a picture here to Instagram. It got so popular that the family decided to open a second restaurant (Royal Bangladesh) right downstairs. Don’t be fooled though. The brothers behind this successful enterprise are super competitive. Waiters from each restaurant start hauling guests in from out on the streets and they are, if I may, quite aggressive!

Après dinner drinks at Royal Bangladesh.Après dinner drinks at Royal Bangladesh.

When we got here, we didn’t even realize they were two different restaurants and went straight into Royal Bangladesh. We also came on the same day as Raclette since the two are relatively close together. Having said that, we simply did not have any more space in our stomachs for food. Nonetheless, I do hear great things and can’t wait to be back again.

Address: 93 1st Avenue #2, New York, NY 10003, United States
Phone Number: +1 212-598-4610
Website: http://www.pannatwo.com/
Reservation: Even with a reservation, you can expect to wait ~90 minutes on busy nights. If you’re not a fan of waiting, I recommend avoiding regular meal hours.
Price: $
Hours: 12pm to 12am Monday through Sunday

7. Shake Shack

ShackBurger at Shake Shack.ShackBurger.

In-N-Out or Shake Shack is a classic debate amongst burger-lovers. While the former has a much longer history with origins starting in California in 1948, the latter originates from New York and actually sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park back in 2001. Having tried both, my vote goes to Shake Shack. Their patty is a lot juicier and their cheesy fries are worth gaining love handles for. They now have locations throughout the country, but why not try it in the very place it was created!

Address: Multiple locations
Website: https://www.shakeshack.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $$
Hours: Hours differ by location

8. Russ & Daughters Café

Breakfast at Russ and Daughters Café. Breakfast at Russ and Daughters Café.Lef: Super Heebster Bagel Toast (with whitefish and baked salmon salad, wasabi-infushed fish roe, and horseradish dill cream cheese). Right: Potato Latkes (with wild salmon roe and crème fraîche). I know they don’t necessarily photograph well, but hey, don’t judge a book by its cover!

If you’re looking for more of a sit-down alternative to Ess-a-Bagel, Russ & Daughters Café is a fantastic spot for satisfying your bagel cravings. Potato Latkes and Super Heebster are highly recommend dishes. Additionally, they have open-faced bagels and regular grab-and-go shops too. I actually enjoyed sitting at the bar in the café though. It felt like a very personal experience where we got to chat with the server and learn more about the menu + how their food is prepped.

Address: 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, United States
Phone Number: +1 212-475-4880 ext. 2
Website: http://www.russanddaughterscafe.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $$
Hours: 10am to 10pm Monday through Friday; 8am to 10pm Saturday and Sunday

9. Remi Flower & Coffee

Beautiful plants at Remi Flower and Coffee. Lavender latte at Remi Flower and Coffee.Lavender Latte.

On the list of “best places to eat in New York,” this definitely isn’t your usual pick. However, if you adore plants and beautiful latte art, this would be your cup of tea. Note that we were headed straight to Ess-a-Bagel after thus did not get to try the food here. Their baked goods looked and smelled absolutely divine and I’ll most certainly be back again for them!

Address: 906 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017, United States
Phone Number: +1 646-559-1233
Website: https://www.reminyc.com/
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $$
Hours: 7am to 7pm Monday through Friday; 8am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday

10. Lumaca

Dinner at HGU New York's newest Italian restaurant - Lumaca.Arancini. Mascarpone, black truffle, regiano, lemon aioli.

Dinner at HGU New York's newest Italian restaurant - Lumaca.Bistecca. NY strip steak, roasted marble potatoes, garlic, arugula.

Last but not least, my personal favorite for places you must eat in NYC: Lumaca. This Italian restaurant by celebrity chef John DeLucie recently opened in October 2019 and was a highlight of my trip in November. Dishes here are heavily influenced by DeLucie’s Southern Italian routes and aren’t what you would find at a typical Italian restaurant. I especially loved the Arancini and Bistecca and the service was superb as well. 10/10 would come again!

Address: 34 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016, United States*
Phone Number: +1 212-683-5894
Reservation: Not needed
Price: $$
Hours: 7am to 12pm Monday through Thursday; 7am to 12am Friday and Saturday; 7am to 11am Sunday

*Lumaca is housed within HGU New York. Click here for a full review of my stay.

There you have it. 10 must-eat places in NYC for first-timers!

Must Eat Places in New York for first time visitors.

Don’t forget to check out my latest New York vlog and if you’ve enjoyed this New York food guide, be sure to pin it to Pinterest for later. Now before you jet off, have a read on these helpful tips for visiting New York for the first time too. Otherwise as per usual, see you in the next post!


  1. December 18, 2019 / 3:32 am

    I like how you’ve given options for different types of cuisines, although the very first place with the bagels and the super variety of cream cheese totally caught my eye. I would also love to try Joe’s Pizza. I’m a fan of Raclette so not missing out on that one either. Love the interiors of Panna II Garden.

      December 18, 2019 / 1:07 pm

      Hi Medha, I definitely tried to include a bit of everything so I’m glad you enjoyed the guide! Maybe it’s time to plan a trip over to the Big Apple. Am I right? 😉

  2. December 18, 2019 / 1:28 pm

    Wow, this is fantastic. When I am in NYC, I usually head to Chinatown for some authentic Chinese food as the Western food that I had in NYC was typically expensive and so so. Your list is very helpful and makes me want to go back to NYC asap.

      January 19, 2020 / 12:33 am

      Happy to hear, Rudy! I feel you on the expensive part. Eating in New York basically costs an arm and a leg (maybe a kidney too if you hit up those really upscale places) XDDD

  3. December 18, 2019 / 2:31 pm

    Oh man, this list is awesome. And exactly what I need a couple weeks ago when I was in NYC. *sad trombone* We were so busy sightseeing, we didn’t really prioritize eating well. Next time, I’m just going to eat my way through the city with this fantastic list!

      December 19, 2019 / 12:38 am

      Oh no! That’s actually funny though because this was my second NY trip and my first was definitely more focused on sightseeing too. I’m sure you’ll get around to revisiting and next time you do, you’ll know which restaurants to hit up! 😉

  4. December 18, 2019 / 6:36 pm

    I made the mistake of reading this while slightly hungry. I feel like I need to get onto a place and get to Katz’s!

      December 19, 2019 / 12:39 pm

      Hahaa well I hope this inspires you to pay New York a visit sometime in the new year!

  5. December 19, 2019 / 7:19 am

    Shake Shack, of course, and those tops in ambience Panna II Garden and Remi Flower and Coffee Shop!!!

      December 20, 2019 / 12:47 am

      Sounds like you need to book a trip to New York this 2020!

  6. December 19, 2019 / 2:56 pm

    Oh my goodness, so much good food! That’s interesting to hear about the water quality in New York resulting in better bagels. Maybe that’s why they’re so popular there.

      December 20, 2019 / 12:47 am

      Right!? I always wondered why New Yorkers loved their bagels, but never knew this was the reason until my most recent visit!

  7. December 19, 2019 / 3:56 pm

    Oh my gosh! YUMMY 🙂 I love Katz, but havent tried the others. NY trip must happen soon now, these pics will help me “convince” my husband!!

      December 20, 2019 / 12:48 am

      Hahaa well I’m sure that after you show him this list, he won’t need much more “convincing” 😀

  8. December 21, 2019 / 6:53 am

    oh looks delicious options to eat in New York.As being an expensive city,I would like to know more about cheapest restaurants there?? I loved decor of Remi FLower and Coffee,so beautiful!. I am heading NYC in March 2020.Great List!!

      December 22, 2020 / 12:35 am

      Hi Mayuri, I have included general price point estimates as indicated by dollar signs for each restaurant. I would say you definitely get your bang of the buck at Ess-a-Bagel, Joe’s Pizza, and Halal Guys. Have fun in New York!

  9. December 21, 2019 / 11:38 am

    Wow, writing about the food scene in a city as massive as NY is quite an endeavor, but you’ve done a top-notch job! I love the variety of different options you present here, including some world-famous classics like Halal Guys and Shake Shack. Panna II Garden looks truly stunning, and as someone addicted to coffee, I need to go to Remi Flower & Coffee for that beautiful lavender latte!

      December 22, 2019 / 12:49 am

      Thanks so much, Kevin! My friend was actually the one who ordered the lavender latte and I had a butterfly pea flower tea latte myself, which I absolutely recommend as well. You would totally love Remi!

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