New York City is always ahead of the curve, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its thriving restaurant scene. Hot and hopeful “see-and-be-seen” eateries come and go, but most crash and burn within five years. However, a number of venerable New York restaurants have withstood the test of time, continuing to thrive and please palates for decades. Every New Yorker has their fave, but these 10 should be on every foodie’s bucket list.
56 9th Ave. | | New York, NY 10011 | (212) 242-9040
New Yorkers love a good steak and nowhere is that craving better met than at this stately shrine to beef. Established in 1868, The Old Homestead’s elegant, sumptuous atmosphere and fabulous food combined to make this steakhouse a meatpacking district institution, way before it was trendy to dine there. Sirloin, porterhouse and filet mignon are served uber-sized and are melt-in-your-mouth tender. It will be hard to leave room for dessert but try to; the World Famous Cheesecake and Big Fat Chocolate Cake are not to be missed.
178 Broadway | Brooklyn, NY 11211 | (718) 387-7400
Some say the Williamsburg Bridge was built specifically so Manhattanites could easily get to this second-to-none Brooklyn gem. Established in 1887 by Peter Luger and run by the Forman family, this Michelin Star restaurant is known for its meticulous meat selection process and on-site dry-aging facility. A simple menu features steak and other beef-based comfort foods, lamb chops and fish, plus appetizers and legendary sides like creamed spinach, German fried potatoes and onion rings. The restaurant’s German roots are kept alive through traditional, unchanged recipes from the old days, like crisp, flaky apple strudel with a hefty helping of schlag.
205 E. Houston St. | New York, NY 10002 | (212) 254-2246
In its present location since 1917, Katz’s Deli has been welcoming guests to the Lower East Side with an unmistakable, signature combination of mock-surly service and astonishing salami for decades. Remaining true to its immigrant roots, the menu is peppered with Yiddish words and features a wait staff more than willing to translate a phrase or two. The pastrami and corned beef are cured slowly in the old-world style with no injected water, additives or chemicals and are not to be missed. Overstuffed sandwiches like brisket and knoblewurst are large enough to feed an army, but don’t even think about eating here without sampling the matzo ball soup first.
2911 W. 15th St. | Coney Island, NY 11224 | (718) 266-4891
Unparalleled, old-world Neapolitan food and a tell-all-your-friends advertising strategy has made Gargiulo’s Restaurant Coney Island’s best-kept secret since 1907. Grandly appointed and cavernous, Gargiulo’s features simple and good, old-style Italian food. The veal is paper thin and the baked clams perfectly prepared. Mushroom risotto is a specialty and the cannoli is well worth the calories.
129 E. 18th St. | New York, NY 10003 | (212) 473-7676
Equal parts cozy and eclectic, Pete’s is NYC’s oldest, continually operating eatery. A Gramercy Park hangout where the food is only equaled by the crowd, Pete’s serves distinctive house ale with an unchanged recipe made popular in 1864 and an Italian-American menu of crowd-pleasing favorites. The Spaghetti a la Pete’s and Sauteed Chicken Livers will haunt your dreams. Pete’s also serves a great selection of perfectly prepared juicy burgers and fried, melt-in-your-mouth zucchini spears.
915 3rd Ave.| New York, NY 10022 | (212) 317-1616
Now boasting multiple locations, , P.J. Clarke’s on Third Avenue has remained practically unchanged since its humble opening on shanty-town row in 1884. An easy-going vibe and satisfying, basic menu has kept crowds flocking to the red brick building since the good old days when Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole could often be seen enjoying a burger or a shot of Jack at the bar. Coined a cultural and architectural hold-out, P.J. Clarke’s food has shifted with the times — even if its ambiance has not. Originally opened to feed hungry, Irish laborers, some of the original recipes are still on the menu such as oysters and pork buns. New favorites include kale and avocado salad, Buffalo chicken breast and what many consider the best hamburgers in town.
84 Court St. | Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201 | (718) 596-5955
Serving superior, red sauce Italian since 1958, Queen, as the place is called by locals, is the restaurant of choice for the legal set who make their way to Brooklyn’s court district each day. A welcoming combination of boisterous friendliness and almost-elegance, Queen is always packed, and for good reason. The food never fails to please, the service is always friendly and the prices are relatively reasonable. A family-run business for three generations, Queen’s specialties are old-world favorites mastered in the family’s kitchen decades ago. Simple, honest ingredients and a customer-is-king mentality have kept this Brooklyn gem popular since its opening.
32 Spring St. | New York, NY 10012 | (212) 941-7994
Serving NoLita before it was NoLita, Lombardi’s is, for many, the only place to get thin-crust, coal-oven, New York-style pizza in the city. Opened in 1905 by immigrants from the old country, Lombardi’s was the very first pizzeria to operate on this side of the Atlantic and is thought to be the birthplace of pizza as we know it in America. Customer favorites are the clam pizza and grandma’s meatballs. The simple, cash-only establishment also serves its own homemade wine.
Grand Central Oyster BarGrand Central Terminal
89 E. 42nd St. | New York, NY 10017 | (212) 490-6650
A hidden, vaulted enclave operating under Grand Central Station since 1912, Grand Central Oyster Bar has been welcoming customers since the train terminal first opened its doors. Now known for perfectly prepared raw bar oysters, shellfish and a vast array of seafood specialties, the original establishment may have been seedy at best, but served a delicious oyster stew that had no rival. Commuters and purveyors of excellent seafood alike now flock here daily to enjoy an extensive menu of the freshest catch of the day and large selection of beers from around the world.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.