Drinking & dining around New York City: 14 tried and tested tips

If you’ve already taken in the major sights, in my opinion the best way to see New York is on foot, exploring the different neighbourhoods at street level. What better way to choose your path than via some of the many fine providers of sustenance?

Too help you find these places, here’s a handy map

An artist sketches the oldest pub in New York


McSorley’s Old Ale House  Noho

You only get two choices at New York’s oldest pub, light or dark beer, and it’s served in half pint mugs, 2 for $5. Authentic grime coats the weird and wonderful décor, like the row of turkey wishbones hanging over the bar. A piece of NY history.

Burp Castle  East Village

“Run by Brewist Monks since 1022” this is a temple to beer drinking and no loud talking is allowed. Just like in the Sistine Chapel, the crowd gets shushed if it gets too noisy.

The Pony Bar  Hell’s Kitchen

Specialising in American craft beers, the Pony Bar serves a changing roster of brews with the selection displayed on a board behind the bar. We tried three summer brews, all very good.

The Bubble Lounge   Tribeca

A stylish champagne bar, serving a wide selection of premium champagnes by the glass. Not cheap, but perfect for a celebration.

Mad Dog and Beans Financial District

Take a break from the discount shopping meccas or console yourself over stockmarket losses with possibly the best frozen margaritas in New York. Great outdoor seating area for summer too.

Terroir on the porch  High Line

Fine wines al fresco on the High Line (and a selection of beers). I was surprised how easy it was to get a seat, given it’s the only bar on the former railway line turned park.


Torrisi Italian Specialties   NoLita

We had the 20 course Chef’s Menu, an absolute triumph of culinary artistry. One for special occasions, unless you’re wealthy, but this was a meal that satisfied all the senses. Truly one of the most memorable meals of my life, I only wish I could have memorised the waiter’s wonderful descriptions of each course. The souvenir menu is a great reminder of the night, but doesn’t begin to capture how astonishing each dish was.

Olieng Thai  Hell’s Kitchen

At the other end of the budget spectrum, this tiny hole-in-the wall serves delicious Thai food at bargain prices. The Tom Kha Gai was one of the best I’ve ever had, fragrant and comforting. And the friendly and cheeky service (he ribbed us for ordering Singha, saying ‘do Australians drink Fosters? Well, I don’t drink Singha’) was an added bonus.

Salinas  Chelsea

Superb Spanish food in a lovely, relaxed setting. We went to try the famed suckling pig which, on the night, was a little dry (although the crackling was to die for!) but everything else was fantastic, with their quail having us in raptures.

La Esquina  NoLita

I’ve never been to Mexico but I’d be surprised if street food is really this good. Fabulous soft tacos, brilliantly balanced flavours. We had to queue but only for 10 minutes.

Fatty Cue West Village

Barbecue with an East Asian twist. The pork items are their speciality but we also loved the duck with flat bread. Good, original cocktails too.

Grimaldi’s Pizza Dumbo (Brooklyn)

My only qualified recommendation. Grimaldi’s coal oven baked pizzas are a Brooklyn legend and people start queuing before it even opens. The pizzas are great and the new location is an historic site but the indifferent service really detracted from the experience. I have the superb Franco Manca on my doorstep, so I wouldn’t bother again. Relatives of the original owners are opening up a rival on the site of the original Grimaldi’s store…the start of pizza wars?

And for dessert

Veniero’s Pasticceria  East Village

When in New York, eat New York-style cheesecake. Veniero’s has been satisfying the sweet tooth of New York since 1894 and still get voted best desserts in the city. Wash it down with a giant glass of ruby port.

Drinking and Dining

Earl’s Beer and Cheese   East Harlem

I’ve saved the best for last. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but for me Earl’s Beer and Cheese was the perfect storm of great food, great beer and great service, all at very reasonable prices. Earl’s is announced by a simple wooden sign out the front, you have to know what you’re looking for. It started as a bar and they started serving grilled cheese sandwiches before hiring a chef who’d worked at Momofuku to design the short but sweet menu. We had the Beer Cheese – New York cheddar whipped with lager and served with garlic and toast – and one of their astonishing Grilled Cheese sandwiches – New York cheddar, pork belly, kimchi and fried egg on sourdough.

If there’s a better accompaniment to a cold beer I don’t know what it is. They serve a changing roster of draft beers and a selection of canned beer. The charming, friendly service – including cheery goodbye’s from the kitchen staff – topped off the experience. Work up a good thirst by walking uptown through Central Park if East Harlem is a little out of your way.

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