Eat Like a Local: NYC’s Best Neighborhood Restaurants

Credit: Ivan Ramen

Dining in New York City can feel overwhelming in the best way possible. From MICHELIN-starred destination restaurants to tiny stalls serving obscure regional dishes, one could eat out everyday for years and never return to the same restaurant. But some places are so special that they warrant a repeat visit. These are the comforting spots — some well-regarded, some off the radar, some fancy, some casual — that keep New Yorkers calling for takeout, returning for sidewalk tables and, in some not-so-distant-future, packing into dining rooms again and again. 

From Washington Heights to Rockaway Beach, meet NYC’s local favorites.

Brooklyn

Glasserie (Greenpoint) 

Greenpoint favorite Glasserie gained national attention upon opening in 2013 for the restaurant’s modern twists on Mediterranean cooking. Housed in an old glass factory just a block from the neighborhood’s waterfront, it was part of the first wave of ambitious openings in the neighborhood as restaurateurs began pushing north from hip Williamsburg. Seven years later, Glasserie has gracefully transitioned from buzzy new restaurant to neighborhood standby, where locals know a single meal could start with a straightforward order of silky labneh spread and grilled bread, then be followed by an unexpected preparation such as tuna confit tagine.  

Dining at the restaurant: Glasserie serves dinner and brunch indoors and on the restaurant’s chic outdoor patio, with heaters for cooler evenings.

Takeout: Glasserie offers takeout and delivery.  

Bunker (Bushwick) 

Equally beloved for the atmosphere and the food, Bunker’s popularity has fueled the Bushwick restaurant’s success for over seven years, even landing it a spot on Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list for inexpensive, high-quality food experiences. Chef/owner and Queens native Jimmy Tu combines his experience cooking in restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park with his love of homestyle Vietnamese cooking, resulting in technical but comforting dishes such as pho with grass-fed beef and bánh xèo, a Vietnamese pancake stuffed with wild shrimp, heritage bacon, bean sprouts, and herbs. 

Dining at the restaurant: Dine inside or on Bunker’s heated patio.

Takeout: Bunker offers takeout and delivery.

Rangoon (Crown Heights)

A bowl of tea leaf salad.

Credit: Rangoon

Rangoon’s neighbors in Crown Heights are fortunate, not only because Burmese food is rare in New York City, but also because their local spot happens to serve some of the city’s best. The restaurant’s chef-owner, Myo Moe, grew up in Myanmar and combines her lifelong knowledge of the country’s food with her experience in fine dining kitchens. If it’s your first time trying Burmese food, start with the classic tea leaf salad, which combines fermented Burmese tea leaves with tomato, cabbage, peppers, fried split peas, sesame seeds, and peanuts for a flavorful, textural combo that’s all its own. 

Dining at the restaurant: Dining is available indoors and on the restaurant’s custom, semi-enclosed outdoor dining structure, clad in wave-like shutters that allow individual sides to be opened or shut in order to block wind while maintaining air flow.  

Takeout: Rangoon offers takeout and delivery. 

Stone Park Cafe (Park Slope) 

Stone Park Cafe has stood on the corner of 3rd St and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope since 2004, churning out the type of American bistro food that feels comforting at any time of day, with a menu that changes frequently enough to warrant repeat visits. Ask any local though, and they’ll tell you the real star here is brunch, where reliable favorites like eggs benedict are served alongside unexpected breakfast dishes such as fried fish cakes with poached eggs and caper hollandaise. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently serving diners indoors and on its covered, streetside seating area.

Takeout: Stone Park Cafe offers takeout and delivery. 

Fragole (Italian)

Carroll Gardens has no shortage of Italian restaurants due to its history as a hub for Italian immigrants for much of the 19th century. In this competitive sea of red sauce, Fragole has a devoted following, beloved for its consistency and homemade breads and pastas. Diners will find excellent renditions of Italian-American classics such as chicken parmigiana and spaghetti with clams. But regulars will always ask about the daily specials; recent dishes included pan-fried burrata and grass-fed steak.

Dining at the restaurant: Fragole is currently serving dinner indoors and on its partially enclosed, heated sidewalk seating area. 

Takeout: Fragole offers takeout and delivery.

Alta Calidad (Prospect Heights)

A platter of tacos.

Credit: Liz Clayman for Alta Calidad

This Prospect Heights restaurant’s name translates to “high quality” in Spanish, a lofty goal that’s unsurprising given chef Akhtar Nawab’s time working for renowned chef Tom Colicchio and consulting for restaurants across the country. The restaurant lives up to the name, with a Mexican menu that’s creative yet faithful to the country’s food traditions. A touch of honey in the queso fundido turns the savory cheese dish into a sweet and salty medley, while fish tacos are roasted instead of fried and topped with an unusual combination of mango salsa, pistachio mole, and crispy shallots. This balance between new and old earned Alta Calidad a spot alongside Bunker on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, as well as a loyal local following. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently serving lunch and dinner indoors and on the restaurant’s street-side tables.

Takeout: Alta Calidad offers takeout and delivery.

Hills Place (Mill Basin) 

A plate of beef and greens.

Credit: Hills Place

The Mill Basin neighborhood sits where Brooklyn meets the waters of Jamaica Bay, conjuring up images of waterfront clam shacks in the minds of many New Yorkers. But locals know there is a wealth of cuisines to be found, such as Nigerian newcomer Hills Place. Stop by to warm up with a bowl of egusi soup, a common West African dish that’s thickened with dried seeds, packed with leafy greens and your choice of protein, and served with a side of pounded yams. 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available for brunch, lunch, and dinner. 

Takeout: Hills Place offers takeout and delivery.

Manhattan 

Ivan Ramen (LES) 

Residents of the Lower East Side are in an enviable position: their neighborhood ramen spot also happens to be run by chef Ivan Orkin, whose talent for noodles landed him acclaim in both Japan and the United States, along with a feature on Netflix’s documentary series Chef’s Table. Most ramen shops specialize in one style, but Ivan Ramen showcases Orkin’s encyclopedic knowledge of the dish, offering six different broth options and broth-less mazemen. Brave regulars swear by the spicy red chile ramen, a bowl of vibrantly colored broth that gives you a hint as to how many chiles went into its creation. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant’s ramen and more are currently being served indoors and in the restaurant’s backyard. 

Takeout: Ivan Ramen offers takeout and delivery.

Holiday Cocktail Lounge (East Village)

A whisky cocktail sits on a wooden bar.

Credit: Gabi Porter for Holiday Cocktail Lounge

Holiday Cocktail Lounge combines the bartending chops of a serious cocktail bar with the vibe and food of a very fun dive bar — an irresistible combination that makes it a favorite among locals and off-duty restaurant staffers alike. Grab a basket of the ultra-crispy buffalo wings or the restaurant’s hand-cut fries, then decide whether you’d like to wash it down with a classic cocktail like a Singapore Sling or a light beer — though the bartender will likely suggest that the answer is to order both. 

Dining at the restaurant: Drinks and food are currently available indoors and on the bar’s covered patio area. 

Takeout: Takeout is currently available by calling the bar. 

The Waverly Inn (West Village) 

Owned by former Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, The Waverly Inn spent most of the early 2000s serving as a semi-private clubhouse for luminaries of the media, art, and fashion industries. Though it’s much more accessible these days to the neighborhood, the atmosphere that drew people in remains: The Waverly Inn is a cozy, intimate restaurant housed in an 1800s townhouse that feels both a part of the West Village and representative of it. The restaurant is full of dramatic spaces, from the low lit, welcoming downstairs dining room to the airy, ivy-walled garden. Tavern classics such as fresh oysters, a reliable burger, a variety of pastas and hefty proteins make it the type of restaurant that fits the bill any night of the week.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently serving weekend brunch and dinner indoors and in its beautiful garden outdoor dining area. 

Takeout: The Waverly Inn does not offer takeout at this time. 

Dhaba (Murray Hill)

In a part of town filled with Indian restaurants, Dhaba stands out for the scale of its menu, the quality of its food and, prior to COVID, a stand-out lunch buffet. Focusing on Punjabi dishes from northern India, the extensive menu contains street food favorites such as pav baji, where buttery rolls are stuffed with vegetables in a spiced tomato sauce, a curry section that contains a dizzying array of proteins and base sauces, and more. 

Dining at the restaurant: Dhaba currently offers indoor and outdoor dining for small parties at the restaurant’s sidewalk tables. 

Takeout: Dhaba offers takeout and delivery.

Portale (Chelsea) 

If the name “Portale” rings a bell, it’s because the restaurant’s namesake chef, Alfred Portale, helmed the late fine dining destination Gotham Bar and Grill for almost forty years. Gotham has since closed, and Portale is bringing his precise, excellent cooking to Chelsea residents and (in the indoor days) office workers through the restaurant’s contemporary Italian menu. Featuring a greenmarket-driven menu that includes fresh pastas and grilled meats, diners can expect regional preparations like bolognese bianco, a version of the meat sauce that eschews tomatoes, served over housemade shell-shaped pasta. 

Dining at the restaurant: Portale is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, with service indoors and on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.

Takeout: Portale offers a la carte takeout and delivery.

Fonda (Chelsea and Park Slope)

Chef Roberto Santibañez serves up contemporary Mexican food at both locations of his Fonda restaurant, where his Mexico City roots inform the menus. Diners return to Fonda for the hand-pressed, fresh tortillas and made-to-order guacamole, along with an extensive menu that includes enchiladas, taquitos, and specialties such as the birria de borrego, a slow-braised lamb shank in guajillo broth.

Dining at the restaurant: Dine-in is available at both Fonda locations, in addition to covered outdoor dining.

Takeout: Pickup orders are available from the Chelsea and Park Slope locations via online ordering on the Fonda website.

Chelsea

Park Slope

La Sirène (SoHo & Upper West Side

A person spoons beans out of a bowl of cassoulet.

Credit: La Sirene

New York has experienced a bit of a French renaissance over the past few years, with well-funded, massive dining rooms opening across the city. La Sirène is the antithesis of this trend: a small neighborhood bistro that opened in the midst of the 2008 recession and against all odds, managed to expand and open a second location on the Upper West Side. In the winter, make sure to order the Toulouse-style cassoulet, a stew of white beans, duck confit, bacon, and pork sausage that comes with the warning, “This is a very rich dish which was served to warriors defending their village! Don’t take it if you can’t bear it.” 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and outdoor dining is available at both the SoHo and Upper West Side locations. 

Takeout: La Sirène offers takeout from the Upper West Side location. 

SoHo

UWS

Nippon (Midtown) 

Every New York zip code has a sushi spot, but Midtown residents have the original sushi spot. When Nippon opened in 1963, the restaurant was the first in the country to serve traditional sushi preparations, laying the groundwork for the now-ubiquitous food to take off in the United States. Today, Nippon operates with the confidence of a classic, serving well-executed sushi alongside other Japanese dishes, including one invented at the restaurant: beef negimayaki, where marinated strips of beef are rolled around grilled scallions. 

Dining at the restaurant: Nippon currently serves lunch and dinner at the restaurant’s indoors and outdoors on covered sidewalk seating.

Takeout: Nippon offers takeout and delivery.

Danji (Hell’s Kitchen)

This Hell’s Kitchen Korean spot is a favorite among neighborhood residents and savvy theatergoers alike, serving up small plates that range from the playful to the traditional and showcase Chef Hooni Kim’s training at restaurants such as Daniel and Masa. For instance, the kimchi poutine finds common ground between the Canadian bar food and Korean ingredients, smothering french fries in kimchi, cheesy corn, bacon, and sour cream, while the large plates sections features a restrained soy-poached black cod with spicy daikon radish. 

Dining at the restaurant: Danji is currently open for indoor and outdoor dining.

Takeout: Danji offers takeout and delivery.

Afghan Kebab House (Upper East Side)

Those in the know on the Upper East Side head to Afghan Kebab House for value and quality. Here, diners have the opportunity to try kabuli palau, a pilaf dish considered by many to be the national dish of Afghanistan. This hard-to-find dish features basmati rice studded with caramelized onions, carrots, raisins, and topped with pieces of tender lamb and is typically served to mark special occasions.  

Dining at the restaurant: Afghan Kebab House is currently serving lunch and dinner indoors and at the restaurant’s sidewalk tables.

Takeout: Afghan Kebab House offers takeout and delivery.

Cafe d’Alscace (Upper East Side)

Café d’Alsace serves up regional French fare; as the name suggests, the focus here is on food from the Alsace region of northern France that borders Germany and Switzerland. The influence of those neighbors can be felt in dishes such as choucroute garnie, a hearty dish of assorted sausages, smoked bacon, Riesling-braised sauerkraut, juniper berries, steamed potatoes, and served with a hefty side of Dijon mustard to cut through the richness. 

Dining at the restaurant: Reservations are available for lunch and dinner indoors and on the restaurant’s covered, sidewalk seating area.

Takeout: Café d’Alsace offers takeout. 

Atlas Kitchen (Upper West Side) 

Far from your standard Chinese restaurant, Atlas Kitchen quickly won the hearts of Upper West Siders with its large menu of regional Chinese dishes. Families and Columbia University students fill the tables, dining on everything from whole steamed fish heads covered in red chiles to Sichuan-style sautéed pig trotters. 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available.

Takeout: Atlas Kitchen offers takeout and delivery, including a special menu of seasonal lunch specials. 

Floridita (Washington Heights) 

Sandwich lovers trek to Floridita for its stellar Cubano, the pressed Cuban sandwich that layers roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. However, locals love the Cuban/Domincan restaurant for its 24-hour service, where one can get a plate of mashed plantains, salami, and fried cheese for breakfast, or the signature grilled ribeye steak for dinner. 

Dining at the restaurant: Floridita is a walk-in-only restaurant, open 24 hours. Indoor dining is available with limited seating.

Takeout: Place takeout orders online via Floridita’s website.

Queens

Bar Marseille (Rockaway Beach)

A plate of grilled oysters.

Credit: Bar Marseille

Despite opening its doors in the midst of a pandemic, Bar Marseille immediately filled a void in Averne, an eastern Rockaway neighborhood that until that point, had no upscale dining options and very few outdoor seating areas. Just a block from the ocean, it’s no surprise that the restaurant focuses on food from France’s southern coast. In cooler weather, warm up with bouillabaisse, the classic fish stew from Provence; in the summer, diners can sit on the restaurant’s rooftop patio and snack on grilled oysters alongside wine from the restaurant’s extensive, European-focused list. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant currently offers indoor seating, outdoor seating on its street-level sidewalk patio, and rooftop seating. 

Takeout: Bar Marseille offers takeout. 

New World Mall Food Court  (Flushing)

A caveat: this list mostly defines local favorites as quaint, small neighborhood spots. New World Mall Food court is the opposite; a 20+-stall food court in the basement of a mall that offers a one-stop-shop to experience a small cross section of the multitude of cuisines available in Flushing. From hand-pulled noodles at Zheng Zhou to the spice-laden dry pot (a type of stir fry with meat and vegetables) at Tian Fu, the food court here is a local favorite precisely because of the endless variety that feed families running errands, teenagers hanging out, and food tourists at the same time. 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is open for those that would prefer to dine in.

Takeout: All stalls offer takeout.

Rice x Beans (Woodside)

After working in Brazilian restaurants all over the city, Carlos Roberto Inácio struck out on his own in Woodside to bring the cuisine of his childhood to the neighborhood. For a good introduction to the country’s popular dishes, start with pão de queijo, an airy cheese puff, and share a bowl of feijoada, a hearty beef, pork, and black bean stew that’s served with rice and farofa, a crispy bowl of toasted manioc flour. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: Rice x Beans offers takeout and delivery. 

Akrotiri Seafood Taverna (Astoria) 

Akrotiri opened in 2018 which — by the standards of a neighborhood that’s been heavily Greek since the 1960s — makes it a relative newcomer. It quickly stood out for its deft handling of seafood, evident in both the simple, whole grilled fish and more complex dishes such as htapodokeftedes, a starter of octopus fritters served with an herbed yogurt sauce. Don’t miss the wine list — the focus is on Greek wines, making it one of the few places in the city to try grapes such as moschofilero and assyrtiko. 

Dining at the restaurant: Akrotiri offers reservations indoors and for the restaurant’s garden-like outdoor tables. 

Takeout: Akrotiri offers takeout. 

Bella Via (Long Island City)

You can’t go a block without hitting a pizzeria in New York City, but few have a distinctly neighborhood feel. Owned by a family with multi-generational roots in Long Island City, Bella Via can truly claim the mantle of neighborhood pizzeria. With a menu that serves coal-fired pizzas alongside Italian-American classics such as calamari and veal scallopini, it’s the type of restaurant that’s equally suited to movie night at home and date night out. 

Dining at the restaurant: Bella Via currently offers seating in its cozy dining room, or at the restaurant’s sidewalk patio tables. 

Takeout: Bella Via offers takeout and delivery.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Lauren McDowell contributed to this guide.