When it comes to culinary offerings, the Big Apple has much to offer, but old New York restaurants have made the city the tastemaker paradise it is today. The reputation and history of some of these places has reached far parts of the world. No matter how many years have passed since their opening, tourists and locals alike know they can always count on their favorite classics to remain the same. Let’s support New York culture and explore its history by eating at places that make you want to say, “I Love New York”.
High-End Eateries: for those looking to spend some dough
Tavern on the Green
The iconic Tavern on the Green was designed by Calvert Vaux and was built as a sheepfold in the 1880’s to house the 700 Southdown sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. As part of his park renovation, the building was transformed by Robert Moses into a restaurant in 1934. Although the property has had different owners and whatnot, patrons can savor the beautiful views Central Park has to offer, options to dine outdoors, an indoor dance floor, and one of the most lavish menus in Manhattan, curated by Executive Chef Tomasz Surowka, where one can experience classic dishes such as the juicy Roasted Organic Chicken paired with old fashioned mashed potatoes and roasted baby carrots, along with a plethora of side dishes and desserts like the classic Birthday Cake slice. (photos via @tavernonthegreen)
Tavern On the Green, West 67th St (betw Central Park W and West Dr), inside Central Park
Central Park Boathouse
Many have seen the Central Park Boathouse in classic New York City films such as “When Harry Met Sally” or in an episode of “Sex and the City” portraying Carrie and Big arguing at the restaurant and then falling into the lake. The Central Park Boathouse is over 150 years old and is considered a haven for romantics and for nature aficionados, as a rare tranquility within the ever-eclectic energy defining Manhattan is offered for patrons. For a bit of history, Calvert Vaux designed a two-story boathouse at the eastern end of the lake in 1874 for the purpose of compensating for the interruption of the view from the walk, as well as to better accommodate those who should wish to wait in the vicinity.As for the roof, a deck was created to cover awnings furnished with seats. The original building served for eighty years until the 1950’s, which had to be demolished by the time due to it being so run down. As a result, the current Boathouse took the former building’s place in 1954 and was financed with a gift from investment banker Carl Loeb. At the Central Park Boathouse, a lunch with girlfriends or coworkers is ideal, as the group can savor delicious appetizers such as warm baby beets topped with smoked blue cheese, toasted walnuts, warm pancetta, along with a drizzle of a savory sweet mustard maple vinaigrette. For a first course, ordering a Fish and Chips with Beer Batter dish for lunch is light and refreshing, which come with a side of celery root slaw, crushed fingerling potatoes and spicy aioli for dipping. (photo left via @centralparkboathouse)
Central Park Boathouse, Park Drive North, E 72nd St (Near E Drive inside Central Park)
Palm Court at the Plaza
Known to be a destination for Manhattan’s ionic Afternoon Tea experience for over 100 years, the Palm Court at the Plaza was restructured to include a grand bar, tea by Palais des Thés, and a fresh and revised menu consisting of American fare that’ll make your palates water through day and night. The Manhattan Afternoon Tea menu option is delightful, as classic sandwiches and savory bites such as the mouthwatering Plaza Chicken Salad and roasted prime rib sandwiches on multigrain are available. Treats such as freshly baked seasonal scones are provided and served warm with spreadables such as Devonshire Cream, Grapefruit Rosemary Curd, and House-Made Preserves. As sweet endings are always a must, pastries such as Huckleberry Compote Maple Cheesecake, eclairs, fruity tarts, and more are available. Of course, you can’t forget the glass of bubbly when attending an Afternoon Tea at Palm Court.
Palm Court at the Plaza, 768 5th Ave (betw 59th/60th St)
The Waverly Inn
Located in the West Village inside a red brick townhouse, is the Waverly Inn. It was built in the 1830s and is known to be the place where patrons can rub shoulders with the famous as well as the dead. The Waverly Inn has been a culinary sensation since the 1920s, however, it wasn’t the ideal gathering space for celebrities and ghosts. Nowadays, when one steps into the restaurant’s space, they are transported to old New York. The inn’s old-school vibe consists of decorations such as velvet curtains, floral wallpaper, and red banquettes – which is actually rare in today’s restaurants as all is very modern. You can’t go wrong with an order of Oysters on the Half Shell with sweet mignonette and the meaty Waverly Burger topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, with a side of savory french fries.
The Waverly Inn, 16 Bank Street (betw Waverly Place and W 4th St)
Opened in 1837 by the Delmonico brothers, it was a known fact that New York City didn’t have a proper restaurant, as there were only cafes and inns where diners didn’t have much control over menu offerings. Delmonico’s gave New York its first ever a la carte restaurant. Although the restaurant is temporarily closed, it was serving some of the iconic dishes which made their world debut at the historical locale over 180 years ago. The Delmonico’s Steak, known as the restaurant’s signature ribeye, never goes out of style and is a dish that many look forward to ordering once Delmonico’s opens its doors again.
Delmonico’s, 56 Beaver St (betw William/Broad St)
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Grand Central Oyster bar was first opened as the Grand Central Terminal Restaurant in 1913 and was operated by The Union News Company. Fast forward to 2022, the restaurant is now co-owned by Executive Chef Sandy Ingber, who began his career there as the fish buyer in 1990. Although Ingber revamped the menu, there are still classics such as the delectable and famous oyster pan roast, which comes with a variety of seafood items such as cherrystone clams, oysters, sea scallops, and more with sides of cream, butter, and clam juice for dipping.
Grand Central Oyster Bar, 89 East 42nd St (betw Park/Lexington Ave), inside Grand Central Station, lower level
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
Often voted as the most romantic restaurant in New York City, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is housed inside a historic carriage house built in 1767. The carriage house was used as a shelter for horses owned by Aaron Burr. Due to Aaron Burr’s tragic family history, the structure ended up getting passed on to the fire house next door. In the late 1890s Greenwich Village became an up-and-coming neighborhood and the carriage house was sold to its new owner, who transformed it into a pub and brothel. Since it is located on a discreet street, the carriage house was often an ideal place for illegal or secret activity. Around 1910 it became a silent movie house. It was not until 1973 that this famous location became the restaurant you see today. The popular and high-end restaurant is well-known for its elegant decor and fine American cuisine. While it is rumored to be haunted, it is also known as the most desired place to propose.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea, 17 Barrow St (betw Bleecker/W 4th St)
Keen’s Steakhouse owns the largest collection of churchwarden pipes on the planet. Pipe smoking was known since Elizabethan times to be beneficial for diminishing “evil homourse of the brain”, which began Keen’s pipe tradition in the early 20th century. Prior to 1885, Keens was also a part of the Lambs Club, which is a famous theatre and literary group founded in London, whose manager was Albert Keen. With its interesting history, this classic New York City restaurant’s menu has a variety of offerings that’ll make your mouth water. All the way from the Legendary Mutton Chop, Prime New York Sirloin, Prime T-Bone Steak, to more.
Keen’s, 72 West 36th St (betw 5th/6th Ave)
Historic Taverns: For those looking for a laid-back trek into the city’s past.
The tavern is considered to be a landmarked building which once served as a watering hole for some of the Founding Fathers of our nation. Fraunces Tavern is mainly famous for the time George Washington gathered a group of his officers for an event thanking them for their service nine days after the last of the British troops left American soil. Nowadays, the tavern hosts piano nights and still has classic staples on the menu, such as the tasty Grilled Cheese with a side of creamy Tomato Bisque. Of course, you can pair this iconic dish with a cocktail such as the Whiskey Sour, which is one to never go wrong with.
Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl St (betw Broad St/Coenties Slip)
Pete’s Tavern is New York City’s oldest original bar and restaurant. It was first built in 1851, which originally housed the Portman Hotel where a “grocery and grog store” were located downstairs on the main floor and were considered to be the first drinking establishment. Pete’s Tavern then became “Healy’s Café” in 1899, when it was bought by Tom and John Healy. In 1922, Peter D’Belle bought the space, which is where it gained its current name. Presently, the tavern’s dining rooms still remain in the exact same condition as they have been for the last two centuries and outdoor café is one of the oldest yet original outdoor cafés in all Manhattan, which dates back to the early 50’s when the European tradition of dining ‘al fresco’ became popular in the city. At Pete’s one can enjoy classics such as crispy O.Henry Chicken Wings with celery and Bleu Cheese for dipping, a scrumptious Shepherds Pie, with a Pete’s1864 House Ale to sip on.
Pete’s Tavern, 129 E 18th St (SE corner Irving Pl)
White Horse Tavern
Brought to Manhattan in the 1880s, White Horse Tavern is the second oldest run tavern in the city. The tavern was a longshoreman’s bar serving the men who worked the piers lining the Hudson river. “The Horse ‘’ also became popular with writers and artists in the early 1950’s, as the most renowned being Dylan Thomas who discovered the tavern to be a memory of his favorite haunts in his home, Wales. Kerouac and the Beat poets with many other literary players followed along with some of the most influential jazz musicians as well as the newly increasing folk and rock music scene. At White Horse Tavern, one can order a tender tasting burger, such as the Burger, Egg and Cheese, which contains a three ounce meat patty, cheddar cheese, onions, a fried egg, all on top of a buttered and toasted Martins Roll. Of course, since this is the epitome of a breakfast and lunch burger, an Espresso Martini would be the ideal cocktail to pair it with. (historic photo via @whitehorsetavern1880)
White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson St (betw 11th/Perry St)
Patrick Henry Carley opened the Landmark Tavern in 1868. During these times, there was no 12th Avenue, as all that was visible were views of the Hudson river, which Landmark Tavern sat on. Carley and his wife designed their saloon to be a home for their children on the second and third floors as well, which remained as a family home until the prohibition forced them to turn the third floor into a speakeasy. Nowadays, Landmark Tavern still holds that classic old New York charm. With this being said, grab a seat and order some Irish Bangers over creamy mashed potatoes topped with caramelized onions, green peas and rich gravy with a sweet Henry Carley cocktail, which is made of white rum, pineapple juice, grenadine syrup, and a lime garnish. (photos via @the_landmark_tavern)
Landmark Tavern, 626 11th Ave (betw 45th/46th St)
P.J. Clarke’s has been serving the city since 1884 and continues to serve patrons the same things: fresh food, frosty drinks and good, old-fashioned conversation. The bar was owned by Patrick J. Clarke, an Irish immigrant who was hired in the early 1900s by Mr. Duneen who ran the saloon. After working for Duneen for ten years, Clarke bought the bar and changed the name. The building where P.J. Clarke’s is located in was originally a four-story structure and lost its top two floors when the skyscraper was buit in the late 1960’s. Key personalities such as Buddy Holly proposed to his fiancée at P.J. Clarke’s in June of 1958 and Nat King Cole publicly announced that the P.J. Clarke’s bacon cheeseburger was “the Cadillac of burgers” in the 1950’s. At P.J. Clarke’s, you can still find classics such as a 12 ounce Newport Steak Frites, a Stacked New York Corned Beef Sandwich, and more on the menu for your palate to taste at this special tavern. (photos via @pjclarkes)
P.J. Clarke’s, 915 Third Avenue (betw 56th and 57th St)