June 17, 2024

12 Amazing Hidden Gem Restaurants In New York City

New York is one of the food capitals of the world. Culinary delights – expensive and cheap – can be found in every nook and cranny of the city. Some New York specialties are well known. Think Katz’s, Balthazar, Carmine’s, Momofuku, Sylvia’s, or any of a dozen places. Even the ubiquitous Gray’s Papaya and Nathan’s hot dog carts are a must experience in New York.

If you want a more local culinary experience, this list is for you. Here are a handful of local favorites from New York. Price ranges vary (and “expensive” means something different to New Yorkers than it does to many others). Here are my favorite places for comfort food or a celebratory meal.


1. Pearl Dinner

New York City diners are a dying breed. Unfortunately, many have closed in the last decade. One that remains is the Pearl Diner Online Game. Located in the financial district and surrounded by newly built high-rise offices, Pearl Street has been serving food since the 1960s. The prices don’t seem to have changed much and neither has the decor.

If you’re looking for simple, good, and cheap diner food while in the Financial District or South Street Seaport, Pearl’s is a short walk away. You’ll find this little one-story diner on Pearl Street that you know Dinner sign on the outside. Prices have increased since COVID, but you can still get one egg and bacon sandwich for $5.50.

Street view of Hector’s Cafe & Diner

Photo credit: Sue Davies / travelforlifenow.com

2. Hector’s Cafe & Diner

Hector’s is an old school cafe located near the Meatpacking District and the High Line. It’s a flash from the past – a New York City restaurant from 1949. Back then, it served workers from the nearby meat markets. Now, most of the meat markets are gone, but Hector’s remains because of an agreement with the city that lowers the rent and expires in 2032. Expect formica tables, greasy burgers, and fries — everything you could want from a diner.

Cuban-Chinese cuisine

Cuban-Chinese restaurants are known to native New Yorkers, but not so much to travelers. Chinese immigrants in Cuba created Cuban-Chinese cuisine, sometimes called Chino Latino, in the mid-1880s. After the Cuban revolution, many of them left the island and made their way to New York. Thank God, they brought the art with them. Think pork with black beans (but black beans are Chinese, not Latin) or Chinese pork dishes with plantains. These are old-style Cuban-Chinese restaurants, not the newer (and more expensive) fusion version.

3. May flower

Since the late 1980s, we have been going to The flower of May, a pioneer of Cuban-Chinese cuisine located on the Upper West Side. They do excellent Peruvian chicken along with Spanish and Chinese dishes. Be sure to check out the signature cocktails, especially the Nutcracker. Chicharrones de pollo is one of our favorites.

Pro Tip: At Dynasty is another good option.

Jewish art

Many travelers go to Katz’s for pastrami sandwiches when in New York. And it has the best pastrami in the city. It also has the longest line in the city – often 2 hour waits on weekends. To beat the line, arrive by 11:15 am – there will probably still be a line, but it will be shorter.

For hidden gems on the Lower East Side, try Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery or Bagels Kossar & Bialys. Next door, you’ll find The Pickle Guys.

Out in front of Yonah Schimmel

Out in front of Yonah Schimmel

Photo credit: Daniel M. Silva / Shutterstock.com

4. Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery

Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery serves authentic kasha knishes, egg creams, and blintzes. It has been open since the early 1900s and the décor looks like it has never changed. The knishes are still baked in the basement and brought up by a dumbwaiter.

The knishes are not the square ones you see at hot dog stands. Yonah Schimmel knives are round with a thin shell. Traditional varieties are kasha (buckwheat) and potatoes. There are many other varieties, including spinach, red cabbage, and mushroom, too. And the cherry cheese blintzes are very good. Due to COVID, the seating area is closed. You will need to take your knives to leave.

By the way, egg cream has no eggs – it’s made with seltzer and chocolate syrup. If you’ve never tried one, Yonah Schimmel’s is the perfect place for your first taste.

Asian cuisine

Did you know that there are Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn in New York? Or, that Koreatown is around the corner from Penn Station? Or that Curry Row is on East 6th Street in the East Village? New York is obviously a great place to expand your Asian culinary experience. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in New York that are known for serving diverse Asian cuisine.

5. Taste

Feel in the Village serves some of the best Malaysian food in the city. Malaysian food is one of the original fusion cuisines. It emerged long before fusion became popular and brings together Chinese, Indian and Malay spices and flavors. If you’ve never eaten it, your trip to New York is the time to do so.

If you like spicy food, try the spicy beef rendang or chili crab, Singapore’s national dish. If you prefer noodles, the slightly spicy Drunken Man and the delicious glass noodles are great options. Rasa also serves sushi and Thai food. The restaurant is mid-range in terms of price; appetizers run $7 and up while noodles cost $15 and entrees start at $22.

Rasa is a great place to have brunch before or after NYC Pride because it’s on the march route.

6. Correbaile

Do you want to try Korean food? Or maybe you already love it and you are in the mood for kimchi or biobop? Koreatown is the place to go.

Try it Kunjip for its lunch specials, including side dishes of kimchi, bean sprouts, and purple rice. Come hungry – the servings are big and a great way to experience Korean food. If you don’t have kimchi, it’s a pickled and fermented vegetable (generally cabbage). It has a sharp and slightly spicy taste. We highly recommend the broiled mackerel lunch special.

Looking for a sweet dessert? Slip in Food Gallery32where you can find churros, Chinese bubble tea, or even green tea lava cake!

Or, pop into H-Mart, a Korean grocery store at 38 W. 32nd Street, for some ice cream or crunchy snacks like fried anchovies with peanuts.

Want to have a midnight barbecue after an event at Madison Square Garden? Check out New Wonjo for its excellent beef and authentic barbecue. The restaurant stays open late – until 4 am during the week and 24 hours at the weekend.

7. Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles

Delicious Hand Noodles Chinatown has the best hand-pulled noodles. Hand-pulled noodles are chewy and – surprise! — drawn by hand. You can look into the kitchen and watch them being made. Not much to look at, this tiny restaurant only has a few tables and serves knife-cut noodles, wide rice noodles, pan-fried noodles, dumplings, and other rice dishes. Stick to the noodles and you won’t go wrong. The food is a bit greasy but very satisfying. A bowl of noodles costs about $6.

This is pizza

This is pizza

Photo credit: Sue Davies / travelforlifenow.com


You can’t go to New York and not try the pizza. The locals have their own preferences. Two cheaper places are Keste Pizza e Vino and Sal & Carmine.

8. Keste Pizza And Wine

installments great for a relaxing lunch with a glass of wine and pizza. The salads are great too – but don’t miss out on the pizza. They also have a pizza academy if you want to try your hand at making your own. It is a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge or the financial district.

9. Sal & Carmine Pizzas

Currently run by grandson Sal, Sal & Carmines is a small joint with excellent pizza on the Upper West Side. They have been making pizza for over 60 years. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to grab one of the two small tables on the side. Our two favorites are the margherita and the Sicilian slices.

There are so many hidden gem restaurants in Manhattan that it’s hard to narrow them down to just these few. Try some of these and spend time discovering more on your own!

Big Apple bound? The New Yorker reveals what travelers need to know about transportation in the city, as well as 25 things to expect when visiting New York for the first time.

More Hidden Gems of New York City

10. Joint Burger Committee

Going to the Joint Burger Committee at the exclusive Thompson Central Park Hotel (formerly the Parker Meridien) always puts a smile on my face. A room at the Parker Meridien will cost you $1,000+ per night. A burger at the Burger Joint will set you back about $10. When you walk into the well appointed lobby, you will see a heavy, long curtain. Behind the curtain is the Burger Joint. And we mean it joint. Picture wood panels with carved initials and vinyl seats.

New Yorkers know this secret spot and there can be a line at lunchtime. There are no reservations. The burgers, fries, and milkshakes are all very good. And the brownies are to die for. A simple meal of burgers, fries, beer and a brownie will cost you less than $25. And, you get to eat behind the curtain.

Inside Mercado Little Spain in New York City

Inside Mercado Little Spain in New York City

Photo credit: Mercado Little Spain

11. Mercado Little Spain

Hudson Yards is Manhattan’s most exciting new neighborhood. The climb to the top of the Ark – a unique structural landmark – will give you a very interesting view of the city and New Jersey. After all that climbing, you’re going to be hungry, and if none of the restaurants within Hudson Yards are calling you, you can take the stairs down to street level. Search for Mercado Little Spain. You will be glad you did.

Created by internationally recognized chef Jose Andres, Mercado Little Spain is an upscale Spanish food market. There’s everything from great grilled foods at Lena to seafood at Mar to pork sausages (and everything else) at the Spanish Diner. If you are looking for a lighter fare or something to snack on, the empanadas are unique and delectable.

12. Bearded pope

If you haven’t tried a cream puff from Pope beard, you are missing out. Beard Papa’s cream puffs have the perfect crust with a luscious cream filling. There are three locations in New York (Flushing, Midtown, and the Upper West Side), and a cream puff from any of them will make the perfect evening treat.

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