Great places to eat near the city’s major sights are:
The south end of Central Park is all tired-looking horses pulling carriages and people riding overpriced rented bicycles. But stroll to Harlem, at the northern tip of the park and there’s a wealth of good food. Amy Ruth’s is six blocks north of the top end of Central Park and offers real southern cuisine. The Rev Al Sharpton, named after the New York civil rights activist, is a $15.50 chicken and waffle feast. For sides, there are collard greens, candied yams and mac and cheese. Open until 5am on Friday and Saturday.
• 113 West 116th Street, amyruths.com
The High Line
This mile-and-a-half-long park on an elevated, disused railway line is fun and free but can be packed with tourists. Duck off it at Chelsea Market for posh bakeries, cafes, chocolates and the like. The market is also home to Friedman’s restaurant, which offers American fare and is relatively cheap for the area. The food is nothing fancy – burgers and sandwiches at lunch – but it’s in a good setting and the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich ($17), which comes with kale slaw and habanero-infused honey, is particularly good. Friedman’s also prides itself on its gluten-free dishes.
• 75 9th Avenue, friedmansrestaurant.com
Empire State Building
There are a lot of Irish sports bars near this landmark. But it’s also close to Koreatown, with all the magic that has to offer. Mandoo is a narrow little restaurant with wooden booths. The service is swift and the food is great. Mandoo means dumpling, and this is what it specialises in: they are handmade on site. The mool mandoo – $9.24 for 10 – are filled with pork and vegetables and perfect for a quick post-big building meal.
• 2 West 32nd Street, mandoobarnyc.com
This Brooklyn neighbourhood may not be as cool as it once was but it has good views of the city. Head away from main drag Bedford Avenue for the best eateries – either east for Mexican-French fare (it works) at Santos Anne (366 Union Avenue) or south, for tacos and quesadillas at La Superior. This is a tiny, hip spot with burly wooden benches and rough-and-ready service. The taco de lengua, with beef tongue, costs $3.50 and is delicious. The margaritas are $7 and boozy.
• 295 Berry Street, lasuperiornyc.com
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Nom Wah is the oldest restaurant in Chinatown, and offers some of the best dim sum around. The pork buns are splendid, as are the eggy phoenix buns for dessert. Nom Wah is also said by many to have some of the best chicken feet in the city. It can get busy at peak dim sum hours (until 2pm) but the food comes out fast and there’s plenty of it. Mr Fong’s, where young(ish) things drink strong cocktails and listen to trendy DJs, is a couple of blocks east under Manhattan Bridge.
• 13–15 Doyers Street, nomwah.com
World Trade Center
There isn’t a wealth of options in the financial district around One World Trade Center, but after taking the elevator to the observatory, on the 102nd floor, and pausing by the twin reflecting pools that form part of the 9/11 memorial, you can at least get a good coffee. Laughing Man, in the Mercantile Building, is owned by Hugh Jackman and donates all its profits to charity. It’s also right on the Hudson and does a great flat white. Take your cup outside and gaze across the water towards New Jersey. It was on this stretch of river that pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger famously landed his plane in 2009 after it struck a flock of geese.
• 1 North End Avenue, laughingmanfoundation.org
The Staten Island ferry is famously free and famously goes right past the Statue of Liberty. Most people get to Staten Island then turn around and head back to Manhattan – which is a shame because Beso, a relaxed Spanish restaurant with a rustic interior – is only a five-minute walk from the terminal. For the best value come during happy hour – Monday to Friday, 3pm until 6pm. Select tapas cost between $2 and $5, and there are drinks specials for $3. Try the lamb chop and the hierbas de vieiras – scallops wrapped in honey bacon.
• 11 Schuyler Street, besonyc.com
Metropolitan Museum of Art
William Greenberg Desserts
One block east of the Met, between 82nd and 83rd streets on Madison Avenue, is William Greenberg Desserts. The 69-year-old bakery is known for its black and white cookies: soft, round cake-biscuits with half white icing and half black icing. The rugelach – a Jewish dessert with flaky pastry and a chocolate or fruit filling – also brings in the locals. There’s no seating in here but Central Park and its benches are just around the corner.
• 1100 Madison Avenue, wmgreenbergdesserts.com
Someone in the group always wants to go to Times Square. The key to a successful trip is convincing them that you can get a sense of it in less than two minutes. Once that’s over with, head to Poketown, a Hawaiian-style pokebowl joint on 39th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. The bowls are cheap and healthy, and the seating upstairs offers a welcome escape from this frantic part of midtown. The signature tuna wasabi aioli bowl ($11.50) has plenty of fresh tuna, and is nice and spicy. It also offers an unusual, but tasty octopus burrito.
• 302 West 39th Street, poketownny.com