Anthony Bourdain’s Ultimate List of Top 10 NYC Restaurants

Last Updated on April 5, 2021 | 0 Comments
Visit These Anthony Bourdain Approved New York City Spots
Last Updated on April 5, 2021 | 0 Comments

Anthony Bourdain’s favorite NYC restaurants showcase exactly why he regarded New York City as the greatest city in the world.

Tony called the city this home for many years, basing his book Kitchen Confidential around the bustling metropolis and launching his career at Brasserie Les Halles.

So if anyone knows The Empire State, it's Tony. We followed his footsteps to create this map of must-try bars and some of the best places to eat in NYC. But first, you’ll dive in-depth into our top 10 picks of Anthony Bourdain's most-loved NYC restaurants in honor of Bourdain Day — Anthony's birthday — on June 25th. 

Ranging from delis to Michelin-starred eateries to warm and cozy restaurants, there's something on this list for everyone to celebrate on #BourdainDay. Get out there and celebrate the great food, the amazing people and the city that brings them together. As Tony famously quoted: "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."

 

Map of Anthony Bourdain's favorite New York restaurants

 

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Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Baltimore based Chef Skiz appeared on an episode of No Reservations, showing Bourdain around Sri Lanka after sending him an email offer out of the blue to do just that.

Skiz noted that Bourdain helped him to shine a spotlight on the country and tell the story of its people, culture and food. "That experience in itself would have been enough," he states, "but [his] generosity extended even further." Skiz tells us that Bourdain promoted his self-published book during the episode, leading Skiz to get a proper publishing deal and land a spot on the New York Times list of best cookbooks for that year.

Skiz notes that Bourdain's actions toward him, someone he barely knew, was "more the rule than the exception" and accounted for the type of person Tony was.

So, who was Tony? Skiz declared that Tony was just as you'd expect. "The Tony you see on camera is the one you get in real life," he notes, "the type of dude that a lot of people would have loved to sit down and have a beer or share a meal with." Skiz explains that he was one of the lucky ones that actually got to do that.

Tony was "cool, humble, down to earth and [used his] position to make a difference," he elaborates further of late Bourdain.

We couldn't agree more. Here's to you, Chef, and your New York City.

Anthony Bourdain and his New York City
via Skiz Fernando

Anthony Bourdain's Top NYC Restaurants

1. The Heidelberg

The Heidelberg restaurant team shared the photo below with us, a shot of Bourdain enjoying the "house specialty: A pork shank and boot of beer." 

The dish, called Schweinshaxe, consists of a "crispy and terrifyingly proportioned pork shank" that, according to Anthony, is "tender, delicious, falling off the freaking bone." Served simply with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, it's easy to see why this meal from the Upper East Side German staple is so famous. Established in 1936, Heidelberg is one of the oldest family-run German restaurants in the US, and a must-see on your tour of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite NYC restaurants.

  • Heidelberg - German | 1648 2nd Ave, New York

Bourdain enjoying Heidelberg in New York City
via The Heidelberg

2. Sunny's Bar

This quirky Red Hook bar has been around for a long time — since the 1890s, to be exact. Anthony visited Sunny's Bar in a Brooklyn-themed episode of No Reservations, noting that the joint seemed completely unchanged by time. 

Sunny's late owner, Sunny Balzano, confirmed that's kind of the point. "You walk through," he said, "you feel the history of time." In a place like New York that's constantly changing, Sunny's serves as an homage to the city's story. Stop by this old fishermen's dive bar for live music, cheap beer, a glimpse into the past and a taste of one of Anthony Bourdain’s top NYC restaurants.

  • Sunny's Bar - Bar | 253 Conover St, Brooklyn

Have a beer at Sunny's bar to visit one of anthony bourdain's favorite NYC restaurants
via Sunny's Bar

3. Burger Joint

Midtown's Burger Joint not only holds a coveted spot as one of Anthony Bourdain’s most beloved NYC restaurants, but also as one of his favorite New York City burger spots. 

Nestled inside Parker New York hotel, Anthony called the teeny restaurant (room, really) one of the city's "great incongruities" that you'd never even know was there. Burger Joint specializes in no-frills burgers, milkshakes and à la mode brownies. There's beer and wine on the menu, too, but take Tony's advice and "get your sh*t together" before ordering, or else you'll be sent to the back of the (very long) line.

  • Burger Joint - Burgers | 118 W 57th St, New York

 Burger Joint is one of anthony bourdain's favorite NYC restaurants
via New York Magazine

 

Anthony Bourdain on New York City

4. Minetta Tavern

While we've already highlighted a great no-frills burger option above, the next of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite NYC restaurants features their own next-level patty.

Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village has an infamous Black Label Burger that costs a whopping $33, which is expensive even by New York City standards. What makes it so noteworthy? "A special blend made just for them by Meat Master General of New York, Pat LaFrieda," Tony explained.

  • Minetta Tavern - French fare and burgers | 113 MacDougal St, New York

Try the $33 Black Label Burger from Minetta Tavern
via Minetta Tavern

5. Keens Steakhouse

"Our favorite quote from Bourdain's visit to Keens is 'Holy sh*t!,' but I'm not sure that would be permitted," Bonnie Jenkins of Keens tells us. The classic Midtown steakhouse has welcomed hungry customers since 1885, and today holds a special place as one of Anthony Bourdain’s picks for best NYC restaurants.

For cuts of meat the size of your head, Bourdain recommended the steakhouse because "at Keens, it's all about the meat." For juicy USDA Prime steaks and an impressive Single Malt collection, you're hard-pressed to find better in New York City than Keens.

  • Keens Steakhouse - Steaks and seafood | 72 W 36th St, New York

Keens Steakhouse in Midtown is a classic for USDA Prime steaks
via Keens Steakhouse

6. Ali's Kabab Cafe

For the more adventurous diners, the next honor of Anthony Bourdain’s recommended NYC restaurants goes to Ali's Kabab Cafe in Astoria, Queens. On an episode of No Reservations, he highlighted the Egyptian restaurant with fellow fearless chef and eater Andrew Zimmern. 

You won't find a menu or traditional dining experience at Ali's Kabab Cafe, but rather a sampling of chef Ali El-Sayed's famous, unique dishes. When Bourdain dined at Ali's, he ordered beef shank with cow’s foot, sweetbreads and brains with lemon-caper sauce, and testicles cooked with mushrooms. Will you be as adventurous as him?

  • Ali’s Kebab Cafe - Middle Eastern | 25-12 Steinway St, Long Island

Ali's Kabab Cafe is one of anthony bourdain's favorite NYC restaurants
via NY City Lens

7. Katz's Delicatessen

Slinging pastrami since 1888, Lower East Side's Katz's Delicatessen is perhaps the most famous deli in New York City, if not the country — and it held a special place as one of Anthony Bourdain’s top NYC restaurants. 

Home of the infamous When Harry Met Sally scene, if you want to "have what she's having," there's no better choice than Katz's heaping pastrami or corned beef sandwiches on rye. 

Bourdain touts New York City as having the best delis in the world, and Katz's as one of his favorites. "You only need to walk over to the counter, take a long lingering look at that heap of steaming pastrami, corned beef and brisket, take a deep breath and you'll remember again what it means to be alive, to be proud to be a New Yorker," Tony noted of the beloved Jewish deli.

  • Katz's Delicatessen - Deli | 205 E Houston St, New York

A heaping pastrami sandwich from Katz's Delicatessen
via Katz's Delicatessen

 

Anthony Bourdain on his love for New York City pastrami

8. Sam's Soul Food

The Bronx is an overlooked borough, according to Bourdain, which is "a shame, because The Bronx is a magical place." The Bronx is also home to one of Anthony Bourdain's top NYC restaurants.

Enter Sam's Soul Food, which serves up comforting soul food with a side of nightly karaoke. Take a page from Bourdain's book and order the smothered pork chops with black-eyed peas, dirty rice, cornbread and collard greens. And whatever you do, make sure you stay for karaoke and a cocktail.

  • Sam's Soul Food - Southern | 596 Grand Concourse, Bronx

Sam's Soul Food in The Bronx is one of anthony bourdain's favorite NYC restaurants
via Sam's Soul Food

9. Gray's Papaya

Never one for pretentiousness, Anthony Bourdain’s list of favorite NYC restaurants includes the famous New York City "dirty water hot dog," for which he’s sung praises many, many times. And when people think of NYC and hot dogs, Gray's Papaya is sure to be the first to come to mind. 

Bourdain cheekily remarked that Gray's Papaya hot dogs were a "cost-effective, nutritious snack" that he missed most whenever he left New York. Follow in Tony's footsteps and order a sauerkraut-topped hot dog and a refreshing papaya drink. As Tony would tell you: "This is the New York I've always known and loved."

  • Gray's Papaya - Hot dogs | 2090 Broadway, New York

gray's papaya is one of anthony bourdain's most loved NYC restaurants
via Gray's Papaya

10. Schwabl's

Anthony Bourdain’s cherished NYC restaurants weren’t his only must-try spots in the Empire State. If you find yourself a few hours west of NYC, follow Bourdain's trail for Buffalo and let it lead you straight to "beef on weck." And there's no better place to get the stuff than Schwabl's. 

Beef on weck refers to the quintessential Western New York sandwich, roast beef on a kosher salt and caraway seed kummelweck roll. Cheryl Staychock of Schwabl's tells us that when Tony came to visit the city, she asked him if he planned on highlighting Buffalo chicken wings. According to Cheryl, he exclaimed "No!," noting that he could get Buffalo wings anywhere, and that he wanted to showcase food that was "only here in Buffalo." Like, of course, the famous sandwich that Schwabl's has become known for.

  • Schwabl's - American traditional | 789 Center Rd, Buffalo

Anthony bourdain with the staff of schwabl's in buffalo
via Schwabl's

Tony on New York City and why he loves it

Honorable Mentions 

With the above top picks and our map, it's easy to nosh your way through Anthony Bourdain’s best-loved NYC restaurants. But have you already checked these places off your list? Here are some more notable mentions that you should definitely try out!

  • Gloria's - Caribbean | 987 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn
  • Randazzo Clam Bar - Seafood | 2023 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn
  • Roberta's - Italian | 261 Moore St, Brooklyn
  • Marlow and Sons - New American | 81 Broadway, Brooklyn
  • Junior's - Diner and desserts | 386 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn
  • Russ & Daughters - Deli | 179 E Houston St, New York
  • Eisenberg's - Shop and deli | 174 5th Ave Ste 1, New York
  • Esposito's - Shop and butcher | 354 West 38th Street, New York
  • Hop Kee - Seafood and Cantonese | 21 Mott St, New York
  • Sammy's Roumanian - Steakhouse | 157 Chrystie St, New York
  • Momofuku Ssäm - New American | 207 2nd Ave, New York
  • Le Bernardin - French | 155 W 51st St, New York
  • Prune - New American | 54 E 1st St, New York
  • Sakagura - Japanese | 211 E 43rd St, New York


From piled-high pastrami sandwiches to epicurean burgers to $2 hot dogs, Anthony Bourdain's NYC restaurant picks showcase the best of the city's food and culture — diverse, distinctive and delicious. What will be your first stop?

For even more incredible ways to sample the Big Apple’s food scene, check out the food tours in NYC happening on Cozymeal. You can also explore your own city’s best bites with a food tour near you.

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