There are over 24,000 restaurants in New York City, so choosing where to eat can be a challenge, especially if you don't live in the area.
We've created this guide to help you make a choice through visual inspection and good old common sense. Of course you can also take a look at Zagat, Tripadvisor or any number of websites that rate restaurants, but our methods will help supplement the often times conflicting information you'll find on those sites.
The New York City Health Department inspects restaurants and other food service establishments at least once a year. The inspectors are not trying to determine if the food tastes good or is good for you, so that information you'll have to find elsewhere.
They are, however, checking for compliance with the food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene of restaurant staff, and vermin control guidelines set out by the agency. Once the inspection is complete, a letter grade is given to that establishment.
The letter "A" is the highest rating, and the restaurant being shut down is the lowest. Anything less than an "A" (in these New Yorker's opinion) is simply unacceptable. If the restaurant, bar, diner or sandwich shop has anything else, even a grade pending sign, you might not want to eat there. Food poisoning or finding a roach in your food is not fun.
In a city where there are so many restaurants to choose from, deciding which one to eat at can be a hassle, especially when you're dining out with a group. One person wants pizza, another Asian, and the next, steak. Eventually, you have to make a choice, which means someone will have to compromise and not get what they want. Smart restaurateurs know this, so you'll often find steak on the menu at a seafood restaurant, or sushi rolls at a steak house.
Well, here's our advice: for the best possible meal when you eat out, order the restaurant's specialty. A steak house should have really great steak...that's what they specialize in. Their sushi may be palatable (maybe), but it won't be the best sushi you've ever eaten. For really good sushi, go to a restaurant that specializes in it.
Our go to food is a hamburger. Very few American's have not eaten one, and most of us have cooked and eaten many. So a good hamburger should be easy to make for any chef cooking in the US. After all, the recipe is simple. Take some ground beef seasoned at the least with salt and pepper, grill or fry it, and slap it on bread. It's hard to mess that up! Since you'll find some form of it on most menus, it's our go to food when we absolutely don't want what a restaurant specializes in.
Over 8 Million People live in New York City and they all have to eat. So, if you come across a restaurant in Manhattan that is empty at 7:00 on a Friday night, you might not want to eat there despite what any reviews on a website might say. While it's true that Zagats, Yelp and other websites have restaurant ratings and reviews, most New Yorkers will keep their opinion to themselves and vote with their wallets. If they like a restaurant, they spend their money there...if they don't, they won't.Any really good restaurant will have a wait before you're seated if you don't have a reservation, especially in entertainment centers like the theatre district and Times Square. If a restaurant is empty and you can be seated as soon as you walk in during peak lunch or dinner time, you might want to think twice about eating there.
New York City is a melting pot of people from all over the world, and since most people like to eat the foods they're used to or reminds them of home, you'll find restaurants that specialize in cuisine from every continent. Since that is the case, go for authenticity. If you want to try authentic Korean food, find a restaurant where Korean people like to eat. For authentic Mexican food, find a restaurant that Mexican's rave about. That's not hard to do. You can Google anything.
It's our hope that this short guide on how to choose a restaurant in New York City is helpful to visitors and Natives alike.
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