The top 10 unique food spots in New York

By Charlotte Deprez Published 15/02/2024

New York is a city where you can find any type of food at pretty much any time of the day… If you know where to go! We listed ten of our favorite, and a little monomaniac — you’ll see, it gets very specific — places in the City that Never Sleeps. Ready for the big NYC food tour?

Our 10 best unique food spots in NYC

For dumplings: Shanghai 21

Too touristy, Chinatown? Shanghai 21 is an unpretentious restaurant located in this super busy area. Here, the focus is only on the food, and it’s a winner! Their dishes are delicious, hearty and (very) varied, and the prices are unbeatable for New York. Though the place is always super busy and noisy — don’t come here if you’re looking for a romantic place —, the staff is always welcoming and helpful.

As every great spot in New York, expect to wait a bit before being seated. But they’re well organized, so don’t be afraid by the long line. If you decide to test this address in Manhattan, do not — I repeat, do not — leave without eating the dumplings!

21 Mott St, New York, NY 10013.

For cookies: Levain Bakery

If you have a sweet tooth, this specialized bakery should make you look forward to your next sugar rush! Levain bakery was founded in 1994 by two friends from the banking and fashion sectors, who wanted to create the best chocolate chip cookie in the world. And apparently, they succeeded.

For the past 25 years, Levain Bakery has been feeding hungry New Yorkers and they are now in five locations scattered throughout New York!

Various locations in New York. More info on
167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023, United States

For a lobster roll: Luke’s Lobster

Lobster rolls are soft sandwiches filled with lobster, and they’re such an american thing to eat. Lobster is usually perceived as a very fancy meal, for which you expect your date to dress up, act super seafood savvy and everything. The lobster roll is quite the opposite : it’s a hot-dog bread filled with big chunks of lobster, seasoning, mayonnaise, salad, eggs,… And at Luke’s, they’re sooooo damn good.

Luke Holden was born in Maine (where they know their lobster) and established his first little lobster shack in 2009 in East Village. Luke’s Lobster’s success has been so crazy that he now has shacks and restaurants in 9 states. But don’t get all skeptikal, the quality is still there. The prices aren’t low, but the rolls are really full of extra fresh lobster and the bread is very tasty.

Various locations in New York. More info on
242 E 81st St, New York, NY 10028, United States

For nikkei cuisine: Llama Inn

Ever heard of nikkei food? It’s that fusion cuisine where Peru meets Japan. Well, Llama Inn specializes in it. On the menu, this means ceviche with dashi, pork belly with char siu or trout with sudado and kimchi.

Opened in Williamsburg in 2015, just before it was cool, Llama Inn was imagined by Erik Ramirez, former sous-chef at the famous Eleven Madison Park***. After traveling to Peru, he came home with the idea of opening his own restaurant based on nikkei cuisine, but with his personal touch. Llama Inn is located on a not so sexy street, but once inside, you’ll be surprised by the beauty of the place, mixing modern furniture and greenery everywhere. The huge windows let the light in and the high ceiling combined with the open kitchen will give you a great impression of space. And if the weather allows it, don’t forget to check out their colorful terrace in the heart of Brooklyn!

50 Withers St, Brooklyn, NY 11211. More info on
50 Withers St, Brooklyn, NY 11211, United States

For ice creams with a twist: Taiyaki NYC

Ever seen those fish-shaped ice cream cones? You know, the most instagrammable soft serve out there? Well, this is where you’ll find the best ones in New York! Those very special treats come from Japan and find their origins hundreds of years ago. The molds used at Taiyaki NYC are actually imported from Japan.

But what’s a Taiyaki anyways? It’s a kind of soufflé waffle shaped like a fish (sea bream, to be specific) and filled with something sweet. Traditionally, the filling is a sweet red bean paste called “anko”, but you can also have your little fishy filled with custard or even matcha cream. And then, on top of all that goodness, you have the ice cream and sprinkles. Hungry yet?

119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013 & 294 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249. More info on
119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013, United States

For hand-pulled Chinese noodles: Lam Zhou hand-pulled noodles

If you’re craving chinese noodles, head to Chinatown (you don’t say) and look for Lam Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles. Disclaimer: don’t expect to enter a hip restaurant with sleek scandinavian furniture, nor to be warmly welcomed. But the food here is well worth the little sacrifices.

We strongly recommend starting with the 8-for-4$ fried dumplings — note that they’re more like gyozas, so not deep fried but crispy on just one side, divine — then move on to any noodle-based dish on the menu. You’ll thank us, and your wallet will, too.

40 Bowery, New York, NY 10013. More info on

For a pastrami sandwich: Harry & Ida’s

Vegetarians, just skip this part! Like lobster rolls, pastrami sandwiches are very New York and hence super easy to find here… But good pastrami sandwiches, the kind that makes you wish you could go back in time and eat more pastrami sandwiches? Not that common.

Harry & Ida’s opened their sandwich counter and general store in 2015 in East Village. They had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve : preserve and pass on traditional recipes from their ancestors, Hungarian immigrants who owned a kosher delicatessen in Harlem… almost 100 years ago! You can’t go wrong when grabbing food here, but the big hit is the Pastrami Sandwich (comes in two sizes, which is convenient), with thick-cut pastrami, mustard, caraway, dill and fresh cucumbers. Some say that it’s even better than Katz’…

189 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009. More info on

For a real New York City pizza slice: Joe’s Pizza

Almost 40 years ago, Naples-born Joe Pozzuoli opened Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village. Nowadays, Joe’s Pizza is an institution, offering the best classic New York slice. What we love about this place is the fact that it remained the same : it’s still independently owned and supervised by Joe Pozzuoli. Of course, expect a huge line here. However, four decades of experience make the line super efficient, so fear not.

About the menu, you won’t risk decision fatigue as there are only 3 main pizza styles that you can buy by the slice or full size: plain cheese (with any topping), fresh mozzarella, and Sicilian square. The first two ones have a thin crust, whereas the Sicilian crust is a thick Italian bread, so more filling.

7 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014. More info on

About the author Hello there! I'm Charlotte, based in beautiful Brussels and passionate about traveling, food and photography. Follow me @thetinynomad!