Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs enjoy an embarrassment of edible riches — way too many for this list to be comprehensive. But whether you’re a food lover visiting the city for the first time or a native New Yorker seeking holiday cheer, this list a pretty solid place to start. Don your stretchiest of stretchy waistbands and remember that freestyling is encouraged.
1. Hot Chocolate at City Bakery
Where to find it: 3 West 18th St., Manhattan
What it costs: $5
City Bakery ladles up what is essentially eight undiluted ounces of melted chocolate, which you can enjoy to go or to stay in the cafeteria-style café. Let’s be clear: This kind of beverage is not something any human can or should drink every day, but it’s worth experiencing at least once — preferably with an enormous homemade marshmallow on top and a pretzel croissant close at hand.
2. Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai
Where to find it: 404 West 49th St., Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
What it costs: $11.99
Truly spicy, exciting Thai food can be hard to find in Manhattan, but this is the real deal. Herbs, chilis, fish sauce, tamarind, lime, and crispy fried shallots liven up the intense beef broth. Bonus: Once you’re addicted, you can make the soup at home with the restaurant’s recipe.
4. Chicken Pot Pie at Penelope
Where to find it: 159 Lexington Ave., Murray Hill, Manhattan
What it costs: $16
Forget the brunch rush at this friendly neighborhood spot and go straight for the main attraction: a creamy, dreamy, chicken pot pie of your very own.
5. Holiday Chocolates at L.A. Burdick
Where to find it: 5 East 20th St., Flatiron, Manhattan
What it costs: $3.50/penguin, $32 for a gift box of 9 penguins
The coziest chocolate shop in town. Stop in for a hot drink and head out with a gift box full of adorable chocolate penguins for your luckiest friend (or yourself).
6. Matzoh Ball Soup at 2nd Ave Deli
Where to find it: 162 E 33rd St., Murray Hill, Manhattan
What it costs: $7.95
This perfect soup can cure your cold, warm up your toes, mend your broken heart, and still leave room for a sandwich.
7. Chocolate Walnut Cookie at Levain Bakery
Where to find it: 167 West 74th St., Upper West Side, Manhattan
What it costs: $4
You’ve heard the rumors about this cookie. The rumors are true.
8. Caviar and Vodka at the Russian Vodka Room
Where to find it: 265 W 52nd St., Midtown West, Manhattan
What it costs: $25.75–$190.00 for caviar (varies depending on type and amount)
Pretend you’re a Soviet-era spy laying low in this dark lounge as you pop mouthfuls of caviar and blini, chased with ice cold house-infused vodka and accompanied by live piano music.
9. Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding at Maialino
Where to find it: 2 Lexington Ave., Gramercy, Manhattan
What it costs: $9
Don’t go overboard on the excellent pasta here; you will absolutely want to save room for this little lump of heaven, which comes snuggled up next to a scoop of hazelnut gelato.
Sadly, this item is no longer on the menu at Maialino, but they still have plenty of other desserts to check out.
10. Anything at Rolf’s
Where to find it: 281 3rd Ave., Gramercy, Manhattan
You’re not really here for the food; you’re here for the lavishly ornate, borderline-insane, totally delightful Christmas decorations. But while you’re ensconced in this Germanic den of lights and tinsel, go ahead and enjoy a cup of hot spiked coffee or a plate of crispy schnitzel.
Recommended Route No. 1: The Chocolate Express
Take the train downtown for lunch at City Bakery, with a cup of hot chocolate for dessert. Food coma advisory will be in effect by now, so take it easy in the afternoon with some shopping. Check out some of the stores along 5th Avenue or Broadway (between 17th and 23rd), making sure to save a few bucks for impulse purchasing cute dishes (as gifts! maybe?) at Fish’s Eddy.
As soon as you’re ready to start eating again, stroll up to the Gramercy Park Hotel for an Italian dinner at Maialino (a reservation is a good idea). Just remember: You’re really here for that chocolate croissant bread pudding , so take it easy on the warm-up acts. When you’re done, pause to give thanks to the chocolate gods and roll yourself to bed.
11. Soup Dumplings at Shanghai Café
Where to find it: 100 Mott St., Chinatown, Manhattan
What it costs: $4.95 for 8 dumplings
This isn’t usually the first place most people mention when they talk about xiao long bao, and let’s keep it that way — more for us. These delicate, piping-hot soup dumplings are mysteriously magical, even when you know how they get the broth in there. Everything else is good (and cheap) too, so roll deep and order freely.
12. Chocolate Babka from Green’s
New York’s best babkas share a shocking secret: They’re all made by the same bakery. You can pick up one of these buttery, chocolatey swirls of beauty at any number of places around the city, or skip the retail markup and order as many as your heart desires (which will be a MILLION, once you taste one) online here.
13. Full English Breakfast at Tea & Sympathy
Where to find it: 108 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich Village, Manhattan (breakfast served Saturday and Sunday only)
What it costs: $14.95
“The Full Monty” is everything a hungry ex-pat or Anglophile could possibly desire on a winter morning. Come back again in the afternoon for tea and scones with clotted cream.
14. Varenyky (Pierogies) at Veselka
Where to find it: 144 2nd Ave., East Village, Manhattan
What it costs: $10.95 for a plate of seven
Veselka can’t really claim to be the most authentic Ukrainian place in town; for that, you may want to meet the cute old ladies serving varenyky and borscht out of an East 7th Street basement on weekends. But what Veselka will always be is the place you can go at 3 a.m. when it’s freezing outside and all you need is a plate of crispy, golden starch bombs to make you feel warm and happy and full.
15. Drinks by the Fireplace at Shoolbred’s
Where to find it: 197 2nd Ave., East Village, Manhattan
What it costs: $12 cocktails, $7 draft beer
Between hot toddies, mulled cider, and a very solid range of beers on tap, you can absolutely find a good excuse to pull up a chair by the fireplace at this pleasantly dim and cozy bar.
16. Dresden Stollen at Balthazar Bakery
Where to find it: 80 Spring St., SoHo, Manhattan
What it costs: $25
When you don’t have the time or dedication required for a full steak-frites feast at Balthazar proper, swing by the takeout bakery next door to pick up this sweet, Christmasy treat.
17. Hot Pot at Shabu-Tatsu
Where to find it: 216 E 10th St., East Village, Manhattan
What it costs: $25/person
Step 1: Round up several hungry friends. Step 2: Spend a couple hours hanging out and DIY-ing your dinner around a steaming, bubbling pot of yummy Japanese broth. Step 3: Congratulate self on an evening well spent.
Recommended Route No. 2: Crossing Delancey
Start with coffee and a pastry at Balthazar Bakery, taking a Dresden stollen on the road with you for brunch tomorrow. Do some (window) shopping or art-viewing on your way through Soho/Nolita to check out the bustling Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester Street; even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth going just to ogle the vast array of hard-to-find Asian treats and groceries.
When you’re ready for lunch, make your way to Shanghai Café for a few steamer baskets full of hot soup dumplings (order roughly twice as many as you think you should).
Afterward, wander up Orchard Street to check out the many cute shops or take a tour at the fascinating Tenement Museum (just make sure to book tickets in advance). When you hit Houston Street, stop to poke your head in at the always-bustling Russ & Daughters, and maybe pick up a babka to keep your stollen company.
18. Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods
Where to find it: seven locations across the city
What it costs: $7.50
Forget ambience: All you need to know is that this is the spicy (really!), chewy, meaty, tongue-tingly, completely perfect noodle experience by which you should judge all other noodle experiences.
19. Potato Knish at Knish Nosh
Where to find it: 100-30 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, Queens
What it costs: $3
No square, poser knishes sold here. These are strictly round, strictly old-school, and strictly delicious.
20. Indian Buffet at Jackson Diner
Where to find it: 37-47 74th St., Jackson Heights, Queens (or 72 University Place, Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
What it costs: $10.95 for the buffet (lunchtime only)
The all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet at this excellent, no-frills Indian restaurant would be a pretty good deal even if the food wasn’t convincingly authentic and totally delicious. But it is!
21. Pho at Pho Bac
Where to find it: 82-78 Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens
What it costs: $6–$7.50
This huge bowl of fragrant, aromatic soup is a strong contender for best pho in the city, and a great way to finish up a day of exploring the Elmhurst neighborhood.
22. Hot Wassail at The Drink
Where to find it: 228 Manhattan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
What it costs: $5
Start with a cup of steamy, spicy apple cider-based wassail at this jaunty nautical-themed bar, and end up springing for a whole bowl of one of the many other accessibly boozy concoctions on the punch menu.
23. Cavatelli with Sage Butter and Spicy Sausage at Frankie’s Spuntino
Where to find it: 457 Court St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (or 570 Hudson St., West Village, Manhattan)
What it costs: $18
Despite being simple enough to make at home, this is truly one of the Great Pastas. In the words of BuzzFeed’s Keith Hernandez: “Complement with a glass of red wine while sitting next to a window, frosting up from the steam emanating from your plate, and the world becomes your sweatpants.”
24. BBQ Brisket at Fette Sau
Where to find it: 354 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
What it costs: $16/pound
Everything you could possibly require on a cold winter night: a blazing fireplace, vast quantities of smoky, succulent barbecue, and a wide selection of excellent whiskeys.
25. Doughnuts at Peter Pan
Where to find it: 727 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint, Brooklyn
What it costs: $1/donut, $10.50/dozen
There are plenty of worthy competitors if you want to argue about who makes the best doughnuts in New York, but there will only ever be one Peter Pan. It was great before Tina Fey spilled the beans, and it’ll stay great as long as elderly Polish gentlemen need a place to sit around looking surly and drinking coffee — and everyone needs a place they can exchange just $1 for a truly perfect ring of pastry.
26. Smoked Meat Poutine at Mile End Deli
Where to find it: 97A Hoyt St., Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (or 53 Bond St., NoHo, Manhattan)
What it costs: $13
If you’ve despaired of finding Montreal-worthy poutine in the continental United States, you clearly haven’t been to Mile End. Pretty much everything else on the menu at either location is worth eating too.
27. Beef Momos at Cafe Tibet
Where to find it: 1510 Cortelyou Rd., Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
What it costs: $7.25 for eight dumplings
A plateful of these spicy, thick-skinned Himalayan dumplings is well worth a jaunt out to this friendly Ditmas Park hole in the wall.
28. Salted Caramel Apple Pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Where to find it: 439 3rd Ave., Gowanus, Brooklyn
What it costs: $4.50/slice
Once upon a time, two sisters from South Dakota moved to Brooklyn and opened their very own pie shop on the shores of the beautiful, Superfund-designated Gowanus canal. Is that pie shop 100% as twee as you think it will be? Yes, but in the best and most buttery way imaginable. If you must commit to just a single slice (mistake!), the lattice-topped caramel apple is a reliable regular on the seasonally updated menu, and won’t let you down.
29. Venison Chili Nachos at Waterfront Ale House
Where to find it: 155 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn (or 540 2nd Ave., Kips Bay, Manhattan)
What it costs: $17.95
Anywhere nachos and hot, savory chili come together to join forces is a place you want to be. That plus the rest of the interesting (but not TOO interesting) bar food on the menu makes this an ideal stop for a lazy afternoon drink.
30. Sunday Supper at 606 R&D
Where to find it: 606 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
What it costs: $25/person
You never know exactly what you’re going to find, week to week, on the family-style Sunday night dinner menu at this stylish little restaurant (check the website to find out), but whether it’s fried chicken or spaghetti and meatballs, you know it’ll be exactly the kind of happy-making comfort food your soul is looking for. If the heavens smile upon you, it will definitely include some of the amazing, freshly fried donuts the kitchen turns out daily. (If not, come back for brunch next weekend, because you need to experience them.)
31. Mac ‘N’ Cheese at DuMont
Where to find it: 432 Union Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
What it costs: $15
Three types of gooey, creamy cheese. A perfectly crispy top. Liberally distributed chunks of bacon. Basically, if mac ‘n’ cheese is something you even pretend to care about, you owe it to yourself to eat this one.
Recommended Route No. 3: Waterfront Comfort Food
Get yourself to Peter Pan in Greenpoint on a weekend morning for a doughnut and coffee (or, depending how rough the previous night was, a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel with a couple donuts for the road). Walk south through McCarren Park to check out the wintertime Williamsburg location of the Brooklyn Flea + Smorgasburg.
Hop on the southbound East River Ferry at the North 5th Street waterfront and ride down to the Dumbo stop. Walk up the hill from Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy the views along the Brooklyn Heights promenade on your way to lunch (including smoked meat poutine) at Mile End Deli.
After lunch, wander south through Carroll Gardens, stopping to browse the shelves at BookCourt and maybe catch a matinee at Cobble Hill Cinemas. By the time it’s dark and cold and you’re ready for dinner, you’ll be within striking distance of a truly perfect plate of pasta at Frankie’s Spuntino.
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