Where to Eat in NYC: A First Timer’s Guide

Anyone who knows my husband and I would tell you that we love to eat. I mean seriously, who doesn’t? One of the things that keeps our relationship together is our mutual love for the same types of food. He always jokes that he only married me because he loves my cooking, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t a joke. I ain’t even mad about it though because food is love. 

Before children, our main objective when visiting new destinations was to always try as much of the local food as possible. And even with children, that is still our objective. I’ll admit it’s harder with kids to try some places without a kids menu or without kid-friendly options, but there are some times where we’re just like “screw it!” If the kids are hungry, they will eat. 

When deciding on where to eat in New York City, I actually did not have trouble choosing places my kids would like. When deciding where to eat I Googled “Where To Eat in NYC for First Timers”, and most of the places I found ended up being kid friendly so it was a total win-win for us foodie parents. 

Quick Eats 

Xian Famous Foods $ (various locations)

Xian Famous Foods came up in almost every list of “Where to Eat in NYC for First Timers”. This fast casual chain serves affordable and delicious Western Chinese Cuisine. Most dishes were under $12, and most dishes are made spicy. I’d say if you’re not into spicy, you’re not getting the true Xian Famous Foods experience. But because our girls aren’t into spicy, we did get the Stir-Fried Liang Pi noodles for them. And for ourselves, we got the Spicy Cumin Hand-Ripped Noodles and the Spicy & Sour Dumplings

Shake Shack $ (various locations)

The Shack + ‘Schrooom Burger = the Shack Stack

You can say Shake Shack is NY’s version of In-N-Out Burger. I’ll admit when we first tried Shake Shack in Chicago, we were not impressed. But seeing how Shake Shack originated in New York, we decided to give it another try in it’s birthplace. This time around, we loved it!  Their menu has classic fast-food items like burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, but all of excellent quality. If you’re a fan of crinkle cut fries, they got em. And if you’re a milkshake lover like myself, you’ll be delighted to see how many flavor options they have. 

Ess-A-Bagel $ (Midtown)

“A Signature Favorite”

Out of everything we tried in New York City, this was definitely my favorite. And now I know why people say no other bagel compares to a New York bagel. I had read about many different places to get bagels from in NYC, and Ess-a-Bagel was one that came up on almost every list. When you go here, be prepared to wait. The line is long and can seem intimidating, but the wait will be well worth it. The bagels are freshly made, and they’re big and fluffy. We ordered “A Signature Favorite” a.k.a the lox bagel. What it should be called though is “The Best Lox Bagel You’ll Ever Have”

Sit-Down Meals

Momofuku Noodle Bar $$- $$$ (various locations)

For every trip we make we like to have a least one “nice” meal. For this trip, we choose a Momofuku restaurant because it’s origin traces back to NYC. We specifically choose Momofuku Noodle Bar because 1) the menu really called out to us, and 2) they have a “secret” kids menu. My brother-in-law joined us for this meal so we were a little ambitious with how much we ordered. But everything we tried was absolutely amazing. The shrimp bao, tuna crudo, and pork ramen were my favorites from everything we tried. Be sure to check out their specials menu too, you will not be disappointed. 

Roberta’s Pizza $$ (various locations)

When researching where to eat in NYC, pizza will always be recommended. I had a hard time choosing which pizza spot to try because there really are so many options. But when our NYC native cousin recommended Roberta’s Pizza, I knew this was the one pizza spot we had to try. Like Ess-A-Bagel’s bagel being the best bagel I’ve ever had, I can definitely say Roberta’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had. They must put some magic ingredients in their sauce because we were blown away with the flavors. We ordered two pizzas, a classic margherita pizza and a sausage pizza called the Millenium Falco. The margherita pizza, while so simple, had so much flavor. I’d come back to NYC just for more Roberta’s. 

Maharlika $$ (various locations)

Another must-do on our foodie list when traveling is trying the local Filipino restaurants. While we live in an area with plenty of Filipino food options, I like to try Filipino food when traveling to see what others are doing in other parts of the country. I choose to go to Maharlika after finding them on Instagram. The food item that made me want to go there? The Flip’d Chicken + Ube Waffles. DELICIOUS. If you’re new to Filipino food, I’d say try Filipino staples like pancit bihon, arroz caldo, and silog plates for their more traditional styles and flavors. But if you’re looking for something a little different, definitely try their version of chicken and waffles. They also have a unique and Filipino-themed bar menu as well.

Desserts

Ice Cream from Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream $ (various locations)

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Van Leeuwan Ice Cream was also recommended by our cousin NYC native cousin. The ice cream is made from scratch in Brooklyn, NY, and you can find both delicious classic and vegan flavors. Even our eldest daughter was in heaven with their vanilla. When we realized how much she liked it, we had to give her vanilla scoop a try ourselves. My chocolate fudge brownie really hit the spot, but the vanilla really is the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.

Cheesecake from Junior’s $ (various locations)

Junior’s is an all-American diner, but what they are known for is their cheesecake. With one location right in Times Square, there is no excuse for you not to try their cheesecake if visiting Times Square is on your itinerary. They have many flavors to choose from so it might seem overwhelming, but I’m sure any flavor is delicious. We were actually tempted to just get the plain cheesecake, but we decided on a slice of the strawberry and blueberry cheesecake. Our only regret is waiting until our last night to make a stop here. 

Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery $ (various locations)

This was a medium.

If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you’re probably going to get more than the banana pudding when visiting Magnolia Bakery. Everything looked too good so I ended up getting the banana pudding plus one of each cookie flavor. If you absolutely love banana pudding, they offer the pudding in various sizes. But because I wanted to try other things, we left with a medium. 

Cookies from Levain Bakery $ (various locations)

When friends heard I was going to go to NYC, Levain Bakery was the one dessert spot that was always recommended.  Like Magnolia Bakery, they are a full-fledged bakery. But instead of the cakes and cupcakes like at Magnolia, you’ll find more breads. What you really want to come here for are the cookies. There are four different cookies, and we left with one of each to try them all. Our favorite ended up being the dark chocolate peanut butter. Crispy on the outside, and gooey in the inside. These cookies are worth the stop, plus they’re huge so definitely shareable.

Tip: If you’re like us and like to bring home food souvenirs for your loved ones, I’d bring home a few of the Levain cookies. The worker that helped us let us know they can last up to a week in the bags they come in.


If you’ve made it this far in the list, thank you! New York City had so many food options to offer, it was a little overwhelming deciding what to try. But for first timers, I think we did a good job knocking off everything on my list. If you’ve tried any of these places or plan to try any of them during your trip to NYC, leave a comment below. Or if you have any recommendations yourself, please share because we will definitely be going back to NYC.


And for more of our food adventure in NYC, be sure to check out our @LivNGwiththeNG‘s vlog 🙂

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