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8 of the best restaurants in Manhattan

Manhattan skyline and Central Park.

Photo by Jermaine Ee via Unsplash

8 of the best restaurants in Manhattan

Discover the best places to eat in Manhattan, New York City with the help of front of house legends Erica Cantley and Dante Camara.
31 May, 2023

Manhattan has a plethora of extraordinary places to dine, but these are the restaurants that truly shine and show the best of the best of what the city has to offer, whether you’re a tried-and-true New Yorker or a visitor. 

New York legends Erica Cantley and Dante Camara are the voices behind the soon-to-launch FOH industry podcast The Maître d' Diaries and no duo is more suited to share their favourite Manhattan joints. Cantley made history as Daniel Boulud’s first female maître d' and is currently the maître d' at Michelin-starred Brooklyn brasserie Francie. Camara is the General Manager at Locanda Verde, as well as the owner of Inferno Hospitality. Together, they have been fixtures in the New York dining scene for decades, though they first met when working for the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston in 1990. “We are OG maître d’s, and we are back at it in the New York restaurant world post-pandemic. This is New York 2.0,” declares Cantley.


Guinea Hen At Daniel, one of the best restaurants in Manhattan.

Photo: Bill Milne

Both Cantley and Camara gush about Daniel Boulud’s flagship location, and their time spent working for the chef. As simply a diner now and no longer an employee, Cantley says: “I always get the four-course prix fixe menu. The service, setting and the food are absolutely on fire. I’ve eaten Daniel’s food for 30 years now and this is as good as it’s ever been. I always choose the foie gras, frog legs or sweetbreads.” She pauses. “I would say make sure that you order at least one dish that’s a tableside dish because it’s a wonderful old-world thrill. They have a cocktail cart and there’s always one made tableside. And of course, the cheese cart! Almost as good as Francie’s!” she winks. 


Veselka means ‘rainbow’ in Ukrainian and was established in 1954 as a humble newsstand serving soup and sandwiches. It has since grown into a sprawling (for Manhattan) diner. Cantley loves Veselka for its simple, diminutive pleasures.

“I love the fact that they still serve cups of soup. Sometimes you just want a little bit of soup! I can get a cup of borscht and a cup of chicken noodle. This feels like such a retro offering and it makes Veselka true to its diner feel. If it’s your first time get the latke combo plate. You can get it with beef stroganoff or chicken paprikash. Also, definitely pierogies and definitely fried. I like the braised beef and the arugula and goat cheese. They also have a cherry and cheese dessert pierogi which is super good. Their beet and horseradish side salad – it’s not really a salad, it’s like a pile of shredded beets. That’s the ultimate condiment. Definitely get at least one extra one to go,” she says.

Thai Diner

There are few places on earth cooler than Thai Diner. Traffic may be whizzing by your ear beyond the streatery’s flimsy windowpanes, but you will still feel enmeshed in its vibey warmth. “I really love Thai Diner. It’s just cool. I can recommend it to any visitor and they’re not going to have sticker shock. They’re going to feel like they are getting excellent food in a unique setting. And it’s right across the Williamsburg Bridge from Francie – I can meet someone at Thai Diner and then pop back to work! Uncle Boon’s khao pat puu – I love! It’s crab fried rice with so many layers. And the phat sie eiw with soy, egg and Chinese broccoli – I am such a sucker for that. I love a good rice noodle stir-fry, and this is really beautiful. I always try to get the thing you can’t necessarily get anywhere,” says Cantley.

Joe’s Pizza

This could not possibly be a comprehensive Manhattan list without a place to get a slice – not a pie – a slice. “It may not be the best but it’s my favourite!” crows Cantley. “Get a classic New York slice at Joe’s Pizza. A lot of people question my taste, but I did grow up in South Jersey and to me this is the best slice. The plain, traditional cheese pizza. Don’t be tempted to get the fresh mozzarella. Everybody in New York has such a strong opinion about what the best place it is. Joe’s Pizza isn’t gourmet, but that crust is great!”

Tin Building by Jean-Georges

Tin Building, one of the best places to eat in Manhattan.

Photo: Nicole Franzen

The Tin Building is a more recent addition to the New York City dining scene and has quickly become a culinary destination. At an enormous 53,000 square feet, it encompasses extraordinary restaurants, a marketplace with a retail grocery and a row of stalls so spectacular one hesitates to deem it so pedestrian a term as ‘food court’. Here you can get a dosa and a crepe, take 15 steps over and grab a shiny, lacquered croissant and loop back to pluck morels from a display case.

“Dante and I are obsessed with the Tin Building,” confesses Cantley. “We’ve been going since before they officially opened. Their seafood bar – the razor clams are fantastic. The coconut milk clam chowder is great. Anyone who used to love clam chowder – coconut milk is the way to go!” Camara agrees: “Hands down, my favourite [concept there is] The House of the Red Pearl. I prefer to dine at the bar. The service is attentive, courteous and the food authentic, perfect. The steamed black bass and the chicken and broccoli are my top two favourite dishes. Don't forget to order a speciality cocktail.”

The Dead Rabbit

A drink Dead Rabbit, one of the best bar/restaurants in Manhattan.

Photo: Nicholas Lee Ruiz

If you’re looking for vintage cocktails in a historical setting and excellent renditions of pub fare, look no further than The Dead Rabbit in Lower Manhattan. "I consider lower Manhattan a truly unique place, and truly Gotham,” declares Camara. “It is my preferred place to live and dine. There are several places that I enjoy, in particular, and The Dead Rabbit is one such place. It is a true Irish pub. Great atmosphere. The food is exceptional. My favourite items to order are the Irish coffee and the chicken pot pie.”

Don Angie

Stuffed Garlic Flatbread at Don Angie, one of the best restaurants in Manhattan.

Photo: Ashley Sears

Don Angie is not shy. Packed to the gills every night, you’ll bump elbows with your dining companions and probably someone else’s dining companions, and enjoy creative and bold interpretations of Italian-American food. “That place is – oh my gosh – just when I feel opening a restaurant is the last thing I want to do, I walk into a restaurant like Don Angie, and I am tempted,” sighs Cantley. “Don Angie is so personal. Its voice is so clear. Any of the pastas – whatever the pasta special is, you should always get it. It’s always going to be even better than it sounds. It’s going to be more than the sum of its ingredients, or how it’s described. On the regular menu, my favourite is the lasagne if you have more than two people. Their crudo – scallop or amberjack – changes but it’s always good. There’s always a lot of personality on the plate. And the names of the cocktails are just so cool. They have one called two yoots, a reference to the movie My Cousin Vinny, which is made with prosciutto-washed rum.”

Le Rock

“It’s soaring, so beautiful, very central. It’s also not a stagnant menu, it goes with the seasons in a classic way. The food is fantastic, interesting and the setting and hospitality – everything is beautifully designed,” says Cantley. She praises their tableside presentation their leeks vinaigrette, which are “wrapped up in a package, then grilled so the little present has all these grill marks. They unwrap it for you at the table and then they pair it with a wonderful salsa verde. Le Rock takes classic elements of dishes, refreshing and showcasing them in ways you wouldn’t think of.” Cantley also raves about Le Rock’s sucrine champignons mimolette. “This salad is comprised of all things that you know, which you’re familiar with. It’s a gem lettuce mix with ordinary thinly shaved white mushrooms and thinly shaved mimolette [cheese]. It’s so clever – why didn’t I think of that?”