Travel Tips

A Food Critic’s Favorite New York Neighborhood Restaurants

Locations in this article:  Brooklyn, NY Madison, WI New York City, NY San Francisco, CA

There are as many as 19,000 restaurants in Manhattan alone and, with so many spots opening and closing, it’s hard to keep up. So, we went straight to the expert. New York Observer restaurant critic Joshua David Stein shares his criteria for a great restaurant—which includes a sense of community and a point of view. Keep reading to find out his favorite New York neighborhood restaurants. Want to hear more? Check out his interview on Peter’s latest Travel Today podcast.  


betony 3

Betony is part of an influx of restaurants on Manhattan’s 57th Street and features New American cuisine. Stein believes New American essentially means comfort food, but done in an intelligent way. The American classic mac and cheese includes nearly a dozen different cheeses. Other dishes include glazed nettle ravioli with Morels and hazelnut, as well as warm foie gras that has both Yelpers and restaurant critics gushing over Chef Bryce Shuman, the former executive sous chef of the iconic Eleven Madison Park. Unlike many of its neighborhood competitors, Stein confirms the restaurant doesn’t have an ounce of pretension.



Tørst, Stein’s favorite up-and-comer in Brooklyn, is actually a bar. There are dishes to share, such as Welsh rarebit with cheddar cheese and Worcestershire sauce, dandelion salad with grainy mustard and rye crumble, or even a confit duck sandwich with spicy cabbage and pickled cucumber. But there is also a roast every Sunday, featuring cuts of meat like lamb or pork shoulder, served with pickled red cabbage or cranberry beans and rapini. Tørst Chef Daniel Burns has made the experience, as Stein describes it, “authentically informal.”

M. Wells Steakhouse

mwells steakhouse

M. Wells Steakhouse had one of the most anticipated openings this year. This converted auto body shop is a place for true meat lovers. It’s a restaurant that would make even the Flinstones proud. Meats are cooked over an open flame, giving them the uneven scorch that comes from barbecuing. Other dishes such as the bone-in burger and tomahawk chop flaunt meat bones in their presentation, and the burger has gained popularity on Instagram. But there are other, more visually reserved dishes. The Solomon Gundy is one of these, with two potato waffles smothered with trout eggs and topped with crème fraîche. Stein may use the term “ridiculous” to describe the steakhouse, but says the food is delicious.

Mission Cantina

Photo Credi: Yelp Reviewer Ken S.

Photo Credit: Yelp Reviewer Ken S.

Mission Cantina is the new restaurant that surprised Joshua David Stein the most. Led by San Francisco Chef Danny Bowien, the Cantina has been surrounded by a lot of hype, and he considers it to be very cool. Starters include dishes such as smoked queso oaxaca with fine herbs and fry bread, and a bowl of creamed masa with beer-braised collard greens. Tacos are an elevated take on the classic, with re-imaginings such as cumin lamb tacos with smoked prune and herbed crema and pork cheek chiapas-style tacos with pickled peppers and dressed cabbage. For the vegetarian foodies, there are veggie tacos such as calabazas, stewed winter squash with queso fundido, or pumpkin with pumpkin mole, pumpkin seeds, and queso cotija. One of the larger dishes is a whole rotisserie chicken stuffed with rice, raisins, and pecans, and it is grilled and dressed with chorizo and a brown rice vinaigrette.

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By Kandice Martellaro with Stephanie Ervin for