With around 42 million visitors a year, Central Park is New York’s most visited attraction alongside the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. This makes finding the best restaurants near Central Park more difficult than expected, thanks to hundreds of restaurants and tourist-targeted food carts that are either overpriced or very average.
Your guide to the best restaurants near Central Park
Luckily, there’s still plenty of great food among the mediocre, which is why we’ve put together our guide to the best restaurants near Central Park. From innovative grilled cheese sandwiches to authentic Vietnamese dishes and upscale brunches, you’ll be ready to stroll through the park from dawn to dusk with a satisfied stomach.
Parm started with humble beginnings in the heart of Little Italy and is now launching our guide to the best restaurants near Central Park with its Upper West Side location. Just off 72nd, this Italian spot strives both to provide a comfortable and hospitable stop after a long walk in the park and to make the absolute best versions of classic Italian dishes that also stay true to their history. Known for its prized parmesan chicken and homemade meatballs, the restaurant’s homemade pasta is equally memorable. The fresh Fusilli Bolognese is particularly noteworthy, with a generous dollop of creamy risotto and savory meat sauce coating every crevice of the pasta shells, served chilled and al dente. Their chicken and meatball dinners, each served with spicy rotini pasta, are also excellent choices.
$$$$ Italian, Sandwiches
235 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023 • 212-776-4921
10. Taqueria El Paso
Founded over 12 years ago, this little Upper East Side canteen offers some of the most delicious Mexican bites around. You will find many antojitos, tasty tortas and classic tacos al pastor and bistec. However, grab the full menu right away and skip straight to the stir-fried, lime-dried octopus tacos. They come on a plate of three and are topped with onions, cabbage, and pico de gallo. It gives all the authenticity of more standard street tacos with an unexpected twist. If seafood isn’t your preference, their chorizo tacos are fatty, crispy, and full of flavor. Either way, you’ll enjoy your time at one of the best restaurants near Central Park.
64 E 97th St, New York, NY 10029 • 212-996-1739
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One of the best restaurants near Central Park is located in the far northeast, near the Conservatory Garden. Teranga offers a grand welcome to West Africa for tourists and locals at the lobby level of the Africa Center. Rooted in traditional African cuisine, this East Harlem establishment offers authentic dishes that showcase sustainably grown African ingredients. There are several bowls to choose from, but one of the most popular is the Suya Bowl. Fluffy jollof rice, cooked in a spicy tomato broth, fills the entire bottom. Next is grilled Chicken Suya dipped in lime, garlic and thyme, along with Kelewele (spicy roasted plantains) and Ndambe (stew of black peas, sweet potatoes and okra). The bowl also includes a side of Mafe, a tangy and creamy peanut sauce.
1280 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10029 • 646-663-1935
8. Shake the hut
Shake Shack is also one of the best restaurants near Central Park (especially their UWS location) and one of New York’s most classic joints. Once just a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park and now a global company, their custom Angus beef burgers are simply tasty. And while their ShackBurger is good, their SmokeShack is really where it’s at. With chopped cherry red peppers, Niman Ranch Apple Smoked Bacon, Cheddar and their Hot ShackSauce, it’s the smokiest, crunchiest and tastiest choice. Of course, you also have to get a side of their super salty, chewy, wavy fries or a signature shake (or both!) for the full experience.
$$$$ Burgers, Hot Dogs, Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt
366 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024 • 646-747-8770
7. Beer and Earl’s Cheese
Located somewhere between a bar and a hunting lodge, Earl’s Beer and Cheese isn’t quite what you’d expect to find on Park Avenue. But that makes its charm all the more undeniable. Recognized year after year as one of the best places to try in New York, it’s also one of the best restaurants near Central Park thanks to its original cuisine and top-notch craft beer. There are different kinds of grilled cheese here, but the one you need to order is New York State Cheddar. It comes with pork belly, kimchi, potato chips and a fried egg on toasted sourdough butter. A truly elevated grilled cheese experience, but not so complex that it loses its nostalgic roots. You can even bring your food to the park across the street and lounge right in the middle of one of New York’s most iconic streets.
$$$$ Bars, Comfort food
1259 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10029 • 212-289-1581
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6. Halal guys
The Halal Guys have been serving authentic American Halal cuisine since 1990. They first started selling traditional Halal food from a single cart to Muslim taxi drivers in the city’s five boroughs. Although they have expanded globally, they remain a foundational New York establishment. Located just south of the park, The Halal Guys is a staple in our guide to the best restaurants near Central Park. You can choose between beef gyro, chicken and falafel in both pita and platter form. If you want a bit of everything, the combo platter lets you choose two dishes rather than their turmeric yellow rice with lettuce and tomatoes. Each component is rich in flavor, but the goal is to dip it all in their famous white sauce, which is downright addictive. Note: Their signature hot sauce is legitimately spicy, so tread lightly.
$$$$ Halal, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean
720 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025 • 347-378-4465
5. The Blacksmith
The Smith is an American brasserie with four locations in New York. It offers casual yet upscale dining with bistro classics, seasonal dishes and creative drinks. And, with a Lincoln Square location, it’s also one of the best restaurants near Central Park. Their large menu has something for everyone and for any meal. For brunch, enjoy their French toast with vanilla bean. It’s a celebration of all things sweet, from soft bread with crispy edges to caramelized bananas that melt the second they hit your tongue. For lunch and dinner, the burger (and the accompanying pile of fries) is the star of the show. Topped with crispy fried onions, sharp cheddar cheese and punchy aioli, it will check all the boxes you can think of.
$$$$ American (New), Breakfast & Brunch, Cocktail Bars
1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 • 212-496-5700
4. The Loeb
The Loeb Boathouse lakeside restaurant is an urban oasis with an elegant dining experience and even better views. And true to its name, you’ll enjoy the sight of rowboats drifting across the lake. One of the best restaurants near Central Park, it offers menus for all meals from day to night. Their brunch is particularly famous, so let’s go. The crab cake appetizer is a menu favorite. Amazing in texture and taste without being fishy, it’s perfectly sautéed and served with chipotle sauce and seasonal vegetables. Another standout is the macaroni au gratin with Vermont cheddar cheese and a grilled bacon crumble topping. It’s buttery, gooey and textured, and the resulting cheese deserves a gold medal. Last, but definitely not least, stuffed French toast is a chunky mountain of sweet, chewy carbs. The mascarpone and blueberry filling is simply decadent, and the oozing blueberries on top combine with the maple syrup to create magic. Garnished with a sprig of mint and sprinkled with lemon-scented sugar, you’ll be tempted to forgo the beautiful park scenery for the sight of your own plate.
$$$$ Boating, American Traditional, Venues & Event Spaces
Park Drive North, E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021 • 212-517-2233
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Saiguette is a small Vietnamese restaurant with a huge menu. But despite the variety of options, the reason you come here is for the Upper West Side’s best banh mi. Get the Lemongrass Grilled Pork Shoulder for a sandwich that will rock your world. Between the fresh baguette, marinated carrots and jalapeño, crunchy cucumber and spicy chili mayonnaise, there’s already more dimension than your mouth can handle. But the addition of the grilled and lemony pork shoulder really takes over. Another menu item revered by Saiguette devotees is pho. Opt for the spicy pho udon for a beef broth of unparalleled depth and flavor. It comes with a raw beef eye and brisket that cooks instantly when dunked in the steaming hot broth. With fluffy udon noodles, onion and bok choy, it achieves the ultimate amalgamation of texture.
935 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10025 • 212-866-8886
2. Queen of Pastrami
Pastrami Queen has been Upper East Side royalty since 1998, recently expanding her domain to the Upper West Side. For those visiting the park, that means one of the best restaurants near Central Park has two convenient storefronts a few blocks on either side. You are here for the famous hot pastrami on rye. Their pastrami is really perfect: salty, fatty and velvety. Sliced into thin slices, we really appreciate the tenderness of the meat and its peppery coating of secret spices. It also makes the colossal size of the sandwich a bit more manageable. If you’re not a pastrami purist, get some homemade coleslaw or Russian dressing to go with it (and maybe some of their awesome Matzoh Ball Soup) for a feast worthy of a queen.
$$$$ Delis, Kosher, American (Traditional)
1125 Lexington Avenue #2, New York, NY 10075 • 212-734-1500
1. Harlem Cookie Shop
New to the Central Harlem culinary landscape, this little spot just north of Central Park offers a casual spot to enjoy authentic southern-inspired cookie sandwiches. While they serve a slew of biscuity delights from bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches to breakfast combos, you’ve come to The Langston here. Fried chicken, pickles, sliced onions, and a lip-smacking chili garlic honey on a cheddar chive cookie (they have several cookie flavors to choose from, but we love this one). The monstrous piece of fried chicken is absurdly succulent yet ultra-crispy and fragrant to perfection. If you want to cut the cookies straight, get the buttermilk cookies and gravy. It’s a crumbly, buttery, flavorful combination that inexplicably doesn’t get soggy.
$$$$ Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches, Comfort Food
2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026 • 929-390-1472