It’s not hard to find delicious food in New York; however, for those seeking to go beyond the guidebook and enjoy a truly atypical meal, you’ll want a little guidance. Which is where this list comes in. Check out my top picks — I’m a local — for quirky NYC restaurants.
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Food Tours: At the end of this list I include my picks for high quality NYC food tours, all $50 or less!
1. While Maille isn’t exactly a restaurant, this Manhattan mustard shop offers 50+ mustards to sample as well as mustard tastings and an onsite mustard sommelier.
2. If you have a sweet tooth, The Sugar Factory offers whimsical candy, decadent fondues, delicious diner food, and outrageous desserts imagined if your most sinful dreams (24-scoop sundae, anyone?). The real reason to visit though is their crazy Goblet concoctions, monster-sized themed cocktails laced with candy. I love the blue Hpnotiq-focused “Ocean Blue” with “swimming” gummy sharks!
3. Molly’s Cupcakes lets you be a kid again by eating homemade small-batch cupcakes — often stuffed with fillings like Nutella, butterscotch caramel pudding and cheesecake — that you can eat on swings while playing board games.
4. Musical Pairing has popup events throughout the year where you’ll not only pair dishes with alcoholic and non-alcohol drinks, but also different tunes to see how melodies affect flavor.
5. Head to SUSHI ROXX for their unique rolls, like a Miso Horny blending seared miso salmon, honey aioli and avocado or the Apollo Creed made with spicy scallop, avocado, shiso leaf and tobiko drizzled with eel sauce — all enjoyed to the crooning of singing staff!What's your favorite #quirky restaurant meal in #NYC? Here are 50 for inspiration! #eatnyc Click To Tweet
6. Oiji in the East Village makes delicious honey buttered chips, thinly fried with honey and brown sugar melted into the butter that gowns them — with a dash of cayenne in the syrup to cut the sweetness. Pair with their “Hwayo Negroni”: jasmine-infused Hwayo 41, sweet vermouth, Campari and orange bitters.
7. Within theHimalayan art-focused Rubin Museum visit Cafe Serai to try the momos, which put a New York twist — a la Reuben sandwich — on traditional Tibetan dumplings. You get a choice of steamed or fried, with the dumplings filled with corned beef and sauerkraut and drizzled with Russian dressing.
8. Have you ever found yourself debating Shake Shack vs In-N-Out? The Happiest Hour has a burger called The Happiest Burger that blends the two’s signature patties.
9. The entire menu at Astoria’s Queen’s Comfort is quirky during brunch, as is the atmosphere with old movies showing on the walls, retro McDonald’s Happy Meal toys on the shelves and a smiling bouncer telling dirty jokes to patrons (and busting rhymes with the day’s guest freestyler). Get the Cap’n Crunch Crusted Chicken Sandwich, Deep Fried French Toast Balls or the Oreo Brioche French Toast.
10. Head to Jimmy’s Diner for the Tater Heaven Bowl: homemade tater tots (that taste more like hush puppies) piled high with scrambled eggs, guac, pepperjack cheese and sautéed onions.
11. For something super unique, I Forgot It’s Wednesday (IFIW) is a supper club that uses fun thought-provoking prompts to get people talking while chowing down on creative eats like homemade ricotta toast with crunchy crickets and a candy cap mushroom ice cream with bacon and fresh honeycomb.
12. Gotta love the creative and colorfully-named creations at Big Gay Ice Cream, especially the Salty Pimp where vanilla soft serve is coated in a hard chocolate shell and bits of dulce de leche burst into your mouth. They also feature atypical topping options like wasabi pea dust, cayenne pepper, ginger syrup and key lime curd.
13. If you love ice cream you should also go to OddFellows Ice Cream, where the name says it all. Small batch ice cream flavors change regularly, but you might find anything from Saffron Passionfruit to Manchego Pineapple to Thai Iced Tea and beyond.
14. The VNYL showcases a retro 70s aesthetic and very Instagrammable menu, with dishes like Bangers & Mash Croquettes and Bacon Quinoa Sushi with avocado & sambal créme fraiche. Save room for a cookie dough spring roll!
15. At Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick get the Bee Sting, a sweet, salty and spicy pizza featuring honey, chili oil and flakes, and soppressata.
16. If you’re into Fear Factor-esque eats, Black Ant in the East Village infuses insects into their menu, whether it be guacamole laced with black ant salt or grasshopper corn crusted shrimp.
17. Within the Le Soleil Hotel in Herald Square, Trademark Taste & Grind offers offbeat bites like Burrata & Knots (an upscale play on garlic knots), vegetarian Roasted Cauliflower Steak and their own creation, the Doffle. For the latter think doughnut meets waffle, with new flavors — from Sweet Potato Pie to Pear Cardamom — offered each week.
18. Not only is Suprema Pizza delicious and right near Penn Station, but you can have an “Upside Down” Sicilian slice with the sauce and cheese swapped!
19. For a countryside feel in the city, Brooklyn Grange hosts culinary, agricultural and sustainable eats classes as well as delicious rooftop dinners.Upside #pizza? Cereal milk #icecream? Ramen burgers? Just a few quirky #NYC eats! Click To Tweet
20. Head to Cafeteria and order Mac & Cheese Spring Rolls — actual spring rolls made from fried mac and cheese!
21. The Late Late is one of my favorite craft cocktail and music-focused bars (hey, their tunes are picked by Rob Ackroyd of Florence & the Machine). The non-classic Irish bar also features atypical eats like Fish & Chips Tacos, Dublin Cheddar Sticks and the Tayto Crisp Sambo. The latter is a UK sandwich not really found in the USA featuring Irish potato chips, Ballymaloe Stout Relish (considered Ireland’s ketchup), pickles and cheese mayo served on a chive brioche bun.
22. Ramen Burger serves up just what it sounds like — delicious Ramen burgers: juicy patties sandwiched between buns made from the tasty fried noodles.
23. Of course, a restaurant called The Cannibal would have some unique meat eats on their menu, like a General Tso’s Pig Head — yes, you’ll look your food in the eye — or a whole pig or lamb for the table.
24. Head to the farm-to-fork focused Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar in Ridgewood, Queens (on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn) and try their unusual roasted tri-color cauliflower and Brussel sprouts tossed in buffalo sauce and topped with sheep’s milk blue cheese.
25. Also in Ridgewood is another farm to table eatery, Norma’s Corner Shoppe, serving up really fun desserts. Try the frankencrispies, a combination chocolate chip cookie, rice crispy treat and raspberry brownie.
26. Ever dreamed of crashing a Bar Mitzvah? At Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in the Lower East Side you’ll chow down on Romanian tenderloin and stuffed cabbage before dancing the hora with strangers to live DJ music. Pretty nuts!
27. S’MAC is a restaurant devoted solely to Mac & Cheese, with unique flavors that go beyond four cheese. Masala, anyone?
28. At The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen in the InterContinental New York Times Square Hotel the cocktail and food menus weave in honey from their rooftop hives (there are 60,000 bees!). Try the spicy shrimp dumplings in honey truffle or honey-laced ribs paired with a “Bee Good” featuring Langley’s No. 8 gin, rooftop honey, and house-made mead. Bonus: a portion of proceeds benefit the Best Bees Company and Urban Bee Keeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary, Inc.
29. Prune Restaurant serves up delicious omelettes — like a fried oyster omelette and the toasted caraway seed and sour cream omelette.
30. Kellogg’s — yes, that Kellogg’s — has a unique cereal restaurant in Times Square that serves more than just Fruit Loops. You’ll start by choosing if you want your cereal with milk or as a sundae, milkshake or parfait, then pick your toppings. One tasty example: a vanilla chocolate swirl sundae with Frosted Mini-Wheats, fresh pear, ground ginger and ground cinnamon.
31. Sushisamba blends Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cooking. Try an Umami Roll with American Wagyu beef, shrimp tempura, avocado and truffle oil, and save room for the S’Mores featuring shichimi-graham cracker stuffed with lúcuma ice cream, Peruvian chocolate and a marshmallow set aflame.
32. Oatmeal isn’t just a breakfast food at OatMeals, who lace their whole grain steel-cut oats with atypical ingredients like pumpkin puree swirl, sharp cheddar cheese and diced ham. My pick: the Truffle Honey Cheese Plate showcasing goat cheese, dried figs, hazelnuts, truffle honey, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Yum!
33. Toloache NYC has an expansive menu that includes a very atypical taco, at least in New York: the Chapulines, a spicy taco gowned in Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers.
34. It’s not so much the food at Ninja New York that’s odd, but the experience of dining in an ancient “ninja village” while servers perform ninja stunts as you eat.
35. Just a few of Pasticceria Rocco‘s unusual latte flavors include cheesecake, frosted shortbread, banana foster, creme brulee, strawberry banana, caramel biscuit and a sweet vanilla cupcake latte made with real cupcake.
36. Treat House offers wacky rice crispy treat squares and pops in flavors like birthday cake, M&M and Cookies & Cream.
37. Dominique Ansel, the man famed for his Cronut, serves up an interesting burrata soft serve at Dominique Ansel Kitchen. Recommended: a hazelnut chocolate swirl base topped with balsamic caramel and basil with strawberry confit at the bottom of the cone.
38. Be a quirky kid again at Sticky’s Finger Joint, with unusual chicken finger options. Don’t miss the Salted Carmel Pretzel chicken fingers, or the “Thai Fiesta” variety with Mac sauce, Thai sweet chili, taco seasoning and sesame seeds.This article proves chicken fingers pair with more than honey mustard and buffalo sauce! #NYC… Click To Tweet
39. A favorite of mine for years, almost nothing on the Momofuku Milk Bar dessert menu is like anything you’d find elsewhere. I love the soft serve in flavors like Cereal Milk, Sweet Potato and Pretzel, though the Crack Pie — which doesn’t contain crack but is just as addictive — is amazing with its gooey butter filling.
40. The aptly named Bagel Store in Williamsburg offers unusually-flavored bagels as well as rainbow bagels with quirky cream cheeses (Funfetti, anyone?). My favorite is the chocolate cherry bagel with cannoli cream cheese. Rich but delicious!
41. Nunu Chocolates does an innovative beer and/or wine pairing with their homemade chocolates, which come in decadent flavors like Peanut Caramel Crush and Double Dark as well as boozy varieties like Mezcal-Chili and Prosecco. They even sell a box of beer-centric flavors!
42. Want a buzz from your food? Prohibition Bakery serves up boozy mini cupcakes in flavors like Old Fashioned and Bee’s Knees that actually taste like drink they’re named for. Because alcohol is added after the cupcakes are baked you must be 21 to order.
43. Head to Birds & Bubbles for southern-style fried chicken expertly paired with sparkling wine and Champagne. It may sound crazy, but the carbonation helps cut through the fat!
44. COSME is an interesting contemporary Mexican restaurant, with elements of Japanese and Italian woven in to dishes like uni tostada served with avocado, bone marrow salsa and cucumber, or seared Brussels sprouts done in a mole verde with pine nuts and kale.
45. Camaje offers an interesting Dinners in the Dark series where you’ll enjoy your meal blindfolded, heightening your other senses. The $95 ticket for the event includes your food, wine, tax and tip.
46. While somewhat touristy, my parents used to take me to Jekyll and Hyde Club when I was younger and we always had a blast being immersed in an atmosphere of bizarre live performances, movie-themed dishes and monsters who would come to the table and talk to you. The decor is really out there, too!
47. Don’t miss Shalom Japan‘s unique Jewish Japanese restaurant, with some recommended dishes being the Matzoh Ball Ramen with foie gras dumplings and the Okonomi-Latke, a cross between Japanese okonomiyaki pancake and the traditional Jewish latke.
48. The most offbeat PB & J sandwich of your life can be had at Concrete, featuring potato rolls stuffed with peanut butter and jelly before being coated in panko, crushed peanuts and brown sugar and fried.
49. For a wild array of empanadas, Empanada Mama showcases not often seen varieties like an Americano with hot dog bits and cheddar, and a Viagra stuffed with seafood stew.
50. Love nachos? Don’t miss Swine‘s Potato Chip Nachos made with homemade chips that are gowned in a five-cheese fondue, jalapeños and crispy fried pork belly.
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