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You Absolutely Must Try These 61 Unusual NYC Restaurants

By Jessie on a Journey

Love quirky NYC restaurants?

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 truly unique New York City restaurants. 

NYC Tip: Want to preserve your New York trip memories? I offer private New York City photo tours through my local walking tour company, NYC Photo Journeys, where you’ll receive unlimited photos to keep!

Food Tours: Below I also include my picks for high quality NYC food tours, all $50 or less!

Top NYC Foodie Neighborhood:

Before you read the list, check out my video on must-try eateries in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

This is one of my absolute favorite neighborhoods for a day of eating:

Watch it above to whet your palate. 

Then, continue on to the quirky New York food recommendations.

Recommended NYC Food & Drink Tours:

Pizza Walking Tour Of Manhattan

Brooklyn Pizza Walk

Italian Food Tour Of New York

New York City Pierogi Walk

New York City Food Cart Walking Tour

NYC Make Your Own Gourmet Chocolate Class

Offbeat & Quirky Restaurants In NYC

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!

Bonus:

They’ve got multiple locations, so it’ll likely be near your hotel no matter where you stay in New York City

3. Molly’s Cupcakes lets you be a kid again by eating homemade small-batch cupcakes that you can eat on swings while playing board games.

They’re often stuffed with fillings like Nutella, butterscotch caramel pudding and cheesecake.

Options change by season, so whether you’re visiting NYC in fall, spring, winter or summer, you can find unique options. 

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. Talk about interesting restaurants in NYC! 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.

6. Within the Himalayan 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.

quirky nyc restaurants include rubin momo

Reuben Rubin Momo via Ben Hider

7. 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.

8. The entire menu at Astoria’s Queen’s Comfort is quirky during brunch, as is the atmosphere.

Picture 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.

9. Head to Jimmy’s Diner for the Tater Heaven Bowl:

Hhomemade tater tots (that taste more like hush puppies) piled high with scrambled eggs, guac, pepperjack cheese and sautéed onions.

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

10. Gotta love the creative and colorfully-named creations at Big Gay Ice Cream.

My favorite:

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.

11. 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.

12. 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!

quirky nyc restaurants include THE VNYL

Bacon Quinoa Sushi via THE VNYL

13. At Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick get the Bee Sting, a sweet, salty and spicy pizza featuring honey, chili oil and flakes, and soppressata.

14. When it comes to unusual restaurants in NYC, this one fits the bill. 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.

15. Within the Le Soleil Hotel in Herald Square, Trademark Taste & Grind offers offbeat bites.

Think 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.

quirky nyc restaurants include Trademark Taste & Grind

Champagne Cocktail Doffle via Trademark Taste & Grind

16. 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!

17. For a countryside feel in the city, Brooklyn Grange hosts culinary, agricultural and sustainable eats classes as well as delicious rooftop dinners.

18. Head to Cafeteria and order Mac & Cheese Spring Rolls — actual spring rolls made from fried mac and cheese!

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected]om with inquiries.

19. 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.

the late late is one of the best nyc restaurants

Tayto Crisp Sambo via The Late Late

20. Ramen Burger serves up just what it sounds like — delicious Ramen burgers: juicy patties sandwiched between buns made from the tasty fried noodles.

21. Head to the farm-to-fork focused Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar in Ridgewood, Queens.

Located 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.

Julia's Beer and Wine Bar is a quirky nyc restaurant

An atypical veggie mix via Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar

22. 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.

23. 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, especially if you love weird NYC restaurants! 

24. S’MAC is a restaurant devoted solely to Mac & Cheese, with unique flavors that go beyond four cheese.

Masala, anyone?

25. 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 benefits the Best Bees Company and Urban Bee Keeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary, Inc.

The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen is a quirky new york city restaurant

Photo via The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen

26. Prune Restaurant serves up delicious omelettes — like a fried oyster omelette and the toasted caraway seed and sour cream omelette.

27. 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!

quirky nyc restaurants

Photo via OatMeals

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. Just a few of Pasticceria Rocco‘s unusual latte flavors.

Some include cheesecake, frosted shortbread, banana foster, creme brulee, strawberry banana, caramel biscuit and a sweet vanilla cupcake latte made with real cupcake.

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

31. Treat House offers wacky rice crispy treat squares and pops in flavors like birthday cake, M&M and Cookies & Cream.

quirky nyc restaurants

Photo via Treat House

32. 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.

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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!

quirky nyc restaurants

Photo via The Bagel Store

36. 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!

37. COSME is an interesting contemporary Mexican restaurant.

It features 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.

quirky nyc restaurants

Photo via Cosme

38. Abigail’s Kitchen offers an interesting Dinners in the Dark series where you’ll enjoy your meal blindfolded, heightening your other senses.

The $125 ticket for the event includes your food, wine, tax and tip. It’s quite the novelty restaurant in NYC!

39. While somewhat touristy, my parents used to take me to Jekyll and Hyde Club when I was younger.

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!

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

40. Don’t miss Shalom Japan‘s, a unique fusion restaurant blending Jewish and Japanese cultures. 

Some recommended dishes include:

The Matzoh Ball Ramen with foie gras dumplings and the Okonomi-Latke, a cross between Japanese okonomiyaki pancake and the traditional Jewish latke.

quirky nyc restaurants

Photo via Shalom Japan

41. 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.

42. For some hearty Georgian eats (as in the country Georgia, not the state), head to Chama Mama in Chelsea.

With an expansive menu featuring small plates of stuffed grape leaves, kebabs and incredible wines from the region, you’ll leave wondering why you never checked out this cuisine before.

A cheesebread for the table is an absolute must!

43. Looking for some of the best South Indian eats in NYC? You’ll find it at the Ganesh Hindu Temple in Flushing, Queens.

Tucked inside the house of worship is the Temple Canteen, serving a wide array of vegetarian delicacies to all temple visitors, regardless of faith.

Missing the canteen’s tasty snacks at home? Don’t worry – they ship nationwide!

44. For a vegan-friendly taste of Polynesia in Manhattan, head to Mother of Pearl, one of the most unique places to eat in New York City.

Split a pupu platter, a sampler of five of the restaurant’s tasty shared places, and a “Big Drink” like the Club Flamingo with your dining partners for the full experience.

The island vibes are so strong here that you might even forget that you’re in NYC.

45. Ready to sample the flavors of Africa’s western coast?

Travel up to Harlem for a meal at Africa Kine.

Huge platters of lamb, fish, and game fowl — grilled Senegalese-style — await you upon your visit to this family-owned-and-operated eatery.

46. Meme’s Diner in Prospect Heights serves up comfort food with a twist with a menu full of classic diner faves taken up a notch.

Meme’s falls right in the middle of the Venn diagram of restaurants that serve both le grand aioli and side bowls of cheese puffs. As a result, it’s become a favorite of both foodies and those just looking for a cozy bite since it opened in 2017.

47. Think you can’t find great, authentic barbecue in New York City?

You clearly haven’t visited Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

With locations in Brooklyn and Harlem, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que offers generous helpings of barbeque favorites like pulled pork, ribs, and wings alongside classic sides like mac & cheese and potato salad.

And with plenty of outdoor seating and complimentary water bowls, it’s one of the best places for dog lovers to eat alongside their four-legged friends.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is one of the best restaurants in nyc

Is your mouth watering yet? Find this delicious spread at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

48. Music lovers and izakaya fans alike will love Tokyo Record Bar, an underground eatery that lets you play DJ for the night.

Modeled after the listening rooms of Japans, Tokyo Record Bar allows you to choose the evening’s soundtrack by choosing from their library of vinyl records and pairs your meal to that night’s playlist.

Book early, as seatings fill up fast, and you won’t want to miss one of the most unique places to eat in New York.

49. Red Hook’s Brooklyn Crab is the perfect place to while away an afternoon while chowing down on unfussy seafood faves like peel n’ eat shrimp.

With three floors of (mostly outdoor) seating space, cornhole equipment galore and a backyard beer garden, this waterside spot has something for everyone.

As far as quirky restaurants in New York go, you can’t beat a spot with its own mini-golf course.

50. Fans of all things kitschy will love The Trailer Park Lounge & Grill, one of the most unusual restaurants in NYC.

With a menu full of backyard favorites like burgers and hot dogs and walls covered in every piece of quirky Americana you could imagine, Trailer Park has been a Manhattan favorite since 2000.

One too many “Jim Bob’s I.Q.” cocktails and you’ll swear you’re seeing two of those hula girls in the corner.

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

51. Vegetarians and vegans will act like kids in candy stores at Dirt Candy, one of the most unique food places in NYC.

This veggie-based eatery offers two tasting menus:

The Vegetable Patch, featuring five courses of the restaurant’s greatest hits, and Vegetable Garden, a seasonal menu of ten courses.

And yes, even the deliciously sweet desserts are veggie-based, proving that truly anything is possible when it comes to food.

52. Take a trip back to the 1920s at Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain in Cobble Hill.

A former apothecary, this eatery now offers vintage-style milkshakes, classic New York egg creams, sundaes galore to satisfy both your nostalgia and your sweet tooth.

53. Drag fans will absolutely gag —in a good way — over a night at Lips, one of New York’s oldest drag queen shows and dining experiences.

Enjoy a three-course menu featuring dishes named for famous drag queens as you watch performers lip sync for their lives on stage and throughout the dining room — so be sure to bring cash for tips!

Take your Sunday brunch to the next stage at Broadway Brunch, where you can sip unlimited mimosas and Bloody Marys while you watch the queens belt out their favorite show tunes.

54. Go as DIY with your meal as the Board of Health will allow at Astoria Seafood.

This seafood market and Greek eatery allows you to choose your own fish from their super fresh selection before it’s cooked up to your liking.

Going along with the DIY vibe, Astoria Seafood is BYOB. May we suggest a bottle of ouzo?

55. If you think you’ve already checked out all the most interesting restaurants in NYC, check out Chefs Club, a series of restaurant residencies from some of the best chefs in the world.

Paris’s Sota Atsumi, Asheville’s Katie Button, and Chicago’s Abraham Conlon are just some of the world-renowned chefs that have taken up three-month residencies in New York with the club.

Chefs Club is one of the best ways to sample the world’s best culinary offerings without ever leaving the city.

56. Craving some alone time in such a bustling city? Ichiran feels you and has you covered.

Sit at one of Ichiran’s “Ramen Focus Booths” and fill out an order form to enjoy their delicious ramen with minimal distractions from servers or your fellow diners.

While it may not be for everyone, this more mindful approach to eating makes Ichiran one of the most unique food places in NYC.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5qgg6AB2aF/

57. For fresh fish with a nice helping of kitsch, head north to Sammy’s Fish Box in City Island.

This quirky Bronx eatery boasts a huge menu of all your seafood favorites, including basically every combination of surf and turf you could imagine.

58. The long lines outside Kenka on St. Marks Place really speak to the following this Japanese eatery has cultivated over the years.

The rowdy environment, the wall of pachinko machines, and a menu of unique eats like crispy frogs and turkey testicles definitely make this place a must for adventurous eaters.

59. Jazz and barbecue go hand-in-hand at Blue Smoke’s Jazz Standard, one of the most interesting places to eat in NYC.

One of the many offerings in New York from famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, Jazz Standard hosts nightly concerts from some of the hottest names in jazz served up alongside a menu of pit barbecue favorites.

Fans of Charles Mingus will want to book tickets for Monday nights, known as “Mingus Mondays” for their weekly performances from the Mingus Big Bands.

60. Dinner and a show anyone?

For some Rat Pack-style cabaret and delicious Italian eats, take the ferry over to Staten Island for a night at Lorenzo’s Restaurant and Cabaret.

This lush dining room and show space regularly hosts acts such as Deana Martin and the Jersey Tenors, perfect for anyone looking for a great meal complimented by a night of entertainment.

61. Looking for some of the best Peruvian eats in the city?

Inca’s Grill Peruvian Cuisine on Staten Island has you covered.

From ceviche to yucca fries, Inca’s will satisfy your cravings while introducing you to one of the many international cuisines represented in New York City.

Need help capturing the beauty of NYC — with you in the photos? Book a private NYC Photo Journey, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

Travel Insurance

While you hope everything runs smoothly, sometimes travel just doesn’t go according to plan.

This is why I recommend always purchasing travel insurance. The scary truth is it only takes one bad accident to lose everything — or be thankful you were covered.

Personally, I use SafetyWing, as they’ve got a large network, offer both short-term and long-term coverage (including limited coverage in your home country), are budget-friendly, and offer $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Love quirky NYC restaurants? Add your top picks below!


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Looking for other quirky NYC restaurants?

Check out these 7 unique New York tasting experiences

 

 
Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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7 Comments

  1. De Maeyer Ingrid on February 22, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Great post, we are planning a trip to NY soon so am keeping these in mind!

  2. Aleshia on September 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the advice, i love visiting query food places that i wouldn’t necessarily know about as a tourist

  3. Taylor Deer on February 1, 2020 at 10:39 am

    This is amazing! I’m definitely keeping this blog post handy as I live just outside of NYC and am always looking for new foodie spots to check out. 🙂

  4. Katie Diederichs on February 1, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Mouth. Is. Watering. I can’t wait to get back to NYC and eat as much as possible. There are so many amazing restaurants that it’s hard to choose where to eat, but this is a great list for inspiration. Saving for later 🙂

  5. Agnes on February 1, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I find myself being quite focused when I’m eating my ramen, but Ichiran sounds super intriguing! Saving this one for our next trip. Great list!

  6. Louise on February 1, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    What an awesome list! Food is one of the main reasons why I travel so of course I will be referring back to this list when I head back to NYC! I love quirky places so this is perfect 🙂

  7. Lindz on February 2, 2020 at 1:25 am

    Okay I know we’ve already said that I’m long overdue for an NYC visit but ohhhh man now I’m DYING to get there for all this food! I think I’ll need a strict exercise regiment for the trip!!

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