Dining in New York City can be whatever you want it to be. A casual stop at your favorite neighborhood watering hole, a quick to-go sausage from a stand, a pre-made sandwich from a bodega, or a white tablecloth and fine champagne accompanying four impeccable courses. It all depends on your budget, spare time, and appetites.
Maybe a restaurant that appeals to your taste of adventure? If you’re tired of the same old, same old—there are plenty of unique New York City restaurants that more than deserve your business and will leave you in awe. Whether you’re hoping to taste something completely wild, or enjoy a normal meal but in an abnormal atmosphere, New York City will never let you down.
And better yet, if you’re visiting the Big Apple to try one of these unique restaurants, consider staying in a FlipKey rental. A downtown loft, luxe condo, or something in the ‘burbs, perhaps? You’ll have the perfect home base to explore all of these stellar eateries—and everything else New York City offers. The value of a FlipKey rental—more living space, full kitchen, laundry—means you can spend your savings on truly treating yourself during your stay.
Dirt Candy (86 Allen Street)
Dirt Candy proves that veggies can be the star of any meal, and not just a side show. The Lower East Side healthy hub is headed by Chef Amanda Cohen who believes in the power of vegetables to not only provide a nutritious meal, but a delicious one too. Try the broccoli dogs for a twist on the traditional food item, but also dip into the kale matzo ball soup, or onion chocolate tarts, both of which are well heralded. The corn boil, curried cauliflower, and eggplant are all fan favorites, too. The plating and decor are up to the task of matching the beauty of the dishes.
The Black Ant (60 2nd Avenue)
For an interesting twist on classic Mexican, head over to The Black Ant in the East Village. You’ll feel like you’re on a hidden camera or reality show as they serve you dishes like grasshopper-crusted shrimp and black ant guacamole. These unique entrees and appetizers incorporate our insect friends to add a spice of life (and a hint of protein) to the usual Mexican fare. Come for the insect-based protein, but stay for the incredible agave-infused cocktails. The new wave of NYC Mexican, and a totally wild food experience, starts here.
Butcher Paper Dinners at Brooklyn Grange (37-18 Northern Boulevard, Long Island City)
Instead of farm to table, try rooftop to table at Butcher Paper Dinners at Brooklyn Grange. The urban rooftop farm in Long Island City hosts Sunday afternoon events during the summer for those looking to indulge in the freshest of meals. This private rooftop provides breathtaking views of New York City and a never-ending aroma of fresh produce. The rotating menu is consistently inventive and the setting is around a massive, fifty foot reclaimed oak communal table. The table is amongst a bed of vegetables on the rooftop and it is covered in butcher paper (hence the name). The dishes play with the farm’s fresh, seasonal produce and a rotating lineup of the city’s most innovative chefs prepare the meal. No two meals are ever alike and they usually hit the summer favorites like crab boils, pig roasts, and ribs. No food is wasted, all trash is composted, and the seating set up creates a friendly, festive atmosphere.
Important to note: The Grange isn’t a restaurant, per-se, but a working farm that hosts occasional events. And these dinners sell out, so make sure to check their website for availability and grab tickets in advance!
Riviera Sundays at Lavo (39 E 48th Street)
Be ready to call in sick on Monday because Sunday nights at Lavo is one massive party. A delicious Italian dinner plus a rocking nightclub atmosphere is what Riviera Sundays are all about. Inspired by the Italian Riviera of the 1950s, where movie stars and rock stars and musicians all partied together in trendy restaurants. The owner wanted diners to experience his delicious signature dishes while having magicians, ballerinas, stilt-walkers, and jugglers perform. Every Sunday is a different theme to keep the party exciting. The DJs match the music and sounds to the theme while guests party the night away. Go ahead and dance on the tables!
Camaje Bistro’s Dinner in the Dark (85 Macdougal Street)
Excite four of your senses during “Dinner in the Dark”, a twice-monthly event held at Camaje Bistro on Macdougal Street. Well the dining room is lit, you just won’t be able to notice. Guests are blindfolded and fed a romantic round of courses and wine where heightened smell and taste senses allow for more appreciative consumption. You’ll love guessing what’s for dinner as the menu is not revealed until the end of the night for the final “a-ha” moment. There’s also live music to stimulate the ears!
La Caverna (122-124 Rivington Street)
A lounge/restaurant/club hybrid, La Caverna’s cave atmosphere (no, really) will cause you to lose your cell service, but makes up for that with plenty of positives. The dim lighting leads to a perfect date atmosphere for a couple looking to sample small plates, an extensive drink list, and plenty of hookah to smoke. There’s also a huge dance floor for working off the meal afterward.
Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse (157 Chrystie Street)
Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse is one massive Jewish party on the Lower East Side. You can order all of the Jewish delicacies here like steak, chopped liver, broiled tenderloins in various cuts, and kasha varnishes among many others. Bottles of vodka sitting in ice blocks adorn every table and the crowd becomes raucous when the DJ starts playing. You’ll sing along to classic Billy Joel hits or you’ll get on your table and dance the hora with your neighbors. The bar mitzvah atmosphere goes all night, and you’ll love the classic touches like seltzer spouting from vintage glass bottles. You’ll be leaving there full, drunk, and looking to book a trip to the old country as soon as possible.
Jekyll and Hyde Club (91 7th Avenue S)
For a truly unique dining experience you’ll want to take your family to the world famous Jekyll and Hyde Club on 7th Ave. This restaurant is filled with spooky decor and sounds, as well as table-side entertainment like Frankenstein, a mummy, and mad scientists. Encounter bizarre characters such as Claw the Gargoyle, Tobias the Werewolf, Dreadmina the Vampire or a genuine Egyptian mummy. The food menu is another adventure — The menu offers 62 distinct dishes including Create-Your-Own-Monster burgers, and The Mummy (sirloin bandaged in your choice of cheese). The walls of Jekyll and Hyde are filled with the souvenirs and trophies of Dr. Jekyll’s bizarre exploits and those of his wacky world traveling friends. Their histories are summarized on plaques throughout the club.
Shopsins NYC (120 Essex St)
Almost 900 items on one menu – is Shopsins serious? You better believe it. This odd Essex Market eatery has almost as many rules as food choices. For example, parties with more than four people are not allowed in the restaurant, no two people at the same table can order the same thing, you are not allowed to use your phone and you cannot request the menu before you sit down. You’ll pore over the endless menu offering things like ‘slutty cakes’ and ‘high school sandwich’ and 56 different kinds of soups. The shop keep has a reputation about town, so just don’t waste his time, but the food is more than worth it! Plus the best kind of entertainment is always free, right?
Ninja New York (25 Hudson St)
You’re sitting there enjoying your food when SWIFF! a ninja star flys right by your ear. Your adrenaline is pumping while you’re eating at Tribeca’s own Ninja New York, a restaurant known for the rolling, tumbling, and riotous performances that come alongside the traditional Japanese cuisine. The waiters are dressed like ninjas and perform nunchuck tricks and ninja assassin moves from seemingly out of nowhere. Keep your eyes peeled for the ninja magician during dessert. This windowless space was created to depict a traditional ninja village of the feudal days, with individual rooms laid out like a maze. There are clever contraptions set up throughout for hiding and sneaking around. Diners can choose from various three or four-course menus or simply order a la carte.
Queen of the Night at Diamond Horseshoe (235 W 46th Street)
Forget whatever you know about dinner theatre, Queen of the Night at the Paramount Hotel’s Diamond Horseshoe is so much more. From acrobatics to a gently groping waitstaff, this place will keep you both entertained and stimulated. Diners are immersed in a participatory fusion of theater, cuisine and nightlife, with plenty of magic and fashion thrown in. Queen of the Night is circus meets diner show, with artists, actors, musicians and cooks both performing and preparing lavish dishes. With three levels of tickets you can choose how close you want to be to the action, and how a grand a time you’re willing to have.
Tatiana (3152 Brighton 6th St, Brooklyn)
This Russian-inspired restaurant in Brighton Beach keeps the vodka flowing before and after the incredible floor show. Performed on Friday and Saturday nights, dozens of dancers leap across the stage bathed in neon lights while acrobats and fire breathers complete feats of wonder. You’d probably forget you even had a plate of chicken Kiev or borscht in front of you if they weren’t so darn delicious. Inside you’ll feel a million miles away from New York, as the show, the company, and the fare are of another place. It’s flashy, it’s fun, and it is one hell of a night.
Takashi (456 Hudson Street)
Test your limits and your adventurousness at Takashi – a Korean barbecue that serves up some ‘wow’ and a whole lot of ‘WTF’ for your night out in NYC. Stomach, testicles, brain cream (served in a toothpaste tube!) are all parts of a cow available for consumption. Try the liver or the Achilles tendon, a delight for less picky eaters. Diners love the mural of caricatures on the wall that serves as the menu, and it is pretty clear that this all-beef establishment is just that. Later, enjoy the electric grill on your tabletop and cook yourselves some slices of cheek and different cuts of cow tongue. The self-proclaimed “New Meat Mecca” of the West Village delivers on that promise.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner (1650 Broadway)
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a eating experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This 1950’s themed diner is famous for its Broadway worthy singing staff. You will get the Broadway experience for much less, plus a delicious meal – now that’s a unique New York City restaurant! In a city with over 10,000 registered restaurants on TripAdvisor, Ellen’s is in the top 5%, and well deserved as it wows with both the show and the food. They’ve been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for tour groups and locals alike since 1987 – while making stars out of their staff! Many waiters, waitresses, hostesses, and bussers have gone on to star in stage shows and musicals all over the country. The decor showcases famous art, music, and pop culture from the 1950s and more than likely you’ll hear a rousing rendition of a former or current pop hit.
Now that you have an outlook at the unique New York City restaurants you have to try, you should listen to your stomach and start planning your trip. Stay in a vacation rental in the city to save money while still having the space, privacy, and amenities you’re used to at home. Happy booking and happy eating!