Best Classic Restaurants

Coolstuff Team
December 15, 2023

As soon as the temperature drops, we want three things: a thick sweater, a stiff martini, and a classic restaurant. This list aims to help with two of those things. We’ve compiled an extensive list of our favorite classic restaurants in New York, ranging from dive bars to steakhouses and everything in between. Read this list and become enlightened to the ways of yesterday.

American Casual

JG Melon

Upper East Side, Manhattan 

For: The greatest burger in New York City – we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Come here any time of day, bring cash, and don’t forget to add on cottage fries and a martini.


Upper East Side, Manhattan

For: an opportunity to blend in with Upper East Side locals. This place is somehow at once rough around the edges and also fancy? We prefer to sit at the bar, listen to some gossip, and enjoy a cobb salad. Once again, this place pairs well with a gin martini.


East Village, Manhattan 

For: McSorley’s is an East Village institution. Sawdust on the floor, burgers with thick rings of raw white onion, and of course when you order one beer they give you two. This place can get rowdy so early on a weeknight is recommended.

Clockwise from left: Donohue's, McSorley's, JG Melon


Old Town Bar

Union Square, Manhattan 

For: the saving grace of Union Square. Had enough street performers and chess players? Head to Old Town which is appropriately OLD - the building dates back to 1892 - then get a German pilsner and a burger.


Red Hook, Brooklyn

For: A good time at the end of the world. Sunny’s sits at the very edge of Red Hook and feels truly from another time. One of our favorite things Sunny’s does? An open-to-all folk music jam every Sunday afternoon. Once again, bring CA$H.

Ear Inn

West Soho, Manhattan 

For: Okay Ear Inn is also at the edge of the water, but this time in Manhattan. No matter the day of the week, Ear Inn is packed to the gills full of locals savoring the last taste of old soho – replete with Irish patrons and employees.

Brooklyn Inn

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn 

For: High ceilings and chill vibes. Brooklyn Inn occupies a wonderful space where it’s perfect for a catch up drink with friends and the perfect closer to a romantic evening.

Clockwise from left: Old Town Bar, Sunny's, Ear Inn, Brooklyn Inn


Bemelmans Bar

Upper East Side, Manhattan

For: Bemelmans Bar inside the Carlyle Hotel is absolutely legendary. Luckily for us all, the TikTok-induced rush of 2020 has died down, and Bemelmans retains what always made it great: live piano and stiff drinks.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

Midtown Manhattan

For: Oysters and Cocktails, weekdays only. Grand Central Oyster Bar has a long and storied history and we hope it’s always a part of the station which serves as the heart of New York (which makes the subway its arteries?) 


Tribeca, Manhattan 

For: The Odeon has always been a place you go to for the scene – even back in the days of Andy Warhol (who was a regular.) We love to hit the Odeon for a drink and fries in the bar area after a night of Thursday gallery openings in Tribeca.

Clockwise from left: Bemelmans Bar, Grand Central Oyster Bar, The Odeon



Midtown, Manhattan

For: the right restaurant in the wrong place, Keen’s defies what you might expect for a place located on the corner of 36th Street and 6th avenue. This is maybe the most overtly masculine spot on this list: there are pipes hung from the ceiling and they are known for mutton. 

Peter Luger

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

For: Williamsburg's oldest and most famous restaurant. Peter Luger's has been slighted in ahem a certain paper as of late, but we still love the ol' place. Best yet? They're open 365 days a year, so long as the Subway is running. Bring cash!

Gage & Tollner

Downtown Brooklyn

For: There are so manby reasons to love Gage & Tollner: the Parker House Rolls, the raw bar, pastry chef Caroline Schiff, the sorta secret Tiki Bar upstairs. But, like many of these places, we keep coming back for the old world charm (and great martinis.) 


Soho, Manhattan

For: The famous burger - of which there are only 12 per night. Don’t worry, for the rest of us (who manage to get in) there is still a great selection of steakhouse favorites.

Clockwise from left: Keen's, Peter Luger, Gage & Tollner, Raoul's


Barney Greengrass

Upper West Side, Manhattan 

For: potato pancakes (off-menu), sturgeon (on-menu), and bagels (kind of a side). This place is bustling in a way that makes you nostalgic for the Upper West Side of Norah Ephron. May Barney Greengrass never remove their pay phone! 

S&P Lunch

Flatiron, Manhattan

For: a sort of updated take on a classic New York Deli. When Eisenberg’s closed, 5th avenue wept, but when the folks behind Court Street Grocers took over the lease we all took a sigh of relief. S&P takes deli classics and touches no buttons except the quality knob which is now turned up to 11.

2nd Ave Deli

Upper East Side & Midtown, Manhattan 

For: this is where locals go for the quintessential Jewish deli classics, not K**z’s. Order the a half of a hot pastrami with a soup, drink a Celery Soda, and cough up a little more dough than you’d like for an amazing lunch.

Clockwise from left: 2nd Ave Deli, S&P, Barney Greengrass



Upper East Side, Manhattan

For: Elio’s has, as some would say, a great room. This place is always buzzing. The waiters dance a quick ballet shepherding trays of cocktails over the heads of unsuspecting diners. A good place to take your parents while they’re in the city.


Williamsburg, Brooklyn

For: Italian with the feeling of…let’s say “family.” Bamonte’s is a no-nonsense red sauce joint, and it is absolutely correct in every way.

Left: Elio's, Right: Bamonte's

Honorable Mentions

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nathan’s Famous