8 of New York City’s Oldest Restaurants

These historic establishments, from a classic steakhouse to an Indian diner, are all still worth a reservation

March 19, 2024 6:21 am
A large painting above at booth at Delmonico's, one of the oldest restaurants in NYC
There are plenty of historic steakhouses in NYC, but Delmonico's is one to seek out.

There are over 20,000 restaurants in New York City. In some ways, though, the food scene here is also a ghost town, as countless eateries have come and gone over the years, with current hotspots occupying spaces where establishments of yesteryear once served patrons. However, dozens of the city’s greatest places to dine have been around for decades, and in some instances, even centuries. Below are some of those stalwarts still worth their salt: eight of the best historic restaurants in NYC, all serving different cuisine, from Italian-American to Indian.


Williamsburg, Brooklyn

By the early 1900s, approximately two million Italians lived throughout the five boroughs of New York City, which was then a thriving port city. Italian restaurants popped up all over town as meeting places for these immigrant families, but were soon embraced by other cultures when “classic red sauce Italian” cuisine — lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, all things parmigiana, etc. — crossed over into the American mainstream. Founded in 1896, Rao’s on East 114th Street can lay claim as the oldest Italian-American restaurant in the city, but scoring a table? Fuhgeddaboudit (for most people, anyway). Bamonte’s in Williamsburg, which opened in 1900, is the oldest one you can actually expect to get into anytime soon, though it’s far from a concession prize. Dark burgundy walls, gilt-framed oil paintings, chandeliers, white tablecloths and uniformed waitstaff make Bamont’s feel like a luxury, but it’s still a casual family joint at heart. And the food is phenomenal. 

Other Italian-American early 20th-century stalwarts: Mario’s, the Bronx (opened 1919); Gene’s, West Village (also 1919); Basilio Inn, Staten Island (since 1921); Monte’s Trattoria, West Village (since 1918); John’s of 12th St., East Village (since 1908); Barbetta, Theater District Restaurant Row (since 1906). 

32 Withers St

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Fraunces Tavern

Financial District, Manhattan 

Though it hasn’t been open continuously, this restaurant is one of the oldest original dining spaces in the country, let alone the city. It was originally built at the edge of Manhattan in the 17th century as an inn with downstairs dining and is named for the building’s third owner, Samuel Fraunces. It’s literally splashed with centuries of history. Saloons were the original co-working spaces for American business and politics, and during the American Revolution, this one was where the Sons of Liberty regularly convened, where the actual seat of the American government was located before moving to D.C., and where George Washington eventually bid farewell to his troops (there is a banquet room with a mural depicting this occasion). In different dining rooms and a bar area, they serve an impressive selection of beers and spirits, and the cocktails ain’t half bad either. The fare can be categorized as modern classic American, meaning you can get burgers, chops, fish and chips, and vegetarian dishes, but also tapas and other small plates. 

54 Pearl St

Katz's Delicatessen, one of the oldest restaurants in NYC, on East Houston Street
Come hungry and get the pastrami.
Michał Kubiak/Unsplash

Katz’s Delicatessen

Lower East Side, Manhattan

In the late 19th century, Manhattan’s Lower East Side was an enclave for European immigrants, who squished their families into the neighborhood’s tenement buildings — most of which lacked running water, making it a constant challenge to cook and clean since heavy buckets had to be hauled up and down steep staircases. A community was thus formed through food and entertainment. In 1888 on Ludlow Street, the Iceland brothers established a neighborhood destination for Eastern European foods called a delicatessen, or deli, a type of store that originated in Germany selling pickles, smoked meats like pastrami and corned beef, soups, baked goods, and Jewish specialties like latkes and noodle kugel. In 1910, now partnered with Willy Katz, the storefront was expanded to a much larger gathering spot with tables on East Houston Street, which by then was where locals bought pickles sold straight from the barrel and other delicacies like knishes. Katz’s is still family-owned, although now it’s the Dell and Austin families. Meg Ryan in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally might have been faking it for laughs, but you really will want what she’s having, as do millions of diners of all backgrounds that pass through its doors each year to this day to get a sandwich piled high with juicy smoked meats. 

205 E Houston St

El Parador Café

Kips Bay, Manhattan

The restaurant’s original location was opened on Second Avenue in 1959, and 10 years later moved to East 34th Street. Though Mexican cuisine had existed in the city for decades, this one is the first to present these dishes on an upscale level once reserved mainly for French and Italian restaurants. It’s a real neighborhood destination. It’s where non-Latino New Yorkers in the mid-20th century would have tasted their first guacamole, salsa and chips, chiles relleno, tacos and chicken mole, as well as sipped their first Margarita. They also make a mean paella and have excellent lunch and brunch options like chilaquiles. 

325 E 34th St

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Chinatown, Manhattan

Unfortunately, this Lower Manhattan neighborhood suffered some of the biggest restaurant losses during the pandemic and so many of the destination dim sum palaces like 88 Palace, 88 Lan Zhou, and my personal favorite, Hee Win Lai/Delight 28, couldn’t re-open. However, the original location of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which has existed since 1920, survived its centennial on that iconic stretch of Doyers Street that forms a funky L-shape to connect to nearby Pell Street. Nom Wah is billed as a dim sum tea parlor, and is known for its soup dumplings, pan-fried noodles and steamed buns. Note: It can be tough to get a reservation, and there’s usually a line to get in for walk-ins, so plan ahead. Definitely save room for Chinatown Ice Cream Factory nearby on Bayard Street — it’s been around since 1978 and scoops up cool flavors like Almond Cookie, Black Sesame, Lychee and Red Bean. 

13 Doyers St

people having dinner, chandeliers, painting on a wall
You can feel (and taste) the history at Delmonico’s.


Financial District, Manhattan 

New York City is known for its exemplary early 20th-century steakhouses like Keens, Peter Luger, Sparks, Gallaghers, Old Homestead and the recently revived Gage & Tollner. The oldest still-standing restaurant in the city, let alone the oldest steakhouse, is Delmonico’s, which opened at 23 William Street in 1827, then moved to a snazzier corner building on nearby Beaver Street in the 1830s. Three floors of it — including a swank bar space where prominent late 19th-century bartender Harry Johnson once commanded the floor (he later set up the bar at Keens) — were dedicated to dining and wine storage. Though the restaurant had become noticeably weathered over the decades, a recent renovation has restored much of its original sheen.

56 Beaver St

Jackson Diner

Jackson Heights, Queens

Growing up in and near New York City during the 1970s and ‘80s, I tasted my first curries in Midtown at a dining venue high above the city called Nirvana. The first established Indian restaurant was nearby in Hell’s Kitchen, the Ceylon Inn, which opened around 1915. In my 20s and 30s, I frequented East 6th Street, aka Little India, for a (regional unspecific) fix that was cheap and cheerful; a full meal at places like Taj Mahal and Panna ran you somewhere around $15 if you really splurged on proteins. None of the aforementioned restaurants exist now, although the good news is that authentic regional Indian cuisine has now rightly taken its place on the city’s fine dining map. But if you head to Queens, the casual, family-style Jackson Diner, established in 1980, is still going strong. (Not to be confused with Jackson Hole Diner, established in 1972.) They serve an impressive range of dishes representing different parts of India with a focus on northern and southern cuisine, but they also include some Manchurian options. It’s one of the only places in town that I know of to get chicken lajawab, delicately flavored with tomatoes and ginger, and also black lentil dal. 

37-47 74th St

Sylvia’s Restaurant

Harlem, Manhattan

Though it is certainly not the first restaurant in the city to serve what is known as “soul food” — Southern American-style dishes like smothered chicken, fried pork chops, barbecue, candied yams and collard greens — Sylvia’s is the most iconic, the most enduring and the first to be owned by a Black woman. It was opened in 1962 by Sylvia Woods between 126th and 127th Streets on Lenox Avenue (what was later renamed Malcolm X Boulevard). Not only was the restaurant a massive success that called for an expansion into the space next door, with cooking that attracted a high-profile celebrity following, including that of sitting presidents, the celebrated Black chef went on to produce a line of branded prepared foods, beauty products, cookbooks and children’s books. Woods passed away in 2012, but luckily her restaurant and recipes (oh, that Sweet & Sassy barbecue sauce!) live on. 

328 Malcolm X Blvd


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