The Financial District is an area full of contradictions. On one hand, it’s New York’s oldest neighborhood, with plenty of historic landmarks and winding cobblestone streets. And our country’s economy is figuratively, if not literally, run here. On the other hand, it’s filled with nondescript tall buildings, a million weird delis that definitely don’t change their salad bar contents frequently enough, and tourists with Statue of Liberty souvenirs.
All that aside, many of you seem to find yourselves down here during meal times, unsure of where or what to eat that’s neither Pret A Manger nor The Capital Grille. This list consists of the places we think are actually worth your time – no prepackaged sandwiches or overpriced steaks allowed.
Crown Shy is one of the best things to happen to FiDi since the Staten Island Ferry started allowing people to bring booze on board. This American spot on the ground floor of a landmarked high-rise serves things like churros filled with melted gruyere, charred octopus with chorizo, and the best grilled chicken in the city. There’s not a miss on the menu, and no matter what you order, you’ll get the free olive bread, which is like a popover filled with olive tapenade and topped with crumbled brown butter. If you only eat at one place in FiDi, this should be it.
Unless you have a fear of heights, you should go to Manhatta. And even then, you still might want to check out this French spot from the people behind Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe. The 60th-floor space has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide the best views of the city (except for one of those 12-minute helicopter rides that cost $250). The walk-in-only bar area is a great option for a celebratory martini, and the three-course prix-fixe in the spacious dining room works anytime you want to impress just about anyone.
The best dish at The Fulton is a whole black sea bass served in a pastry shell that’s more intricately designed than a Christmas tree in Whoville. It’s then carved, deboned, and reassembled tableside. But it’s definitely not the only great dish at this seafood spot from Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The restaurant is inside of a massive new development on the water in the Seaport, and while you’ll probably have to weave through tourists looking for the rooftop concert venue in order to get here, it’s worth it. The outdoor tables overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge are great for a special occasion date night, and the two-floor space inside is a good option for business meals with people you’re trying to impress. Overall, though, you should come here with anyone who wants to eat some of the very best seafood in the city.
Augustine is the banker-next-door’s French brasserie, which is just a way of saying that everyone in FiDi is trying to eat steak tartare here. Run by the same restaurateur behind Balthazar, Augustine is great for a date, a client lunch, or a drink at the bar. They serve upscale French food with an Austrian influence in a space that’s casual enough to wear sneakers and generally understood to be cooler than most other restaurants in the area.
Delmonico’s opened in 1837, which was the same year that Michigan became the 26th state to join the union. The only reason that’s relevant is to illustrate that this place has been around for a really long time. The white curtains and tablecloths, chandeliers, giant paintings on the walls still make it feel like it could exist in another century, and if you want to get a sense for what people ate back then, come for the $45 prix-fixe lunch. Start with eggs benedict, and then get the Delmonico steak or lobster Newberg, and finish things off with the baked Alaska. Every one of those dishes was invented by the original chef at Delmonico’s. At dinner, get the Delmonico steak (a boneless ribeye), or one of the dry-aged options, like the porterhouse with bernaise or foie gras butter.
If you want to start the day someplace very low-key, get breakfast at Pearl Diner. Between the swivel stools, booths with rips covered in duct tape, and regulars screaming across the room about their coffee and tuna fish sandwich to go, it feels like things probably haven’t changed much since this old-school diner opened more than 50 years ago. The huge menu ranges from omelets and pancakes to triple-decker sandwiches and shrimp marinara. If you come in the morning, try the big, fluffy Belgian waffles with eggs and bacon that costs about $8, and for lunch, get one of the more than 40 types of burgers, like the one with ideal proportions of ham, mushroom, and fried onions.
Dead Rabbit tends to be the first place we send people looking for a good time in FiDi. It’s part cocktail bar, part restaurant, located across a few floors in an old building on Water Street. The space feels very old New York (like, 1700s old), and many of the cocktails are served in fancy little teacups. Did New York’s settlers drink whiskey out of teacups? Unclear, but we’ll take it. This place gets crowded, but it’s one of the best around.
Hole In The Wall appears to be owned by the unknown Australian oligarch who we imagine opens all the Aussie cafes in the city. It has all the markings, from bright wood and hanging plants, to colorful acai bowls and fruit smoothies. It’s a very comfortable spot for weekend brunch or a casual business lunch, when you can eat wild mushroom bruschetta with a runny egg on top, or soft scrambled eggs with a spicy sambal sauce that we bet that oligarch puts on everything. There’s a full bar, but it’s mostly used for breakfast cocktails as this place closes at 5pm everyday.
Harry’s is a classic steakhouse, but rather than old wood floors and taxidermied animal heads like at Peter Luger or Keens, it’s been renovated to look more like a futuristic saloon with an implicit dress code of dark jackets and white button-downs. The dark, underground dining room has suede booths, and walls covered in bottles from its very long wine list. Whether you go with the relatively small portion of filet mignon or the tender bone-in ribeye (the best cut here) make sure to get the perfectly buttery, whipped potatoes to share. If you want a more casual experience, get a bar seat in the pub room, and drink a very good classic martini.
Maybe you heard about some movie star eating at Carbone, or a professional athlete spraying bottles of Champagne at 1OAK. Those are fine and good, but if you want to go to the original NYC celebrity hotspot, sit down next to a family wearing matching fanny packs at Fraunces Tavern. George Washington was here in 1783, and there’s a bunch more history around this big FiDi bar and restaurant, which you can learn in the museum portion of the space. Or you can focus on the 200 types of whiskey, and American food, like bacon-wrapped shrimp with cornbread and crispy fish and chips with thick pub fries.
Pisillo is one of the hands-down best Italian sandwich shops in Manhattan. The Italian news blasting on the TV is a good sign of authenticity, and it’s statistically proven that watching Silvio Berlusconi’s face flash across a screen makes your prosciutto and mozzarella better. The sandwiches are simple, but made with extremely high-quality ingredients. They’re also huge.
Keste is the best sit-down option for pizza in FiDi. They serve the same Neapolitan-style pies as at their location in Greenwich Village, with a huge selection of thin, doughy varieties, which can be made gluten-free as well. We like the Keste that comes with a ton of prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, and if you’re on a budget, make use of the fact that they offer their plain margherita pizza for $5 when you dine in. That’s probably worth repeating. It’s a whole pie of very good pizza for $5.
The Wooly Public is a cocktail bar and restaurant in the bottom of the Woolworth Building. It feels like a fossil imprint of a once-hip place because it used to be cool, and now it’s cool in a historical way. There’s a pretty spacious dance floor area, a big bar with a TV showing vintage footage of the 1989 Macy’s Day parade, and some tables that may have been Scrabble boards in a previous life. And while this feels like a bizarre cross section of “Old New York” aesthetic and early 2000s party spot, it works as a quirky place to hang out with a friend or two. The crowd splits between FiDi-working-people who are meeting for drinks and tourists who decide to order a burger here. We’d recommend the former.
Bagel enthusiasts: meet Leo’s Bagels, a sleeper high-quality bagel pick. The bagels here are gooey and chewy in the way that the rare really good NYC bagel is. This is where you should be getting your egg and cheese bagel in the AM.
Finding a nice little restaurant in FiDi is almost unheard of, but then there’s Schilling. Schilling serves Austrian comfort food like spaetzle, with Mediterranean cameos like a fluke and tomatillo ceviche. It feels quiet and intimate without taking itself too seriously. The best part about Schilling is that it lives in the sweet spot on the Venn diagram of restaurants where you could bring a date or a dad and they’d be able to find something they like while actually being able to hear your theories on the volatility of bitcoin stock. All in all, Schilling is on the expensive side for its portions, but it’s good for a nice, casual dinner that’s sponsored by finance and non-finance salaries alike.
It can be a bit chaotic inside Bombay’s at lunchtime, as interns try not to screw up their boss’s order in the hot foods line, people shoulder their way to the register to get their pickup orders, and others stand around waiting for seats to open up so they can dine in. We recommend avoiding all that and ordering delivery, especially because they offer a delivery special that includes an appetizer, entree, and naan for $16. Get some crispy samosas and spicy roganjosh with tender lamb, and pay the extra dollar for the garlic naan. This buttery, flaky bread is great on its own, but it’s even better when you use it to soak up the pool of sauces in most of the entrees.
Joe’s is going to be the best slice shop wherever it’s located, and their location in FiDi is no exception. This outpost a block from the Fulton Street subway stop serves the same great New York-style pizza as the original, and it’s a good option for an afternoon snack when you’re sick of Nature Valley bars, or for a late-night bite (it’s open until 2am or later everyday).
Describing Fish Market feels dangerously close to a real life Stefan run-down of New York’s Hottest Club: it’s a sports bar in the South Street Seaport that serves Chinese and Malaysian food with $16 lobster specials on Mondays and Tuesdays and a bartender named Jeff who likes to do free shots of Jameson with nearly everyone who comes inside. The menu is huge, with sectioned off American bar snacks, vaguely Italian pasta plates, and Chinese and Malaysian options. While their traditional bar food is good, we’d recommend going for that last section, which includes things like ginger chicken wings, Mama’s curried chicken, or the pork belly pot. Come here with friends who like being in loud places and won’t mind the group in the back having an alcohol-themed birthday party.
The main reason to go to Trading Post is for its Happy Hour, which goes until 7pm during the week and runs all day on weekends. But while you’re drinking $5 beers inside the huge three-floor space or at a sidewalk table outside, you should also get some bar food. Share a cracker-thin pizza with sausage, or get a burger and watch sports on TV by the bar.
Along with a miniature Statue Of Liberty replica and a beer on the ferry after work, the best way to spend $10 in FiDi is lunch at Xi’an Famous Foods. Get two spicy cumin lamb burgers, or the intensely spicy hand-ripped noodles, and sit at a counter seat along the wall or eat in Zuccotti Park a block away.
Pier A Harbor House is massive, with multiple bars and seating areas inside, as well as tons of outdoor picnic tables that overlook the Statue Of Liberty. Come with a group after work or to day drink on the weekend, and share the huge plate of crab nachos, or get any of the six types of fried seafood - we like the oysters.
Like Pier A, Industry Kitchen is a good spot for daytime drinks and snacks on the water in FiDi. But perhaps because its views are of industrial Brooklyn rather than The Statue Of Liberty, it doesn’t get quite as packed with tourists and birthday parties. Take advantage of that and eat some thin-crust pizza at a picnic table right on the East River near the South Street Seaport.
A very pleasant Italian restaurant/wine bar with salads, crostinis, pastas, and so on, that’s actually owned by the people behind Sant Ambroeus. Both the vibe and the food are on the top end of what you’ll find in the area.
The Stone Street main drag is littered with bars and restaurants, all of which have outdoor seating areas that bleed into one another. It’s an appealing place to hang out in the area, certainly. So which of the many restaurants should you pick? Sure, the Bavaria Beer Haus will do if you want to drink hefeweizen out of a boot, and the Mexican restaurant “Mad Dog and Beans” is an option if you want to patronize a place called “Mad Dog and Beans.” But if you actually want to eat, do it at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar. The large pies are pretty good (no slices, FYI), and the inside area is pretty nice.