There are a bunch of reasons to go for a run by the water. You can enjoy the views, breathe air that’s fresh (by admittedly low standards), and listen to an audiobook without having to rewind every time a fire truck drives by or a tourist asks you for directions. And some of the best waterfront running real estate in the city isn’t actually next to the water - it’s on top of it. We have three bridges that not only overlook the East River - they give you a chance to check out a different borough. Whether your run ends in Manhattan or Brooklyn, here are 19 great spots to eat, all of which are casual enough to walk into wearing leg sleeves (which, apparently, isn’t just another term for pants).
Not sure where to start with your run? Here’s a suggested route, with five of the restaurants from our guide nearby.
FiDi is a strange place on weekends, when revolving doors don’t revolve, and masses of tourists walk in lock-step down otherwise empty streets like zombies looking for “food.” But when you get off of the Brooklyn Bridge, you should brave the zombies and head for Hole In The Wall. This attractive Australian cafe stands out from all of the pubs and steakhouses nearby with bright wood, hanging plants, and colorful acai bowls. Start with the soft scrambled eggs with spicy sambal sauce and a bloody mary with smoked bacon, and the zombie tourists won’t seem quite as scary.
Carbo-loading is known as a pre-run tactic, but we don’t see why it can’t also be helpful post-run. Rather than question our lack of understanding of the human body, just agree with us, and eat some delicious pasta at Noodle Pudding after your run across the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo. This Italian spot is a good low-key date option in case running is a couple’s activity for you, and there’s also a small bar where you can eat a big plate of gnocchi in butter and sage by yourself. Just remember to put some money in your sock - it’s cash-only.
If you end your run in Dumbo around noon on a weekday, then you probably shouldn’t get food at Smile To Go, unless you’re OK with listening to seven different startup elevator pitches while waiting in line. Also, please let us know what your job is that allows you to go for a run across the bridge in the middle of a Tuesday. But any other time of the week, it’s a great option for a healthy takeout lunch. Get a plate of market sides, like turmeric roasted carrots or mixed vegetables with ginger dressing, and eat it across the street in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Fornino isn’t quite as close to the bridge as other Dumbo spots on this guide, but you won’t be complaining about those few extra blocks once you get here. Since it’s a bit of a hike from the subway, carousel, and Empire Stores, it’s not overrun with tourists despite the big outdoor space with fantastic views of the downtown skyline. Also, those extra steps might free up some room for you to try more of the Neapolitan-style pizzas, like the one with brussels sprouts, sausage, and spicy honey. Come after a morning run and try one of the breakfast sandwiches, or meet some friends here in the afternoon for pitchers of sangria, beer, or frozen daiquiris.
To say that you have to deal with crowds when running across the Brooklyn Bridge would be an understatement. If you want to eat somewhere that won’t be packed with tourists wearing cameras around their necks, go to Pedro’s, a casual Mexican spot in Dumbo. Sit at an outdoor table, and eat huevos rancheros or a chorizo burrito, which is massive and costs $11, while watching all of the people you passed on the bridge clog up the sidewalks on their way towards the waterfront.
You know the drill - a ShackBurger, crinkle cut fries, and a shake. Shake Shack is reliable and delicious, and their Dumbo location is more of the same. This one has the added benefit of being across the street from Brooklyn Bridge Park, so order to-go (or order ahead if you feel like pausing your run somewhere between the arches and solid land), and eat next to the river overlooking Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Manhattan Bridge has little in terms of views, and as a result, it tends to be the least crowded of the three bridges. In fact, you’re probably going to see more people at Jing Fong than you did on the whole run to this Chinatown restaurant. Fortunately, the space can fit about 800 people, so invite your whole run club or everyone who wished you happy birthday on Facebook, and order pork buns, spare ribs, and chicken feet from the dim sum carts as they roll around the 20,000 square foot room.
You need a place to meet your friends for brunch or some drinks and snacks after your run. Considering you’re on foot and your friends are traveling by whatever ride service is cheapest at the moment, they should be willing to meet you somewhere that’s convenient for you. After running across the Manhattan Bridge, a good option is Lalito in Chinatown. The tables in the packed, loud space are usually full of cocktails and pan-Latin share plates, including some vegan options, like coconut grits with chimichurri and braised vegetables, or chicharrones made out of spirulina.
It can be a bit of a shock to leave the tranquility of podcasts and river views on the bridge, and enter the chaos that is Canal and Bowery as you cross the bridge into Manhattan. Instead of asking a stranger on a Citi Bike to give you a ride back across the bridge, just walk a block to Deluxe Green Bo. It’s a cash-only Chinese spot that serves some of our favorite food in Chinatown, like meaty soup dumplings and rice cakes with shredded pork and cabbage.
There are now seven Westville locations around the city, and by the time you read this, that number may have jumped to eight or eighteen. Their formula is pretty simple: offer enough vegetables to convince people that they’re making healthy choices even if they also order the bacon mac and cheese, and serve this very good American food all-day in casual spaces where you can show up in your gym clothes. It works, so take advantage when you find yourself sweaty in Dumbo.
Kopitiam is open from 9am-10pm every day (except Wednesday when it’s closed), and whenever you go to this counter-service Malaysian spot on the LES, three things are for certain. First, you won’t spend more than $15 on any single dish; second, you should have nasi lemak - coconut rice topped with fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs - on your table. And third, you’ll enjoy everything you eat. Generally, the lighter dishes are best here, but if you don’t mind spending the afternoon napping upright on your couch, then try the french toast with chocolate malt powder and condensed milk.
Diners are casual places, and Golden Diner, with its bar stools and yellow booths, is no exception. But just because you can walk into this Two Bridges spot in a shirt that feels like it got pulled out of a dryer 30 minutes early doesn’t mean you have to settle for scrambled eggs with ketchup. Instead, this place serves inventive and delicious takes on diner classics for breakfast and lunch, like a club sandwich stuffed with chicken katsu, an avocado toast topped with turmeric, Thai basil, and galangal.
If it’s one of those days when the uphill portion of the Williamsburg Bridge feels like a mountain stage in the Tour de France, then you’re going to need something a lot more substantial than a salad when you make it to the end. Fortunately, Pies ‘n’ Thighs is only about a block from the entrance to the bridge in Williamsburg. Head there after your run, and get crispy fried chicken drenched in hot honey on a buttery biscuit, as well as some bourbon pecan pie.
Souvlaki GR feels like the kind of casual spot you might stumble into after a run along the coast in Greece, and the white-walled space with hanging lights and flowers is a nice place to eat salads, dips, and various types of skewers after a run. In fact, when you dip a bifteki skewer or pita with Greek sausage in tzatziki here, you might mistake the rumbling J train for a herd of sheep on the Greek countryside. Well, no it won’t, but you get the idea.
Whether it’s the new outfit or the subtle tinge of windburn on your face, you’re feeling good about your post-run look. Show it off at Sonnyboy, an Australian cafe on the LES that tends to have plenty of people in athleisure drinking oat milk and eating attractive food. In the morning, get the harissa-spiced eggs with brussels sprouts or a breakfast sandwich with a thick sausage patty, melted cheddar, and chili jam. Or come during Happy Hour (4-7pm every day), and get a burger and fries for $10 and a cocktail, like one with tequila, mezcal, and cold brew, for $9.
It’s a beautiful day, which is the main reason you were able to convince yourself to throw the remote to the other side of the couch and go for a run in the first place. And now that the run is over, you want to continue enjoying the fresh air and eat somewhere outside. Head to Tacocina, the counter-service taco spot in Domino Park from the people behind Shake Shack. The entirely-outdoor space is right on the water, and it’s a great place to have tacos, chips and guacamole, and margaritas on the rare day when sunshine isn’t accompanied by 90% humidity.
You’d like to sit down in your apartment after your run and recover for an hour or two in peace. The problem is that you want to eat something more interesting than Cheerios with the two blackberries in your fridge that haven’t gone bad yet. Go to Davelle. This LES Japanese spot feels kind of like your apartment - it’s a tiny space with some old candles and distressed walls (which is just a fancy way of saying you have a bad super), but the menu includes things like toast covered in roe during the mornings, and rich pork curry with lightly dusted fried chicken for dinner.
It’s always tough to predict how your body will respond to a run, and when you don’t know if you’ll be in the mood for a salad or a day’s worth of salt and fat, it tricky to plan on a place to eat afterward. That’s why you should know about Tiny’s Giant. This LES spot basically just serves two things - salads and sandwiches - and whether you’re in the mood for greens topped with more greens, or you want a chicken parm with cheese that oozes out over toasted bread as you bite into it, you’ll be happy here.
Butler looks like a standard coffee shop, and you could just stop by to grab a post-run almond latte, but this Williamsburg cafe serves food you’ll want to sit down and enjoy. We like the breakfast and lunch sandwiches - especially the one with a runny egg, smoked bacon, cheese, and truffle aioli on brioche - and if you don’t want to commit to a full meal, definitely try the pastries, like the sausage roll that comes in a buttery housemade puff pastry. If it’s nice out, sit at a table on the sidewalk, and watch the parade of people running between Domino Park and the Williamsburg Bridge, which are both just a few steps away.