Unique Restaurants in Manhattan: 12 Extraordinary Places to Eat

Jon Miksis Jon Miksis clock Updated January 1, 2024 tourism Dream Destinations
by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Manhattan
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Manhattan is not just about dazzling skyscrapers and bustling streets. It’s also an amazing place to eat. In Manhattan’s unique restaurants, each spot tells its own story. Picture dining in a retro 1950s diner, being serenaded by Broadway hopefuls, or savoring innovative vegetarian dishes in a cozy neighborhood setting. Manhattan’s dining scene is an eclectic mix of the quirky, the sophisticated, and everything in between!

Manhattan, a playground for foodies, offers a dining experience like no other within New York City. This borough, buzzing with energy, is home to some of the most unique eateries in the world. From cozy corners in Greenwich Village to the vibrant streets of Times Square, each neighborhood brings its own flavor to the table.

In this guide, we’re diving into an array of unique places to eat in Manhattan. We’re talking about places that stand out for their one-of-a-kind concepts and unforgettable meals. Whether it’s a hidden gem tucked away in a side street or a popular spot with a twist, these restaurants are sure to intrigue and delight.

Join me as we explore Manhattan’s best restaurants, each with its own charm and story. We’ll uncover spots that are not only about great food but also about creating memorable experiences. So, let’s get ready to discover the most exciting and unique places to eat in this vibrant city!

The top restaurants to visit in Manhattan right now

Unique Restaurants in Manhattan

Ready to explore the coolest eateries in Manhattan? This bustling borough is brimming with incredible food, offering everything from luxurious dining experiences to cozy, one-of-a-kind eateries. Join me as we navigate through the best places to eat in Manhattan.

Fancy a meal in a retro-themed diner or craving artisanal pizzas that have become a city staple? Manhattan has it all. Whether you’re after a whimsical dining adventure or the finest street food gems, this city never disappoints. Here’s your essential guide to the unique restaurants in Manhattan. Brace yourself for a culinary journey where each bite is a discovery!

1. Ellen’s Stardust Diner

In Midtown Manhattan, Ellen’s Stardust Diner offers a dining experience that’s a show in itself. Here, the waitstaff are stars of tomorrow, belting out Broadway hits as they serve. It’s a unique blend of dinner and live entertainment. Trust me, it’s one of the most fun places to eat in Manhattan!

Ellen’s is famous for its retro 1950s vibe. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, with jukeboxes and vintage decor. The menu is all about comfort: think sizzling burgers, creamy milkshakes, and breakfast favorites served all day. It’s the kind of food that pairs perfectly with the lively atmosphere.

Located a stone’s throw from Times Square, Ellen’s is a slice of New York’s vibrant theater scene. If you’re a local or just visiting, this diner is an unmissable stop. Here, every meal is accompanied by a soundtrack of dreams and aspirations. So, settle in, order up a milkshake, and enjoy one of Manhattan’s most unique restaurants!

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is one of the unique restaurants in Manhattan.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is where waitstaff sing Broadway hits, creating a uniquely fun dining experience!

2. Tokyo Record Bar

Located in Greenwich Village, Tokyo Record Bar provides a dining experience that hits all the right notes. This spot is a tribute to Japan’s vinyl bars, blending great music with exquisite cuisine. It’s one of those unique Manhattan restaurants where the vibe is as important as the menu.

At Tokyo Record Bar, the experience is intimate and interactive. Guests get to pick records from the restaurant’s extensive vinyl collection, setting the soundtrack for the evening. The playlist is as eclectic as the food, and no evening is ever the same. From my experience, the selections range from classic rock to modern hits. It’s a place where music lovers and food enthusiasts unite.

The menu is a creative take on Japanese izakaya dishes. Small, flavorful plates perfect for sharing. The drink options are a tour of Japan’s best, from fine sake to creative cocktails. This place is more than a restaurant – it’s a cultural experience.

Tokyo Record Bar is ideal for those looking for something out of the ordinary. It’s a place where every visit is unique, thanks to the ever-changing music and menu. Drop by, pick a record, and enjoy a night of fantastic food and tunes in one of the unique restaurants in Manhattan.

Tokyo Record Bar in Manhattan blends great music with exquisite cuisine for a uniquely vibrant dining experience.
Tokyo Record Bar blends great music with exquisite cuisine for a uniquely vibrant dining experience.

3. Dirt Candy

Ever thought vegetables could be the star of your dining experience? At Dirt Candy in the Lower East Side, they’re not just an afterthought – they’re the main event. One of Manhattan’s coolest restaurants, this place transforms veggies into culinary masterpieces.

Chef Amanda Cohen is a magician in the kitchen. Her tasting menu changes with the seasons, each dish a celebration of what’s fresh and flavorful. You’ll find playful, innovative creations that make every bite an adventure. It’s a place where even the most devoted meat lovers might reconsider their favorites!

The vibe at Dirt Candy is as vibrant as its dishes. It’s cozy, lively, and always welcoming. Believe me, every visit here feels special. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just veggie-curious, this restaurant offers an exciting, delicious journey.

In a city known for its diverse food scene, Dirt Candy shines as a unique gem. It’s a testament to the power of plant-based cuisine, served in a setting that’s as delightful as the food. So, are you ready to explore the wonders of vegetables in a whole new way?

Dirt Candy in the Lower East Side: where vegetables are the culinary stars, not just an afterthought.
Dirt Candy in the Lower East Side: where vegetables are the culinary stars, not just an afterthought.

4. James Beard Foundation

In Greenwich Village, the James Beard Foundation emerges as a unique destination for food lovers. Celebrated for hosting America’s top chefs, it’s a venue where dining becomes an unforgettable experience. Truly, it has earned its spot among Manhattan’s best restaurants.

At the James Beard House, no two nights are the same. Each evening, a different chef takes the helm, offering a menu that’s a reflection of their culinary journey. You’ll taste dishes that are innovative, diverse, and always memorable. It’s like attending an exclusive dinner party, hosted by the culinary elite.

Housed in a historic townhouse, the atmosphere is both intimate and welcoming. Dining here feels like being part of a secret food lovers’ society. It’s close-knit, engaging, and undeniably special. This place is a must for anyone who appreciates the art of cooking.

In a neighborhood celebrated for its food culture, the James Beard Foundation stands out. It’s a celebration of America’s rich and evolving food culture. For those eager to explore some of the best food in Manhattan, a visit to the James Beard Foundation is essential.

The James Beard Foundation in Greenwich Village: a haven for food lovers, hosting America's top chefs.
The James Beard Foundation in Greenwich Village: a haven for food lovers, hosting America’s top chefs. | Image Source: https://www.jamesbeard.org/

5. Kenka

Kenka brings a slice of Tokyo’s eccentricity to New York. This Japanese eatery stands out for its bold approach to dining and unique decor. It’s one of the best places to eat in Manhattan for those seeking an adventure in taste.

The moment you step into Kenka, you’re greeted by a fusion of traditional Japanese elements and pop culture. The decor is a playful, intriguing mix that sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience. The vibe is electric, often filled with a crowd eager for something out of the ordinary.

Kenka’s menu is as eclectic as its atmosphere. You’ll find everything from familiar izakaya favorites to the daringly exotic, like turkey testicles and bull penis. It’s an invitation to challenge your taste buds and explore new flavors. And the best part? The prices are wallet-friendly, offering great value for an adventurous meal. A draft beer here is only $1.50!

Kenka offers an incredible dining experience which you won’t soon forget. End your meal with a fun twist – make your own cotton candy on the way out. For those exploring unique restaurants in Manhattan, Kenka in the East Village is an unforgettable stop. Dive into this eccentric culinary world and discover a new side of Japanese dining!

Kenka in New York: Tokyo's eccentricity meets bold dining and unique decor—a top spot for adventurous eating in Manhattan.
Kenka in New York: Tokyo’s eccentricity meets bold dining and unique decor—a top spot for adventurous eating in Manhattan.

6. Jongro

Upon entering Jongro, you’ll find yourself in a lively slice of Seoul, right in Manhattan’s Koreatown. This Korean BBQ destination is a celebration of authentic flavors and communal dining, earning its place among the best Manhattan restaurants.

The ambiance at Jongro is a vibrant homage to old Seoul. Vintage advertisements and a lively, bustling atmosphere set the scene for an immersive Korean experience. It’s a space where the energy of Korea’s streets comes alive, offering a delightful escape from the city’s hustle.

At the heart of Jongro’s experience is the interactive Korean BBQ. Guests become chefs, grilling their own meats to perfection. The menu boasts premium cuts like succulent beef and flavorful pork belly, complemented by an array of traditional banchan (side dishes).

Jongro is all about sharing and creating memories. It’s a popular gathering place, ideal for celebrating special moments with friends or family. Whether you’re a Korean BBQ aficionado or new to this culinary tradition, Jongro promises an experience that’s as enriching as it is flavorful.

Jongro in Manhattan's Koreatown: authentic Korean BBQ and communal dining, among the best in Manhattan.
Jongro in Manhattan’s Koreatown: authentic Korean BBQ and communal dining, among the best in Manhattan.

7. Abigail’s Kitchen

Have you ever dined blindfolded? Abigail’s Kitchen in Greenwich Village offers a dining experience that’s a feast for the senses. It’s one of the most unique restaurants in Manhattan, where the focus is on savoring each flavor in a whole new way.

At Abigail’s Kitchen, diners wear comfortable blindfolds, enhancing the taste, aroma, and texture of each dish. The dining room remains lit, but the blindfolds create an intimate world of flavors. The four-course dinners, paired with unlimited wine, turn into a playful guessing game. Guests delight in trying to identify the secret menu items and wine selections.

The team at Abigail’s Kitchen ensures every dietary need is met. When booking, guests can specify any allergies or preferences, which makes the experience personalized and worry-free. The all-inclusive ticket covers food, wine, and gratuity, ensuring a seamless evening.

Upon arrival, guests receive an orientation outside. Questions are answered before being guided into the dining room, blindfolded. This unique experience lasts about 2 1/2 hours, promising an unforgettable exploration of taste and aroma. Ready to embark on a dining adventure that tantalizes your taste buds in a whole new way?

Abigail's Kitchen in Manhattan is a unique dining experience where savoring flavors blindfolded enhances the senses.
Abigail’s Kitchen is a unique dining experience where savoring flavors blindfolded enhances the senses.

8. Tomi Jazz

Next up on our list of unique restaurants in Manhattan is Tomi Jazz, a melody of flavors and sounds. Hidden below street level, this spot offers a unique blend of live jazz and Japanese-American cuisine.

The jazz here is the heartbeat of the experience. Live bands fill the cozy venue with vibrant, soulful music, creating an atmosphere that’s both energizing and soothing. It’s an ideal spot for jazz aficionados and a delightful discovery for those new to the genre.

Tomi Jazz’s menu is a creative mix of Japanese small plates and American classics. Each dish is crafted to enhance the musical backdrop. The bar serves a selection of Japanese whiskies and sake, perfect for sipping to the rhythm of the night.

This Midtown retreat is an immersive experience. It’s where you can relax, savor great food, and immerse yourself in the world of jazz. Tomi Jazz is the perfect spot for an evening that harmonizes New York’s culinary and music scenes in a uniquely captivating way.

Tomi Jazz is one of the unique restaurants in Manhattan.
Tomi Jazz harmonizes live jazz with Japanese-American cuisine, a unique spot for dining and music enthusiasts.

9. Sakagura

Tucked away in Midtown East, Sakagura is a delightful surprise for sake lovers. This underground gem brings a slice of Japan to Manhattan, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle. Here, sake takes center stage, and every sip is a celebration.

Inside Sakagura, the atmosphere is calm and inviting. The sake selection is vast and varied, featuring everything from light and refreshing to rich and bold. The friendly staff are eager to share their knowledge, which makes each tasting an enjoyable and informative experience.

The dishes at Sakagura complement the sake perfectly. You’ll find a range of Japanese flavors, from small bites to satisfying mains. Each plate is carefully prepared, showcasing fresh ingredients and simple yet delicious combinations. I recommend trying the Wagyu here – it’s gorgeous!

Sakagura is an ideal spot for a relaxed evening out. It’s a hidden gem in NYC where you can unwind, enjoy great sake, and indulge in tasty Japanese fare. For anyone looking for unusual places to eat in Manhattan, Sakagura is a must-try.

Sakagura in Midtown East: an underground delight for sake lovers, bringing a slice of Japan to Manhattan.
Sakagura in Midtown East: an underground delight for sake lovers, bringing a slice of Japan to Manhattan.

10. Guantanamera

If you’re searching for Cuban food in Manhattan, head to Guantanamera. This restaurant is an ode to Cuban culture and cuisine and pulsates with the rhythms of Cuba, offering a festive dining experience that’s both authentic and exhilarating.

As you step into Guantanamera, you’re greeted by the sounds of live Latin music. The atmosphere is electric, filled with the energy and warmth of a Havana night. It’s a place where music and dining blend seamlessly, creating an unforgettable ambiance.

The menu at Guantanamera is a tribute to Cuban culinary traditions. Dishes like ropa vieja and arroz con pollo are prepared with a masterful touch, each plate bursting with flavor. The mojitos, made with fresh mint and Cuban rum, are a highlight, perfect for toasting to a night of fun and flavor.

Guantanamera is a celebration of Cuban heritage in the heart of Manhattan. It’s the perfect spot for those seeking a lively evening out, complete with delicious food, captivating music, and a vibrant atmosphere. For a taste of Cuba and one of the best places to eat in Manhattan, Guantanamera is a destination that promises a night full of energy and enjoyment.

Guantanamera is an authentic ode to Cuban culture and cuisine, pulsating with lively rhythms.
Guantanamera is an authentic ode to Cuban culture and cuisine, pulsating with lively rhythms.

11. Beetle House

Beetle House in the East Village is a treasure trove of the fantastical, serving up a dining experience that’s as enchanting as it is unique. For years, this whimsical spot has been delighting guests with its Tim Burton-inspired theme. It’s a favorite for those seeking a meal with a twist.

Beetle House, named after the iconic film “Beetlejuice,” is famous for its creatively themed dishes and drinks. It may be compact in size, but it’s bursting with character! Diners are treated to a menu filled with playful references – from “Edward Burger Hands” to “Sweeney Beef” – each dish a nod to beloved movies.

The star attraction is the atmosphere itself. Every corner of Beetle House immerses you in a world of gothic fantasy and whimsy. It’s a dining experience that transcends the ordinary, offering both a visual and culinary feast. The themed cocktails, especially “The Beetle’s Juice,” are a must-try, perfectly capturing the spirit of the place.

Located at 308 E 6th St in the East Village, Beetle House opens its doors to a world of imagination every day. If you’re hunting for unique places in Manhattan to eat, this spot is unmissable. Step into Beetle House and prepare for an evening where fantasy and reality collide in the most delightful way.

Beetle House in the East Village is a whimsical, Tim Burton-inspired treasure trove offering an enchantingly unique dining experience.
Beetle House in the East Village is a whimsical, Tim Burton-inspired treasure trove offering an enchantingly unique dining experience.

12. Panna II

Panna II in Manhattan’s East Village is a vibrant Indian restaurant that’s a feast for both the eyes and the palate. Since its doors opened, it’s become a beloved destination for those who love lively dining experiences and crave authentic Indian flavors.

Panna II is like a festival of tastes. As you step inside, you’re greeted by a dazzling array of lights, setting a whimsical tone. The menu is a journey through India’s culinary landscape, offering everything from spicy curries to fragrant biryanis. It’s a place where traditional Indian cuisine meets a playful, enchanting atmosphere. Truly, it’s one of the best places to eat in Manhattan for an immersive dining adventure.

The restaurant’s charm lies in its unique decor and communal vibe. Picture yourself dining under a canopy of colorful lights, sharing stories and laughter with friends over delicious Indian dishes.

Panna II also stands as a showcase for the rich diversity of Indian cooking. The ever-changing menu keeps diners coming back for new and exciting flavors. Located at 93 1st Avenue, Panna II is a must-visit for anyone looking for a fun, flavorful, and visually stunning dining experience in the heart of Manhattan.

Panna II in Manhattan's East Village is a vibrant Indian dining, loved for its lively atmosphere and authentic flavors.
Panna II in Manhattan’s East Village is a vibrant Indian dining, loved for its lively atmosphere and authentic flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unique Restaurants in Manhattan

Searching for more information to help you decide where to eat in Manhattan? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Manhattan’s best restaurants.

What food is Manhattan known for?

Manhattan is famous for its diverse culinary scene. Iconic foods include New York-style pizza, bagels, and cheesecake. You’ll also find amazing street food like hot dogs from carts and halal from food trucks. For a classic New York experience, try a pastrami sandwich from a deli like Katz’s.

What is the average cost of a meal in Manhattan?

The cost varies widely. Cheap eats in Manhattan, like pizza or street food, can be around $10-$20 per person. Mid-range restaurants average about $30-$60 per person. Fine dining can easily go over $100 per person, especially with wine or cocktails. Remember, portions are often generous!

Prime steak dish paired with a glass of rich red wine at La Grande Boucherie.
Prime steak dish paired with a glass of rich red wine at La Grande Boucherie.

Where do celebrities eat in NYC?

Celebrities often dine at upscale spots like Nobu, Spotted Pig, or The Polo Bar. For a chance to spot someone famous, try these places or trendy areas like the West Village. But remember, they value their privacy, so it’s cool to be respectful.

What is the New York State food?

Officially, there isn’t a “state food” for New York. However, dishes like Buffalo wings (from upstate New York), New York-style pizza, and Manhattan clam chowder are iconic. Also, New York apples are famous. The state produces a variety of delicious apples.

Where can I find the best pizza in Manhattan?

For the best pizza in NYC, it’s a matter of personal taste. Lombardi’s claims to be America’s first pizzeria and is a must-visit. Joe’s Pizza is great for a classic New York slice. For something gourmet, try Kesté or Motorino. My tip: don’t be afraid to venture into small, less-known pizzerias – sometimes they’re the best!

The top restaurants in Manhattan for all types of travelers
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