25 Great Places to Eat in Chelsea

NeitherNeither the pandemic nor the ravages of time has been kind to the restaurants of Chelsea. In the three years since this collection was revised, several key places have closed, even if just temporarily, include Basque twins Txikito and El Quinto Pino, Shorty Tang Noodles, Boston import Toro, Nishi, partly Portuguese Lupelo, and the legendary Sichuan Legend. Luckily, new places have appeared, but Chelsea, with its ongoing gentrification, is always in a state of flux.

In the latter half of the 19th century the neighborhood industrialized, with smoke-belching factories lining the Hudson River, of which the old Nabisco complex (now Chelsea Market) is one of the last remaining examples. But the infill of tenements and townhouses, and eventually that of housing projects and high-rise condos, has made Chelsea one of the city’s premier residential neighborhoods, where rich and poor live side by side. Once, it was home to scores of Spanish and Latin American restaurants, of which only a few remain.

The precise borders are a matter of controversy, but for the purposes of this survey we’ll consider them to run from Sixth Avenue on the east to the Hudson River on the west; from 14th Street on the south to 30th Street on the north.Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Ovest Pizzoteca

513 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001(212) 967-4392

https://www.restaurantji.com/ny/new-york/ovest-pizzoteca-/

This eight-year-old pizza pioneer set down in Chelsea’s gallery district way before almost anyone else, with the exception of the Red Cat and a couple of other old-timers, now long gone. The space is warehousey, the bar provides cocktails in addition to beer and wine, and the exemplary pizzas fly from a wood oven that casts flickering shadows on the brick walls. A great date spot. Don’t miss the octopus or the fried artichoke apps, the former dredged in pureed pumpkin. 

A red and deeply browned margherita pizza with white pools of cheese and a basil leaf.

2. Salumeria Biellese

378 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001(212) 736-7376Visit Website

Before the current wave of Italian authenticity swept over the city about two decades ago, many cured pork products such as guanciale and lardo were impossible to find unless you dropped by Salumeria Biellese. These products are all still for sale in glass cases, even though manufacturing has shifted to Jersey. To take up the slack, this 90-year-old pork store mounts a steam table full of red-sauced pastas at lunchtime every day, plus a menu of giant hero sandwiches. Request one that incorporates the shop’s distinguished charcuterie. 

An Italian deli interior with red checked tablecloths and guys standing behind a counter with glass cases.

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3. Swagat

205 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001(212) 967-7373Visit Website

Not to be confused with a more ambitious and expensive restaurant of the same name on the Upper West Side, Chelsea’s Swagat is a steam-table establishment, though a really exceptional one, as a glance at the pristine quality of the Indian offerings on display will tell you. Every day there are four vegetarian dishes and four meat-bearing ones, and the all-day special includes a selection of two, plus dal, rice, and a naan; lamb curry is often one of the selections.

Typical Punjabi steam table stuff, vegetables, meat, and rice on a white plate.

4. Jun-Men Ramen

249 9th Ave
New York, NY 10001(646) 852-6787Visit Website

When it opened five years ago in the culinary dead zone that is Ninth Avenue north of 25th Street, Jun-Men seemed part of the race among ramen-yas to see who could make the richest tonkotsu, a milky, pork-bone broth. Available in two thicknesses, the noodles themselves were above average, with plenty of spicy options, and the short list of apps rocked as well, especially the crunchy chicken wings and the stylish kale salad. But avoid the house mazemen, which wastes some perfectly good sea urchin in a wash of warm noodles.

A milky beige broth with oil droplets on its surface, with noodles and boiled eggs to be seen.

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5. Manhattan Halal Restaurant

156 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001(646) 998-4759

This South Asian restaurant offers steam-table fare with a Bangladeshi bent, which means plenty of spice, a touch of mustard oil, and a way with the tandoori oven. It also means inexpensive eats and large quantities of food. The kathi roll stuffed with tidbits of tandoori chicken is a good choice for a small meal, but a larger meal can be readily had by pointing at the steam table to the numerous meat and vegetable curries. Vegetarians can do quite well here.

A banner in front of the storefront proclaims the name of the restaurant with head shots of the two proprietors.

6. Sullivan Street Bakery and Pizza

236 9th Ave
New York, NY 10001(212) 929-5900Visit Website

Branch of a prized bakery that opened in 1994 in Greenwich Village, this handsome and trim lunchroom serves pastries and egg breakfasts until 10:30 a.m., then switches to sandwiches and Roman pizzas till closing at 6 p.m. Favorite pastry: custard-squirting bombolini, either vanilla or chocolate. Loaves of bread and square slices of focaccia topped with things like potatoes and zucchini available all day.

A rectangular slice of pizza with potatoes and rosemary on top.

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7. Pepe Giallo

195 10th Ave
New York, NY 10001(212) 242-6055Visit Website

This homely Italian restaurant on the edge of Chelsea’s gallery district makes a nice refuge after an art-hopping afternoon. It used to be part of a great chain specializing in discount pastas whipped up on the spot, and part of that aura remains, though now the menu concentrates on antipasti, panini, and pizzas, with the occasional risotto or lasagna thrown in for good measure. 

A crumbed and browned chicken cutlet under a nest of arugula and tomatoes.

8. Fonda

189 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011(917) 525-5252Visit Website

This is the place to go in Chelsea for classic Mexican dishes prepared with extra panache and beautifully presentation. The enchiladas suizas come drenched in cheese ensconced in a lovely casserole, with black beans on the side, a perfect vegetarian meal. Other recs include Yucatan-style pan-seared shrimp, carnitas in a skillet to use for do-it-yourself tacos, and salmon in a Oaxacan sauce called manchamanteles, “tablecloth stainer.” An upscale menu with exciting choices. There’s also a Park Slope location, but the East Village branch is now closed.

A casserole of cheesy enchiladas with black beans on the side.

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9. Qanoon Restaurant

180 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011(646) 843-9711Visit Website

Occupying an elegant townhouse in far western Chelsea, Qanoon slings distinguished Palestinian grub for takeout or delivery. Many of the short dishes called meze have rarely been produced so well in this area, including muhammara, hummus, baba ganoush, and labneh configured as orbs, perhaps for bouncing rather than dipping. Main dishes are complete dinners presented as if coming from a home kitchen, best of which is makloubeh, a lamb and eggplant casserole. 

A basket of cut pitas in the upper left, plus a plate of hummus and chickpeas and three green orbs in a separate bowl.

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10. Ciao Bella

257 7th Ave
New York, NY 10001(212) 675-4050

This old-timer peddles the pleasing combination of pizzas and pastas, and the sauce used on both is rich and piquant in the Sicilian style, herbier than most. The chicken parm hero has lots more cheese than you might expect, and you should examine the steam table carefully before making your pasta selection. Recently, baked ziti was the best choice. For a joint with a steam table, the dining room is particularly commodious, though indoor eating may be curtailed when you read this.

A gooey plate of baked pasta with a plastic wrapped roll on the side

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11. Milanes

168 W 25th St
New York, NY 10001(212) 243-9797Visit Website

Once Chelsea was chock-a-block with Latin lunch counters, meeting the culinary needs of the laborers who worked at the factories, warehouses, and wholesalers of this bustling commercial hub. Now, not so much. One of those that lingers is Milanes. Every massive entree at this Dominican prize spot includes your choice of yellow or white rice and red or black beans, and the fare runs to garlic-rubbed pork roasts, paprika-dusted chickens, tripe soup, and the homely stew called sancocho, all of it delectable.

A plate with vertical bands of red beans, yellow rice, and coarse textured pork roast with a slice of red bell pepper on top.

12. Johny’s Luncheonette

124 W 25th St
New York, NY 10001(212) 243-6230Visit Website

When founded in 1994, it was located in what was once Chelsea’s warehouse district between Sixth and Seventh avenues, an area also famed for its indoor and outdoor flea markets. Johny’s was and still is just a tiny lunch counter serving eggs, pancakes, hamburgers, and sandwiches, but has adapted to more modern times with a long menu of invented heroes with names like Sloppy Johny and Curious George. Some of them even have french fries inside.

A hero sandwich with eggs, ham, and french fries tumbling out.

13. Pisillo

124 W 25th St
New York, NY 10001(917) 388-3751Visit Website

Call them heroes, call them panini, or just call them Italian sandwiches — Pisillo, which also boasts a Wall Street branch, excels at them. The roster is long, with each combination of a limited number of truly Italian ingredients painstakingly listed. Here’s my favorite, a sandwich made with mortadella and squeakingly fresh mozzarella, with plenty of arugula piled atop like the bitterness of lost love. Hey, it’s good for you, and neither does the quality of olive oil dressing this baby disappoint.

A very long luncheon meat and fresh mutz sandwich, cut in half with the halves lying across each other like two legs.

14. Omai

158 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011(212) 633-0550Visit Website

The menu at this small but elegant Vietnamese bistro is quirky as hell, so much so that picking your meal, whether lunch or dinner, will be a fun challenge. What about lemongrass-crusted tofu, seafood in sate sauce with rice noodles, or a lobster roll Vietnamese salad? Standards like pho bo, bun bo Hue, or the wok-seared steak salad called bo luc lac also excel. The menu abounds with French touches.

A bowl of pho front and center, with a spoonful of rice noodles raised up, and a plate of basil and cilantro in the background.

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15. Stella’s Pizza

110 9th Ave #1
New York, NY 10011(212) 462-4444Visit Website

Located a couple blocks north of the Googleplex, Stella’s is one of Chelsea’s oldest and best neighborhood pizza parlors, dating to the 1960s, with the interior design to prove it, including Roy Lichtenstein prints (he was a patron). There’s not much in the way of seating, but plenty of room to stand and dream over your plain slice — or better yet, the broccoli or spinach white slices. Lunch specials featuring two slices and a Coke available, and the hot heroes are similarly excellent. 

Meatball parm hero at Stella’s, with giant meatballs and oozing cheese all around.

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16. Memo Shish Kebab 

100 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011(212) 381-2115Visit Website

It’s rare that a well-regarded Brooklyn restaurant bombs into Manhattan, but that is what happened with Memo. In this case, the restaurant is a Kings Highway Turkish establishment founded in 2000, which popped up here at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street, one of Chelsea’s quintessential corners. The doner kebab is fab and fast; pick either chicken or lamb and be assured you’re getting lamb and not the brittle and unsatisfying lamb-beef hybrid currently being peddled elsewhere. Plenty of salads, bread dips, pastries, and other kebabs, too.

At Chelsea’s Memo Shish Kebab, doner is queen.

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17. Great Burrito

100 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011(212) 243-0022

We’ll admit it: This place on the south side of 23rd Street doesn’t look particularly appealing. And you’d do well to avoid the lifeless pizzas that are one half of its lure. The other half, however, are some simply wonderful antojitos, turned out with great pride by the staff. Taco stuffings are farther-ranging than you might expect given the commercial location, and there’s no better tongue tostada (shown) in town. Burritos ain’t bad, either.

A tostada so covered with cheese, crema, and foliage that you almost can’t see the dark tongue underneath.

18. Peter McManus Cafe

152 7th Ave
New York, NY 10011(212) 929-9691Visit Website

Dating to 1936, Peter McManus is one of the city’s oldest Irish bars, with the antique barroom and rear dining room to prove it, frequently featured in TV shows like Broad CityLaw and Order, and Seinfeld. Long has it been known, not only for its pints of Guinness, but for its burgers and other pub fare. Pick the classic burger, served with steak fries or tots, or go all the way with the deluxe Pop Pop’s top-shelf cheeseburger, featuring a mix of multiple forms of beef. Deli sandwiches, including rare roast beef, are good, too.

A chalkboard sign reads Best Burger In Town.

19. El Cocotero

228 W 18th St
Chelsea, NY 10011(212) 206-8930Visit Website

With the exception of El Cocotero (“the coconut palm”), there are no other upscale Venezuelan restaurants in the city that I know of, though we do have our share of areperas. The place is decorated like a farmhouse in the countryside, and the menu strains for homestyle dishes rarely seen in New York, such as hallacas, a tamal bulging with beef, pork, raisins, and olives, delivered in a banana leaf. Don’t miss the national cocktail called guarapita, concocted of mango and passionfruit juices and rum.

A basket full of brown fritters and white dipping sauce.

20. Hao Noodle

343 W 14th St
New York, NY 10014(646) 882-0059Visit Website

While the original branch of Hao Noodle in the Villages skewed toward Sichuan food and tea, this magnificent Chelsea branch strays toward Shanghai. Yes, there are gravy-squirting soup dumplings, but also find delicate little charcoal kebabs of meat and offal, smoked and then fried filet of sole, and slabs of hawthorn jelly interspersed with avocado for what was one of the most surprising Chinese dishes of the year. You can’t go wrong with noodles, either.

Hawthorn jelly and avocado

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21. Portale

126 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011(917) 781-0255Visit Website

This restaurant named after its chef Alfred Portale offers a menu of Italian classic dishes in a fine dining vein, with the conventional three courses plus pizzas and desserts. The antipasti are particularly fine, including a perfect seafood salad of lobster, scallops, octopus, shrimp, and avocado. There are three choices each of pasta and secondi, of which the one called maiale in the latter category matches hunks of pork roast and ribs with a polenta cake and zingy orange moustarda.

A clump of seafood salad with a sprig of frisee on top.

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22. Coppelia

207 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011(212) 858-5001Visit Website

What if a Greek diner had a Latin menu instead? That was the thesis of Coppelia, named after a comic ballet, when it opened nearly 10 years ago on bustling West 14th Street. The menu has evolved over the years, so that now it skews mainly Cuban and Mexican, with oxtail empanadas, ropa vieja, chiles relleno, and, of course, huevos rancheros.

Runny eggs exceedingly yellow and bright white broken up on tortillas.

23. The Donut Pub

203 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011(646) 398-7007Visit Website

One of the most respected independent doughnut bakers in town, the Pub has been near the corner of Seventh Avenue and 14th Street since 1964, and the snaking marble lunch counter signifies its age. Enjoy a decent cup of coffee and above-average doughnuts that run from the usual (glazed, crullers, old-fashioned) to the unusual, including a whole range of Cronut knockoffs and muffins that contain Oreo cookies. Distinguished egg sandwiches in a strange squished format and simple sandwiches such as ham, cheese, and ham and cheese are also available. 

A number of snow capped figures sit at an L shaped lunch counter.

24. Hollywood Diner

574 6th Ave
New York, NY 10011(212) 691-8465Visit Website

Let’s face it, sometimes you need a good, greasy breakfast — at 11 p.m. in the evening. Chelsea is one of the few neighborhoods still filled with old-school Greek diners, and Hollywood is one, striving to give itself a touch of glamour with the name. And I got news for you: Diner food ain’t cheap anymore, and neither should it be. But just imagine you’re really hungry and tucking into this giant breakfast — I dare you to polish off all the spuds.

Two fried eggs, two plump sausages, to slice of toast, and a humongous pile of fried potatoes.

25. Chama Mama

149 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011(646) 438-9007Visit Website

As Georgian restaurants in the city have moved into Manhattan and become more sophisticated, they’ve added impressive wine lists focusing on the grapes of the region in drier presentations, expanded their lists of pomegranate-strewn apps and herby stews, and, of course, multiplied the variety of khachapuris, the now-famous cheese-stuffed bread. Chama Mama rates as one of the city’s best Georgian spots; among its better dishes are the lamb-stuffed grape leaves and game hen in garlic broth. 

An oblong bread with handles has a gooey fried egg in a lake of molten cheese.

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