We love unique eating experiences — whether it’s street food like the incredible offerings at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg or a dive with great burgers or a small unknown restaurant in one of the boroughs. We’ll go anywhere for a good meal. At the same time, we also have a lot of tried and true favorites in the city that we go to over and over again.
When we can combine food exploration with supporting LGBTQ owners and chefs, it’s a double delight. The past year had not been kind to many in our community. Longtime community favorites have closed. Prune on the Lower East Side, owned by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, has closed. Likewise for MeMe’s Diner in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Even with the many closings, there is still plenty out there if you love a good meal and want to support LGBTQ businesses and chefs.
Here are some of our favorites, not in any particular order. The benefit of this list is that you can explore the city while taking in some culinary treats.
181 Grand Street, Little Italy
There’s nothing that we like better than lox and cream cheese on a bagel made the old-fashioned way — hand-rolled, boiled, then baked. That’s exactly how they do it at this breakfast spot owned by Bari Musacchio. Think charming, neighborhood deli with rainbow bagels. Traditional Jewish food — bagels and cream cheese, smoked fish, matzoh ball soup, potato latkes, and blintzes — with an LGBTQ twist. With advance notice, you can even cater your event with custom-colored tie-dye bagels. You can also try a modern take on latkes with sour cream, caviar, and salmon.
Pro Tip: Note that Baz Bagels is only open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check out Little Italy or wander further east on Grand Street after you’ve fueled up at Baz Bagels.
Fonda Comida Mexicana
189 Ninth Avenue, Chelsea
434 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn
We just recently discovered Fonda, and we’ll be back many times to sample the entire menu. Chef/owner Roberto Santibañez is one of the best in the city. His take on contemporary Mexican food is flavorful, filling, and reasonably priced for New York. It’s a wonderful place for happy hour — with a great cocktail menu and $10 appetizers that allow you to sample some of the menu. The guacamole is excellent and a healthy serving. If you like duck, we highly recommend the zarape de pato. They also have a very good brunch.
Pro Tip: The Chelsea location looks small but has a large dining room upstairs. There is a nice outdoor seating area. It’s on 9th Avenue so it can be noisy during rush hour. Fonda is near the Chelsea Market and the Highline. It’s a great stop before or after visiting either place.
51 Grove Street, West Village
Grove Street, one of our favorite streets in the West Village, leads to Via Carota. It is owned by chefs Jodi Williams and Rita Sodi, partners in life and food. Conde Nast Traveler voted Via Carota one of the top 20 Italian restaurants in New York. More expensive than most of the other restaurants on this list, it is worth the splurge. It has a comfortable and homey ambiance. We love the cacio pepe, wild boar ragu, and chopped steak. If you’re looking for a new experience, try the fried rabbit or carote with yogurt and pistachios. In addition to the indoor dining (with cozy and rustic decor), there is a large outdoor seating area. Via Caroti has an extensive collection of Italian wines.
Pro Tip: Get there early. There are limited reservations on Rezy, but most people arrive and wait for a table. You can also try Buvette (owned by Jodi) or I Sodi (owned by Rita). Both are excellent. If you’re not too full after dinner, the Big Gay Ice Cream shop is a short walk.
Big Gay Ice Cream
61 Grove Street, West Village
516 Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side
207 Front Street, South Street Seaport
If you love ice cream, then you need to drop by Big Gay Ice Cream. Owners and partners Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff started with one food truck and now have three locations in New York City (Upper West Side, South Street Seaport, and the West Village). They have an additional location at Madison Square Garden that has been temporarily closed and was in the process of expanding to Philadelphia when COVID hit.
If you are in the Big Apple for Gay Pride, you’ll see a line out the door at the Village location. I don’t eat soft serve — except at Big Gay Ice Cream. The Dorothy is my favorite — nilla wafer crumbs, dulce de leche, and vanilla soft serve ice cream. If you like salty and sweet, try the Salty Pimp. It’s the most popular — vanilla, dulce de leche, salted chocolate. You’ll also find gourmet hard ice cream sandwiches, sundaes, and much more. Be prepared to indulge.
151 East Broadway, Lower East Side
We spend a lot of time in Asia — Singapore and Malaysia especially. Reggie grew up eating Singapore/Malaysian food so we were excited when we heard from a friend in Boston that Kopitiam was re-opening on the Lower East Side. Kopitiam means coffee shop in the Chinese Hokkien dialect. LGBTQ Chef and owner Kyo Pang cooks her family’s recipes and they are authentic and delicious.
Try the Kaya Toast (a traditional breakfast favorite in Singapore), nasi lemak, or the oyster omelets. Be sure to try some of the sweets — Pulut Inti or Ondeh Ondeh.
Pro Tip: It can get crowded, so be prepared to wait if you come during lunch or dinner time. Some of the dishes are small plates — check when you’re ordering so that you order enough food.
1045 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn
It’s worth a trip to Bushwick Brooklyn to experience Sweet Chili. This southeast Asian fusion restaurant is run by owner and chef Lisa Fernandes (a Top Chef contestant). What started as a food truck in 2013 has morphed into a hidden gem serving comfort food inspired by Vietnam and Thailand. We recommend the honey chili pork belly, crispy dumplings, spicy cumin beef noodles, and Vietnamese coffee tiramisu.
Pro Tip: Sweet Chili is close to the Bushwick Collective — known worldwide for its street art. Take in the street art and build up your appetite before heading to Sweet Chili. Currently, only take-out is available at Sweet Chili, but there is a park you can walk to enjoy the food. Hopefully, the indoor dining will open soon. It’s small, so be prepared to wait if there is a line.
25 West 8th Street, West Village
We always reserve a table at Rasa for the Gay Pride March. It is located in the middle of 8th Street and the Gay Pride March goes right past the windows of the restaurant. You feel you are right in the middle of the march while you are eating. Rasa isn’t LGBTQ-owned, but Owner Camie Lai is very supportive of the LGBTQ community.
We love the Roti Canai, Hainanese Chicken, and Chile Crab with fried Mantou (Singapore’s national dish). Rasa sometimes makes this dish with shrimp instead of crab and it is equally good. If you like noodles, the Char Kueh Teow and Drunken Noodles are some of the best we’ve had in the US. Everything on the menu is worth trying. Drinks are good as well.
LGBTQ New York Restaurants Worth Mentioning
This is by no means an exhaustive or complete list. Some other places to consider are Hill Country Barbeque in Chelsea, where Ash Funk is the culinary director. The food there will make you feel like you are in Texas. There’s also Vic’s in Noho, where Hilary Sterling is the Executive Chef. Both are run by members of the LGBTQ community and have excellent food. We couldn’t end this list without mentioning Julius’, the oldest gay bar in NYC. Owned by Helen Buford, Julius’ serves wonderful hamburgers and has been in danger of closing due to the COVID crisis and limitations on indoor dining. Hopefully, it will survive.
Happy Eating And Exploring!
That’s our list. There is so much to eat and explore in NYC. We look forward to hearing back from you about the places that you find. There’s always something new opening (and often something closing) so make sure to Google and or call the restaurants before you go.