Many visitors to New York City never leave the touristy parts of Manhattan and would never dream of going very far just for food. That is understandable if you are relying on public transportation and only have a couple of days to enjoy the sights. But renting a car opens up the possibility of exploring corners of this city that even people who have lived their whole lives there never see. One of the best ways to experience the diversity of New York is through its food. Literally any cuisine you can think of can be found here or in the surrounding area. Here we give you a tiny sampling of some places to eat that are located outside of the tourist areas and include seafood, Somali food, a Chinese specialty, and, of course, pizza. Use these as a starting point the explore the “outer boroughs” of NYC and brag to your friends that you went to an island in the Bronx.
1. Johnny’s Reef, the Bronx
Fried scallops and clams at Johnny’s Reef.
This seafood restaurant at the far southern end of City Island off the Bronx has been there since the 1950s and has a bit of a school cafeteria vibe. But you can get some super fresh seafood here that will not break the bank, although note that it’s cash-only. While fried seafood takes up much of the menu, you can also get steamed fish, shellfish and shrimp, and there is even a section just for clams. If some in your group are not fans of seafood, they do have items like hamburgers and buffalo wings. In warmer weather, you can take your food onto the spacious outdoor eating area overlooking the water. Be warned that the seagulls are plentiful and will definitely try to steal food from you when you’re not looking. You can reach the island via a bridge from Pelham Bay Park and there is street parking available as well as some parking lots.
Address: 2 City Island Ave., Bronx, NY 10464
2. Safari Restaurant, Upper Manhattan
Somali chicken suqaar at Safari Restaurant.
If you want to have a culinary adventure, head to Harlem in upper Manhattan and eat at Safari. The restaurant serves Somali and other East African dishes and has lovely service. The goat and chicken dishes are recommended (Somalia is a majority Muslim country, and it shows in the food and also the lack of alcoholic beverages at the restaurant), as are the sambuza appetizers that will remind you of Indian samosas. The chicken suqaar offers a good entry in Somali cuisine. The pieces of poultry in the stew-like dish are well-spiced, and if you can take the heat, the spicy green sauce that accompanies the chicken and rice is delicious. If you like other spice-rich African food or Indian food, you will be delighted with a meal at Safari. Parking is available on the street by paying the meter.
Address: 219 W. 116th St., New York, NY 10026
3. Louie & Ernie’s Pizza, the Bronx
The outside of one of the best pizzerias in NYC. Photo by @chelsea_capeci on Instagram.
Way in the upper reaches of the Bronx, in the Pelham Bay neighborhood, sits Louie & Ernie’s Pizza. This no-frills spot serves a great NY-style thin crust pizza and is best reached by car. It is right off Interstate 95 but quite a hike from the nearest subway station. Louie & Ernie’s has been serving pizza since the original opened in 1949 before moving to its current location in 1959. The restaurant and the pizzas and calzones are unfussy with no fancy toppings or artisan crusts. It should also be noted that, unlike a lot of the other “iconic” pizzerias in NYC, Louie & Ernie’s serves slices. Although you really can’t go wrong with any of the toppings here, order a sausage pizza and you will see what all the hype is about. You might want to order an extra pizza to take with if you are going there by car.
Address: 1300 Crosby Ave., Bronx, NY 10461
4. White Bear, Flushing, Queens
Dumplings in chili oil from White Bear.
Queens has the largest number of ethnically Chinese people of any NYC borough. That also means the borough has the biggest Chinatown in the city. All of that means that you can find some very authentic and diverse food if you are willing to travel to the outer reaches of Queens – namely, to Flushing. If you want just a taste of what is on offer, White Bear is a good place to start for a plate of dumplings. The tiny shop has a menu, but no visit should be without the chili oil dumplings that come 12 to an order for about $5. They are not especially spicy, but the chili oil gives them a smoky flavor. Use this as a jumping off point before going to the nearby New World Mall food court for an overdose of Chinese and other Asian food.
Pro tip: Find a parking garage to park in because the street parking here is scarce and chaotic.
Address: 135-02 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, NY 11354
5. Red Hook Lobster Pound, Brooklyn
A lobster roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound.
The East Coast of the US is scattered with places selling fresh seafood caught nearby. In New England, lobster, crab, and shrimp are often stuffed into top-split rolls with some butter or a mayonnaise concoction to be enjoyed in restaurants or roadside stands. And these lobster, crab and shrimp rolls – with the seafood coming straight from Maine – can also be enjoyed at one of the Red Hook Lobster Pound locations across the city. The original is in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and is most easily reached by car. Plus, at this location you can eat some delicious seafood and then take a walk by the water.
Bonus: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, Connecticut
The famous clam pizza at Frank Pepe.
Clams on pizza? Yes, clams on pizza is a thing, and a glorious invention. The birthplace of this phenomenon is New Haven, Connecticut, and it is worth a road trip from Sixt’s station in Lower Manhattan to visit the original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana near the Yale University campus. The 81-mile drive on 1-95 N takes about 2 hours – just long enough to work up some hunger and see the sights of Connecticut along the way. The clam pie features shucked clams, olive oil, oregano, garlic and some grated cheese on a regular pizza crust. Because seating is limited, if the weather is nice you can order a pie to go and eat it in the Wooster Square Park a block away. If you are short on time, there are other locations of Frank Pepe, including one in Yonkers just outside the NYC city limits.
Address: 157 Wooster St., New Haven, CT 06511
Rent a car from our Downtown Manhattan branch to see more of the city than most visitors do. You can easily reach the station, located in Battery Park, from any of the New York-area airports or by public transit.
Written by Andrea Heisinger, Junior Online Editor for Sixt US