On the streets of New York City, there are restaurants everywhere you look – and some in places you don’t. While most are in plain sight, others you can walk right by without ever noticing. Concealed by various façades, a few are behind or under the restaurants you can see, hidden in alleys, and sometimes, as you’ll soon find out, in the back corners of train stations and department stores.
Like the secret lair you’ve always wanted to discover behind a rotating bookshelf, the feeling of being an insider or knowing about a place that others don’t is what makes NYC hidden restaurants so appealing. Some even require a password or referral to get in – but we won’t get that exclusive.
Though you may need to book a table in advance (because they’re not too secret), wait on a line, or get a little lost on your way, these NYC hidden restaurants are waiting for you to find them.
NYC Hidden Restaurants
Burger Joint (pictured above)
119 West 56th St, New York, NY
Tucked behind a curtain in the lobby of the upscale Le Parker Meridien hotel, the line outside usually gives this “secret” burger counter away. And while the hotel it’s in is fancy, Burger Joint is decidedly not. Dim lighting and scribble-covered walls give the small space a hideaway vibe. The menu is short and to the point – hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries, and milkshakes and brownies for dessert. And with no selection of toppings, list of cheeses to choose from or special sauces to speak of, Burger Joint skips over all the extra embellishments and impresses with only the good stuff. Reservations are not accepted and neither are credit cards. Click here for burger-making tips from AAA Diamond Rated Burger Joint.
The Campbell Apartment (NOW CLOSED)
Grand Central Terminal, 15 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY
After some years of various not-so-glamorous uses (including a stint as a jail), what was once the private office and salon of 1920’s railroad tycoon, John W. Campbell, was fully-restored to look as it did in its heyday and reborn as the chic cocktail lounge The Campbell Apartment. Hidden inside of Grand Central Terminal, patrons munch on cheese and charcuterie platters and sip on vintage cocktails like the signature “Prohibition Punch” – a blend of juices, orange liquor and champagne, inside of the Florentine hall accented with carpets, dark wood and plush red seating. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it for the feeling of being a part of a bygone era. Dress code enforced (see website for requirements). Click here for more things you may not have known about Grand Central Terminal.
Le Train Bleu
1000 3rd Ave, New York, NY
A vintage train may be the last thing you’d expect to see in Bloomingdale’s but that is exactly where you’ll find one. Follow the sign at the end of housewares on the sixth floor of the department store’s flagship location in midtown to Le Train Bleu, a little-known gem that has remained mostly a secret for almost 40 years. Modeled after a 19th-century luxury French express train car, the restaurant serves fancy-sounding French bistro fare in a charming setting complete with Victorian lamps and brass luggage racks. Open every day for lunch and brunch on the weekends.
Freemans Alley, Rivington Street between Chrystie and the Bowery, Lower East Side, NYC
Of all the NYC hidden restaurants mentioned here, Freemans is the only one that doesn’t actually have an address. The best way to find it is simply to look for the blue door at the end of Freemans Alley. Those who successfully hunt it down are rewarded with a cozy little colonial lodge-esque American Tavern, decorated with antlers and taxidermy. Imagine, happening upon such a place in the middle of New York City? The cuisine follows suit: simple, rugged, hearty and Old World-inspired. Recommended dishes include the hot artichoke dip and five cheese macaroni. Freemans is mostly walk-in but reservations are accepted (see the website for specifics).
La Esquina Brasserie & Tequila Bar
114 Kenmare Street, New York, NY
Beneath a casual corner taqueria (“The Corner Deli”), through a door that reads “Employees Only,” down a flight of stairs and through the kitchen, La Esquina serves classed-up Mexican street foods and margaritas to a select crowd of insiders. Sexier than the taco counter and it’s neighboring café (all from the same owners), it’s got a cool basement vibe with bold accents like iron bars. (Prison cell chic, perhaps?) This is one of the more exclusive places that may or may not require you to “know a guy,” especially during peak times. But if you know how to do the dance, go for it. The worst that can happen is you walk away with awesome tacos and Mexican sodas from the counter upstairs. Reservations are recommended and according to the restaurant’s website, can be made three weeks ahead. Select DJs nightly 9:30 – 2:00 a.m.
447 Hudson Street, New York, NY
Accessed through a green side door on Morton Street and through a charming little garden area, discovering the secret entranceway to Hudson Clearwater is part of the fun. The equally enchanting dining room is romantically candlelit with a rustic, wood-heavy design. Linger over a cocktail on the patio or get cozy with one of the New American dishes on their dinner menu such as the slow-cooked Berkshire pork, braised beef short ribs and mushroom risotto. Also open for breakfast, lunch and brunch.
Have you ever dined at one of these NYC hidden restaurants? Which one would you like to try? Tell us in the comments.
If you’re driving into the city, don’t forget to use your AAA discount to save at Icon Parking garages.