The Financial District is an area full of contradictions. On one hand, it’s New York’s oldest neighborhood, with plenty of historic landmarks and winding cobblestone streets. And our country’s economy is figuratively, if not literally, run here. On the other hand, it’s filled with nondescript tall buildings, a million weird delis that definitely don’t change their salad bar contents frequently enough, and tourists with Statue of Liberty souvenirs.
All that aside, many of you seem to find yourselves down here during meal times, unsure of where or what to eat that’s neither Pret A Manger nor The Capital Grille. This list consists of the places we think are actually worth your time – no prepackaged sandwiches or overpriced steaks allowed.
Augustine is the banker-next-door’s French brasserie, which is just a way of saying that everyone in FiDi is trying to eat steak tartare here. Actually, this is one of the only FiDi spots that we suggest you go out of your way for. Run by the same restaurateur behind Balthazar, Augustine is great for a date, a client lunch, or a drink at the bar. They serve upscale French food like duck a l’orange and roasted bone marrow in a space that’s casual enough to wear sneakers and generally understood to be cooler than most other restaurants in the area.
Dead Rabbit tends to be the first place we send people looking for a good time in FiDi. It’s part cocktail bar, part restaurant, located across a few floors in an old building on Water Street. The space feels very old New York (like, 1700s old), and many of the cocktails are served in fancy little teacups. Did New York’s settlers drink whiskey out of teacups? Unclear, but we’ll take it. This place gets crowded, but it’s one of the best around.
The Wooly Public is a cocktail bar and restaurant in the bottom of the Woolworth Building. It feels like a fossil imprint of a once-hip place because it used to be cool, and now it’s cool in a historical way. There’s a pretty spacious dance floor area, a big bar with a TV showing vintage footage of the 1989 Macy’s Day parade, and some tables that may have been Scrabble boards in a previous life. And while this feels like a bizarre cross section of “Old New York” aesthetic and early 2000s party spot, it works as a quirky place to hang out with a friend or two. The crowd splits between FiDi-working-people who are meeting for drinks and tourists who decide to order a burger here. We’d recommend the former.
The best lobster roll shop in New York has an outpost on William Street. It’s pretty much the same as all the others, which is to say: simple, excellent, and probably bound to raise your cholesterol slightly.
Finding a nice little restaurant in FiDi is almost unheard of, but then there’s Schilling. Schilling serves Austrian comfort food like spaetzle, with Mediterranean cameos like a fluke and tomatillo ceviche. It’s run by the same people behind Edi & the Wolf and Freud, and feels quiet and intimate without taking itself too seriously. The best part about Schilling is that it lives in the sweet spot on the Venn diagram of restaurants where you could bring a date or a dad and they’d be able to find something they like while actually being able to hear your theories on the rise of bitcoin stock. All in all, Schilling is on the expensive side for its portions, but it’s good for a nice, casual dinner that’s sponsored by finance and non-finance salaries alike.
Pisillo is one of the hands-down best Italian sandwich shops in Manhattan, and we endorse making your way over here if you’re anywhere in the vicinity. The Italian news blasting on the TV is a good sign of authenticity, and it’s statistically proven that watching Silvio Berlusconi’s face flash across a screen makes your prosciutto and mozzarella better. The sandwiches are simple, but made with extremely high-quality ingredients. They’re also huge.
A very pleasant Italian restaurant/wine bar with salads, crostinis, pastas, and so on, that’s actually owned by the people behind Sant Ambroeus. Both the vibe and the food are on the top end of what you’ll find in the area.
Describing Fish Market feels dangerously close to a real life Stefan run-down of New York’s Hottest Club: it’s a sports bar in the South Street Seaport that serves Chinese and Malaysian food with $16 lobster specials on Mondays and Tuesdays and a bartender named Jeff who likes to do free shots of Jameson with nearly everyone who comes inside. The menu is huge, with sectioned off American bar snacks, vaguely Italian pasta plates, and Chinese and Malaysian options. While their traditional bar food is good, we’d recommend going for that last section, which includes things like ginger chicken wings, Mama’s curried chicken, or the pork belly pot. Come here with friends who like being in loud places and won’t mind the group in the back having an alcohol-themed birthday party.
Certainly the coolest spot in the area around the South Street Seaport, El Luchador is a little Mexican place where you can eat your burrito in an old Airstream. The fish tacos are great.
Bagel enthusiasts: meet Leo’s Bagels, a sleeper high-quality bagel pick. The bagels here are gooey and chewy in the way that the rare really good NYC bagel is. This is where you should be getting your egg and cheese bagel in the AM.
The main reason to come to Pier A Harbor House? The views. From the many outside tables, you’ll look right out at the Statue of Liberty, and the inside is massive as well. Stick to the cooked food, like mini oyster po’ boy sliders.
For a slightly more refined option at the very edge of Manhattan, check out this outpost of the popular Tribeca Italian restaurant Gigino. It’s classic Italian food, located mostly in a tent in Wagner Park – the outdoor space is great if you happen to have kids, or are with adults who for whatever reason need to run around excessively.
The Stone Street main drag is littered with bars and restaurants, all of which have outdoor seating areas that bleed into one another. It’s an appealing place to hang out in the area, certainly. So which of the many restaurants should you pick? Sure, the Bavaria Beer Haus will do if you want to drink hefeweizen out of a boot, and the Mexican restaurant “Mad Dog and Beans” is an option if you want to patronize a place called “Mad Dog and Beans.” But if you actually want to eat, do it at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar. The large pies are pretty good (no slices, FYI), and the inside area is pretty nice.
If you find yourself on the western side of FiDi, the massive floor of vendors inside Brookfield Place should be your first line of defense. There’s a Black Seed Bagels, there’s a Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, there’s a Num Pang, there’s a Mighty Quinn’s. There are burgers, and tacos, and dumplings, and even some vaguely healthy things. Get into it.
Yes friends, there’s a Shack Shack here. It’s right at the edge of the Goldman Sachs/space age movie theater death star corridor. You know the rest.
Another classic burger is located right around the corner in this new outpost of P.J. Clarke’s. They do a good job replicating the classic original down to the red checkered tablecloths, and when it’s warm, the outdoor seating overlooking the water is key.
Also attached to Brookfield Place is a new location of Parm. (In case you haven’t realized, they’re really good at colonizing great stuff from further uptown in this little area.) All the chicken parms and turkey sandwiches you’ve come to love are here, and as a bonus, the space is huge.
Eataly’s FiDi location is a lot like the one on 5th Avenue, except it’s located in a corporate mall that could double as an interactive ride at a Black Mirror theme park. So if you’re ready to brave a swarm of Brooks Brothers suits in bright lighting, Eataly is useful for weekday lunch or picking up a jar of $400 barrel-aged, truffle-infused anchovies. They have different counters where you can find caprese sandwiches and prosciutto flatbreads, and even a few places to hide out and get an $8 glass of wine during their weekday happy hour if you’re killing time. The downtown location also has a restaurant called Osteria Della Pace that’s separated from the rest of the Eataly mall scene where you could hypothetically eat dinner.