11 Union Square Restaurants That Should Be on Every New Yorker’s Radar

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New York City has no shortage of restaurants and bars to explore. While you may dine in NoLita, Chelsea, the West Village and SoHo on the reg, there’s one area of the city that you might be overlooking: Union Square. Although USQ is best known for its famous (and robust) outdoor Greenmarket and seasonal holiday market, it has plenty more for foodies and cocktail lovers alike to explore.

Nearly 80 new businesses have come to the Union Square district since the start of the pandemic, including plenty of gastronomical highlights that deserve your attention. Read on for our 11 favorite Union Square restaurants that every New Yorker and tourist alike should try.

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1. Union Square Café

Most Iconic

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: 19th Street Burger
  • Reservations: Resy

Founded in 1985, Union Square Café showcases local produce (courtesy of the Greenmarket) and a contemporary menu in its uniquely chic-yet-approachable way. Although this isn’t the original Union Square Café, longtime regulars will recognize some old menu items and decor in the spot’s current iteration. While it doesn’t get more classic than the 19th Street Burger, topped with cheddar cheese, heritage bacon and herb aioli, other popular menu items include the rigatoni alla Bolognese, Island Creek oysters and ribollitta. The wine list is also full of exciting options, so be sure to arrive thirsty.

2. Bowery Road

Best for Brunch

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Fried Shrimp Tacos
  • Reservations: OpenTable

A swanky-looking spot that boasts 90 seats and an outdoor patio, Bowery Road is spacious by city standards, with offerings inspired by both fresh produce and casual classics. The bi-level restaurant, designed with blackened steel adornments and a custom chandelier, is the perfect spot for impromptu drinks or lunch, but we suggest going for brunch. Start with the zingy, remarkably fresh salmon tartare, then move on to entrees like the Bowery eggs benny with grilled ham and Swiss chard, the fried shrimp tacos with chipotle aioli, cabbage and pickled onions and the whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes with blueberry compote.

3. Boucherie Union Square

Best for Lunch

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Escargots
  • Reservations: OpenTable

Want a taste of France without having to hop a plane? This spot will deliver with white marble, wooden bistro tables, burgundy leather booths and a handmade pewter bar, complete with absinthe dispensers. With locations in Midtown and the West Village, Boucherie offers French classics like steak frites, Gruyère-topped onion soup, foie gras, ratatouille and duck confit. Personally, we found the shell-free escargot swimming in a mix of butter, lemon, garlic, parsley and shallots to be simply divine. Wash ’em down with something crisp and bubbly (and pair with lots of buttered baguette).

4. Library of Distilled Spirits

Best for Pre-Dinner Cocktails

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Bourbon Sunset
  • Reservations: Walk-ins welcome; for groups of 12 or more, inquire online

There’s no better name for this posh watering hole, given that the venue has a collection of more than 1,500 distilled spirits from all over the globe. In fact, the bar is surrounded by glowing, floor-to-ceiling liquor shelves that create a relaxing yet refined atmosphere. Small bites include pizza, soy-ginger fried chicken and house chocolate chip cookies, but the real draw is the tasty cocktail selection. Whiskey lovers will swoon over the tart Bourbon Sunset, made with lemon, Aperol and pineapple, while Arnold Palmer stans will adore the Sand Trap, made with lemon-infused vodka and a mint tea ice cube.

5. Café Salmagundi

Best for a Night Out with Friends

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Pork Belly
  • Reservations: Resy

Come for the contemporary Korean-American cuisine, stay for the festive, heavy-handed cocktails. Seafood lovers must try the garlicky gambas, served in a bubbling skillet with toasted sourdough, bamboo shoots and spicy peppers, as well as the oyster-chive jeon, a Korean fritter, with soy dipping sauce. The short rib was fall-apart tender and oh so comforting, but the pork belly—shatteringly crisp on the outside, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth juicy on the inside—totally stole the show. The boisterous, laid-back setting and flowing libations make this spot just right for catching up with friends over a few shared plates.

6. Dear Irving Gramercy

Best for Date Night

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Gibson
  • Reservations: Resy

Looking to impress your S.O.? Dear Irving’s extensive cocktail menu should do the trick, considering it truly has something for everyone. You’ll find rarer spirits, like sotol and Armagnac, on the list, as well as pricier cocktails made with limited-edition spirits and special ingredients. But given the place’s sophisticated atmosphere (inspired by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris), you can’t go wrong with their take on the Gibson, made with Tanqueray 10 gin, Carpano Bianco vermouth and pickled onion. Though there’s another location in Times Square, Dear Irving’s Union Square venue has a variety of rooms that will transport you to a simpler time, whether the vibe is the JFK era or Marie Antoinette’s France. Another perk? All you need to do to get a server to your table is press a button.

7. Verōnika

Best for a Special Occasion

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Jagerschnitzel
  • Reservations: Online

This upscale resto is the definition of an Insta-worthy eatery, which comes as no surprise, since it’s tucked away on the second floor of the Fotografiska New York photography museum. Whether you’re going to celebrate a birthday, an engagement or another occasion, the roomy booths and dusty pink color palette, brought to life by ornate chandeliers and candlelight, are sure to fit the bill. You could hit Bar Verōnika for cocktails and old-world wines, but we urge you to save for a dinner of European continental classics and reimaginations at the restaurant. The three tempura oysters are not to be missed, nor is the pasture-fed, organic chicken schnitzel, finished with porcini-chanterelle mushroom sauce. Leave room for dessert: The white chocolate zabayon tart with honey pine nuts is to die for.

8. Tarallucci e Vino

Best for Pasta

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Mafaldine Cacio e Pepe
  • Reservations: OpenTable

This all-day Italian bistro is beloved for its versatile wine bar, house pastries, Italian coffee and the most authentic fresh pasta on this side of the Atlantic. Founded by Abruzzo native Luca Di Pietro in 2001, Tarallucci e Vino is modeled after the easygoing, casual bars of Italy. Kick back with real-deal burrata, plated with San Marzano tomato sauce and basil, seared tagliata or the breathtaking branzino. Whatever you do, don’t skip the cacio e pepe, starring house mafaldine and a punchy pecorino Romano-black peppercorn sauce. It just might be the best we’ve ever had. Additional locations in NoMad and the Upper West Side.

9. Barbounia

Best for Mediterranean

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Taboon Roasted Branzino
  • Reservations: Tablz

Come for brunch, dinner or just dessert—either way, this haven for Mediterranean fare is sure to please. Go all-out on the mezze, since you can try all five—fire-roasted eggplant, smoked trout, hummus, spicy feta and labneh—for $36 and save a solid chunk of change (which could be spent on cocktails instead…). Follow up with the grilled Portuguese octopus with fingerling potatoes and kalamata olives, or the crispy Moroccan spinach “cigar,” if you’re vegetarian. For mains, the slow-cooked short rib tagine with homemade couscous and the taboon roasted branzino with broccolini and salsa verde are both homeruns. Don’t leave without savoring the rosewater panna cotta, served with candied pistachios and lemon-fennel sorbet, for dessert.

10. Oceans

Best for Seafood

  • Can’t-Miss Menu Item: Grilled Whole Fish
  • Reservations: OpenTable

Home to impeccably fresh sushi, locally sourced small plates and stunning mains, Oceans is an elegant place to get your fish fix. The tuna tartare is likely a bit different from others you’ve tried, as it’s served with pine nuts, Asian pear, avocado and radish. The ceviche mixto also has a fruity twist, courtesy of pineapple aguachile. If you’re serving a large crowd, splurge on the seafood tower, which is assembled with oysters, mussels, clams, ceviche, tuna sashimi, jumbo shrimp, calamari and peekytoe crab. Above all, we’d recommend the grilled whole fish, which rotates regularly based on the catch of the day. It doesn’t get fresher than that, folks.

11. Urbanspace Food Hall

Best for Indecisive Foodies

  • Reservations: Walk-ins welcome

Sometimes, we’re not sure what we’re in the mood for; the only thing we know for certain is that we’re hungry and need to eat, stat. Consider this new food hall a tasty solution to a foodie’s dilemma, since it’s home to 13 vendors, an outdoor patio and 10,000 square feet of deliciousness. Our favorite approach is to round up your friends or fam, order from a slew of different spots and have yourself an impromptu smorgasbord. To name a few, hit Summer Salt for Baja-style tacos, Bao by Kaya for buns and noodle bowls, Casa Toscana for fresh focaccia sammies, Bobwhite Counter for fried chicken, Wafels & Dinges for Belgian waffles and Top Hops for craft beer and libations.

Where to Stay

Whether you’re visiting from out of town or want to treat yourself to a staycation in your own city, look no further than the Hyatt Union Square. Mere steps away from the Union Square Greenmarket and the famous Strand Book Store, the Hyatt is a pet-friendly, four-star stay that’s home to two venues on this list, Bowery Road and Library of Distilled Spirits.

union square restaurants greenmarket liz lingon
Liz Ligon; person shopping at Union Square Greenmarket

Like much of the Union Square district, it’s also very close to the 14th Street subway (as well as NYC-only shops like Fishs Eddy, Books of Wonder and Paragon Sports), so you can get just about anywhere in the city from home base. Theater lovers should also note that Classic Stage Company, Vineyard Theatre and Daryl Roth Theatre are all a five-minute or less walk away, so you can get the Broadway experience without actually going to the Theater District and spending a ton on tickets.

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Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...