One of the great joys of being in New York is that theres fabulous food at nearly every turn. 

You can flex your gold card on some of the most memorable fine dining in the world, or go ethnic - Chinese, Jewish, Italian, and much, much more - to indulge in the best cheap eats youll find anywhere.

Best Spot for a Break-the-Bank Celebration:  

For understated elegance, perfect service, and sublime New French cuisine, theres Chanterelle, 2 Harrison St. (tel. 212/966-6960), which can cause even the most jaded gourmands to swoon. For pure New York excitement, the choice is Le Cirque 2000, 455 Madison Ave. (tel. 212/303-7788), whose legendary panache simply cant be beat.

Best for Romance: Downtown, reserve at One If By Land, Two If By Sea, 14 Barrow St. (tel. 212/228-0822), where candles and lush piano music take you back in time and put you in the mood. In Midtown, try March, 405 E. 58th St. (tel. 212/754-6272), for a sublime meal in a cozy town house.
Best View: Without a doubt, the winner is Windows on the World, high atop 1 World Trade Center (tel. 212/524-7011). No matter how many years I live in this city, the spectacular view never fails to take my breath away. And thanks to new chef Michael Lomanaco, the cuisine is garnering similar raves.

Best Spot for a Business Lunch: The landmark "21" Club, 21 W. 52nd St. (tel. 212/582-7200), is the classic choice of New Yorks old-school power set. If you prefer more casual, more convenient, and want to impress with your New York acumen, head to the Oyster Bar, in Grand Central Terminal (tel. 212/490-6650), another New York classic thats a perfect spot to seal the deal.

Best Spot for a Ladies-Who-Lunch Lunch: Theres no meal I enjoy more than a society lunch. Whats more decadent than lingering over three courses and a couple of glasses of wine for a few hours in the middle of the day, when regular folks are hard at work? Café Boulud, 20 E. 76th St. (tel. 212/772-2600), is the ideal place to rub elbows with the Upper East Side society dames whove made this a way of life.

Best Spot for Brunch: For Uptown elegant, try Café des Artistes, 1 W. 67th St. (tel. 212/877-3500). For Uptown casual, head to Sarabeths Kitchen, 423 Amsterdam Ave. (tel. 212/496-6280). For Downtown elegant, head to Windows on the World, 1 World Trade Center (tel. 212/524-7000), where the top-of-the-tower views just cant be beat. For Downtown casual, Le Gigot, 18 Cornelia St. (tel. 212/627-3737) is the Villages best-kept secret--until now, that is.

Best Pre-Theater Choice: Theres Chez Josephine, 414 W. 42nd St. (tel. 212/594-1925), a wonderful choice for its sexy appeal and abundance of nostalgia à la française. If youre heading to Lincoln Center, you cant do better than sublime Jean Georges, in the Trump International Hotel Tower, 1 Central Park West (tel. 212/299-3900), where the faultless waitstaff will make sure youre wowed well before curtaintime.

Best Early-Bird Dinner Deal: If you dont mind dining early and you have the willpower to stick to the prix-fixe menu, the two-course $20 dinner at Alison on Dominick Street, at 38 Dominick St. in SoHo (tel. 212/727-1188), is a smokin deal. Since seatings are between 5 and 6:30pm, you can even take advantage of Alison on Dominick as a pre-theater choice, as long as you allow yourself time to hop a cab uptown.

Best Dessert: There are a lot of stellar pastry chefs in town, but youd be hard-pressed to do better than the remarkable confections at Payard Pâtisserie Bistro, 1032 Lexington Ave. (tel. 212/717-5252), which is well located for a pastry break during a day of Upper East Side museum-hopping or shopping.

Best Contemporary American Cuisine: Gramercy Tavern, 42 E. 20th St. (tel. 212/477-0777), does everything just right. The beautiful dining room is the perfect blend of urban sophisitication and heartland rusticity, the service is warm and friendly, and its New American menu is pleasing from start to finish. Excellent through and through.

Best Chinese Cuisine: With all the culinary wonders that Chinatown has to offer, this is a tough choice. But whenever I think about the steamy soup dumplings at Joes Shanghai, 9 Pell St. (tel. 212/233-8888), I cant help but swoon.

Best French Cuisine: Downtown, magical Chanterelle, 2 Harrison St. (tel. 212/966-6960), is the obvious choice, serving ethereal French with welcome comtemporary twists. Uptown, theres Daniel, 60 E. 65th St. (tel. 212/288-0033), where superstar chef Daniel Bouluds French country fare is sublime. For more affordable French, your best bet is Le Gigot, a true slice of St-Germain at 18 Cornelia St. (tel. 212/627-3737).

Best Italian Cuisine: 

italian food NYC

San Domenico, 240 Central Park South (tel. 212/265-5959), gets high marks for owner Tony Mays consistently excellent Northern Italian fare. For the best-bang-for-your-buck Italian, head to Bar Pitti, 268 Sixth Ave. (tel. 212/982-3300), a wonderfully authentic Tuscan-style trattoria.

Best Japanese Cuisine: In a category all its own is the inventive Nobu, 105 Hudson St. (tel. 212/219-0500), where unusual textures, daring combinations, and surprising flavors add up to a first-rate dining adventure that you wont soon forget. For sushi as high art, head to super-fashionable BondSt, 6 Bond St. (tel. 212/777-2500), where youll find faultlessly fresh, beautifully prepared raw fish, some of it flown in from Japan daily.
Best Home-Style Cooking: No other restaurant warms my heart more than the aptly named Home, 20 Cornelia St. (tel. 212/243-9579), where the cumin-crusted pork chop sits in a bed of homemade barbecue sauce thats better than Dad used to make, and the silky-smooth chocolate pudding even Mom would admit is better than hers.

Best Jewish Deli: Kosher Second Avenue Deli, 156 Second Ave. (tel. 212/677-0606), is New Yorks deli among those who know their kreplach, matzo, and pastrami. No cutesy sandwiches named for celebrities here--just top-notch Jewish classics.

Best Burger and Beer: Ask a hundred New Yorkers, and youll get a hundred opinions. But for my money, theres no better choice than Old Town Bar Restaurant, 45 E. 18th St. (tel. 212/529-6732). Whether you go low-fat turkey or bacon-chili-cheddar, the burgers at this venerable 19th-century pub are perfect every time. The fries are addictively crisp, the Buffalo wings are slathered in spicy sauce, and theres a whole selection of great beers on tap.

Best Pizza:  

pizza NYC

Pizza doesnt get any better than the coal oven-baked, fresh mozzarella-topped pies at Patsy Grimaldis Pizzeria, 19 Old Fulton St., Brooklyn Heights (tel. 718/858-4300). If youre unwilling to travel across the river for real Noo Yawk pizza, head to Lombardis, 32 Spring St. (tel. 212/941-7994), which has been baking up its own coal-oven pies since 1905.

Best Seafood: The black bass ceviche alone--not to mention everything else that comes out of its blue-ribbon kitchen--keeps Le Bernardin, 155 W. 51st St. (tel. 212/489-1515), at the top of the worlds great fish restaurants. If your budget isnt quite big enough to handle such a splurge, head to Pisces, 95 Ave. A (tel. 212/260-6660).

Best for Celebrity Spotting: Its the luck of the draw, really. But for the best odds, head to Le Cirque 2000, in the New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Ave. (tel. 212/303-7788), where the crowd is full of big-name movie stars, politicos, and socialites; I personally spotted Whoopi just moments after walking through the front door. And forget Moomba: Your other best bet is Mr. Chow, 324 E. 57th St. (tel. 212/751-9030), a favorite among Uptown celebs like Mark Wahlberg, Madonna, and the latest names in hip hop--and where youll be treated like a star, too.

Best Late-Night Hangout: Half authentic French bistro, half all-American diner, Florent, 69 Gansevoort St. (tel. 212/989-5779), is the hipster crowds favorite after-hours hangout. Thanks to its good food, great people-watching, and wonderful sense of humor, its mine, too.

Best Alfresco Dining: Park View at the Boathouse, on the lake in Central Park, near 72nd Street and Park Drive North (tel. 212/517-2233), is without rival. Its both quintessentially New York and wonderfully removed from the urban hustle and bustle. If youre visiting in summer, dont miss this one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Best Wine List:  

wine NYC

A whole fleet of young sommeliers have landed on the citys restaurant scene, bringing fresh ideas and a wonderful enthusiasm to wine lists all around town, from the respected cellar at Windows on the World, 1 World Trade Center (tel. 212/524-7011), to upstarts like Babbo, 110 Waverly Place (tel. 212/777-0303), where Italian grapes are the stars of a very exciting show. But its hard to beat Le Cirque 2000, in the New York Palace hotel, 455 Madison Ave. (tel. 212/303-7788), where the keen sommeliers staff will be happy to help you choose among their superb--and surprisingly well-priced--collection of French, Italian, and American vintages.

Best Wine Deals: Tuesday isnt just Tuesday anymore--at least not at the Bridge Cafe, 279 Water St. (tel. 212/227-3344), where its Wine Discovery Tuesday. Every bottle on the restaurants already-well priced all-American wine list is 30% off. Cité, 120 W. 51st St. (tel. 212/956-7100), offers a nightly deal from 8pm to midnight thats almost too good to be true: For $59.50, you get a three-course meal--your choice of appetizer, main course, and dessert--and you can enjoy unlimited quantities of the four wines on offer at no extra charge. And youre not getting the cheap stuff: Choices on recent offer included a 90 Mondavi cabernet, a 97 Acacia chardonnay, a 94 Chalone Vinyard pinot noir reserve, and Taittinger brut for celebrating. These deals should still be on while youre in town, but call ahead to be sure.

Best Newcomer: With Babbo, 110 Waverly Place (tel. 212/777-0303), TV Food Network chef Mario Batali has created the ideal setting for his exciting Northern Italian cooking. The setting is beautiful, the service warm and gracious, and the food excellent. Nobody does pasta better--I cant wait to go back.

Best Service: With an almost-unheard-of 27 (out of a possible 30) rating for service from Zagats, Chanterelle, 2 Harrison St. (tel. 212/966-6960), simply cant be beat. The service somehow manages to be impeccable without being too formal or stuffy. Other restaurants try, but this is how its supposed to be. A magical experience, and worth every penny.