Explore New York City

New York City Chain Restaurants

These well-known chains are national favorites, and all originated in New York City.

New York is known for delicious food staples like pizza and hot dogs. It’s almost impossible not to find a vendor or restaurant selling one of these items on every other street corner. The Big Apple has been the stepping stone for these favorite food staples to become nationwide and global sensations.

New York City Chain Restaurants

It is no surprise because New Yorkers bring a lot to the table when it comes to food. Many of your favorite chain restaurants had humble beginnings in New York. Feast your eyes on these gastronomical glow-ups.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Although pizza originated in Italy, the first pizzeria in the United States opened in the early 1900s in New York’s Little Italy. Since then, countless pizzerias have mushroomed across New York. While many remain the stand-alone, delicious hole in the wall, others have moved on to nationwide success. One of those pizzerias is Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, which opened its doors in Brooklyn in 1990. The original location was intended for Manhattan; however, coal ovens were illegal there at the time, and Patsy Grimaldi believed that coal-fired brick ovens were a necessity if he was to create the best pizza. Thirty years later, Grimaldi’s still uses coal ovens that give the calzones and pizza their unique flavor and crisp crust, which they believe cannot be achieved in gas or wood-burning ovens. With over 40 locations nationwide, it’s safe to say people like it.

Smith & Wollensky

The first Smith & Wollensky location was built in 1977 on 49th Street and 3rd Avenue in New York. It was founded by Ben Benson and Alan Stillman, founder of TGI Fridays. The steakhouse has been featured in several movies, including the 2000 film “American Psycho” and the 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada.” Smith & Wollensky is located in Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston (two locations), Houston and Columbus, Ohio. There are two international locations; one is in London, and the other is in Taipei. 

Dinner Selection at Smith & Wollensky New York | WhereTraveler
Dinner Selection at Smith & Wollensky (©Henry Hargreaves)

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs

Who isn’t familiar with Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs? They have been around since 1916, with the first location in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Co-owner Nathan Hardwerker took out a $300 loan to set up the hot dog stand selling them for five cents, half the price of the hot dogs sold by his competition. Today, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs are distributed in 50 states, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the District of Colombia and 19 international locations. Since the early 1970s, the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has taken place annually on the 4th of July at the original Coney Island location. 

Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs New York | WhereTraveler
Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs (©Sebastien Cordat)

The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys was established a little over 30 years ago on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. The menu today features customer favorites like gyro, baba ghanoush, hummus and falafel. The menu did not start with these items. When the Egyptian founders began, they were selling hot dogs from a cart. They decided that was not a satisfying meal and switched to their current menu, including rice and pita bread. Muslim taxi drivers began purchasing the food to satisfy their craving for an authentic halal meal. Soon word spread, and the carts began operating round the clock to be able to serve the long lines of customers. The Halal Guys is now a worldwide enterprise with over 400+ restaurants in development across the globe.

Shake Shack

In 2001 when Shake Shack began operations of their small hot dog stand in Madison Square Park in New York City, the intention was only to serve residents of New York. Soon after opening, customers began lining up daily for the hot dogs. By 2004, the cart was converted to a kiosk-style restaurant and expanded their menu to include crinkle-cut fries, hamburgers and shakes. The rest is history. Today, Shake Shack Inc. owns and operates over 250 locations globally, and the chain frequently features seasonal menu items and collaborations. 

Holiday Shakes From Shake Shack | WhereTraveler
Holiday Shakes (Courtesy Shake Shack)

TGI Fridays

The original TGI Fridays location opened on 63rd and First in New York City in 1965. The street name is entirely appropriate as the restaurant-bar’s claim to fame includes being the first singles bar in the United States. Alan Stillman opened Fridays, as it is now called, to pick up women in his neighborhood on the Upper East Side. It soon became the coolest place to hang out if you were young and single in the 1960s. Stillman also takes credit for having the first Happy Hours at the original New York location. Whatever the case may be, Fridays still serves everything from sandwiches and burgers to seafood and steaks in their locations worldwide. As of 2020, there are over 800 locations worldwide, with over 300 in the United States. 

Meal at TGI Fridays | WhereTraveler
Meal at TGI Fridays (©Ching Almazan)