Note: This guide was published in 2011. See our updated version here!
Although the extended neighborhood around Penn Station is hard to define (walk a few blocks, and you're in... Chelsea? is it the Garment District? is it Midtown West?), it's a place you're likely to end up at some point. It's also not the best food neighborhood in the city. But between the chain restaurants and scuzzy-looking bars, there are good eats to be found. Here are some of our favorite places to grab a bite after your trek in from Long Island, or where you can get your last taste of New York before heading up to Boston for the weekend.
(We've looked at a pretty wide radius—some of these are much closer to the station than others. Check out the map if you need something super-close.)
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NY Pizza Suprema: The recommendation we give most often. Just across the street from Penn Station, Suprema does a more-than-solid cheese slice and a memorably good "upside down" slice, a Sicilian slice that goes crust, cheese, sauce instead of crust, sauce, cheese. If you're coming from out of town and want to know what New York pizza's about, this is a great place to do it.
Don Pepi Pizza: Suprema makes a much better slice, but if you're really pressed for time, Don Pepi in Penn Station itself does a decent one, too.
D'Aiuto's Pastry Corp.: Looks like a standard, unimpressive Italian bakery, but they make a very good NY-style cheesecake (though it's just a little lemony for our taste). If you need to bring someone a "present from New York" and manage to forget until the last minute, a D'Aiuto's cheesecake isn't a bad choice.
HIT Korean Food & Deli: Korean and traditional deli food? Sounds suspicious, but tastes incredible. The bibimbap and reuben are particularly good.
Brooklyn Bagel: If you're looking for good New York bagels within a 10-minute walk of Penn Station, this is your best bet. We actually prefer their "mini" bagels to their standard ones; they have the better crust-to-doughy-innards ratio.
Bon Chon: Ultra-crisp Korean-style fried chicken.
Culture Espresso: Cute cafe, great coffee, good sandwiches.
Salumeria Biellese: From the outside, it looks like the most nondescript, generic steam-table Italian deli you can imagine. But this venerable Italian meat shop cures like nobody's business. Their weekly sandwich specials (Monday roast beef, Thursday roast pork...) are worth a try, too.
No. 7 Sub: Definitely an "only in New York" experience. The sandwiches at No. 7 Sub use some of the strangest ingredient combos you've ever seen—roast pork with melon and cheddar; bologna with parsnip mole, ricotta, and pumpkin seeds; the list goes on. Whether they're awesome or just crazy depends on the sandwich (and the eater), but they're guaranteed to be interesting.
Pret a Manger: Although both Pret itself and its diners would vehemently deny that it falls under the category of fast food, it is just that. Grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and more.
Blue Dog Cafe: There isn't much space to sit here, but the sandwiches are great to go.
Macaron Cafe: Crusty bread and fresh, tasty ingredient combinations (we liked smoked salmon with capers, and goat cheese with Granny Smiths) make for great sandwiches.
Go Go Curry: Tasty Japanese curry in huge portions.
Wacky Food Courts
Food Gallery 32: If you've got time to kill at Penn Station and you find yourself thinking "Gee, I wish I could sample six different Korean dishes right now," you're in luck. Food Gallery 32 is a futuristic, tri-level food court on 32nd Street (also known as Koreatown), where you can grab anything from ramen to bibimbap to bulgogi to seafood stews.
And Speaking Of Koreatown...
New York's Koreatown is on 32nd Street, just a few minutes' walk from Penn Station; in the space of about a block you'll find just about every kind of Korean restaurant you can imagine. While Food Gallery 32 might be a great introduction for a first-timer, there are any number of other places to check out— Kang Suh, Gahm Mi Oak, Koryodang Bakery, BCD Tofu House, Pocha 32, and Arirang are just a few you might read up on.
Grand Sichuan International: Great Sichuan food (a 12-15m walk from Penn Station).
Mooncake Foods: Fresh Asian food with the atmosphere of a retro diner.
Song Kran: Totally serviceable Thai. (We used to order "The Sidewalk" for lunch all the time.)
Hill Country: Texas-style barbecue with killer brisket.
Milanes: Huge portions of classic Dominican food.
A Little Fancier
The Breslin: Lucky for ravenous travelers, they don't take reservations. Stop in for April Bloomfield's pork-heavy pub food and some amazing "thrice-cooked chips".
John Dory Oyster Bar: In the Ace Hotel (as is The Breslin), it's a fantastic oyster bar with Mediterranean bent, unlike the many New England-style seafood restaurants in the city.
El Quinto Pino: An excellent (though small) tapas bar.
Txikito: Beautiful, memorably tasty Basque-style small plates.
Keen's Steakhouse: A civilized, respectable, and unusually friendly New York steakhouse.
Co.: A sit-down pizzeria from Jim Lahey, one of the city's best bakers; we like the ham-and-cheese pie and the seasonal specials.
You Tell Us
Where would you recommend to eat near Penn Station? Let us know!