20 Absolute Best Restaurants In Upstate New York

New York City may be the first destination most people think of in terms of culinary hotspots, but Upstate New York has a long and illustrious history when it comes to food. In fact, some of our favorite snacks might not be here if it weren't for the shenanigans of northern New Yorkers. Legend has it that the first potato chip was created through a kitchen mishap nearly two centuries ago in Saratoga Springs. Though the story's exact details may be a bit murky, kettle-cooked Saratoga chips remain a regional fixture. Other popular upstate delicacies include garbage plates, a mish-mash of comfort foods from Rochester, and tomato pie, beloved by locals from Utica to Schenectady.

When it comes to restaurants, Upstate New York has an extensive list of hidden gems to explore. Sure, there are field-to-fork offerings to be found downstate, but only upstate can you sample just-picked apple cider doughnuts, dairy-fresh ice cream, or burgers plated by the farmer himself. Beyond American classics, the bustling food scene is home to plenty of globally-inspired establishments, like Albany's Umana Yana or Kingston's Tanma Ramen. Whether you call upstate New York home or are just passing through, there are dozens of must-try menus to discover on your travels. From greasy spoons to farm-to-table fare, Tasting Table presents the best 20 restaurants in Upstate NY.

Perecca's in Schenectady

The "Electric City" is home to numerous Italian establishments, yet Perecca's holds a special place in many Schenectadians' hearts. Nestled in the center of Schenectady's Little Italy, the family-owned shop has been baking its trademark Italian bread since 1914. For years, owner Maria Perreca Papa's family dished out slices of sapid tomato pie and gargantuan loaves of flour-dusted bread straight from the bakery. In 2009, however, Perecca's established More Perecca's, an Italian ristorante located right next door. The charming neighborhood eatery serves seafood dishes, freshly-made pasta, and delectable coal-fired pizza.

According to local lore, Jack Nicholson is said to be a fan of Perecca's freshly baked bread, having first tasted it while filming "Ironweed" in the 1980s. More recent converts include "Good Eats" star Alton Brown, who referred to Perecca's spaghetti as "pasta perfection" in a 2022 Instagram post. 

The Heidelberg Inn in Queensbury

Located in Queensbury, a picturesque town framed by the Adirondack Mountains and Lake George, The Heidelberg Inn has delighted customers with German-American eats since 1972. Its kitschy interior is a throwback to simpler times, with wood-paneled walls, oak keg signs, and steins lined up behind the bar. There's even biergarten patio seating for those who can't get enough of the Adirondack mountain air.

If you're missing the taste of currywurst but can't book a flight to Berlin, you're in luck — the Heidelberg Inn serves a faithful interpretation of the saucy takeaway staple. Indecisive diners will appreciate the German sampler, a collection of award-winning Schaller & Weber wursts and sides like spaetzle and sauerkraut. Needless to say, The Heidelberg Inn also offers an ample assortment of beverages, from draft flights and Das Boots to Saranac root beer-based cocktails.

Umana Yana in Albany

Fusing together vibrant flavors from Guyana, Haiti, and Ethiopia — to name a few — Umana Yana is the brainchild of Dale Davidson, a celebrated Capital Region activist and businesswoman originally from Guyana. The main Umana Yana restaurant is located on Albany's Washington Avenue, though a second location recently opened for lunch-goers in the city's Empire State Plaza.

Hearty Afro-Caribbean comfort food is Umana Yana's specialty, and the unique menu provides a generous assortment of options for guests with special diets. Several dishes are made from vegan and gluten-free ingredients, such as the cassava puffs, stewed vegetables, and tangy, light injera bread. Still, Umana's meat-based eats, like the spicy Jerk Lamb Lollipops served with pineapple mint sauce, are renowned for their fall-off-the-bone tenderness and flavor.

Local 111 in Philmont

Chef Josephine Proul — better known as Jo — has created a stunning culinary attraction for upstate New Yorkers and travelers alike on Philmont's Main Street. Proul began her career with Local 111 as its Chef and General Manager before taking over from original owners Linda Gatter and Max Dannis in 2014. The restaurant itself was once the site of an abandoned garage, though it's hard to picture these days.

Every dish at Local 111 is exceptional, bursting with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and prepared with the utmost care. Choose from menu staples like perfectly roasted chicken with citron jus or sublime specials, like the chicory and little gem salad with white anchovies and grilled focaccia. Between the attentive service, relaxed ambiance, and exquisite food, this Hudson Valley treasure is worth the trip to Philmont, regardless of your starting point.

Naughter's in Troy

For all its merits, upstate New York does have one sore spot compared to its downstate brethren: Finding truly incredible late-night grub can prove to be something of a challenge. Fortunately, midnight drive-thru trips to subpar chain restaurants are a thing of the past for Capital Region denizens, thanks to the arrival of Naughter's late-night diner in Troy.

Naughter's opened its doors in early 2022 and swiftly attracted a cult-like following through the innovative touch of owner John Naughter. The friendly neighborhood eatery cooks up thoughtfully crafted plates, from sizzling steak and eggs to its signature "Industry Eggplant" sandwich, well into the wee hours. Also worth noting is Naughter's massive cassette tape collection, which supplies memorable background music for this midnight oil-burning meeting place.

Chee-bog in Cohoes

After a successful string of pop-ups showcasing their flair for Filipino cooking, Chris "Champ" Peralta and Cindy Tapper-Peralta made the leap to a brick-and-mortar location with Chee-bog in Cohoes. The Peraltas' Filipino comfort food is a hit with upstate New Yorkers, judging by the restaurant's regularly sold-out menu offerings. As such, customers are strongly encouraged to place pre-orders in order to avoid disappointment.

Standing menu items include Chee-bog's incredibly popular lumpia, Filipino fried spring rolls stuffed with pork and vegetables, and savory chicken adobo served over rice. Two to three specials are featured weekly — though some, like inihaw baboy, or grilled pork belly, have proven successful enough to join the permanent menu. Before you leave, don't forget to sample Chee-bog's signature dessert: a brilliant purple, homemade ube ice cream.

Hamlet & Ghost in Saratoga

Finding good food in Saratoga is fairly straightforward — after all, the area has maintained its reputation as a resort destination for nearly two centuries. But around 2016, Saratoga residents Brendan Dillon and Dennis Kiingati felt something missing from its culinary landscape. The two came up with Hamlet & Ghost, opened the tavern's doors, and the rest is history.

Hamlet & Ghost is known for its signature cocktails, such as the Gin – Gin Fizz, a blend of ginger liqueur and gin that leaves many fans yearning for the recipe. After a twist of fate led to an impromptu kitchen expansion in 2017, the tavern began to broaden its food menu. Today, guests can choose from an array of delectable dishes, like Valley Pearl oysters and locally sourced La Belle Farm duck breast, alongside Hamlet & Ghost's sprawling drink menu.

First Prize Mike's Hot Dogs in Schenectady

There are many old-school haunts to visit in Schenectady, from Newest Lunch to Morette's steak sandwiches. But Mike's First Prize Hot Dogs, a landmark dine-in restaurant founded in 1947, has an undeniable je ne sais quois — not to mention award-winning dogs.

The food is simple and unpretentious, but the experience is unmatched. Tucked neatly under swooping greenery and railroad tracks, Mike's First Prize Hot Dogs is hard to miss. The timeless American diner calls to mind Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks," with an enormous neon sign and massive windows made for people watching. Grab a to-go bag of hot dogs with meat sauce and fresh-cut fries, or take your time at Mike's expansive counter with made-to-order milkshakes and burgers. 

The Ship Lantern Inn in Milton

The Ship Lantern Inn has been in the same family since 1925, handed down through the generations to its current owner, Michael Foglia. The dreamy, opulent interior is a sight to behold, making it an attractive choice for date nights and special events. However, The Ship Lantern Inn's menu is perhaps the most enticing feature of all.

There's something for everyone at the Inn, from vegetarian and gluten-free selections to indulgent steaks, chops, and seafood. Revel in the flavors of veal osso buco, house-aged prime beef, or a slow-roasted Mallard duckling prepared tableside. Seafood is The Ship Lantern Inn's specialty, and diners can enjoy tender, porcini-dusted Chilean sea bass served with house-roasted pepper and Picholine olive compote. After dinner, take your pick from divine desserts, like honey-scented crème brûlée, along with a specialty coffee and port sherry menu.

Casa Susanna in Leeds

In the tiny hamlet of Leeds sits Camptown, a newly-renovated 50-room retreat consisting of rustic cabin digs and classic hotel lodging. Led by Executive Chef Efrén Hernández, Casa Susanna serves as Camptown's in-house restaurant, a Jaliscan culinary affair with farm-to-table values.

Hernández ensures that every dish at Casa Susanna is unforgettable, with fresh ingredients like greenhouse-grown herbs and handcrafted heirloom corn tortillas. On the drink menu, you'll find everything from classic margaritas to smoky mezcal and chile-infused cocktails, perfect for sipping by the vintage-inspired wraparound bar. Casa Susanna fans rave about unique dinner creations like the uni tostada, filled with herby epazote crema, guajillo, and plump trout roe. No matter what you choose, chances are you'll be planning your next visit before the meal's end.

Iron Gate Café in Albany

There's a healthy variety of brunch spots in upstate New York, but Iron Gate Café is a veritable crowd favorite in the Capital Region food scene. Taking a seat along its sun-dappled patio or within the rustic dining room setting, guests can expect nothing but the best from this Albany-based eatery.

The hype lavished on Iron Gate Café is well deserved. The restaurant never buckles under pressure despite its immense popularity, delivering flavorful plates with photo-worthy presentation. Permanent fixtures of the menu include the John Denver, a bacon and scrambled egg duo served with Pepper Jack hollandaise sauce and grilled cornbread. That said, don't miss out on Iron Gate Café's seasonal specials — the Apple Cider Mimosa and Cider Belly doughnut sliders are downright unforgettable, especially when savored on a crisp autumn morning.

Tanma Ramen in Kingston

Tired of settling for weakly-flavored ramen, or worse — subpar instant noodles? Skip the trip to ramen restaurants in NYC and check out Kingston's Tanma Ramen. The Ulster County restaurant, founded by Chef Youko Yamamoto, has dished up authentic Japanese eats to upstate New Yorkers since 2021.

What sets Tanma apart from other ramen eateries are Yamamoto's recipes. Each menu item is handcrafted and slowly prepared, inspired by the ramen shops of her youth in Yokohama and Hiroshima, Japan. Plus, in true farm-to-table style, the Japanese eatery utilizes organic and locally sourced ingredients for many of its dishes. In May 2023, Yamamoto announced that Tanma Ramen would accept walk-in customers for the first time in its history. That said, parties of four or more are still asked to place reservations due to limited seating arrangements.

Garvan's Gastropub in New Paltz

Owners Garvan and Leonie McCloskey have created a cozy, welcoming atmosphere at Garvan's Gastropub, a New American institution in the Village of New Paltz. Garvan's dining room offers picturesque views of locust trees and the Shawangunk Mountains, while Celtic music, a crackling fire, and vintage decor add to the feeling of old-world charm.

Start things off with a specialty drink, like the Nekomata, a fiery bourbon and ghost pepper honey-laced potion, or select from Garvan's lengthy beer or whiskey list. Plates with across-the-pond influences include Guinness lamb stew, bangers and mash, and traditional shepherd's pie. If you still have room for dessert, you'll want to try Leonie's Famous Banoffee, a homemade treat with layers of caramel, organic bananas and Tia Maria-infused whipped cream.

Kuhar Family Farm Café in Rensselaerville

Run by husband and wife team Micah and Rochelle Kuhar, Kuhar Family Farm Café made its debut in the summer of 2016. The Rensselaerville eatery operates a bit differently than most farm-to-table establishments, providing a fresh assortment of dishes on a first-come, first-served basis just two days a week. Dinners are presented on Wednesday evenings, while Saturday mornings are open for brunch.

In addition to Kuhar's dine-in fare, guests can purchase take-home meals, grass-fed beef, homemade cheeses, and more, all sourced directly from the farm. According to diners, the burgers are an otherworldly experience — one that runs the risk of ruining all other patties in its wake. Naturally, Kuhar's menu changes with the seasons, but notable past specials include cottage pie, pasture-raised chicken wings, and goat meat tacos.

Pandan Bistro in Poughkeepsie

Founded by four friends with a passion for Southeast Asian cuisine, Pandan Bistro quickly established itself as a rising star in the Poughkeepsie food scene. Since opening in late 2022, the Dutchess County restaurant has amassed a sizable fanbase with scores of glowing reviews. For many, it's a culinary home away from home.

Pandan Bistro's name draws inspiration from the pandan leaf, a grassy ingredient found in Malaysian dishes like nasi lemak. The botanical influence is also visible throughout the bistro's airy, green dining room, accented by dozens of glossy tropical plants. Customer favorites include hearty beef rendang, a coconut milk-based stew, and crispy Indonesian corn fritters. For a refreshing hint of sweetness between bites, be sure to try the violet butterfly pea lemonade or refreshing Thai iced tea.

EthioEritrea in Syracuse

Located on Syracuse's North State Street, EthioEritrea is a haven for fans of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. EthioEritrea was founded by Chef Tesfahiwot Okube, who is originally from Eritrea. Okube spent several years cooking for an Ethiopian refugee camp cafe prior to moving to Syracuse in 2011. As a result, EthioEritrea's menu reflects culinary traditions from the Horn of Africa.

Stepping into EthioEritrea feels a bit like you've been invited into someone's home. The dining area is quaint, decorated with vibrant baskets and jebenas, the traditional coffee pots used in its Ethiopian coffee ceremonies. Local favorites include doro wot, a comforting chicken and egg dish best served alongside the restaurant's springy homemade injera. Guests can also choose from vegan and vegetarian plates, like misir alicha, red lentils tinged with turmeric and garlic, or shiro, a peppery chickpea stew.

Eddie's Paramount Diner in Rome

Few things in life are quite as satisfying as finding a vintage diner while traversing the open road. So on your next upstate drive, do as the Romans do and stop for a meal at Eddie's Paramount Diner in Rome, NY. Founded in 1967 by the late Eddie Long, the restaurant's brick building still displays serious mid-century charm. Upon entering, guests are seated at cozy wood-paneled booths or chrome and leather stools beneath the glow of daily specials.

Beyond rotating options like freshly caught bullhead, Eddie's is known for its mammoth 75-pound steamship beef, sliced into tender cuts each Thursday. Diners also flock here for comforting homemade desserts, from sticky bread pudding to perfectly-baked pies. If you're looking for a genuine blast-from-the-past pit stop replete with flavorful nosh, make sure to stop by Eddie's.

Atlas Eats in Rochester

Rochester may be home to regional favorites such as white hots and garbage plates, but international offerings form the backbone of Atlas Eats. The Rochester-based restaurant and bake shop is known for its rotating menu, with a five-course themed dinner that changes biweekly. 

Due to popular demand, dinner reservations are strongly encouraged, though brunch is served on a walk-in basis. At the time of writing, Atlas Eats' dinner menu is "A Tour Of Thailand," with highlights including Tom Yum soup, papaya salad, and massaman curry. In the past, the restaurant has showcased Spanish tapas inspirations, Italian-American favorites, and French country classics. For nights when cooking at home is out of the question, Atlas also offers three-course takeout specials with optional add-ons, like homemade soup and freshly-baked chocolate and raspberry macarons.

The Memphis King BBQ in Schenectady

Every foodie knows that some of the best bites to be had are often found off the beaten path. The Memphis King is a testament to this phenomenon, an incredible barbecue joint that's closer to the taste of Tennessee than Schenectady's Van Vranken Avenue. Memphis King has become an essential destination for barbecue lovers in the Capital Region, thanks to its authentic Southern flavors, homemade sauce selection, and exceptional service. 

Owner and Schenectady native Brandon Canton honed his superb grilling skills after living in — you guessed it — Memphis. Soon after opening its doors, Memphis King became a clear favorite for many in the area, frequently selling out of food mid-day due to popular demand. Must-try dishes include the slow-smoked beef brisket, St. Louis pork ribs, and macaroni and cheese.

205 Dry in Binghamton

If you've always dreamed of swinging back to the roaring '20s to partake in a few illicit cocktails, then Binghamton's 205 Dry is the spot for you. The speakeasy-themed location is as much a feast for your eyes as it is for your stomach.

You can pair your "corpse reviver," an absinthe-rinsed cocktail, with a "prohibition burger" while drinking in 205 Dry's lavish, Art Deco-inspired surroundings. Or, try The 205 Sandwich filled with shaved chicken spiedies, an ode to Binghamton's signature dish. Other playfully-named — but seriously tasty — menu items include the Cat's Meow Salad, sprinkled with fried goat cheese, and the Rosemary's Baby, a bourbon-based libation with rosemary simple syrup. Reservations are highly recommended, but if you're turning up on a whim, seats at the bar are first-come, first-serve.