best pizza in manhattan
I am coming into the city for a basketball tournament at NYU in Nov. I already have planned to do Hong Kong restaurant on Bayard for early supper. Gettin out of the game real late! Where can I get the best pizza at?
The best places are not open late. Especially if you are talking about a weekday.
Some only make a certain amount of dough each day and close when they sell out.
Also your question is fairly vague. There are actually few distinct styles of pizza found in NYC: New York gas-oven style, Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two that is also unique to New York (usually coal oven). Then to throw another wrench into things, some places are known more for square pies (like Artichoke).
Most tourists seek either coal-oven pizza (whole pies) or gas-oven (street slices) and not the Naples influenced pies (which you can maybe find at home I bet). With zero toppings or one topping, maximum.
However if you are traveling solo, finishing a whole pie is going to be tough. Note that lot of famous places like John's of Bleecker, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are whole pies ONLY. And their pies aren't small.
I would also suggest reading this NYC Pizza Primer:
For pizza, if you are limiting yourself to only Manhattan, my favorites, agnostic of oven type:
John's of Bleecker, if you ask for it well done. Get it plain or with one topping, max. I'm partial to their green peppers. This is classic coal-fired NY-Neopolitan hybrid style pie. They do sometimes undercook/under char it, though, so ask for it well done. Whole pies only. Don't expect creative toppings or superfresh ingredients or an amazingly flavorful crust. This is more about finding the intersection between chewy, crispy, and charred. A more of a working man's pie.
Motorino for Naples style. Delicious but not really historically "New York" style, maybe not what you seek, but it is basically my favorite in Manhattan. Crimini and sausage, spicy soppressata, or whatever their special pie is. Wonderful taste, quality and creative toppings, amazingly puffy crust. Whole pies only, but they are on the smaller side. Can get a little soft in the center, as it is Naples inspired. Some hounds prefer Forcella (known for their deep fried Naples inspired pies), Don Antonio (by Starita, new and in Midtown, so conveniently located for visitors), or Keste (IMO too wet for me).
For both you may have to wait in line to get a table. I have also enjoyed Patsy's in East Harlem (coal oven) in the past but it is a bit far uptown dependent upon where you are starting from, and I've not been very recently. Whole pies OR slices if you want. Again, this type is more of a working man's pie.
South Brooklyn Pizza or Joe's for a slice (gas oven). Joe's is a bit less crisp/more chewy and on the more cheesy sied and has a more uniform appearance; very popular with the post-bar crowd, and I have a soft spot for the place, even if the pizza is not always consistent.
South Brooklyn is more crispy and has an interesting cheese blend (mozzarella, grana padano, and fontina) with fresh basil, and the cheese and sauce are more scattered, which you usually don't see at slice joints. It is slightly more upscale (and pricey) for a slice joint.
There are a number of Brooklyn places that are excellent for a slice. It's unfortunately becoming much less common in Manhattan to find an excellent slice as opposed to whole pie.
Outside of Manhattan, I highly recommend Di Fara, if it fits into your schedule, especially for the square pie. Do a search on the Outer Boroughs board (or on slice.seriouseats.com), as it has been discussed MANY times. Dom DeMarco of Di Fara uses a gas oven but he doesn't really do a typical NY gas oven pie, and his distinctive style is absolutely delicious!
Another "classic NY" place in Brooklyn is Totonno's (Coney Island location ONLY). They had some trouble reopening after Hurricane Sandy but are open now.
The others in Brooklyn that are spoken highly of (Franny's, Lucali, etc.) "nouveau" and newish on the scene historically. The bigger problem is that the new and interesting places these days tend to be more Naples inspired--Paulie Gee's, Don Antonio, etc. so not quite classic NY. They're really good though.
Avoid Grimaldi's (I've had one too many underdone pies), Lombardi's (too wet), unless you are a completist. Also avoid the Times Sq John's. And remember that pizza is a fundamentally difficult food to make consistently.
If you want the best pizza in Manhattan (let alone all 5 boroughs), Artichoke is not where I'd send someone. I find the crust too thick. The sauce too sweet. The signature "artichoke dip" and "crab dip" slices gimmicky.
It's definitely an "experience" with the drunken crowds, that entire NYU neighborhood is on weekend nights, though.
The square slice can be good, but if you only have one chance to eat in Manhattan, not what I'd choose.
when I wrote "arguably" I was thinking I'd take the other side of the argument ;^) Personally, I don't think it's close to best and I'm not even sure it qualifies to be called pizza.
still, I stand by my recommendation, it will be a unique nyc experience and a lot of people think it's the best pizza in nyc. of course, there's always the line at 53rd and 6th for a similar nyc experience...
and kathryn, I think your late-night list, while interesting and well-intentioned, is not what comes to mind when looking for for a slice of pizza substitute.
OP did also ask for "bar food within walking distance of NYU" so I listed some good places who are ambitious and still have a nice late night bar scene.
EDIT: I just think the OP can do a lot better than settling for Artichoke pizza or whichever dive bar nearby that happens to be open. When someone says "bar food" I assume they mean wings, mozzarella sticks, etc.
All I'm trying to say is that unlike other parts of the country, we have excellent and varied late night options.
Keste has excellent Naples style pizza near NYU on Bleecker Street off Cornelia St. For New New York Style pizza, you can't beat Co (Company) on 24th and 9th Ave. Try the Quattro Cipolle.
For a classic NY grab-and-go slice shop, Joe's, and for whole pie, John's or Keste are all just a block or two from NYU. They are all excellent in their own way. Also great and just a few steps from campus are Otto (Mario Batali's pizzeria, good whole pies and a really nice bar) and Arturo's (old school raucous joint on Houston). The NYU area is a sort of pizza paradise. For bar food, with more emphasis on bar, Blind Tiger or Malt House for pretty simple but tasty fare. @kathryn's "bar" suggestions are great too, but only if you are ready to spend some serious cash.