These days, hot new restaurants are minted on social media before the critics even have a chance to utter a peep. Culinary first adopters swarm friends and family events with iPhones in hand, ready to declare the next hot dish of the moment, ensuring that you’ve seen Cosme’s corn-husk meringue a billion times prior to getting a reservation.
While some restaurants have taken a hard stance on the proliferation of smartphones and obnoxious table-side lightening techniques, others embrace Instagram’s potential of free, crowd-sourced buzz. The menus at Empellón include a playful note that likely mirrors the sentiments of many chefs: “Empellón strongly discourages the use of cellphones, unless you’re posting food porn on Instagram. #Empellon.” With showstoppers like Quality Italian’s mammoth chicken parm hitting tables, it often feels like restaurants are consciously looking for a “viral” dish.
But that’s just our little bubble of restaurant-obsessed, belt-notching food nerds. There are also hordes of more casual eaters ‘gramming their plates all over the city, many of them tourists. So we wondered: What, really, are the most Instagrammed dishes in New York City?
To attempt a bit of semi-scientific analysis, we tapped restaurant-locating social media app MyFab5 to help us run some numbers. The makers of the app cross-referenced geotags and food- and restaurant-related captions from publicly available Instagram photos from the last calendar year to give us a list of the most popular restaurants for food porn. Since individual dishes can’t be tagged on Instagram, we had to get a little bit creative from there. Here’s how we broke it down:
- We used data provided by MyFab5 to find out which restaurants had the most food-related Instagrams in 2014.
- We found the restaurant’s geotag for its most well-known NYC location, then looked at the photos to see which dish drives the most ‘grams (sample size: ~100). In most cases, the star of the show was pretty obvious.
- We ranked each dish’s popularity based upon MyFab5’s ranking of the restaurant where it’s served.
Imperfect? Sure. But take a look at the list for yourself and we think you’ll agree that the results are not only intriguing, but also totally believable.
Without further ado, here are the 20 most Instagrammed dishes in New York City.
20. Doughnuts at Doughnut Plant
The pistachio and peanut butter-banana cream are clear favorites, but there are too many group doughnut for on flavor to escape from the pack.
19. Hot Chocolate with Homemade Marshmallows at The City Bakery
In the colder months, City’s Bakery’s famed hot cocoa reigns supreme.
18. Cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery
Honorable mention for the beloved banana puddings, but tourist-bought cupcakes still dominate at the bakery made famous by Sex and the City.
17. Vanilla Chocolate-Chunk Ice Cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
New York gourmands may have moved on to the likes of Oddfellows and Morgensterns, but this Dumbo standby remains a tourist hot spot.
16. Greek Yogurt at Chobani SoHo
People shopping in Soho + one of the trendiest mass-market foods + a shop practically built for Instagramming = the most depressing entry on this list.
15. Green Shakshuka at Jack’s Wife Freda
Perhaps the most impressive indie coup of the top 20, Jack’s Wife Freda likely benefits from drawing a fashionable, ‘gram-happy Soho crowd and dominating one of IGs most popular categories: #brunch.
14. Red Velvet Cupcake (especially popular on top of ice cream) at Sprinkles Cupcakes
Take that, Magnolia!
13. French Toast Bagel With Birthday Cake Cream Cheese at Tompkins Square Bagels
The official Instagram of hungover East Village interlopers.
12. SunnySide Burger at Umami Burger
The hyped burger chain knows that if you #PutAnEggOnIt, the ‘grams will thrive.
11. Ramen Burger at Smorgasburg
It came. It saw. It dominated Instagram for months on end—and shows no signs of going away.
10. Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake at Spot Dessert Bar
St. Marks used to be full of youths with hypodermic needles and tattered leather jackets; now the tote iPhones and love sweets.
9. Momofuku Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar
Surprisingly, it’s Dave Chang’s ramen that trumps his pork buns (but if you took into account Instagrams of the buns coming from Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Ma Peche, and Milk Bar locations, the results would likely be reversed).
8. Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie at Levain Bakery
The monster cookies still draw lines, and their still as photogenic as ever.
7. Tamago at Sushi Nakazawa
This is a surprise entry in that Sushi Nakazawa is a small restaurant that’s very hard to get into, but the rarified experiences encourages belt-notching photos, and the piece-de-resistance egg dish was made famous by the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
6. Azuki Berries Crepe at Eight Turn Crepe
Japanese things are hot on Instagram, and street-style crepes are no different.
5. Sharing Fondue for 2 and Chocolate Chunks Pizza (tie) at Max Brenner
“The Bald Man” still draws hordes of tourists to Union Square for his Wonka-like creations.
4. Spicy Ramen at Totto Ramen
We called Totto’s chicken-based ramen one of the 25 dishes every out of towner needs to try while they’re in New York. Looks like people agree.
3. Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo
In case you needed further proof that ramen rules New York these days. Now what, pizza?
2. Pastrami Sandwich on Rye at Katz’s Delicatessen
It’s nice to see a true New York classic flourishing in the digital age.
1. Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery
Could it be anything else? Dominique Ansel dominates social media by creating the perfect confluence of belt-notching and affordable.
And now for some analysis…
While we’re not necessarily surprised that places like Dominique Ansel Bakery (the Cronut is the definitive mashup of this social media-crazed era) and Katz’s Delicatessen (a tried-and-true tourist destination) topped the list, the mix of establishments is fascinating. In many cases—i.e., Max Brenner and Magnolia Bakery—snap-happy tourists likely drive the majority of Instagram traffic.
But the rankings also speak to the zeitgeist-dominating power of certain trends—ramen, FTW!—as well the surprising social-media weakness of other foods. Despite ruling the Internet, pizza is nowhere to be found in the top 20—no Lombardi’s, no Grimaldi’s, no Paulie Gee’s. Perhaps it’s a demographic thing: The ramen-slurping crowd is more tech-obsessed than the pizza crowd, and the #brunch crowd is so intensely devoted to ‘gramming that a small Soho restaurant like Jack’s Wife Freda can fell giants like Peter Lugers with one handsome egg dish. One thing’s clear, though: Sweets triumph above all, probably because they are democratically priced and universally loved.
Still, as much as this list makes sense, there are a few dishes that feel like they’re missing. Some are food-nerd staples that perhaps don’t have the critical mass to take on the tourist meccas, while others are top-10 material that suffer from the geotag-based method we used. Here are five more dishes that rule the NYC Instagram universe:
Shack Burger at Shake Shack
It’s hard for a few days to go by without a Shake Shack burger invading our feed. But multiple locations means these shots are spread out across many geo-tags, which likely accounts for the chain’s absence from these rankings. When the Madison Square Park location reopens and the temperatures rise, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Shack Burger soar to the top five, if not top three.
Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream
Between two locations (and countless events), the Big Gay Ice Cream guys are stars of both Twitter and Instagram—no one can resist a shot of their chocolate-dipped soft serve in front of the rainbows-and-unicorns decor.
Bagels at Black Seed Bagel
A food-world darling that sells most of its food during the day means a lot of great Instagram shots that benefit from natural light. Watch this one climb in the rankings in the coming years.
Pork Buns at Momofuku
As mentioned above, the famed pork bun is the most popular item across the Momofuku empire, even if ramen wins out at Noodle Bar.
Latte at Stumptown
For better or worse, #LatteArt is an IG staple, and Stumptown’s got the game on lock.
Finally, it’s worth noting the restaurants that dominate Instagram, but don’t necessarily compel guests to post food porn. MyFab5 sent an initial list of the 50 most-Instagrammed restaurants that also included these places—many of them party spots like Tao, where selfies rule the world—but we didn’t include them in the rankings for obvious reasons. Below are the three hot spots where customers document everything besides the food, including Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse, which is the most Instagrammed restaurant in the city.
1. The Loeb Boathouse at Central Park Boathouse
3. Beauty & Essex
Special thanks to MyFab5 CEO Omeid Seirafi-pour and the whole MyFab5 team for their help with this project.