NYC’s Most Exclusive Restaurants (and How to Get a Reservation)

NYC’s Most Exclusive Restaurants (and How to Get a Reservation)

New York City is a global mecca for art, fashion, entertainment, and just about every cultural delight, especially food. It’s safe to say no other city in the world has a higher density of eateries than NYC. It’s well-known as a foodie’s paradise with every sort of dining from pizza shacks to casual eateries to fine luxury dining. Foodies who want to go all out and head to the most exclusive New York restaurants are usually surprised to find that their name may have to remain on a waiting list for months! This list of some of NYC’s most elegant restaurants will give you an idea of what to expect from a high-end restaurant in terms of menu, atmosphere — and making reservations.

 

Le Bernardin – Midtown Manhattan

With a long list of accolades including a four-star rating by the New York Times, this French seafood restaurant originated in Paris, making the entrées truly authentic. The talented French-born chef Eric Ripert is at the helm cooking up fresh and simple seafood cuisine. Feasting on peerless dishes like baked lobster, royal osetra caviar, and geoduck sashimi is the ultimate foodie luxury. The food is the reason for more James Beard awards than any other NYC restaurant and includes Outstanding Restaurant, Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Wine. In 2012, a redesign earned the space numerous design awards.

Le Bernardin accepts reservations online or by phone, beginning on the first day of each month for the following month, and is closed on Sundays. Be prepared for a long wait, but one well worth it.

 

Rao’s – East Harlem

Located in Spanish Harlem, Rao’s Italian restaurant has existed since 1896. The food is authentic Italian, of course, and the whole atmosphere is old school New York. It’s the red sauce that carries the show: it’s considered by many to be the best in the world and is sold on store shelves nationwide. The restaurant itself boasts several wildly delicious entrées like steak pizzaiola and Italian meatloaf, but the huge meatballs are the main draw, and diners can enjoy them in meatball sliders, on top of spaghetti muffins, and served as cocktail meatballs.

It’s almost impossible to get a table at Rao’s because years ago, as their popularity grew, the owners realized that valued, long-time customers were having difficulty getting reservations. Their answer was to give the regulars first dibs on tables. Consequently, it can take an immeasurable amount of time to swing a spot at Rao’s. Start calling your most connected contacts now.

 

The Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare – Midtown West

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Turns out that’s true about restaurants, and the Chef’s Table proves it. It’s a small place in an ordinary looking part of Brooklyn and is in reality, a converted kitchen that only seats 16 people. This scarcity combined with their divine menu of Japanese Food with a French twist puts this restaurant on the hard-to-get-reservations list. Chef Cesar Ramirez is the mastermind behind delicacies like truffle ravioli and brandade, and his talent earned him a James Beard award and a Michelin 3-star rating. Chef Cesar’s tasting menu takes over two hours to complete but satisfied patrons will be more than willing to take their time to savor it.

Reservations can be made online or by phone Monday-Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and fill up far in advance. Expect several months of waiting before your seat is available.

 

Atera – Tribeca

Chef Matt Lightner has brought a taste of the Pacific Northwest to the Big Apple with his buzz-worthy restaurant in Tribeca called Atera. The atmosphere is very inviting, with modern décor and a chill-worthy downstairs lounge area. Still, it’s the food that’s the main draw. They have a two and a half-hour long tasting menu that’s seasonal and evolving and includes fresh, locally sourced produce. Each dish is creatively put together to perfection and will make the taste buds sing for joy.

Make reservations at least six weeks in advance to dine at Atera. They can only be made online.

 

Looking for world-class eats on a budget? Visit New York’s ethnic enclaves in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jackson Heights, Queens and Arthur Avenue in The Bronx for incredible food that won’t require a jacket and tie, just a hearty appetite.

Top 5 Weekend Getaways Near NYC

Top 5 Weekend Getaways Near NYC

Even the most loyal New Yorker needs to take a break from the hustle and bustle. Now that winter is in its home stretch, escaping the city is more appealing than even, with plenty of nearby escapes perfect to unwind, recharge, and explore. Here are the top five weekend getaways within reasonable driving distance of NYC.

  • Mystic, Connecticut 

Just a two and a half hour drive up the shoreline brings you across state lines into Connecticut. Mystic earned its name from the river that runs through it and is fitting for combining New England charm with stunning coastal beauty. Among the many historic gems in this family-friendly town is the last wood whale ship remaining in the world. Stroll through a replica of a boating village from the 19th-century, visit the whales and exotic sea creatures at the Mystic Aquarium, and then fill up on fresh seafood. Any experience there is guaranteed to be mystical.  

  • Newport, Rhode Island

A ride further north up the shore will reach Newport, Rhode Island, another charming coastal town for those who might crave a little more excitement. Aside from the sunny beaches, Newport offers a wide variety of gems to explore like mansions that make you feel like you’re on the Italian coast rather than the American one. For amazing scenic views, jump on a Newport Helicopter Tour or walk along the Cliff Walk at sunset. Eat a five-star meal at Chanler at Cliff Walk, a mansion-turned-hotel and restaurant, or any of the fresh seafood options right on the water. Newport is also home to two well-known music festivals that attract folk and jazz fans from near and far. Choose from a variety of charming hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts. For romance, solitude, or family fun, Newport has something for everyone. 

  • Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

Not in the mood for the ocean? Head about three hours west into the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains to enjoy fun, adventure, and relaxation at a higher elevation. In the Poconos, visitors  can find everything from valleys to vistas, spas to rugged hikes, and more. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from the many hiking and mountain biking trails, waterfalls, and stunning views. If the climate still lingers in winter, ski resorts are plentiful here. At any time of year, indoor water parks will entertain families for hours while saving a few dollars on sunblock. 

  • Lake George, New York

Nestled in the famous Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York is Lake George, the ultimate weekend getaway destination. Its variety of gorgeous lakes and nature provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation. Even Georgia O’Keefe thought so, proven by her many works still there from her many visits. The 32-mile long Lake George has entertainment for outdoor enthusiasts and city dwellers alike. If you wait until summer, you can catch the Elvis Festival featuring impersonators and activities. Also attractive to visitors is the Adirondack Wine and Food Festival, featuring the region’s best mouth-watering local options. 

  • The Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires offer the best of western Massachusetts in terms of both recreation and cultural events. When you’re not taking advantage of the lush outdoors, get centered with yoga at Kripalu, attend concerts at the Tanglewood Music Festival, and enjoy the food and shopping options of the historic town of Lenox. Stop to smell the flowers in the garden tour at The Mount, former home of Edith Wharton and inspiration for her novel The Age of Innocence.

Are you inspired yet to hit the road? Book your stays now at any of all of these conveniently located escapes in easy driving distance from New York City. Your sanity deserves it. 

Want more vacation and travel tips? Check out our blog post on The Beach Escapes of New York City!

NYC’s Best Comedy Clubs

NYC’s Best Comedy Clubs

This city is filled with venues and event spaces, but there’s no hallowed hall quite like a comedy club. Whether seeing a legendary headliner or a night of up-and-comers, there are countless spots in the city where laughs reign supreme. These are our 5 favorite places to laugh it up in the city that never sleeps.

Comedy Cellar

For those who don’t mind seeing their comedic idols (way) up close, this intimate Greenwich Village club might be the best attraction in the city. The smallness of the venue works to its advantage, with comic luminaries like Dave Chappelle, Todd Barry, Aziz Ansari and many more getting up close and personal with uproariously laughing crowds. With a showcase format, no set lasts longer than 20 minutes, and celebrity drop-ins happen often. When you’re at the Cellar, you never know who will stop by.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The home of comedy innovation nationwide, Upright Citizens Brigade theater was founded in 1999 with a focus on the best in improv. More than a venue, UCB also hosts a full comedy school with classes taught by pros experienced in getting big laughs on TV and film. If you’re more at home in the seats than onstage, the UCB Theater features affordable high-quality shows at each of its NYC locations in the East Village and Hell’s Kitchen. Whether stand-up, sketches or full-on improvised scenes, UCB is always the place for what’s new and exciting in comedy before it hits the big or small screen.

Caroline’s

Parked in the heart of Times Square, this is the appropriately premier landing place when the biggest names in comedy come to NYC. It’s not all boldface names, however: the club frequently hosts rising stars eager to make a name for themselves. In a city like New York, there’s no shortage of talented acts just waiting for their big break, and there’s likely no better environment to enjoy them than at this 300-seat, architecturally significant space on the Great White Way.

The Creek and the Cave

With a name that sounds decidedly dour, you might be forgiven for confusing this locale for the latest farm-to-table eatery in Long Island City. Instead, you’ll find Mexican eats described as “serviceable” and some of NY’s most scrumptious comedy fare. With multiple spaces and an expansive patio, this is the kind of place comedy lovers of all stripes can show up and find something worth laughing at. While you’re in Queens, consider Jackson Heights for dinner before you hit the Creek for a buffet of laughter.

The Stand

The neighborhood that was once home to America’s original humorist happily carries on that tradition in the 21st century. At this Gramercy area club, however, the menu is almost as enticing as the humor. Home to a critically-acclaimed chef serving up high-quality food and cocktails, The Stand promises a night of great eats and belly laughs. Now that they’ve moved to their current location to accommodate larger crowds, rest assured you won’t feel stuffed in when you take your seat. That comes once you’re through with dinner.

Winter 2019’s Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

Winter 2019’s Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

It may be frigid on the streets of New York, but inside the many great cafes and restaurants across the city, a delectable chocolate indulgence awaits. For a satisfying mug of divine deliciousness that will thaw you out, the city has many choices. These are our top five favorite spots for a hot chocolate that’s unlike any other.

The City Bakery

The City Bakery is not just a bakery, but also a cafe, wholesaler, caterer, and chocolate shop. Founded in 1990, they’ve since expanded all the way to Japan, but there’s no place like their NYC home for their highly original treats. Dark hot chocolate is their claim to fame: rich, thick, and slightly (but delightfully) bitter, you may be inspired to order a second cup. Be sure to splurge for the large marshmallow.

Max Brenner

For chocolate lovers of all stripes, Max Brenner is a must-see. Willy Wonka might be jealous of their chocolate fountains and whimsical, family-friendly menu. That menu features more than 10 different types of hot chocolate, each is a completely mind-blowing affair in its own right. Notable is their famed “Suckao Experience,” a very concentrated shot of either white or milk hot chocolate. “Suckao” describes the act of literally sucking the drink down with a metal straw. Bring your sweet tooth and don’t be shy about sharing the experience with your friends (and followers)!

Alice’s Tea Cup

The name might imply that this cafe is for tea lovers only, but don’t be fooled. Their selections involve tea most of the time but in all the right ways. Their hot chocolate is infused with teas like Rooibos Bourbon and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne, so those who face a wintertime drink dilemma will be right at home here. Each concoction is unique to Alice’s and wholly memorable in its own right. These boundary-pushing flavor combinations are well worth a try for anyone bored with the usual.

Maman

This French-inspired bakery with 7 locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn has become renowned for their inventive indulgences. Lavender-infused hot chocolate stands out on a menu filled with remarkable treats and favorites. Their nutty chocolate chip cookie, perfect for dipping, made Oprah’s “favorite things list” for 2017. If it’s good enough for Lady O, it’s definitely worth a try.

Sant Ambroeus

Named for a Milanese bishop born in 334 AD, this eatery focuses on “savoring each moment.” Their three Manhattan locations are the height of urban sophistication, with elegant mugs of incredible hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda, to match. Relaxation is the vibe in this Euro-infused experience. Dairy-free options mean there’s no restriction on enjoyment here, either, as all their elegant mugs of hot chocolate come with the milk of your choice – almond, soy, or whole.

It’s time to give up on the powdered stuff in a packet. Be kinder to yourself, it’ll be worth the trip. Take advantage of winter to enjoy the city’s best offerings for hot chocolate: warm your body as well as your soul. In these temperatures, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

Looking for more great NYC food and drink? Check out our guides to NYC’s most Instagrammable dessert spots, the Five Coolest Speakeasies in the City, and the best Food Halls in town.

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Holiday celebrations are in full swing all over NYC, and there’s no better symbol of the season than Rockefeller Center’s famous tree. While it’s recognizable all across the globe, even born and bred New Yorkers may learn a thing or two from this list of fun facts.

  1. It’s got very humble origins

While today’s tree is a glittery example of the bigger-is-better spirit that permeates the city, the first tree in 1931 was raised under a slightly different set of circumstances. The construction workers, happy to be on the job in the midst of the Great Depression, showed their Christmas spirit by pooling money to set up a 20 foot balsam fir which they decorated with homemade garlands and ornaments. It became an official tradition two years later, and with the completion of Rockefeller Center and the resurgence of the city, it became a symbol of the again-prosperous country.

 

  1. Generosity is a rule

The spirit of giving truly lives in this Christmas tradition! Rockefeller Center pays for cutting and transportation, but every year’s tree comes as a donation from property owners who decide to let their tree light up Midtown. Not to end there, every tree since 1973 has also been recycled. Earlier years saw them mulched to be spread in NYC parks, but more recently trees have been turned into wood beams which are then used by Habitat for Humanity as they build homes for low-income Americans.

 

  1. It’s got a suitably big decoration budget

It stands to reason that this major tree requires some serious decorating. It takes a crew of 20 about 9 days to complete the process, and their working materials put even the most enthusiastic home decorator to shame. The string of lights is about 7 miles long-enough to cover the border of Central Park! Along that wire there’s 50,000 LED lights, which use less energy and make the tree even more ‘green.’ Standing atop the mighty spruce is the crowning jewel–specially redesigned by famed architect Daniel Libeskind for 2018. The Swarovski star is made up of 70 spikes with 25,000 crystals and weighs in at an incredible 900 pounds. It reportedly costs about $1.5 million.

 

  1. If it can make it here…

Moving a 70-80 foot tree is no small task, so organizers normally look to nearby New Jersey or Connecticut for ease of getting the massive spruce to Rockefeller Center. That wasn’t the case, however, in 1998. Richfield, Ohio was the home of that year’s choice fir, brought to NYC on the world’s largest transport plane. While that journey was certainly a long one, that airborne trip wasn’t the longest distance the tree has had to travel to Midtown. That honor goes to 1967’s iteration, which hailed from Petawawa Forest in Ontario, Canada. After 550 miles traveled, NYC had their perfect tree. It’s also been delivered on a barge down the Hudson River, meaning whether by air, land or sea, there’s no obstacle to getting the perfect Spruce into Rockefeller Center!

 

  1. Among the skyscrapers

The tree’s height of course varies every year, but organizers generally like to find one within a sweet spot of between 65 to 80 feet. In 1999, however, fresh off the tree’s first airplane flight in history, organizers must have felt the need to top themselves. That was accomplished with the tallest specimen NYC has seen: a whopping 100 foot high Norway Spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut. Cathy and Jim Thomson generously gave this monster over to Rockefeller Center and got to see their pride lit up for the entire city to enjoy. This year’s tree tops out at 72 feet, and will stay up for New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy until January 7th.

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s upcoming move to the waterfront neighborhood of Long Island City (LIC) has Queens residents abuzz with anticipation, and they’re not the only ones. Local businesses are prepared to welcome the new arrivals with a growing slate of housing, eating, and retail options.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see plenty of ambitious new projects shaping up alongside HQ2, but LIC already has plenty to offer. Long Island City is an artistic community teeming with countless cultural gems, impressive green spaces, and a solid portfolio of quirky bars, specialty restaurants, and down-to-business coffee shops. It’s currently home to over 150 restaurants, bars, and cafes; more than 39 arts and cultural institutions; five waterfront parks; and 32 hotels, with 43 others in the works. From its spectacular views of Manhattan to its lovely parks, trendy restaurants, and easy access to public transportation, LIC will prove an exceptional home for Amazon’s planned new hires.

 

Cultural Visits:

MoMA PS1: A satellite location of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the lesser-known MoMA PS1 is located within a weathered school building, boasting an impressive array of contemporary art within a laid back atmosphere. During warmer months, the museum runs its popular Warm Up series, outdoor events presenting the best in live and electronic music. Last year Warm Up hosted more than 75 artists across 10 energy-packed sessions.

Museum of the Moving Image: This museum explores the history of film with interactive exhibitions, and also doubles as a cinema. Events include everything from screenings of contemporary films (including Q&As with special guests) to showings of cult classics.

The Noguchi Museum: This museum specializes in works by artist Isamu Noguchi, an artist and landscape architect who is especially well-known for his sculpture and public works. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of his art, consisting of two floors, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.

 

Other Must-Sees:

Dutch Kills Green: This 1.5 acre oasis in Queens Plaza, formerly a parking lot, was transformed in 2012 into a green space that houses a native-plant wetlands, a collection of artist-created benches, an amphitheatre, and a bike trail that starts at Pulaski Bridge and takes adventurous riders all the way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Gantry Plaza State Park: A 12-acre riverfront park, Gantry Plaza features gardens, fishing piers, sports fields, a playground, a mist fountain, and frequent live music. Most notably, though, the park is known for its incredible views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, the 59th Street Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge. Visitors are sure to enjoy strolling around its four piers and manicured gardens.

The Cliffs at LIC: This indoor rock gym is a paragon of flexibility, and not just in the athletes scaling its walls. Climbers can purchase day passes or memberships, and solo climbers can take advantage of auto belays. The gym also offers a number of classes, from rock climbing classes to yoga, pilates, and even AcroYoga. Any level of skill is welcome to take on these “cliffs” near the Queens waterfront.

 

Places to Eat & Drink:

Court Square Diner: Don’t just visit Court Square Diner because it’s one of the city’s last remaining true diners, go there because it serves up a great meal, too. This diner has everything we’ve come to love and expect from such beloved eateries. A sprawling menu, affordable prices, retro decor, and a kitchen that never closes. Absolute perfection.

Dutch Kills: This craft cocktail bar shakes up a huge menu of specialty drinks, and each one is a work of art. It’s big on house-made ingredients (they even make their own grenadine), fresh squeezed juices, and a variety of bitters. While the main attraction is cocktails, the bar also serves a modest selection of wine and beer, as well as a few comfort snacks to soak it all up. Kentucky beer cheese, anyone?

Queens Comfort: Widely considered to be one of New York City’s best brunch spots, Queens Comfort in nearby Astoria is not to be missed. Specializing in comfort food, this place has it all: a menu chock-full of atypical Benedicts, karaoke, live DJs, freestyling MCs, retro movies, and vintage decor. Oh, and it’s BYOB.

 

The best part is….this is just the tiniest of samples. LIC had already been deemed one of the hottest spots for young people pre-Amazon, and while it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood getting any hotter, Amazon’s announcement is sure to add more exciting destinations to the list.