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.