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.
Do you experience sleepless nights wondering about alternative names for the artichoke, the number of stars on the European Union flag, or who invented the rabies vaccination?
For New Yorkers looking for a nerdy spin on the usual night out with friends, trivia is exactly what the doctor ordered. These five locales are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fact-filled nights on the town in all five boroughs. Study (and bottoms) up!
Indian Road Cafe
This rustic eatery is certainly uniquely situated–you’ll find it all the way at the northern tip of Manhattan, on the edge of Inwood Hill Park. 218th Street is home to one of New York’s most fun and fascinating trivia nights, with an appropriately colorful MC known only as Mr. Phil. Prizes for winners include t-shirts, free drinks, gift cards and more. A haven for the truly obsessed, Indian Road hosts a robust online presence for their trivia night, with a detailed scoreboard and standings.
This Chinatown hotspot might be best known for their creative cocktails and underpriced oysters, but don’t let the chic decor fool you. Every Tuesday this is the venue for one of the city’s most challenging and off-kilter trivia nights, complete with a $100 grand prize. Show up a little early to enjoy their unique happy hour selection before the Q&A crowd gets going.
Looking for even more gaming fun with your trivia? Parkside Lounge on East Houston Street may become your home away from home. Before or after the trivia rounds, partake in any of their other forms of entertainment like a photo booth, Pac-Man and foosball, an old-school jukebox and more. Bring 3 of your brainiest buddies, but no more than that–4 person teams are the strictly followed rule here.
Videology Bar & Cinema
If movies are your thing, arrive early to test your knowledge at Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Videology: their trivia night is so popular that people are often turned away at the door. It might be tough to find a more appropriate place for movie trivia, as Videology functions as both a bar and an independent cinema, playing cult favorites and obscurities from every era of film. Winners of these trivia rounds can get rounds of free drinks or even a two-hour private party in the screening room!
The Strand Smokehouse
A neighborhood with some impressive future neighbors, Astoria in Queens currently hosts one of the most unique trivia spots in any borough. When the sun goes down, this hotspot for smoked meat and bourbon fills up with an audience hungry for the greatest sustenance of all: knowledge. Winners can earn a $50 tab, a round of shots or even a free day of rock climbing.
Want even more options? The city’s got tons, so you won’t have to rush to find a favorite.. There’s no shortage of quizzical fun to be had any night of the week, and no better competition than the multitude of minds in New York City. Better start studying!
Looking for more NYC nightlife? Read our guide to the Best Free Music Spots or keep it on the hush at one of the city’s Coolest Speakeasies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Much has been written over the past several years about the extinction of what was once a city staple: the greasy-spoon diners and unassuming luncheonettes of yore. It’s true. So many of the idiosyncratic places that used to form the fabric of New York City have been replaced with more stylish, homogeneous versions of themselves. The NYC diner isn’t completely dead, but its heyday has seemingly come and gone.
Recent closures include Chinatown’s nearly 70-year-old The Cup and Saucer, the Lyric Diner in Gramercy, the 40-year-old Del Rio in Brooklyn, the Village’s Joe Jr., the 53-year-old Market Diner in Hell’s Kitchen and, of course, the much maligned closure of Broadway’s 34-year-old Cafe Edison, an absolute institution in the heart of the Theater District.
Diners have been upended for a variety of reasons, usually some combination of lower receipts, higher rent, and competition from ubiquitous chain eateries. Those factors, plus the reality that a new generation of college-educated professionals is proving reluctant to run family businesses that involve long, hard hours and slim margins, are converging in what has felt like a massive diner die-off.
It’s no wonder that city staples have been replaced by glossy alternatives like Pret a Manger and Le Pain Quotidien. In fact, a recent Crain’s article said that while the city had over 1,000 diners and coffee shops 20 years ago, today that number has been whittled down to fewer than 400.
And, while many New Yorkers are lamenting the loss of their favorite spots for affordable comfort food, overall, the population’s tastes have changed. Some diners have struggled to keep pace by switching to upscale ingredients or replacing meat-heavy dishes with vegan and vegetarian options. Champ’s Diner in Brooklyn specializes in vegan fare. The Empire Diner in Chelsea offers upmarket menu items like tuna “poke” bowls, beef carpaccio and antibiotic-free chicken. Some might argue that menu items in the $30-range go against the spirit of the diner, while others are thankful for the cozy, retro atmosphere and the ingenuity.
Thankfully, there are still some old-time diners that grace our great city. More of them tend to be located in the outer boroughs rather than Manhattan, but there are diners to be found in either case. Favorites include the appropriately named Manhattan Diner, Broadway Restaurant, Comfort Diner, Bel Aire Diner, and the Neptune Diner.
For most of us, the days of walking a few blocks to get to our neighborhood diner, a place chock-full of friendly and familiar faces, may be over. But that doesn’t mean that the experience is lost entirely. If we’re willing to travel a little farther and perhaps endure a little anonymity, we can still bask in the warmth and comfort of eating scrambled eggs on a vinyl seat, surrounded by chrome and Formica.
Hopefully, the high-profile closures have generated enough interest to convince a large customer base to patronize our remaining local treasures. Perhaps NYC’s remaining diners can survive against the odds, pouring coffee and grilling burgers in perpetuity.
Looking for a different type of NYC eating experience? Read about ethnic food enclaves in Brooklyn and the Bronx, or satisfy your sweet tooth at one of our most instragrammable dessert spots.
Everyone loves a secret, especially New Yorkers, and speakeasies have been a not-so-secret tradition here since Prohibition. Back then, speakeasies were a necessity for anyone seeking libations in a dry town. Now, they are havens for those searching for an off-the-beaten-path cocktail experience. If you’re a New York local or visitor, here are just five of the many New York speakeasies that will ‘wet’ your whistle.
135 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
Inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private chambers, this spot is a must-see! Guests enter via a secret bookcase and passageway beneath the restaurant Chez Moi. Le Boudoir offers seasonal craft cocktails in a rich Rococo setting. Each cocktail is a unique piece of art and the attentive service makes patrons feel like royalty.
The Raines Law Room
48 West 17th Street, Manhattan
Located in the Chelsea neighborhood, this venue is named after an 1896 law meant to curb New Yorkers’ liquor consumption. But in 2018, patrons are encouraged to consume away!
Venture past the discrete door buzzer and discerning host, and you will find a windowless space filled with a slightly garish flare–which pretty much nails the flamboyant twenties cocktail vibe. And speaking of cocktails! The Garden Paloma, made with tequila, jalapeño agave, Perrier, grapefruit, and a pinch of salt, will take you back in time.
Be sure to arrive early to secure one of the private tables with buzzer service that are surrounded by black gauze curtains for privacy.
Angel’s Share/Village Yokocho
8 Stuyvesant Street, Manhattan
Remarkably, Angel’s Share remains completely unknown to some of its neighbors, and that is part of its charm. Loitering and large groups are discouraged which makes Angel’s Share the perfect date spot.
Walk through the side door at the front of the Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a quintessentially East Village experience. Enjoy a view of Stuyvesant Square while sipping one of the city’s best Grasshoppers–served by a tuxedoed barman. Expert bartenders mix up classic cocktails but are also willing to surprise you with a custom-tailored creation.
Manhattan Cricket Club
226 W 79th Street, Manhattan
Enter through a green tufted leather door inside the restaurant Burke & Wills on the Upper West Side to find an atmosphere conducive to the oh-so-civilized conversation.
Keeping with the inspiration of Burke and Wills, the Manhattan Cricket Club is reminiscent of a colonial gentlemen’s clubs of the Old Empire, though ladies are allowed too. Replete with Persian carpets, bookshelves, rich leather chairs, dark wood and gilded sconces, you will find yourself transported to another time and place.
The bar offers a large variety of creative cocktails including a menu section called The Prime Ministers Selection. And if you’re in the James Bond mood, try the Martini service.
Note on etiquette: Guests are requested to dress in a manner that suits the atmosphere and rowdy bar behavior is very looked down upon.
49 W 27th Street, Manhattan
A neon sign reading Patent Pending will lead you toward an intriguing speakeasy behind an unassuming coffee shop in NoMad. It’s all housed in the Radio Wave building which used to be home to the famous inventor Nikola Tesla.
Through a heavy set of after-hours doors, you will come out into a dark, sultry, cave-like space. After making your way through an alcove full of low-hanging lanterns, you’ll find yourself in a dimly lit yet very comfortable bar.
The menu is divided into four Tesla-inspired categories: Energy, Frequency, Vibration and Descent. Drinks are equally compelling with names like the Hit By a Taxi (Japanese whiskey, Armagnac, sweet vermouth, Pu’erh tea, Curacao, star anise) and Radio Waves (tequila, mezcal, Agricole rum, basil, Thai chile, lime, and cucumber).
So, if you’re looking for the most unique and coolest speakeasies, rest easy—New York’s got you covered. For more ideas to enjoy NYC, check out some can’t-miss summer events or the city’s most enticing food halls.