The restaurants and bars in this city are endless. The food is fantastic and the buzz in the air is rife. Dinner is best eaten late in NY - after a day exploring and dressing for dinner, a cocktail is necessary before heading to dinner. I never made a dinner reservation before 9pm and more often than not found that 10pm was the best time slot, allowing plenty of time for a drink at a bar followed by dinner at a different venue. There are so many places to explore – you wouldn’t be doing the city justice if you didn’t hop around.
For most restaurants, reservations open one month prior, so get a plan together and get booking! In my notes below, I will let you know which ones are best to book in advance and which ones you can show up on the night. Open Table is the best website to make your reservations – you can see what time slots are available for the day you want to go.
The restaurants listed below are the stayers, the ones you want to keep going back to and are so well engrained into the heart of New York dining that they won’t be going anywhere any time soon. I would love to hear about your favourite NYC eateries - leave a comment below so that I can add it to my list.
Per Se – Columbus Circle
Sadly, I have to start by telling you that luck hasn’t been on my side when I have been in NY – I haven’t been to Per Se. This is a restaurant where you have to book the moment the day becomes available for bookings. Wait an extra minute and like me, you will miss out. Ranked within the top 50 of the renowned World’s Best Restaurants award by San Pelligrino, this is a restaurant that won’t disappoint. This restaurant definitely falls into the category of splurge, but if fine dining is in your heart and soul, you won’t be disappointed.
Reservation: As soon as they are released – make sure you are on it!
Dress: Upper Elegance
(The Mercer) Kitchen – SoHo
This is one sexy restaurant and best on a Friday or Saturday night. The Mercer Kitchen is one of Jean-George Vongerichten’s venues and the food is sensational. In the heart of SoHo, there are plenty of options for a pre and post dinner drink. The design of this restaurant is dark and moody and filled with sumptuous textures of leather, wood and stone, all within the bounds of the brickwork of the heritage building. Book this restaurant ahead of time and make sure you sit down stairs.
Reservation: Yes, a month prior
Dress: On trend designer
Buddakan – Chelsea
This place is buzzing every night of the week and it’s easy to see (taste) why – the Modern Asian food is delicious. Order as many dishes as you can and share amongst the table and come back again another time for the dishes you didn’t try. Their cocktail list is adventurous and explosive so make your way through this menu too.
Reservation: A month prior if you can, otherwise try your luck a few days out
Dress: Downtown fun
Locande Verde – TriBeCa
This Italian restaurant is a great down-town spot filled at every moment of the day. The dishes are wholesome and heart-warming and it is a place where you genuinely have a great night. The interior is beautifully designed and the table well set, yet there isn’t a precious vibe in site. I just can’t go past the word genuine.
Reservation: Yes – two weeks to a month prior
Dress: The shirt on your back
BG Restaurant –Bergdorf Goodman
If you can tear yourselves away from the shopping on the Upper East Side for an hour or so, this is the place to go. Located on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman, this restaurant is perfect for a glass of champagne with lunch to rehydrate before returning to the shops. Overlooking Central Park, the view is spectacular and the interior, designed by Kelly Wearstler, a treat. The ladies will appreciate it more than the men!
Reservation: Recommended, for midday – go on a weekday
Dress: Upper East Side ‘effortless’
Freemans – Lower East Side
This restaurant feels exactly as you would expect (in a good way!) for a Lower East Side venue – it’s a little rough around the edges, to just the right amount. It’s authentic and cosy and a great discovery at the end of a little alleyway off the Bowery. This is the perfect spot for a mid week dinner with friends where the food is just right, the cocktails are flowing and the atmosphere is like the home of an old friend.
Reservation: Yes, however most of their tables are for walk-in’s
Dress: Like a local
Beauty and Essex – Lower East Side
I have made a couple of trips back to this restaurant and continue to love it. Don’t miss it! A little hidden, the restaurant poses as a pawn shop. Inside, the security guard in front of the rear door gives away the entry into the restaurant itself. The food is amazing, the music is loud, and the atmosphere is electric. Settle in for a long dinner and cocktail experience. Ladies, make sure you make your way down to the bathroom for a little old school powder-room refreshment.
Reservation: Yes, a couple of weeks out
Dress: New York nights (B&E say “Upscale attire”)
This site sits underneath the Highline and is filled with a treasure-trove of food retailers. Elenie’s cookies are cute and colourful, The Filling Station is packed with unique oils, salts and condiments and the Chelsea Wine Vault is filled with boutique finds. Now for the coffee – Chelsea Market is home to Ninth St. Espresso – Australian worthy coffee! Stop in at Cealsea Market during the day – it is well coupled with a walk along the Highline.
Dress: Come as you are
Eataly – Flatiron
There is a good chance you have heard about Eataly. On my first trip to New York, I would say it was busy without being chaos. On my return trip a year later, it was absolute chaos - the word of Eataly NYC got out Internationally. I think the lesson would be to go in the morning – but make sure you go! Eataly is filled with food options for you to take away, take home, eat in or dine in at one of their various in store restaurants. There is an immense amount of product within this store – rows and rows of pasta and sauces and cheese and everything else Italian. Each product is accompanied with a map and a description, informing you of the product’s origin, flavour characteristics and how it is best prepared and served. As a brand, they do a great job educating and engaging with their customer.
Reservation: Name on a list
Beecher’s Cheese - Flatiron:
You can feel your arteries clogging the second you step foot into Beecher’s. There is no doubt that they make the best cheese toastie out there. Beecher’s Cheese make all of their product on site – you can sit and watch the cheese making process while you munch away on your store bought goods. If macaroni and cheese is your thing, then theirs is the one to have – though it is so rich, good luck finishing the serve! If you haven’t had mac and cheese before (I hadn’t) then their little sample is for you. They have a sub-floor restaurant which I am sure would be great, but in my opinion, stick to the humble toastie!
Magnolia Bakery – Throughout Manhattan:
This is an institution in it’s own right. No trip to New York would be complete without a delicious cupcake. If you visit in winter, make sure you order come hot chocolate too. Delicious, pretty the perfect morning treat.