After living in New York for a few years, my list of must-visit restaurants has only grown. While there’s always something new and exciting popping up and a classic spot I haven’t visited yet, there are a handful of special restaurants I’ve returned to again and again.
These are the places I’ll visit if I’m nearby and getting hungry, spots I’ll suggest to meet friends or clients, and definitely where I made my first visits post-vaccine. Some of these places I’ve pretty much made a ritual out of – a date night at Palma, post-yoga lunch at Maman.
Even among my magical-to-me favorites, it was hard to narrow it down to just 10 – and this list is certainly not in order of rank! But each of these restaurants is a beautiful place you can get a sit-down meal, food brought to your table – which is just what you need when you’ve been walking around the city and want somewhere reliable to land.
Palma and I had quite the New York-magic meet-cute before I ever moved here, so it’s only fair that the list starts here. With a perpetual glow and beautiful flowers all around, a romantic dinner date is perfect at Palma.
The food and the atmosphere will have you feeling like you’re in Italy – the pasta, in particular, is incredible. If you’re traveling solo or with friends, it’s also a wonderful spot for a cocktail (I’m partial to La Vie en Rose) or brunch! And always, always ask for a table in the garden.
From the incredibly chic décor (that Degournay wallpaper!) to the classic afternoon tea service and the view over Central Park, a visit to BG is a dream for sure. While you could certainly grab a drink at the bar or meet for lunch, I like BGs best for afternoon tea.
I always request the whisper chairs in my reservation, and let the staff know you’re willing to wait a little bit if necessary to get them! It’s absolutely worth it – and I can never resist a few photos.
website, no reservations
I can’t count the number of lunches, brunches, and coffees I’ve had across Maman’s ever-growing list of locations. While each one has a homey Paris-meets-Provençe charm, the patio at the SoHo location is particularly lovely.
Any of their locations is a good one to stop in for lunch, brunch (though it can get busy), and makes an ideal spot to grab a latte to sip while you explore the neighborhood. You really can’t go wrong with the menu, but I love the s’mores cookie, chilled salads, and the breakfast sandwich.
The menu at Café Cluny is not particularly fancy or exotic, but every single thing I’ve ordered has been perfectly done. It doesn’t hurt that the general atmosphere of the place feels like you’re in a movie that’s one part classic New York, one part French charm.
It’s an ideal spot for a cozy, cold-weather dinner at a table next to the windows – but also wonderful for any brunch or lunch. Not for a special occasion meal per se, but a lovely way to turn what would be a regular meal out into a memorable one.
I have no idea if La Mercerie is even open for dinner, because I just keep coming back for perhaps the most beautiful brunch in town. Housed inside the luxury interiors store RW Guild, everything from the modern-french menu to the butter knives is stunning.
With the same designers as nearby Le CouCou, La Mercerie is more casual – though certainly not an everyday café – and keeps all of the French-feeling, aesthetically refined atmosphere. Bring your Chanel bag, order the oeuf cocotte or crêpe complete, and finish with profiteroles for the table.
website, no reservations
For the ultimate cozy, cold-weather night out in the city, show up to the Carlyle well after dark and settle into the first available table. The live music, hand-painted Ludwig Bemelmans wallpaper, and strong martinis all mix together for a strong sense of New York magic. Naturally, it had to be included in my holiday guide to the city.
I don’t like to plan dinner elsewhere afterward – any place would feel like a letdown. Plus, the drinks are strong enough to warrant a meal’s worth of appetizers, so this spot can be your singular destination for the evening. If you really want to follow it up with a meal, reserve a table at Dowlings at the Carlyle.
Waverly Inn is the epitome of coziness, no matter the season. The indoor dining rooms are deliciously dark and cocoon-like, though I almost always request a table in the back garden near the fireplace. Tucked into the web of West Village streets, it just feels so New York.
It’s also a wonderfully versatile spot – from a table for two to a group reservation, from brunch to dinner – it fits the bill. While you might be able to get a great walk-in table depending on the day, I definitely recommend making a reservation (complete with table request!). Also recommended: the famous chicken pot pie.
This street-level Soho spot may just be my favorite for a special occasion dinner. The interiors are stunning (especially the bar!), and the white-clothed tables are larger and more spread out than most restaurants in the city – which lends a quieter and more luxurious atmosphere without feeling stuffy.
It’s best suited for a couple or a few close friends or family rather than a big group dinner. Arrive a little early to enjoy a drink at that gorgeous bar, then linger over dinner until your candles are romantically melted into a wax puddle on the tablecloth.
Thank goodness that Dante opened a second location in the West Village, because things on MacDougal street were constantly bustling. With a new and much larger location on picturesque Perry Street, it’s that much easier to get your favorite negroni (mine is the Bianca) without accidentally elbowing a stranger or waiting for-ev-er for an outdoor table.
Established over 100 years ago, the original location has been a local favorite bar for ages. In its latest incarnation, it’s also beautifully designed and serves great food whether you’re ordering a few bites with drinks or settling in for a full meal.
Of course Ladurée is beautiful – it’s kind of their thing! – but the garden at the SoHo location is its own sort of magic. An oasis in the midst of downtown, it’s open nearly year-round thanks to space heaters and blankets. It’s particularly beautiful in late April with the cherry blossoms, and in late October in the fall.
My favorite times to book a table are for weekend brunch, afternoon tea, or popping by for after-work drinks and bites before all the dinner reservations arrive around 7. I’m pretty sure that macarons are compulsory, though I’ve never actually tried to not order any.
my free printable five-step
guide to packing light &
traveling in style