Don’t leave your meal to chance—dine at one of these New York restaurants before or after your culture fix.
Red Rooster: Near the Apollo Theater
When chef Marcus Samuelsson bought a townhouse in Harlem, he decided to build the neighborhood a restaurant worthy of its storied past. The result is a swinging mix of multi-culti comfort food (fried “yardbird,” meatballs with lingonberries and braised cabbage, fish tacos), with live music downstairs and lots of bourbon at the bar upstairs.
Upper West Side
Dovetail: Near the American Museum of Natural History
Welcoming service and an organic earth-toned design define this restaurant by French Laundry–trained chef-owner John Fraser; book ahead for his three-course Sunday Suppa. Quirky-named desserts include the Mexican Standoff (horchata ice cream, spicy milk chocolate) and Take That, Starbucks! (pumpkin ice cream, espresso toffee sauce).
Upper East Side
Café Sabarsky: At the Neue Galerie
Tall windows with translucent shades, ornate wood paneling, and Josef Hoffmann light fixtures outfit chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s authentic Viennese café. Order the roasted bratwurst with Riesling sauerkraut or trout palatschinken (a Central European pancake). For dessert, try a cup of stiff Viennese coffee alongside the klimttorte (chocolate and hazelnut cake).
Lincoln: At Lincoln Center
Housed in a glass-encased space designed by architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the restaurant adds appeal to the world's largest performing-arts complex. Mix that with chef Jonathon Benno’s clever Italian cuisine—lasagna vincigrassi with beef and mushroom ragù; ravioli stuffed with braised lamb—and you have a venue worthy of a standing ovation.
Shun Lee Café: Near Lincoln Center
Black and white checkerboard ceilings hold up lanterns modeled after the Chinese calendar. Dim sum carts zipping through carry dishes like shrimp and ricotta puffs, giant fried crab claws, and fresh dumplings. Full-size entrees include Szechuan-style rack of lamb and the Beijing duck served with crepes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce.
The Modern: At the Museum of Modern Art
Treat yourself to a French-inflected meal at this Danny Meyer restaurant, where the city’s edges are smoothed over and everything’s in its right place. The chef’s tasting menu includes langoustine and razor clam tartare, Long Island duck breast, and a trio of desserts to taste.
Le Bernardin: Near Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall
The interior of this stylish Midtown haunt features twisted aluminum and undulating wood, a massive seascape triptych by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner, and a sleek lounge for cocktails with seafood-centric small plates. Four-course dinners by chef Eric Ripert start with Royal Osetra caviar and conclude with pan-roasted lobster.
Marea: Near Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center
Seek out a coveted reservation for chef Michael White’s flagship—this swanky seafood restaurant off Central Park West—and then do your meal right: lardo-draped uni with sea salt; Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant, and basil; and the fusilli with red wine–braised octopus and bone marrow.
Asiate: Near Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall
Floor-to-ceiling windows on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel present spectacular views of Columbus Circle and Central Park. Chef Angie Berry serves up baby carrot risotto with glazed escargot and buckwheat-egg soba noodles with Osetra caviar and uni cream.
DB Bistro Moderne: Near Broadway Theaters
Part of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s empire, the restaurant’s front room is decorated with red plaster walls and bright floral photographs, while the back room features green-tinted glass and wood-and-steel-framed mirrors. French-American plates from chef Jason Pringle include pot au feu with beef broth, oxtail, and bone marrow, and Maine lobster with fried artichokes, grapefruit, and mascarpone.
Tertulia: Near Le Poisson Rouge
Weathered brick archways, a well-utilized brick oven, and a tight bar up front with short glasses of cider on tap make the space seem like it’s been around forever. Chef Seamus Mullens’ interpretations of Spanish classics include pimientos de padrón with fried Shishito peppers and arroz a la plancha with Ibérico ham and snails.
Lower East Side
Mile End Delicatessen: Near the New Museum
Skip the imported bagels at this Montreal-style Jewish delicatessen and focus on the smoked meat (cured and smoked brisket) piled high in sandwiches or nestled among the cheese curds in a plate of poutine. Fans, take note: Mile End’s original location is in Brooklyn (97 Hoyt St.).
Brooklyn Fare: Near Brooklyn Academy of Music
Housed inside a gourmet grocery on an otherwise bland block, Brooklyn Fare is one of the toughest reservations in New York. Its 18 seats are arranged around a small kitchen, with a constellation of copper pots hanging overhead. Chef César Ramirez and his technicians conjure upward of 20 courses a night per guest.
Saul: At the Brooklyn Museum
Artfully prepared New-American dishes—dry aged squab with roasted carrots and spiced yogurt; Colorado lamb saddle with brussel sprouts and turnips—have earned this restaurant one of Brooklyn's few Michelin stars. Though Saul will surely hum during the lunch rush, we prefer it at dinnertime, when you're guaranteed near-private access to the Rodin sculptures presiding quietly over the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby. saulrestaurant.com
M. Wells Dinette: At MoMA PS1
Surprises abound at this museum restaurant: head cheese, fresh goat liver, and veal brains, for starters. Chef Hugue Dufour’s dishes are as experimental as the artwork on display at MoMA PS1. Set up like a classroom, with long desks for communal dining, M. Wells will school diners on transforming animal fat and innards into a satisfying meal.
American Museum of Natural History
Commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and designed by New York City architect William Burnet Tuthill, this famed venue opened in 1891. The Italian Renaissance concert hall features three venues: the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, Zankel Hall, and Weill Recital Hall. The interior famously consists of a white and gold palette set against a distinctly Florentine Renaissance design. Unlike most structures of its size in New York, Carnegie Hall is constructed entirely from masonry, with no steel supports. Each season the facility presents roughly 250 performances ranging from orchestras to soloists to artists-in-residence. Docent-led tours of the venue are available, and the Rose Museum presents a history of facility through concert programs, photographs, musical manuscripts, and video.
Located a block west of Central Park, Lincoln Center spans over 16 acres and is home to a dozen performing arts organizations, among them the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet. All together the complex features 29 separate performance venues, where the 12 institutions present thousands of performances, programs, and events each year. Guided tours of the campus begin in the David Rubenstein Atrium and include visits to the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, David H. Koch Theater, Vivian Beaumont Theater, and Alice Tully Hall.
Besides its exemplary collection of German and Austrian fine and decorative art, the Neue Galerie has a jewel-like design shop, highlighted by reproductions of turn-of-the-century tableware by Josef Hoffman, Biedermeier wallpaper, and J&L Lobmeyr crystal.
Jazz at Lincoln Center
The standout success within the controversial Time Warner Center Mall is the slick Jazz at Lincoln Center venue, largely thanks to artistic director Wynton Marsalis's far-reaching connections. Rafael Viñoly's design just adds to the hipness quotient. Its three separate performance spaces include the 1,200-seat Rose Theater and the 480-seat Allen Room, which both draw headlining acts. Pick of them all, though, is the tiny, jazz-joint-style Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, with its speakeasy atmosphere, gorgeous views across Central Park, and space for just 140 guests. You might catch the Ryan Cohan Quartet, the Eliane Elias Trio, or Exegesis on the bill (as well as fried chicken, catfish po'boys, and bananas Foster bread pudding on the menu). Cover prices at Dizzy's range from $20 to $35, plus a $10 table minimum and a $5 bar minimum.
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Simultaneously high art and rollicking good fun, the Brooklyn Academy of Music is a Broadway-beating theater space that draws boldfaced names—recently, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and John Turturro—to high-caliber productions. BAM comprises two stages: the 2,109-seat Howard Gilman Opera House (plus the four-screen BAM Rose Cinemas)—and, two blocks away, the 874-seat Harvey Theater, with its raw concrete walls and artfully rough-and-ready appearance. (Note that some padded, bench-style seats in the Harvey can be uncomfortable during lengthy performances.) BAM's programming is at its most avant-garde during the Next Wave Festival each fall. You'll never miss the curtain rise when you hit the high-ceilinged BAMcafé, an ideal choice for pre-theater drinks and dinners of crab cakes, strip steak, and Junior's cheesecake for dessert. (BAMcafé opens two hours before every performance at the Howard Gilman Opera House.)
Tip: Every Friday and Saturday night, the space hosts BAMcafé Live, which presents free music from local and international jazz, R&B, pop, and experimental performers.
Additional Location: Howard Gilman Opera House and BAM Rose Cinemas; 30 Lafayette Avenue at St. Felix Place, Brooklyn
This striking home for downtown's contemporary art hub—led by savvy director Lisa Phillips—made a splashy debut in December 2007, thanks to its extraordinary lopsided, seven-story building designed by Japanese duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa from acclaimed architectural firm SANAA. The space's boxy interior may appear less awe-inspiring than the exterior's sophisticated riff on a child's set of unbalanced building blocks, but the upside is that it won't detract from the raft of temporary shows that will cycle through here every four months. (Expect highly conceptual, head-scratching installations from unheard-of artists, as is the museum's mission.)
Admission: Adults $16, seniors $14, Thursdays 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. pay what you wish. Closed Mon. and Tues.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The hullabaloo over MoMA's $600 million makeover in 2005 (and $20 admission fee) has overshadowed how impressive its collection truly is. This smartly reimagined space offers more room for exhibitions, as well as unexpected internal vistas between floors that are better able to showcase large contemporary installations. See Warhol's Gold Marilyn, Picasso's mold-breaking Demoiselles d'Avignon, a cluster of Brancusi sculptures, plus photographs and pencil drawings by the modern master—as well as Claes Oldenburg's surprisingly creepy Giant Soft Fan, which induces the same kind of sensory schizophrenia as Meret Oppenheim's fur-covered cup. Don't neglect the outdoor treasures in the Sculpture Garden, an eclectic mix that includes works by Scott Burton, Giacometti, and even an original Guimard-designed Paris metro entrance sign.
Admission: $20 adults, $16 seniors, free for children 16 and under. Closed Tues.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
DB Bistro Moderne
Part of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire, this midtown bistro is ideal for pre- and post-theater dining. The restaurant comprises a central wine cellar and two adjacent dining rooms: the front room is decorated with red plaster walls, stone floors, and brightly colored floral photographs by Christopher Beane, while the back room contains green-tinted glass and wood-and-steel-framed mirrors. Executed by chef Laurent Kalkotour, the contemporary French-American menu includes such popular dishes as the house burger—stuffed with foie gras, braied short ribs, and black truffle—and the duck confit with black kale, wild mushrooms, and sweet and sour jus.
Shun Lee Café
The Shun Lee Cafe is perfect for a pre-show stop; it's across from the Lincoln Center, blocks from the Theater District, and the dim sum cart makes for quick service. Black and white checkerboard ceilings and walls and white tables with black chairs are artfully arranged beneath lanterns modeled after the Chinese calendar. Dim sum carts zip through an otherwise calming atmosphere, bringing dishes such as shrimp and ricotta puffs, giant fried crab claws, and fresh dumplings. Full-size entrees are also available, such as the Szechuan-style rack of lamb and the Beijing duck served with crepes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce.
If you ask someone where they want to go out to eat, few consider a museum. The proprietors of Modern, located inside the Museum of Modern Art, aim to change that. With a goal of taking museum dining to new heights, they turned to Alsatian chef Gabriel Kreuther to whip up some French-American dishes of a fine dining caliber. The result is dishes like grilled Sullivan county foie gras, long island duck breast, and Alaskan king crab salad with Osetra caviar. Marked by refined Bauhaus décor, consisting of a clean, black and white palette juxtaposed with elaborate flower arrangements on every table, and overlooking the museum’s sculpture garden, Modern serves the pièce de résistance.
If this restaurant had an official slogan, it might be “come for the view, stay for the food.” Located on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Asiate presents a stunning view of Columbus Circle and Central Park through floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s almost enough to distract from the food itself were it not for the superb skill of chef Brandon Kida, especially his butter-poached lobster with white polenta, Hon Shimeji mushrooms in kaffir emulsion, and buckwheat-egg soba noodles with Osetra caviar and wasabi cream. For such fine dining, dress accordingly.
Chef Michael White’s third New York City restaurant, Marea, is, as the name implies, a tribute to the harmonious union of seafood and Italian cuisine. Located on Central Park South, Marea features a subdued, yet inviting dining room with warm yellow accent walls behind the bar and booths. The menu is brimming with Italian coastal fare, and diners are treated to such flavorful creations as fusilli with red wine braised octopus and roasted sea scallops with marinated beets. With fish sourced from the Mediterranean as well as worldwide waters, Marea ensures that the dining experience is enhanced by the best available ingredients.
Designated a landmark in 1983, the historic Apollo Theater originally opened in 1914 and evolved to become the premier performance venue for African-American artists from the 1930’s through the present. Such famous musicians as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Miles Davis have graced the Apollo’s stage, and the Apollo Theater Foundation continues to nurture aspiring African-American performers and preserve the historic theater. Amateur Night at the Apollo still serves as a launching pad for these young artists, with winners receiving a $10,000 grand prize. Past winners have included Gladys Knight and Jimi Hendrix.
The restaurant has the city’s most welcoming service, an organic earth-toned design, and a treasure in its creative, French Laundry–trained chef-owner John Fraser, whose haute-humble menu dazzles even with lamb’s tongue and brussels sprouts. Book ahead for Fraser’s $38 Sunday Suppa, for gnocchi under an inspired short rib–and–foie gras ragù or a winning rendition of meatloaf. The mini red-velvet cupcakes dressed with a loose cream cheese frosting (served pre-dessert) are reason enough to venture uptown.
(Le) Poisson Rouge
Created by musicians, (Le) Poisson Rouge (LPR) on Bleecker Street is a indie venue for music, dance, and theater located just a few blocks south of Washington Square Park. From the gleaming metallic Art Deco-style entrance patrons enter a room with more metal, stages, and tables circled by fabric-covered chairs with LPR’s stylized fish logo. Colored ceiling lights give everything a surreal look. Taking the stage here are performers like Steve Arrginton of Slave, Miguel Migs, Old-Fashioned Piano Party, and I Love Vinyl. Two menus are offered: Solids, such as chicken satay and grilled brie sandwich, and Liquids, such as Mr. Black and Zombie Hunter.
Jonathan Benno, the former chef de cuisine at the Michelin three-starred Per Se opened Lincoln in 2010. Housed in a glass-encased space designed by architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the restaurant is amping up the appeal of the world's largest performing-arts complex. Add to that Benno’s clever interpretations of Italian classics—gremolata-spiked spaghetti al pomodoro and eggplant parmigiana—and you have a destination worthy of a standing ovation.
Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
At Mile End Delicatessen, in Brooklyn, Noah and Rae Bernamoff serve Montreal-style bagels; Noah is from Montreal and, as is typical, thinks their bagels are better than New York’s. New York's are hard, boiled, the hole irregular; theirs is softer, sweeter, as if a metaphor for Canadian life. Everything at Mile End—including the divine whitefish salad—is made from scratch and locally sourced.
Hard as it may be for homesick Catalonians or proud Basques to admit it, the best Spanish restaurant in town is run by a guy from Vermont named Seamus. With weathered brick archways, a well-utilized brick oven in the back, and a tight bar up front with great rounds of golden tortilla and short glasses of cider on tap, the space feels like it’s been here forever—and fans of Seamus Mullen’s exuberant interpretations of Spanish classics (head-on langustinos, arroz a la plancha with Iberico ham and snails) hope it will be.