There’s no denying that Covid-19 did a number on restaurants, but New York City has remained as resilient as ever (as if there was ever any doubt). The City That Never Sleeps is also the City That Never Stops Eating — especially now that dining restrictions have been lifted and the Big Apple’s economy is on a serious upswing. New restaurants are opening almost daily, old favorites are better than ever, and many beloved institutions that looked like they may not make it have managed to come back on top. Whether you’re craving the city’s hottest newcomers or a Michelin classic, you’re in luck because Gotham’s restaurants are back in the New York groove.
The Can’t-Miss Newcomers
There seems to be a new and buzzworthy restaurant on every corner these days, but perhaps none is trending quite as much as Dowling’s at the Carlyle. The legendary hotel on the Upper East Side has seen a renaissance at its classic Bemelmans Bar — with lines of stylish locals and eager tourists spilling out of the door nightly — and now all those fashionable denizens can add New York striploin and oysters to their dirty martinis thanks to this elegant dining room lined with artwork.
Head west and you’ll find a more upscale newcomer. At Mari, in Hell’s Kitchen, chef Songchul Shim (of the Michelin-starred Kochi) elevates the hand roll — a Korean street-food staple — with his 11-course menus packed with king oyster mushrooms, mackerel, and Wagyu with truffles. Nearby, in the recently completed Manhattan West development, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group has opened Ci Siamo, a temple to traditional Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist serving house-made pasta and gelati. The Manhattan West development is home to dozens more new restaurants, including the Mediterranean Zou Zou’s and an outpost of LA’s coveted Katsuya.
Go Downtown and your taste buds will be rewarded by a throng of more delectable hot spots. Chef Victoria Blamey serves a vegetable-forward menu with Chilean influences at Mena; Eleven Madison Park alum James Kent delivers an exquisite tasting menu that changes nightly at Saga; and in Soho, chef Justin Bazdarich’s new Bar Tulix marries the flavors of coastal Mexico and Southern California with seafood-heavy crudos, tostadas, and more.
Now’s the time to show some love to New York’s standard-bearers, the renowned restaurants that have placed the city in the upper echelons of culinary greatness for decades. After two years of temporary closures, strategic pivots, and creative thinking, Michelin-starred institutions like Marea and Gabriel Kreuther are thriving once again. Both restaurants, as well as other Midtown classics like The Modern and Le Bernardin, have emerged from hard times as exceptional as ever.
The same can be said of Daniel, where chef Daniel Boulud weathered the pandemic with a crowd-pleasing terrace that offered the same white-glove service and haute cuisine as inside. Per Se, meanwhile, remains a favorite among foodies for good reason: since opening in 2004, chef Thomas Keller’s over-the-top tasting menu has been one of the world’s preeminent culinary experiences (and it’s part of Exclusive Resorts’ New York Fashion Week exclusive-access itinerary this September).
The Reimagined Favorites
A few legendary restaurants across the city used the pandemic to rethink, well, everything. The one that grabbed the most headlines was Eleven Madison Park, which relaunched last fall with a nearly all-vegan menu, with chef Daniel Humm citing the ethical and sustainability issues of serving meat. Those who simply can’t live without a steak can request a custom menu served in the restaurant’s private dining room. Meanwhile, the Italian house of Venetian legend Harry Cipriani opened a new restaurant at the brand’s first-of-its-kind private club Casa Cipriani in Lower Manhattan. The catch? The dining room is open to members only — and Exclusive Resorts Members traveling on September’s New York Fashion Week VIP itinerary.
The city has welcomed a handful of comebacks too. Most anticipated among them was El Quijote, one of Manhattan’s oldest restaurants, which closed in 2018 when the adjoining Hotel Chelsea shuttered. Much to the delight of New Yorkers, both the restaurant and the hotel are once again open, with the former serving a new authentic Basque-style menu in a dimly lit dining room that evokes a sense of old-world Spain and old-school New York all at the same time. Nearby, Café China — a Michelin-starred mainstay that ended its 10-year run last year — has reopened in a new Midtown West location spanning three stories. While the new restaurant has been elegantly updated in décor, original menu favorites are still the stars of the show, from the tea-smoked duck to the cumin lamb.
Fine-dining superstar Manhatta was still relatively new when it was forced to shutter during the pandemic, but its March reopening showcased a bevy of new experiences, from a reimagined cocktail and wine program to a new executive chef. What hasn’t changed? The infinity views from the restaurant’s 60th-floor perch, which are still some of the best in town.
Photos courtesy of Jackie Caradonio.