New openings and creative uses of old spaces have breathed fresh air into Manhattan’s center. As hip chefs, outer-borough shopping brands and artists shake up the status quo, now's the time to (re)visit Midtown’s restaurants, plazas and businesses.Less
Amidst the hotel giants of midtown Manhattan, the Whitby stands out for its detail-oriented, artful, and more whimsical style—a well-executed melange of colors and patterns envisioned by British designer/owner, Kit Kemp. Book a suite, each of which has an individualized look and many with private terraces and gardens, with British amenities. In the spirit of its UK roots, the hotel offers high tea, with scones and clotted cream served on a Kemp’s own pattern of Wedgewood china.
This hotel and the extraordinary crystal chandelier that fills its foyer have been Fifth Avenue icons for more than 30 years. Blocks from Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Bergdorf’s, it’s in the center of everything. While its rooms are spacious and decadent, and its spa and 23rd floor rooftop bar are highlights, lean into its service, including new 24-hour concierge assistance and enjoy the chauffeured Mini Coopers on call to take suite-dwelling guests anywhere needed around town.
The most esteemed seafood restaurant in New York City is only a block away from Broadway. While French chef Eric Ripert has run the show here for nearly 30 years, he is constantly reinventing. Sit in the main dining room for the full-on tasting menu, a parade of ingredients from the sea (osetra caviar with geoduck chawanmushi, langoustines with sea urchin sauce americaine) or find a seat in the more laidback lounge for pre-show Champagne and scallop ceviche.
The former Grill Room of the Four Seasons Hotel, which opened in 1959, the Midcentury restaurant The Grill is the ambitious chophouse redux by Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of Major Food Group. The views of the Manhattan skyline are the same, but the menu is more inventive, playful, and powerful than ever. Truffles, caviar, crab Louis and tableside flambé, honey-mustard ducklings, 40-ounce porterhouses, and spit-roasted prime rib served via trolley service in tuxedos are all typical sightings.
This street taco spot near Times Square is a highly respectable choice for pre-theater dinner. A trio from Tijuana and Southern California started it using family recipes and 10 years later are still considered New York’s number one tacos. Al pastor adobada meat and grilled carne asada are options you might find steaming hot and strewn across authentic corn or housemade flour tortillas, with mouth-stinging salsas. Watching the white hat wearing cooks at work is theater in and of itself.
Hailing from Hong Kong, this self-described northern Chinese restaurant also has influences from Sichuan, Beijing, and Shanghai. The space is a belovedly ostentatious, Art Deco behemoth, clad in shiny wall panels, mirrored surfaces, and chandeliers, but the dim sum is subtle, delicate, and precise in the best ways. Roast Peking duck is carved tableside and whole dried, fiery red peppers gracing wok sauteed dishes are a must-try—not for the weak—a perfect match for a bottle of vintage champagne.
The latest restaurant by one of Manhattan’s coolest chef-owners, Ignacio Mattos, is actually an all-day affair, complete with a pristine Italian-themed pastry counter, highly refined in-house bread program, and extensive antipasti menu, right in Rockefeller Plaza. While the ambiance inside has casual cafe-style service and seating, a white-tablecloth “terrazza” is a place built for ordering, and lingering over, multiple courses.
For sixty years, this storied restaurant has cast its warm yellow glow onto East 52nd Street. With a French heart and a New York soul, La Grenouille is as beloved for its people-watching and preponderance of flower arrangements as for its well-executed classic French dishes like quenelles de brochet, and roast chicken with champagne sauce. Expect fashionable regulars in rounded red booths, jacketed old-school service and impeccable chocolate soufflé.
A seat on the terrace will put you ringside for the whirling dervish that is Aldo Sohm. The wine director of Le Bernardin opened this playful wine bar across from the restaurant with owner Eric Ripert 7 years ago. You can still find that rare Burgundy, but also dig into less pricey bottles, such as those from Sohm’s native Austria, and up and comers from Spain. A great pre-theater stop, the wine bar is also open for lunch with salads, charcuterie tower and jambon beurre sandwich par excellence.
Sitting at the very same counter where the Bloody Mary was first served, under Maxwell Parish’s cheeky King Cole mural, is classic New York. This sprawling cocktail lounge, opened in 1948 but recently renovated, has a dress code after 4 p.m. that adds to the festive atmosphere. The hotel itself, more than a century old, was built in 1904 by John Jacob Astor, and all of the Astor traditions and protocols are still maintained by the hotel.