We know you love to hit the hottest new restaurants. That’s actually one of the criteria for living in NYC or visiting as frequently as possible. But it’s tough to beat the old standbys because there are some restaurants that just define New York City. You know, the old-school places without which, NYC just wouldn’t be the same. This is your list to remind you of the oldies but goodies, with a few relatively new classic NYC restaurants too.
The Restaurant: The Grill
Around Since: 2017
You don’t have to be an oldie to be a goodie. And the second that The Grill took over Four Seasons’ spot in the iconic Seagram Building, it became a classic NYC restaurant. You probably already know that this is the place to see and be seen. It has successfully maintained the old-world opulence of its predecessor. The food is rich (in taste and in price), the ambiance is as decadent as it gets, and the scene is certainly attractive. Come for the people-watching, the martinis, and the theatrical table-side presentations.
The Restaurant: Polo Bar
Around Since: 2015
This classic NYC spot has everything: elevated comfort food, country club decor, intimate ambiance, and celebrity sightings up the wazoo. Basically, once you finally snag a Polo Bar reservation, you’ll understand why it took so long. This is the type of place that you not only get dressed up for– you come on theme. It’s the ultra-Americana aesthetic that New York’s A-listers love so much, with equestrian paintings and signature Ralph Lauren plaid at every turn. Plus, the food is surprisingly impressive for such a buzzy, celebrity-owned restaurant. Highlights include their signature burgers, pigs in a blanket, corned beef sandwiches, and Dover sole.
The Restaurant: Gallagher’s
Around Since: 1927
In a city where restaurant turnover is almost constant, Gallagher’s is somewhat of a unicorn. First opened in 1927, the NYC staple has survived Prohibition, changes in ownership, multiple recessions, and even a pandemic. Before it was a steakhouse, Gallagher’s was one of the city’s first speakeasies. Nearly a century later, you still get a sense of that history when you walk through the doors. The experience starts with a view of Gallagher’s meat locker, filled with perfectly aged cuts of beef which you’d be wise to order for dinner. As for the menu, everything’s a classic, which means you really can’t go wrong. We say order all of your personal steakhouse favorites, from apps to desserts. Just don’t skip the raw bar.
The Restaurant: Raoul’s
Around Since: 1975
Raoul’s isn’t just your standard bistro. It’s the NYC bistro, and it’s been that way for almost fifty years. Like so many classic NYC restaurants, it’s been featured in several films and TV shows and is a celebrity hot spot off-screen as well. Just eating here makes you feel like an A-lister, though at first glance the space is nothing fancy. But it’s the rich, French food, the hallowed history, and the undeniably special atmosphere that’s kept Raoul’s along for so long. If you want to get your hands on the infamous burger, come for brunch or pony up to the bar during dinner, where they only serve 11 each night.
The Restaurant: Pastis
Around Since: 1999
We love a comeback story. And after a five-year hiatus following the restaurant’s closure in 2014, we were thrilled to see Pastis back in action come Spring 2019. You might know it as one of Carrie Bradshaw’s favorites (she once called it “the only restaurant that seemed to exist”) or as another creation by Balthazar’s Keith McNally. Wherever you first heard of Pastis, it was probably coupled with a rave review. It’s some of the best food you’ll find in the area, which is appropriate considering its history as a Meatpacking District pioneer. Today, as it was back then, people come to Pastis for the feeling it gives you. 1999 might not be “old New York”, but it sure looked different, and Pastis 2.0 manages to transport you back to a time when it was the only buzzy restaurant in the neighborhood.
The Restaurant: Peter Luger’s
Around Since: 1887
There are classic NYC restaurants, and then there’s Peter Luger’s. The Brooklyn institution famously opened in 1887, a physical representation of New York’s original steakhouse. And it still feels like that to this day, with its dark wood dining room, sparkling chandeliers, and next-level dry-aged steaks. Keeping with its 136-year-old traditions, the beef is still examined and selected by members of the family before it goes through the on-site aging process. Both Peter Luger’s menu and service remain deliciously old school, continuing to set the standard for all the NYC steakhouses it’s inspired.