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Top Eats Near Rockefeller Center

Joelle Mentis, Staff Writer
NYC- feature

The tree isn’t the only reason to head to Rockefeller Center this holiday season. Some of the buzziest openings from Le Rock to Avra are worthy of getting a bite — or at least a holiday drink — after you see the lights. Here are the five best restaurants near Rockefeller Center.


L’Avenue

Overview:

You may have have realized it, but one of the best restaurants in Rockefeller Center is in a department store. Located on the 9th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, L’Avenue draws shopping-fatigued friends for a cocktail hour, and those looking for a delicious bite while overlooking Rockefeller Center. Everyone comes here. L’Avenue even hosted Gigi Hadid’s birthday this year. Clearly, it’s the kind of place made to cultivate indulgence and glamour in excess. For fashion week this year, they hosted a bash complete with a pop-up celebrity tattoo artist who offered the Saks logo as one of his flash. Most days, you won’t have the opportunity to get permanently marked, which is fine, because you will still get the views, great cocktails, and world renowned pastries by Stephanie Oliveira. The best time to go is in the afternoon after a shop. But the nighttime vibe is great for a less congested, Polo Bar vibe.

The Food:

Egg white omelets with perfect frites. Classic Dover Sole. Smoked salmon hearts with blinis. This is the place to get your fix when you miss the Hotel Costes in Paris. Like the Hotel Costes, the L’Avenue menu includes French and Asian dishes. There’s a vegan curry that a supermodel or two has been known to make a special stop for in Paris. The menu is classic, and the dishes pay homage to the first L’Avenue. For example, the “Lily Wang,” is a dish of steamed dumplings named after the chef who first created it for the restaurant at Hotel Costes. Modeled after the french flagship, the menu was curated by Didier Coly. And today, Cedric Domenech executes the timeless recipes.

The Vibe:

Since COVID-19, department store restaurants have come full circle. L’Avenue lures shoppers back into the physical store, where the luxury shopping experience is back in full swing. The restaurant in Rockefeller Center is two floors of cozy, apres-ski style interiors designed by Philippe Starck. Not only is there an intimate dining room, L’Avenue also boasts a cocktail lounge and bar called Le Chalet. It’s the kind of vibe where models and influencers come for a drink and take a quick picture for Instagram. If Saks is your thing, so will L’Avenue — as your go-to for one of the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center.


Avra Rockefeller Center

The Overview:

You know Avra on Madison, in Miami, in Beverly Hills. You love Avra anytime, anywhere. The newest Avra location — if you haven’t already been — space-wise is one of its most architecturally dramatic yet. And it’s one of the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center. Located in the Time-Life building, Avra’s latest opening offers three floors and over 400 seats with the signature seafood-focused Greek fare. The ground floor to third level underwent a $650-million renovation, which brought features like a third-floor waterfall and ground-floor pool. So, yes, there’s a wow factor to this location.


The Food:

The founders of Avra Group grew up in Greece where dinner was swimming in the ocean until 5 p.m. They brought their love of fresh seafood and good cocktails to New York, where city goers fell in love with the taste of the sea. Display cases reveal rows of whole fish and other creatures that guests can pick for their meals. The skilled chefs have also mastered the art of the fried zucchini, the Saganaki, and a unique shrimp moussaka. The drinks and desserts are also top notch.

The Vibe:

There’s not a lot not to love, from the bright and sleek Greek architecture, to the well-executed food. People in suits on their way home from work gather amidst savvy tourists and those who brave midtown on the reg. The high ceilings and large rooms accommodate a lively atmosphere, which is yet another reason it’s one of the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center.


53

The Overview:

53 is beneath the new wing of Moma, and you can tell. An Art-deco installation in the lobby gives the vibe of extending the museum outward into the city. Of the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center, the design of 53 is the most unique. The Asian decor is minimal, but impressive. The restaurant has two levels and a private dining space, with the relaxed, ground-floor level giving a cozy and intimate vibe. Designed by Altamarea, the group behind Marea and Ai Fiori, they make a strong statement on design. Great for a relaxed drink, 53 is a new spot that might become your favorite for restaurants near Rockefeller Center.


The Food:

It’s contemporary Asian to the nines. They do a seared eel and foie gras club that guests come back and pay the price for. The head chef, Akmal Anuar is Singaporean and has won awards for his Dubai restaurants. The menu is divided into steamed, grilled, wok, and clay pot, which each feature different, mostly meat dishes. We like it right out of the gates and the food has continued to improve since the opening of the restaurant.

The Vibe:

This is equally the place you take your out-of-town friends when they visit and the place where you grab a happy hour drink on a first date. It is upscale but not pretentious, and the dishes are sure to impress for the occasion that calls for it. The lower-level bar is a nice place for a more intimate kind of meal, while the upper-level dining room offers a more lively energy.


Le Rock at Rock Center

The Overview:

This followup to Frenchette will make you think Rockefeller Center is the place to be. Seriously. The cozy Art-deco inspired bar is lively and often packed. But Le Rock’s real draw is the impressive menu. The intrigue is that it brings together tourists and the afterwork crowd, even drawing in a guest or two who might otherwise be on their way downtown. And for those who know Frenchette, imagine a version that hand selects the best parts. The menu is more approachable at Le Rock, with crowd-pleasers like a full raw bar and an incredible rum-soaked bundt cake for dessert. Food-wise, for us, this is one of the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center.

The Food:

French food lovers rejoice. The escargot, tripe, and chicken liver are renowned as some of the best in the city. They also have a bison in au poivre sauce that puts even the best steak to shame. If steak is the name of the game for you, their hache will have you drooling. Le Rock’s been characterized as nontraditional and the flavors are devised by Walker Stern, who hails from Battersby.

The Vibe:

It’s loud, it’s tasty, and it’s expensive. But it’s also well worth it. Le Rock already has a fan base of well-discerning french food lovers. Those who love Frenchette will love Le Rock. And if you’re popping by the tree during Christmas or are there for work, it would be a shame to miss.


Lodi

The Overview:

Lodi is embracing its location in Rockefeller Center by hosting a tree-lighting event. You can watch the tree’s twinkling lights from the comfort of the open bar. The offerings will include small bites and champagne, which honestly would be well worth it even if there were no festivities. Some say Lodi deserves a spot far away from hoards of tourists, but it caters to its crowd and then some. From the team behind Estela and Alto Paradiso, Lodi has a menu worth sitting in Rockefeller center for. But the ambiance also works for a quick bite, which is appropriate for the area. The inside is just as artsy as the other new restaurants on the block. And it’s all about Italian ingredients, techniques, and tastes. Also, it’s an all-day menu, which is perfect for a pre- or post ice skating snack.

The Food:

The food at Lodi has been described as way better than it has to be for a good location. We also think it deserves a little corner of a block in Tuscany. Regardless, it’s good. Its sit-down menu offers artfully crafted sandwiches and small plates, while its bakery pumps out the best pastries and breads in Midtown. Notables include the Crostini Di Fegato, a surprising chicken-liver- topped toast that has risen to Lodi’s most successful dish. And even though it’s winter, you must try the hand-spun Gelato.

The Vibe:

Le Pain Quotidien meets Harry’s Cipriani. It’s dine quick and dash. Or perch on a stool and enjoy the flow of tourists and business people who pass through the doors. Each experience is met with the option to brunch, lunch, or dinner from a selection of Italian bakery staples. The space is designed to display the ingredients and options like any good bakery does. The tables are outside in COVID-era huts, or on the street.

The Bar at Baccarat

The Overview:

Movies like Elf and Home Alone make New York look glamorous during Christmas. If you’re channeling a fancier energy, the Bar at Baccarat is it. This is Baccarat, after all. There are chandeliers and crystals hanging everywhere. And the crystal cups and chalices make sipping even water feel fancy. The interiors are red and everything feels fancy and french. Tucked just behind the MOMA, the Baccarat might be easy to miss. But inside, the ambiance is loud. Some have described The Bar as looking more like a place you might find in Versailles than in New York. Of course, you should dress for the occasion and plan on splurging.


The Food:

The food is good and reasonably priced compared to the drinks. But you’re really here for a cocktail and the experience. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a cold, snowy afternoon or to have a drink before a show.

The Vibe:

Luxe but warm. The Baccarat is known for the crystal brand and for being an impressive hotel. Both give The Bar a certain level up when it comes to the experience of glamour. It’s rare that a venue is able to preserve authenticity and remain popular and successful. The Bar does just that.

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