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Top Holiday Dinner Spots

Abbey Alexander, Writer
holiday dinner spots; the Grill

You’re making up for lost time this holiday season. It’s nice to reach deep into your bench of friends and get people together again. And NYC dining has never been better. Guys like Boulud and Jean-Georges seem to be taking over the scene, along with a slew of other notables to celebrate. So, these are your spots to make that ressie.

Sistina

Overview:

This is true Italian excellence, located in a gorgeous townhouse on the Upper East Side. The space is as romantic as it is adaptable, because you shouldn’t have to sacrifice any ambiance just to accommodate a large group dinner. You also won’t have to sell your soul for a reservation. The menu is expansive and full of classics, so there’s something for every guest at your holiday dinner. From the pickiest eater to the most adventurous. 

Food

Chef Giuseppe Bruno — Sistina’s owner, executive chef, and sommelier — has done something fabulous with this menu. The culinary mastermind focuses on the freshest ingredients. And we’re talking personally-curated, daily-trips-to-the-market kind of fresh. Clearly his methods have paid off, as the chef has been delivering classic Italian comfort food to Upper Eastsiders for 33 years. From homemade pasta to truffle-roasted bone marrow, it’s a menu that confronts all the senses in the best way. 

Vibe

You might not be spending your holiday on the Italian coast, but you can always eat like you are. And Sistina will certainly take you there. With an intimate, warm vibe, Sistina aims to transport you to the owner’s upbringing on the Amalfi Coast. In a 19th-century townhouse on East 81st, the space has beachy aquamarine tones, bright skylights balanced by cozy fireplaces, and a seriously impressive art collection. We can’t think of a better setting to enjoy caviar-spotted spaghetti and a rare bottle of Brunello. 

The Grill

Overview

Next up: one for the big ballers, or for dinner on someone else’s dime. Looking for a grand atmosphere, one that makes you feel a little too much like Don Draper? How about fabulous pressed chicken, crudités, and just really good bread baskets. Basically, for any and all of those things, you go to The Grill. This is an establishment created by people who clearly love food. And it shows. 

Food

There’s something extra festive about a menu that just oozes class. And The Grill’s cuisine is as classy as it gets. Here, they’re sporting the finest raw bar selection, extensive table-side preparation, and vibrant, inventive plating. It’s the kind of meal that just gets you excited about food, whether it’s a simple plate of seasonal crudités or a saucy lobster tail. 

Vibe

The Grill is bringing back the charm of old-school New York steakhouses. Located in the historical Seagram Building, The Grill is inspired by that lost era of “intricacy and elegance,” and we are fully here for it. Because who doesn’t want to pretend like they’re a Mad Men character for the night? Think champagne towers, ornate gold interiors, and a dress code that’s an ode to the past. This is the holiday dinner spot ​if you want an extra​-​swanky night out, with food that’s just as impressively curated as the vibe. 

Zou Zou’s

Overview

For a fun-filled, family-style meal, head to Zou Zou’s. The Mediterranean hotspot is serving up affordable yet exceptional dishes that are just begging to be shared over a celebration. It’s a great atmosphere for larger groups, and two private dining rooms are available for a more intimate holiday gathering. Dinner here feels like more of a party than anything, and signature, over-the-top food presentations only add to the never-ending festivity. 

Food 

Food is supposed to be fun, and chefs Madeline Sperling and Juliana Latif understand that. The two have created a menu filled with inventive, eastern-Mediterranean-inspired dishes, each more exciting than the last. Moroccan fried chicken sits on a bed of lemony labneh, and platters of kasseri cheese get set ablaze table-side. Sold yet? The menu also has a wide range of less adventurous dishes, like grilled artichokes and crispy thyme-dusted latkes. Fair warning: You might want to order one of everything. 

Vibe

The energy at Zou Zou’s is anything but boring. It’s glitzy but not stuffy, lively but not overwhelming. You can show up dressed to the nines, or come for a casual hangout. We’re slightly obsessed with the space, and you’ll see why. Every detail is perfectly curated to support the energetic, cool-kid vibe that Zou Zou’s so effortlessly pulls off. It’s an impressive balance of bright and cozy, with vintage details like the light fixtures and warm auburn booths. 

Wallsé

Overview

Sometimes an oldie is one of the best goodies. Wallsé is no newbie to the West Village, but continues to impress after 22 years. Especially when it’s held a Michelin star for 17 of those years. And it’s easy to see why — they’ve pretty much nailed the culinary experience. The space actually allows you to hear your dining companions, and the elegant interior doesn’t come with any stuffiness. And if the laid-back, refined environment wasn’t enough to keep you coming back, the food is. Austrian food isn’t much heralded, and chef Kurt Gutenbrunner is here to change that. 

Food

Wallsé serves up authentic Viennese classics, each with chef Gutenbrunner’s inventive twists. The menu of course includes all the Austrian staples, like Wiener schnitzel and what we consider to be the best spätzle in town. But you also can’t miss the more original dishes, like smoked trout ​crêpes​ with hazelnuts, white endive, and sour cream. And you’ll want to turn the side dishes into their own meals — the potatoes and creamed spinach are really that good. 

Vibe

The ambience here is mature and artsy — literally. A Julian Schnabel portrait of Gutenbrunner looms over the dining room, as if the culinary genius is admiring his own work. The two rooms of the restaurant are equally charming and romantic, with their subtle minimalism that allows you to truly focus on your food and company. Because that’s really what a great holiday dinner spot looks like — one that invites conversation, great food, and even better wine. 

Verōnika

Overview

Verōnika’s tagline? “Come for the laid-back sophistication, stay for the frame-worthy scene.” And we couldn’t have said it better. The recently-reopened restaurant serves continental European fare in a dramatic, glamorous space. Housed in the same 19th-century building as the photography museum Fotografiska, Verōnika is part Eastern European restaurant, part cozy bar. Everything about this spot screams luxury, and your holiday dinner experience here will, too. 

Food

Like all our favorite places, Verōnika is taking classics and making them even better. Seaweed and mirin vinaigrette accompany your oysters, and vegans can dig into a mouthwatering cauliflower spin on schnitzel. There are dishes built to share, and ones you won’t want to. You really can’t go wrong with this menu, as it takes inspiration from a range of European cuisines and flavors. And as a bonus, the kitchen is committed to highlighting seasonal produce, sustainable seafood, and humanely-raised meats. 

Vibe

Brass chandeliers, dramatic dishes, and grand views of the city. In our opinion, this is fine dining at its most enjoyable. The restaurant’s name is an ode to Veronica, the patron saint of photography. And it’s highly appropriate, as the space feels like a gorgeous photograph. Lively music and a buzzing ambiance makes it a terrific spot for a festive meal, holiday season or not. 

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