It seems as though Rockefeller Center, the 22-acre hamlet enveloped by Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 48th and 51st Streets that first opened in 1933, immortalized on the large and small screens as well as in the snapshots of visitors from all over the world, has been trending as a restaurant destination for 90 years.
But if we pin that eyebrow-raising tendency more recently to 2019’s news that downtown darling Frenchette was eyeing a climb to the business/tourist (and tourist business) district, it’s more like 35 months. That so many of those months spanned the pre-vaccine pandemic makes it seem a lot longer. And a steady stream of stories about the area’s ever-impending rejuvenation are the artificial preservative keeping the notion palatable, even as its freshness fades.
Frenchette’s follow-up, Le Rock, did finally open earlier this year, earning four stars on these pages. Famously fractionally celebrity-backed Pebble Bar preceded it by a season. And other solid Rock spots like Lodi, FieldTrip, Other Half and Naro have rolled in throughout this, the complex’s era of perpetual promise, as well.
What’s next for Rockefeller Center, abstractly, is . . . actually fairly predictable.
Rather than a Dimes Square-style media moment, provided that the best of its recent openings remain and new ones rumble in, its long-projected hospitality status will eventually be etched as deep zero-ABV cocktails, which also endured cycle after cycle of coverage—always poised to boom, before eventually becoming comfortably perfunctory, at least among NYC’s new, buzzy, or at least industry-conscious destinations. It’s a great fate, in fact, and one with a lot more potential for endurance than some sudden shift.
And concrete openings continue apace. The team from another cool downtown favorite, King, will join the ice rink area with Jupiter Italian restaurant in the coming weeks. Nearby, Five Acres will follow terrific Brooklyn spots Olmsted and Maison Yaki with seasonal, vegetable-centric menus. The latest Breads Bakery outpost will offer items exclusive to this location. And Pebble Bar is keeping relevant with new fall menu items and a renovated third-floor bar.
We will keep an eye on RC until this thing seems seen through, which could be at the end of the year or forevermore. Or until The Rainbow Room is open for regular business again. That would really be the finishing cherry on top of the Rock.