The best Chelsea restaurants have something for every craving, from some of the city’s best Italian restaurants to beautiful outdoor dining spots, world-class hotel restaurants to downhome meat-houses offering the best BBQ in NYC. Whether you’re after tapas or tacos, these are the best Chelsea restaurants in NYC.
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Best Chelsea restaurants in NYC
With four-star ambitions and prices to match, Mario Batali’s cavernous restaurant has become nothing less than the city’s top destination for refined, upscale Italian cuisine. The clubby dining room, serenaded nightly by a twinkling pianist on a grand piano feels like the lobby of a very opulent grand hotel. The most showstopping dishes, intended for sharing, include hunks of lamb and veal and pitch-perfect risotto for two. The all-Italian wine list is suitably encyclopedic and exorbitantly priced.
In the golden age of robber baron New York—we’re talking turn of the last century—there were hotel restaurants like the NoMad all across the city, their grand dining rooms buzzing with beau monde patrons morning till night. The recent return of the all-day hotel clubhouse began with hip reinventions of the form at the Standard, Ace and Gramercy Park Hotels. But the NoMad, with its rich mahogany bar and dining rooms shrouded in red velvet curtains, is our first truly opulent throwback.
The third project from restaurant savant Ken Friedman and Anglo chef April Bloomfield offers the most opulently fatty food in New York—served in medieval portions in a raucous rock & roll setting. Within the casual-restaurant landscape that the pair, also behind the Spotted Pig, has come to epitomize—a world without tablecloths, reservations or haute cuisine pretense—the gastropub delivers a near-perfect dining experience.
The early food-blog hype machine dubbed Nishi—David Chang’s first full-service entry to New York’s Momofuku empire in a half decade—as an Italian-Korean hybrid, but that snug fusion framework fails to corral the myriad of influences at play here. Such stimuli are so broad, in fact, they warrant actual footnotes on the menu, which cites everything from the crab spaghetti at Del Posto to the clamlike pippies at Sydney’s Golden Century, from Southern-twanged chain restaurant Cracker Barrel to, yes, even a bundt cake from chef Joshua Pinsky’s own mother, Kathy. Taken together, those sundry influences don’t register as Italian or Korean or American. There’s really only one word for it all: Chang-ian.
New York’s first true Madrileño tapas bar offers its Spanish nibbles in cramped quarters, with only a few barstools and ledges for plates; the idea is to graze, drink and chat before heading elsewhere for dinner. An adventurous party of two, up for such challenging dishes as a miniature wasabi-kissed sea urchin “panino,” could quite easily eat every single thing off of the short menu without feeling too gluttonous. Don’t miss the silky salt-cod nuggets in thick beignet batter, the beautifully plump garlic shrimp and the fine selection of Spanish wines by the glass.
The guys behind Hill Country, a paean to the beefcentric barbecue outside Austin, are about as Texan as Bloomberg in a Stetson. The pit master is Queens-native Robbie Richter, a backyard griller turned barbecue competition junkie. Owner Marc Glosserman's Texas roots are borrowed from his grandfather, the former mayor of Lockhart, home of a century-old barbecue stalwart called Kreuz Market. Richter’s cooking saves you the flight to Texas, however: It’s an authentic, world-class take on the restaurant’s namesake region.
April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s original Meatpacking District John Dory was an ambitious, pricey endeavor, but its reincarnation in the Ace Hotel is an understated knockout. Tall stools face a raw bar stocked with a rotating mix of East and West Coast oysters, all expertly handled and impeccably sourced. True to form, the rest of Bloomfield’s tapas-style seafood dishes are intensely flavored. Chilled lobster tastes larger than life, its sweet flesh slicked in an herbaceous tomalley vinaigrette. Meanwhile, warm dishes take their cues mostly from the garlic-and-olive-oil belt—meaty octopus doused in aioli, plus miniature mussels stuffed with boisterous mortadella meatballs.
Alexandra Raij, the young chef who brought Spain to West Chelsea a few years back when she opened Tia Pol, and more recently, its sardine-can sibling, El Quinto Pino, tightened her focus with this endeavor. Txikito (pronounced “chi-KEE-toe”), whose name is a Basque term of endearment meaning “little one,” single-mindedly celebrates the small-plate cuisine of the country’s most culturally distinctive—and gastronomically blessed—region.
Chef-owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette have repackaged their beloved Massachusetts alcove as a Meatpacking District colossus, with soaring raftered ceilings and giant windows overlooking the whir of Eleventh Avenue. A mounted bull’s head and dangling jamones are token hat tips to old-world ruggedness. The mercurial menu sprawls as much as the space, offering 60 traditional and border-crossing tapas (plancha-seared octopus is miraculously tender, $16).
Looking to eat close to the High Line?
As the name suggests, American spirits are the emphasis at this dark, sultry bar. Along with a selection of bourbons and ryes, there are gins, vodkas and rums, all distilled in the States. Using the homeland hooch, mixologists Jim Kearns and Lynnette Marrero shake and stir top-notch mixed drinks like the refreshing house punch made with arrack (a rumlike spirit) and chai-infused rye. The Creole Daiquiri combines New Orleans rum with chorizo-flavored mescal (it’s a bit like sipping a taco, which is a good thing). While the focus is clearly on drinking, there’s excellent upscale pub grub: We liked the fiery fried buffalo sweetbreads.