The area around tony Gramercy Park is, unsurprisingly, home to some of the city’s most upscale fine dining restaurants (Eleven Madison Park) and hard-to-get reservations (we’re looking at you, Cosme). But if you’re craving something a little more casual, the best Flatiron restaurants also include New York pizza parlors, bustling food courts and a park-set shack doling out one of the best burgers in NYC.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Gramercy and Flatiron
Best Flatiron restaurants in NYC
Swiss chef Daniel Humm mans the kitchen at this vast Art Deco jewel, which began life as a brasserie before evolving into one of the city’s most rarefied and progressive eateries. The service is famously mannered, and the room among the city’s most grand. But the heady, epic tasting menus are the true heart of Eleven Madison Park, a format that spotlights Humm’s auteur instincts. Tableside flourishes are part of the fun: Look out for even more dazzling showmanship—including one dish presented by way of a sleight-of-hand trick.
Gramercy is the restaurant that transformed Danny Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur to a full-blown impresario, made Tom Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual yet upscale American eateries. It’s delicate constructions of vegetables and fish that dominate now. The influence of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant given to ingredients-worship, is evident as soon as the first course (of the main dining room’s mandated three-course prix fixe) is rolled out.
New York is a rough town for newbies—whether it’s bright-eyed hopefuls yearning for a Swiftian utopia that doesn’t exist or an out-of-town chef who’s proved his culinary clout in the global arena, only to be chewed up and spit out by Gotham’s surly dining public. This city has devoured the best of them: Spain’s Dani García, Toronto’s Susur Lee and, most glaringly, France’s Alain Ducasse. Enter Enrique Olvera, the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpetbagging comrades. The response was the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened.
The haute green cooking at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s artfully decorated restaurant is based on gorgeous ingredients from up and down the East Coast. The local, seasonal bounty finds its way into dishes like a clam pizza, topped with pristine littlenecks, Thai chilies, sweet onions, garlic, lemon and herbs. Larger plates include a roasted chicken bathed in a vinegary glaze with wilted escarole and butter-sopped potato puree. Desserts, meanwhile, include a dazzling brown-butter tart with toasted hazelnuts and chocolate ganache. ABC delivers one message overall: Food that’s good for the planet needn’t be any less opulent, flavorful or stunning to look at.
Part of the charm of the original Tocqueville, which opened in 2000, was its understatement. The 40-seat room didn’t attempt to be much more than a nice neighborhood spot, and this made the smart, fresh French-American fare all the more enjoyable. After a six-month renovation, Tocqueville recently reopened a few doors west of where it used to be, and in the process it’s turned the original proposition upside down: It is now a large, gorgeous room comprising three sections: a modern 20-seat bar area; a balcony for private dining; and a grand, 17-foot-high dining room with a metallic bent, featuring silver mohair upholstery, a nickel chandelier and gold floor-to-ceiling silk curtains—through which servers come and go as if in some nifty magic act.
Jason Atherton stays solid by focusing on no-fuss tavern fare done well at the Clocktower, his handsome, mahogany-trimmed partnership with Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr inside the New York Edition Hotel. There’s no toad-in-the-hole Anglicism on the menu (only imported Dover sole and upmarket fish-and-chips tip to the chef’s English heritage), but there’s a beautifully seasoned, ruby-centered skirt steak with triple-cooked chips and a gravy boat of thick béarnaise ($33), and a duteously funky dry-aged burger, laden with salty bacon, melted cheddar and Churchill sauce ($24). And the best thing on the menu isn’t even listed, a complimentary round of oven-warm, quartered sourdough with a whip of buttermilk butter.
The heart and soul of this luxe Chelsea eatery is its glassed-in spice room, where chef Vikas Khanna hand-grinds and mixes house blends each morning. He deploys seven whole spices—including star anise, cloves and cardamom pods—in a pungent, burgundy-hued curry that coats a lamb shank, slow-braised until the meat nearly slides from the bone. Other evidence of the room’s sorcery fills the regionhopping menu, organized by traditional methods of Indian cooking—not just tandoor and handi (pot cooking), but also tawa (cast-iron), sigri (fire pit) and patthar (stone). Along the way, the thoughtful spicing also appears in plump Goan shrimp with blazing piri-piri sauce, a ginger-marinated chicken kebab cooled by pureed avocado and even cocktails served in the sultry front lounge.
Executive chef Paras Shah’s résumé includes a scholarship-won stage at El Bulli, along with sessions at Per Se and Momofuku Noodle Bar. It’s actually the latter restaurant that seems to have most informed Shah’s solo kitchen debut, a pan-Mediterranean dining room with a David Chang–esque larder stocked with flavors from more far-flung coasts: Razor clams come tinged with North African ras el hanout ($14), and slips of raw mackerel are hit with the charred funk of Korean black garlic ($14).
This massive food and drink complex, from Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich, sprawls across 42,500 square feet in the Flatiron District. A spin-off of an operation by the same name just outside of Turin, Italy, the store’s retail maze and six full-service restaurants include a rotisserie with the city’s best flame-roasted chickens, an awe-inspiring display of hard-to-find produce (plus an in-house “vegetable butcher”) and the meatcentric white-tablecloth joint Il Manzo, which serves a gorgeous tartare of Montana-raised Piedmontese-breed beef.
Danny Meyer’s wildly popular Madison Square Park concession stand is mobbed with hour-long lines during the summer; in chilly weather, heat lamps provide all the warmth you need. Sirloin and brisket are ground daily for excellent patties, and franks are served Chicago-style on poppy seed buns with a “salad” of toppings and a dash of celery salt. Frozen-custard shakes hit the spot, and there’s beer and wine to boot. It’s worth waiting in line for, if you ask us, but if you’re in a rush, the Upper West Side’s wait rarely exceeds 20 minutes. While the first Shack caters mostly to a working clientele, No. 2 is designed with families in mind: There’s a playroom and stroller parking.
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Kat & Theo
This Flatiron gem offers seasonal, New American fare from executive chef David Fisher, who's put in time in such Michelin-starred restaurants as Jean-Georges, Aquavit and Aldea. From an open kitchen overlooking the 70-seat dining room—a moody, brick-walled stretch divided into a front bar area fitted with leather booths and metal trellis archways, and a back dining room warmed with a stone fireplace—Fisher deploys starters like tomato-braised octopus with cannellini beans ($18), and delicata squash agnolotti with lemony shrimp and firey chiles ($14). Robust mains include a juicy hanger steak accompanied by earthy rutabagas ($28), and a slow cooked leg of duck glazed accented with sweet plums ($29).