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Roasted chicken at Villard Michel Richard
Photograph: Susie Cushner

The best restaurants near the Empire State Building

Explore midtown dining beyond desk lunches and touristy chains with the best restaurants near the Empire State Building

By Lauren Rothman and Heather Corcoran

It’s not always easy to locate a good meal in New York’s most touristed centers: Too often, the fare you’ll find is overpriced and bland. It takes some work to find the best Mexican restaurants in NYC, the best bagels in NYC and the best Italian restaurants in NYC—especially in hectic hubs like Midtown. Luckily, we’ve done the scouting for you, locating these more-than-respectable bars, cafes and restaurants near the Empire State Building, Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Restaurants near Empire State Building

1. Salvation Taco

Restaurants Mexican Murray Hill

April Bloomfield’s colorful, thrift-store-decorated taqueria inside the Pod 39 features two long votive-lit bars, plush couches for lounging and Ping-Pong tables in glass-enclosed nooks. First and foremost a place to imbibe, its Mexican-ish finger food more than delivers: think made-to-order tortillas packed with elevated fillings such as coconut-braised short rib and Berkshire pork carnitas. On nice days, be sure to check out the open-til-midnight rooftop space.

2. The Peninsula New York

Hotels Chain hotels Midtown East

Dining options are aplenty at the Peninsula: Enjoy classic afternoon tea service at Gotham Lounge; enjoy cocktail hour at the Bar at Clement, which offers an impressive selection of wine and champagne; stay at Clement for dinner, and consider the impeccable tasting menu with a wine pairing, which the in-house sommelier helps to curate; and take a separate elevator to the rooftop bar, Salon de Ning, for a nightcap, which features Asian influences in its bar fare and cocktails, indoor and outdoor areas, of course, unparalleled city views.


3. Urbanspace Vanderbilt

Restaurants Midtown East

The food-hall boom keeps on keepin’ on, with trumped-up grub depots hawking plates from both street-circuit icons and chef-helmed havens (City Kitchen, Gansevoort Market). Joining the ranks is this whopping 12,000-square-foot perma-venture from UrbanSpace, the team behind seasonal streetside pop-ups like Mad. Sq. Eats and Broadway Bites. The 200-seat court plays host to market favorites—La Palapa tacos and Roberta’s wood-fired pizzas, including a Vanderbilt-exclusive pepperoncini pie—as well as newcomers like Ovenly, Toby’s Estate Coffee and vegetarian pop-up Two Tbsp.

4. The Grill

Restaurants American Midtown East

This dazzling remake of the Four Seasons Hotel’s celebrated Grill Room—from Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick’s Major Food Group—expertly reconstructs continental classics inside a luxuriously appointed dining room. Filet Peconic, lobster Newburg and three iterations of Dover sole are vintage palate-pleasers modernized by chef Carbone, and a craveable prime rib delights: The spit-roasted beef is sliced to order, revealing rosy, dripping flesh beneath a dark, charred crust, which is then showered in grated horseradish. 


5. Taproom No. 307

Bars Beer bars Kips Bay

This Murray Hill watering hole isn’t just another sports bar: unlike most neighborhood joints, Taproom No. 307 offers more than the usual suspects on draught. Suds lovers can choose from a glimmering lineup of 40 craft-beer taps and a few casks behind the long oak bar, plus a selection of another 40 to 60 bottled beers that changes seasonally. All that drinking is bound to work up an appetite, so order up some of Taproom No. 307’s grub: think gussied-up noshes like classic poutine, bay shrimp hush puppies, and a kale-basil pesto flatbread.

6. Sushi Yasuda

Restaurants Japanese Midtown East

Seeing the sushi master practice in this bamboo-embellished space is the culinary equivalent of observing Buddhist monks at prayer. Counter seating, where you can witness—and chat up—the chefs, is the only way to go. Prime your palate with a miso soup and segue into the raw stuff: petals of buttery fluke; rich eel; dessert-sweet egg custard; nearly translucent discs of sliced scallop over neat cubes of milky sushi rice. Still craving a California roll? Move along.


7. Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

Restaurants Seafood Midtown East

This iconic Beaux Arts landmark isn’t just great for gawking and transportation: it also offers some pretty great eats. For to-go orders or sit-down meals, head to the lower level Dining Concourse, where 35 restaurants offer plates for a range of tastes, from oysters and catches of the day at Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant to sliders and fries at Shake Shack. On the upper level, indulge in on-trend Nordic eats at Danish superchef Claus Meyer’s Great Northern Food Hall. 

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jennifer "Captivatingdelight" P.

8. Villard Restaurant at Lotte New York Palace Hotel

Restaurants American Midtown East

Part of the original 1884 Villard mansion, the food here is almost as delightful as the restaurant’s surroundings. With true works of art adorning the wall and the ceiling, one would feel as if they are dining in the Louvre. If you are able to dine in this fabulous venue for breakfast, order the classic American breakfast of eggs benedict. If it’s a pre-dinner drink that you desire, check out the exclusive 25-seat salon, Rarities, off the lobby strictly reserved for hotel guests. Beholden to the name, Rarities only serves the rarest of priceless fine wine and spirits.


9. Ai Fiori

Restaurants Italian Midtown West

New York restaurant-scene darling Michael White expands his budding empire with this Italian-Mediterranean restaurant, inside the swank Setai Fifth Avenue hotel. For his fifth venture, White has assembled an all-star team that includes barkeep Eben Freeman (Tailor) on beverage duty, Chris Jaeckle (late of Morimoto) in the kitchen and Robert Truitt (Corton) manning the pastry station. A dark-wood dining room overlooking Fifth Avenue is the setting for savory fare like gnocchi with sage butter, mild boschetto cheese and a red-wine jus; and potato, leek and chard agnolotti bathed in ragù and watercress pesto.

10. Fine & Rare

Bars Cocktail bars Midtown East

Every bit of flare and fancy at Fine & Rare harkens back to Old New York, from the midcentury-style Chesterfield sofas to the Art Deco wallpaper to the vintage teller windows sourced from the nearby Grand Central Terminal. Set on a quiet street near the Morgan Library & Museum, this sophisticated spirits den from Tommy Tardie, proprietor of the whiskey-forward Flatiron Room, oozes retro glam beyond the tufted leather banquettes and oversize fireplace—we’re talking live jazz acts crooning onstage and a $15,000 bottle of whiskey on the menu. It could all seem gauche in 2017, but if you’ve been wanting to feel like a magnate of yore, this is your spot. 

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