3 Amazing New York City Restaurants You Must Experience

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

One of the most important things about traveling is eating — and not just because your travel buddy gets grumpy when she's hungry. A city's food and the ambiance in the places it is served can end up being some of your favorite, most memorable experiences.  

These are three spots that I tried on my last visit to NYC that are definitely not to be missed.

Conveniently, they are also the perfect places for brunch, a late lunch, and a light dinner with cocktails — the perfect dining day! 

Cafe Lalo

Location: 201 West 83rd St., Upper West Side, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Thu 9 am – 1 am; Fri – Sat 9 am – 3 am; Sun 9 am – 1 am
Nearby attractions: Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Children's Museum of Manhatten

Made famous by its appearance in the movie You've Got Mail (1998) featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan — it's the cafe where they decide to meet and he realizes that it's her when he sees her through the window with the red rose... 

This spot in Manhattan's Upper West Side is located on a quiet street near Central Park and is frequented by locals in the evenings who are in search of a decadent dessert or a great coffee after a night of theater. 

It is the perfect Parisian cafe outside of Paris, with bistro tables, huge windows, and deliciously flaky pastries. The cafe is also open for brunch during the week and on weekends and has the widest selection of eggs that I have ever seen or tasted (seriously, I dream about the eggs). If you go for nothing else, go for the Fresh Herb eggs! 

Visit for the ambiance as much as for the amazing food — during the day it's bright and sunny, while in the evening it's romantically lit with tiny twinkly lights — there is usually live Jazz in the evenings as well if you are interested! 

Petrie Court Café

Location: Next to the European Sculpture Court inside The Met on Fifth — 1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhatten
Open daily: 11:30 am – 4 pm (Afternoon tea available from 2 pm – 4 pm)
Nearby attractions: Neue Galerie New York, Guggenheim Museum, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

I'm not one to dine at the restaurants in museums. The food is usually either cheap and terrible or WAY out of my price range. But the Petrie Court Cafe in The Met has completely charmed me. Located next to the stunning sculpture gallery (if you saw recent photos from the Met Gala, it's the area that is all white pillars and sculptures with red brick walls), and overlooking Central Park (a seriously amazing view), it is a simple, posh space that is the perfect place to indulge when your feet need a break from exploring the giant museum. 

The menu is small but well curated with a French flare, and the dishes are delicious. You can eat off the menu or choose a fixed price two-course or three-course meal (I went with three for $36 — SO WORTH IT). And I highly recommend indulging in a glass of wine (or two) or a cocktail (or two) as well. I picked Cleopatra’s Needle made with Gin, Elderflower, Lemon Juice, and Prosecco (anything with prosecco has my vote), and it was the perfect accompaniment to the marble floors, the gorgeous view, and the delicious flavors in front of me!  

The Carnegie Club

Location: 156 West 56th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Midtown, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Fri 2 pm – 2 am; Sat 4 pm – 2 am; Sun 4 pm – 1 am
Dress code: Business casual
Nearby Attractions: Carnegie Hall, MoMA, The Plaza  

This Don Draper-style club may be one of the last places that you can smoke indoors in North America (okay, that's not true at all, but it sounds more dramatic). I am not now, nor have I ever been a smoker, but I just couldn't help but visit this absolutely iconic cigar and cocktail bar while in New York City. Located right near (you guessed it) Carnegie Hall, this bar is where the great performers (think icons like Frank Sinatra) have grabbed a drink after their show. 

The place has the feel of an old gentleman's club with dark, hand-carved bookcases packed with leather bound books, a huge stone fireplace, an ornate bar, and plush furnishings that create private pockets of seating. 

You can, of course, purchase cigars to smoke (and there is a huge and expensive selection if that's what you are looking for), plus there are some fantastic craft cocktails that pack a wallop. It is by no means a full-service restaurant, but they do offer some small plates if you feel nibbly. 

The bar features a Frank Sinatra show with an 11 string orchestra on Saturday nights (reservations required), but the night I went there was an incredible Billie Holiday-like singer belting out some tunes as a perfect backdrop. 

I will admit that the smoke was a bit much at first, but after a few drinks and a few hours in my wingback chair, I hardly noticed it anymore! (Let's just say it took a few washes to get the smell out of my clothes, but it was SO worth it.)

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