Save for the theatre district, this slice of the island has historically been associated with office buildings, salad bars, and little else: When you ask most New Yorkers where to get a great lunch or after work drink, you’re met with blank stares. We’ve rounded up the best of the best, including a lot of great new arrivals, as the neighborhood has been enjoying a Renaissance of sorts. Here, our favorites for everything from a quick lunch to the perfect hostess gift.
11 W. 53rd St., Midtown | 212.708.9400
Despite its popularity, which translates into lines around the block on any given day, MoMA is still one of our favorite places in the city. Whenever we come to visit, whether to walk the permanent collection or to check out a new, contemporary exhibition, we always spend some time in the white marble-clad sculpture garden, a rare respite in the middle of bustling midtown. The MoMA has plans to expand into what was previously the Folk Art Museum next door: Headed up by architectural practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro, it will certainly be as artfully conceived as the famous 2002-2004 revamp.
New York Public Library
5th Ave. at 42nd St., Midtown | 917.275.6975
The iconic seat of the NYPL takes pride of place on Bryant Park in Midtown. While it is still an important research institution, it’s also a landmark we like to visit for many reasons beyond the book-lined shelves, from the Children’s Library housing the original Winnie the Pooh Dolls, to the Rose Reading room, where anyone can grab a seat and work in peace and quiet, to the excellent bookshop, full of NYC-themed storybooks and classic reads. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the exhibitions themed around the library’s holdings and the stunning Beaux Arts 1911 building itself.
32 E. 57th St. 9th Floor, Midtown East | 212.759.7999
Since the ’80s Pace/MacGill has been showing some of the best artists in modern and contemporary photography. As part of The Pace Gallery family, the standards for work and placement here are as high as they come.
Bloomingdales, 1000 3rd Ave., Upper East Side | 212.705.3085
Hidden on the seventh floor of Bloomingdales, back in the bedding department, Forty Carrots is still serving the best frozen yogurt in the city. An early pioneer of the fro-yo movement (it opened back in the ‘80s), they have all the classic toppings, from gummy bears to Butterfingers, and you can ask for more than one flavor swirled.
44 & X
622 10th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen | 212.977.1170
This is a great Theater District option, as evidenced by the friendly wait staff (many of whom are cued up for their big break on Broadway) and great cocktails (hilariously named after Tony Award winners—we like the Patti Lupomegranate and the Orange Julius Andrews). The dinner menu focuses on American cuisine and changes seasonally to accommodate locally sourced vegetables, but the brunch is also really great.
668 10th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen | 212.920.4770
Exposed wooden beams on the ceilings and plentiful bar-height tables and chairs make this a cozy, yet lively hideout on frigid nights (both the Tribeca and Midtown locations are decorated in the same warm, rustic style). With plenty of small plates like guacamole, ceviche, and tacos, the menu is all about traditional Mexican cuisine. In keeping with the theme, the beverage program offers a long list of tequilas, which can always be ordered straight.
57 E. 54th St., Midtown East | 212.518.2727
Bill’s is an upscale steakhouse in a gracious, 19th-century townhouse. Keeping the name and some of the comfortable old boys décor of its predecessor (red leather booths, faded photographs, taxidermy), the multi-floored venue makes for a pretty special setting. The menu serves East Coast steakhouse classics with a modern twist (lacinato kale gratin, dover sole fish and chips, and more).
Blue Bottle Coffee
600 11th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen
Blue Bottle is a top-notch coffee roaster and café with a sustainable ethos, in multiple locations throughout NYC. Our picks: The siphon filter and the New Orleans iced coffee. There are also locations in Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center.
212 W. 57th St., Midtown | 212.977.1957
Considering the neon-covered exterior and old-school name, the atmosphere inside Brooklyn Diner is surprisingly fancy—after all, it’s helmed by the award-winning Chef de Oliveira. That said, classic meals are definitely the standouts: The chicken soup, macaroni & cheese, and giant lunch salads are reliably great, and you’ll have to arrive early in the day if you want to have the chicken pot pie (they almost always run out). Expect a short wait if you forget to make a reservation. There are two locations in Midtown, on 57th and 43rd.
72 W. 38th St., Midtown
The Garment District isn’t exactly known for a stellar specialty coffee scene, so the fact that there are two excellent ones a mere block from each other is pretty great. Culture Espresso is the original, but it’s snug, which means you might have to wait for a seat. The newer and significantly bigger Culture 36 is ideal for getting stuff done, if you don’t mind the semi-loud music. Both locations brew Heart Coffee Roasters coffee and serve their famous house-baked chocolate chip cookies (they sell out fast so come on the earlier side).
Dean & Deluca
156 W. 56th St., Midtown | 212.586.2970
Dean & Deluca has three cafes in Midtown, at City Spire, in Rockefeller Center, and in the New York Times building. While the cafés don’t carry the same selection of gourmet foods as the larger Soho and Madison Avenue stores, you’ll still find excellent coffee and plenty of pastries and sweets behind the counter. It’s a perfect pit-stop for a quick breakfast, or for picking up a treat on the way home from work.
824 9th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen | 646.763.6585
Between bright, floral laminate booths, a wall full of shiny Mexican milagros, and a permanent crowd, the interior of El Centro is dizzying in the best possible way. There are frozen and fruit margaritas (although you’d do well to stick with the house version which is somehow only $8), overflowing bowls of guacamole, and a menu full of traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas and fajitas. It’s perfect for a quick, casual night out with friends.
402 W. 43rd St., Hell’s Kitchen | 212.564.7272
Esca (the name means “bait” in Italian) is Mario Batali and Dave Pasternack’s take on classic Italian seafood; the menu is full of inventive and unusual crudos and amazing shrimp and shellfish pasta dishes. Smack in the middle of the theatre district, it’s an excellent choice before a show; there are plenty of light fish entrees that won’t send you to sleep before intermission.
13-15 W. 54th St., Midtown | 212.246.0412
Elegant and old-school—bright lights, crisp white linens, and formal Italian waiters in white jackets and ties—Il Gattopardo feels more like Milan than Midtown. It’s best to come here for lunch and order pastas, which are homemade and authentic: They offer scialatielli (thick, flat noodles) with shellfish ragou, along with Paccheri (long tubes) with “Genovese” sauce, delicate raviolis, risottos, and more. The lemon sorbet is always a nice way to wrap up the meal.
321 W. 51st St., Hell’s Kitchen | 212.974.2500
The NYC Ippudo locations are the only branches in the United States. The noodles are hand-pulled on-site and cooked perfectly al dente. They’re known for the super-flavorful tomkotso version, but we love the Miso Ramen and pork-free Wasabi Shoyu. They have some more contemporary restaurant-style dishes here, but the traditional ramen bowls are really where it’s at. Prices are low, and it’s first come, first sit, so be prepared to wait. The other location is in the East Village.
1414 6th Ave., Midtown | 212.703.2007
Chef Jonathan Waxman was one of Alice Waters’ protégés, and after stints at Chez Panisse and Michael’s in Santa Monica, he was one of the first to bring that hyper-fresh, California-style cooking to New York. His new restaurant at 1 Hotel Central Park resurrects the name of his first-ever New York operation, and brings that same seasonal cuisine to a spacious corner space with simple, Scandinavian-style design. Because it’s connected to the hotel, there are several private rooms available for events and celebrations as well. Obviously, get the chicken.
530 5th Ave., Midtown
If you’re meeting friends here keep in mind that there are actually two Kaffe 1668’s in Tribeca, just a handful of blocks from each other on the north and south sides of the neighborhood. If they’re looking to own an area, they’ve certainly done it, as it’s the best spot south of Canal for an almond milk latte (or fresh juice). Another boon: There’s plenty of seating and WiFI, too, particularly at the location in upper Tribeca.
King Cole Bar
The St. Regis, 2 E. 55th St., Midtown | 212.339.6857
The St. Regis completed a major renovation back in 2013, an investment that included an overhaul of the hotel’s famous King Cole Bar. The signature Max Parrish mural still hangs, 25-feet wide, across the back of the beautiful, old-world mahogany bar. Order a Bloody Mary—legend has it that long-time bartender Fernand Petiot invented the drink here back in the 1920s.
Lady M. Confections
The Plaza Food Hall, 1 W. 59th St., Midtown | 212.452.2222
Even those who are not big on dessert can appreciate the paper-thin layered crêpe cakes that made Lady M. Confections so famous—not too sweet, and with a delicate consistency that literally melts in your mouth. The interiors of all nine international locations are kept strictly stark-white, with the cakes displayed like precious jewels on tiny podiums: there’s the Checkers cake, a chocolate gâteau, tarts, and so much more. While the original outpost is on the UES, the two Midtown boutiques are a blessing when a 3pm sugar craving kicks in.
667 Lexington Ave., Midtown East | 212.308.1969
This tiny little café on Lexington serves great coffee (Counter Culture roasts), alongside a small-but-mighty food menu. While there’s no denying how good the schnitzel and the braised short rib sandwich are, this is an especially great choice for vegetarians—the avocado smash (which is drenched in pumpkin seeds), the butternut squash and chickpea sandwich, and the mograbieh & cannellini bean salad are all fresh-tasting yet totally filling. The tiny space can get a little bit crowded during the lunch hour, so it’s best to take your brown bag to go.
Momofuku Milk Bar
15 W. 56th St., Midtown | 347.577.9504 x5
While working at Momofuku in the early days, Christina Tosi—office manager at the time—started baking the occasional treat for the team. And her insanely sweet, totally novel confections quickly took off. Soon, she had her own shop next door (and now many more in NYC) where she and her staff crank out ridiculously complex layered cakes, the aptly named Compost cookies, and unusual soft-serve flavors—all simultaneously nostalgic and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Morrell & Company Fine Wine and Spirits
1 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown | 212.688.9370
Located right on Rockefeller Plaza, Morrell & Company has one of the longest by-the-glass wine lists in the city (there are over 100 options). While the bar is a nice place for after-work drinks, they also have a phenomenal shop, with a stock of hard-to-find wines from around the world. For aspiring oenophiles, they offer group wine education courses.
Refinery Hotel, 63 W. 38th St., Times Square | 646.664.0372
The Refinery Hotel in Bryant Park has a warm, industrial interior style—an aesthetic that’s probably best exemplified by the stunning rooftop, decorated with wooden cupolas (complete with porch swings), round string lights, and plenty of plants and greenery. A retractable glass roof allows for ample open-air space in the summer, but fireplaces keep things cozy in the winter. Even from inside, there’s a stunning, close-up view of the Empire State Building.
509 Madison Ave., Midtown East | 646.590.0650
This minimalist Japanese chocolate shop actually has three locations in Manhattan (Bryant Park, the West Village, and Madison Avenue)—each one tinier and more compact than the next. Founded in Sapporo, their specialty is Nama Chocolate, a box of creamy rectangles dusted with cacao and arranged to geometric perfection. They make an unusual and always-appreciated hostess gift.
Salon de Ning
The Peninsula, 700 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.903.3097
Salon de Ning is a bit of a franchise for the Peninsula—there are bars by the same name in their Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Manila hotels as well. Like its sister restaurants across the Pacific, New York’s version is decorated in a subtle Asian style, with potted bamboo trees and Chinese screens. The cocktails are pricey even by New York standards, but the Peninsula’s exceptional service (including some very accommodating bartenders) more than makes up for the expense.
The Monkey Bar
Hotel Elysée, 60 E. 54th St., Midtown East | 212.288.1010
This bar inside Hotel Elysée is admittedly a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place; typically filled with suits, it’s definitely reminiscent of a very specific ’90s New York experience. But regardless of your feelings about the scene, the uncomplicated menu and skillful bartenders make it a reliable standby. Good to know: they offer a pre-theatre fixed menu, which makes for an easy dinner if you’re going to a show with a big group.
Bar 44 at The Royalton
44 W. 44th St., Times Square | 212.869.4400
Roman & Williams executed a beautiful refresh of Philippe Starck’s iconic first hotel back in 2007, and it continues to exude their signature moody style, with dark woods, brass fixtures, and plenty of leather. It’s great for after-work drinks when you actually need to hear the conversation.
81 E. 45th St., Midtown East | 646.747.0801
This is one of few places around that roasts their own beans, which are responsibly sourced from all over the globe. Meanwhile all four Toby’s Estate locations (the other three are spread out between Williamsburg, the West Village, and Flatiron) are consistently simple and comfortable in design—think communal tables, couches, and excellent lighting. Yes, it’s a great set-up for work, but also worth stopping by on your day off for a simple and hearty lunch. (They also offer a random assortment of classes in everything from art to cupping.)
Upstairs at the Kimberly
Kimberly Hotel, 145 E. 50th St., Midtown | 212.888.1220
With several distinct lounge spaces, the rooftop at the Kimberly Hotel, which is a full 30 stories above the street, has retractable glass walls and a glass ceiling that make it wonderful for all seasons. With a classica New York view of the Chrysler building (specially magical at night when the building is all lit up), it’s an impressive place to bring out-of-town guests.
1 Hotel Central Park
1414 6th Ave, New York, NY 10019 | 212.703.2001
We’ve been fans of the 1 Hotel group since it first set up shop in Miami; New York quickly followed with two locations—one near Central Park and the other on a stretch of rapidly changing Brooklyn Heights waterfront. Blurring the line between luxury and sustainability, every corner of the space is considered in terms of design, from the locally made tables to the greenery and reclaimed wood walls. The rooms are minimal but comfortable, outfitted with hemp-blend mattresses and organic cotton sheets. Another major draw is the food: Chef Jonathan Waxman’s beloved NYC establishment Jams was reprised here, and he hands down serves one of the city’s best kale salads and squid ink rigatoni.
Mandarin Oriental NYC
80 Columbus Circle, Upper West Side | 212.805.8800
Towering over Central Park in the Time Warner Center building, the Mandarin Oriental’s location is within striking distance of Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and Lincoln Center. That’s all overshadowed by the view. The décor is typical of the Mandarin’s modern, Asian-inflected style, the spa is excellent, and there’s a pretty insane 75-foot lap pool.
Park Hyatt New York
153 W. 57th St., Midtown | 646.774.1234
In a neighborhood that’s primarily serviced by grand, historic hotels, the just-opened Park Hyatt offers an experience that’s very modern. The Christian de Portzamparc-designed skyscraper, One 57, sits directly across from Carnegie Hall and offers some of the biggest rooms, square-footage-wise, in the city. Meanwhile, the contemporary interiors by design firm Yabu Pushelberg strike the perfect balance between modernism and comfort. Bonus: the 13,000-square foot Spa Nalai, which is divided into a fitness room, 65-foot lap pool, and six sleek suites offering everything from treatments on a sand quartz bed (the only one of it’s kind in NYC) to cupping.
The Four Seasons New York
57 E. 57th St., Midtown | 212.758.5700
Completed in 1993, the I.M. Pei-designed Four Seasons building was one of the most iconic additions to the New York skyline in the ’90s; at 54 stories, it’s also one of the tallest hotels in the city. Despite its location just steps from Madison Avenue in the most bustling part of Midtown, it feels like a quiet reprieve. If you’re feeling baller, inquire about the Ty Warner penthouse on the top floor.
700 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.956.2888
Every outpost of the Peninsula—Hong Kong, Paris, Los Angeles—delivers the same service and attention to detail (and, in New York, those Savoir beds). Their Manhattan hotel, located in a gorgeous old beaux-arts building that was first built in 1905 and opened as The Gotham, has 200 rooms, each decorated simply and luxuriously. The onsite concierge is available 24 hours a day and even organizes personalized tours of the city.
The Ritz-Carlton Central Park
50 Central Park S., Midtown | 212.308.9100
The Ritz actually has two outposts in Manhattan, including one at the tip of Battery Park which offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty. The outpost in Midtown is classic New York, with all the amenities you’d expect (amazing beds, beautiful bathrooms), though what really sets this location apart is the luxe spa, La Prairie.
The St. Regis
2 E. 55th St., Midtown | 212.753.4500
While it’s a historic classic (it was built in 1907), New York’s St. Regis received a 90 million dollar renovation in 2013. It’s still as luxe and old-world as ever: The historic King Cole Bar, and the library—assembled by the hotel’s original owner John Jacob Astor, which houses more than 3,000 vintage leather-bound books—are as wonderful as ever. The service here is famously excellent: Each guest is assigned a tails-wearing butler to attend to any special requests.
44 W. 44th St., Midtown | 212.869.4400
Although first built in 1898, the Royalton didn’t burst onto the scene really until 1988, when Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck made it one of their projects and decked it out with daring, experimental design that drew a very trendy crowd. In 2007, the hotel underwent its first renovation since Starck’s initial vision, with a redesign led by goopfavorites Roman & Williams; the dark, moody lobby epitomizes their signature warm, modern style. Meanwhile, the rooms upstairs (larger ones have actual wood-burning fireplaces in the winter) are crisp and light, with white bedding and mirrored bathroom tiles. If you’re staying in Midtown but need to be south of all the grand dames off Central Park, it’s a great pick.
& Other Stories
505 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.328.4012
It’s nearly impossible to walk out of this shop empty-handed: For one, it’s incredibly cheap and for two, we can’t get enough of their minimal, modern clothing that subscribes to market trends without being a slave to them. Much like Zara and Cos, you can mix their clothing in pretty seamlessly with your higher-end splurges. There’s also a Soho location.
A La Vieille Russie
745 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.752.1727
The owners of this elegant jewelry store in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel have been in the antiques and fine jewelry business since 1851 when the family opened their first shop in Kiev. They specialize in antique jewelry, with a focus on Fabergé and other European lines. You could get lost for an entire afternoon ogling the gorgeous pieces with no intention to buy, but it’s a great destination when you’re looking for an exceptionally special gift.
754 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.753.7300
The beautiful art deco interiors come with top-notch service here, where you’ll find a classic buy of all the designer lines. We especially love the seventh floor for its inspired home goods section, which includes designers like Kelly Wearstler and John Derian. At holiday time, their ornament selection definitely stands out. (And their men’s store down the block is wonderful.)
979 Third Ave., Midtown | 212.355.7974
Crate & Barrel’s sister store is full of modern, really well-priced furniture items and home accents, making it a great stop when in need of a few practical pieces for a quick home upgrade. We always stock up on their glass and dishware—they’re great, easily replenished, kitchen basics. There’s also a location in Soho.
1073 6th Avenue , Times Square | 212.869.1700
If you have a stationery or sticker addict on your hands, they’re going to freak. This Japanese mega-store facing Bryant Park is one of our favorite midtown oases, and a solid option for a quick sushi cafeteria-style lunch. There’s an entire floor dedicated to Japanese manga comic books, a solid selection of design books and international fashion magazines, but the basement is the main draw. There, aisle after aisle is stuffed with an incredible array of Japanese stationery goods—adorable pens, pencils, notebooks, and erasers to last a lifetime.
Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown | 212.489.9100Family-owned for 20-odd years, Posman Books has managed to stay both independent and right in the mainstream: Instead of gravitating to quiet neighborhood corners, they look for spaces in some of the city’s most bustling centers—Chelsea Market and Rockefeller Center. It’s wise, because they’re thriving, and offering a great array of books, toys, games, and cards in the process.
MoMA Design & Book Store
11 W. 53 St., Midtown | 212.708.9700
The MoMA gift shop—which is really more of a full-fledged design store—is incredibly well-done, making it one of those rare spots that’s a one-stop resource for everyone on your list come the holidays. Here you can purchase everything from Issey Miyake’s architectural Lucent tote, to an Eames chair, to a Yoshitomo Nara doggy radio, to obscure titles you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
620 8th Ave., Midtown | 212.382.2300
This Japanese export has been quietly opening outposts all over LA and NYC (the tiny to-go kiosk inside JFK’s international terminal is particularly genius), though Muji goods have been shoppable at MoMA for years. The stores are simple in both concept and aesthetic: After all the brand is predicated on the idea that the best design is the least design. Minimalist fixtures and neutral color palettes are used to display the most well-designed utilitarian goods—housewares, t-shirts, stationery, and more—that are as functional as they are generic, which allows them to fit in every home regardless of sensibility.
Saks Fifth Avenue
611 5th Ave., Midtown | 212.753.4000
Taking up an entire city block and 10 sprawling floors, the Saks 5th Avenue flagship on Fifth Avenue is as massive as it is well stocked. In fact, its shoe department is so huge that it has its own zip code. Also on premise, an Elizabeth Arden Red Door salon, a nail art studio, and several restaurants.
445 Park Ave., Midtown East | 212.750.9797
T. Anthony is somewhat of a Park Avenue institution, selling simple, luxurious luggage and leather goods. They’ve been making custom bags—in iconic red, black, and purple—for the well-traveled since the ’40s, including Jackie O., Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon. We love the basic duffles and rollers.