You may remember – during the early days of the pandemic – when thousands fled New York City… a small-but-mighty group stayed.
I was among them.
Die-hards who refused to believe that New York was dead.
A slogan emerged – New York or Nowhere. And it stuck.
Quintessential New Yorker Sarah Jessica Parker was seen sporting the tote bag (along with her iconic Fendi baguette) during a recent shoot for the upcoming reboot of Sex and the City.
I couldn’t help but wonder…
Is that why I’m returning to my favorite old haunts? The restaurants I used to frequent during the Sex and the City days?
Do we all have this feeling of nostalgia right now?
Either way, New York is back, baby.
1. BALTHAZAR, 80 Spring St – Owner Keith McNally opened Balthazar in 1997, the year I moved to New York. It was white hot back then, but over time, things faded. Not so now. Balthazar was among the last restaurants to reopen post lockdown and New Yorkers went wild. Just this week, I was there for lunch and Emily Blunt was dining with Sienna Miller in the next banquette. Balthazar is back in all its steak frites glory.
2. INDOCHINE, 430 Lafayette St – This French-Vietnamese restaurant with the iconic banana leaf wallpaper has been serving customers since 1984. When it reopened post lockdown, Indochine added a few new items to the menu, like Vietnamese barbequed chicken and crispy rock shrimp. But everything on the menu is good. And great downtown vibe.
3. RAOUL’S, 180 Prince St – I have not returned to Raoul’s post lockdown. But it is one of my favorites and my friends, Thane and Pete, go every week (I’m still waiting for my invitation). It’s so good, Thane didn’t want me to include it on my list. “I just don’t want anyone going there.” Too late, Thane. Raoul’s has the best – most elusive -- burger in the city. They only make 12 each night, and you can only order it from the nine-seat bar. By 6:30 p.m. (per Pete), they’re usually gone. On the upside, Raoul’s is now open for lunch on the weekends and (per Pete) no quota on burgers.
4. VIAND COFFEE SHOP, 673 Madison Ave – Speaking of great burgers, there is also Viand Coffee Shop. It’s an old-school diner (opened in 1976), totally casual, and only a few seats. But some of the most well-known New Yorkers dine there regularly. There’s an unaffiliated Viand on the UWS, but the one on 61st and Madison is my favorite.
5. THE POLO BAR, 1 East 55TH St – After a very long lockdown hiatus, The Polo Bar finally reopened (to many cheers) on October 12th. The restaurant, owned by Ralph Lauren, opened in 2014 (so relatively new) but it feels iconic and is one of the hottest restaurants in New York. I’ve already booked four reservations, starting tomorrow night. I love the burger -- are you sensing a theme? – and the Moscow Mule.
6. TEMPLE BAR, 332 Lafayette St – People of a – ahem – certain age will remember Temple Bar. Well, it’s back. Under the ownership of my friends, David Rabin and Maneesh Goyal (who also own the new Indian restaurant, Sona), and two partners, Michael McIlroy and Sam Ross. Don’t worry, the skeletal chameleon that served as the bar’s logo outside is still there.
7. BONDST, 6 Bond St – Back when it first opened in 2000, I used to go to BondST every weekend. I remember once we were sitting upstairs, and Madonna walked in. The whole place went silent. The food at BondST is just as good now as it was back then. I always start with the mixed greens salad followed by the sesame crusted shrimp roll and spicy tuna roll.
8. SETTE MEZZO, 969 Lexington Ave – This was my late father’s favorite restaurant, so it holds a special place in my heart. Opened in 1989. Back when we first started going, they only accepted cash (or you could start a house account). Now, Sette Mezzo accepts credit cards. Ask for the spaghetti Bolognese (it’s not on the dinner menu, but they’ll make it) and get the tartufo for dessert.
9. CASA CIPRIANI, 10 South St – NEW!!! Casa Cipriani is the beloved Italian Cipriani group’s first private club in the world. Located at the Battery Maritime Building, the historic Beaux-Arts style ferry terminal built in 1906. There’s a 47-room hotel, too. The club – designed by the renowned Thierry Despont – is members only. Membership is $3600 per year. Chicest crowd, amazing view, same Cipriani menu we all love.
10. LE PAVILLON, One Vanderbilt Ave – NEW!!! Daniel Boulud is at it again. His newest restaurant, Le Pavillon, opened late this summer and it’s a jewel of a spot. Exquisite décor, exquisite food. The three-course tasting menu is $125 per person. Not cheap, but worth every bite. My favorite dish is the lobster and I order the cheese plate for dessert.
Hey, New Yorkers (and anyone who loves New York) – what are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!