The 24 Best Restaurants in New York City for Celebrating Right Now

Credit: Aquavit/Signe Birck

In restaurant history, 2020 will be remembered as the year that New York City was put to the test. From full shutdown to phased re-openings, the city’s restaurants pivoted, innovated, evolved, and showed up for their communities. And as New Yorkers learn to navigate this new normal, celebrations feel even more poignant and more necessary to celebrate with local restaurants. Milestone anniversaries, birthdays, a negative COVID test, a successful week of remote learning, or simply making it to Friday: All are reasons to toast right now.

While the ways we celebrate may look different, New York’s restaurants have figured out how to infuse their energy and creativity into everything from well-designed sidewalk seating to luxurious takeout offerings to make special days feel even more festive.

Across boroughs and neighborhoods, these are the best picks around the city for a variety of occasions, with both indoor, outdoor, and takeout options for every restaurant to meet your comfort level.

Manhattan

Red Rooster (Harlem)

Red Rooster is James Beard Award winner Marcus Samuelsson’s love letter to Harlem, serving up thoughtful comfort food alongside a soundtrack of funk and soul music. The restaurant’s ties to community run deeper than just location — during the height of the pandemic, Samuelsson transformed the space to serve as a community food hub for those in need.

Dining at the restaurant

Diners have the option of heading indoors and settling into the restaurant’s cozy quilted banquets, or opting to eat outdoors on the plant-lined patio. In either location, you can’t go wrong marking a special day with the restaurant’s signature dishes such as cornbread, fried yardbird, or mac and greens.

Takeout

For a party at your place, the majority of the menu is available for pickup, including the full lineup of sangrias and rum punches. For the full experience, fire up the Red Rooster playlist while you eat, featuring live recordings from the past musical performances at the restaurant. The background sounds of glasses clinking and people laughing bring the feeling of a packed dining room to your living room. 

Mermaid Inn (Upper West Side)

Nothing says “today is not an ordinary day” like sitting down to a tower of fresh oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail, tuna crudo and salmon tartare. The Mermaid Inn specializes in top-of-the-line seafood, serving classic preparations like a stellar lobster roll alongside creative riffs such as lobster knuckles soaked in butter and parsley, “escargot style.”

Dining at the restaurant

Take in the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam Avenue from the restaurant’s robust sidewalk seating, or opt inside for a seat in the warmly lit dining room. In either area, the knowledgeable staff can give you a quick crash course in oyster varieties. 

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time. 

Sistina (Upper East Side)

Located near Central Park and the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, Sistina is the ideal stop on a cinematic Manhattan date itinerary. Located in a stately stone townhouse, you’re just as likely to see chef and owner Giuseppe Bruno preparing food as you are to see him greeting diners and pouring wine. His menu focuses on simple Italian dishes ranging from pasta to meat and seafood, but regulars love the spaghetti trapanese, a unique dish that combines five types of crushed nuts in tomato sauce with pecorino romano.

Dining at the restaurant

Whether you’re indoors or out, Sistina prides itself on the ability to transport dinings via its setting. The sidewalk tables are beautifully decorated, while Sistina’s indoor “garden” consists of a light-filled glass enclosure to protect from the elements, while still allowing breeze and sunlight to filter in.

Takeout

Want to bring some of the restaurant’s elegance to your home? Sistina’s takeout is a far cry from your average pasta night, with dishes such as roasted bone marrow with black truffles and an impressive selection of pastas.

Avra Estiatorio on 48th (Midtown East)

Since a trip to Greece may not be in the cards this year, take some of the travel budget and be transported by some of the freshest Greek food in the city instead. With top-quality seafood flown in daily from around the world, Avra serves up simple food made from premier ingredients. But this isn’t your everyday seafood spot — the restaurant sources high-end, rare ingredients like Scottish langoustines. The helpful staff will outline that day’s fish and make recommendations, all of which are grilled and served with lemon and caper berries. Pair your selection with a classic Greek salad for a simple but outstanding meal.

Dining at the restaurant

Avra is lucky enough to have an existing patio tucked off the street and surrounded by greenery, providing a tranquil atmosphere away from city traffic. If you’d prefer to celebrate inside, the restaurant is currently accepting limited reservations for its cozy, Villa-inspired dining room.

Takeout

Though slightly smaller than the dine-in menu, Avra’s takeout menu makes it easy to celebrate at home with dishes such as branzino for two or giant grilled tiger prawns.

Aquavit (Midtown East)

With three stars from the New York Times, two Michelin stars, and over 30 years of service under its belt, Aquavit is one of the top dining rooms in the city and an ideal place to mark an exceptional event. In recent years, the Scandinavian restaurant has become more accessible, expanding to include lunch and both à la carte and tasting menu options for dinner. Across all menus, you’ll find fine dining accents on classic Nordic ingredients, such as the Swedish waffle and sour cream with an optional addition of Imperial Osteria caviar.

Dining at the restaurant

Aquavit currently serves outdoor lunch and dinner on a covered patio to protect diners from the elements. Additionally, the restaurant is accepting a limited number of reservations to dine inside its spare, Scandinavian-style dining room.

Takeout

For those wanting to experience Aquavit at home, the restaurant has created a small menu of Swedish classics available for takeout or delivery, including a smörgåsbord for two, a gourmet take on Swedish meatballs, and a selection of its namesake spirit.

A dining room interior with white table clothes and red leather booths.

Credit: The Russian Tea Room

Russian Tea Room (Midtown West)

To dine at the Russian Tea Room is to sit in booths that have hosted celebrities, musicians, and several

film scenes. For over 80 years, it’s been the see-and-be-seen haunt for afternoon tea, pre-show dinners, and post-show drinks. While the restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner, the most

quintessential experience is the afternoon tea. To make it extra celebratory, opt for a bottle of Champagne alongside the finger sandwiches and blinis.  

Dining at the restaurant

The restaurant is accepting reservations for indoor dining, where three stories of expansive leather banquettes provide built-in distancing from neighboring tables. Make an a la carte reservation or book one of the restaurant’s Experiences on OpenTable, such as a $70 per person three-course dinner special.  

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.

Indian Accent (Midtown West)

Indian Accent’s chef Manish Mehrotra is one of Delhi’s most sought-after chefs, known for his imaginative takes on traditional Indian dishes that are served in a sleek, modern space. But unlike many fine dining restaurants that insist on tasting menus, the à la carte menu here provides a choose-your-own-adventure experience, making a great place to toast over a festive spread that feels more playful than many Midtown fine dining options. 

Dining at the restaurant

Diners have the option of eating on Indian Accent’s patio or in the dining room, where the restaurant serves both lunch and dinner. Indoor reservations are spaced out among three seatings in order to provide as much distancing as possible within the restaurant. At either seating, the restaurant’s knowledgeable staff is happy to help explain regional ingredients and the inspiration behind dishes. Don’t skip the ghee roasted lamb — there’s a reason that it’s been on the menu since the beginning.

Takeout

A separate takeout menu marries dishes from the restaurant menu with exclusive to-go offerings, such as a jackfruit biryani with avocado raita and a section of cocktail and appetizers pairings.

Socarrat Paella Bar (Nolita, Chelsea, Midtown East)

Paella is the ultimate gathering dish, making it ideal for celebrations with your quarantine pod. With over seven variations of the communal rice dish available, Socarrat has something to fit a range of preferences, from seafood lovers to vegetarians. Round out the meal with a few classic tapas such as the croquettes and a pitcher of sangria.

Dining at the restaurant

At the Nolita location, indoor and outdoor dining is available, with quaint Mulberry Street providing a European feeling to the patio seats. The Chelsea location also offers a variety of seating locations, including a partially-covered backyard with heaters. Socarrat’s Midtown location is the largest by far, offering two floors of socially-distanced seating as well as a handful of sidewalk tables. 

Takeout

Socarrat’s extensive à la carte menu is available for takeout and delivery, including the option to have your paella delivered in a traditional paella pan. Additionally, the restaurant offers several curated “dinners for 2” that include a main dish, two sides, and an order of churros for dessert.

Nolita  

Chelsea
Midtown East

Kosaka (West Village)

Through an unassuming door in the West Village lies one of the city’s few omakase menus for under $200. Chef Yoshihiko Kousaka’s attention to detail and meticulous sourcing of his ingredients was enough to earn the restaurant a Michelin star, making the price tag one of the city’s best values for a spectacular dinner. If you’re feeling extra fancy, ask to add the uni platter for the chance to taste two different varieties of this Japanese delicacy.

Dining at the restaurant

This Michelin-starred sushi restaurant is intimate, which when combined with the city’s indoor dining restrictions means that the current experience verges on a private dinner with a front row seat to Chef Kousaka’s artistic preparations.

Takeout

While the restaurant’s omakase isn’t available for takeout, special occasion sushi is available for takeout via Kosaka’s sibling restaurant several blocks north, Maki Kosaka. Build your own tasting menu with options such as the premium hand roll plate and uni cup with caviar.

Blue Hill (West Village)

While many restaurants boast about the quality of ingredients or local sourcing, Blue Hill stands apart for its partnership with the Stone Barns Agricultural Center and executive chef and co-owner Dan Barber’s top-to-bottom commitment to finding pristine ingredients and minimizing food waste. It’s Michelin-starred fine dining with a conscience, housed in a former speakeasy off Washington Square Park that provides a cozy place to mark major milestones over plates that speak to the season.

Dining at the restaurant

The restaurant is serving a menu-less, $145 per person tasting experience — bookable on OpenTable — that showcases the fresh flavors of that moment’s harvest. At Blue Hill, the cooks are encouraged to improvise throughout service, meaning that everyone joining the celebration will have a distinct, unique experience of the meal.

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.

Buddakan (Meatpacking District)

Buddakan cemented its status as a special occasion spot when Sex and the City staged Carrie Bradshaw’s rehearsal dinner in its dining room. While the dinner may have been fictional, the soaring ceilings and grand chandeliers were not, and they still provide an awe-inspiring setting to celebrate while dining on Peking duck for two and other Asian specialties. It’s the ultimate place for bachelorettes, group meals that verge on parties, and any other occasion that calls for some swank.

Dining at the restaurant

Diners can choose between indoor dining or the patio, where the restaurant has translated its signature style by building a sculptural canopy of paper lanterns that hangs over the seating area.

Takeout

Much of the menu is available for both takeout and delivery, allowing you to feast at home with dishes like dim sum for two or tea-smoked spare ribs.

Lafayette (SoHo)

When you want to pretend that you’re celebrating in Paris, head to Lafayette. Chef Andrew Carmellini is known for creating vibrant restaurants like sibling properties The Dutch and Bar Primi, and this bustling bistro is no different. Celebrate a birthday or anniversary with time-honored classics such as beef tartare, escargots Lyonnaise, and moules frites — all ripe for an expert pairing from the all-French wine list.

Dining at the restaurant

Lafayette gives diners indoor and outdoor seating options. The greenery-filled sidewalk seating is expansive, as is the marble and tile-filled dining room; either option provides a lovely setting to share the rotisserie chicken Provençale for two.

Takeout

If you’d prefer to create your own bisto at home, Lafayette offers a limited menu for takeout and delivery. Order the foie gras torchon and a bottle of wine from the curated selection to kickstart your celebration without leaving the house.

Temple Court on Ten (FiDi)

Located on a wisteria-covered indoor terrace in the Beekman Hotel, Temple Court on Ten provides diners with a fairytale setting to mark a special occasion. The four-course new American tasting menu from celebrity chef Tom Colicchio changes with the seasons, ensuring each visit is unique. 

Dining at the restaurant 

Indoor dining is available via well-spaced tables nestled among the vines and lit by individual lamps. Celebrating a milestone? Don’t miss the “Bubbles on Ten” program that offers a selection of rare Champagnes to pair with your meal.  

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Winery (Williamsburg)

There’s a reason the Brooklyn Winery is a go-to date night spot — visiting one of the city’s few top-to-bottom winemaking operations is more of an educational experience than a typical visit to a wine bar. Get a mini lesson through various wine flights, such as the “Same Grape Three Ways” option that showcases Chardonnay in three different styles. Staffers will gladly talk you through the wines, as well as make recommendations for pairings from the menu of small plates.

Dining at the restaurant

During the pandemic, the winery extended its wine bar operations to a streetside “wine garden.” Tables can also be booked for indoor dining, with the option to select your section at the time of booking.

Takeout

While food is not available to go, wine is sold by the bottle onsite and online. Want to have a virtual party with your friends? Check out the virtual wine tastings for groups of 12 or more. The winery will ship the tasting selections to your door, then lead your group in a fun, unpretentious 60-90 minute lesson on the wines.

Honey Badger (Prospect Heights)

A self-proclaimed “wild-to-table” restaurant, Honey Badger is hard to categorize and can often feel like an experimental art gallery where the medium is food. The creativity of owners Junayd Juman and Fjolla Sheholli shines through every aspect of the restaurant — the secret menu changes daily, so no two dishes are exactly alike and often feature ingredients procured through the owner’s network of foragers up and down the East Coast. The food is artfully plated, and even the tiles in the dining room were handmade by the owners. For a day-long art experience with visitors or friends, tack on a visit to the Brooklyn Museum on your way to the restaurant.

Dining at the restaurant 

Honey Badger serves dinner on its architecturally-inspired patio area, located just off of Flatbush Avenue. Indoor dining has not been announced yet. 

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time. 

River Café (DUMBO)

Before DUMBO was a gleaming hub of shops, scenic parkland, and rooftop bars, there was the River Café. Though it has made its home under the Brooklyn Bridge for more than 40 years, the Michelin-starred restaurant by no means seems out of place. In fact, it has always been ahead of its time, sourcing farm-to-table ingredients long before that was the norm and launching the careers of celebrity chefs such as David Burke and Charlie Palmer along the way. And with its unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline, it’s also been home to more engagements, weddings, and business dinners than anyone could count.

Dining at the restaurant

The River Café serves outdoor dining on its expertly-landscaped terrace. The prix fixe menu showcases expertly sourced ingredients in dishes such as crispy duck breast with lavender-roasted Georgia peaches.

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.

Amaraci (Downtown Brooklyn)

When planning to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with visitors or friends, forego the usual pizza stop at the end and capstone the day at Amaraci in Downtown Brooklyn. With Afro-Caribbean beats pumping through the speakers and a menu of tropically-inspired drinks, you’ll soon shake off any tiredness you might feel from the journey.   

Dining at the restaurant

Amaraci has both outdoor and indoor dining options, with tables set out on the sidewalk and space for distancing in the large dining room. The menu melds African and Caribbean cuisines, with dishes such as jollof rice with suya, pepper soup, and oxtails to fuel you up for any activities ahead.

Takeout

The majority of the menu is available for takeout, including cocktails like the Yardie Punch, made with rum, pineapple juice, ginger beer, and grenadine. 

Casa Ora (East Williamsburg)

When you’re celebrating in East Williamsburg or the surrounding neighborhoods, turn to Casa Ora. This Venezuelan-American restaurant was started by alums of notable Manhattan restaurants The NoMad and Cosme, bringing the same high standards of service to their labor of love. The menu changes constantly to highlight Venezuelan flavors in unexpected ways, such as baby shark wrapped in sweet plantain with Guayanés cheese or braised short ribs with sauce made from papelón, a block of raw brown sugar that serves as a base for many Venezuelan dishes.

Dining at the restaurant

Casa Ora’s full menu is served on its palm tree-lined patio and inside the velvet and leather-filled dining room, an aesthetic the restaurant describes as “1980’s Venezuela.”

Takeout

Items from the full menu are available for pick-up and delivery, as well as a few takeout only items. Don’t miss the entire menu section devoted to patacon (fried plantain) with various toppings.

A plate of salad and a plate of pasta.

Credit: Teraza

Teraza Restaurant Lounge (Coney Island)

Old meets new at Teraza Restaurant Lounge, an ambitious modern space that sits on the Coney Island boardwalk overlooking New York’s iconic amusement park. After walking the boardwalk, pop in for internationally influenced dishes such as gruyère roti or Australian lamb with arrabbiata couscous.

Dining at the restaurant

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, with the option to sit in the nautically inspired dining room or on the patio that gives diners a front row seat to the action on the boardwalk.

Takeout

Teraza does not offer takeout at this time.

Queens

R40 (Long Island City)

At this inventive Argentinean restaurant, wood-fired char from the restaurant’s custom parilla grill is the common feature in many of the dishes. When celebrating here, head to the grilled section of the menu, where indulgent choices such as a dry-aged, 46-ounce tomahawk steak not only scream special occasion, but can also rival some of the city’s more historic steakhouses.

Dining at the restaurant

Diners can choose to sit in the restaurant’s spacious, shaded backyard or the sleek, modern dining room. Either is a good place to sample the rotating selection of empanadas that often feature unusual fillings such as jumbo lump blue crab or filet mignon.

Takeout

The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.

Casa Enrique (Long Island City)

One of three Mexican restaurants in all of New York to boast a Michelin star, Casa Enrique merges fine dining with the regional dishes of chef Cosme Aguilar’s childhood. It’s a great place to bring a date, serving up refined food in a laid back space, with menu items that range from the common to distinctive plates such as lamb shanks braised with pulla chiles.

Dining at the restaurant 

Casa Enrique has set up expansive streetside seating, including many tables situated under tents. Diners can also choose to sit inside the airy, modern dining room, where dividers have been installed at the end of many tables to create separation.

Takeout

For Michelin-starred Mexican at home, the restaurant also offers its full menu for takeout and delivery.

Aged Steakhouse (Forest Hills)

From graduations to anniversaries, a classic steakhouse is always a smart choice for all occasions. Aged Steakhouse sticks to the traditional formula, offering all the greatest hits: wedge salad, French onion soup, and a selection of mains that includes beef, seafood, and pasta. When it’s a really special night, the 42-ounce porterhouse and truffled mac and cheese is definitely in order.

Dining at the restaurant

The restaurant has built out impressive covered sidewalk seating, complete with heaters and decorative curtains adding indoor ambiance to the open air dining room. Guests also have the option to reserve a table in the handsome wood-filled dining room.

Takeout

Aged Steakhouse’s full menu can be ordered for takeout and delivery, bringing surf and turf, mashed potatoes, and an array of cocktails directly to your dining room table.

Staten Island

Pastavino (Stapleton Heights)

With sweeping views of the New York harbor, fresh pasta made daily, and an Italian wine list with more than 100 bottles, Pastavino has all of the elements of an impressive special occasion restaurant. While the menu seems familiar at first glance, a second look reveals unexpected details such as crumbled Ritz crackers topping the baked clams, or cauliflower taking the place of meat in a ragu, adding a surprise-and-delight factor to a celebratory meal here.

Dining at the restaurant 

Reservations are available in the dining room, which is set up to take full advantage of the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows and prime water views. For diners looking for an outdoor table, there is the option to dine on the restaurant’s patio facing a scenic waterfront park.

Takeout

Pastavino’s full menu is available for takeout directly through its website.

Bronx

Sammy’s Fish Box (City Island)

For the ultimate date, head to one of the Bronx’s hidden gems: City Island, a 1.5-mile island that sits in the Long Island Sound and feels like a seaside New England village that’s been transported to NYC. This day trip destination wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sammy’s Fish Box, a self-proclaimed “world famous” seafood shack that’s full of character. After a day of browsing the island’s nautical museum, settle into an outside table for fresh clams, a lobster roll, or a fried seafood platter.

Dining at the restaurant

The restaurant is open seven days a week. This summer, Sammy’s devoted a large part of its property to creating expanded outdoor seating, complete with heaters for cooler weather. Diners also have the option to reserve a table in the eclectic main dining room, where neon-trimmed fish and sharks hang from the walls and ceiling.

Takeout

Sammy’s full menu is available to order via its website.