As New Yorkers embrace a city returning to normal, special occasions feel even more poignant and more necessary to celebrate with the local restaurants that got us through. Milestone anniversaries, birthdays, vaccinations, 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.
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 settling into the restaurant’s cozy quilted banquets indoors, or heading outdoors to 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 garlic 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, which the restaurant is keeping at 50 percent capacity right now. In either area, the knowledgeable staff can give you a quick crash course in oyster varieties.
Takeout: Most of the menu is available for delivery and takeout, with a separate delivery menu available on the website.
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 diners 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 traveling 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 such as 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. Both indoor and outdoor capacity is currently at 50 percent.
Takeout: Avra’s takeout menu makes it easy to celebrate at home with dishes such as branzino for two or giant grilled tiger prawns. The entire menu is available for takeout, but some items are not offered for delivery.
Aquavit (Midtown East)
With three stars from the New York Times, two Michelin stars, and more than 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 matjes herring with rye, potato, and priest cheese.
Dining at the restaurant: Aquavit currently serves outdoor lunch and dinner on a covered patio. 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.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (Hell’s Kitchen)
One of the most sought-after seats in Manhattan is at chef César Ramirez’s 44-seat restaurant, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. Two years after opening, Chef’s Table became the first restaurant in New York City to receive three Michelin stars outside of Manhattan. The lauded establishment has since relocated from Brooklyn to Hell’s Kitchen on 37th street, but the same Japanese cuisine made with French techniques is there. The 12- to 14-course, seafood-focused tasting menu unfurls over approximately two hours in dishes with premium ingredients such as beluga caviar, black truffle, wagyu beef, abalone, and more. It all adds up to a fine dining experience worthy of very special occasions.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently operating at 35 percent capacity with only six seats at the counter and eight at tables. The best seats are definitely at the counter, where you can witness the art of preparation and plating as the dishes come alive. Dress up for this one, as the dress code requires formal business attire, with a suit jacket and dress shoes required for men.
Takeout: This restaurant does not offer takeout.
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.
Takeout: Takeout is available through a third party.
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 it 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 appetizers pairings.
Socarrat Paella Bar (Nolita, Chelsea, Midtown East)
Paella is the ultimate gathering dish, making it ideal for group celebrations. 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 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. Socarrat’s Midtown location is the largest by far, with two floors of socially distanced seating as well as a handful of sidewalk tables.
Takeout: Socarrat’s extensive à la carte menu is trimmed down for takeout and delivery, with separate menus for each location. Additionally, the restaurant offers several curated “dinners for 2” that include a main dish, two sides, and an order of churros for dessert.
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 to go 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.
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.
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 escargots Lyonnaise, French onion soup, 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 bistro at home, Lafayette offers their menu for takeout and delivery. Order the steak frites with a side of haricots verts amandine 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 three-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 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.
Sala Thai (Upper West Side)
Known as the local neighborhood Thai spot, Sala Thai’s extensive menu offers items you can’t find elsewhere on the Upper West Side, such as the moo sawan — fried marinated pork with spicy tamarind sauce. Each season brings new specials, with this summer spotlighting salmon tamarind and soft shell crab lad prig. Stepping inside its storefront on Amsterdam Avenue, you’ll find a bar decked out with woven gold pendant lights complete with traditional wood wall carvings. The main dining room is surrounded by a wall mural spanning across all three sides of the room. On a sunny day, rays of sunshine beam through the indoor skylight, illuminating the space.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and outdoor dining is available. Outdoor dining extends out onto the sidewalk, with partitions separating each table.
Takeout: The full menu is available for takeout and delivery through the website.
Obao (Hell’s Kitchen)
Restaurateur and chef Michael Bao Huynh takes diners on a tour across Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea with Obao’s diverse menu, which ranges from kimchi fries and Michelin-recommended pho bo to northern Thai-style khao soi. The dining space is nothing less than spectacular, with a gold-leaf ceiling across the entire second floor and lanterns illuminating the ground floor.
Dining at the restaurant: Obao currently offers both indoor and outdoor dining at both the Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown East locations.
Takeout: Delivery and takeout are available on the website.
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.
Takeout: Wine is sold by the bottle onsite and online, and there’s also takeout and delivery. Want to have a wine-fueled 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 includes dishes such as crispy duck breast with poached rhubarb.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.
Amarachi (Downtown Brooklyn)
When planning to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with visitors or friends, forgo the usual pizza stop at the end and capstone the day at Amarachi 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: Amarachi 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 establishments The NoMad Hotel, Eleven Madison Park, and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, 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 monkfish wrapped in sweet plantain with Guayanés cheese or braised short ribs with sauce made from papelón, a block of raw cane 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 “1980s 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.
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 seared scallops with herb olive oil, Australian lamb, and oysters served with mignonette sauce.
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.
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 feature unconventional fillings such as jumbo lump blue crab and filet mignon.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.
Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine (Astoria)
There’s a ton of good Mexican food to be found in Queens, but what makes Ruta Oaxaca unique is its focus on Oaxacan cuisine, a region widely regarded as the gastronomic capital of Mexico. The region is known for its varieties of mole, and Ruta Oaxaca highlights several of them: verde, a green mole made with pumpkin seeds; coloradito, a brown mole made with mashed ripe plantains; and Oaxaca, a savory-sweet mole with spices and dark chocolate. The ribs istemena — slow cooked baby back ribs with a guava chipotle glaze, cherry tomatoes and fennel salad — is a showstopper, and for something truly special, order the grilled pescado or shrimp costenos. Bonus: if it’s your birthday, dessert is on the house.
Dining at the restaurant: Outdoor dining is available — you won’t miss the hot pink shed on Broadway and 35th, hinting at Ruta’s vibrant menu. For a more intimate setting, choose indoor for the beige leather sofas lining the walls. The bar high-top seats are also an option.
Takeout: Delivery and takeout are available to order via the website.
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.
This contemporary farm-to-table restaurant is one of two dining options at the New York Botanical Gardens. The changing seasonal menu features locally sourced, ethically produced ingredients from Hudson Valley farms. The spring menu at a glance is fresh, light, and inventive; seasonal menu items include whipped ricotta with Catskill’s honey; salmon with wild mushrooms and fish roe beurre blanc; and chilled corn soup. You can always expect a memorable experience in the elegant dining room with 12-candle chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling arched windows. Alternatively, the shaded outdoor patio offers a view of the garden while you sip on a floral-inspired cocktail.
Dining at the restaurant: The blue tablecloths channel picnic vibes perfect for a photo opportunity. Immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings of the botanical garden, and explore the Ross Conifer Arboretum right next door before or after your meal.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout or delivery.
Vistamar (City Island)
This waterfront eatery serves seafood and Latin American-inspired dishes, such as mofongo, a Puerto Rican fried plantain dish that’s served with your choice of protein. The indoor dining area is ideal for celebrations and large parties, with all white chairs and tablecloths complemented by plush red sofas for a pop of color. Take in breathtaking sunset views over the pier at the outdoor patio while enjoying a three-course prix fixe dinner menu any night of the week.
Dining at the restaurant: Limited indoor dining is available now, as well as the spacious outdoor patio overlooking the water. Reservations are recommended.
Takeout: The menu is available for takeout, as well as additional lunch specials and combo meals for delivery.
Annie Lin contributed to this guide.
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