A ton of people have been reaching out to me on Instagram recently asking for these suggestions! Certainly appropriate for the holidays since they are big on tourism (let’s not forget the giant tree in the middle of Rock Center), and they’re both “centers”, which is fun.
Not going to lie, after the last year and a half, I was not upset about visiting these areas and partaking in some good ol holiday cheer. I had to do a little NYC photoshoot for one of my clients and we hit almost ALL of the big touristy spots. Might have been the first time in my life that I didn’t hate it.
Before we dive in, just one note: there are TONS of fast casual spots around both Lincoln and Rockefeller Center, but I wanted to focus on the restaurants where you can sit, and, in the words of my mom, “have a nice meal.” If you want a quick grab-and-go bite, I’d suggest hitting the food concourse in the lower level of Rockefeller Center and the shops inside Columbus Circle. Both have some great options if you’re in a rush!
Here are some of my picks, and I cannot stress the importance of ordering the Mac n Cheese at The Smith enough. I really can’t.
- Del Friscos – if you’re in the mood for a steakhouse, this is a good bet. All the classics and some of the biggest onion rings I’ve ever seen. Also fun fact: the building (1221 Avenue of the Americas) is where they filmed the office scenes in The Devil Wears Prada 😉
1221 Avenue of the Americas
- Mastro’s – again, can’t really go wrong with a steakhouse if you’re a meat eater and this area has a LOT of them. Mastro’s is not only delicious, but adds a little extra flair with their presentations. And their steaks are “wet-aged”…admit it, you’re curious.
1285 6th Avenue
- Limani – I’m normally not one to recommend fancy Greek food, but this one is excellent with wonderful service. Just bring your wallet, fancy pants. And get the octopus.
45 Rockefeller Plaza
- Bill’s Bar and Burger – casual spot for burgers, fries, and a beer (or shake – it’s very kid friendly). It boasts two levels, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting a table. You can leave your fancy pants at home for this one.
16 West 51st Street
- Papillon – French food in a great, lively space. Nice bar and drinks, but it can get very busy especially with the Patagonia vest crowd, so keep that in mind.
22 East 54th Street
- Black Seed Bagels – highly recommend these Montreal-style bagels for breakfast or lunch. They’re a bit small, so if you’re craving a fat NYC bagel, this isn’t the place. It’s fast casual (I mean, they’re bagels) but their homemade Almond Butter & Jam is beyond worth it (photo below).
30 Rockefeller Center
- Bar SixtyFive – this is at the top of the Rock on the 65th floor, so if you’re afraid of heights, proceed with caution. But the views are great and the drinks/snacks are too (albeit pricey, as if you didn’t see that coming).
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor
- Empellon – great Mexican spot with a focus on seasonal ingredients for tacos, guac, and drinks. Try the Queso Fundido with steak tartare.
510 Madison Ave
- The Smith – one of my favorite all-occasion restaurants. Has a little something for everyone and for the love of god don’t sleep on the mac n cheese. Heads up: it can get loud in here, but not nearly as much as the East Village location.
1 Lincoln Plaza, 1900 Broadway
- PJ Clarkes – classic NYC bar/restaurant known for pub fare and retro vibes. It’s the type of place you’ll want to order a dirty martini and some baked clams. They’re also known for their seafood towers (not my vibe, but maybe it’s yours)!
44 West 63rd St
- Rosa Mexicano – Mexican restaurant known for its spacious setting, tableside guacamole, and happy hour. I love their spicy margaritas and it’s been around forever – doesn’t disappoint.
61 Columbus Ave
- Cafe Fiorello – Bustling Italian cafe since 1974 with pretty great food. Some of my favorites are the calamari and thin crust pizzas.
- Jing Fong – great Dim Sum restaurant with an original location in Chinatown so you know it’s legit – try the barbecued pork buns! They also have classic dishes like lo mein and fried rice.
380 Amsterdam Ave
- Breads Bakery – this is probably one of my favorite places ever. Their Chocolate Babka is unmatched, and I recommend you take one home with you. They have solid lunch food too but don’t sleep on the pastries, especially the cheese straws/breadsticks.
- Chama Mama – if you’ve never had Georgian food…well, may I interest you in a bread bowl filled with cheese, egg, and butter? Cool, same. The real name of that dish is Adjaruli Khachapuri by the way, and you must try it.
373 Amsterdam Ave
- Parm – the sister restaurant (and more affordable) version of Carbone. The mozz sticks are delightful and the rigatoni vodka is heaven here as well.
235 Columbus Ave
- Lincoln Ristorante – this is a rather pricey option, but it’s worth it. The space is stunning (huge floor to ceiling windows) and the food is primo. The Trofie pasta is a heavy favorite with calabrian chili, ricotta, and sausage.
142 West 65th Street
- Momofuku Noodle Bar Uptown – this is in Columbus Circle (a few blocks away) and totally worth it. I still think about the brisket bao buns with horseradish mayo and the cumin-lamb noodles. If you’re going for lunch, you might have to wait a bit.
10 Columbus Circle