Where to Eat Near: Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center

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.

I mean…drool. (Photo credit: me, Dara Pollak)

Rockefeller center

  • 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 😉
    Menu
    1221 Avenue of the Americas
    212-575-5129
  • 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.
    Menu
    1285 6th Avenue
    212-459-1222
  • 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.
    Menu
    45 Rockefeller Plaza
    212-858-9200
  • 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.
    Menu
    16 West 51st Street
    212-705-8510
  • 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.
    Menu
    22 East 54th Street
    212-754-9006
  • 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).
    Menu
    30 Rockefeller Center
    332-239-7030
  • 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).
    Menu
    30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor
    212-632-5000
  • Empellon – great Mexican spot with a focus on seasonal ingredients for tacos, guac, and drinks. Try the Queso Fundido with steak tartare.
    Menu
    510 Madison Ave
    212-380-1215
(Photo credit: me again)

Lincoln center

  • 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.
    Menu
    1 Lincoln Plaza, 1900 Broadway
    212-496-5700
  • 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)!
    Menu
    44 West 63rd St
    212-957-9700
  • 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.
    Menu
    61 Columbus Ave
    212-977-7700
  • Cafe Fiorello – Bustling Italian cafe since 1974 with pretty great food. Some of my favorites are the calamari and thin crust pizzas.
    Menu
    1900 Broadway
    212-595-5330
  • 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.
    Menu
    380 Amsterdam Ave
    646-678-5511
  • 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.
    Menu
    1890 Broadway
    212-633-2253
  • 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.
    Menu
    373 Amsterdam Ave
    917-261-7430
  • Parm – the sister restaurant (and more affordable) version of Carbone. The mozz sticks are delightful and the rigatoni vodka is heaven here as well.
    Menu
    235 Columbus Ave
    212-776-4921
  • 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.
    Menu
    142 West 65th Street
    212-359-6500
  • 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.
    Menu
    10 Columbus Circle
    646-918-8752
(Photo credit: Chama Mama)

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