The New York City Art & Architecture Guide
While much of New York City’s architecture is of the interior variety, it has important art and design in spades.
Upland345 Park Ave. S., Flatiron | 212.686.1006
Come to Chef Justin Smillie's (formerly of Il Buco Alimentari) Upland (named for the chef's hometown) for a taste of California in the heart of NYC. Designed by Roman & Williams, the space is understandably warm and inviting—the light-filled dining room’s checkered tablecloths and wooden accents compliment the menu’s rustic, ingredient-driven offerings: sausage-and-kale pizza, salt-cured torchon of foie gras, cioppino, and a bourbon-spiked pecan pie.
Soba Nippon (Closed)19 W. 52nd St., Midtown | 212.489.2525
Located right across the street from MoMA, this is one of the best options for a casual midtown lunch or dinner. The soba noodles are made in-house daily with buckwheat harvested at the restaurant’s farm in Canada, and they are delicious. While the sushi is good, the real highlights are the hot and cold noodle dishes, and the Chicken Soba Salad for which they’re famous.
Omen a Zen113 Thompson St., Soho | 212.925.8923
While it’s nothing special when it comes to atmosphere and décor, this unassuming Japanese nook in Soho serves up delicious Kyoto-style food, including plenty of super fresh sashimi and small, flavorful cooked dishes. We’re partial to the Omen udon noodles, served simply with seaweed and hot or cold broth. This spot is a big hit among artists, actors, and creatives, who probably love the food as much as its hushed, relaxed vibe. We always order The Garden.
Mr Chow121 Hudson St., Tribeca | 212.965.9500
Michael Chow made his name in the London and Hollywood art and music worlds before opening in New York on East 57th Street in 1979, where his restaurant quickly became one of the city’s main touchstones for the art world. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David Bowie, Madonna, and John Lennon were just a few of the restaurant’s faithful patrons (watch Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat to get a sense of the scene). To this day, a meal at Mr Chow's isn't about the food: It's about the tuxedo and white glove service and the fun, party vibe. The outpost in Tribeca is just as beautiful and scene-y—an Andy Warhol portrait of Chow in the dining room sets the tone.
Kajitsu125 E. 39th St., Murray Hill | 212.228.4873
A meal at this Japanese restaurant, whether for lunch (the only time you can have their incredible ramen), or dinner, is a truly artful experience, and an introduction to a slower, more mindful style of eating. For one, it’s Shojin cuisine, vegetarian food that’s served in Zen Buddhist temples throughout Japan. And for two, the cooked dishes are beautifully presented, in traditional ceramics that are sometimes hundreds of years old. Both lunch and dinner are tasting menu only, so it’s worth it to take the time to enjoy it.
The ModernThe Museum of Modern Art, 9 W. 53rd St., Midtown | 212.333.1220
It won’t come as a surprise that this restaurant—housed in the Museum of Modern Art—comes with a view of the museum’s sculpture garden. But if you move your gaze down to your plate, you’ll find Chef Abram Bissell’s Michelin-starred food. Aside from the Michelin starred dining experience, we love coming here just for a drink at the bar, which is one of the city’s most elegant, as a long white marble slab punctuates the spectacular space.
Jack’s Wife Freda224 Lafayette St., Soho | 212.510.8550
The husband and wife team behind this wonderfully buzzy spot are South African and Israeli respectively, and this unusual mix turns out to be a hit, as evidenced by the delicious, homey cuisine that comes out of the kitchen. Thanks to its bustling but laid-back vibe, it’s become more of a hang-out than a traditional restaurant: People linger from breakfast until late at night. There's a second location in the West Village.
Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria53 Great Jones St., Greenwich Village | 212.837.2622
We like to stop by this homey café and wine bar for the occasional snack—a house-cured plate of salumi and a glass of wine—just as much as for a full, rustic meal. With gallerist David Zwirner as one of its backers, it’s no surprise this artfully restored ex-lumber supply space fills up with the art crowd on a regular basis. It's ideal for an event, too—their skilled planners will design a beautifully rustic event at long tables in the back rooms.
Four Seasons Restaurant99 E. 52nd St., Midtown | 212.754.9494
Housed in Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, this icon of a restaurant still honors its 1959 design by modernist Philip Johnson. Everything—from Philip Johnson's custom chairs and bar stools, to the metal chain curtains, to the Japanese-style pool in the middle of the dining room—is as true to the original concept as possible, making a meal here something of a field trip for Modernist design nerds. Needless to say, it's one of the city's true gems: While the Pool Room is a romantic spot for dinner, New York power lunches take place in the clubby, wood-paneled Grill Room. It's best for expense accounts: With its lofty prices and bustling location, it's usually packed with business types and Upper East Side denizens. And while it's an undeniably elegant space for an event, private rooms here are best reserved for big-deal celebrations like engagements or graduations.
China Blue135 Watts St., Tribeca | 212.431.0111
At this new spot in Tribeca, the interiors are a contrast between a lofty, classic downtown space, and the jazz age Shanghai of our imagination, full of old-fashioned touches, ornamental light fixtures, and dark wood bookshelves lined with pretty flea market finds. The food carries some of the same contrast: The menu (including the Dim Sum) is typically Shanghainese, but presented beautifully, making the meal a cut (well) above a typical family-style joint. The space is broken up into a few partial rooms, which is great if you're planning a private event because they can accommodate any size party.
Barbuto775 Washington St., West Village | 212.924.9700
While crowds line up for the semi-al fresco dining in the summer, Barbuto is wonderful in the winter, too, when the garage doors close and the wood burning oven warms up the room. Their "Pollo al forno"—roasted chicken with salsa verde—is amazing, as Jonathan Waxman has perfected many arts, including serving perfectly light, rustic Italian.
Atera77 Worth St., Tribeca | 212) 226-1444
This sleek (and tiny) foodie destination in Tribeca has only 18 seats, meaning that reservations are hard to come by. If you manage to snag one, you're in for a pretty great experience. The modern multi-course prix fixe menu (expect ingredients like birch sap or moss) is served opposite an open kitchen, which is fascinating to watch.
The Red Cat227 10th Ave., Chelsea | 212.242.1122
For years, despite all the foot traffic from the art crowd, there were few, if any, good restaurants in Chelsea. The Red Cat came along in the 90s and changed that, and remains, to this day, one of the few great restaurants in the area. With a laid-back New England vibe, and elegant, American food, it’s a great option for a dressy meal in the West 20s.
Lincoln Ristorante142 W. 65th St., Upper West Side | 212.359.6500
The location of Lincoln Center's refined Italian restaurant makes it a no-brainer for before a show, but the menu (not to mention the seriously sophisticated, Italian-only wine list) actually stands up to our favorite hole-in-the-wall joints downtown. The menu fulfills cravings for all the classic dishes, from spaghettini al pomodoro to lobster risotto, plus a glorious bistecca alla griglia. If you come in the evening, don't forget to check out another bonus from the drinks program: The negroni and prosecco bars.
The Wayfarer101 W. 57th St., Midtown | 212.691.0030
The first thing you'll notice about the Wayfarer on the first floor of the Quin Hotel is the décor: the grey and gold space feels very mid-century, with big, round light fixtures, clean-lined furniture, and a marble and gold bar. There's a mezzanine-level bar and a sit-down restaurant on the street level, which serves an excellent brunch and cucumber Bloody Mary's on weekends.
ABC Kitchen35 E. 18th St., Union Square | 212.475.5829
Helmed by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, this airy, all-white space—attached to ABC Home—is a temple to inventive, seasonal, and local cooking sourced from nearby farms and cooperatives. It doesn't come as much of a shock that the fare is GMO-free, and also grown and made without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, antibiotics, and hormones. It's not surprising because you can taste the well-sourced provenance on the plate, whether in the form of housemade ricotta ravioli or fried organic chicken in a hot butter sauce. (We never said that the offers are ascetic.)
Carbone181 Thompson St., Soho | 212.254.3000
This Italian spot on Thompson Street boasts Vito Schnabel's artwork on the walls, Zac Posen designed uniforms, a floor inspired by The Godfather, and a slightly more upscale version of the Italian-American fare you'll find at their other restaurants: It's pretty 1950's meets hipster chic. And like the good old days, the food is rich and luscious from lobster ravioli to rich sides like creamed escarole and corn tartufato.