“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” goes the old adage. But when life gives you something mind-bogglingly good, then you’re supposed to celebrate, right?
To commemorate those good things in life — a milestone birthday, a new job, a big anniversary — you want to go all out, even if you don’t actually want to go out. So stay in, and choose the right restaurant to celebrate with, one that’s executing dishes and drinks at the same exuberant level you’re at. We’ve got a highly curated list of restaurants in New York City that are all doing just that. There’s a trendy French spot (with fantastic frites), omakase made for relaxing on the couch, and much more. A meal from any one of these fancy-feeling restaurants will remind you of another old adage: Life is good.
Chill the champagne — you’re going to need it for this over-the-top experience from owner Simon Kim and chef David Shim. Enjoy premium beef all the ways: USDA prime short ribs marinated, grilled, and served over rice; fried rice crisped in Wagyu tallow and topped with a little more of the buttery cut; the Butcher’s Bowl featuring a rotating selection of prime cuts alongside housemade pickles.
Chef Enrique Olvera is respected for his out-of-the-box cooking at his Mexico City restaurants — and in New York City (Cosme) and abroad — and that creative thread is on display at this stylish Noho spot. He and his team conjure mole out of sunflower seeds, top market lettuces with nopales, and turn chilaquiles into an experience with the Chilaquiles for Two, enhanced with onions, warm salsa, and cheese-enriched crema.
Resist the urge to make a "Lady and the Tramp" joke. Out of chef/owner Rita Sodi’s serene, Florentine-inspired spot in the West Village flows stacked lasagna, layered with housemade sheets and stuffed with artichoke sauce or luscious meat; prosciutto paired with fresh burrata; peas braised until buttery and accented with garlic; and the most elegant tiramisu. This is serious date-night food.
Is there anything more glorious than Bunna’s Feast for Two? Nine plant-based offerings — including cremini mushrooms flavored with rosemary and peppers, kabocha squash stewed in berbere, turmeric-tinged yellow split peas — served with soft, slightly sour injera. It’s made for sharing and enjoying this Ethiopian restaurant in Bushwick to the fullest.
When you’re at a dim sum joint, you’re scanning to see which person is pushing the cart with the plump shrimp dumplings, lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice, and eggy tarts. In this case, you only need to look out for one: your delivery person. Load up on those dim sum essentials as well as other favorites from this legendary Chinatown banquet hall: Peking pork chops, fried rice, and braised tofu.
Sometimes the cherry on top of a fantastic dinner is the fun orange wine you were introduced to or the refreshing cocktail you ordered a second round of. Therein lies the beauty of this Italian restaurant in Park Slope: You can pair chef Erin Shambura’s roasted cauliflower, housemade focaccia, and wood-oven-roasted chicken with wine expert Joe Campanale’s tightly curated wine and cocktail selection.
For the last few years, chef Greg Baxtrom’s Prospect Heights hot spot has been drawing diners with whimsical, vegetable-forward cooking, many ingredients coming from the garden out back. See the pepito XO sauce on the grilled honeynut squash, and the cocktails built for two, like the mezcal-powered Rosemary Cocktail. No need to set your alarm to nab a reservation — order it all in.
“You’ll want to crush 1,000 of these!” reads the description for Dad’s Egg Rolls, stuffed with Berkshire pork and wood ear mushrooms. It’s not only the truth but a preview of the exuberant cooking coming out of chef/owner Eric Tran’s Bushwick kitchen. You can thank Papa Tran for the Vietnamese-mortadella-topped fried rice, but the spicy red curry and confit duck necks you’ll suck off the bone are all Eric’s.
The definition of decadence is pastry chef Renata Ameni’s sticky toffee pudding: The cake is stuffed with dates and soaked in apple cider, then brushed with a toffee sauce and brown butter. Yeah, you need it for tonight. But you’re also going to want chef James Kent’s pull-apart olive bread, ’nduja-threaded white bean hummus, and citrus-marinated half chicken kissed with smoke from the grill. Dream big!
A fancy night in calls for hot frites, and no one does it better than chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, who play with the French bistro form at their boisterous Tribeca restaurant. Alongside the frites, there is bavette cooked to your liking and doused in bearnaise, or rotisserie chicken with the most lustrous burnished skin. Even on their own, they are spectacular. You do you.
At this hand roll restaurant, with locations in Williamsburg and the West Village, chefs Jihan Lee and Taka Sakaeda turn handheld sushi into art. They sprinkle XO sauce on fatty scallops and meld sweet pineapple with kanpachi, and ingeniously package the rolls so the seaweed holding them doesn’t get soggy. Don’t forget the calamari with yuzu soy and warming miso-and-clam soup.
A power move at any meal is ordering pancakes for the table, and you can do the same at this iconic brunch restaurant on the Lower East Side. Another power move is ordering breakfast for dinner, so add on the fried chicken and waffle, biscuit basket, sugar-cured bacon, and latke eggs Benedict that’s even more delicious than it sounds (it’s got house-smoked salmon!). Another benefit of having breakfast for dinner? It’s socially acceptable to add dessert, like the ganache-filled layer cake.
While fillets tend to scream “weeknight cooking,” whole fish is pure luxury. This Sichuan restaurant in Sunset Park specializes in steaming, frying, and grilling fish and showering them in chiles. Round out your feast with sliced pork belly drenched in a garlicky sauce, pudgy pork dumplings, and the wobbly Chengdu cold noodles, but don’t forget to eat the fish cheeks, the best part of the whole fish.
The crackle of crisp Berkshire pork skin, the satisfying slurp of spicy peanut noodles — these sense memories will linger long after the meal. Chef Thomas Chen is the force behind this East Village restaurant, skillfully blending Asian flavors and techniques with his fine-dining experience. The Pig Out Kit features both dishes, and you’ll want to add on the snow crab pasta tossed in dashi butter and the yuzu-spiked Fire in the Sky cocktail.
Anju are intensely flavored Korean snacks to complement floral soju or cold beer, and you’ll want to load up on chef Sohui Kim’s (candied anchovies, spicy cuttlefish jerk, and togarashi nuts). In her Gowanus kitchen, she creates food that’s gleefully shared and perfect for soaking up the celebration: craggy fried chicken, bulgogi, dumplings, and a seafood “corn dog.” You may want to order some kimchi jjigae for the next day.
It’s easy to go overboard when scanning chef Ayesha Nurdjaja’s menu, inspired by the culture and cuisines of Italy, Morocco, and Tunisia. Just look at that hummus. Thankfully, the Soho hang’s got your back with the Feast for 2, a variety of dips (including that hummus), your choice of two kebabs, and plenty of pita and zhoug to keep you reaching for more.
In true come-one-come-all Frankies spirit, little ones can join in on the big night in (check out the kids’ pasta, which lets them choose their own non-spicy adventure). For the adults, the Carroll Gardens mainstay has its much-loved standbys: ricotta cavatelli with sausage and sage, escarole salad with walnuts and red onion, and Sicilian-style meatballs that’ll bring the kids to the adults’ table.
For the last 44 years, chef/owner Wun Yin Wu has been laser-focused on one dish, and that is Peking duck, the whole roasted duck with a lacquered, glass-like skin (and a laborious process behind it). Presented with thin pancakes, sliced scallions, cucumbers, and a sweet-savory hoisin sauce, it’s the stuff of dinner party dreams.
You’re here for the kebabs: yogurt-marinated hunks of salmon, minced lamb threaded with herbs and spices, cheese-stuffed mushrooms, and ghost pepper–tinged chicken, all grilled until juicy and charred. After that, all your skewer-heavy banquet needs is some verdant saag paneer, a biryani (or two), and definitely some naan to sop up all the saucy bits.
Some folks like engagement rings, others opt for the jewels of the sea: fatty toro topped with caviar, king salmon paired with sliced avocado. Have the best of both worlds with dinner from this raw-fish-focused Japanese spot in the Flatiron with a five-piece hand roll set featuring those aforementioned fish or one of the sushi roll sets (the spicy tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and cucumber combo is calling us), and save room for dessert (matcha almond toffee!).
The beauty of Spanish tapas is that you can never order too much. So don’t hold back as you begin building your order from chef/owner Jonah Miller’s East Village restaurant: pimentón-kissed octopus, shrimp-and-bacon-loaded saffron fried rice, the Basque Dog, and all the conservas, meats, and cheese you desire (looking at you, Manchego). Bonus: The menu calls out many allergy/dietary restrictions for easier ordering.
First things first: You’ll want to get the Tostadas y Salsa, five crunchy tortillas served with the holy trinity of guacamole, salsa roja, and salsa verde. This Oaxacan-focused restaurant from chef T.J. Steele in Gowanus takes its craft seriously — sink your teeth into the cricket-studded Caesar and the mole negro with braised short ribs — and makes nearly everything in-house (the chocolate bar is a collaboration with Mexico City chocolatier La Rifa).
The famed Black Label Burger, made with dry-aged beef cuts and topped with caramelized onions, is bucket list–worthy among burger aficionados and in turn is a prime contender for your bash at home. Get the roast bone marrow, pommes Anna, and whatever the daily special is, especially if it’s the black truffle–infused risotto.
If you’re commemorating a big accomplishment, you’re probably exhausted and don’t want to make one more decision about dinner tonight. Thankfully, you’re in good hands with chef Kingsley John at this Caribbean restaurant in Park Slope. Choose from one of the family dinners, centered around roast snapper or jerk rotisserie chicken and rounded out with rice and market vegetables.
Pat yourself on the back for whatever your big day is celebrating — it might just be turning one year older — with pure comfort: carbs. This Georgian restaurant in Chelsea is the expert on all things dough: khachapuri, the Georgian bread bowl filled with cheesy goodness and an egg yolk to stir and dip your bread into; thick-skinned khinkali dumplings; beef-and-allium-layered kubdari.
Clear the table, fasten a napkin around your neck, and get another stack of them — you’re going to need it for a jubilant evening courtesy of this Greenwich Village haunt, cracking open garlicky crawfish and buttery king crab legs and sucking out the juices. The King Combo seems fitting for tonight (one pound of each, with corn and potatoes) as does the Queen Combo (a half cluster of snow crab legs and one pound of shrimp with the same sides), but you can’t go wrong with jumbo shrimp, kielbasa, and garlic bread.
Ravagh means “portico” in Farsi, so consider this Persian restaurant in Midtown East the saffron-gilded entry to your special night. Select your grilled skewers (marinated chicken thigh, chopped lamb, sirloin chunks), your rice (plain basmati, infused with barberries or cherries, or crisped and served beneath a lamb-powered stew), and, most importantly, your yogurt (the Mast Khiar with cucumber and mint is the crowd favorite). The night is young.
It’s not a party until the jollof rice arrives, fragrant and stained tomato-red. This Midtown East spot from chef Margarete Duncan and owner George Quainoo highlights West African specialities, turning plantains into fluffy fufu, melon seeds and collard greens into creamy egusi, and mackerel into a tomato-and–black pepper stew. Get the Large Rice Combo to try a little bit of everything.
Twirl all the pasta — spicy rigatoni all’Amatriciana, spaghetti cacio e pepe, gnocchi coated in preserved tomatoes — eat some fried chicken, or settle in for a dry-aged rib eye for two. It’s your big day and this Italian-leaning spot in the West Village has every scenario for whatever you’re in the mood for, though we’d argue that each and every mood calls for the Italian Manhattan for two.
It’s rare to indulge in omakase on your couch, but that’s exactly what this Park Slope sushi spot offers. Get the Sushi Omakase (nine pieces of nigiri with a toro-scallion roll) or take the night up one notch with Katsuei’s Elite Omakase (three selections of sashimi, 12 pieces of nigiri, a hand roll of fatty tuna with scallions). You deserve it.
On every emo album from the early 2000s, there is one song that grabs your attention and has you playing it on repeat. At this Austrian restaurant in the Financial District, the equivalent to that foot-thumping anthem is the all-caps Schnitzel Feast. It includes four Viennese-style cutlets, craggy yet light; three salads (potato, cucumber, and mixed greens); and a bottle of Austrian wine (red or white). It’s a go-to for good reason.
This regional Chinese restaurant in the East Village has its own take on lobster night. You can get a jumbo crustacean stir-fried in dried pepper, showered in black pepper, or tossed in a salted egg yolk batter. Be sure to order the jiggly crab tofu, tender wood ear mushroom salad, and the literally sensational mapo tofu (your tongue will be buzzing, nose runny, and taste buds exploding from the Sichuan peppercorns).
Behold the Moo Sarong, pork meatballs encased in a wrapper made out of crunchy noodles. The technique! The texture! It’s one of many highlights on this breezy Lower East Side restaurant’s Thai menu, in addition to the whole-fried branzino crowned with shallots and mint, New York strip steak with a sticky tamarind sauce on the side, and fried rice enriched with lump crab.
Jean-Georges (as in chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten) is in the house. At his ingredient-driven restaurant in Union Square, a few blocks from the farmers’ market, you see what’s in those stalls on the menu. That translates to whole-wheat pizzas topped with spinach and goat cheese or tender squash and lemon ricotta and thoughtfully constructed salads (bitter escarole with sweet fig, soft kale with crisp apples). But go big with herb-crusted pork chops, wood-fired lobster, and a thick slice of malted chocolate cake.