Hi, it’s me, Becky, filling in for Pete this week! Winter in New York is the season to embrace unabashed corniness. If you’re visiting for the holidays, you really should do the most obvious things: the Rockettes, the Rockefeller Center tree, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights and stopping to watch ice skating at every opportunity. As you work through that list, you’re going to have to take a break and eat — those pit stops shouldn’t be a break from the festivities, but a continuation.
A few weeks back, Pete put out a call for New York City holiday dining questions. He tackled a few last week, and today I’ve got a few more. As for your Qs, below are my recommendations for eating in the merriest, brightest way possible.
Cozy up with a drink
What are the coziest, off-the-beaten-path bars to hang and have a few beverages by a nice, authentic fireplace? — Brendan
This is a favorite category of mine — bars that make you feel like you’re in a Hallmark Movie — and the lobby bar at the BoweryHotel in NoHo defines the genre. It’s all dark wood and velvet furniture, with perfect, classic cocktails, a scene that makes you want to meet a local ironsmith who understands the real meaning of Christmas. And salty bar nuts with every drink! Alternatively, Art Bar in the West Village is a more bohemian version of the same scene. The lounge room, straight back past the bar and behind a curtain, has low light and even lower couches. And in Brooklyn, there’s a midcentury fireplace in the back room of Bedford Stuyvesant’s favorite date spot (where you can get a great slice of cake), Dynaco.
Vegetarian dinner after the light show
We’re coming in from Syracuse to see the lights at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. We’ve got one picky vegetarian with us (no pizza or pasta). Any ideas? — Jessica
The garden lights are a delightful reason to visit. I made a trip last weekend with some friends and an unimpressed baby. If I’d had the time, I would’ve beelined for Getrude’s, in Prospect Heights, to warm up afterward. Even the pickiest of vegetarians would have a hard time turning down a plate of deep-brown latkes topped with crème fraîche alongside a big leafy salad. The Persian restaurant Sofreh is also about a fifteen minute walk from the Botanic Garden, where you can easily make a satisfying meal of saffron rice, dips and roasted vegetables.
A shopping interlude
I would love some suggestions for where to refuel during a stroll on Fifth Avenue. Thank you very much. Happy Holidays! — Andrea
I’m incapable of talking about holiday dining in New York without recommending my clichéd favorite, Grand Central Oyster Bar. Sitting at the U-shaped tables with shrimp cocktail and a martini is just so … Manhattan! If you’re shopping during the weekend (the Oyster Bar is closed on Saturday and Sunday), try Hatsuhana for simple, high-quality sushi. And, if you’re too in-the-zone to sit for lunch, Rockefeller Center has a Fuku location downstairs where you can grab a fried chicken sandwich and, ideally, eat it outside while you watch the ice skaters under the tree.
Staying cozy outdoors
For those still concerned about indoor virus transmission, can you recommend some restaurants with outdoor heated seating that are either not enclosed or private cabins? — Howard
It’s been a pleasant surprise to see how many restaurants are maintaining their outdoor dining structures, and many of them are downright glamorous. At Don Angie, in the West Village, their separated outdoor rooms have baseboard heating, checkerboard floors and velvet curtains — spaces cozy enough to enjoy the Instagram-famous lasagna rolls while forgetting you’re in the middle of Greenwich Avenue. At the high-end Korean steakhouse Cote, in the Flatiron district, there’s thorough heating and a tabletop grill in each of the five street-side “cabanas.” The experience won’t make you feel any less opulent than you’d be inside, crushing Wagyu, banchan and scallion salad.