photo credit: Emily Schindler
The Best Afternoon Tea In NYC
Where to eat tiny sandwiches and bite-sized desserts while sipping tea with your pinky in the air.
Do you need caffeine in order to form a coherent sentence? Are sandwiches something you're fond of? Has something with sugar ever made you happy? These are all rhetorical questions. You may think you're not an afternoon tea person, but you really are. Afternoon tea contains all the building blocks for a successful day of food and drink consumption. Unfortunately, a lot of places have stopped doing it. We checked out a bunch of spots in the city that are still keeping this tradition going, and these are our favorites.
photo credit: Brooklyn High Low
Brooklyn High Low
You’ll need to make reservations at this tiny, eclectic tea parlor well in advance, but it’s worth it. Brooklyn High Low is hands-down the best afternoon tea in New York. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a dotty British grandma’s drawing room as you sit on a divan and sip perfectly-brewed, exciting tea out of mismatched china cups. The savory bites here are exceptional, and we actually often recreate the cheddar and Branston pickle sandwich at home. You’ll also enjoy warm scones and homey, delicious desserts.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
No one makes macarons as good as Ladurée, so we’re pleased to report that they’re a centerpiece of the afternoon tea set. On your tower, you get four macarons per person, plus a box to take home. This experience leans heavily on the sweet side, but everything you’ll get is technically perfect. Instead of a variety of bite-sized pastries, you’ll get one full-sized dessert per person, as well as two large tea sandwiches. The sandwiches are a bit boring, but they’re of higher quality than the ones served at most other tea parlors. And as always, the setting here is picturesque and lovely.
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photo credit: Kitsby
You’re not going to see any fine bone china tea sets at Kitsby. This Williamsburg Asian-inspired dessert spot is totally casual and looks like a typical coffee shop, so it’s not the type of place where you get dressed up. Still, their afternoon tea “kit” has some of the most interesting food on this list. For $42, you get 11 mostly sweet items with the choice of one entrée. We suggest you choose the beef Wellington-like cheeseburger made with melty smoked cheddar encased in a sweet bolo bao. Some of the unique desserts include the raspberry and sesame macaron and a shortbread cookie made with five spice. For a small upcharge, you can get one of their specialty drinks like an expertly-made matcha jasmine latte.
This cozy cafe tucked in the back of one of Soho’s fanciest chocolate shops makes a pretty solid afternoon tea, and at $70pp, it’s one of the more affordable options in Manhattan. You can switch between unlimited coffee or tea throughout service, and we love to start with a dark chocolate mochachino before switching to a pot of chocolate rose black tea. As part of your set, you’ll get a seasonal soup served in an extremely cute tiny silver cup, an array of pretty good finger sandwiches, excellent scones with clotted cream and two jams served in tiny crystal jam goblets, and some solid desserts. Tea is served all day, every day, and you don’t need a reservation.
photo credit: Carina Finn
Lady Mendl's Tea Salon
There is no better place in NYC to cosplay as the main character in your favorite Victorian novel while eating tiny sandwiches than Lady Mendl’s. This elegant spot is housed in a Gramercy brownstone decorated with museum-quality vintage furniture, and afternoon tea here is an hours-long affair that practically begs you to get dressed up. We particularly love the scones and tea sandwiches, though we recommend choosing a pot you love rather than getting the tea pairing. Fun fact: On Thursday nights, this place turns into a burlesque parlor, if you want to enjoy the sumptuous space in a different light.
photo credit: The Russian Tea Room
The Russian Tea Room
Tea service here is always a fun option before a performance at Carnegie Hall (right next door). For $80, you get a three-tiered tray of savory sandwiches followed by a substantial selection of sweets. It’s a lot of food. The creamy shrimp salad and smoked sturgeon sandwiches are two favorites, and you should prioritize the chocolate chip scone and mini red velvet cupcake if you know you can’t finish all the desserts. At least two genuine Picassos and one Chagall are hung on the walls (among many reproductions) in the opulent green, gold, and red dining room. The staff won’t tell you which paintings are real just in case you’re secretly a Danny Ocean-level art thief.
photo credit: Kate Previte
A great walk-in option, afternoon tea at Angelina is a little different. While you can get it with tea, you really should get it with the cafe’s signature hot chocolate. Extra-thick and rich, the hot chocolate comes with a sidecar of Chantilly cream. You’ll also get a glass of orange juice (weird but okay?) and some excellent mini sandwiches, including the tiniest, most adorable croque monsieur on the planet, plus macarons and financiers. Tea is $39pp, and we actually love this for a solo weekday afternoon experience.
photo credit: Minori Kawachi
Prince Tea House
This East Village location of Prince Tea House has nicely-upholstered seating, wainscot paneling, and chandeliers—all of which gives this place the feel of a restaurant you’d find inside a fancy department store. Their relatively affordable afternoon tea—$30 for one, served every day—includes atypical open-faced sandwiches like one with pastrami and melted swiss. The best item is the warm, fluffy scone with clotted cream. You’ll get a teapot all to yourself, which comes on top of a candle to keep your tea warm throughout your meal.
The Whitby Bar & Restaurant
We want to know what kind of dreams the person who designed this place has. The massive space at The Whitby has a bunch of random mismatched things that look like they were collected from various estate sales. Afternoon tea starts at $65 and it’s perfect for when you want to dress up a little, sit in front of a full set of gold-trimmed dishware, and have a crisp linen napkin placed on your lap. The food is mostly fine, although the lemony crème fraîche in the smoked salmon sandwich is a nice detail, and we’d happily eat the cubed coconut and pumpkin dulce de leche lamington any day. We also like how they use loose leaf tea. It gets crowded, so be sure to make a reservation.
photo credit: Tymel Young
Lillie's Victorian Establishment
No one can ever accuse the people behind Lillie’s of mailing it in when it comes to decor. The super high and ornate ceilings make you feel like you’re in a palace. Direct your eyes to the stained glass windows, and now this place looks like a church. Their $45 afternoon tea, only offered at Lillie’s Midtown location, comes with a solid chicken salad and mint pesto sandwich, delicate macarons, a selection of mini creme brûlées with perfectly brittle tops, and more—all served on flowery Victorian dishware. This place is on the same street as multiple Broadway productions, so go for tea service before a weekend matinee.