Where To Take Someone Who Just Wants To See A Celebrity
9 restaurants that will increase your odds of seeing Mariska Hargitay or Chuck Schumer.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: New York City is not Los Angeles. We don’t have as many restaurants that cater almost exclusively to people who have new relationships to debut, like Craig’s or Nobu Malibu (although we do have Carbone and Nobu Downtown). The culture is different here, and half of your celebrity encounters will inevitably occur at little neighborhood spots or the West Village post office on Hudson Street. But if you’re grabbing dinner with someone who reads too many blind items, here are some restaurants where you can increase your odds of spotting someone famous.
The Polo Bar
The Polo Bar is the closest you’ll get to a guaranteed celebrity sighting. It’s also one of the toughest reservations in NYC, and that somehow feels like an understatement. In order to get a table at Ralph Lauren’s subterranean, ultra-preppy Midtown restaurant, you have to call and speak to a reservationist who will inevitably tell you that there’s no availability. If you do manage to get a table, you’ll be able to eat some surprisingly solid American food in a country club-esque room filled with equestrian paintings and people you’ve seen giving press briefings and awards speeches.
photo credit: Kate Previte
Due in large part to its location, Le Rock is a reliable place to spot a celebrity having a leisurely tax-deductible meal with their agent. This restaurant, from the team behind Frenchette, is situated on the edge of Rockefeller Center, just a few steps from where Jimmy Fallon shoots a talk show watched exclusively by people in 24-hour laundromats. The pristine dining room has high ceilings and Art Deco accents, and the food is some of the best on this list. Eat some escargots and steak haché, and pay attention to whoever’s sitting in the corner.
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Carbone had its moment, and that moment was around 2015. But you’ll still see celebrities here, and you’ll still have a very hard time getting a table. Due to the hype, you’ll hear people complain about the food as if hating this Greenwich Village restaurant is a badge of honor. But that take is neither original nor accurate. Carbone serves perfectly good red sauce Italian fare, and the complimentary antipasti is a nice touch. Come if you want to spend a ton of money and maybe see Justin Bieber. Or don’t. You’ll be fine either way.
Torrisi Bar & Restaurant
Is Torrisi the new Carbone? Sort of. It’s from the same people, and it’s another trendy downtown spot with high production value. Torrisi's loft-like space in a historic Nolita building is bigger than Carbone's, however, so it’s slightly easier to get a table. This place is also relatively new, so you're more likely to see the most current crop of celebrities here. Inspired by Little Italy and NYC in general, the menu leans Italian with a bunch of other influences, and it’s pretty interesting. Try the chicken liver with Manischewitz jelly and the pastrami-spiced short rib (an homage to nearby Katz’s).
photo credit: Teddy Wolfe
Famous people like eating at Via Carota. But not because it’s a party or scene. (Technically it’s the latter, but it definitely isn’t the former.) Via Carota is popular because it’s one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC, and the food is consistently excellent. This place is also in the West Village, which doesn’t hurt (see below). Nowadays, this dark, casual, farmhouse-like spot takes some reservations, but it’s still pretty much walk-in-only. You’re going to have to wait several hours for your table, but once you get seated, you might see Adam Driver eating tonarelli.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
For most, L’Artusi is a special occasion spot. But if you have several Golden Globe nominations and/or a $10 million dollar townhouse (as many West Village residents do), it’s just a nice place for a casual weeknight meal. You might stop by for an anniversary dinner only to notice a few Apatows eating bucatini right behind you. This sort of thing is not uncommon. If you can’t snag a reservation, put your name in for a few seats at the bar. The pasta here remains perfect, and the setting is generically romantic.
The team behind Holiday Bar also runs American Bar and Saint Theo’s, two West Village restaurants that seem like they were designed to attract celebrities and influencers who thrive in photogenic situations. Holiday Bar is the newest of the bunch, and, in an ecosystem that runs on hype, that makes it the most relevant. This ‘80s-themed spot (also in the West Village) has off-white banquettes, art by Alex Katz, and a menu with everything from spring rolls and lamb meatballs to sushi and jerk chicken. Reservations aren’t impossible, so try this place for a last-minute meal with someone who requires a scene.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Like Holiday Bar, Casino appears to have some kind of 1980s thing going on, but it’s more of a low-key, artsy ‘80s thing. The space has bright red floors and funky light fixtures, and the food is mostly decadent Southern European stuff. Stop by and enjoy a cosmo and a whole roasted turbot while you look around the candlelit dining room and try to guess what everyone does for a living. This restaurant is in Dimes Square, so you never really know who you're going to see. You might spot a cast member of Euphoria, or you might just wind up talking to some people who've never paid their own rent.
Why do so many celebrities go to Laser Wolf? There are a few reasons. The chef is pretty famous, the food is top-notch, and, most importantly, the view is worth at least several million dollars. Located on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg, this place serves grilled Israeli meats and vegetables with unlimited mezze and impressive views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s worth checking out, even if you aren’t just here to see a random senator or someone you recognize from Netflix. Come when the weather is warm for the best results.