Clients are like plants - except instead of watering them and placing them in direct sunlight, you need to take them to dinner sometimes. But you can’t just take them to any restaurant. You need someplace that’s nice but not awkwardly formal, and trendy while still being quiet enough for a conversation. It should also have food options that will appeal to just about everyone. Here are 12 corporate-card-worthy spots that meet all these criteria.
If your clients aren’t impressed by Manhatta, there’s a good chance they just don’t like you. This spot from the people behind Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern is on the 60th floor of a building in FiDi, and it has panoramic views of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu is a three-course prix-fixe of mostly French dishes like foie gras mousse, wagyu bavette, and vanilla souffle, and there are plenty of things that make the experience unique - like sets of binoculars you can borrow to look more closely at the view. Point out all these details, and tell your clients this is the type of customer service they can expect from you as well.
Hotel restaurants are generally safe (if not the most exciting) choices for client dinners. But Reynard, on the ground floor of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, is a place you can look forward to visiting, for work or otherwise. The service is consistent and the space is impressively designed, but you’re here for the wood-fired American dishes like squash cooked overnight on embers and roasted chicken with crispy rice and smoked cabbage. Plus, one of our favorite rooftop bars in the city is right upstairs.
A business dinner in Midtown East doesn’t need to mean dry-aged wagyu or omakase that will draw red flags from the accounting department. La Pecora Bianca is a great utility option that’s casual enough for a quick bite with the team from White Plains before they head to Grand Central a few blocks away. Start with charcuterie and antipasti, like the creamy burrata with ramp pesto, and then get some of the very solid pastas, along with plenty of reasonably priced Italian wine.
Your clients from LA mentioned that it’d be nice to have dinner near the water. Instead of taking them to a club-restaurant or asking why they need to see water here when they live next to the ocean, go to Celestine. This Mediterranean spot in Dumbo has great views of the river and Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room and from the outdoor tables on the patio. Unlike other waterfront spots in the neighborhood, Celestine actually feels pretty casual, so it’s a good spot to impress clients without making a big deal about it. While the food can be hit or miss (order the short rib dumplings, and avoid the flatbread), the atmosphere makes up for that.
Legacy Records is from the same people behind Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, and it’s slightly more formal than either of those places. It’s in Hudson Yards, and it has high ceilings, big leather booths, and more custom light fixtures than your average 100-foot yacht - not to mention a wine list that will satisfy anyone who likes to talk about “terroir” and plan vacations around vineyards. Also, the food is great. Get a booth in the main dining room, start with the crudo sampler, then have some top-notch pasta and a whole honey laquered duck.
Your clients have most likely heard of Balthazar. This Soho brasserie has been around for over 20 years, and it’s still great. Stop by for dinner, get the steak frites, and eat some of the best French onion soup you’ll find in the city. Your clients will enjoy the fact that you took them to a classic establishment they can tell their friends, family, and dentists about, and you’ll enjoy the shellfish tower you (hopefully) aren’t paying for.
Union Square Cafe is another classic establishment, and it’s pretty much the Tom Hanks of restaurants. It’s been around for a while, it’s just the right amount of classy, and pretty much everyone likes it. Anyone can find something to eat here, whether it’s a burger or a piece of fish, and the restaurant itself is nice without being too formal or stuffy. There are high ceilings and big round tables, the bi-level space doesn’t get too noisy, and the food is great. Just be sure to reserve a few weeks in advance, or you might wind up eating at 10pm.
This is another place where pretty much everyone will find something to eat. There are always a lot of vegetables on the menu, in addition to some whole wheat pizzas. So if you want to keep things lighter, you can do that - but you’ll also have options like pasta and a burger. The space is big and kind of looks like a loft apartment furnished by Crate & Barrel, and it tends to stay pretty crowded. So if you don’t mind a place on the slightly louder side, this is a good choice.
These clients are pretty cool - or at least they think they are. Rather than opting for the latest buzzy restaurant (where they’ve already eaten twice this month), take them to Wu’s Wonton King. This Chinatown spot has a bunch of big, lazy-Susan-topped tables that are ideal for sharing Peking duck and whole fried crabs. Plus, it’s BYO, so you can show how much thought you’ve put into this meal by having your friend who knows about wine carefully pick out some fino sherry, German riesling, and Beaujolais for you to bring along.
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a meal at abcV. You just have to like good food and big spaces that look like art galleries. This is the vegetarian spot from the people behind ABC Kitchen, and it was one of our favorite new restaurants of 2017. So bring some clients here and order a whole head of cauliflower, a dosa, and some lettuce wraps that are better than lettuce wraps should be. You’ll feel like you ate something healthy (because you did), and your clients will have a good story about this one vegetarian restaurant they went to that turned out to be really good.
Bistro Pierre Lapin is a French restaurant, and it seems like something you’d find on the Upper East Side or in one of the Hamptons. But it’s actually on a quiet street in the West Village, and it’s a good place to eat some pasta and/or roasted chicken. They also make a good avocado vichyssoise, in case your clients enjoy cold green soup, and despite the fact that there are white tablecloths on some of the tables, you can wear a t-shirt and sneakers here. So if you need a quiet downtown spot that’s equal parts nice and casual, try this one. (It’s also not too hard to get into.)
If you need to stay in Midtown and would rather not go someplace where the servers wear suits and every other person is proposing, try Empellón. It’s perfect for clients who are looking for an excuse to drink several margaritas, and the uni nachos are excellent and fun to eat in a Guy-Fieri-could-have-made-these kind of way. The tacos are also pretty solid, and the space is huge, with two floors and lots of big tables. Sure, it can get a little pricey, but you’re not picking up the check. So order multiple desserts.