NYCGuide

Where To Have A Graduation Lunch Or Dinner

30 restaurants to visit when the speeches are over.

Where To Have A Graduation Lunch Or Dinner guide image

photo credit: Teddy Wolff

Graduation is a disorienting time full of long speeches and people wearing wizard robes, and once it’s all over, you’ll probably need to get at least one group meal to commemorate the occasion. That’s where we come in. This guide has a bunch of great restaurants for some likely post-graduation lunch and dinner scenarios. There are places for big groups, places for small groups, and even a few places perfect for people who might try to start arguing before the menus arrive. No matter who you’re eating with, here’s where to celebrate the fact that someone just earned a frameable piece of paper.

The Spots

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

Don Angie review image
8.4

Don Angie

$$$$

Perfect For: Dinner

Maybe a few people in your family don’t typically get along, and you’re afraid that someone will pick a fight with someone else, mostly out of boredom. Try Don Angie. The food is a modern take on traditional Italian - which means you’ll be eating things like gnocchi covered in poppy seeds and a big piece of fried veal covered in prosciutto. Order both of those things, in addition to the stuffed garlic flatbread, and people should be too distracted to get overly passive aggressive.


Perfect For: Dinner

Legacy Records is from the same people behind Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, but it’s bigger and a little more opulent than either of those places. In other words, it’s perfect for when you’re feeling celebratory enough to spend a significant amount of money on a whole lacquered duck and some sea urchin spaghetti. Be sure to get the crudo tasting as well, and try to take a moment to appreciate the leather-topped tables and extremely expensive steak knives.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Maybe you’re going out with a group of people who only come to New York for the occasional wedding, graduation, or musical starring Patti Lupone. Before everyone heads back to their own zip codes, get dinner at a classic NYC spot like Minetta Tavern. Eat the dry-aged cote de boeuf in a red leather booth, check out the black and white photos on the walls, and pretend you’re all hanging out in the 1940s, when a college student could probably find a job a minute after graduating.


photo credit: Le Coucou

Le Coucou review image

Le Coucou

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

open table
$$$$(212) 271-4252
Hours:WED
5AM-11PM

Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Le Coucou is a French restaurant in Soho with high ceilings and white tablecloths - but the service isn’t too stiff, and if a family member chooses to wear jeans or a Henrik Lundqvist jersey, you won’t be asked to leave the premises. So if you’re in the mood for some excellent (and pricey) French food like foie gras and dover sole, but you’re not sure that everyone in your graduation party would feel comfortable at a super-formal place like Daniel, come here.


Perfect For: Dinner

It’s risky planning an outdoor dinner far in advance. But if you’re going to take the gamble, go with LaRina. It’s an Italian place in Fort Greene, and the patio is ideal for when you’d rather have a low-key meal in what feels like someone’s very nice backyard. Get a plate of smoked spaghetti or lasagna verdi, then stare up at the stars and ask them how long it’ll take you to pay off your student loans.


Perfect For: Dinner

Graduation is basically one big gathering after another, and maybe you’re tired of hearing the same people talk about hopes, dreams, and future plans that have a roughly 50/50 chance of actually happening. Drop most of your family off after your first group dinner ends, select the members you like the most, and then bring them to 4 Charles for a second, late-night dinner. If you were ever going to smoke a cigar and not feel cheesy about it, it would be after martinis and some rare prime rib here.


Fedora is permanently closed

photo credit: Teddy Wolff

Fedora review image

Fedora

$$$$646-449-9336
Hours:WED
5:30PM-2AM

Perfect For: Dinner

Fedora is in the basement of a townhouse in the West Village, and it feels like a dinner party in someone’s home. Although unlike most dinner parties, this one has food you won’t have to pretend to like. They make some great brussels sprouts and steak tartare, and the chicken is actually the best thing on the menu. The space isn’t huge, but you can bring a small group and pretend you’re all eating at home, which probably doesn’t happen too often nowadays.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Is everyone attending this graduation? Including several cousins you tend to forget about in your day-to-day life? Get dinner at Freemans. They have three private dining rooms and a whole second floor that you can rent out. Also, it looks like a place where you could write a novel - a classy one, maybe in Russian. There are flowers, stuffed birds, old paintings, and vintage furniture, and the restaurant itself is hidden at the back of a tiny alley. The food is on the heavier side, but if you’re celebrating something, you might as well get full.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Maialino looks kind of like an Italian farmhouse that was purchased by a real estate developer, expanded, and turned into a restaurant. It’s a big, charming place with a lot of art hanging on the walls and a bunch of tables covered in blue-and-white checked tablecloths. The service is friendly, it’s fancy without being either stuffy or rowdy, and it’s in a big space in the bottom of the Gramercy Park Hotel. Also, there’s pasta. Good pasta. So it’s a pretty safe bet that most people will like Maialino.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Pasquale Jones might call itself an Italian place, but it’s actually a wine place. A wine place that serves Italian food. From their always-rotating seasonal bottle list (the entirety of which you can order in half-bottle form), to their rare stuff, to the extremely knowledgeable staff, to the insanely light wine glasses that would make Welch’s taste good - this is a wine person’s mecca. And the better news is, you don’t have to know the difference between a Beaujolais and a Barolo to love it here. Just let the wannabe-sommelier in your group take care of the alcohol, and you take care of the rest - i.e. ordering one of everything on the menu.


Perfect For: Dinner

To get through college, you have to pass a significant number of midterms and plan several Halloween costumes last-minute, because you were so busy studying. So maybe you want to celebrate this accomplishment at a true Special Occasion Spot. Daniel is a white-tablecloth French restaurant on the Upper East Side that serves a prix fixe tasting menu full of excellent food that’s prettier than half the art at The Frick, and it’s perfect for when you want to get dressed up and ask a waiter who’s equally dressed-up to take a family photo. Dinner starts at $158 for a four-course prix fixe, and there’s a $250 seven-course prix fixe as well.


Perfect For: Dinner

If you or someone you know just put in a couple of years at Columbia, try Clay. It’s a few blocks away on the other side of Morningside Park on 123rd Street, and the food here is worth seeking out. Also, reservations aren’t impossible. So book a table before too many other people realize this fact, and eat some exceptional duck or pasta while you discuss other notable Columbia alumni such as Art Garfunkel and Maggie Gyllenhaal.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

A few blocks south of Columbia, you’ll find Marlow Bistro. It’s at the corner of Amsterdam and 110th Street, and it’s a bright, well-lit space with big windows and potted plants. The food is mostly Italian with some other Mediterranean influences, so you’ll be eating things like burrata with za’atar and risotto with shrimp and chorizo. No one will complain about the noise levels here, and at least one person in your party will probably make several comments about how charming this place is.


photo credit: Noah Devereaux

L’Amico review image

L'Amico

$$$$(212) 201-4065
Hours:WED
11:30AM-3PM5PM-11PM

Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

You just sat around for a few hours in Madison Square Garden while the dean of something gave a mostly-recycled speech, then handed out some slips of paper. Now it’s time to get some lunch or dinner with everyone who came to watch this strange ritual unfold, and you suspect that Italian food will go over well. Make a reservation at L’Amico. This place has high ceilings, big windows, and plenty of room for groups, and everyone can have a pizza or a plate of pasta here.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Someone in your group operates on a mostly plant-based, occasionally raw diet, and someone else mostly just eats burgers. You can satisfy both parties at Loring Place. This upscale-but-not-too-fancy restaurant has consistently great food, a crowd-pleasing menu, and excellent service - and it also happens to be in NYU’s backyard. Not optional: at least one ice cream sundae for the table, even if you’re the only one eating it.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Samwon Garden is also pretty close to MSG, and it’s a huge place where you can fit your immediate family as well as any family members you really weren’t expecting to see. This sleek three-story restaurant does Korean barbecue, and it’s a great spot for either lunch or dinner. Be sure to order the assorted beef platter, and get some kimchi fried rice with brisket.


The NoMad

$$$$(212) 796-1500
Hours:WED
7AM-10AM12PM-2PM5:30PM-10:30PM

Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Maybe your family is staying in Midtown, or maybe they just think that Midtown is the coolest part of New York City, and you don’t have the heart to tell them they’re wrong. For an upscale lunch or dinner in the general area, try The Nomad. It’s just a few blocks south of Midtown, and it’s a big, impressive space with lots of rugs and curtains. It feels kind of like the wing of an old-school mansion, and the menu is made up of things like pasta, steak, and a whole roast chicken stuffed with foie gras. Try it for a fancy lunch when you want to sit on a leather chair beneath a big skylight.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Several people in your family watch Bravo, and you all subscribe to the Get Turnt Spotify playlist. Sounds like you’re having this graduation dinner at Dirty French, a place designed for people who would rather not grow up. Parents will appreciate that this restaurant doesn’t make them feel like they’re celebrating the graduation of their adult child, and everyone else will appreciate that the food is actually very good.


Perfect For: Dinner

Benno is in a hotel on 27th Street, and the menu here consists of three prix fixe options that range from $105-$155. The French/Italian food is excellent - focus on things like the skate almondine or duck with foie gras (you can skip the pastas). Bring some family members who want to eat in a big, upscale space with velvet booths and candles on the walls, and wear something nice that’s been sitting in your closet for several years.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Let’s say someone in your party is louder than the rest, and you’re worried this person might have a little too much wine, then shout something rude (but true) about the New England Patriots. Let’s also say this person really wants some chicken parm. Go to Quality Italian. There’s plenty of room, and no one’s going to care if you’re a little loud. Plus, their chicken parm is the size of a fully grown pizza. That said, if you’re looking for a meat entree, we’d get some steak.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

It’s 2pm, the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a banana, and now several people you’re related to are staring at you, asking where you should all get lunch. Fortunately, you know about Cookshop. Maybe (hopefully) you even made a reservation in advance. In which case, you can tell everyone to relax, then head over to this Chelsea restaurant and eat some things like burrata, a lamb burger, and/or a pizza with a bunch of vegetables on top. This is a crowd-pleasing place, and there’s a bunch of sidewalk seating when it’s nice out.


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Lafayette is nice, but it isn’t too nice. It feels like the sort of massive restaurant you’d find in an ideal mall - like if the Cheesecake Factory went to France, did some soul searching, and came back more refined. It’s a good spot to celebrate something with a bunch of people who want to go to a somewhat fancy place, but not one with a dress code. And if you’re thinking about having a graduation brunch, this big French bistro is a great place to do that.


Union Square Cafe basically invented “casual fine dining,” which means it feels fancy without being stuffy - you can eat a quail, or you can eat a burger. This is the second incarnation of the restaurant, and it’s great. The service is excellent, there’s plenty of room for groups, and the menu has everything from mackerel crudo and a bunch of different pastas to a lamb shank and a ribeye for two (just know that it’s on the pricier side, with entrees starting around $40).


Perfect For: Dinner

Maybe your 12-year-old cousin’s Instagram account, Foodie4Lyfe, somehow has 10k followers - or maybe a few people in your graduation party are really into “experimenting with tahini right now.” Plan your dinner at Olmsted. Start with a cocktail out in the back garden, and when you sit down in the restaurant, order some things like a crepe made out of carrots, banh mi beef tartare, and kale crab rangoon. The food is exceptional, and you’ll spend most of your dinner talking about it (rather than anything potentially stressful, such as loans, rent, and the future in general).


Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

A bunch of people are coming all the way to NYC to observe this graduation - and also see two Broadway shows, tour Rockefeller Center, go to Ellis Island, and visit the Met, Whitney, and Guggenheim (at least). Something tells you you’re all going to be just a little bit tired. Do your future self a favor and book a table at Rubirosa, where you’ll eat pizza, pasta, and arancini, and everyone will feel like you’ve taken them to an authentic NYC Italian gem. Because you have.


photo credit: Emily Schindler

Houseman review image
8.0

Houseman

$$$$212-641-0654
Hours:WED
11:30AM-2:30PM5PM-11PM

Perfect For: Lunch, Dinner

Houseman is in the neighborhood between the West Village and Tribeca that’s home to the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, a bunch of rich 45-year-olds, and trendy ad agencies. It’s low-key and a little out of the way, and that’s probably why this place stays quiet enough for a normal conversation (that, and the acoustic ceiling panels). So if you don’t want to make a huge deal out of your graduation dinner, but you still want some exceptional food, come here.


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