Take the 7 train one stop west from Times Square, and you’ll wind up in a place called Hudson Yards. It’s a massive real estate development that calls itself a neighborhood - but it feels more like the setting for a sci-fi film where robots rebel against their wealthy human overlords.
We can’t tell you that it’s worth going out of your way to eat at any of the Hudson Yards restaurants for dinner tonight - at least not yet. (Then again, maybe you have a dream to eat an extremely expensive dinner in a mall, in which case, by all means, get on that 7 train.) But based on our initial visits, we can give you an idea of what to expect from almost all of them, excluding a few chains like Fuku, Shake Shack, and Bluestone Lane. This list is roughly in order of most to least promising, and we’ll be updating it as new spots open and we go back to try these ones again.
You can find stuffy white tablecloth spots, Momofuku spinoffs, and understaffed Verizon stores all over the city, but you can’t find another place quite like Mercado Little Spain. This food hall is like a Spanish version of Eataly, with a bunch of different grab-and-go tapas kiosks specializing in things like empanadas, flatbreads, and cured meats. There are also a couple bars where you can sit and try various types of dry sherry with snacks like liquid olives (which look like olives but taste like a mix of olive juice and olive oil). Considering two of the best restaurants in this new collection of tall buildings, Mar and Leña, are also located here, this is where you should plan to do most of your eating in Hudson Yards. (A third sit-down spot, Spanish Diner, isn’t open yet.)
A lot of places in Hudson Yards seem to focus more on production value than what you’ll actually be eating, but that’s not the case at Mar, which has better and less expensive food than most of the other spots in the development. The focus is on seafood, with raw bar options, tapas, and some share plates, like really good paella with toasted pasta and cuttlefish. Sit at the bar or in one of the booths along the wall, and if you particularly enjoy any of the fish here, buy some more of it to-go from the on-site fishmonger.
Most of what we just said also applies to Leña, except this casual Spanish spot inside Mercado Little Spain focuses on dishes cooked over an open fire. The servers may recommend one of the three cuts of high-quality cured pork, but we think you should focus on the share plates. Start with the beef tartare or chistorra (fatty, tender chorizo), both of which come with excellent grilled bread, and then share some paella, like the one with big chunks of chicken and rabbit.
Like its other NYC location in Midtown, this Greek spot is very fancy, with most tables occupied by groups in tailored suits eating lobster or jumbo prawns that cost $118 per pound (fresh fish is flown in daily from around the world). It’s extremely expensive, but if that’s not a concern and/or you’re entertaining clients on the company’s dime, then you’ll eat some good food here, like perfectly cooked octopus with a rich fava bean puree. The dining room with big round tables and floor-to-ceiling windows works for groups, and there’s a walk-in-only bar area where you can get drinks and oysters or order from the full menu.
Hudson Yards has a lot of places to pretend you’re interested in buying really expensive watches, but it doesn’t have many spots that work for a casual drink. One good option is Milos Wine Bar, which has bar seats as well as standing tables. Ask the friendly somm to recommend something from the Greek wine list, and hang out while imagining backstories for the groups of very fancily dressed people walking up the marble staircase to Estiatorio Milos. They serve a bunch of Greek small plates here, like spanakopita and grilled octopus, but they kind of taste like they’ve been sitting out for a few hours, so just stick to the wine.
This Asian-inspired spot has a big marble bar, leather booths, and floor-to-ceiling windows, and generally feels like it should be in Meatpacking. Instead, it overlooks the Vessel and the Hudson River. You wouldn’t feel out of place wearing something cooler than what you wore to work (and you’ll be showing that outfit off to the hundreds of people you pass as you ride multiple escalators up to the fifth floor to get here). The food, which ranges from crab croquettes to mapo tofu dumplings to Japanese risotto, sounds more interesting than it tastes, and is generally just fine. The bulgogi beef puffs with Welsh rarebit are the best thing we’ve eaten here, but we wouldn’t pay $15 for three beef puffs again. If you want a Meatpacking vibe, just head 20 blocks south.
Yes, the name of this restaurant sounds like a serial killer, but there are actually Zodiac Rooms in a dozen or so Neiman Marcus stores around the country. This is where you go before, after, or in the middle of a day of shopping, and it’s known for serving delicate little popovers with strawberry butter - you’ll get one when you sit down. It’s also one of the few restaurant spaces in Hudson Yards with a view of New York (and not the Vessel), and the dining rooms are nice enough to accommodate royalty. As long as you’re comfortable paying $38 for a (great) lobster club, you’ll probably like it here a lot.
Whether or not you have any interest in buying a new jacket, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself talking to a Tom Ford sales rep if you’re trying to get a drink at Bar Stanley. This cocktail bar is in the back of the second floor of Neiman Marcus (so on the sixth floor of 20 Hudson Yards), and after walking through aisles of $200 jeans for 15 minutes, you’ll eventually have to crack and ask one of the smiling sales associates where the hell to go. Once you do locate this place, you’ll find yourself in a small room with some bar seats and a few plush booths full of people drinking martinis with shopping bags at their feet. The cocktails are all $19, but they’re also very well made, and should help if you’re stressed out after debating between skinny and slim fits all afternoon.
Queensyard is from the people behind Bluebird London, another English-influenced restaurant in a fancy mall (the Time Warner Center). This multi-room spot on the fourth floor of 20 Hudson Yards looks like a huge first-class airport lounge, and serves decent food, like a pork chop with blood sausage and fish and chips with mushy peas. The views of the Vessel’s funny-looking staircases and the Hudson River are nice, but if you want a spot for corporate card outings, you can get better food at TAK Room or Estiatorio Milos.
Hudson Yards Grill feels like a more expensive, weirder version of a mall restaurant from the mid-’90s, and whether that’s intentional or not, we’re not quite sure. The menu is broad but not that interesting, ranging from pizza and burgers to some sushi bar options that feel like they got lost and wandered in after a day of shopping at Fendi, Coach, and the fancy scooter store. The dining room has no windows, so you don’t even benefit from a view. Of all the spots at Hudson Yards, this is the one that’s least worth a trip right now.