Where To Go When You Want Dinner To Feel Like A Party
If you want to have a big night out, you could go somewhere for dinner and spend half the time discussing where to go out afterwards, or you could go to a restaurant that already feels like a party. That way, you can eat your food, and then transition into asking strangers to do shots (and a caviar bump or two) with you. The next time you want to dance in between bites of branzino, plan a dinner at one of these spots.
If you’ve always lamented the fact that you weren’t around to experience the decadence of ’80s New York nightlife, you should be hanging out at Holiday Bar. This West Village restaurant is from the team behind Saint Theo’s and American Bar. Where they go, the scene follows, and you’ll find the same glittery crowd piled into white leather banquettes pretending not to notice you noticing them. It’s a loud, buzzy room decked out with random retro artifacts and art by Alex Katz, and there’s a small TV in the bathroom that plays old shows and movies. The seafood-centric menu has a decent raw bar and sushi rolls, but the real objective here is to have a good time.
You’re in for a good time the moment you make your way down the stairs into the subterranean level of Mao Mao, a Thai restaurant in Bushwick. You might even throw your hands up in the air from one of the theater-style seats and start dancing. The combination of twinkly lights, vintage Thai movie posters, and Thai acid rock playing at Ozzfest-level decibels will do that to a person. Come here with a few friends, work your way through something from every page of the menu (we love the khao mun gai), and plan to linger over Thai beers and tastes of different kinds of ya dong, the liquor that Mao Mao specializes in.
Located in a cavernous space reminiscent of a ‘90s art loft, sushi speakeasy Studio 151 is like a house party thrown by someone with impeccable taste in records. There’s a billboard-sized, half-finished poster of a naked lady on the wall beside the bar, and jazz records spin until around 10 PM, when the restaurant devolves into a dance club. You can order sushi from the high tops and couches, but you want to try to book one of the four seats at the chef’s counter for an $80 omakase that rivals options triple the price. If the rest of the restaurant is the living room of the house party, the chef’s counter is the bedroom where the cool kids go to smoke and make out.
The second floor of Republica, a three-story Dominican restaurant on Dykman, is windowless with purple strobe lights and thumping bachata. It looks like a club, except you can order mofongo and seafood paella. As you can imagine, dinner upstairs on the colorful covered rooftop is also a party. While the food is decent, it definitely has a bigger purpose—and that purpose is to give you enough sustenance to keep doing more shots. Try the thick, salty chimi, or start with a tres golpes plate with awesome slabs of fried cheese then move on to the saffron-lime salmon before heading back to the dance floor. Maximize the fun by coming with a group. If you don’t, you might feel like you’re missing out on the party.
Piccola Cucina Estiatorio is a good place to have some excellent Sicilian food whenever you catch yourself taking things too seriously, and it's also the perfect spot to embarrass someone on their birthday. The staff at this cramped little Italian restaurant in Soho flicker the lights, bang pots and pans, and sing for about three consecutive minutes whenever they feel like it (and especially if it’s someone’s birthday). Mostly everyone in the dark room shares big plates of fried or grilled seafood before moving onto personal pans of pasta. At only $26, the lobster pasta is something to celebrate. It comes with spicy red sauce and huge chunks of meat, and it never seems to end.
Thai Rock is part Thai restaurant and part live music space with a huge patio on the water near the Cross Bay Bridge, making it one of the best hangs in the Rockaways. On the weekends, they book everyone from breezy jazz quartets to loud headbangers, and you’ve got access to a solid panang curry and mango salad the entire time. If you’re sticking around for a few beers, the Thai Rock burger with basil works great with a Chang beer. Stop by for a show and some lychee martinis adorned with fruit and flower petals. You’ll feel like you’re much further away from the rest of the city than you are (even while you see it in the distance across the bay).
This party spot in Jackson Heights serves a 15-course omakase with unlimited sake for $89 in cold hard cash. A meal here doesn’t so much feel like a typical omakase experience as it does a reckless basement party with songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” blasting from the speakers. Whenever a diner’s cup empties, one of the people behind the counter tips a magnum of sake into their glass. We can’t think of any other restaurant experience we’ve had that combines sparklers in eel-toro handrolls, torched white tuna topped with chili garlic crisp, and this level of drunken fun. They also have a second location in Williamsburg.
There’s a good chance you’ll end up on the dance floor at some point during your night at Miss Lily’s 7A. You might be sitting at a booth in the colorful East Village Caribbean spot eating jerk chicken and crispy fish tacos, or standing next to your table drinking piña coladas when the electro-raggae blasting through the speakers finally beckons you to join everyone under the disco ball. Before fully committing, we recommend getting one more order of fried fish balls. Not only are they our favorite appetizer here, but they’ll also help soak up the sneaky amount of rum in the cocktails.
Puglia has a pretty long menu, and you can read through it if you like, but there’s really only one way you should do dinner at this 100-year-old spot in Little Italy, and it’s the prix-fixe. For $49.95, you get massive portions of baked clams, rigatoni alla vodka, and chicken parm. It’s all served family-style, and while you wouldn’t go out of your way to eat any of it again, the red sauce and cheese-heavy dishes do help balance out the other aspect of the prix-fixe: bottomless beer and wine for three hours. As you may have guessed, the majority of the restaurant is standing on chairs and waving napkins in the air before the entrees even arrive.
Are you too old for the club? But are you looking for somewhere to wear that outfit you’d wear to the club? Wear it to Citrico Cafe. This isn’t a party restaurant, exactly, but there’s a bright bar that sets the tone, and people show up in after-hours-ready clothes prepared to have a good time. The music is never too loud, they have exceptional, kinda fancy filet mignon and char siu pork belly tacos, and you’ll see groups of people ordering margaritas all night—but it never feels like a frat boy cantina. You can stop by for a fun Friday night out and still get home by 1am.
Even if you can’t make it to Mardi Gras this year, you can still drink a sh*t ton of rum and get a little too loud at Sugar Freak. Come by during brunch or on a weekend night and the Cajun/Creole restaurant will feel like a New Orleans-themed party. Beads hang from the light fixtures, the music is loud, and the big, packed space is full of groups sharing things like crawfish boils and jambalaya. This is a fun spot to come with a big group and have a kind of rowdy night out. They also have plenty of outdoor seating during nice weather.