Where To Eat At 5 PM Because You Love Restaurants, But Hate People

Some of New York’s great restaurants also attract its most annoying people—not you though. Go early to these seven spots to avoid the noise.
Where To Eat At 5 PM Because You Love Restaurants, But Hate People image

photo credit: Teddy Wolf

New York is a wonderful, populous place where there are 8.5 million opportunities to cross paths with other people, every single day. Sometimes, those millions of strangers are a nuisance, especially when they clog up the city’s best restaurants with their ring lights, or are simply obnoxious about having a good time. Here are seven great restaurants where, if you go early enough, you can find some peace without compromising the quality of your meal.


photo credit: Teddy Wolff


East Village

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDate NightImpressing Out of TownersOutdoor/Patio SituationVegetarians
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Yellow Rose is a great place to live out your saloon fantasy of a bartender sliding a glass of unknown brown liquor down a weathered bar. It's also a great place to eat delicacies of Southern Texas (lots of beans, shredded cheese, and carne guisada). But after around 6:30, this small East Village spot gets stampeded. The vintage Texas rodeo and music posters vanish in a sea of black leather-clad margarita drinkers. Come in early, before the crowds, so you can actually hear every croon of Willie Nelson’s voice.

Trendy restaurants come and go, but Laser Wolf has staked its claim to Brooklyn’s best view of Manhattan. So people will probably be eating fluffy pita and grilled meat here for a long time. Snagging a reservation for this Israeli spot in Williamsburg after 6pm still requires acrobatics, but that one hour between 5-6pm is the sweet spot—easily bookable in advance, and open to walk-ins. By the time the place gets packed, you’ll be eating their housemade brown sugar soft serve in a paper cup.

There is nothing quite like an early bird special at The Fly. A 5-6pm slot at the bar, with a half chicken, an order of french fries, a martini (or two), and the buffalo wings, if they’re the evening special. Because by 8pm, especially on a Saturday, at its glorious, chicken-loving peak, the cave-like Bed-Stuy chicken specialist is deafeningly loud. So loud in fact, that you might have trouble tasting your food, let alone hearing yourself speak. There is, of course, a time and place for bringing a group, and ordering the entire menu—but to really taste the juiciest rotisserie chicken in Brooklyn, go early.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff



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Eating at Hoexter’s on the Upper East Side after rush hour can be a challenge if you’re of the claustrophobic persuasion. The bar up front gets crowded, and you’ll have to say “excuse me” to the tables next to you when you go to the bathroom. But, if you’re looking for some ’70s New York nostalgia in the form of jungle print wallpaper and gorgonzola garlic bread served on branded plates, make an early reservation. Enjoy your elbow room with a side of steamed artichokes and beef carpaccio.

Two nice things about the Lower East Side’s Gem Wine: the $75, six-course tasting menu filled with seasonal bites—like roasted banana squash with an entire forest’s worth of chanterelle mushrooms—and the fact that they always save room for walk-ins. Some less nice things about Gem Wine: trying to walk in after 6:30 is a fool’s errand, the seating is mostly communal, and at least 70% of the people here are on dates. To avoid these problems, arrive before 5:30. Order the tasting menu. You should be able to enjoy each and every course before you’re asked to take a photo of a budding couple.

One of the best things about Cafe Spaghetti’s magnificent backyard—complete with a vintage Vespa and a to-scale traffic circle—is that it feels like Carroll Gardens’ public living room. Tables of 8-10 people on a mission to consume as much red wine and spaghetti pomodoro as possible are pretty common, and their volume dials up as the night goes on. But, if you're looking to enjoy old-style Italian food like spiedini alla romana without the sense of community, head over early to beat the crowds while still getting a heavy dose of charm.

Usually, people don’t go to Kiki’s to be alone. People go to this Greek spot on the Lower East Side to bathe in house wine, and share a meat platter with 15 of their closest friends. But what about on an evening when you'd just like to eat saganaki smothered in honey all by yourself? You go early. You go before the regular suspects have even eaten breakfast. Kiki's is walk-in only, so there's no advanced planning required. Keep it in mind the next time you leave work and realize you'd like a greek salad and lemony grilled octopus, without a side of scene. Get a table by the window, for some Dimes Square people-watching at a safe and solitary distance.

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