The Best Restaurants For Special Occasions In NYC

Where to celebrate an anniversary, a graduation, or an unusually large tax refund.
A fancy dining room with hanging lamps, green columns, and white tablecloths.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Any day could be a special occasion, really. Just waking up successfully is kind of an accomplishment. However, some days are more significant than others. Maybe you got a promotion, or maybe you met the person you sleep next to every night on this very day some number of years ago. Whatever the reason, you want to celebrate. Here's where to eat incredible food, drink wine that's old enough to rent a car, and make some memories that you can toss in scrapbook.


photo credit: Alex Staniloff



$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsImpressing Out of Towners
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Ilis fully commits to the bit. The Greenpoint restaurant from a Noma cofounder serves hyper-local food in a candlelit former warehouse where servers push around carts stocked with Dungeness crab and hunks of raw antelope. It’s a strange experience, and a very pleasant one. They offer an extensive tasting menu for $295, but, unless you’re determined to rid yourself of all your money, you don’t need to do that. The five-course prix fixe for $195 is substantial enough. Dishes change regularly, and may include things like a Japanese sweet potato confited in beeswax, lobster poached in rosewater, or invasive eel meant to be eaten like corn on the cob.

If, after many sub-$100 omakase experiences, you have finally decided that it’s time to spend $270 on sushi, make a reservation at Shuko. Located behind an unmarked door just south of Union Square, the restaurant has a 20-seat counter where you can watch chefs in baseball hats slice ocean trout to the sounds of Skee-Lo and the Beastie Boys. Around 18 courses long, Shuko’s omakase begins with a few small bites like toro and caviar on toasted milk bread, followed by a lengthy series of nigiri. You’ll try things like snappy shima aji, creamy sawara, and sea bream accented with a touch of salted plum.

This upscale Midtown institution, which has been open for over 30 years now, is a well-oiled machine that’s been fine-tuned to perfection. The service here skews north of impeccable, but the actual glamour of Le Bernardin—and the main reason why it's still an amazing place to eat after all this time—is in the seafood. Geoduck chawanmushi with uni and slightly smoked sea trout tartare—you book a reservation here primarily to get your hands on dishes like these. 

photo credit: Kate Previte

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersDate NightBirthdaysSpecial Occasions

Some restaurants provide a fun scene. Others have good food. Torrisi, a cavernous spot in Nolita from the folks behind Carbone and The Grill, checks both of those boxes. Packed every night, it’s the kind of place where you can enjoy an impressive meal and see a pop star eating linguini next to their security detail in a crushed velvet booth. The menu is inventive and Italian-ish, with dishes like rotisserie lamb, pastrami-spiced short rib, and wonton-like raviolini stuffed with prawns. Start with one of the house martinis, and don’t leave until a server wearing a tux brings you a slice of Sicilian date cake.

photo credit: Kate Previte



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You better hope it’s not cloudy when you come to this Danny Meyer restaurant on the 60th floor of a FiDi skyscraper. The views are spectacular, so do your best to get a table by a window. (Mention that you're celebrating something. It can't hurt.) But this place isn’t just about the scenery. The food is New American, and the kitchen combines ingredients in unexpected ways. Choose from three or four courses ($115 and $145, respectively), then enjoy some foie gras chawanmushi and barbecued freshwater eel paired with bone marrow.

Located right next to the MoMA, 53’s space is fittingly contemporary and objectively gorgeous. The main floor looks like a mini airport hanger designed by a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and you’ll see sweeping curvy, rainbow-colored blades in the opulent downstairs room. This modern Asian restaurant from the Marea team serves flawless dishes like chicken and truffle soup dumplings and skate covered in sambal. If you've been searching for a restaurant worthy of your favorite fancy outfit, this is it.

Meju feels like an intimate supper club hosted by a chef who talks about a mysterious mentor in Korea, and provides the occasional lecture on the value of probiotics. Hidden behind a banchan shop in Long Island City, this eight-seat Korean restaurant serves a $215 tasting menu with seven courses, all of which incorporate some kind of fermented element. Expect things like raw amberjack topped with gochujang, buttery Miyazaki beef served with multiple ssamjangs, and a 128-year-old soy sauce that tastes surprisingly mellow. 

Is it a cliché to book a table at a restaurant with a postcard-worthy view of the Manhattan skyline for a special occasion? And speaking of booking tables, is it a pain in the ass to get a prime-time reservation at Laser Wolf? The answer is yes to both of those questions, but the grilled Israeli food at this spot at the top of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg lives up to the hype. Get the lamb-and-beef koobideh, and be glad you can have dinner somewhere that doesn't just look out on a parking lot.

Most tasting-menu restaurants don’t easily accommodate vegan diners—and that’s partly what makes Dirt Candy on Lower East Side so unique. At this spacious restaurant with white brick walls, the seasonal seasonal offerings include things like sweet potato karaage and beet strudel with sesame mouse, and almost all of the dishes can be made vegan. The $105 tasting menu comes with five courses, and the price includes gratuity.

You might think that an old-timey steakhouse smack in the middle of Times Square couldn’t possibly be fun or charming, but Gallaghers is both. We recommend ordering steakhouse classics: Start with a round of Hemingway daiquiris with clams casino and a wedge salad, then move on to a porterhouse with your favorite sides. (We love the creamed spinach.) The servers are like affable grandparents, cracking jokes as they make the sensible recommendation that you enjoy yourself as much as possible.

The Grill in Midtown is the type of place that routinely draws finance types, high-powered lawyers, and people who choose restaurants based on where they can see themselves closing some sort of deal. But this spot is genuinely a worthwhile experience even if you don’t fall into any of those categories. The massive dining room (previously home to the Four Seasons) is designed to look like a restaurant where a 1960s ad exec would have an anniversary dinner, and there’s both a prime rib cart and a duck press that servers operate tableside.

Cosme is a sleek, dark Mexican restaurant in Flatiron with spotlights above every table to showcase dishes like their uni tostada, blue crab chile relleno, and lobster prepared al-pastor style. But those are things more suited for regular old dinners. For a special outing, opt for the fantastic plate of duck carnitas. The massive dish involves half of a juicy roasted duck served in a cast-iron pan and paired with warm tortillas, so you can make your own taco feast.

Maybe you're acknowledging the day you spent a ton of money so a bunch of guests could witness you say “I do.” Celebrate at L'Abeille by getting their seasonal tasting menu (and spending a ton of money again). This Tribeca restaurant serves a six-course, $225 meal that involves dishes like foie gras crème brûlée and caramelized black cod with daikon radish cream. The well-spaced dining room with green velvet banquettes feels intimate, and the service is never stuffy. If you’ve been down on tasting menus recently, this place will restore your faith in them.

Nothing says “This is an important day” like an endless parade of tiny pieces of high-quality meat, and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Cote. This fancy take on Korean barbecue is one of our go-to spots for anniversaries, birthdays, promotions—we’ll take any excuse, really. Order the $74-per-person Butcher’s Feast and a bottle of wine, then sit back and enjoy bite after bite of perfectly-cooked steak in a dark, neon-accented room that could double as a nightclub.

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