The Most Fun Dinner Spots In NYCA night out at one of these restaurants will never be boring.
Those seeking a polite meal, click away now. This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and who might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner barhopping. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority.
These spots aren’t necessarily servers belting Broadway tunes kind of fun (although we will be checking out Ellen’s Stardust Diner soon, so stay tuned). No, they range from old school spots having Y2K-related resurgences, to hot and viral new spots where you can pretend you have a lot of money, and spend it very liberally. They’re the “it” dinner places in NYC. And if you happen to be looking for some fun bars, we have a guide to those too.
Sometimes, you go to a pricey restaurant, spend a bunch of money, then wonder if you should have just hidden all that cash in a sock underneath your bed instead. That won’t happen at Torrisi. From the folks behind Carbone, this Nolita restaurant serves inventive Italian-ish food in a cavernous space populated by servers in dinner jackets and, occasionally, Grammy nominees. It’ll take some strategizing, but try to snag a big booth in the back for your big night out. Order the rotisserie lamb, drink a martini, and get the affogato sundae for dessert.
On most days, we’d rather stay home and practice the Queen of the Night aria in the shower than head out for a big evening at the Lincoln Center. But we'd always say yes to dinner at Tatiana: an Afro-Caribbean love letter to New York City, and one of our top-rated restaurants. It’s almost impossible to get a table, but once you do, you’ll feel like you’ve gained access to the city’s hottest club, circa 1999. Chain-link curtains and tiles that look like asphalt oil slicks echo the throwback hip hop and R&B playlist, and you’ll have fun trying to talk over the music to dissect all the menu’s references too. Get the short rib pastrami suya, braised oxtails, or both.
An interactive dinner situation like hot pot tends to be a shoe-in for a good time with a group. But what if your sauce bar was also next to an old timey water mill, or you ate your spicy tripe in a grass hut? Decked out like a rural Chinese village, Chong Qing Lao Zao is the Disneyland of Flushing’s hot pot restaurants, with hidden alleyways, mock Maoist propaganda, and even fake chickens. Despite being three-stories, this place stays packed, and there’s always a wait. For the full experience, wait the extra few minutes for a private hut or tatami seating.
On a recent evening at Fanelli’s, we counted 48 people outside, and only two of them were actually eating. That’s because nobody really sits down for a meal at this classic Soho establishment that’s having a micro influencer-related resurgence. The party happens on the sidewalk, and seats are abandoned in favor of leaning against forgotten construction equipment. Smoke a cigarette. Take a phone call so loudly that everyone can hear you. Drink six-and-a-half martinis and leave the last half to languish next to a plate of cold french fries. Then eat one of those.
At Enzo’s, nobody will give you a dirty look if you drunk-laugh too loudly. This old school Italian restaurant on Arthur Avenue is for big groups who want to consume a boatload of wine and argue over which pasta shapes to order. (The answer is bucatini alla carbonara and cavatelli with broccoli rabe.) With four big dining rooms, the place always feels packed but always has room, and you can still hear uptempo Sinatra numbers over the noise. Go ahead, get another bottle. These servers have seen everything.
Port Sa’id feels like a party, but not the kind that you want to leave after five minutes. The Hudson Square restaurant is big enough to house a private jet, and it’s filled with tables covered in brown butcher paper, with a DJ in the back flanked by speakers the size of industrial refrigerators. On the menu, you’ll find a bunch of vegetable-forward Israeli dishes like beet carpaccio, schug-topped hummus, and a salad with olive oil-soaked chunks of bread, most of which cost less than $20. Bring a group, and split a bunch of things.
In the world of East Village restaurants, Superiority Burger is what we’d call a “chaotic good” character. The walls are covered in photos of everything from Taki 183’s graffiti to Dock Ellis' acid-fueled no-hitter. In the bathroom, audio clips switch every 15 seconds from old commercials to episodes of The Dating Game. There is a real soda fountain. They also make vegan burgers and space-age desserts, and have a fan club that borders on cultish. Expect a wait around prime dinner time, and get the bejeweled tapioca pie.
If you want dinner to feel like an activity but you don’t want to go to one of those places where you paint while you eat because you’re afraid that your art won’t be appreciated in your lifetime, go to Astoria Seafood. Part fish market, part restaurant, this place is an interactive experience where you choose your food from a seafood display then tell the kitchen how you’d like it cooked. Want exactly eight grilled shrimp, three squid, and one fried snapper? Not a problem. Don’t forget to BYOB, and be sure to show up early to avoid waiting for a table.
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 fish tacos, or standing next to your table drinking piña coladas when the dancehall and rockers blasting through the speakers finally inspire you to join everyone under the disco ball. Before fully committing, we recommend getting one more order of fried fish balls. They’ll help soak up the sneaky amount of rum in the cocktails.
Even though we regularly put fish eggs on bagels now (cough, Russ & Daughters), caviar is still kinda supposed to make you feel fancy. Even if it's vegan caviar, like the version made of black seaweed at Anixi, a completely plant-based Mediterranean restaurant in Chelsea. White marble, green suede, and a blinding amount of crystal set the tone for a fantastic meal consisting of huge chick’n skewers, “tuna” tartare, and “lamb” cigars. Show up to the chandelier-studded dining room in your best faux fur, ready for a big night out.
If you need excessive amounts of fun but just have about an hour, book a counter spot for the $89 omakase at Sushi on Me in Jackson Heights. With a disco ball on the ceiling, a Radiohead poster, and a neon sign that says “Enjoy Your Fucking Dinner,” this speakeasy-ish spot leans into slacker cool. But it’s actually a highly choreographed performance, from the “Hooked on a Feeling” ooga chuggas that drop as you slurp your first oyster, to the “smoked” salmon that you’ll half-inhale as the staff sing along to “Because I Got High”. Your sake glass will never be empty, but if you need the party to go on a little longer, head to Upstairs Cocktail Bar next-door for a nightcap.
In the evolution of Dimes Square, there are the newcomers (Casino, Le Dive) and the classics (Dimes, Kiki’s). And long after people have moved on to create a new “microneighborhood” elsewhere, Kiki’s will still be here: the perfect fried cheese and tzatziki-eating destination before a night out on the Lower East Side. This Greek spot is cavernous, just the right level of loud, and it upholds the age-old tradition of serving house wine. On a weekend night, there’s going to be a line out the door, and an hour wait at the very least. Put your name down and go grab a $17 glass of skin contact wine at Le Dive first—it’ll make the $26 liter of house red at Kiki’s taste even better.
Unless you book a full month in advance, it’s hard to get a table at Raoul’s. But don’t worry about that. The bar at this classic Soho bistro is walk-in-only, and it’s a great place to mingle with people who probably shouldn’t have ordered that last martini. You might bump into someone who recently gave an interview to GQ, or you might just end up listening to a stranger’s life story while you enjoy some garlicky escargots. The peppercorn-crusted burger is the best thing here, but if it’s not available, the steak au poivre is another great choice.
As the big marquee inside Potluck Club proudly states, you're “here for a good time, not a long time.” From the moment you enter, you know there’s something different happening here. Is it a bar, a lounge, a restaurant, the concessions section of an imaginary movie theater? This place is large, pleasantly noisy, and serves food that’s a nostalgic love letter to Chinatown, like fried chicken with scallion biscuits and chili crisp jam. The one thing keeping it from turning into a true rager is that there’s no hard liquor, just wine and beer. But they do have dole whip for dessert. How fun is that?
The Southern food—like fried chicken and cornbread—at Red Rooster is good. But that’s not why you come here. You come to Red Rooster because few other NYC restaurants feel as alive as this one. The bar area is always mobbed, the DJ spins funk and soul tunes, and people generally appear to be having a blast. On a warm evening, try and get a seat outside. That stretch of Malcolm X Blvd. is basically a block party every weekend.
At most fun restaurants, it’s booze or music that amp up the party atmosphere. At Shukette in Chelsea, it’s bread. The star of the “Rip This” section of this Middle Eastern restaurant’s menu is the frena, coming in hot from the oven at the center of an open kitchen. But all the other breads are great too, and dipping them into a variety of tangy dips with a couple of friends is a guaranteed good time. Reserve a counter seat so you can watch the rapid production of pitas, kebabs, and other grilled meats in front of you, while basking in the direct heat of the fire. Cool down with some tahini soft serve—if you have any room left after all those glorious carbs.
Bad Roman needs no introduction. It’s been the subject of many “is this place worth it” vlogs, and we’ll be the first to say that it really might not be. But does it always have to be worth it? Don’t you ever just want to go to dinner that’s a little over-the-top? A practice in frivolity? Maybe even downright feral? This isn’t the place to fall in love with someone over a candlelit carbonara. No, this is the place to Lady and the Tramp a noodle with someone you’ve never met before, and order rounds of shots that come on toy race cars and have names like Lamborghini. There’s no guarantee that the noodle you just ate will be any good, but you’re really not here for the food.