NYCGuide

The Most Fun Dinner Spots In NYC

A night out at one of these restaurants will never be boring.
A U-shaped bar with neon lights around it.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Those seeking a polite meal, click away now. This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner bar hopping. 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. No, they range from old-school spots having Y2K-related moments, 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.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Kate Previte

Korean

Lower East Side

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerImpressing Out of Towners
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Don’t spend half your meal trying to figure out what to order and how to split your check. Go to Kisa, a walk-in-only retro Korean diner on the Lower East Side where you choose from four combo sets, all of which cost $32 and come with soup, rice, and a buffet of bottomless sides. The bulgogi is slightly sweet and sliced into ribbons, and the spicy pork, with its crispy charred bits, is even better. Enjoy it alongside some kimchi and mung bean jelly in the packed room while groups pass around soju before hitting the coin-operated latte machine by the entrance.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

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Sappe, a Thai restaurant from the Soothr team, makes a regular evening feel like a movie premiere. You’ll pass under a bright yellow theater marquee, and, once you take your seat and see the mirror on the ceiling above you, realize it’s not Nicole Kidman up on that giant silver expanse: it’s you and your besties crushing some cocktails. The neon writing on the walls is perfect lighting for your glam shot, and the drinks are not only potent, they’re also inspired by famous women from Thai films and novels. The food at this West Village spot is excellent too: eat some skewers and a spicy fruit salad, and don’t skip the stir-fried noodles with pork rinds.

If you show up to Bernie’s at 5:30pm on a weeknight (when it usually doesn’t have a line, by the way), you’ll probably see at least one Williamsburg-born five-year-old celebrating their birthday with an ice cream sundae. And even at 8pm, when that kid is almost certainly asleep and dreaming of ice cream, there are still sundaes on every checkered tablecloth at this spot on the edge of McCarren Park. Slide into one of the leather booths with friends who also want to eat transcendent mozzarella sticks at the fancified TGI Fridays, and pair your fried cheese with an extra cold martini. Sing someone happy birthday. Ask for crayons, if they’re not on your table already.

In the short but extremely well-documented 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 $16 glass of skin contact wine at Le Dive first—it’ll make the liter of house red at Kiki’s taste even better.

photo credit: David A. Lee

Tatiana at Lincoln Center is 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. Everything is exceptional, but get the short rib pastrami suya, braised oxtails, or both—and definitely ask them about the off-menu jello shots.

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.

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 a baked potato, 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. They also do a late night menu from 11pm to 2am Thursday through Saturday.

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.

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 spot 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.

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 curry goat, 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 cod fish fritters. They’ll help soak up the sneaky amount of rum in the cocktails.

If you need excessive amounts of fun but just have about an hour, book a counter spot for the $99 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.

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 soft serve—if you have any room left after all those glorious carbs.

Well, we’re just going to get really honest here for a moment: we went to Xi Yue Seafood Hot Pot for a team dinner, we mixed tequila from a nearby liquor store with grape soda (you can BYOB for a fee of $30), we dunked every type of seafood, and meat, imaginable into bubbling spicy broth, and then we all sang a questionable rendition of JoJo’s “Too Little Too Late.” If this sounds fun to you—and we don’t blame you if it doesn’t—make a plan to come to this bi-level restaurant in Sunset Park. Bring a big group, and for $60 each, you can do all-you-can-eat seafood hot pot in a private room, and make memories you will never forget. For better or for worse.

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Where To Go When You Want Dinner To Feel Like A Party image

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