Maybe you have a friend who thinks that they’ve been everywhere and done everything, or maybe you’re planning a night out with someone you’ve been dating for five-plus years, and you want to try something new. Here are some places that are unlike any others. A few have live music, some are hidden, and at least one of them has a room where you can retrieve your own cider from a barrel the size of a young elephant. All of these restaurants are as much about the experience as they are about the food, and each one of them will make you want to start a Tumblr about your new and interesting lifestyle.
We like Bohemian, but it can be both difficult and annoying to get a reservation. First, you have to call an unlisted number, then you have to give the name of whoever referred you. And, if your words are to their liking, you can then book a table. You should give it a shot, however, because the food at this little Japanese restaurant hidden behind a butcher shop in Noho is actually very good. Plus, the space looks like a living room, and you might be seated on a couch.
A meal at Tokyo Record Bar is only partially about the food. Mostly, you come for the experience. There are several seatings here every night, and the first thing you do here is help pick the playlist. Everything is on vinyl, and you’ll get to choose several songs that you want to hear. Then, a seven-course tasting menu will begin, and you’ll eat some izakaya-type food while you (and roughly twenty other people) listen to a collaborative playlist in a small basement on Macdougal Street.
There are lots of Korean barbecue places in the city, but Cote is just a little bit different. It’s on the upscale side (but not prohibitively expensive), and they serve cuts of meat that you’d expect to find in a steakhouse. They also do a “Butcher’s Feast” that comes with banchan, soup, and dessert, and the cocktails are excellent. Plus, it looks sort of like a nightclub where the tables happen to have grills in the middle. So if you need a fun place to eat with a group, make a reservation here.
The last time you caught cider is most likely never. Chances are, you don’t even know what it means to “catch cider.” If that’s the case, go to Brooklyn Cider House. Here, you’ll eat a $49 four-course Spanish prix fixe and intermittently go into a room where you catch cider in a glass while it streams from a barrel the size of crossover SUV. The experience is over two hours long, the menu is surprisingly substantial (with some quality steak), and it’ll impress whomever you bring to Bushwick.
If you’re looking for a special-occasion spot, Abuqir probably isn’t it. Although if you just want to try something new and eat some excellent (and affordable) seafood, this is place is ideal. Abuqir is just one plain room with a few tables and a seafood counter in the back, and you get to walk up and pick exactly what you want to eat. The chef will cook everything however you want (fried, grilled, etc.), and what you’ll end up with is a tableful of seafood that tastes like it should cost at least twice as much as it does. The only catch is there’s no alcohol at this Astoria spot - but you likely won’t care once your food arrives.
The thing about Chef’s Club is: it changes constantly. Different restaurants from around the country hold residencies there, so you’ll want to check the schedule to see what’s currently going on. We can say, however, that we’ve had some very good food here - and this is a great place to try something that usually requires a trip out of NYC. You’ll also be able to have your meal in a nice-looking space in Soho with high ceilings, a long bar, and an enormous chunk of pink salt hanging from some ropes.
At Guadalupe Inn there’s a bar area up front, and a big dining room in the back where there’s also a little stage. Stop by for dinner, and you might hear some live salsa, or might even see some burlesque. Now, this isn’t the only place where you can eat and watch burlesque in the city - but, unlike most spots known for their live music or dinner theater, the food here is actually worth a trip. So if you want to eat some semi-upscale Mexican food in a cool space in Bushwick while you catch a performance, come here. Check the schedule to see what’s going on, and definitely order the large platter of DIY al pastor tacos.
This is a Korean barbecue place in Gowanus, and it has karaoke rooms that you can rent out before or after your meal. It’s also just one big room with some huge tables (and a bar off to the side), so it’s great for groups. Maybe have your next birthday here. You can share some Korean barbecue (or some à la carte things like bibimbap and bulgogi) then force all of your friends to sing to you as tribute.
Not every restaurant gives you the option of closing yourself off from the world, but Ichiran does. In addition to a more straightforward dining room, this ramen spot in Bushwick has some one-person stations where you can eat your food in what is essentially a sit-down voting booth. You also write your order on a slip of paper and pass it to server through a window in front of you, so you don’t actually have to interact with anyone while you eat.
Not long ago, the only foods you could get at a movie theater were hot dogs, candy, and popcorn covered in a warm liquid inspired by butter. Now there are a bunch of places around the city where you can eat a full meal while you watch something, and Syndicated is our favorite place to do so. It’s in a renovated warehouse space in East Williamsburg, and it has a dining room with a bar where can watch whatever is currently being projected on the walls, and there’s also a small theater where you can continue to eat and drink. There are several screenings every day, and tickets always cost between $4 and $6.
To get to Sakagura, you walk through the lobby of a very normal office building in Midtown, pass a security guard, then head down a flight a stairs. This place is an izakaya from the same people behind a bunch of other Japanese spots like Sake Bar Decibel and Rai Rai Ken, and most of friends will impressed that you know how to find it. The food here consists of stuff like sashimi, udon, soba, and small plates like Japanese fried chicken, and it’s all surprisingly affordable. This might be why it can be tough to get a reservation at Sakagura, so be sure to book in advance.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Blue Hill at Stone Barns is unique experience, but it is - and, seeing as how it’s the highest-rated restaurant on our NYC site, we couldn’t leave it off this list. it’s located on a farm roughly an hour north of the city, and they have a tasting menu made mostly from what’s been grown (or raised) in the area. You might also get a tour of the farm, and your meal will most likely last several hours. Essentially, it’s interactive farm-to-table theater, and there’s a good chance you’ll both learn something and eat 20+ courses.