Where To Dress Up And Not Feel Stupid
If you're looking for a place to wear that sample sale piece sitting in the back of your closet, try one of these restaurants.
Sure, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt pretty much anywhere in NYC, but sometimes you want an excuse to pull something a little more involved out of your closet and go somewhere that feels worthy of your best looks. Whether you’re heading out for a dinner with clients who need to believe that you’re fancy enough to sell them something that will cost their company a lot of money or just want to find an excuse to wear that sample sale piece that’s been languishing in the back of your wardrobe, here's where to go. You won’t feel stupid showing up to any of these spots in an outfit that looks like it came directly off the runway.
photo credit: David A. Lee
There’s always a lot going on at Zou Zou’s, fashion-wise. This Manhattan West restaurant's dining room is extremely glam, so break out some lingerie-as-clothing or whatever you bought at the Balenciaga sample sale. The food here is broadly Mediterranean and inventive, so you don’t have to commit to a single aesthetic in terms of cuisine or couture. You do, however, have to make a reservation, because this place is always packed.
You’re here to pretend you’re in Paris, so dress like it. The food at Frenchette is classic French bistro done right, but the real draw of this sepia-toned Tribeca spot is the scene. Ruffles, cravats, puff sleeves (yes, you can wear your Selkie dress and not look stupid), and all things generally over-the-top romantic feel just as natural here as minimalist looks that evoke sleek French street style.
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If you have money to burn and want to feel like you’re eating dim sum inside of a luxury store, head to Hutong. Yeah, you’ll probably spend at least $75 per person here, but part of what you're paying for is the extravagant setting. This place literally has a light-up champagne runway that seems to be specifically designed for OOTD photos, so if you’re wondering whether your outfit is too extra, trust us, it’s not.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The Grill feels like a meeting place for people at the top of their org charts. It’s in the old Four Seasons space—a big, beautiful dining room in The Seagram Building—and, at both lunch and dinner, it’s full of people in formal business attire talking about business things. The excellent food is heavy on production value, making this is an impressive spot for business meals. Try the pasta tossed with poultry that’s pressed in a medieval-looking contraption tableside.
If you’re looking for a place to get gussied up and have a big night out, you should at least attempt to get into Dame. Reservations for this Greenwich Village spot get booked three weeks in advance as soon as they’re released at noon every day, but Mondays are walk-in only. Two chefs stand behind a sleek white bar and cook the highest-quality seafood for miles.
There are some sushi spots in the city that feel like a party, but Kosaka in the West Village makes you feel like somebody is about to place cucumber slices over your eyes and give you a massage. For $225, you get to sit at an L-shaped, 12-seat counter and have your nigiri presented to you one piece at a time. Put together a sleek, sophisticated look and luxe out.
Citrico Cafe is the type of restaurant you’ll love if you feel too old for the club. It’s not a party restaurant, exactly, but there’s a bright bar in the center that sets the tone, and everyone’s always having a good time. This is the perfect spot for a crop top or a slinky dress with lots of cutouts. Focus on the taco menu, and order more than you planned as Happy Hour turns into a Tuesday night out.
Do you have a high school formal or wedding guest outfit that you want to wear again? Wear it to The River Cafe, a retro Dumbo restaurant that deals in proposals, prom dates, big deal birthdays, and other occasions that warrant dressy looks. The food here is '90s tweezer style, but overall it’s pretty good, and you get an unparalleled view of the Manhattan skyline from the dining room.
photo credit: Lizzie Munro
Gage and Tollner
Break out your best vintage pieces for Gage & Tollner, a restored Brooklyn steakhouse that originally opened in 1879. The room still has a very Victorian-era feel, so you won’t look out of place in a floor-skimming skirt or a velvet smoking jacket. It’s still a little tough to get a reservation here, so plan ahead or show up early and snag a walk-in table.
At least one third of the reason to go to the Williamsburg outpost of Laser Wolf is the ridiculously good view of the city from the rooftop of the Hoxton Hotel. You could come here dressed very casually, but in a space this fabulous, you might as well put together a look that matches the setting. The fun, highly-spirited food at this Israeli grill lives up to the hype.