It might be tough to score a table at these newly opened, buzzy hotspots, but they’re worth the extra effort. Plus: one chic lunchbox.
Dinner during New York Fashion Week is tougher than it sounds: A grueling schedule all over Manhattan — and, increasingly, Brooklyn — is married with a desire to enjoy a meal at a well-regarded restaurant that carries a bit of buzz. That’s not always an easy feat, which is why every editor, blogger and buyer can recall dinners that were little more than a glass of champagne and a few passed hors d’oeuvres at a store opening attended for 10 minutes in between shows.
The fashion crowd loves to cling to its favorites. Ralph Lauren’s The Polo Bar continues to be a tough reservation, unless you’re okay with dinner at 5 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday, as a recent search on OpenTable revealed.
If you’re seeking options in Midtown, Fig & Olive’s Fifth Avenue location (on E. 52nd St.) reopened on Tuesday after a remodeling, while a few blocks away, Armani Ristorante recently unveiled a new menu by chef Michele Brogioni, a healthy selection of Italian comfort food — with vegetarian and gluten-free options — served amid Armani furnishings on the top floor of the designer’s Fifth Avenue flagship.
A few hotspots are conjuring ways to cater to NYFW attendees. Via The Mark Hotel, famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten created a Mark Fashion Week Fuel Box, offered every day during Fashion Week between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at The Mark Bar. Available for $25, the on-the-go meal includes a vegetarian sandwich, fresh fruit and sparkling water and comes in a branded black lunchbox.
Meanwhile, through Sept. 15, L.A. restaurant Delilah is partnering with SoHo lounge Socialista to create invitation-only parties that kick off each night at 10 p.m. and blend the space’s Cuban vibe with Delilah’s 1920s style and its menu of specialty cocktails, including the Delilah Mule, made with Elyx Vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime. And Midtown hotel WestHouse is hoping NYFW attendees will duck into its clubby lounge, The Den, to order its cocktail specially created for Fashion Week, the Fizz À la Mode, made with cantaloupe juice, rum, agave, lime juice and egg whites.
Half the fun of dining during Fashion Week is checking out new and buzzworthy spots. Here’s a handful that opened their doors since the women’s shows in February – most are new, while an A-list stalwart also returns.
This mecca of New York’s power-lunch crowd closed in July 2016 following a much-publicized dispute with Aby Rosen, owner of the Seagram Building, the restaurant’s location since 1959. Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini, operators of The Four Seasons since 1995, debuted their new, 19,000-square-foot home Aug. 15 on 49th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, a $30 million space designed in a mid-century modern aesthetic by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld.
The money spent on the new design shows, from the walls in teak or Radica marble to the gold-flecked bar and a light installation by London-based Michael Anastassiades. The beaded curtains of clear Czech Republic glass undoubtedly will put you in mind of the famed gold-beaded curtains in the old location, now occupied by The Pool and The Grill.
This new Four Seasons is more intimate than the previous iteration: just 110 seats in the dining room and a 20-seat bar room. And it’s a safe bet that private rooms upstairs, including one dubbed The Treehouse, will soon host post-show cocktails or dinners for the fashion crowd.
While you’re sure to see devotees like Leonard Lauder and Martha Stewart, The Four Seasons desires to draw in a younger, fashion-forward clientele. A short film teasing the opening, produced by Tessa Travis at Milk Studios, features two models wearing looks by Thom Browne as they breeze through the restaurant. Executive chef Diego Garcia, formerly of Le Bernardin and Gloria in Hell’s Kitchen, and Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef from 2007 to 2014, have been recruited to update the menu, which now includes dishes like Grilled Langoustine with Wakame Butter and Whole Roasted Turbot for two, while making classics like the Maryland Crabmeat Cakes and Steak Tartare, the latter prepared tableside, also feel newly modern.
Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, the chefs known for running the kitchens of Balthazar, Pastis and Minetta Tavern, now co-own Frenchette, roundly agreed to be among New York’s toughest reservations.
Located in Tribeca, this updated take on a classic brasserie opened in April, and by summer there were regular lines of people waiting for the doors to open at 5:30 p.m. in hopes of snagging any of the few tables set aside for walk-ins (there’s talk that the restaurant soon will expand its hours to include breakfast and lunch). During Fashion Week, expect a healthy contingent of show attendees: Frenchette is just a two-minute walk from Spring Studios, where the majority of this season’s runway presentations are taking place.
With just 70 seats in the dining room and 35 at the pewter-cast bar, Frenchette is great for people-watching, especially from one of the red-leather banquettes that line the walls. The menu, meanwhile, changes daily, as Nasr and Hanson, in their own restaurant, wanted the freedom to cook according to their mood. Favorite dishes include Duck Frites and the Daube de Lapin, stewed rabbit with artichokes, fennel and olives on cavatelli. You’ll be tempted to order the Gnocchi Parisienne for the table; laced with ham and comté cheese and made not with potatoes but pastry dough, it’s richer than its Italian cousin, and you may find yourself wishing you didn’t have to share.
If combining a glass of wine with a stunning view as you exhale after a long day sounds appealing, head to Manhatta, the newest restaurant from Danny Meyer, known for Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern (and, yes, Shake Shack, the delicious yet polarizing fast-food chain).
Located on the 60th floor of the 28 Liberty tower in the Financial District, perhaps what’s most surprising about Manhatta is that those stellar New York vistas don’t come with the sky-high prices one might expect.
The dinner-only restaurant opened in July and offers a three-course menu for $78 – “hospitality included” – with five or six choices per course to suit every palate, from Beef Tartare, Scotch Snails or a Summer Melon Salad of feta, cucumber and white balsamic for appetizers to Halibut with roasted fennel, a Veal “Blanquette” with mushrooms and sweetbreads and a Zucchini & Squash Roulade with okra and eggplant in a vegetable jus as a few of the main courses. Finish with a dessert that’s sweet or savory, like Vanilla Souffle with butterscotch sauce or the La Marotte, a sheep’s milk cheese from southwest France.
The bar menu, meanwhile, is a la carte and allows you to choose between several of the options on the prix-fixe menu, as well as snacks like Tempura Scallops or Fried Chicken Bites with hot sauce, reasonably priced at $12 each. The postcard view of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk, meanwhile, is complimentary.
If you have time before or after a show at Industria, the buzzy cocktails-and-bites place Katana Kitten is an easy 10-minute walk.
Katana Kitten opened in July and takes its name from both the fun and tradition you’re sure to encounter during any trip to Tokyo: A katana is a type of curved samurai sword, while kitten is an homage to Japan’s love of all things Hello Kitty. The two-story West Village space is decidedly casual, from the strings of lights above the bar to the Japanese film posters adorning the walls. The prices are likewise accessible, with Sapporo Lager offered at $7, specialty cocktails starting at $13, and food priced between $6 and $15 per plate.
This kitschy spot serves artful, often colorful cocktails crafted by Masahiro Urushido, formerly of East Village American eatery Saxon + Parole, including a selection of specialty highballs and boilermakers, categories that continue to drive bar and lounge trends.
The menu by culinary director Nick Sorrentino is split between shareable appetizers such as dashi-roasted local mushrooms and charred Japanese eggplant, skewers of chicken, pork or white prawns and “Sandos” like the Katana Kitten Grilled Cheese, with muenster, parmesan dust, nori, sesame and yuzu kosho, a Japanese seasoning made from chili paste, yuzu peel and sea salt. Another must-order for the table: the crinkle-cut Nori Fries, sprinkled with flakes of the deep green Japanese seaweed and sea salt.
Restaurants so exclusive they don’t offer a phone number are nothing new, especially in New York – a decade ago, your only options for getting a table at The Waverly Inn were either entering a lottery via email or knowing co-owner Graydon Carter personally. (Even that once-impossible West Village hotspot now publishes its number and offers reservations via OpenTable; a recent search showed plenty of available times during New York Fashion Week.)
Two Manhattan hotspots currently boast a similarly elusive method of attracting diners: The Usual, the first permanent New York restaurant from chef Alvin Cailin, known for L.A.’s Eggslut, opened in mid-July at the Nolitan Hotel and bills itself as “American comfort food from immigrants.” The “Contact” section of The Usual’s website takes you only to its Instagram page, while the hotel demurs from offering any assistance: “They run that very separately, and we don’t have a phone number for them,” said one of the Nolitan’s front-desk staff last week.
The other unlisted restaurant garnering headlines – as well as a two-star review from the New York Times’ Pete Wells – is the Lower East Side’s Gem, which began serving dinner at the end of February. If you think the guy running the kitchen looks both familiar and a little young, there’s good reason: Chef Flynn McGarry is just 19 years old, and his love of cooking since he was 10 – opening a pop-up restaurant in his parents’ San Fernando Valley home – is what drives Chef Flynn, a documentary tracing his rising-star status as a kitchen wunderkind, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year.
With Gem (the name is the backward spelling as an homage to his mother, Meg), Flynn seeks to reproduce the homey vibe of his earliest experiences; the two-room space is split between the Living Room and Dining Room. Priced at $155 per person (minimum of two people), Gem’s prix-fixe menu of 12 to 15 courses is offered in two seatings of 18 guests each at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (before or after your dinner service, you’re welcome to hang around the Living Room for cocktails). Reservations are available only through Gem’s website, and a search on Wednesday afternoon showed that times and seats during NYFW were filling up fast.
McGarry was inspired early on by The French Laundry Cookbook, based on Thomas Keller’s famed Napa Valley restaurant, and at Gem you see that attention to ingredients and presentation in everything from the grilled lamb loin to new potatoes laced with yogurt and ravioli with grilled chicory and ricotta in brown butter.
If you can’t score at seat at Gem, there’s another chance to catch McGarry in action: Chef Flynn arrives in New York at the Film Forum on Nov. 9 before opening in L.A. as part of a nationwide expansion on Nov. 16.