New York City Restaurant Week is a great reason to love winter in New York. During Restaurant Week—which really goes on for more than three weeks—NYC’s most exclusive and expensive restaurants magically become more accessible to the general public with $25 prix-fixe lunches and $38 prix-fixe dinners. For most dining establishment, Restaurant Week began Jan. 14 and ends Feb. 8, so take advantage of these great deals while they last.
A Daniel Boulud outpost that deviates from his signature French line, Boulud Sud celebrates Mediterranean cuisine. A refined Upper West Side establishment that is, as expected, out of the price range for many students, Boulud Sud is offering a wide-ranging glimpse into its regular menu, which draws inspiration from Italy, Greece, Morocco, and more. Its Restaurant Week lunch menu offers assorted seafood and a spiced sweet potato soup as starters; a skate meunière, a harissa-spiced lamb burger, and a za’atar poussin as entrees; and mandarin givrè for dessert.
20 W. 64th Street, between Broadway and Central Park West
STK holds true to its slogan, “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse,” with a chic atmosphere that departs from traditional masculine-looking steakhouses. STK has an unmistakably hip vibe with round booths, theatrical lights, fringed window curtains, and a DJ providing dynamic background music. No Restaurant Week menu is available online, but the surprise adds to the fun. Beware, STK only participates in Restaurant Week for lunch.
1114 Sixth Ave., between West 42nd and West 43rd streets
Le Cirque which has a history of celebrity customers, is one of NYC’s French staples. “Le Cirque” translates as “the circus,” and it lives up to its name, with symbolic circus knick-knacks and a circular tent-like appearance. But even though Le Cirque has a circus theme, it is nothing but a classy French cuisine experience. For the appetizer, try Daniel Boulud’s renowned “Le Cirque” salad with endive, watercress, citrus vinaigrette, and toasted pumpkin seeds, or the winter orecchiette pasta with Prince Edward Island mussels, chorizo, and tomato sauce. For the main course, dine on the seared merlu with butternut squash and parsley puree, or perhaps the seared Atlantic salmon with white beans and fennel. For dessert, the famous crème brûlée “Le Cirque” is unforgettable! Beware that some dishes come with a $10 supplement, a charge clearly marked on the menu.
151 E. 58th St., between Lexington and Third avenues
Though he has no Mexican heritage of his own, executive chef Alex Stupak has made quite a name for himself by marrying modern sensibilities to Mexican classics. Boasting lamb barbacoa, fish tempura, skirt steak, and even lobster tacos that would cost between $17 and $39 on its regular menu, Empellón’s Restaurant Week lunch menu is a great deal. It includes roasted beets and halibut as starters, the aforementioned tacos as main courses (lobster comes with a $10 supplement), and chocolate flan or passionfruit tart as dessert. Situated in a cosy West Village corner, lunch at Empellón makes for a great pit stop, or the start of a lazy neighborhood stroll.
230 W. 4th Street, between W. 10th and Christopher streets
A Danny Meyer classic, this self-proclaimed “Roman trattoria” is at once elegant and rustic—think high-end farmhouse. Maialino means “little pig” in Italian, evoking a simple yet immensely rich Roman cuisine which includes porchetta, or Italian-style roast pork, among its repertoire. One of Maialino’s signature dishes, the porchetta sandwich, will feature in one of two Restaurant Week lunch menus—the $25 deal, from which diners can choose the salumi misti or stracciatella (a Roman egg drop soup) for starters, tonnarelli a cacio e pepe (another Roman classic) as a main, and olive oil cake. The $35 lunch deal features smoked swordfish and prosciutto di darma as appetizers, the eponymous maialino (braised suckling pig) and hangar steak as main courses, and rounds off with almond cake or semifreddo.
Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave., between East 21st and 22nd streets
The Spice Market
Spice Market specializes in upscale Southeast Asian cuisine. Its atmosphere is unlike anything else: authentic and elaborate, yet sexy. The food is just as attractive as the restaurant itself. From the dinner menu, enjoy the soy-cured salmon with cilantro crème fraîche and Asian pear as an appetizer. For the entree, savor the sweet chili-glazed chicken with Thai herb salad. For dessert, the pineapple upside down cake looks not to be missed.
403 W. 13th Street, between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street
21 Club is as much a fine American restaurant as it is a history lesson and a New York experience, Restaurant Week or not. The walls, paintings, and jockey statues have unbelievable stories. This former speakeasy is one of the few remaining restaurants that cherishes old-school glamour. Diners will most likely eat in the Bar Room, where iconic tchotchkes hang. For starters, try the salmon tartare or the peppered duck leg, and for the main course, have either the sautéed scallop, sepia, shrimp, and cod, or the roasted organic chicken breast. For dessert, the vanilla bean crème brûlée is always a good option, or you can savor the classic coffee brownie sundae. Insider tip: If you dine at 21 Club when it is not busy and ask nicely, you may be able to get a private tour of the upper level.
21 W. 52nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues
As its name suggests, Lure Fishbar is a swanky, seafood-centric restaurant in SoHo. It offers both lunch and dinner Restaurant Week menus, which feature salmon tartare and crispy shrimp tempura to start and a sushi combo and steamed market cod as mains. Indulge in a mocha pot de crème and apple walnut cake for dessert. The dinner menu also includes a raw bar tasting appetizer and roasted branzino main course. For those who are of age, Lure boasts an extensive wine list that makes for great seafood pairings.
142 Mercer Street, between Prince and West Houston streets