Best Restaurants Near Central Park

July 6, 2018
by Zagat Staff

Central Park is surrounded by reliable neighborhood spots ideal for stopping by after an afternoon outside, as well as by special occasion restaurants that will require some planning to get into. This guide has options for both those situations (and it’s organized from most casual to most formal to make the search easy).

Playa Betty's
Caribbean · West 70s · $$
Food 3.7 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.5

Taking a cue from the California coast, this "bright" Upper Westsider offers a "beachy" menu of tacos, Mexican apps and protein and veggie bowls; light woods, turquoise tones and surfboards enhance the “lively” atmosphere, bolstered by a central bar pouring margaritas and other "strong drinks.
Via Quadronno
East 70s · $$
Food 4.0 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.7

Offering “a little bit of Italy on the UES” these “fancy” renditions of a Milanese bar draw “swanky patrons” for espresso, panini and Italian plates coupled with a “European feel” ; tabs are “pricey” and the “cozy” digs can be “tight” , but they're perfect “before shopping or the museums.”
Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum
East 90s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.0

Sit-down spin-offs of the LES appetizing store, these “modern” riffs on a “classic Jewish deli” serve “top-shelf” smoked fish and other “real-deal” “old-world” eats; the “spiffy” digs are often “busy” (expect waits, especially at brunch), and the certified kosher location at the Jewish Museum adds a take-out counter.
Italian · West 70s · $$
Food 3.7 · Decor 3.4 · Service 3.5

That “can’t-miss” namesake sandwich stars on the “limited menu” of “Carbone-on-the-cheap” Italian-American classics at this “relaxed” mini-chain from the Torrisi crew; some unimpressed with the “dinerlike” setups and “spotty” service call it “overhyped” , but the fact that it’s “always crowded” speaks for itself.
Crave Fishbar
West 80s · $$$
Food 4.3 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

“Popular” neighborhood “standouts” , these seafood spots specialize in “fresh” sustainable catch “well prepared” with “interesting” flavors; the “modern” digs host an “energetic” scene, especially during happy hour, when “you’ve gotta love those dollar oysters.”
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
Sushi · West 50s · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.0

“First-class” fish in “creative and classic” combos makes for “dazzling” sushi at these Japanese “go-tos” by the brothers Bromberg; you’ll also find brasserie favorites (like “surprisingly good fried chicken” ) at some locales, and while the SoHo original is more “minimalist” than the rest (minus the Hudson Eats counter), all will cost you a “chunk of change.”
Chinese · West 70s · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.0

“Intense” flavors and “innovative” preparations make for “unbelievably good” Chinese plates and “contemporary” dim sum (a “strong suit” ) at these “lively” hangs from Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng; “long waits” (no reservations) and “elbow-to-elbow” seating are the downsides, but “incredible” cocktails help ensure “everyone leaves happy.”
The East Pole
European · East 60s · $$$
Food 4.0 · Decor 4.0 · Service 3.9

“Downtown moves Uptown” via this "mostly healthy" Fat Radish offshoot that's “enchanting” Upper East Siders with its “farm-to-table-done-right” , British-accented New American fare and “original” cocktails served in airy, “hip” quarters; despite “pricey” tabs, it's generally “crowded” – especially at the “fantastic brunch" , while its Fish Bar location focuses on seafood and oysters.
Italian · East 90s · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

An “oasis of class” , this Carnegie Hill standby near the 92nd Street Y is widely praised for its “authentic” Italian cooking, “knowledgeable” servers and “romantic” faux farmhouse digs; though “pricey” , it's “worth the money” “getting a table” is the real problem.
Brunch · East 60s · $$
Food 4.3 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

“Classic Mediterranean flavors” with “farm-to-table” sensibilities are an “inspired” mix at this Periyali sib tucked away near Bloomie’s, which also “surprises” Midtowners with a “biodynamic wine list” ; “warm” service and rustically “stylish” decor help justify the “high” price tag.
Sushi of Gari
Japanese · East 70s · $$$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.1

The “out-of-body” omakase experience “never fails to amaze” at these Japanese “standard-bearers” from Gari Sugio, long known for their “sublime bites” of “imaginative sushi” ; the “cramped” quarters and “plain decor” are less impressive, but regulars advise “just open your wallet” and “eat at the bar.”
French · East 60s · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.3

A “gorgeous” backdrop sets the “comfortably elegant” tone at Michael White’s “true UES” brasserie, where “delectable” French “classics” and the “fabulous” White Label Burger come via a “caring” staff; despite “occasionally jaw-dropping” tabs, the “grown-up” clientele declares it “a winner.”
Bar Boulud
French · West 60s · $$$
Food 4.3 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

An “interesting” part of Daniel Boulud’s “empire” , this “civilized” bistro opposite Lincoln Center is known for “beautifully presented” French fare, “as-good-as-it-gets” charcuterie and “interesting” wines; the casually “elegant” space is joined by “swell” sidewalk tables for prime people-watching.
Nougatine at Jean-Georges
French · West 60s · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.5

“Jean-Georges style” extends to its “less formal” but “still stellar” front dining area, known for “superlative” New French fare and “on-point” service in a “smart” setting with a “lovely” terrace; “substantial savings” over the main room include a prix fixe lunch that’s “an outstanding deal.”
Italian · West 50s · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.5

“Excellence abounds” at Michael White’s Italian “star” on Central Park South, where the “adventurous” seafood and “heavenly” housemade pastas “never fail to wow” ; the “impeccable” service matches the “sleek” , “convivial” setting – as well as the “power broker” prices (lunchtime set menus are a comparative “steal” ).
Per Se
French · West 50s · $$$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.6

Thomas Keller’s Time Warner Center “high temple” of French–New American cuisine is “truly an event” given the “fabulous” tasting menu, “unimpeachable” service and “posh” , jackets-required surrounds overlooking Central Park; while the “through-the-roof” set price may limit visits to “once in a blue moon” , those of more limited means “love the à la carte option” in the lounge.
French · East 60s · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.8 · Service 4.8

A “wow every time” , Daniel Boulud’s “luxurious” UES “icon” “sweeps you into another world” with “masterly” New French fare and a “rarefied atmosphere” defined by “magnificent” decor, “VIP” service and a “dressed-up” clientele (jackets are required); granted, the prix fixe–only tabs are "expensive" , but “you’ll understand why” – and the bar provides the “same stellar” quality à la carte.