The Best Restaurants Near Central Park

Avoid the dirty water dogs and tourist traps
November 15, 2017
by Zagat Staff

A jaunt around NYC's historic Central Park is bound to work up your appetite. Avoid the dirty water dogs and tourist traps with a visit to one of these must-try restaurants and bars.

White Gold Butchers
West 70s · $$$

From chef April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman comes this whole-animal butcher shop and American restaurant on the Upper West Side, offering decisively meaty courses and seasonal plates, as well as an afternoon hot-dog happy hour. There’s table service at night, but counter space and black banquettes provide seating options all day.
Cafe Boulud
French · East 70s · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.6

A “timeless” Daniel Boulud “success story” , this “classy” UES “mainstay” impresses with “invariably artful” French fare served by an “expert staff” in “subdued” , “grown-up” surroundings; “1%ers” say the “high standards” are “worth every nickel” , though the prix fixe lunch remains “a relative bargain.”
Italian · West 50s · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.6

“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” ).
Indian Accent
Indian · West 50s · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.7

You’ll “completely change” the way you look at Indian dining at this contemporary Parker Meridien offshoot of a New Delhi original, which “kicks it up several notches” with “exceptionally creative” prix fixe menus; it’s undeniably “expensive, but totally worth it” for an “elegant” culinary “adventure.”
Bemelmans Bar
Bar · East 70s · $$$
Food - · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.4

One of the "ultimate" standard-bearers of "old-school NY" , this Carlyle Hotel watering hole is a "beautiful" , "grown-up" place where "proper" barkeeps mix "wonderful cocktails" and "delightful" pianists tickle the ivories in an "elegant" setting lined with historic murals by Ludwig Bemelmans; granted, it's hardly cheap, but is definitely worth the "splurge."
Shake Shack
Burger · West 70s · $
Food 4.0 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.4

“Premium fast food” is the draw at this “widely syndicated” Danny Meyer chain, offering “mouthwatering” burgers, “rich shakes” and other “upgraded” eats (plus beer and wine) at a “manageable price” ; they’re “a magnet” for “legions of fans” who can create “hectic scenes” and “insane lines” , especially at the “landmark” Madison Square Park shack “where it all started.”
Flora Bar
Seafood · East 70s · $$$

Estela’s Ignacio Mattos and Thomas Carter are behind this Upper East Side eatery in the Met Breuer (with a street entrance as well), serving a seafood-focused eclectic menu matched with boutique wines. Furnished with black banquettes, a marble bar and modernist accents, such as rows of circular ceiling lights, the lofty space is adjoined by Flora Coffee for daytime drinks and snacks.
Italian · West 70s · $$
Food 3.8 · Decor 3.4 · Service 3.6

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.
Southern American · Harlem · $$
Food 4.3 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

“Down-home” Southern dishes including a “fan-favorite” chicken ’n’ waffles ensure this “comforting” Harlem American remains “loved by all” ; indeed, the “friendly” atmosphere trumps the “cramped” setting and “long waits” for its “to-die-for” brunch.
The Office NYC
Bar · West 50s · $$$$

Tucked into The Aviary, an offshoot of the Chicago bar by Alinea’s Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, this rarified spot on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental serves high-end cocktails, ultra-vintage spirits and fancy bites (which can also be ordered as a playful tasting menu with drink pairings). The richly designed space has a clubby, old-time style, and reservations are recommended.