NYC’s Most Spectacular Restaurant’s For The Holidays
It’s that time of year again. The days have grown much shorter, there’s a nip in the air, and the daily reminder of the holiday season is fast approaching. Celebrating the holidays at restaurants has always been one of my favorite past times. I love supporting local restaurants, especially during the fall and winter months because I feel the chefs and support staff can really showcase their artistry and passion for food through the enchantment of the season. NYC’s bustling restaurant industry is open for business and welcoming diners for the holidays and beyond!
I wanted to share with you 4 restaurants that I absolutely adore that have gone above and beyond regarding safety for their patrons and staff; all the while creating and maintaining a spectacular dining atmosphere that sparkles in more ways than one!
Loulou French Bistro & Speakeasy
176 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
If you’re longing for an intimate dining experience during our current state of affairs, I invite you to check out Loulou French Bistro & Speakeasy, located right in the heart of Chelsea on the corner of 8th Avenue and 19th Street. Proprietor, Mathias Van Leyden, and his gracious staff have truly stepped up their game, creating a fine balance of Covid-19 compliant dining while keeping the splendor that Loulou is known for throughout the city. Named after Mathias’ dear rescue dog, Loulou is a reminder of the magic of NYC dining. I recently joined my dear friend Andi, a stylist I’ve known for many years, for a long overdue lunch date in Chelsea. Upon arriving, I was intrigued by how Loulou had truly managed to create such an intimate outdoor dining space on the vibrant sidewalks and streets of the Big Apple. Several large covered dining areas draped in Loulou’s signature black and white striped fabric, rustic tabletops, respectfully spaced apart, clear acrylic panels, and a custom QR code menu completed the scene. As we sat down, I basked in the beauty of the space. Surrounded by an abundance of lush ivy and the auditory pleasures of ambient world music. You are effortlessly whisked away from the hustle and bustle of NYC.
We started our lunch off with their signature cocktails. I ordered the “Mexican Stiletto”, a delectable mix of Codigo 1530 Rosa Tequila, grapefruit, agave, and Peychaud’s bitters. This drink is served in a beautiful bird glass and garnished with a delicate purple flower. Delightfully easy drinking, with just enough kick. The “Mexican Stiletto” is a perfect choice if you’re looking to explore tequila outside of a sunrise or a margarita. The glass alone is an instant conversation starter! Jumping to appetizers, I was thrilled to see one of my favorite cheeses, Camembert, paired with two of my favorite flavors when cooking at home, rosemary & lavender honey! This baked dish is just divine with its devilishly gooey cheesy center and served with crusty baguette slices. It will be devoured by your party within minutes…so I’d advise you to get first dibs the moment it’s served.
Following the Camembert, I ordered an item I always choose off a menu whenever I see it; gazpacho. Loulou’s cucumber and mint gazpacho is a true wonder in its own right; brightly colored chilled green soup topped with fresh poached shrimp and sea scallops. After one spoonful, you get of sense of its true aromatic splendor. The cucumber and mint dance together in one of my favorite renditions of this classic soup. Along with great company and a generous portion, I took my time finishing it.
For the main, Andi and I decided to share the Niçoise salad, and I’m so glad we did! Seared tuna, shaved egg, kalamata olives, haricot verts, potatoes, watercress, and anchovies. I adored their homemade tangy dressing that accompanied it. It was light, not overpowering, and even had notes of floral.
To close out our lunch, I ordered the La Vie en Rose, featuring Doña Vega Mezcal, bergamot, watermelon, basil, lemon, berry and of course, “caviar”. The moment I took a sip, I understood why Loulou’s cocktails are so immensely popular. It encompassed the spirit of Summer that we all longed for this year. When you have the pleasure of hanging out at Loulou, keep a lookout for all things Loulou; from the ground up, her energy abounds! Inquire about their sexy speakeasy located on the premises. Be sure to stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for their signature Sunday brunch. And don’t forget the cocktails! Delivery options are also available.
132 West 47th Street
New York, NY 10036
The sky is truly the limit at one of my favorite rooftop haunts in NYC, Haven Rooftop. Located on top of the illustrious Sanctuary Hotel in Manhattan’s world-renowned Theater District, Haven Rooftop is a solid option for a remarkable night out on the town. A heated covered rooftop paired with spectacular views of the city is a great start. Not to mention their one-of-a-kind heated tables and custom cooling drink coasters, just some of the unique attributes that make Haven one of the hottest spots around for a cool evening in New York City. I recently joined my friend Calogero, on a Wednesday night, for an exploration of Haven Rooftop’s menu. Walking up to the property I was immediately in awe of its absolute grandeur. From its classical architecture, grand French doors, to the vibrant orchid colored lights shooting straight up to our destination. Greeted by our masked hostess on the ground level, we were whisked up within moments to the main event. As the elevator doors parted ways, we both knew that we were in for a special evening. Amber colored string lights jetted across the glass covered archway to the dining rooms to meet the epitome of fall splendor. Handwoven hanging baskets, pumpkin colored draping, and rustic wood beams reminiscent of an old farmhouse in Upstate New York are just some of the highlights of their decor for the season alongside copious precautionary measures for the patrons and staff alike. Cal and I sat just adjacent to the rooftop’s bar, nestled in the corner on their outdoor love seats with an unreal bird’s eye view of the city that never sleeps. Classic hip hop, neo soul, and acid jazz instrumentals set the backdrop for evening. First up for the night, cocktails! I’m notorious for anything fall related, so I was thrilled to see such an expansive menu of signature seasonal cocktails. After a bit of deliberation (so hard to choose!), I choose the Apple Cider Mule with Tito’s, Apple Cider, Cinnamon, and Ginger Beer. It was served in a chilled copper mug and hit all the flavor profiles that I love this time of the year, all in one cocktail. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. We kicked off our evening with the Chef’s selection of cured meats and cheeses which included speck, sopresetta, prosciutto di Parma, parmesan, French brie, and my personal favorite, Manchego. Up next, a soup worth traveling across town for and beyond: Haven’s Butternut Squash Soup, with roasted butternut squash puree, pumpkin seed oil, and garnished with roasted pepitas. This soup is elegantly robust, ever so silky, and slightly spicy. After a fair amount of people watching, slyly shazaming their playlist, and finishing our cocktails, we were ready to order our mains. I choose the lobster salad, with organic quinoa, onions, garlic, tomatoes, fresh lobster meat, arugula, mango, and topped with a light lemon vinaigrette. Its presentation alone is applause worthy. I love layered dishes, and you can really tell the Chef’s totally let loose with their creativity while actualizing it. The ornate design of the dressing was almost too good to eat. Organic quinoa stacked high with fresh vegetables, and a bountiful amount of fresh lobster, claws included, of course! As the night winded down, we decided to drink our dessert to close the evening. I must say, when Cal and I first scanned the menu, our eyes went straight to it! The Rice Pudding Martini (rice pudding is one of my downfalls in life). I’ve never had it in a cocktail form, and it was an immediate reminder why I love it so much! Haven Rooftop is an urban escape from the norm. With cooler weather ahead, the property has metamorphosed itself into a hipster’s delight of a winter playground. Open nightly for dinner and Sunday brunch. Takeout and delivery are also available.
Brooklyn Chop House
150 Nassau St
New York, NY 10038
Nestled in the heart of NYC’s Financial District, Brooklyn Chop House is THE ultimate destination for an extraordinary night on the town! From their extensive offering of one- of-a-kind menu items, venturesome cocktails, decadent desserts, and world-renowned service, Brooklyn Chop House truly has it all! Located in FiDi at 150 Nassau Street, it’s a cinch to get to by any means of transportation. I invited my friend Charles, an educator by day and aspiring comic book author by night, to join me for dinner and cocktails on a Sunday evening, my favorite way to finish the weekend. Upon arrival to the outside greeting station, our hostess graciously offered us either outdoor dining or inside, we choose the latter. After our temperatures were effortlessly taken electronically, we were escorted inside the restaurant. As we entered the grand dining room, we were welcomed by dimly lit amber lights, smooth sounds of classic R&B music, and lively laughter from the fellow patrons. We both knew immediately we were in for an unforgettable night! Once seated, I appreciated the immense length, and great care Brooklyn Chop House has invested in the health of their guests and beloved staff. Our waiter greeted us within moments, donned in sterile black gloves, mask covering his nose and mouth, and in classic attire. Our plates, glasses, and utensils were wrapped protectively prior to our seating. Clear acrylic partitions were installed throughout the dining room with ample space between guests given. An endeavor greatly appreciated by all. I decided to kick off our evening with a drink that peaked my interest: “The Empress Tonic 18” – what a name – a delightful mix of Empress gin, St. Germain, and grapefruit/rosemary tonic. This earthy cocktail is a true sipping drink, and a wonderful palette cleanser for what we had in store next. For our appetizers, we decided to order two of our favorites, bacon cheeseburger and French onion soup but in dumpling form! BCH is known throughout the city and beyond for their unique spin on dumplings and these two choices did not disappoint! I was introduced to soup dumplings several years ago, but I have never had anything as special as these. The rich and robust flavor of the soup delicately wrapped around steamed dumpling skins is pure magic, and one of my favorite menu items in NYC. The bacon cheeseburger dumplings were just incredible, especially paired with their in-house spicy ketchup for dipping! What a treat and the journey had just begun! For our main, we went all in and decided to go for a Brooklyn Chop House classic their 24 oz. bone-in dry-aged rib eye; dry aged for 30-35 days, and served medium rare. For our sides, we went for garlic ginger mashed potatoes and sautéed bok choy. Paired with a glass of Malbec, naturally, my go-to wine of choice for a steak dinner. The ribeye was like nothing Charles and I had before. The process of the dry ageing of the beef made it extremely tender and flavorful. Served on a warm platter with a dusting of cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt. It was hands down the best steak meal both of us had ever experienced. To close our evening, we decided to share a slice of their decadent apple crumble cheesecake. It was the perfect ending to a very special night. If you’re on the lookout for a restaurant that offers the luxuriousness of a steak house but with a contemporary feel, Brooklyn Chop House is not to be missed!
Open for dining, takeout, and delivery via Uber Eats
76 Ainslie Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Being a Brooklynite for just shy of 10 years, I have always had a warm heart for the proprietors of Brooklyn restaurants. Ainslie is dear reminder of those reasons. Located right in the heart of Williamsburg, just steps from the L train is a magnificent wire factory, brilliantly converted into one of the hottest spots for beer connoisseurs and wood fired pizza aficioado’s in all the boroughs. I met up with a dear friend of mine, Micheal, a senior photo re-toucher who has a passion for food, as I do on a cool Wednesday evening. We decided to take an Uber from Bushwick and arrived within minutes to the restaurant. Ainslie is set in the middle of the block. With its brick facade, towering windows, and wide entrance ways, it already piques your interest from the outside. Once we stepped foot inside, I was taken aback by the vast openness and warmth this restaurant had to offer. Our hostess brought us to the main dining hall. We sat at the end of the long, rustic, wooden table. It was so accommodating that clear partitions were installed between us and the fellow diners at the table. The lighting was dim, and sexy, and the acoustics were wonderful given the size of the space. I was thrilled to see how the management created such an intimate dining experience for all. Our waitress gave us a wonderful overview of the menu and graciously recommended one of their signature appetizers, the Arancini, fried fontina risotto balls with a vibrant homemade marinara. They were amazeballs and devoured by both of us within minutes! Next up for us, a chef selected formaggi plate. I was thrilled to see two of my absolute favorite cheeses, Caciotta and Manchego included in this offering. After some much needed catching up and ordering the “Ding Ding Ding” (Mezcal, Poblano Liqueur, Pineapple, Lime, and Burlesque Bitters (açaí & hibiscus), a must try for the adventurous at Ainslie, so obviously the one for us; we decided to jump in and get our hands a little dirty. By ordering their Wood Fired Rosemary Wings, with gorgonzola dulce. These alone are worth the trip from the city, to Williamsburg. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to cook with and the chef’s interpretation of an American classic is one to be reckoned with! I mean Gorgonzola dulce, I’m available! For our main, we were torn between several of the dishes on the menu. After speaking to our waitress, she suggested her favorite dish on the menu: The Cacio e Pepe, an elegantly simple and sublime pasta dish flavored with cracked black pepper and shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese. This truly blew both of our minds, and I have been thinking about it and craving it since! We wrapped-up our dinner with a spot of herb tea, and the Fragile e Crema. Whipped mascarpone with fresh strawberries and slivers of almonds. A sophisticated dessert, that I have fallen in love with. Be sure to save room for this gem while you’re there! Open for dining, takeout, and delivery.