Top Spots to Get Back Into the City Scene
Re-integrating into steadfast city life after a summer of weekends away can be diffcult and overwhelming. Rather than walking right off the beach and into whichever cute café happens to be nearest, there are suddenly some 120,000 city blocks of ever-changing restaurants and bars with which to keep up. Rather than waffling in indecision about whether to head uptown, downtown, east or west, The Shops at Columbus Circle – nearly right in the center – offers what might well be the city’s best collection of places to eat and drink, with Michelin
stars aplenty and some of the most expertly crafted cocktails to help you ease back into the New York state of mind.
Bluebird London NYCOn King’s Road, Bluebird London matches one of the U.K.’s finest addresses with one of the top reputations for destination dining. It’s only fitting that when it crossed the pond to open its first and only stateside location last fall, it installed itself in Columbus Circle, spanning 10,500 square meters with park views. Berkshire pork chops, asparagus risotto with English peas, beef Wellington and fish and chips are a few of the dishes best embodying the restaurant’s emblematic British cuisine. London’s hip drinking culture was also brought along, with rosé pairings marked on the raw bar section of the menu, and a swoon-worthy cocktail menu. Gin and tonic lovers will find seven different combinations of top-shelf gin and specialty tonics, while other drinks range from a latte martini – a creamier, more potent version of the espresso martini – to the inspired Thai Paloma ($16), with Volcan Blanco tequila, coconut, grapefruit, Thai chili, Kaffr lime, grapefruit, and agave.
One floor below his highly acclaimed Michelin three-star restaurant Per Se, chef Thomas Keller – also behind California’s three-star The French Laundry – opened a nouveau French boulangerie Bouchon Bakery and Café in 2006, and it has been one of the most popular bakeries in the city since. Inside its glass cases sit an assortment of pastries, breads, tarts, cookies and confections as buttery and beautiful as their brethren in Paris, from flaky croissants to seasonal éclairs and pastel macarons. But what really sets Bouchon a step above an average bakery is its seasonal cocktails. The Hibiscus Mimosa ($13) is a pink take on the classic breakfast drink, substituting hibiscus flowers and rose water for orange juice.
Momofuku Noodle BarFourteen years after David Chang opened the first Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, 2018 saw a second NYC outpost come to Columbus Circle, much to the pleasure of everyone craving some of the best Asian noodles the city has to offer. The changing of the seasons sees new noodle bowls, steamed breads, soft serve and daily specials to keep the menu consistently fresh and inspired. Cocktails are no exception, as they change with the seasons as well. True Japanese cocktail enthusiasts will be pleased to find high balls aplenty; they are all hand-crafted, imaginative, and simply delicious! Be sure to stop in to see what the new fall offerings will be.
Looking for a night out? Take the elevator up to the fourth floor and step into the world of Ascent Lounge, an upscale lounge that offers a tailored version of the New York club experience: a classy crowd, tasteful music, stunning views of the park and city skyline, discreet and attentive service, and an expertly crafted cocktail list. Drinks fall into cheeky categories such as Neoclassic Cocktails,” and Wanderlust Cocktails,” with stars indicating those that come with a special presentation. For this, go for the Librado Luxe ($20), a mesquite wood smoked tequila cocktail made with avocado purée, fresh lime juice, agave and Himalayan smoked black salt. Come early for evening cocktails, gourmet small plates and hors d’oeuvres, or book a table for the later hours and weekends when DJs take the stage.
If there’s a single restaurant that lifted Japanese omakase cuisine – in which the chef serves a symphony of sushi one piece at a time – from an unknown tradition to the height of the U.S.’s dining culture, it’s Masa, one of the finest and, at a minimum of $595 per head, most expensive restaurants in the city. For sushi-lovers, Masa might be a bucket-list meal and well worth the price tag. But for those happy with something more accessible and economical, mid-range sister spot Bar Masa offers à la carte sushi as well as a full Japanese lunch and dinner menu at a fraction of the cost and still with some of the highest quality fish and preparation on the West Side. Full sake menus at both establishments provide one of the most carefully selected ranges of rice wine in the city, while the cocktail list excels in Japanese takes on classic drinks. For example, the Shizen Sazarac ($22) mixes up the classic whiskey and bitters by dousing Suntory Toki blended whiskey with Choya Umeshu plum liquor and a lemon twist. Kanpai!
Directly next to Porter House Bar and Grill, chef Lomonaco’s second Columbus Circle establishment, Center Bar, offers another quintessential New York dining habitat: drinks and snacks. Whether it’s raw bar and champagne or cheese boards and wine, New Yorkers love a good nibble and sip situation, and for those looking for something more upscale than the convivial Midtown West neighborhood spot, Center Bar stands as a restaurant, wine bar and cocktail lounge that welcomes walk-ins and provides quick service while elegance in all corners. The standout menu here is the cocktail menu, which offers almost 50 drinks ranging from sparkling Champagne cocktails to tiki drinks to four different old fashioned to a $75 rendition of the rusty nail with Tormore 25-year Scotch. Good for fall is the Hot House #4 ($19), of Diplomatico rum, Falernum, apple brandy, simple syrup, cucumber juice and a Black Pepper Garnish.
What would New York’s finest dining arena be without a steakhouse? Porter House Bar and Grill, headed by native New Yorker Michael Lomonaco, not only checks all the boxes for a classic American steakhouse, but does so with flying colors, hailed by critics as the top of its class. Before digging in though, start a meal in true New York style with a cocktail. Recommended is the Watermelon Refresher ($18) of Tito’s vodka, fresh watermelon, cucumber juice, and a dash of lime and simple syrup.