A few times a year, something magical happens: you get a weekday off. Maybe it’s due to a national holiday, or maybe it’s because you called in sick despite the fact that everyone knows you’re in fine physical condition. Whatever the reason, you should be making the most of this free day of yours - and an easy way to do this is by getting a great lunch. On this guide, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants where you can get something about 10 times better than your normal weekday meal, and, as an added bonus, they should all be easier to get into in the daytime.
You took the day off because your long-distance relationship is temporarily becoming short-distance. Manhatta will make you both feel like that three-hour delay on the tarmac in Omaha was worth it. This French spot from the people behind Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern is on the 60th floor of a building in FiDi, and the whole space has floor-to-ceiling windows with some incredible views of the city. Also, lunch is different from dinner in that you can order a la carte, and you may actually be able to get a reservation.
It can be fun to act like a tourist on a day off, and get lunch somewhere full of people who don’t seem to realize that the stores in Soho offer a new service called online shopping. But when you want to feel more like an in-the-know local, go to Davelle. It’s a tiny all-day spot on the LES with an old mirror over the fireplace and dried flowers hanging on the brick walls. Sit at the bar and chat with the chef while you eat a bowl of intensely rich and smoky pork curry.
Whenever your sister comes to visit, she comments on how much she loves New York’s “energy.” While you roll your eyes a little, you also know what she means and secretly agree with her. Frenchette has the same high-energy feel as classic NYC spots like The Odeon and Blue Ribbon, but it’s new, so it also has a huge natural wine list and slightly untraditional French food (the boudin blanc comes with a pretzel roll). It’s much easier to get a table here at lunch than dinner, but your sister will still nod her head and make you cringe slightly as she says, “There’s just no place like New York.”
Stop by Sugarfish on just about any night of the week, and you’ll find a pretty long wait. They don’t take reservations, and, for reasonably-priced sushi, it’s one of your best options in NYC. Seeing as you probably don’t enjoy waiting several hours for a table in Flatiron, and the next-closest location of this mini-chain is in Los Angeles, lunch here is a much better idea. The wait won’t be as long, and the sushi will taste just as good.
At dinner, Kiki’s is packed with people who could have job titles like Personal Shopper or Wide-Leg Pant Patternist. At lunch, this Greek spot on the LES has a similar crowd, but you won’t have to wait two hours for a table. The menu of traditional Greek dishes has options for everyone, ranging from a Greek salad topped with a brick of feta to charred, juicy lamb chops with housemade mustard. The food is all enjoyable, and with most entrees priced around $15, Kiki’s is more affordable than the majority of other places filled with people wearing next season’s trends.
If you’ve never been to Gramercy Tavern, you probably hear the name and think, “Huh, I’ve been meaning to go there.” If that sounds like you, try it at lunch. It’s a little less pricey then, and you also have the option of ordering a la carte, so you don’t necessarily have to get three courses or a tasting menu. The main dining room feels very upscale, but you can always sit in the bar area if you want something a little more casual. It’s essentially its own separate restaurant, and you shouldn’t be afraid to come in jeans and eat a burger there.
You want to do something that makes you feel far removed from work. Or maybe makes you briefly forget you have a job at all. And actually saying yes when your server asks if you’d like coffee, tea, or dessert at the end of your meal isn’t going to cut it. Take it a few steps further by drinking wine and eating oysters on the roof at City Vineyard. This restaurant and wine bar has a huge rooftop with tables and couches overlooking the Hudson, and a bunch of affordable house wines on tap.
Di Fara serves some of the best pizza in the city. But the small space in Midwood only has a couple seats, and all of the pies are made by one man who has been behind the counter since 1964. This, along with the fact that there are hour-long lines most evenings and it closes at 8pm, means that lunch is the best time to eat here. The round pie with fresh basil is pretty close to perfect, but make sure to get a (huge) calzone as well.
If you plan on spending your day off walking along the High Line or taking pictures of people wearing funny jackets in Meatpacking, then Untitled should be on your radar. Service is a bit more casual here during the day, but you’re still dining in a museum. The lunch and dinner menus don’t vary a ton, so expect things like things like seasonal vegetables and arctic char. Considering the venue and quality of food, the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Spend a couple hours in this very refined setting, then get back to taking Snapchats of people with giant hats.
Upland is one of the few restaurants that we fully endorse for just about any type of lunch. You will likely be surrounded by people having business lunches, but you came to Upland with your aunt who wants to “have a little fun.” You’ll likely end up stumbling out of here, but only after you get some excellent food. So share the beef tartare, have a midday martini, and dive into a plate of pasta. Also, the burger is only available at lunch, so you should probably order that, too.
They call it a “quick lunch,” but the lunch prix fixe here is actually two courses, so your average weekday lunch is probably quicker. Pick one small plate and one pasta for $32, and space out as you stare through big windows onto lower 6th Avenue. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want the prix fixe option, you can always just order a la carte. Lunchtime is a good way to enjoy this place without accidentally converting several hundred dollars of US currency into wine.
Terry from your marketing department asked what you’re planning on doing with your day off, and you said that you’ll probably go to a museum. Terry then sent you five paragraphs on The Met, and you’ll feel bad if on Monday you say you actually just stayed in and ordered delivery pad thai. So read Terry’s email, head to the Upper East Side, and go to Flora Bar for lunch. It’s a big, attractive space inside the Met Breuer, and the seafood-focused food, like lobster dumplings and snow crab with yuzu, is better than what you’ll find at most lunch spots.
With orchestration that would impress Danny Ocean, you and your friends all managed to get out of work on the same day. Or maybe it’s just a holiday. Either way, you should get a group of people to join you at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge. They serve some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city, and you’ll want a big group so you can order as many dishes as possible. Two things that need to be on your table are the ridiculously creamy hummus and the lamb kafta with housemade tahini.
This place should be called TGI Sundays. Because here it’s always Sunday. Monday? Tuesday? Doesn’t matter. The pastels and hot bagels scream weekend morning. And the employees scream “hot bagels” when they bring out hot bagels. Doesn’t that remind you of the cheesy ice cream parlor your grandma used to take you to on Sundays? Come here on a weekday you happen to have off, eat some bagels or a tuna melt, and pretend your life is one long weekend.
If you’re the kind of person who believes a burger can be judged 90% by the meat and 10% by everything else, then the Luger burger will be one if your favorites in the city. It’s only served at lunch, which is also when you can eat here without putting up with 20 straight busy signals calling their reservation line. Just be sure to bring a friend and have them order a steak, because going to Peter Luger and not eating a steak is like leaving a Paul McCartney show before he plays any Beatles songs.
Il Buco Alimentari is a hybrid shop/restaurant in Noho. You can buy Italian groceries up front or have a full meal in the back, where you can eat pasta, a huge sandwich, or a selection of cured meats. It’s a littler fancier and a little better than the stuff you probably have at your go-to neighborhood place, so bring a friend and pretend you’re in Italy. Once you feel classy enough, go drink at a dive in the East Village.
If it’s nice outside, walk the Williamsburg Bridge and get lunch on the little patio at Marlow & Sons. You’ll get some prime people-watching. And if it’s crummy outside, get a table in the far back of the dining room. You won’t have any visual reminders of the outside world, and the wooden decor keeps things cozy. These guys also do a few breakfast things at lunch, so if you celebrated your day off a bit too enthusiastically last night, you can roll up late and get your biscuit and/or smoked salmon fix.
Unless you live or work in FiDi, you probably never go there. So if you have the afternoon off, and you want to feel like a tourist in your own city, head over and check it out. Go see the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall, then get some food at Augustine. It’s a big French brasserie in the bottom of the Beekman Hotel, and it looks like a place from 19th-century Paris. Have some steak tartare and duck a l’orange, and then go ahead and leave FiDi, because it gets pretty boring after that.
Maybe you can’t afford a vacation in Sweden, or maybe you just don’t see the point of traveling 3,000 miles to a place where, if anything, it’s colder than it is in New York. Just walk over to Houseman. It’s a little restaurant in Hudson Square, the neighborhood just below the West Village that feels sort of like the calm, quiet capital of a Scandinavian country. Stop by and have some roasted chicken or a really good burger. This is a nice, low-key place for lunch in a neighborhood that might feel new to you.
Totonno’s serves the best food in Coney Island, so if you’re already spending your day off trying to win over-sized stuffed pandas, then this is where you should be eating. But the thin, crispy pizzas here are so good that you should visit even if you aren’t interested in throwing rings at probably-greased-up bottles. Just bring some cash and some friends (it’s cash-only and they only serve whole pies).