Fine Dining NYC Restaurants That Are Actually Worth the $$$ (and which ones aren’t)

In a world full of #foodporn and #instafame, I feel like fine dining isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Ever since I started this blog, my goal was to become inspired by great restaurants. In my opinion, the most inspirational are either a) home-cooking style mom & pop restaurants or b) classic fine dining or experimental restaurants. Yes, I’m talking about the ones with the tasting menus, the cheese foams, and the menus where you may not be able to pronounce half of the ingredients that are listed.

I know fine dining can get some sh*t, because it’s known to be an “elitist practice,” but I disagree with this. It all depends on your interests. You can buy a Zara skirt (hell, even H&M now!) for $100, or if you’re like me, you can spend that money to get 2 entrees and split an appetizer at a restaurant. When it comes to the pricy $250+ tasting menus…well, this is definitely not an everyday thing, but hey, it’s something to aspire to enjoy! I think these meals are like little staycations, if you really love dining experiences and want to save money for these special occasions, then go for it. If you don’t, then don’t! No judgement, no problem.

Atera

77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

This is the latest and greatest for me. We had our wedding dinner here in the private room, and for a 12-course menu, I was shocked that I loved every single thing. Atera is great for special occasions, if you are into experimental, new American food. For a little taste… they crisped a chicken skin and put delicious crab meat on top as a one-bite course. This was one of the best bites of food that I’ve ever had. The menu changes everyday, as it incorporates the freshest ingredients.

Bâtard

239 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Casual attitude meets fine dining dishes. I’m usually not a restaurant repeater, but I’ve been to Bâtard over five times and it always delivers. Not to mention, the prices are extremely reasonable. At Bâtard, they serve innovative French cuisine, with an a la carte menu. If you go here, you can’t miss the cheese selection. Start with a cheese plate. The rest, is up to you.

Vaucluse

100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065

Vaucluse is an Upper East Side gem. To be honest, I thought it would be a super stuffy establishment with good French food. I think there’s something about restaurants in the E 60’s that are made for the older “too cool for school” clientele. Well, I am happy to report that Vaucluse is super cool and the food is great. You can go a la carte here, and choose from seafood, pastas and proteins. The main dining room is more old school, but if you’re feeling super duper hip, you can go to Omar. Vaucluse is one of my fave Altamarea Group restaurants, in addition to Marea, which I’ll get to shortly. 🙂

Le Coucou

138 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013

Upscale French cuisine for the trendy New Yorkers. If you’re more of a classic dining fan — Vaucluse is more your style. If you want to be hip AF and enjoy some edgy (yet still classic!) French food, then Le Coucou is for you. I loved both and each one had charm, as well as delicious food. You gotta get the dover sole and the chicken and foie gras crepinette.

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010

This is like the cream of the crop of the fine dining in NYC. When you look up fine dining here, there are two coveted spots: this place and Per Se. Having been to both, I think Eleven Madison Park really delivers the most. It’s not only an incredible meal, but it’s an experience. What I mean by this is that the chef does fun things like wrap one of your dishes as a gift, and you have to open it to find what’s inside….or you have different elements of your dish deconstructed, that you can put together on your own. Fun things like that. I love that stuff. I went back in 2013, so I’m not sure if anything has changed, but I went here twice and each time, it was amazing.

Credit: The World’s 50 Best

Marea

240 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019

I’ve been here three times, and each time I get the bone marrow fusilli and the lobster and burrata. These are dishes I genuinely crave and I can’t get anywhere else. Although this is a seafood Italian restaurant, they also have a delicious dry aged steak. The vibe here is business casual/cocktail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not super fancy…there’s just something that feels corporate about it. But the food is to die for and I stand by it! Altamarea for the win again.

Le Bernardin

155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

Another super pricy one, but I can’t not put it on here because both times I’ve been, the chef completely knocked it out of the park. We went once for my graduation, and another time for my 25th birthday. The focus is seafood, which is executed to perfection, but there are also some delicious meat dishes incorporated into the menu. The lounge is great and the dining room is great. I’ve dined in either one and loved both. This is a very special occasion spot.

Gabriel Kreuther

41 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

This one surprised me. I think the “Theater District” location scared me off… I always think places are touristy if they are near Times Square. But! Fear not! This place is anything but touristy, and the food and vibes are great. We ate in the lounge, which is a bit more affordable, but the dining room is also gorgeous and has a more extensive menu. Oh, you also have to get the white chocolate soufflé for dessert. I miss it everyday…

Ones that aren’t worth the money?

Jojo — food was good, but service was horrible. You can get lobster and French fries somewhere else. Le Cirque needed some updating. My 23rd birthday dinner was kind of a let down here. Jean Georges is good, but overrated. Le Bilboquet is overrated and too much of a scene. You may as well go to LAVO (which, don’t even get me started…) Gramercy Tavern is reliable, but who wants reliable when you’re paying a lot of money? This is an unpopular opinion, but ABC Kitchen also just gives me overrated vibes. I’ve been twice and felt underwhelmed. Daniel, I’m sorry but you also let me down.

And finally, I’m on the fence about Per Se. Sebastian and I went to celebrate our wedding (alone, this time!) And while the food was great, the $800+ price tag really just didn’t seem to justify it. We didn’t even drink wine because we were hungover from the night before, so the minimum the price tag really goes is to $800. Everything was delicious, do not get me wrong. But I just don’t know if it’s worth it. We went because it was our little “honeymoon staycation”celebration. Other than that, I can’t think of another special occasion that justifies the price, per head. If you do go, you have to get the oysters to start, and leave room for dessert because the spread is outstanding. For the high price point, I prefer Eleven Madison Park.

3 thoughts on “Fine Dining NYC Restaurants That Are Actually Worth the $$$ (and which ones aren’t)”

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