New York City is known for its diverse food scene — one that not only offers variety, but also ingenuity. Unsurprisingly, there’s a vast array of mouth-watering dishes to discover, but one thing is for certain when it comes to dining out: the location, whether you choose to eat at a food court or a teeny tiny eatery, plays a huge role in your overall experience. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants in New York City that offer great food inside equally great atmospheres. This is particularly true of the following 15 eateries housed inside landmarked buildings across the city. By embracing their storied history, they are able to cultivate truly unique culinary experiences suited to New Yorkers and visitors from all walks of life. Of course, this is just a sampling of the many places worth visting:
When it opened in 1837, Delmonico’s was the first fine dining restaurant in the country, located on a triangular plot of land at the intersection of Beaver, William and South William Streets. Close to two centuries later, this original and most famous location retains its landmark reputation, offering a selection of the world’s finest wines and the famous house special, the Delmonico Steak.
The orange, iron-spot brick brownstone, erected in 1890-91 and designed by architect James Brown Lord, was landmarked in 1996. It’s noted for its facade, which features Renaissance motifs, giant arcades and a rounded corner with two tiers of giant columns. We also have the restaurant to thank for a variety of popular dishes as Delmonico’s Chef de Cuisine, Charles Ranhofer, is credited (though arguably) for inventing Eggs Benedict, the Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg and Chicken A la Keene, which all remain on the menu today.
14. National Arts Club Dining Room
Offering educational programs and shows, the National Arts Club was founded by The New York Times art and literary critic, Charles Dekay, in 1898. Since 1906, however, the private club on Gramercy Park has been housed inside the Samuel J. Tilden House, a landmarked Victorian Gothic Revival brownstone (15 Gramercy Park), which was designated a New York City landmark in 1966 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In addition to the various programs, the National Arts Club has a dining room and bar that offers lunch and dinner. However, it’s only open to members, guest of members, or members of sister clubs (like the Salmagundi Club), and there is a dress code to enter. You may have also seen this restaurant featured in a recent episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Read more about the National Arts Club here.
13. The Wooly Public | Woolworth Building
Image courtesy The Wooly Public
Formerly The Woolworth Tower Kitchen, The Wooly Public is a full service restaurant and cocktail bar inside the Woolworth Building, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and a New York City landmark in 1983. The eatery serves as the companion bar to the private, hidden lounge known as The Wooly, located at the base of the building. Specializing in “indulgent old school eats” (with a twist), The Wooly Public offers American fare and a bar program that includes “Old Souls” (or lesser known classic cocktails) and “New Editions” (contemporary concoctions). As an homage to the building it occupies, its interior also features a reinterpretation of the Woolworth’s neo-Gothic architectural details with commissions to add a modern touch. For more on the Woolworth Building, join us for our special VIP tour inside, where we will access places normally off-limits to the public: VIP Tour of the Woolworth Building
12. The Leopard at des Artistes
The Leopard at des Artistes is a quintessential New York restaurant: the mood is sophisticated and the ambiance is suffused with history. But The Leopard at des Artistes also holds a rich history as the centerpiece of the artists’ district at West 67th between Columbus and Central Park West. The Hotel des Artistes was designed by George Mort in the Neo-Gothic and Medieval styles to specifically attract artists. Between 1901 and 1921, several other apartments were built in the area, thus turning it into a hub of creativity on the Upper West Side. Even though the highly developed area around Lincoln Center isn’t much of an artist’s colony now, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the real estate market “discovered” the neighborhood. Today, the area is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the “West 67th Street Artists’ Colony District.” Also, both the Hotel des Artistes and its famed restaurant space have won landmark designation. If the glowing murals of naked nymphs that line the walls of The Leopard at des Artistes could talk, they would describe the Italian dishes featured on the menu by executive chef, Vito Gnazzo, as homages to the small towns that dot the six regions of Southern Italy. Artists, dancers, musicians, and writers dined at 1 West 67th long before it became The Leopard at des Artistes. The restaurant was built to serve the tenants of the Hotel des Artistes–a residence above the restaurant whose apartments lacked kitchens. It was the go-to place for the creative and successful–the likes of Rudolf Nureyev and Itzhak Perelman dropped in between rehearsals and performances. Read more here.
11. Tavern on the Green
Housed inside a Victorian Gothic building, built in 1871, Tavern on the Green is nestled inside Central Park, where it offers creative takes on seasonal American fare and classic cocktails. Although the restaurant shuttered briefly, and was temporarily used as a gift shop and public bathroom, it was reborn again in 2014 with a completely redesigned space and menu. According to CBS Local, the renovation efforts totaled $20 million — roughly double the original estimated cost — as the only thing that was salvageable were the wood beams. When it was built, Tavern on the Green was known as The Sheepfold, which was regarded as one of the park’s exquisite nineteenth-century structures. At the time, the building was used to house sheep, who would graze on Sheep Meadow, as well as the shepherd and his family. Learn more about the building’s history here.
10. Palm Court | Plaza Hotel
At the corner of Central Park sits a French Chateau. At least, that’s what the original developers of New York City’s Plaza Hotel, Bernhard Beinecke, hotelier Fred Sterry, and Harry S. Black, President of the Fuller Construction Company, intended when they spent $12 million building a 19-story ‘skyscraper’ hotel near the Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. The Plaza Hotel, the only hotel in the city to be named a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1907. For decades, it was the meeting place of Manhattan’s wealthiest socialites and papers hailed it at the time as the greatest hotel in the world. It was certainly the most luxurious, boasting its breathtaking glass-ceilinged Palm Court, its 1,650 crystal chandeliers, and its gold-encrusted china, the largest order from L. Straus & Sons in history. The Palm Court, New York City’s “iconic destination for Afternoon Tea,” features a grand bar, tea by Palais des Thés, and a menu of American fare. Renowned architect, Thierry Despont, renovated the space in 2013, covering it with potted plants, ceiling-high palm trees and custom furnishings. The hotel itself was designated a New York City landmark in 1969; by 1986, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark due to its stunning architecture. Most interesting to us though in its 100 year history are some of its most eye-catching secrets, which you can discover here.
9. Petrossian | Alwyn Court Building
Founded in 1984, the Petrossian boutique and restaurant is housed inside the historic Alwyn Court Building (designated a New York landmark in 1966) on 180 West 58th Street in Midtown. It offers a French-influenced menu that includes items like caviar, smoked fish and foie gras, for which the Petrossians are known for. Those who dine at the restaurant for lunch, dinner or brunch will enjoy the stunning architecture of the building, which was built between 1907 and 1909, and designed by Harde & Short in French Renaissance style. Look closely its ornate exterior and you’ll spot detailed terra-cotta carvings of animals, plants and flowers. Inside, it’s no less grand: there’s an Art Deco style mirrored bar, Lalique crystal wall sconces, bronze sculptures from the 1930’s, etched Erte mirrors, Limoges china, Lanvin chandelier, Finnish granite and even a courtyard.
8. The Pool | Seagram Building
The Pool dining room. Photo by Scott Frances courtesy of The Pool.
The Pool, a seafood restaurant on 99 East 52nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, has occupied the Seagram Building’s Four Seasons former space since July 2017. It’s the second restaurant to open in the space after the Grill, a more meat-centric eatery, opened back in May. Both spots are owned by Major Food Group. Designated a landmark in 1989, the Seagram Building, including its plaza and stone face lobby, was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe while Philip Johnson designed the interior of The Four Seasons restaurant (1959 – 2016), the first in the United States to feature a seasonally changing menu, as well as the place that gave birth to the “power lunch.” It was regarded for its high ceilings, French walnut walls, trees that changed in tandem with the four seasons and notable works of art, including a bronze Richard Lippold sculpture and a Picasso tapestry, which you can read about here. Now, with the marble pool as its centerpiece, The Pool features an elegant bar, which was once used as a mezzanine for private parties. Called the Pool Lounge, this area overlooking the lower dining room and the Pool itself serves a selection of caviar, toasts, cocktails, and champagne.
7. Child’s Restaurant
Whenever summer rolls around, visitors head Coney Island to relax by the water, where they can find the Childs Restaurant Building located right on the boardwalk and designated a landmark in 2002. Completed in 1924, the iconic, nautical-themed structure is steeped in history that dates back to almost a century. Recently, as part of an $180 million investment by the De Blasio administration to drive economic activity in Coney Island, the building has been restored to house a new, five-concept restaurant called Kitchen 21, operated by Legends Hospitality. Back in 2014, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) partnered with iStar and nonprofit Coney Island USA to fund the $60 million renovation of the long-vacated building, in addition to the development of the now-connected 5,000-seat Ford Amphitheater (New York City’s first open-air concert venue) and the creation of 40,000-square-feet of open space; the concept restaurant, Kitchen 21, offers five unique settings, such as a rooftop wine bar, a test kitchen, a cafe, a clam bar and a gastropub. What originally served as the flagship location for the Childs Restaurant chain has been repurposed several times over the years: it once housed a book warehouse, a roller rink and a candy factory. Today, it’s still noted for its colorful terra-cotta façade and marble columns, which have managed to survive through the years even as other structures in Coney Island have been lost to time. Thanks to the handiwork of the Boston Valley Terra-Cotta Company in Buffalo, New York, the building’s terra-cotta works have now been replicated and replaced. Read more about the restaurant here.
6. Arte Cafe
Arte Café, a “neighborhood standby” that specializes in authentic Italian food, is housed inside a landmarked brownstone in the Upper West Side. Located between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue, right by Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, the eatery is known for its cozy atmosphere and home-style dishes, which are offered in huge portions. The brownstone itself features a modern bar, a large outdoor patio and a private skylight dining room. It’s cultivated to “make customers feel like they’ve entered a classic, vibrant, and traditional Italian home,” whether they drop by for brunch or for dinner.
5. Il Gattopardo | Rockefeller Town houses
The Rockefeller Townhouses (13-15 West 54th Street), built in 1897 by architect Henry Hardenbergh — the mastermind behind the Dakota Building and Plaza Hotel — houses a Southern Italian comfort food restaurant called Il Gattopardo. Along with other buildings on the block, including the University Club, the Rockefeller Townhouses serve as examples of the distinguished structures that once characterized the West Fifties between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (what was called “Millionaire’s Row“). The twin six-story mansions, designed in the Beaux Arts Renaissance stylen and designated a New York City landmark in 1981, are particularly noted for their distinctive limestone facades, which feature ornamental engravings. Before the space was converted into Il Gattopardo, however, they served as home to John D. Rockefeller and his wife, Laura Spelman for forty years. Today, the restaurant, which now boasts a bar and private event space, is a beloved spot to enjoy seasonal eats from Naples and the surrounding area.
4. One If By Land, Two If By Sea
A Greenwich Village staple, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is located in a historic, landmarked carriage house that was built in 1767, and used by Aaron Burr in the 1790’s as a storage place for his coach and horses. It’s often referred to as the “most romantic restaurant in New York City,” thanks to its beautiful decor, which includes brick fireplaces, candlelit tables and baby grand piano and a private garden. In fact, more engagement announcements have taken place at this restaurant than in any other in Manhattan (or so its website notes).
Today, the building is steeped both in history and urban legend. Before serving as a restaurant, it operated as a firehouse, a bar, a silent movie house and more. It’s believed that the spirit of Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia, who died in a shipwreck, returns to haunt her father’s former carriage house. There’s also a mystery surrounding the origins of a stone-lined tunnel that leads to the carriage house, which was used by the underground railroad for fugitive slaves.
3. The Oyster Bar & Restaurant | Grand Central Terminal
All the restaurants inside Grand Central Terminal — designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and a New York City Landmark in 1967 — technically qualify for this list, but The Oyster Bar & Restaurant deserves special mention. Located on the lower level of New York’s iconic transit hub, the eatery has been dishing out the freshest oysters and seafood dishes since 1913. Over a hundred years later, it remains a New York institution, and is regarded not only for its food, but for its vaulted, Guastavino-tiled ceiling and timeless architecture. Additionally, the archway in front of the restaurant is the most well-known whispering spot in New York City. As we mention in our popular Secrets of Grand Central article, nobody knows whether this whispering gallery was built this way on purpose, but it has provided endless amusement for residents and tourists alike. For more history on Grand Central Terminal, make sure to join us for a future tour of the iconic transit hub. Tour of the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal
2. Fraunces Tavern
If you are looking for George Washington’s tooth, Fraunces Tavern is the place to be. The building on the corner of Pearl Street and Broad Street was constructed in 1719 in the Georgian style, as a home for the Delancey family. Samuel Fraunces, a revolutionary whose race remains a mystery, turned the yellow brick structure into a tavern called the Queen’s Head. It was a meeting spot for the Sons of Liberty and George Washington gave his farewell speech here on December 4, 1783. Since 1904, the tavern has been under the ownership of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York. Though the many reconstructions it has undergone have attempted to restore the original edifice, several fires in the 19th century made it impossible to know the original building plan. Nowadays, Fraunces Tavern multitasks as a museum as well as a functioning restaurant and bar. It holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a landmark in 1965 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
1. Ear Inn
Once upon a time, today’s Ear Inn at 326 Spring Street was just five feet from the shores of the Hudson River. It was built in 1817 by James Brown, an African-American Revolutionary War hero who, after serving as an aide to George Washington, became a successful tobacco farmer. He built this two and a half-story Federal Townhouse and used the ground floor as a tobacco shop. To this day, the house is sometimes still called The James Brown House. Designated a New York City Landmark in 1969, the Ear Inn got its name after its 1977 re-opening prior to which it was known unofficially as “the Green Door.” Due to restrictions placed on changing the signs on a historical landmark, the owners had to paint over parts of the neon B in “BAR” in order to name it after The Ear (a music magazine that was published upstairs). Much of the building retains its original wooden posts and beams set with pegs. The restaurant doors and windows are from the late 19th century (although there’s no longer an outhouse in the back, of course). Today the second floor has three rooms of gallery space for exhibitions and special events called The Ear Up and live music fills the bar. Click here for more on the Ear Inn’s history. Next check out 10 of the Oldest Surviving Bars in NYC and see what else is going on in NYC’s food scene.