Who celebrates milestone birthdays by staying home and ordering takeout? Exactly no one—at least not in New York, where there are incredible options for marking each decade with a memorable meal, a cocktail or three, and that painful minute when you try not to crawl under the table as your loved ones join your server in singing “Happy Birthday.” But every decade requires its own style of celebration, whether it’s a very big drink or a very big check. Here’s where to be your birthday best at every age.
Milestone Birthday: Age 21
Do people really go to Sugar Factory for the food? They’re too busy trying to get to the bottom of the Meatpacking District restaurant’s signature 60-ounce goblets, filled with cocktails ranging from the White Gummi to the Lollipop Passion (also available without alcohol for those friends who are still 20). But seriously, kids: Do try to get some of that fried chicken or a burger in your stomach before you inhale the caramel macchiato martini! And have fun. We can’t promise a Kylie Jenner sighting, but you never know.
Milestone Birthday: Age 30
With enough advance planning, you and your friends can have one of the city’s coolest bar concepts to yourselves. The 18-seat Tokyo Record Bar, hidden in the basement of the also excellent Air’s Champagne Parlor, has two to three 90-minute seatings nightly, during which you’re fed an array of izakaya favorites served family-style and poured a variety of sake cocktails. The really fun part? You get to throw whatever vinyl you want on the record player to create a custom playlist. Afterward, head upstairs and pop some bubbly!
Milestone Birthday: Age 40
Among many other pleasures, a meal at Eleven Madison Park offers an important life lesson: Even when you’ve reached the top, you should never stop evolving. After being crowned world’s best restaurant last spring, the owners closed for the summer to remodel. The refreshed space and next-level $295 tasting menu are both worthy of a major celebration. (If you want to invite more than a tableful of friends, there are private dining areas.) Be sure to start your evening with a cocktail at the bar, or ask the server to wheel over the Manhattan cart and park it for a while.
Milestone Birthday: Age 50
The thrills of The Grill seem lost on the kids. Who would remember the glory days of the Four Seasons or the pleasures of a decadent continental meal, enjoyed while all dressed up? Start with a stiff cocktail at the bar—maybe it’s time to embrace the 50-50 martini, made with your choice of spirit and vermouth—then settle into your perfectly lit power booth for a single perfect slice of prime rib with horseradish, accompanied by at least two of the potato offerings on the menu (worth it). The cotton candy may be gone, but a flambéed dessert—prepared tableside—requires no candle.
Milestone Birthday: Age 60
Even though every meal at Le Bernardin feels like a major celebration—the service, the setting, that food!—it’s the perfect place to enjoy a big-digit birthday. And because the fish-centric restaurant is over 30 years old, chances are you’ve toasted other milestones here, making its continued excellence and innovation even more inspiring. (Speaking of innovation, chef Eric Ripert recently introduced a vegetarian tasting menu.) Better yet, its deep wine list might contain a birth-year beauty for you to uncork. Just be sure to tell them it’s your natal day in advance: That chocolate cake is something else. Want to invite the whole clan? The flexible private dining spaces allow for intimate and over-the-top dinners alike.
Discover other dining and drinking destinations in NYC for all your special occasions.
Whatever age you’re turning this year, we can guarantee that this birthday will be better than the last.