The story of hedge fund titan Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and his clashes (and in later seasons, uneasy collusion) with U.S attorney–turned–attorney general Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), Billions is in every way preposterous, featuring insane real estate, private jets, and plotlines that stretch credulity. One thing that feels right on, though, is its depiction of New York restaurants and locations, each chosen with semiotic precision.
Cocreated by lifelong New Yorkers Brian Koppelman and David Levien, Billions does its damnedest to let you know the writers and location scouts did their homework. (One can also assume the show gets the financial world right, as well, since its third creator is DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, who never met a mogul whose tummy couldn’t use a gentle rub.)
The number of real New York locations and real-life personalities shown or referenced in Billions is, indeed, a bit exhausting. In any given episode, characters dine at the new Four Seasons restaurant, visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, or jog along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. You can also spot celebrities like wd~50 mad genius Wylie Dufresne, New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch, bro-guru Tim Ferriss, memoirist Mary Karr, and members of Metallica, who are helpfully name checked for those not in the know—ridiculous yet also silly and knowing in a way that makes the show pretty fun. I'm tempted to call Billions premium cable opera buffa, but I don’t want to sound like Chuck during one of his pedantic soliloquies.
What follows is a very (very) partial list of locations spotted over the past four seasons of Billions. Visit them to be a power player—or just look like one.
When Bobby has to ensure that a conversation he has with Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), a colleague who just happens to be Chuck’s wife (it’s complicated!), is completely off the record and private, they have it fully naked in one of the healing baths at this Tribeca spa. Whether or not they got the whole package with massages, exfoliations, and other pampering treatments is unknown, but you can enjoy those things seven days a week. 88 Franklin Street (between Broadway and Church Street)
Photo by Andrew Day/Courtesy of Aire Ancient Baths
One of the many power breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots visited by Chuck in the season four opener. The Sturgeon King has been in the same Upper West Side location since 1929 and sells Nova and whitefish by the pound, as well as breakfast, sandwiches, chopped liver, and borscht in a delightfully old-school setting. (But you already knew that if you saw Vampire Weekend’s “Sunflower” video.) 541 Amsterdam Avenue (at West 86th Street)
In the first episode of the third season, Mike “Wags” Wagner (David Constible) and Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) enjoy a decidedly lower-end spa day at this East Village sweat emporium. Long the favored schvitz spot of soviet émigrés and hipsters alike, the Russian Turkish Baths also offers treatments like platza oak leaf scrubs and massages. 268 East 10th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A)
Another private conversation—this one between Wendy and Taylor in the 11th episode of season three—takes place at this trippy public art installation in Battery Park City. For $5 you can experience the whirling shapes and eye-popping colors yourself. The Battery, enter across from 17 State Street
Open 24 hours, this East Village Ukrainian diner is the perfect location for one of Chuck’s interminable monologues about the origin of the egg cream from the first episode of season three. The egg creams at Veselka are, indeed, worth the visit, as are the pierogi and blintzes. 144 Second Avenue (at East 9th Street)
As seen in season four, episode six, this lightly Brutalist memorial on Roosevelt Island sets the scene for another Wendy-Taylor tête-à-tête. Designed by Louis Kahn but built with the help of Kahn’s son long after the architect’s 1974 death (which you’d know from the didactic dialogue shared in the scene), Four Freedoms Park is a striking setting for one of the best views of Manhattan. Roosevelt Island
Site of yet another private conversation between Wendy and Taylor (hey, they had a lot to discuss) in season four, episode six, this Lower East Side ice cream parlor is also the setting of a cameo by proprietor Nicholas Morgenstern, who gets to explain the origin of the speakeasy. Go for flavors you won’t find at your local Baskin-Robbins, including salt and pepper pine nut and black licorice. 2 Rivington Street (between Bowery and Freeman Alley)