The holidays are magical…except when they’re driving you off the ledge. The wrapping. The rushing. The 20-plus days of forced cheer. All this in a city that’s already turned up to 11. This is the time of year when we truly appreciate New York’s quieter corners. Whether it’s for a moment of solo reflection, a dinner with your elders, or that annual tell-all check-in with your bestie over hot chocolate (or a Manhattan), we’ve got the places—with space!—for you.
Hot Chocolate With Your Bestie
Sometimes you just need two chairs, a nostalgic cup of cocoa, and a plateful of cookies to get you through a midmorning (or afternoon) catch-up—ideally where they won’t kick you out as you stretch into the second hour. For this, we love to indulge in a superrich Stumptown mocha, made with Mast Brothers chocolate ganache, at the Ace Hotel. You can sit in the window after the rush or, better yet, take your glasses into the lobby and park it. Discuss whatever you want: Chances are that any eavesdroppers are from out of town.
A Boozy (But Quiet) Evening With Friends
Having a drink in December feels like you’re always crashing someone’s office party. Maybe because you are? Sneak down to the LES, where the newly opened Reception Bar offers cool comfort and Korean-inspired cocktails—and you can actually hear yourselves talk. That is, until you slide off of your stool after a couple of soju-based libations. We’re also into the healthyish elixirs, including the hormone-balancing/immunity-building Queen Min Botanics, with white lotus, ginseng, sparkling jasmine, and honey.
Dinner With the Grandparents
It’s time for the annual meal with the very picky and hard of hearing. Where to go that feels both festive yet subdued? La Grenouille has maintained its hushed glamour and old-school French menu (which, to be safe, leans to the softer side) since 1962. So naturally, the staff is extremely competent when it comes to keeping older customers happy. With all the flowers and flourishes, you’ll wonder why you don’t come here more often, too. It’s a bit livelier at lunch, when the menu is surprisingly fairly priced for the area.
Dinner With Your SO
When’s the last time you went to a new restaurant that felt a) grown-up, b) special-occasion, c) but not too special-occasion? Benno feels like a secret—for now. The former Per Se and Lincoln chef has crafted a luxurious French-Italian jewel box in the back of NoMad’s Evelyn Hotel. That means foie gras, caviar, lobster, and truffles, but that caviar is dolloped onto a blini made from acorn flour (!), and those truffles are shaved onto an intoxicating risotto made with local red kuri squash and chestnuts. As for the foie, it’s tucked into rich duck agnolotti. Get the tasting menu, add the wine pairings, and agree that this is indeed a gift.
A proper 2018 recap—whether it’s with your boss or your siblings—requires a mellow place with good food and, if needed, good drinks. We’re liking the very easy lunchtime vibe at the otherwise overcrowded Loring Place, where you can opt for chef Dan Kluger’s gorgeous, seasonal food…or his gorgeous grandma pie. (We’ll also confess that the older lunchtime crowd makes us feel extremely young.) Those who want to feel cool should pull up a sheepskin-covered chair at one of the generously spaced tables at Studio at the Freehand Hotel, which looks like the Big Sur weekend home you’ll never have…serving the hipster Middle Eastern–accented food you’ll never cook for yourself. Be sure to order all the desserts.