When it comes to great restaurants and date-worthy bars—and, more recently, choice coffee bars—New York City’s hotels have long represented. Recent years have produced such hits as the trendy cocktail lounges at the Public and 11 Howard, award-winning food at the Nomad, and very cool coffee at the Ace. (Don’t forget the try-before-you-die doughnuts at the William Vale.) But these days, we’ve been doing all kinds of dining at two newly opened hotels/dining destinations: the Freehand and Made hotels.
Eating and Drinking at the Freehand Hotel
The restaurants at this new spot in Flatiron may be some of the most stylish ones to open in years. Designed by the stellar firm Roman and Williams, they are setting, rather than following, trends, working with the excellent bones of the 1928 hotel. The Freehand chain is known for its cool and affordable rooms—not to mention its Broken Shaker bars. (The NYC rooftop bar is now open; plan an early escape from your desk for post-work drinks.) Taking a breakfast or lunch meeting at Studio, an all-day café and restaurant on the mezzanine, feels like a form of travel, thanks to the eatery’s Northern California–meets–Scandinavia vibe. A zillion plants line the sun-streaming windows, and sturdy bohemian furniture and sheepskins bring the hygge.
The food, though, looks toward North Africa and “the Near East,” a nod to the heritage of restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s mother. (He’s the man behind West Village restaurants Fedora, Sardine Bar, and Fairfax.) The fries are teamed with harissa mayo, and a springy pea hummus comes with lamb merguez and puffy pita breads. Even the Caesar salad has za’atar-dusted croutons and a lemon-sesame vinaigrette. Pastries are a particular favorite: You might find yourself drifting back to the not-exactly-central location to pick up a multigrain chocolate chip cookie, an Instagrammable slice of apricot almond cake, or a sticky slice of chocolate coffee babka.
Come evening, the floor is also home to one of the coolest new bars, the clubby, wood-paneled George Washington Bar. Here you can try an on-trend cocktail (order Georgie’s Hatchet, which features, among other flavors, cherry, leather, and lava salt) and split a burger with beer-braised onions—or a foie gras torchon.
On the ground floor is the snazzy Simon & The Whale, serving dinner in a wood-and-brass space that feels grown-up date-ish. As the name suggests, seafood is at the fore, with prettily composed plates like black bass crudo with puffed rice and shiso with a coconut milk float; spaghetti acqua pazza with clams; and an excellent fish sandwich. Desserts are ambitiously adventurous. Brown butter and rye pudding with nut crumble and honey-fried pears, anyone?
Eating and Drinking at the Made Hotel
Meanwhile, in the NoMad district, Made opened in September with as much attention to the food offerings as to the supernatural, good-vibes design by Los Angeles firm Studio MAI. As soon as you enter the practically unmarked hotel, you’re in the coffee bar Paper, whose communal kitchen-island seating encourages conversation with your caffeine. Walk a little further and you’ll encounter the appropriately named Lobby Bar, a garden-facing space that does double duty as a sunny spot for breakfast and lunch, as well as a place to enjoy cocktails once the sun sets. On the rooftop is one of the city’s most gorgeous outdoor bars: Good Behavior looks like the living room of your dreams, although weekend crowds might be the stuff of nightmares.
Down in the basement, Ferris is creating some of the city’s most interesting food right now. (It also provides breakfast and lunch for the Lobby Bar during the day.) Chef Greg Proechel, who earned his cutting-edge stripes at Blanca, Eleven Madison Park, and Le Turtle, serves progressive cuisine in a tiny room that manages to be cozy rather than claustrophobic. His charred bok choy with garlicky bagna cauda and citrusy breadcrumbs is as complex as any meat dish—like, say, the tiny but mighty pork belly katsu sandwich that riffs on the Japanese favorite. The côte de boeuf with “all the fixings” is a celebratory feast for two—or three—that will have the entire restaurant staring at you in admiration. Head up to Good Behavior for an after-dinner drink, and you might just need to check in.