Central Park is one of New York’s most famous attractions. After all, it is the most visited urban park in the United States with 40 million people dropping by in 2013 alone. And you can bet those folks get hungry! Read on for great Central Park restaurants that satisfy.
It has provided the backdrop to many famous movies throughout the years and it continues to be a focal point of the city for locals and tourists visiting for the first time. The park is flanked on both sides by world-class museums — The American Museum of Natural History on the west side at 79th St and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (or “the Met” for those in the know) on the east side at 82nd St.
Inside the park
Working your way back through the park from either museum leads you toward the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir — originally known as the Central Park reservoir — a decommissioned reservoir that is surrounded by the park’s bridle path, as well as a dedicated running track popular with early morning joggers. Walking south from the reservoir leads you through the Great Lawn and then on to Belvedere Castle — a late 19th Century folly that stands as a multipurpose home to exhibit rooms as well as an observation deck that provides panoramic views of Manhattan. From 1919 to the early 1960s, it housed the offices of the United States Weather Bureau. Those looking for a cultural hit in the summertime can visit the Delacorte Theater — a free open-air theater that seats almost 1,900 guests. Every summer, two plays are produced with one traditionally being a Shakespeare piece. Belvedere Castle forms a majestic backdrop to the plays, with the theater positioned just steps from the castle.
Central Park Restaurants
The local restaurant scene is just as vibrant as the park itself. Check out these restaurants on the Upper West and Upper East Sides, many just a few minutes walk from entrances to the park.
Upper West Side
Located across from the Lincoln Center and just a stone’s throw from the south-western tip of Central Park is French celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s casual eatery, Bar Boulud. Serving classic bistro cuisine in sleek digs, this Upper West Side mainstay is approaching 10 years on the block and continues to offer the perfect introduction to Boulud’s restaurant philosophy.
Boulud Sud can be found next door to Bar Boulud, serving as an homage to the food of Provence, the southern Mediterranean and North Africa. The dynamic daily menu offers classics such as Spanish tapas spreads, as well as a Moroccan-inspired tagine with preserved lemon. Boulud Sud is quickly becoming a neighborhood staple, serving food in elevated, chic surroundings.
Set in a sleek and spacious outpost in the Time Warner Center, Marc Murphy’s French-inspired bistro offers a little of everything. Kids even have their own menu that branches out from the usual suspects. Adults can pick from daily pasta specials and menus that cover all-day dining, from brunch to late-night eats.
This quaint, local gem carries a 2-star Critic’s Pick rating from the New York Times. Serving up classic Italian-American fare is the name of the game here, coupled with a well-curated cocktail program and retro-diner vibes. This UWS location is the satellite restaurant to the original Parm restaurant in Lower Manhattan and is proving a welcome addition to the neighborhood scene.
Upper East Side
Unsurprisingly, seafood takes center stage at this underground space just a few blocks from the Met. Standouts include savory brunch donuts and a choice of more than 20 mussel bowls, including internationally-inspired flavors such as Indian spices and Thai aromatics. Diners eat in a colorful yet simple space and drink offerings extend to unique brews as well as a handpicked wine list.
This sophisticated Italian spot is just a 10 minute stroll from the Jackie O reservoir in Central Park. Offering hearty pastas, a strong international wine list and large windows providing views over Madison Avenue, it’s no wonder that this restaurant placed #1 on USA Today’s list of 10 Best Upper East Side restaurants.
Georgette Farkas brings authentic French-style rotisserie fare to this rustic yet refined dining space just a short distance from the Central Park Zoo. Open-fire roasted cuisine marries with the modern, thoughtful cocktail list and choice wines. A perfect spot for the sophisticated Upper East Side crowd.
Both casual and stylish, The Bar Room dishes up modern American cuisine to a lively and spacious dining room. There are twists on the classics (like lamb meatballs), craft beers and a charcuterie program all set in a comfortable, old-school space with decorative touches, including checkered flooring and tufted leather seats.
Latin-tinged, polished pub fare is the ambition of this tequila bar/gastropub mashup. Marble touches and dark wooden features form a modish space with small plate cuisine and agave spirit-driven cocktails. Standout dishes include the octopus with chorizo and, of course, the fresh guacamole.
Contributed by Andrew Burt