Park Kitchen At The Park Central Hotel: Not Just For Tourists

The Park Central Hotel, located right in the heart of Midtown New York on Seventh Avenue just south of Central Park, underwent a massive renovation recently, and the end results are spectacular. The entire ground floor has been opened up, and directly behind the lobby there's now a shiny new restaurant called Park Kitchen that's serving comforting fare that appeals to those staying at the hotel as well as those looking for a solid place to stop by after work for a drink, small bites, or a full meal.

Chef Nathaniel Eckhaus has built a dinner menu that's difficult not to enjoy. I had the opportunity to dine there recently at the invitation of the restaurant, and sampled offerings from each section of the menu: Meats, Cheese, & Snacks; Fruits & vegetables; Meats & Fishes; Sideliners; and Sweet Treats.

To start, the "PB&J" toast isn't what you'd expect: it's braised pork belly with pepper jam, and is representative of the unexpected playfulness in the menu. Crispy sriracha chicken wings are messy and spicy in all the right ways, but could have benefitted from not being served whole as they were a bit unwieldy. An heirloom beet salad with burrata, chianti vinegar, and grilled bread was assembled with a fine-dining style eye for balance. A spice-rubbed bone-in sirloin was nicely cooked and benefitted from a robust spice rub, and the signature dish, Eckhaus' "chicken fried chicken," was moist and juicy on the inside, crunchy and full of flavor on the outside. It very well might be the best fried chicken being served in Midtown at the moment.

The space is large and airy, with high ceilings, a huge bar, and ample seating (recessed booths in the back are ideal for both a business meeting or a romantic date).

Even though Park Kitchen's menu is relatively small, it also allows you to have essentially any type of meal you desire. If you just want to nibble at a meat and cheese platter, there are four different artisanal hams to choose from. If you want a burger it's only $14 and seriously gourmet. If you want a steak it's comparable to what you'll find at solid steakhouses. In fact, it's one of the more versatile restaurants in the area.