Celebrate Your Graduate (or Graduation) at These 13 Restaurants in NYC

It’s graduation season in New York, meaning it’s about time to make some reservations for a celebratory dinner. Here are 13 restaurants worthy of a newly minted grad, ranging from haute cuisine to down-home barbecue and located all around the city. Congrats!

The Ribbon

The Ribbon

If you’re planning on a Broadway show after your meal, book a table at The Ribbon. You can indulge in the famous Blue Ribbon fried chicken here and/or devour a seafood tower, plus dig into spit-fired meats and popular dishes like Buffalo cauliflower. The elevated-casual vibe at both the Times Square and Upper West Side location strikes just the right note for group that likes upscale comfort food, and both spaces easily accommodate large parties. Times Square: 220 W. 44th St., 212-944-2474,; UWS: 20 W. 72nd St., 212-787-5656,


Located across the street from Central Park, Marea makes a picturesque choice in case you want your waiter to take a group photo (cap and gown optional). Chef Molly Nickerson runs the kitchen at this fine Mediterranean restaurant specializing in seafood, turning out fresh crudo and the deep umami flavors of the famous bone marrow and octopus fusilli pasta. A large space full of white tablecloths and attentive staff, Marea lives up to its two Michelin stars every time. 240 Central Park S., 212-582-5100,

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Hometown is essential New York eating of a very different kind. If your group is laid-back, down to travel to Red Hook, Brooklyn, and very very hungry, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best barbecue in the city. All meat is smoked with oak on-premises, the sauce is to-die-for, and there’s music on weekends to keep the crowds lively. Hometown doesn’t take reservations, so prepare to wait in line, particularly on weekends. 454 Van Brunt St., 347-294-4644,

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam, part of David Chang’s culinary empire, presents exemplary Asian fusion cuisine without pretension and with ever-surprising (and ever-satisfying) flavor combinations. Come to this East Village dining room for Singapore-inflected skate with shrimp belacan, country ham appetizers, and Korean barbecue ribs. Brunch options include brown butter buckwheat waffles with Speculoos maple syrup, if you’re into celebrating with sweets. 207 Second Ave., 212-254-3500,

Red Rooster Harlem

Red Rooster matches friendly neighborhood dining with world-class soul food. Celebrated chef Marcus Samuelsson made this hit dining experience a fixture of Harlem’s burgeoning dining scene several years ago with undeniable cornbread, fried chicken with hot honey, and a Crabby Cake Sandwich. Brunch, lunch, or dinner will keep your group full and happy for the rest of the day. 310 Lenox Ave., 212-792-9001,

American Cut

American Cut Steakhouse Graduation Dinner

Try Chef Marc Forgione’s take on steakhouse fare as he brings his fine-dining training to this classic format. At its locations in Midtown and Tribeca, American Cut serves top-grade steaks with accompaniments like bone marrow and the chef’s signature Chili Lobster. Until June 30, American Cut is offering a special 3-course prix fixe menu for graduates and their guests. You’ll enjoy signature dishes like the wet-aged porterhouse steak, OG 1924 Hotel Caesar Salad, and three-cheese mac 'n' cheese, all served family-style. Tribeca: 363 Greenwich St., 212-226-4736,; Midtown, 109 E. 56th St., 212-388-5277,


An upscale Mexican restaurant, Toloache has three locations in Manhattan. Visit this evergreen taqueria and margarita bar in the Theatre District, the Upper East Side, and Greenwich Village for hibiscus-infused tequila drinks, grasshopper tacos, and other outstanding fare from chef Julian Medina. Theater District: 251 W. 50th St, 212-582-1818; UES: 166 E. 82nd St., 212-861-4505; Village: 205 Thompson St., 212-420-0600;

Morton’s The Steakhouse

A prepared dish at Morton's The Steakhouse.

Morton’s has over 40 years of expertise in the industry, and its midtown and World Trade Center-adjacent locations are ideal for your graduation celebration. Whether reserving a private room or enjoying one of its large dining rooms, you’ll be treated to certified Prime steaks, Chicago-style mashed potatoes, and an award-winning wine list to top it all off. Midtown: 551 Fifth Ave., 212-972-3315; World Trade Center: 136 Washington St., 212-608-0171;  

Patsy’s Italian Restaurant

Patsy's Italian Restaurant is another New York institution, celebrating its 75th year of business in 2019. Everyone is treated like family here, and the time-tested recipes come from Chef Sal Scognamillo’s grandfather Patsy, who started the restaurant. Indulge in saucy lasagne, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmigiana, and wine during your meal. If you’re lucky, you and your family just might sit at Frank Sinatra’s former table on the second floor. 236 W. 56th St., 212-247-3491,


Another two-Michelin-star pick, Daniel represents New York haute cuisine at its best. Your group will be wowed by Chef Daniel Boulud’s artful interpretations of seasonal ingredients, and it doesn’t hurt that the staff treats you like royalty. The tasting menus are priced high, but graduation is a great opportunity to splurge after your years of study! 60 E. 65th St., 212-288-0033,


If you’re looking for a Brooklyn pick, it’s Olmsted all the way. This Prospect Heights gem takes its farm-to-table ethos seriously and even grows some ingredients in the backyard (snag a table back there if you can). Light, creative fare is matched with laid-back elegance at this restaurant from Chef Greg Baxtrom. Right now, the menu lists an intriguing carrot crepe served with clams and a tagliatelle made with rutabaga and black truffle. 659 Vanderbilt Ave., 718-552-2610,


For French food that’s more casual—but no less notable—than Daniel, eat at Balthazar in SoHo. This insanely popular bistro does it all right, from the escargot (be adventurous; it’s worth it!) to the fresh-baked bread basket to the steak with frites.This is another table you’d be well-advised to reserve as soon as possible, and remember brunch is an especially good idea here. 80 Spring St., 212-965-1414,

Saar Indian Bistro

Saar Indian Bistro

Take your diploma out to Midtown’s new upscale Indian restaurant, Saar. Michelin-starred Chef Hemant Mathur brings Northern Indian cuisine to the table with global accents, exemplified by must-order dishes like cauliflower latkes and truffle risotto, plus tangy jackfruit biryani. Saar is an excellent pick for groups with dietary restrictions such as gluten-free and vegetarian, and their affordable tasting menus are available for pre-theater dining. 241 W. 51st St., 646-609-2142,

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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