Best Lincoln Center Restaurants

The New York City Ballet fall season starts this week. Sometimes a ticket for a ballet is not enough entertainment for an evening so here is a list of my favorite Lincoln Center area (or Lincoln Square) restaurants in all price ranges, within easy walking distance of the theater:


Nougatine at Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West,15 minute walk to Lincoln Center
Nougatine and the three-star Michelin-rated Jean-Georges, run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, are separated by a wall with a common open kitchen serving both restaurants. Nougatine is more casual than its more celebrated sister restaurant, but with a much cheaper price tag, one of the best restaurant bargains in New York City. Service is attentive but not overly formal, with a great seasonal menu. For dessert, try the decadent Jean-Georges soft chocolate cake. Appetizers-$15-$25; Main Courses-$25-$35

Boulud Sud
20 W 64th Street, across the street from Lincoln Center
Daniel Boulud’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant features great pasta dishes and vegetables in a sleek modern interior with a large bar and lounge. Boulud Sud is next to Bar Boulud, a casual bistro serving seasonal French fare. It is not unusual to see the man himself working away at his Lincoln Center restaurants. Appetizers-$12-$20; Main Courses-$25-$33

Lincoln Ristorante
at Lincoln Center
Jonathan Benno, formerly Thomas Keller’s second in command at Per Se, presents an interesting modern Italian inspired menu. My favorites are his mushroom dishes, sumptuous pasta dishes with tomatoes, and innovative salads. Views from the $20 million structure are spectacular with floor to ceiling glass in the triangle-shaped building, providing ample people-watching opportunities across the Lincoln Center campus. An open kitchen also provides entertainment. Architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the innovative structure. The firm oversaw the successful Lincoln Center renovation started in 2006.

Ignore the New York Times review in which the reviewer thought the food was great, but couldn’t get over the idea of an expensive restaurant at the campus of a nonprofit arts organization where standing room only seats for the opera cost $22. True, but Grand Tier Met Opera seats go for over $400. You get what you pay for. Appetizers-$18-$25; Main Courses-$27-$40


Rosa Mexicano
61 Columbus Avenue, across the street from Lincoln Center
Rosa Mexicano features great Mexican inspired dishes. My favorites are the guacamole appetizer made at your table, vegetarian tacos, and interesting mixed drinks. Make sure you have a reservation as it is jammed for pre-theater seatings, sometimes with dancers after completing a matinée performance. Appetizers-$10-$15; Main Courses-$18-25

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway, across the street from Lincoln Center
Cafe Fiorello is loud and cramped for pre-theater, not a place for quiet conversation. The festive Italian restaurant has an energetic staff and a great antipasto bar, with can’t miss large pizzas, and pricy home-made pasta dishes. The restaurant has attracted many of Lincoln Center’s great artists since 1974 and brass plaques commemorate the favorite seats of famous patrons. For a quieter setting, try a post-performance meal. Appetizers-$10-$15; Main Courses-$25-$35 (veal and steak $42-$44)

1845 Broadway, 2 blocks south of Lincoln Center, 10 minute walk
Sapphire has been serving traditional Indian cuisine in a quiet, almost elegant setting for over 20 years. The Mogul-period wooden doors and windows come from Rajasthan, and embroidered Jodhpur silk panels hang from the ceiling, according to New York Magazine. The menu consists of standard Indian dishes nicely prepared: assorted pakora, samosa, vegetable jalfrezi, aloo gobi matar, chana masala. Appetizers-$5-$10; Main Courses-$15-$20


indie food and wine
at Lincoln Center
indie food and wine, run by chef and restaurateur Jason Denton, offers quick, inexpensive, and nutritious cuisine. The restaurant specializes in sandwiches; my favorites are the avocado and bahn-mi, with seitan and cauliflower. The half salad/sandwich combo is a great bargain at $12. Appetizers-$6-$12; Main Courses-$12-$13

Lime Leaf
128 West 72nd Street, 15 minute walk to Lincoln Center
Lime Leaf has been around since 2006 serving great Thai and Continental cuisine. The decor is dull, but the menu is packed with delicious dishes at a reasonable price. My favorite appetizers: spring rolls, pan seared tofu-vegetable dumplings, wild mushroom ravioli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes ravioli. Appetizers-$5-$10; Main Courses-$10-$18

Empire Szechuan
193 Columbus Ave (69th Street), 5 minute walk to Lincoln Center
Empire Szechuan offers standard Chinese and Japanese food at a reasonable price. A good option if you don’t want to break the bank. The menu hasn’t changed in years and offers all of the dishes you would expect with numerous noodle and rice options. Appetizers-$2.5-$11; Main Courses-$10-$15

Honorable Mention

The Milling Room
446 Columbus Avenue (81st Street), 25 minute walk to Lincoln Center
The Milling Room is a great new restaurant featuring American cuisine prepared by Scott Bryan. The cavernous space is where the popular Calle Ocho formerly resided. The decor is modern country farmhouse, a quirky look that works. The main room is quiet and roomy, perfect for good conversation. Service is attentive but informal, with dress code wait staff attire consisting of blue jeans, white shirt, and Converse All-Star shoes. The menu is not cheap, but it is well worth it with many creative options. I particularly like the risotto dishes with black truffles. Appetizers-$12-$16; Main Courses-$20-$33