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As we get closer and closer to a post-pandemic world, people are starting to dream about the first things they will do when we go back to “normal.” Many are hoping to have an in-person dining experience without having to worry about masks, dividers, and social distancing. For residents of the five boroughs who want to go all out for their first big outing, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most unique, fancy, and fun restaurants in NYC to help you plan your big evening out.

Interactive and Fun Restaurants in NYC

If you want to be entertained while you dine, these fun NYC restaurants have you covered with music, movies, and manicures.

1. Ellen’s Stardust Diner – 1650 Broadway, Manhattan

From the neon lights that attract your attention from the street to the interior decor (like a 1956 Predicta television and drive-in theater-style movie screen) Ellen’s Stardust Diner is completely committed to their theme. Diners order classic diner fare like burgers, fries, and milkshakes while being entertained by performers singing all the classic hits. Keep an eye out for a future Broadway star while you’re enjoying your meal; Brandon Ellis, Eric Michael Krop, Stephen Tyler Davis, and Alysha Umphress are some of the former Ellen’s singers that have gone on to star in Broadway shows, just steps away from the diner itself.

2. Syndicated – 40 Bogart Street, Brooklyn

Dinner and a movie is a classic date night combo, and you can get both under one roof at Syndicated. There are a number of screens and projectors in the building so you can choose the exact vibe you want; either sit at the bar or a table and socialize while casually watching a movie in the background, or take your food and drinks into the large theater to focus on the film.


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3. Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse – 157 Chrystie Street, Manhattan

While this Jewish/Eastern European restaurant often offers planned entertainment events like musicians and comedians, the most fun and well-known nights at Sammy’s are often a result of the bottle of vodka found on almost every table. As those bottles empty, the tables celebrating birthdays and other special events have been known to include the rest of the dining room in their celebrations.

4. Beauty Bar – 231 East 14th Street, Manhattan & 249 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn

If you’re still not ready to go home after your big night out, stop by Beauty Bar for a nightcap. For just $10 you’ll get a drink and a manicure and can snag a mini-Instagram photoshoot under the vintage salon hair dryers. Beauty Bar can also serve as the venue for all those birthdays, bachelorette parties, and other celebrations that have been put on hold during the pandemic – just contact them to book your party for six more people.


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5. Trailer Park Lounge – 271 West 23rd Street, Manhattan

Another restaurant that invokes 1950s-era Americana, the Trailer Park Lounge features decor that is part-diner and part-eclectic backyard BBQ. While you much on gourmet versions of your favorite classics – like burgers, mac and cheese, and tater tots – and sip on your tiki drinks, you can play your own game of “I spy” with the restaurant’s quirky decor of year-round Christmas lights, mannequins, and other vintage trinkets.


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6. Tokyo Record Bar – 127 Macdougal Street, Manhattan

With only 2-3 seatings per night, this basement restaurant in Greenwich Village is the epitome of a personalized experience. When seated, you and your fellow diners are presented with a music menu where you each choose a couple of songs for the DJ to spin. As the records begin to spin, the first plate from your seven-course tasting menu will arrive to kick off the evening. 


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Unique Restaurants in NYC

If you’re looking for a fun, unique restaurant experience in New York but live entertainment isn’t for you, check out these next five restaurants.

7. Niche Niche – 43 MacDougal Street, Manhattan

From the same team that created Tokyo Record Bar, their Niche Niche concept is all about the experience. The dining rooms host a rotating list of guest sommeliers, but unlike most restaurants, these sommeliers are the ones dictating the menu. That’s right; rather than pairing wines with the food, they choose their favorite wines, sometimes under a theme, that the kitchen then builds a menu around. Themes that past sommeliers have chosen to work their menus around include American made wines, wines from all women winemakers, and a night revolving solely around white wines.


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8.  Beetle House, 308 East 6th Street, Manhattan

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing that Halloween wasn’t limited to just one day a year, Beetle House is the place for you. Inspired by the works of authors and filmmakers like Tim Burton and Alfred Hitchcock, this popup concept opened in 2016 and became so popular that they found a permanent home three years after launching. The spooky theme runs through every inch of the restaurant from the decor, to the plating, and the names of menu items, like the Edward Burger Hands and Frankenfries. 


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9. Veselka, 144 2nd Ave, Manhattan

An NYC institution, Veselka has been dishing out Ukrainian cuisine in the East Village since 1954. Originally a newsstand that sold soup and sandwiches, the owners grew the business over the years, making it the 24-hour gathering place it’s known as today. 


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10. Fish Cheeks, 55 Bond Street, Manhattan

Fish Cheeks, named for a Thai delicacy, is owned by chefs and brothers Chat and Ohm Suansilphong. If you’re looking for authentic Thai in NYC there are many great options, but it’s worth noting that Fish Cheeks has been awarded the Thai Select designation, essentially a stamp of approval from the Thai government. The comforting, family-style service is perfect for a post-pandemic feast with friends.


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11. Beauty & Essex, 146 Essex Street, Manhattan

From the outside, Beauty & Essex could be mistaken for a number of different businesses. Walking in the front door, you enter (what seems like) a typical pawn shop, until you reach the spiral staircase in the back. Once you pass the two-story custom chandelier, you enter the restaurant which boasts four dining rooms (one private), two bars, a lounge, and much more.


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12. Uncle Boons Sister / Thai Diner, 186 Mott Street, Manhattan

The owners of beloved Michelin-starred Uncle Boons made the difficult decision to close their restaurant as a result of the pandemic, but they have stayed on the radar with their delivery and takeout option, Uncle Boons Sister, which operates out of their Thai Diner location. While their takeout and delivery options are a great way to support the Uncle Boons team now, we look forward to the day where diners can get the full Uncle Boons experience from the top husband-and-wife chef team behind these restaurants.

Fancy Restaurants in NYC

If your idea of a fun night out is a bit more upscale than the suggestions above, we’ve got a list for you too. Here are some fun and unique restaurants in NYC that have more of a fine-dining appeal.

13. Shabushabu Macoron – 61 Delancey Street, Manhattan

Unlike most shabushabu restaurants where the diners cook their own food tableside, this $128 tasting menu is cooked by a professional chef at stations of up to eight guests. The menu items, which are chef’s choice, will look like traditional shabushabu offerings of broths and thin-sliced meats but are higher quality than your standard neighborhood hot pot restaurant – think wagyu beef, uni broth, and housemade tofu.

14. Manhatta – 28 Liberty Street, Manhattan

The guest experience is front and center at Manhatta, as well as the view. When you enter the building a host will escort you to the elevator that brings you up 60 floors to the restaurant, offering some of the best views of the city. In addition to the unique location and impeccable service that all of Danny Meyer’s restaurants are known for, Manhatta offers a high fine dining experience for the relatively inexpensive price of $94 for a three-course tasting menu, hospitality included.


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15. Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare – 431 West 37th Street, Manhattan

When you arrive for your dinner here, where the tasting menu starts at $394.42 per person and they only have 1-2 seatings per night, you may be surprised to find that you’ve just arrived at a very normal-looking supermarket. As you walk past the produce and frozen foods, you’ll eventually find your host practically hidden in the back corner of the store, waiting to seat you for your seafood-focused tasting menu that is inspired by Japanese cuisine and French cooking techniques.


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16. Blue Hill at Stone Barns – 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, NY

If you’re looking for a unique fine dining experience outside of NYC, head to this James Beard Award-winning restaurant 30 miles north of the city. There are no menus as the daily offerings are dictated by chef Dan Barber and the seasonal availability of ingredients, which are all sourced from the Stone Barns and other local farms in the Hudson Valley. Just make sure you arrive with an appetite and some extra time to spare so you can explore the onsite farm and marketplace before your meal.


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Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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