Welcome to the culinary wonderland surrounding Central Park! As one of New York City’s most famous attractions, Central Park attracts over 42 million visitors per year. With such an incredible influx of tourists and locals alike flocking to the park, one might assume the restaurant scene in the surrounding neighborhoods would be rife with overpriced tourist traps. However, quite the opposite is true. Central Park offers an incredible array of dining options to satisfy any palate. Whether you’re craving a juicy burger, delicate pastries, or an elegant multi-course dinner, you’ll find plenty of phenomenal restaurants mere steps away from Central Park’s lush grounds.

Notable Restaurants By Neighborhood

The Upper West Side borders Central Park to the north and offers a bounty of casual yet seriously delicious restaurant options.

One of the top recommendations and known as a must try, is Sesamo, an Italian and Asian fusion spot blending traditional techniques with bold new flavors. Their pan-seared Branzino with lemongrass kimchi beautifully marries Italy and Asia on one plate. Next up is a NYC icon: Shake Shack. Known for their juicy burgers and crinkle-cut fries, Shake Shack offers the perfect fuel for an afternoon strolling through Strawberry Fields. For some authentic Vietnamese fare, check out Saiguette. Their banh mi sandwiches layered with grilled pork and pickled veggies seriously deliver. And you can’t visit the Upper West Side without stopping at Pastrami Queen, where heaping piles of the namesake meat join tangy mustard and rye bread for New York deli sandwiches at their finest.

The Upper East Side provides a more refined but still approachable selection of restaurants near Central Park’s eastern border.

For pastries and cappuccinos worthy of Milan itself, begin your day at Sant Ambroeus, a New York outpost of the renowned Italian café. Later, enjoy northern Italian classics like carpaccio and branzino along with a deep wine list at Harry Cipriani, situated gorgeously inside the historic Sherry-Netherland Hotel. If you’d rather a seasonal, farm-to-table menu, book a table at Jams located downtown in the trendy 1 Hotel Central Park. Dishes like brioche french toast and local fluke ceviche will have you feeling relaxed but pampered.

Venture south to Midtown West near Columbus Circle for upscale dining and old school New York institutions.

Seafood reigns supreme at Chef Michael White’s Marea, where pastas like fusilli with octopus and whole fish, like orata, take center stage. Further downtown, Tavern on the Green provides a truly iconic Central Park experience – especially on their patio overlooking the park itself! For contemporary fare, the sleek Ocean Prime excels with creative seafood and steak preparations alongside a comprehensive raw bar and cocktail program.

Finally, the Lincoln Center area offers culture, music, and delicious eating!

Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant has an elegant yet cozy vibe, with seasonally-driven dishes like truffle honey lamb chops and seared diver scallops. For lighter fare before a concert or show at the iconic performing arts complex, Atlantic Grill provides exceptional raw bar offerings and seafood dishes. And for a pre-theater tasting menu overlooking Central Park and the Lincoln Center plaza, score a reservation at Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s namesake restaurant, Nougatine Jean-Georges. With foie gras soup dumplings and Parisian gnocchi on offer, it promises to be a meal you won’t soon forget.

Cuisine Types

Beyond location or neighborhood, you can also organize Upper West Side restaurants by preferred cuisine. From red sauce joints to temples of offal, these are some types of food you can expect while dining near Central Park.

It should come as no surprise that Italian restaurants reign supreme around Central Park. From casual slices to temple’s of fine dining, these spots offer seriously top-notch pasta, seafood, wine and more.

Sesamo artfully fuses Italian cooking traditions with bold Asian flavors. Their seafood-centric pastas and small plates showcase ingredients like lemongrass, miso, and yuzu that complement rather than overwhelm the heritage cooking techniques. It’s a 21st century take on Italian fare perfect for contemporary palates.

Sesamo
Sesamo Restaurant | Hell’s Kitchen

According to professional reviews and diner hype alike, Marea is one of the best high-end Italian seafood restaurants in New York City. Their handmade pastas like fusilli tossed tableside with tomatoes and red wine, along with gorgeous crudo preparations, are not to be missed. For something more traditional but no less exceptional, the Northern Italian cuisine at Harry Cipriani inside the lavish Sherry-Netherland Hotel transports you straight to Venice itself.

And for morning cappuccinos, freshly baked cornetti, and other Italian pastries perfect for starting your day, check out any location of Sant Ambroeus scattered around Central Park. With a caffeine boost from their expert baristas, you’ll be ready to take on the Big Apple!

Given NYC’s coastal location, stellar seafood should come as no surprise. But the raw bars, composed seafood platters, whole fish and more available just steps from Central Park are truly exceptional.

According to surveys of top food critics, Marea once again tops the list for Italian-inspired crudo like striped bass with oysters and uni. Ocean Prime also excels at seafood tower presentations, with options ranging from a Petite Plateau focused on East and West coast oysters to the Grand Seafood Tower piled high with lobster, king crab and other briny delights from both coasts and abroad. For lighter seafood fare perfect before a concert or show, Atlantic Grill provides an amazing and inexpensive raw bar happy hour – especially considering the Lincoln Center location.

Carnivores need not worry as steakhouses hold their own around Central Park as well! Dry-aged beef, market fresh seafood, classic sides and perfect martinis are all on offer at these spots.

Ocean Prime earns high marks not only for seafood but for steak as well. Their signature dry aged prime New York strip competes with Manhattan’s top steakhouses for texture and flavor. For a true chop house experience, the historic Palm Restaurant only a few avenues away provides the quintessential backdrop for their award-winning prime aged porterhouses and new york strips sourced from family owned Midwestern cattle ranches. Wherever you dine for steak around Central Park, surrender to the siren call of creamed spinach, crispy potatoes, and whisky on the rocks.

Finally, excellent brunch options await around nearly every corner surrounding Central Park. Wake up with pancakes and mimosas, eggs benedict and Bloody Mary’s at these top rated spots.

If you love Asian flavors at any time of day, the Sesamo Saturday and Sunday brunch is breathtaking. Dishes like miso glazed salmon over coconut milk grits and yuzu avocado toast with orange tobiko reinvent brunch entirely. For a more classic but still phenomenal New York brunch experience, Jams Restaurant excels with sweet and savory options like brioche french toast and short rib hash. And a NYC brunch institution, Shake Shack offers their signature burgers and hot dogs along with beer, wine and frozen custard shakes to satisfy any stomach or sweet tooth.

By Experience

Beyond cuisine types or neighborhood, certain restaurants around Central Park also cater to specific dining experiences whether a romantic date night, business lunch or pre-theater meal. Here are some spots to keep in mind for special occasions or eating with purpose while near the park.

With intimate seating, exceptional service and cuisine meant for sharing, these Central Park restaurants provide perfect backdrops for romance. Dim lighting sets the mood while wine stewards guide you through impressive but approachable lists focused on Old World classics and newcomer regions alike.

The iconic Loeb Boathouse practically floats over the Central Park lake, providing heart-stopping views of city skyscrapers framed by lush trees, rolling lawns and the occasional gondola drifting by. Tavern on the Green enchants with garden seating lit by hanging string lights – perfectly magical during a warm summer night. And for Couples more inclined towards sleek and modern, Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant in the chic Le Meridien Hotel blends warm wood, cozy leather and glowing candles throughout its dining room and bar areas. Wherever you choose, surrender to the culinary choreography of an elegant multi-course meal as you gaze into your lover’s (and a perfectly curated wine list’s) eyes.

For catching up with colleagues or impressing potential clients, Central Park restaurants also entice with midday meals designed for productivity. Strategize projects over refined plates small enough to sample an array but generous enough to avoid distraction.

Sant Ambroeus offers an amazing value with their luncheon prix fixe option. For one set price, enjoy an appetizer like beef carpaccio followed by your choice of pasta then finish with a miniature dessert like panna cotta or tiramisu – all washed down with a Bellini cocktail if you please! Cipriani Dolci, also inside a grand hotel setting, provides a similar prix fixe experience but with the addition of chairs tucked discreetly into alcoves for private conversation. Wherever you book your next lunch meeting, clean flavors providing energy but not overwhelming the palate will leave you focused on business rather than battling a food coma.

Before enjoying a Broadway show or performance at Lincoln Center, impress your companions over dinner at one of these phenomenal Central Park restaurants boasting prix-fixe efficiency, elegant libations and convenient proximity to your night’s entertainment.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges offers an early evening 3-course pre-theater special nearly every night at the acclaimed namesake chef’s restaurant inside the Trump Tower. Mesmerize your guests with amuse-bouches like Parmesan churros while enjoying a view looking north towards Central Park before making your way to catch a curtain just a short walk away. For Lincoln Center showgoers, Ocean Prime and Atlantic Grill both offer time-sensitive menus for catching a 7pm or 8pm performance. Sate hunger without missing a minute of the action with an abbreviated but still impressive steak or seafood dinner paired with cocktails to set the perfect mood.

Park Dining Insights

Beyond the ring of restaurants encircling Central Park, a few special spots actually reside within park grounds as well. From historic icons to boathouses seeming to float straight out of a picnic dream, these restaurants literally immerse you in surrounding nature.

It’s hard to imagine Central Park without the iconic Tavern on the Green, but this legendary restaurant originally served a much different purpose. In 1934, what’s now the landmark eatery started as a humble sheep fold! The Victorian Gothic structure housed the flock which kept the Sheep Meadow grounds trimmed through natural grazing. In the 1950s as cars replaced agriculture, the building was converted into a visitor’s center and snack bar. Then, in 1976 during Central Park renovations, Warner LeRoy of the Tavern on the Green dynasty transformed the space into the elegant restaurant we know today, adorned with crystal chandeliers and ironic pastoral paintings filling the interior.

Possibly the most idyllic restaurant setting in all of Manhattan, the Loeb Boathouse sits literally perched over Central Park’s lake. Patrons enter at ground level before ascending a helical staircase with views overlooking Bow Bridge. Floor to ceiling windows in the dining room ensure you feel seemingly suspended in natural beauty with trees rustling just past walkers and row boats drifting by. Enjoy the ideal vantage over lunch, brunch or during extended evening drinks on the outdoor terrace. Menu options almost seem secondary to the location itself, though dishes like chili spiced shrimp cocktail, crab cake sandwiches and whiskey maple glazed salmon provide familiar favorites elevated just enough. Ultimately the real draw lies in watching the seasons change reflected in those famous waters rippling below your table.

Conclusion

As one of America’s most famous green spaces in a city defined by concrete, Central Park provides welcome respite for residents and visitors alike in the heart of overstimulating Manhattan. Luckily when hunger calls after scaling rocky outcrops, meandering wooded trails or just finding your bearings on Bow Bridge, an incredible wealth of dining options await in the surrounding neighborhoods. From tiny walkups dishing out tacos to storied institutions serving haute cuisine, restaurants encircling Central Park truly offer an embarrassment of riches. Just don’t get so caught up people watching and skyline gazing that you forget to snag a reservation! When taking on New York City, you’ll want to refuel at one of the area’s phenomenal restaurants whenever the chance arises.