The Best Restaurant in New York Is: The Empire State Building
Rich: Everything leading up to our meal at STATE Grill and Bar at the Empire State Building was so pleasant. The woman who called to confirm our reservation pronounced my last name right with no prompting. The greeting I received upon entering the actual Empire State Building was a jolly “WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!” The hostess at STATE Grill and Bar (not to be confused with the Empire Bar and Grill in both Macedon and Webster, NY) had such kind eyes. It all made me feel like Annie.
Caity: I quoted Annie when I sat down! Three bucks; two bags; one me. Ten minutes late.
The best restaurant in New York is
STATE Grill and Bar
À la carte
Cost before tip
Caity: I agree with you that the Empire State Building might just be New York’s most tourist-friendly tourist attraction. There were many but not too many folks in maroon uniforms lining the perimeter just bursting to give you helpful information: “The restaurant is right around the corner!” When you wake, ring for Drake; Drake will bring your tray!
Rich: Once I got in there and sat down, I felt like the clientele were sneering at me. “Is it because I’m wearing sneakers on the plush carpet of this restaurant?” I wondered.
I couldn’t tell if they were just being normal and felt rude compared to the kid gloves I’d been handled with up to that point, or if they were actual dicks.
Caity: I thought the crowd in there felt pretty, for lack of a better word, normal. Always on these outings, I try to imagine exactly what condition drove the other patrons to take their lunch inside a tourist attraction; are they visiting tourists? Do they work nearby? I thought maybe these people worked inside the Empire State Building, and then I realized I had always assumed that the Empire State Building was a big empty tower with nothing but stairs all the way up to the roof.
Caity: Why’d they make it so tall? So they’d have room for all the stairs, of course.
So I asked, “Rich...What is inside the Empire State Building?” Besides us at that moment, I meant.
Rich: In turn, I wrote in my notes, “Find out what the building is all about.” Later, when I looked on Wikipedia:
- Boy Scouts of America
- Filippino Reporter
- Linked In
A veritable Who’s...Wait, What?
Wikipedia also revealed this fact: The Empire State Building was the tallest building IN THE WORLD until 1970. Now it’s the 23rd tallest. That makes me really sad for the Empire State Building.
Caity: It’s still the tallest building in the world to me!
Rich: For our purposes, the Empire State Building could have been a rancher: STATE Grill and Bar is on the first floor.
Caity: We were treated to iconic views of some scaffolding and a United States post office across the street. From where we were sitting, the people looked like aunts.
Rich: From what I understand in my minutes of research, STATE Grill and Bar is the Empire State Building’s first official restaurant. It joins Men’s Wearhouse and Chipotle on the ground floor.
Caity: Is that true?!
Caity: Damn, I wish we had gotten Chipotle.
Rich: It would have been tastier, yes. I don’t know why they even bothered adding another option.
Caity: You wouldn’t know from looking at it that STATE Grill and Bar just opened earlier this month. Not because it isn’t very nice inside (it is!), but because STATE Grill and Bar, like so many other places in New York City, goes out of its way to make you feel like you’ve stepped into the 1940s. People make a lot of fuss over how New York is on the cutting edge of fashion, technology, and new taxicab colors, but at the end of the day, all it wants to be is the 1940s.
Rich: It’s a wonderful life as long as said life starts and ends in the ‘40s.
Caity: The City That Never Isn’t in the 1940s.
Rich: Miracle on 1940s.
Caity: We listened to Billie Holiday render pop standards as threnodies while we munched bread sticks (distributed with tongs). The dining room featured a large mural of ambiguously raced, blank-faced people having wine outdoors in what appeared to be the 1940s, but was possibly just sunset.
The odd thing about the mural was that the Empire State Building was visible in the background of it, which meant that the people were patronizing a restaurant in a different part of town.
Rich: Oh yeah, they were totally eating in the Flatiron district. Probably sipping wine from Eataly.
Caity: They should try STATE Grill and Bar, if they’re ever in the neighborhood. It’s nice.
Rich: Well, the people are, at least.
Caity: I give it 1,940 stars.
Rich: “Well, hello there!” is how our waiter greeted us. He was a mix of Tim Heidecker in character and Ted Haggard. Did we get his name? I don’t think so. I’ll call him Tem.
Caity: I don’t believe he said it, but he was maybe the best waiter I’ve ever had? Certainly high on the list. The best or 23rd best waiter of my life.
Rich: Definitely the sweetest man I encountered all week. He called me, “Sir.” He made everything cute and fun. He repeatedly asked us if we were “still nibbling,” or could he clear our plates. I tend to wolf, but it’s sweet of you to assume that I am dainty.
Caity: At one point he me asked if he could get the plate bearing my appetizer of bacon tater tots (more like hush puppies...more like mush puppies) out of the way. I thought he would take it, but he just moved it out of the way so that I could keep eating them if I wanted. (Eh...I guess?) Thanks, Tem!
Rich: When you ordered a second Diet Coke, he turned pale. I thought maybe your words had caused someone to die? That you unlocked an ancient curse or something.
Caity: Wouldn’t be the first time, but I honestly thought he was going to tell me the restaurant had a 1 soda per person max. “I hate to tell you this…” he said.
Rich: And then suspense. You could feel the ellipses! They bore down on us!
...but refills aren’t free.”
Rich: Sigh of relief.
Caity: I have never seen someone so distraught in a casual restaurant setting except when my Poppop told an Olive Garden waitress she had ruined my mom’s birthday, and the waitress started crying. (My mom told her she, of course, hadn’t ruined her birthday.) RIP Poppop.
Rich: What did the waitress do?
Caity: Ruined my mom’s birthday.
Although you could make the argument that we had ruined her birthday by taking her to Olive Garden in the first place.
Rich: One time at a seafood restaurant, my grandfather poured one of those plastic half and half packets into a glass of milk and told me to drink it and I was allergic to milk so I soon threw up ALL OVER THE PLACE. I ruined everyone’s birthday.
Caity: Why did he do that?
Rich: He just liked to do shit. I think he was bored. He’s dead too.
Caity: Oh. :(
Anyway, I believed Tem. It really did seem like he HATED to tell us that. Spat the words out like they were poison to him. Ultimately, however, it was not the cost of the refill that would bother us as much as the fact that the rest of the meal cost $150.
Rich: And it sure didn’t taste like $150. All of it looked good ON PAPER. And it looked fine ON PLATE. But it tasted like the ‘40s. Black and white. Kind of OK.
Caity: It felt like my fault—that I had somehow ordered the wrong combination of items from this lovely place. Everything was almost right, but nothing was.
Except the fuckin’ fries which you would not shut up about, Jesus.
Rich: Oh they were just perfect. You could really taste the grease, which I’m going to assume had an animal-fat component (and could be totally wrong about this, except I bet STATE Grill and Bar is lying if they deny that the fries were fried in animal fat). They were very crispy yet potato-y. But regular sized! They had the effect of steak fries without making me feel like I was selling my arteries to the devil.
Caity: They were made with dill, which I hate. NO DILL, HOWIE...is a joke I wish I had made in the moment, to you.
Rich: I could barely taste it.
My crab cakes were OK.
My mango lobster salad was OK.
Your lobster roll had lobster meat that seemed undercooked. Also, I was told that there was no way to get the lobster roll without bacon (LBLT, it was), but then the bacon just seemed added on. A lot of bacon integration happening, actually. In the seafood chowder, in the tater tots.I don’t eat bacon, and it was in literally the Top 3 things I wanted.
Caity: The ‘40s were not a great time for the Jews.
My lobster roll (Maine-style) tasted fine, but I have had many cheaper lobster rolls that tasted better. It was also difficult to eat—goopy; stuffed into unyielding bread. All the bacon fell off immediately, making it a pescatarian dish with no effort from me.
Rich: The best part of my lobster salad was what I learned about salad from you while eating it. Want to share your salad knowledge? Why something made of vegetables and something made of lobster tossed in mayo can both be considered “salads?”
Caity: YES. Basically, it’s the sauce that makes the salad. Not the presence of vegetables. Not the fact that it’s uncooked. Not the fact that it’s served cold. The sauce.
Caity: Therefore, pretty much anything is a salad. Lobster with mayo on it: that’s a salad. Pancake with syrup on it: that’s a salad. Napkin with ketchup on it: that’s a salad. All I eat is salad!
Rich: If you’re eating chips naked on your couch and some salsa gets on your balls? Salad.
We finished up with some desserts that were also OK.
Caity: I liked the desserts because we learned an interesting historical fact while ordering them. If a food can’t be delicious, it should at least be the equivalent of a high school education.
Rich: According to Tem, during the city-wide Blackout of ‘77 (in the 1940s), the Empire State Building was the only building to remain powered.
Caity: The Blackout ‘77 seven-layer chocolate cake commemorates that violent, crime-filled event. It was fine! I would eat it again, but I’m alright if I don’t!
The slice of apple pie we split was served with cheddar on top, which is a style of pie-serving I first learned about on Mad Men, a show about mad men, set in the 1940s.
Rich: It was fine. Nice crumbles. I couldn’t really taste the cheese, but I appreciated the effort. STATE Grill and Bar in a nutshell.
Caity: I could taste the cheese and I kind of liked it but it also freaked me out. The top of the Empire State Building in a nutshell. It averaged out to a score of “OK!”
Rich: Yes, that could be said for everything we ordered, but I’ll be damned if you can find better service for mediocre food.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Caity: I would probably go back to Chipotle now that I know there’s one there. And I would go back to say hi to all the nice folks who work in the restaurant.
Rich: Nah, I’m already back to the future and I think I’m gonna like it here.
Is it a good first date spot?
Caity: The Empire State Building is kind of a good first date spot and shows that you’re not afraid to spend money—tickets for adults range from $29 to $67—but I worry that a mediocre restaurant would cast a sickly pall on a sparkly evening. Take her to Chipotle! Eat Chipotle at the top. Buy her double steak. I mean me!
Rich: Is your date a femme fatale or a moll? If so, by going to STATE Bar and Grill, you’re cooking with gas.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Caity: Yes. The bathrooms located on the lower level (yes, even lower than the bottom of the building) are spacious, elegant, and private, and Frank Sinatra plays in them. As nice as any hotel room (or restaurant, come to think of it).
Rich: I felt like any number of the people I encountered on my way in would have given me a handjob just out of kindness, so I say sure why not?
Is it a good place to bring a doll?
Caity: Honestly, she probably has better things to do, but I guess if she’s not busy?
Rich: Yes. She can’t taste anything anyway so she’d probably be impressed by the presentation.
There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York’s hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempt to determine the best restaurant in New York.
Previously: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: The Macy’s Basement; Wall Street Bath & Spa; El Museo del Barrio; The Williamsburg Urban Outfitters ; The Central Park Boathouse; The Tommy Bahama Store; The Bronx Zoo; The Armani Store;The Crown Cafe at the Statue of Liberty; The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central; The U.N. Delegates Dining Room; Play at the Museum of Sex; Le Train Bleu inside Bloomingdales; LOX at The Jewish Museum; The American Girl Café